Monday, October 15, 2012

Review: Midnight City by J. Barton Mitchell

Midnight City (The Conquered Earth, #1)

Goodreads Summary:
In a post-apocalyptic world controlled by alien invaders, two teens and a young girl with mysterious powers embark on a dangerous journey. What they find will change everything...

Earth has been conquered. An extraterrestrial race known as The Assembly has abducted the adult population, leaving the planet's youth to fend for themselves. In this treacherous landscape, Holt, a bounty hunter, is transporting his prisoner Mira when they discover Zoey, a young girl with powerful abilities who could be the key to stopping The Assembly. As they make their way to the cavernous metropolis of Midnight City, the trio must contend with freedom fighters, mutants, otherworldly artifacts, pirates, feuding alien armies, and perhaps most perilous of all: Holt and Mira's growing attraction to each other.

Midnight City is the breathtaking first novel in the Conquered Earth series, and a stunning work of imagination from debut author J. Barton Mitchell.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher (via Netgalley) in exchange for an honest review.

My Review:  
I've had a fascination with aliens since seeing "To Serve Man", a Twilight Zone episode, as a child. 
 

When I saw the cover and description of this book on another blog, I thought, "Wow, aliens + apocalypse + male protagonist = the trifecta of awesome" Well, if the author can pull off writing a good book. So, I started the book hoping this would be a great book because my son is the King of Reluctant Readers and books for boys are a publishing rarity.  This is one of those books that I started and before I realized it, I was finished. This book made you feel like a tourist at an evil Disneyland- where you are gawking at the world that the author has built in this book. The culmination of this is winding up in Midnight City.

These are the two main strengths of this book- the plot that just pulls you along and the world that's created in the pages of the book. In my experience, the fast paced plot with a male protagonist makes this a good choice for reluctant male readers. I do think girls will like it too, though, because I found Mira and Zoey (eventually) to be compelling characters. I say eventually because that's one of the books weaknesses. I think that there's not enough back story in the beginning. First of all, the artifacts that do mysterious and magical things- at first it's not explained why or how it happens or is possible. Second, I know that Zoey is supposed to have an air of mystery surrounding her, but I wish that we knew more about Mira sooner. A few things- like the artifacts- would have made more sense.

I loved the time I got to spend in Midnight City. I think it was my favorite part of the book. I do not want to spoil it by describing it- plus the author does a much better job than I ever could. But I thought Midnight City was just amazing- the author's description brought the underground city to life. It wasn't just the sights and sounds, it was also the people and the society they built that made "touring" Midnight City so compelling. I will definitely be reading the sequel.

Overall Rating: 3 1/2 stars
Genre Rating: 4 flying saucers

Author's Website
Author's Twitter  
Midnight City (The Conquered Earth, #1)

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Review: League of Strays by L.B. Schulman

League of Strays

Goodreads Summary:
When Charlotte Brody, a lonely 17-year-old student at a new school, receives an invitation to join The League of Strays, she's intrigued by the group's promise of "instant friendship." The League does provide companionship--and even a love interest--but Charlotte grows increasingly uncomfortable with its sinister mission to seek revenge against the bullies of Kennedy High. When escalating acts of vengeance threaten to hurl her down a path of remorse, Charlotte must choose between her new friends and the direction of a future she's never fully considered.

My Review: 

Disclosure thingy: I got an ARC from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

I went to add this to my GR page and noticed this book is mired in some kind of controversy. I'm glad I read the book before I read any of the comments. I waited a week to write this to further distance myself from it. It's basically about the portrayal of bullying and homosexuality in this book. I will address those two things in this review.

I guess the some of the appeal of this book is a kind of literary wish fulfillment for people who have been bullied. Kind of a revenge fantasy type thing. If you've been the victim of bullying or your kid has, I think in many cases, there is a desire for revenge and striking back. Now, this is where it ends for most people in real life- you make an elaborate plan for revenge, with hundreds of pages of detailed notes and timelines, you build the scale model, you create a computer simulation of your timeline, etc. Right? Perfectly normal. (NOTE: if this is not perfectly normal, I'm just kidding.) Seriously, though, this is really it for normal people- you've worked your anger out and you're done with it and try to cope and deal with it properly- maybe talking to the school counselor, the other kid's parents, etc. In all honesty and in my personal experience, kids use books like this or violent video games to work out anger. Not to get ideas, not as a stepping stone to commit violence, etc. 

So that being said, back to the book. All in all, I found it to be very readable. It was a little slow in the beginning, which I think is acceptable in a book that requires a bit of set up. (Which this book does) But once that happens, it's a quick read. I normally read a few books at once, but this once this one got going it captured my attention and I read it straight through. Second, this has been a difficult review to write. Not because I hated the book, but because of spoilers. I usually like to give an example, but a lot of the examples I think of would be spoilers. With that in mind, I think the character of Charlotte was well developed and her character evolved pretty believably though the course of the book. (Sorry don't want to spoil it.) I also liked how little by little Kade- the leader of the League of Strays- had his character revealed. A mystery slowly unraveling in the book; we learn about him as Charlotte figures him out- which was quite well done, I thought.

Which brings us to Controversy #2: The treatment of Richie, the gay character. First, I do not think this book is anti-gay. In fact, the way Richie was used/lied to, etc. is how the author gave insight into another character. That someone would use Richie's homosexuality against him shows the true nature of another character in the book. I think that if this book sounds at all interesting to you, just read it and judge it on its own merits and your own tastes- in other words, I would avoid this book's Goodreads page until you're ready to add it, mark it as finished, and write your review. You can read all about the controversy once you're done with that. I'm glad I got to read the book without all of that baggage.

Overall Rating: 3 stars
Genre Rating: 3 1/2 stars (Again, I think this is a good summertime read. A coming of age type book where the moral messages are wrapped up in an intriguing premise and action-filled plot)

L.B. Schulman's website
L.B. Schulman's Twitter

League of Strays








Monday, September 10, 2012

Review: Tap Out by Eric Devine

Tap Out

Goodreads Summary:
Seventeen-year-old Tony Antioch lives in Pleasant Meadows, a trailer park where questions aren't asked since everyone already knows the answers from their own experience. He dreams of rescuing his mother from her constant stream of abusive boyfriends but in reality can barely duck the punches that are aimed at himself.

