Tuesday, May 24, 2011

What Happened to Goodbye

What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen

Release Date: May 10, 2011

Rating: 5/5 Hoots

GoodReads.Com Summary:
In the past two years, Mclean Sweet has moved four times. At each stop, she assumes a new persona, but it never quite works. Whether she's an effervescent cheerleader or an intense drama queen, nothing can permanently dispel the turmoil and rage at her mother since her parents' divorce. Sarah Dessen's novel about a teenager and her restaurant manager father captures the vulnerability that young people often experience after the dissolution of their family. A compelling story; strong characterization; and with a touch of romance.

My Review:

I really enjoyed this book because Sarah Dessen is so talented at creating realistic characters. Mclean Sweet is not perfect, but you can definitely identify with her. She has been thrown into a situation with no good solution, but she tries to do what is right. I appreciate how her parents had depth- they aren't painted as heroes or villains, but real people who sometimes make bad choices. Mclean's conflicted feelings about her mom were totally believable, and I liked that Dessen didn't trade in realism for a nice, neat ending. I think lots of readers can relate to trying to do the best they can in a situation they don't have much control over. I like that although Mclean is young, in some cases she acts more mature than her parents.

Mclean's new friends are great too...I LOVE Deb who is much more than she seems at first. Her neighbor and love interest, Dave is sweet. I liked seeing their relationship slowly unfold. Opal and the other restaurant workers are funny and endearing.

I love all the details and backstory Dessen includes, like Mclean and her Dad's love of basketball, the beach trips she takes with her mom, her Dad's job as a restaurant consultant, and the city model project Opal ropes them into. All these little things combine to make a convincing story.

Some of the other reviews I read faulted the book for a lack of action, and while I would agree that it isn't action-packed I don't think that's a bad thing. Most of the real-life tough situations we have to work through are probably not single, dramatic events but an ongoing struggle, like the one Mclean faces daily- she doesn't want to hurt her Mom, but she also can't pretend that everything is okay.

This is a great read for people who enjoy books that focus on characters and relationships.

I also have to share a fangirl moment:  This book also has a great librarian who helps the MC...I appreciated her being portrayed as young, friendly & cool instead of as a stereotype, so I tweeted about it. Imagine my excitement when Sarah Dessen herself replied!!! She said, "Truth: all the librarians I know are cool. For real!" *Squee!* So, I have to conclude that she is as nice as she seems in her blog!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

In My Mailbox (#6)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren.

I didn't get a ton of books this week, but the ones I did get look amazing!

From the library:
Delirium by Lauren Oliver (GoodReads)
The Ghoul Next Door (Monster High, Book 2) by Lisi Harrison (GoodReads)
The Summer of Firsts and Lasts by Terra Elan McVoy (GoodReads)
Shimmer (Riley Bloom, Book 2) by Alyson Noel (GoodReads)

What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen (GoodReads)
The Reinvention of Moxie Roosevelt by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel (GoodReads)

I adored What Happened to Goodbye...hopefully will have that review posted later today! I also enjoyed Moxie Roosevelt, and started Ghoul Next Door this morning. Happy Reading!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Sean Griswold's Head by Lindsey Leavitt

Sean Griswold's Head by Lindsey Leavitt

Rating: 4/5 Hoots

Release Date: 3/1/11 Summary: According to her guidance counselor, fifteen-year-old Payton Gritas needs a focus object-an item to concentrate her emotions on. It's supposed to be something inanimate, but Payton decides to use the thing she stares at during class: Sean Griswold's head. They've been linked since third grade (Griswold-Gritas-it's an alphabetical order thing), but she's never really known him.
The focus object is intended to help Payton deal with her father's newly diagnosed multiple sclerosis. And it's working. With the help of her boy-crazy best friend Jac, Payton starts stalking-er, focusing on-Sean Griswold . . . all of him! He's cute, he shares her Seinfeld obsession (nobody else gets it!) and he may have a secret or two of his own.
In this sweet story of first love, Lindsey Leavitt seamlessly balances heartfelt family moments, spot-on sarcastic humor, and a budding young romance.

My Review:
I really enjoyed Sean Griswold's Head. Lindsey Leavitt did a great job of creating a story that incorporates family, friendship and romance- 3 huge aspects of a teen's life. Payton is a lovable and well-rounded main character- I could really relate to how she struggled to deal with not only finding out that her Dad has MS, but that the rest of the family has known for months and has been keeping it from her.

The romance that develops between Payton and Sean is very sweet, but also realistic- they have misunderstandings and obstacles to overcome. I liked that Payton did not lose herself in their relationship- she found solace in being with Sean, but she didn't totally depend on him. Another great aspect of the story is Payton's friendship with her BFF Jac, who is a fun, colorful character. This is another relationship that is depicted very realistically,  and it grows and changes over the course of the book. I loved reading about Jac's well-meaning interference into Payton's love life and the sometimes disastrous consequences.

Payton definitely changes during the school year that the book covers- at the beginning she is a great student, friend and daughter, but she is also a little immature and self-centered. After she begins coping with her Dad's disease she becomes more compassionate and has a greater understanding and empathy for what other people have gone through, like her friend Jac's experience with her parent's divorce.
Although the book has some serious subject matter, it is also hilarious at times! Payton has a great sarcastic sense of humor, and her run-ins with Grady the Goth/wannabe vampire were so funny that I had to read them aloud to my husband!

Sean Griswold's Head is a great book for fans of contemporary realistic fiction! I would pair Sean Griswold's Head with the Dairy Queen series by Catherine Gilbert Murdock. Both feature strong, sporty (not to mention funny) heroines with family, friendship and romance drama.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Prom & Prejudice by Elizabeth Eulberg

Prom & Prejudice by Elizabeth Eulberg

Rating: 4/5 Hoots

Release Date: Jan 1, 2011

GoodReads.Com Summary:
After winter break, the girls at the very prestigious Longbourn Academy become obsessed with the prom. Lizzie Bennet, who attends Longbourn on a scholarship, isn’t interested in designer dresses and expensive shoes, but her best friend, Jane, might be — especially now that Charles Bingley is back from a semester in London.
Lizzie is happy about her friend’s burgeoning romance but less than impressed by Charles’s friend, Will Darcy, who’s snobby and pretentious. Darcy doesn’t seem to like Lizzie either, but she assumes it’s because her family doesn’t have money. Clearly, Will Darcy is a pompous jerk — so why does Lizzie find herself drawn to him anyway?
Will Lizzie’s pride and Will’s prejudice keep them apart? Or are they a prom couple in the making? Whatever the result, Elizabeth Eulberg, author of The Lonely Hearts Club, has concocted a very funny, completely stylish delight for any season — prom or otherwise.

My Review: 
Prom & Prejudice was a delicious little treat! It was a darling book that I devoured in one sitting. It is a great read for those who already know and love Pride & Prejudice, but I think it would also be a perfect start for teens who are interested in Jane Austen but might be hesitant to tackle the original. I loved seeing how all of my favorite P&P characters were portrayed in this updated version- Wickham & Lydia are especially hilarious, and Darcy is swoon-worthy as always. Caroline Bingham is a perfect example of the girl you love to hate.

The private school setting functioned well to tell the story, and I loved the focus on prom dates versus marriages. Eulberg did an excellent job of making the story accessible to