When Tony is coerced into joining his friend Rob's Mixed Martial Arts class, he is surprised to find that he has a talent that he actually wants to develop. But with a meth-dealing biker gang that is hungry for recruits and a vicious cycle of poverty and violence that precedes him, Tony is going to need a lot more than blood and guts to find a way out.

Gritty, powerful, and unapologetic, Tap Out explores what it takes to stay true to oneself and the consequences of the choices made along the way in order to do so.

Disclosure: Received a copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

My Review:
Please don't dismiss this book based on the average Goodreads rating, which is low- 3 stars. Part of me thinks that this is due to the language, sex, and violence that permeates this book. One reviewer even said that he thought that this book may end up getting banned- and I think it very well may. Now, I was a teacher, and banning books like this never ceases to amaze me. Why? Well, I was taking classes for my Master's and one of my classmates was a high school gym teacher and former police officer. He came to class visibly stricken and told us this story...It was the gym period right after lunch. A teenage girl who was visibly pregnant- 6 to 8 months pregnant- came up to him and said she wasn't feeling well. He could smell the alcohol fumes coming off her as she threw up Kool-Aid and vodka on his shoes. Now, if you wrote a novel about how she got to that point, with graphic details, some people would object and maybe even want to ban the book. And it never seems to occur to the people who want to ban books like this that what's really objectionable is the fact that children are really living these lives. Which brings us back to "Tap Out".

Like many, I found this a tough read. Yes, the language, the sex, the violence. But mostly because I taught middle school for years and "Tap Out" seems to tell the continuation of some of my students' stories. It was tough because it was realistic and didn't flinch from telling painful truths about the lives that some/many children lead. It did not flinch from telling the central truth about children who live in poverty- that in most cases all it takes is one mistake, choosing the wrong path once and that's it for their potential. Any hope of a bright future is gone. As the author, Eric Devine, is a high school teacher I feel pretty sure that this was not written to be sensational or exploitative. That Mr. Devine wanted us to be able to have a glimpse into the lives of the "have-nots" and come to at least understanding and compassion for them. Because most of us teachers have come home and cried at least once over one of our students. And the main character, Tony Antioch, is definitely the kind of kid who would have made you cry.

So, do I recommend this book? I do, and I think that this book will appeal to teenage boys. I also think that a parent should read it first and then with their teenager. However, if you have a strong objection to this kind of content, I just want to say that it's not gratuitous sex and violence. That it all has a purpose and is not without consequences. It is a difficult and sometimes painful read, but that just shows that the author did a good job of capturing the life some children lead.

Overall Rating: 3 1/2 stars
Genre Rating: 4 high school lockers

Eric Devine's Website
Tap Out




Friday, September 7, 2012

Feature and Follow (11)


Feature and Follow is hosted by Parajunkee & Alison Can Read every Friday. Complete Rules and Instructions are here:

Question: What book(s) are you reading right now? What do you think about them?

Unraveled (Intertwined, #2)

I started reading the series because I'm looking forward to Showalter's "Alice in Zombieland" that's going to be released this month. So I thought I'd check out her other series while I wait. If you like Brigid Kemmerer's Elemental series (Storm and Spark), I think you would enjoy this series, too.

The Secret Keeper

Just got The Secret Keeper from NetGalley a few days ago and started it this morning. If you love historical fiction, you should request a copy from NetGalley and/or put it on your TBR and get it when it gets released in October.

I'm reading about 8 or so other books, but I'm too lazy to list them all.

While you're here, please check out one of my current giveaways:

1. 300 Followers Giveaway: Choice of $15 gift card to Amazon/B&N (US Only) or a book of your choice up to $15 through Book Depository (International) Rules and Entry Here

2. Win a preorder of Book #3 in Jennifer L. Armentrout's Lux Series,  Opal, through Book Depository. (Open internationally) Rules and Entry for Opal Giveaway



Thursday, September 6, 2012

Review: Over You by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus

Over You
Goodreads Summary:
After the grand explosion of her relationship, seventeen-year-old Max Scott developed what every girl in the history of the world has been waiting for: a way to get over being dumped. Now Max is the go-to guru for heartbroken high-school girls all over NYC. But when her ex unexpectedly shows up in her neighborhood, Max’s carefully controlled world starts to unravel. With her clients’ hearts hanging in the balance, Max will have to do the seemingly impossible: get over him once and for all.

Brilliant at bringing humor to the trials and tribulations of the lovestruck, #1 New York Times bestselling authors Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus have crafted a tale that will resonate with any girl who has ever been in love or had her heart broken. It brims with smart observations, features a pitch-perfect teen voice, and will attract fans of Jenny Han, Sarah Mlynowski, and Lauren Barnholdt. Readers are sure to fall head-over-heels for this sharp spin on breaking up, making up, and getting even.

My Review: 
If I had one word to describe this book, it would be "Slick". It's like this show:
I remember watching "Full House". In fact, I spent many an evening watching it...when I had nothing better to do. But the first offer to do anything else and "Full House" gets kicked to the curb. It didn't have to be a good offer, just an offer. "Full House" was not a must watch TV show- it was just background noise while reading a book or folding laundry. Which brings us back to "Over You"...  
  
It's a book that feels like it needs a studio audience- and a laugh track. So you would laugh and clap along with it and know how to feel. Because what I mostly felt was ambivalent. And that's not a good way to feel while reading a book. I guess it starts with not caring about the characters. And if you don't care about the characters, you don't care what happens to them. Which means you don't really care what happens in the book. The characters felt like "stock" 80's TV show characters- Spunky Girl, Quirky Best Friend, Ditzy Mom...and on and on. Look, overall, the book was cheesy. And not good cheese- not baked Brie with some toasted nuts and maybe some fruit like apples and figs. Like this kind of cheese:
Should you read this book? Look if you're having a crap week at work or school, then maybe this book wouldn't be a bad choice. Cheese in a Can has a purpose too- it's convenient, my children think it's one of the most awesome things ever because I can make happy faces on a cracker with it...So "Over You" would be a good reading choice when you're just slammed at work/school, but need a light book to take a mental break. The times when you don't want to waste a "real" book by a favorite author or ruin the book you've been waiting all summer to be released, because you're too distracted to really enjoy and appreciate any book you're reading.  

Overall Rating: 2 stars  
Genre Rating: 2 1/2 stars
Over You

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Review: The Cranes Dance by Meg Howrey

The Cranes Dance
Goodreads Summary:
So begins the tale of Kate Crane, a soloist in a celebrated New York City ballet company who is struggling to keep her place in a very demanding world. At every turn she is haunted by her close relationship with her younger sister, Gwen, a fellow company dancer whose career quickly surpassed Kate’s, but who has recently suffered a breakdown and returned home.

Alone for the first time in her life, Kate is anxious and full of guilt about the role she may have played in her sister’s collapse.  As we follow her on an insider tour of rehearsals, performances, and partners onstage and off, she confronts the tangle of love, jealousy, pride, and obsession that are beginning to fracture her own sanity. Funny, dark, intimate, and unflinchingly honest, The Cranes Dance is a book that pulls back the curtains to reveal the private lives of dancers and explores the complicated bond between sisters.

My Review:
Two things: this is not a YA book. I don't know why I was under the impression it was, except that the cover has a very YA feel. Second, The Cranes Dance is finally a book about ballet, written by a dancer. Which does make a big difference. I was very disappointed with both Crash and Bunheads. (Short Review of Bunheads) I liked Crash, but despite the ballet dancer on the cover, it really wasn't about the ballet and didn't feature at all in the book. So I felt cheated by these two books. The other day, I came across this Review of Cranes Dance on another blog, Futuresdading. Luckily, my library had the ebook so I was able to download it and start reading it at 5 am. And it was so good, I finished it a few hours later.

I really criticized Bunheads for using ballet/dance terms without defining them. This book did it as well, but I guess there really isn't a way to explain the terms that wouldn't wind up breaking the flow of the book. I've come to this- that the best way to learn about ballet, is just to watch it. So, here are some of the greats dancing. Baryshnikov dancing The Nutcracker with Gelsey Kirkland:

And of course...Nureyev. In one of the best ballet pas de deux (dance for two) ever!

Even though this book isn't any better than Bunheads at explaining ballet terms, The Cranes Dance gives a remarkably intimate glimpse into the behind-the-scenes stuff in a professional ballet company. In a very personal way. Yes, at times Kate hates the ballet, but it's a love-hate thing. It's about a dancer coming to the realization that she will never be the best. Kate, in the book, is very young but already nearing the end of her professional life. And in this book she realizes that she will never reach the pinnacle- that she just doesn't have the talent, the spark...and all the practice in the world will not make her one of ballet's great stars. Unlike her sister, Gwen, who eclipses her as a dancer. Now in any super competitive field, there is jealousy and rivalry. But because of the short life span of a dancer, this competition is intensified. So throw the fact that your greatest rival is your sister...

On top of the the sibling rivalry, you add in that Gwen is mentally ill. This makes for a compelling read as Kate struggles with her feelings of jealousy, maybe even a little hatred and bitterness. Then you throw in the guilt that Kate must feel because it's not some stranger she feels this for, it's her sister. Her sister who is mentally ill. All of this makes for a compelling read, even if you  never took ballet lessons as a kid and wondered, "What if?" Plus there are some great bits of wonderfully sarcastic, intimate, bitter dialogue- both internal and external- in this book. Kate says (in her mind):
You can always tell when people don't like you because their voices will sound like they're acting when they talk to you. That's how you know that they spend a certain amount of time rehearsing in private the biting and cutting things they wish they could say to you in person.
If you want to see some behind the scenes stuff at a real ballet company, episodes from Breaking Pointe are available online (Thanks to Dee at Dee's Book Blog for mentioning this show):  Breaking Pointe

Overall Rating: 4 stars

Meg Howrey's Website
Meg Howrey on Twitter 

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Kick the Puppy Review: Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass, #1)

Goodreads Summary:
After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian offers her her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin. Her opponents are men-thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the king's council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she'll serve the kingdom for three years and then be granted her freedom. Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilirating. But she's bored stiff by court life. Things get a little more interesting when the prince starts to show interest in her... but it's the gruff Captain Westfall who seems to understand her best. Then one of the other contestants turns up dead... quickly followed by another. Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim? As the young assassin investigates, her search leads her to discover a greater destiny than she could possibly have imagined.

My Review: (This is my definition of a Kick the Puppy Review.)

First I want to say that this isn't a bad book. I think at least some of my disappointment is that all the hype seemed to suggest that this would be one of my "Books of the Year". And it wasn't. My main problem with this book is that Celaena is supposed to be this infamous and deadly assassin. And it didn't feel at all like she was. Yes, she survived the salt mines and when you hear what life was like there, you do get that she's mentally and physically strong. But it's like all her deeds are in the past. In the present, in the world of this book...not so much. First, she sleeps like a log. I mean, another character is able to enter Celaena's room and watch her sleep. Now, my husband was in the military and for years he would jump up at night at the slightest noise. Like his life might depend on being able to respond quickly. And yes, if you're in the "Killing People" business, I would think that having people be able to sneak up on you while you are sleeping would be a Bad Thing. Then in the contest...well, I don't want to throw a spoiler. But her behavior during the contest was odd and not what I would consider very assassin-y.

The world building aspect was probably the best part of this book. It did lift the book up enough that I could overlook my issues with it. Will I read the next book in the series? Yes, I do want to learn what happens next. And the ending- the author left us with something interesting and intriguing at the end. But I'm not going to rush out and buy the next book. I'm not even going to make the next book a priority read. I'll leave it at this...I finished this book almost a month ago and kept putting off this review, because I find that unless I really love or hate a book, it's harder to write a review.

Overall Rating: 3 stars

Author's Website
Author's Twitter


Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass, #1)


Saturday, September 1, 2012

"I Hate This Cover of the Month", September, 2012

Storm (Elemental, #1)Spark (Elemental, #2)

Wow, um, these covers don't scream Young Adult book at me. It kind of says that these guys are coming to throw a G-string in my face. After I've shoved some filthy lucre into their...something. It looks like they're a few strippers short of taking this show on the road:


Plus, whenever I see these covers, I go to the bad place. Well, the Bad Place #107, where this song is playing on an endless loop and I'm afraid to sit anywhere, and I'm looking for my wipes/alcohol hand sanitizer. And hoping the sticky stuff I just got on my hand was gum.



Oh, the next reason why these books are my "I Hate This Cover of the Month" will be brought to you by Anderson Cooper. Because someone's nipple (and I'm looking at you, dude, standing towards the front of the cover) just poked me in the eye.
This is Anderson Cooper. Reporting from Shay's blog. I have a serious issue to deal with today. One that's close to my heart. Literally, because this "gang" of teenaged boys have hijacked my signature look shown above. First, I sometimes need to go casual. And thank you, I know I look good for a man of my age. But I don't work out for vanity's sake. I dress like this and look like this because I never know when I might need to lend a helping hand to earthquake victims or run from gun-toting rebels. When these things happen, I turn to my casual wardrobe closet and grab a t-shirt and jeans. My look says, "I sometimes need to get my hands dirty, to bring you- my viewers- the truth through feet on the ground reporting." Little boys on the book cover...Your look says, "I watch too much Jersey Shore."
Second, I interview world leaders. I travel around the world for my stories. I know the name of the capital city of any country you could name. Try me. "What's the capital of Ethiopia?" Addis Ababa. I've even been there. I can pronounce "Mahmoud Ahmadinejad" correctly. (The President of Iran, in case you didn't know. Who, by the way, I interviewed.) So, when I wear a nipple-T, it says, "I sometimes need to relax after a hard day of travelling through the hills of Afghanistan or crawling through rubble." It says, "I'm smart and sensitive, yet I also relate to the common man." When you do it, boys? It says, "I like to buy clothes that come in 3 packs".


I'd like to wrap up this segment by stating, "I know fashion." My mother- Gloria Vanderbilt- was a fashion icon. Not only that, but your mother or maybe even grandmother, probably had my mom's signature on her butt. Yes, that Gloria Vanderbilt whose name has graced many a pair of jeans. I'd dare say millions of pairs. See...I own my own suits and tuxedos (designer, of course) . I have the phone numbers of world famous fashion designers on my cell phone. So when I wear a t-shirt, I'm making a fashion statement. It says, "I'm comfortable in my own skin." When you do it, little boys? It says, "I picked this t-shirt off my floor. It passed the smell test. I put it on." In any case, I respectfully ask that you cease and desist from using my signature look. Coming up next on this blog, the announcement of the runner up in the "I Hate This Cover" of the Month. Back to you, Shay. If your eye is okay. Which I hope it is...

Yes, Anderson. Thank you for covering for me while I iced my eye. The runner-up for this month's "I Hate This Cover" is:

With a slight change of wardrobe and other little tweaks, these books from the same series have managed to sweep even the runner up spot from their competition. I mean, is it me, or is this song going through your head?

Well, if the song wasn't going through your head before, I bet it is now. Which is only fair because I've been humming, or saying this under my breath, "Rico...Suave..." for weeks. And that's why these books are the runners up for September's "I Hate This Cover" of the Month. I think we must now take a respectful pause because this is unprecedented. An author and series has swept the top and runner up spots in the "I Hate This Cover" Awards. 

The Hate Mail Avoidance Section: If you are a rabid fan of this series or are new to my blog, please understand that I'm not attacking the author. That what I'm trying to get at is that a bad and/or cheesy cover can make some people- like me- put books like this on a mental "Books I Won't Read" list. At least until someone writes a post or review about the book and you think, "Wow, that book sounds interesting!!!" Pretty much every book that has been an "I Hate This Cover" of the Month "winner" is a book that I overlooked because I hated the cover, but now plan to read. After another blogger mentioned/reviewed the book and made it sound interesting or great. If you still plan on sending hate mail about this post...send it to Anderson. "Meow", that was catty, Coop!

Update: I actually started the first book in the series as I was writing this post. It's already done and it was good.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Feature and Follow (10)


Feature and Follow is hosted by Parajunkee & Alison Can Read every Friday. Complete Rules and Instructions are here: Feature and Follow

Question: Best Cover? What's the Best Cover of a book you've read and didn't like?
Bunheads

Bunheads by Sophie Flack. Not saying this is my favorite cover ever or that this is the worst book ever. But not only is the cover beautiful, it also conveys that this is a book about ballet. And the cover also captures what has drawn millions of little girls to ballet, including me. That in ballet, you get to be a beautiful princess on stage. But the book...just so disappointing. Not bad, but I thought it would enable me to take a walk down memory lane. Which I couldn't because the main character, who is on the verge of obtaining the dream of every girl who has ever donned a tutu, is coming to the realization that she hates dance. So ballet is portrayed as a life/youth/soul stealing thing. And the ending was just awful.

While you're here, please check out one of my current giveaways:

1. 300 Followers Giveaway: Choice of $15 gift card to Amazon/B&N (US Only) or a book of your choice up to $15 through Book Depository (International) Rules and Entry Here

2. Win a preorder of Book #3 in Jennifer L. Armentrout's Lux Series,  Opal, through Book Depository. (Open internationally) Rules and Entry for Opal Giveaway

Blog Hop Linky


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Review: Battle of the Crossdressers

Ah...you put high school and crossdressing together and what do you immediately think about? I spent my teen years in the mid to late 80's. A time when these things happened: MTV, HBO, and VHS tapes. The combination of HBO and being able to rent VHS movies meant this: It's not just Quentin Tarantino who came out of this time period a movie geek. After all, the only reason so many people "get" his movies is that HBO,VHS tapes, and an abundance of free time meant we could watch the same movie(s) 10-20 times. Now, HBO often played B-type movies the most. Which brings us back to crossdressing...

I came across these two books where the (female) main character dresses up like a boy to "infiltrate" a boys' school:  Babe in Boyland by Jody Gehrman and The Academy by Emmaline Andrews.
Babe in BoylandThe Academy

So of course, my immediate thought was the 1985 movie, "Just One of the Guys".

Now, for some crazy reason, you may not want to read 2 YA books about crossdressing. So, I decided to take one for the team (of readers) and read both of them to let you know which one is most worthy of your limited reading time. Since nothing says high school girl who's a crossdresser like this movie, the winner needs to come closest to the spirit of this movie. Because I've seen it 20 times and consider it to be the Gold Standard of anything to do with teenage crossdressing girls.

1. It needs to be a comedy- of course. Can't help it. Because of this movie, I expect hilarity to ensue once a girl cuts her hair and dons a jock strap. I mean, a girl pretending to be a boy? How's she going to pee, or shower, or handle a PE class of "shirts and skins" basketball where she gets to be "skins"? I mean these are opportunities for comedic gold, right? Um, not in the "The Academy" where these things are occasions for beatings, a knife fight, and an attempted rape. Which, because of my movie memories, was not what I was expecting. Winner: "Babe in Boyland" for being a light, funny read.

2. The "Just a Girl" Effect:

I mean, there needs to be a (good) reason why a girl would want to pretend to be a boy, right? Why else would you cut your hair, wear ugly shoes, and have to use the boys' bathroom. I mean, a boys' public bathroom? It's got to be in the Top 5 Most Disgusting and Smelly things in the world.
Look, in "Boyland", it's almost eerie how similar it is to the movie. Both characters want to win a writing award that they feel they weren't properly considered for...in part because of the whole "Just a Girl" type thing. So in both the movie and "Boyland" they go undercover to get a story about what boys are really like in the hopes of winning a journalism award. In "The Academy", the main character wants to be a space pilot and escape an arranged marriage. And only boys get to train to be pilots...again, not what I was expecting. If you look at the description of the book on Goodreads, it doesn't even mention it was a futuristic world. Not only that, but it wasn't a convincing futuristic world. For the most part, you didn't feel like the author created a new world and when she tried...it felt awkward. Winner: Babe in Boyland 

3. Put a Sock in It:
What we know from "Just One of the Guys" is that the main character must struggle with getting the whole "guy thing" right. And that it's helpful to learn how to walk like a "dude" if you just stuff a sock down your pants. In "Academy", it's pretty much she cuts her hair, ties her boobs down, and...well, that's it. Instant Dude! In "Boyland"...she even uses some glue and fluff to create stubble. Winner: Babe in Boyland. But, I must admit to having some concerns because the book is so similar to the movie.  

The Overall Winner of the "Battle of the Crossdressers", is obviously "Babe in Boyland". It won all categories and deserves this: (from the movie, of course)


But, does "Boyland" too closely resemble "Just One of the Guys"? You know, kind of. As I was reading it, I almost felt like some scenes were lifted straight out of the movie. Like the author had also seen the movie 20+ times like me. But in the end, I thought that "Boyland" was overall charming and entertaining enough in its own right. Now "The Academy" deals with more of the darker issues- like gender identity- than "Boyland". But I honestly don't think it presented those well- it felt awkward. Which makes its sinister tone, kind of pointless. Overall, I'd give "The Academy" a 2 star rating, and "Babe in Boyland" a 3 to 3 1/2 star rating.

Jody Gehrman's Website
Babe in Boyland

Add "The Academy:
The Academy

Monday, August 27, 2012

Review: Confessions of an Angry Girl by Louise Rozett

Confessions of an Angry Girl (Confessions, #1)

Goodreads Summary:
Rose Zarelli, self-proclaimed word geek and angry girl, has some confessions to make…1. I'm livid all the time. Why? My dad died. My mom barely talks. My brother abandoned us. I think I'm allowed to be irate, don't you?

2. I make people furious regularly. Want an example? I kissed Jamie Forta, a badass guy who might be dating a cheerleader. She is now enraged and out for blood. Mine.

3. High school might as well be Mars. My best friend has been replaced by an alien, and I see red all the time. (Mars is red and "seeing red" means being angry—get it?)

Here are some other vocab words that describe my life: Inadequate. Insufferable. Intolerable.

(Don't know what they mean? Look them up yourself.)

(Sorry. That was rude.)

My Review:
Despite feeling a little misled by the book title, overall I liked the book. Why misled? I didn't feel that Rose was an angry, Angry Girl. Especially considering her father died mere months before the story started. Maybe I just knew a lot of angry people. Or my family was right and I was an angry little dwarf during my high school years. (I'm exactly 5 feet tall.) I felt like I spent most of the book waiting to see Rose become the "Angry Girl". So why did I keep reading?

A lot of what went on with Rose and her best friend, Tracy, seemed to perfectly capture the decisions and problems of the teen years. I think that the author really did a good job of capturing the whole sex issue that teenage girls face when, during the novel, Tracy is being pressured by her boyfriend to have sex. And Tracy feeling like, I guess, her and Rose are the only virgins. And they are freshman. Which is really sick and sad. But as a former teacher, I can tell you that every middle school I taught at had quite a few pregnant girls.

I'm putting on my "Mom Hat" now...even though it seems like boys are ready to have sex earlier than girls, they aren't. They just are more open and vocal about the wanting to have sex. Proof? Teen Pregnancy. If boys were truly more mature and developmentally ready to have sex earlier, there wouldn't be a teen pregnancy problem because a mature teen boy would insist that his girlfriend was protected. And that's just protecting your girlfriend at the most basic and minimum level- making sure she doesn't get pregnant or end up with a disease. The fact that many boys can't even meet the basics of respecting their partner means they are in no way ready to protect a girl emotionally from the consequences of having sex. And "Confessions of an Angry Girl" managed to show all of this without getting preachy.

At the end of the book, there's a mention of a second book in this series that will cover Rose's sophomore year in high school- Confessions of an Almost Girlfriend. I'm actually happy to see this because many realistic fiction books are stand alone books. And when you're writing about a teen with problems- alcoholic parent, deceased parent, drug abuse, etc.- it's hard to really wrap that up in one book. Life just isn't that neat. So, I look forward to reading the next books in the series and following Rose all the way through high school.

Overall Rating: 3 stars
Genre Rating: 3 ½ school lockers

Louise Rozett's Website
Louise Rozett's Twitter
Confessions of an Angry Girl (Confessions, #1)


Saturday, August 25, 2012

Review: Tokyo Heist by Diana Renn

Tokyo Heist by Diana Renn 
Goodreads Summary:

Sixteen-year-old Violet loves reading manga and wearing scarves made from kimono fabric, so she’s thrilled that her father’s new painting commission means a summer trip to Japan. But what starts as an exotic vacation quickly turns into a dangerous treasure hunt.

Her father’s newest clients, the Yamada family, are the victims of a high-profile art robbery: van Gogh sketches have been stolen from their home, and, until they can produce the corresponding painting, everyone's lives are in danger -- including Violet's and her father's.

Violet’s search for the missing van Gogh takes her from the Seattle Art Museum, to the yakuza-infested streets of Tokyo, to a secluded inn in Kyoto. As the mystery thickens, Violet’s not sure whom she can trust. But she knows one thing: she has to solve the mystery -- before it’s too late.

My Review:
Am I being unreasonable? Look, if there's a place name in your book title...Like, say, "Tokyo", I think it creates certain expectations in your readers. I mean, aren't I justified in believing that this book should be set in Tokyo and I should feel like it's set in Tokyo? First, it takes about 1/3 of the book to actually get to Tokyo. Yes, really, Violet spends the first 120 or so pages wandering/investigating in Seattle. Then when she finally gets to Tokyo, it doesn't really feel like she's in Japan. For the most part, the complete lack of "Japanese" atmosphere makes the book seem like it could be set in any large city with a side trip to the city's "Little Tokyo". Why? Violet spends most of the Tokyo visit either in a hotel room or in an office building. I mean, the first meal her dad has in Japan is Teriyaki Chicken with rice. REALLY.

This is the book's whole strategy to making you feel like you're in Japan... "Ohayou gozaimausu, green tea, tatami mat, sushi." Does it feel like you're in Japan or in a Japanese restaurant? Just because you throw in a few Japanese words and places does not mean you have made someone feel like they've taken a trip to Japan. And this book doesn't. There is barely any discernible difference between Seattle and Tokyo.

This is me through most of the book- especially the first third before Violet gets to Japan.

GIFSoup

The only good thing I can say about this book is that it's basically readable...meaning it's good enough to finish. Anything else good? No. The characters were pretty much cardboard cutouts- misunderstood yet secretly talented teen girl for a main character, disinterested and distant dad, etc. And the relationships in the book didn't develop in any way that seemed realistic or natural. For example, Violet and her dad's relationship changed, but they spent very little time together. It seemed like character development was based on plot necessities (what the author needed the characters to do to move the book forward. It comes down to this, I should have gone onto YouTube and watched Japanese Game shows instead of reading this book. I at least would have been pleasantly entertained for a few hours.


Overall Rating: 2 stars
Genre Rating: 2 1/2 magnifying glasses
Tokyo Heist

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Feature and Follow (9)


Feature and Follow is hosted by Parajunkee & Alison Can Read every Friday. Complete Rules and Instructions are here:

This week's question: Worst Cover? What's the worst cover of a book you've read and loved?

These are the two that come to mind. Because I recently read them. And because I do a feature called "I Hate This Book of The Month" and they were both "winners"

Something Like Normal
Something Like Normal won my "I Hate This Cover" of the month in June because I almost didn't read it. Thought it looked like a cheesy romance and decided not to read it based on the cover.

Otherkin (Otherkin, #1)

"Otherkin" was my "I Hate This Cover" runner up this month because, well, the cover makes it look like shifter erotica. Which is not my thing....Not that there's anything wrong with that. (Otherkin is a YA book)

While you're here, please check out one of my 3 current giveaways:

1. 300 Followers Giveaway: Choice of $15 gift card to Amazon/B&N (US Only) or a book of your choice up to $15 through Book Depository (International) Rules and Entry Here

2. Win a preorder of Book #3 in Jennifer L. Armentrout's Lux Series,  Opal, through Book Depository. (Open internationally) Rules and Entry for Opal Giveaway

3. Win an autographed (paperback) copy of Taste by Kate Evangelista: Rules and Entry Here
Taste







Review: Bare-Naked Lola by Misa Ramirez

Bare-Naked Lola by Misa Bourbon Ramirez
Goodreads Summary:
Meet Dolores 'Lola' Cruz...Going undercover is second nature for Private Investigator Lola Cruz, but she’s out of her league when the case of a murdered Royals Courtside Dancer leads her to a local nudist resort. Parading around the sidelines of Sacramento’s professional basketball scene in a barely-there cheerleading outfit is one thing—but parading around in nothing but a smile?

If she has any chance of hiding this from her traditional family and on-again/off-again boyfriend Jack, she’s going to have to keep a lot more than her duct tape bra and killer dance moves under wraps…

Dislosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher/author via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

My Review:
It's kind of difficult to review mysteries. If you mention something and say it's not a spoiler, then you're basically giving away the fact that that's not a clue/important, etc. Which is a spoiler. So I like to focus on characters because I think that in the modern cozy-type mystery, characters make or break the story. Why? Because most of these are series and you have to like and/or be interested enough in the characters to keep reading the series year after year.

Which brings us back to this series and its main character, Lola. Now, the previous book in the series, Hasta la Vista, Lola!, was released in 2010. Then, no book in 2011. I was disappointed and sad because I really like the MC, Lola. So, I'm very happy that this series is continuing. More importantly- for review purposes- is that I even remember Lola. Now, I read about 400 books a year. I've read 1000's of mysteries. Many of the mysteries blend together and I often can't remember the name of the main character, but I do remember Lola. I love Lola's loving, loud, sweet, and eccentric extended family as much as I love the mystery parts of the book. The one bad thing about this series: not enough of Lola's grandpa. Who I just think is adorable and cute. This is why creating great and memorable characters is so important in a mystery. Every year when you get the latest book in the series, it should be like going to a family reunion. It should feel like visiting and catching up with friends. And this is how that series feels.

Back to this book...in part of it, Lola needs to do some investigation at a nudist resort. Which, um, Yuck. And because Lola shares my feelings about nudist resorts, the scenes there are among the funniest in the book. The nudist colony pretty much freaks Lola out. I think that Lola would agree with my "4 Layers Rule". Which is logical and only right when you think about it. The "4 Layers Rule" is one of the cornerstones of my family's neuroses. The "Rule" states that: "At all times there should be 4 layers of clothing between your genitals and other people's genitals." (Your underwear and pants/dress/skirt and the other person's underwear... 4 layers.) Now obviously a nudist colony violates The Rule in an extreme way and, rightly, this kind of leads to Lola's discomfort with being there. In a humorous way. Just thinking about someone getting all gross and sweaty playing naked volleyball, then going into the (nudist) restaurant and sitting their sweaty...um, butt on a chair...that I would later sit on. {{{Shudder}}}

   

Author's Website
Author's Twitter    

Overall Rating: 3 1/2 stars  
Genre Rating: 4 1/2 Magnifying glasses 
Bare-Naked Lola (A Lola Cruz Mystery #3)
   
Pleating for Mercy (A Magical Dressmaking Mystery, #1)The author also writes The Magical Dressmaking Mysteries under the name Melissa Bourbon. This is another great mystery series you should check out. The first book in the series is Pleating for Mercy. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Giveaway: Preorder copy of Opal by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Goodreads Summary:
No one is like Daemon Black.

When he set out to prove his feelings for me, he wasn’t fooling around. Doubting him isn’t something I’ll do again, and now that we’ve made it through the rough patches, well... There’s a lot of spontaneous combustion going on.

But even he can’t protect his family from the danger of trying to free those they love.

After everything, I’m no longer the same Katy. I’m different... And I’m not sure what that will mean in the end. When each step we take in discovering the truth puts us in the path of the secret organization responsible for torturing and testing hybrids, the more I realize there is no end to what I’m capable. The death of someone close still lingers, help comes from the most unlikely source, and friends will become the deadliest of enemies, but we won’t turn back. Even if the outcome will shatter our worlds forever.

Together we’re stronger... and they know it.

Giveaway Rules and Details:

Yes, really. You can already buy a preorder copy even though the release date is December 11, 2012. Isn't that nice of JLA? Kind of like an early Christmas gift.

I know that JLA said this isn't the official cover, so when that's released I'll update.

The (Boring) Rules, again. Although some are new.

1. Must be 13 years or older.
2. I'm not making it mandatory to follow via GFC or via Twitter, but you must follow me by either GFC or Twitter.
3. Winner must respond within 48 hours and will be notified by email
4. Please confirm that Book Depository delivers to your country before entering: List of Countries. Since this is for a physical copy of a book, you must be willing to supply me with a valid mailing address.
5. In the giveaway, one of the options is to "Be a Fan" of JLA by blogging about the Lux series in some way. Memes, answers to blog hops, cover reveals, etc. all count. So, you can do this more than once. You must link to this giveaway, though, for it to count.
6. I will be choosing the best JLA fan post and giving that person 20 extra entries. So, make them good. I also reserve the right not to select one- which I may do if they are all standard type cover reveals. However, posts about the Lux series are also okay- just make sure to mention "Opal". But try to get your best "Fan" post in a few days before the ending of the contest.
7. Also for the points for commenting, post in my Review of Onyx comments section.
8. As always, if you are a new follower, post the link to your blog in the comments below and I will follow back. If you follow on Twitter, I'll follow back within 24 hours.

My Review of Obsidian which really isn't a review review. It's like "Dating A Bad Boy Part One"

Here's the Rafflecopter thingy:

a Rafflecopter giveaway








Review: Serial Hottie by Kelly Oram

Serial Hottie by Kelly Oram

Goodreads Summary:
Ellie’s sweet sixteen is a summer of firsts. First car. First kiss. First boyfriend. First serial-killing stalker?

Hockey-obsessed tomboy Eleanor Westley has never been the object of a guy’s affection before. So when the hottest boy she’s ever seen moves in across the street and starts treating her like she’s the center of his universe, naturally she’s going to be a little skeptical. But everything starts to make sense when girls who look just like Ellie start dying all around the city. Obviously the new guy is the killer, and of course he only likes her because he wants to slice her into tiny pieces. Right?

The more Ellie gets to know Seth the more she’s convinced he’s a psychopathic killer. The problem is he’s the sweetest psychopathic killer she’s ever met. Not to mention he’s brutally hot. No matter how hard she tries, she can’t help but fall for him. Will Ellie find true love, or will her summer of firsts turn out to be a summer of lasts?

My Review:
Well, a potential boyfriend who is a serial killer would pretty much be at the top of the Bad Boy pyramid, right? Especially if his preferred victim type- the physical traits, etc. of the people he kills- fits you. Well this is the setup and mystery of the book. And she thinks this, initially, because she's spying on him. Kind of like this classic movie, Rear Window.
I'm not going to tell you whether or not he's the serial killer. But Ellie does believe he is and finds him attractive and sort of dates him. Or at least spends some alone time with him. Which kind of makes her all kinds of stupid. And yet the story is full of suspense and charm and you just have to go with it. If this kind of thing will annoy you because you will find Ellie TSTL (too stupid to live), then you might want to skip this book. Or wait until you're just in the frame of mind where you can suspend disbelief and just go along with the story.  Why is this book so appealing to me? I guess because it's one of those stories that highlights the weird things that can happen in suburbia. (Where I spent my teen years.) It's also why I like this movie- in addition to the fact that it's a John Waters film and I just love him. 
All kinds of weird things can happen in suburbia. I don't know if it's a result of people working all day, driving straight into their garage, and walking straight into their homes that creates this kind of estrangement. A disconnect from your neighbors and environment. Where surface things seem to matter so much to people- the obsession with lawn care, driving the right car, etc. Where you almost just have to believe that there's a bubbling cauldron of suppressed...STUFF, I guess, going on underneath the surface type perfection. Which you almost have to because if the surface is all there is...     

If this book is not for you, please go out and rent or at least Netflix "Rear Window" and "Serial Mom",please. If you're old enough for Serial Mom, that is. If the two movies had a child, it would resemble "Serial Hottie". Well, I mean, the two movies are way more awesome than the book. (But read the book anyway?)     

Overall Rating: 3 stars  
Genre Rating: 3 ¾ stars (Can't quite bring myself to give it a 4 star rating. I mean, the MC was TSTL in a way that wasn't really explained beyond, "Gawd, Seth's Hot!" But I read it in one sitting, so I did really enjoy it. But it was a light fluffy read. See...I'm all over the place, so the ¾ stars is a compromise) 

Kelly Oram's Website 
Kelly Oram's Twitter 
Read Chapter One of This Book for Free 
Serial Hottie

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Review: Belles by Jen Calonita

Belles by Jen Calonita 
Goodreads Summary:
Fifteen-year-old Isabelle Scott loves her life by the boardwalk on the supposed wrong side of the tracks in North Carolina. But when tragedy strikes, a social worker sends her to live with a long-lost uncle and his preppy privileged family. Isabelle is taken away from everything she's ever known, and, unfortunately, inserting her into the glamorous lifestyle of Emerald Cove doesn't go so well. Her cousin Mirabelle Monroe isn't thrilled to share her life with an outsider, and, in addition to dealing with all the rumors and backstabbing that lurk beneath their classmates' Southern charm, a secret is unfolding that will change both girls' lives forever.

My Review: 
This was a book I really wanted tor read- I've been bugging my library to order it for months. So, was the wait worth it? I guess, overall, yes. If that seems like I'm qualifying my answer, that's because I am. This is a very uneven book. One in which the good is greater than the bad. But, there's quite a lot of bad. For starters, the "secret" that's mentioned in the book summary. The answer to the "secret" is dragged out until the end of the book- even though it will be obvious to everyone what the secret is from the very beginning of the book. And they mention the "secret" a few times, then it's basically forgotten about until the big reveal. The plot? The plot that's there- Izzie (Isabelle) trying to fit in at her new, snobby private school- is kind of clich├ęd- like someone watched "Mean Girls" too many times in puberty.
So, what saves this book? Because it was good enough that I plan to continue reading the series. Well, the character of Izzie. That's pretty much it, but sometimes having one character you like makes a whole book. Because you care what happens to them, so you want to find out what happens to them. Yes, I think the author took a lot of shortcuts on creating a sympathetic character- Izzie's mom dies so she lives with her grandma, then her grandma ends up in a home. I mean, this kind of scenario has been done before- repeatedly. However, I still ended up liking Izzie, which saved the book for me.

Overall rating: 3 stars (hope the second book in the series is better)
Genre Rating: 3 school lockers
To me, the ratings make this a borrow from the library type book.

Jen Calonita's Website
Jen Calonita's Twitter
Belles (Belles, #1)

Monday, August 20, 2012

300 Followers Giveaway

Enter Giveaway Pictures, Images and Photos

At some point, when I went on hiatus, I hit 300 followers. Now that I feel semi-caught up, I thought, it's finally time to post a giveaway. Thank you all for following me. I've enjoyed visiting all of your blogs and reading your posts. Thank you for making blogging such a fun experience. If you are a new follower, please let me know in comments: link to your blog and I will follow you back. Also, if you are a new follower on Twitter, I'll follow you back within 24 hours.

The prize is a $15 gift certificate to Amazon or Barnes and Noble. As an alternative, for international readers, you can choose a book up to $15 from Book Depository. U.S. winner may also choose a book from Book Depository instead of a gift certificate to Amazon/B&N. If I hit 450 followers on GFC, I'll add another winner. (Identical prize)

Rules:
1. Must be 13 years old.
2. I'm not making it mandatory to follow via GFC or via Twitter, but you must follow me by either GFC or Twitter.
3. Winner must respond within 48 hours and will be notified by email
4. Please confirm that Book Depository delivers to your country before entering: List of Countries

Here's the Rafflecopter thingy: Please let me know if I screwed anything up again.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Review: Keeping the Castle by Patrice Kindl




 Keeping the Castle by Patrice Kindle

Goodreads Summary:
Seventeen-year-old Althea is the sole support of her entire family, and she must marry well. But there are few wealthy suitors--or suitors of any kind--in their small Yorkshire town of Lesser Hoo. Then, the young and attractive (and very rich) Lord Boring arrives, and Althea sets her plans in motion. There's only one problem; his friend and business manager Mr. Fredericks keeps getting in the way. And, as it turns out, Fredericks has his own set of plans . . . This witty take on the classic Regency--Patrice Kindl's first novel in a decade--is like literary champagne!

My Review: 
This was a book I was really looking forward to. Seemed a little like Auten's Pride and Prejudice. Young girl about to lose her home unless a good marriage is made. As the book goes on, it seems a little bit like Austen's book Emma. The main character, Althea is also trying to play matchmaker...unsuccessfully. Seems perfectly delightful, right? A YA Pride and Prejudice meets Emma. Then you realize that all the book is, really, is a cute premise. About a third of the way through the book, I almost gave up. It was so dull. The characters seemed so two-dimensional. Althea's stepsisters are fairly typical evil-type, nasty stepsisters. At this point- a third of the way through, you realize there's only about 150 pages to go. So you go on hoping it will get better, comforted that if it doesn't the book will soon be over.

Going on was my mistake. Those 150 pages took me about 2 weeks to get through. Same thing going through my head, "You can't give up there are only 125 pages...then 100 pages...then 50 pages..." It never got any better. I realized something, again. It takes really great talent to write a really great story in 200 pages. Think about it. Even if there are 10 characters, if you spend 2-4 pages on character development per character (back story, physical description, etc.) that's about 20% of the book. So, you have to combine things- instead of going on about how messy a character is, you might just convey that through their hair being unkempt, clothes being wrinkled, etc. In other words, every word has to count and often has to have dual purpose. That's something that the author is not capable of in this book and it shows in the lack of character development, the flow of the plot, etc. 

If you are a real Austen junkie and need a quick fix and are desperate, you may find this book a nice way to pass a few hours. If you go into it with diminished expectations. Otherwise, I think most people can take a pass on this book.

Patrice Kindl's website
Keeping the Castle



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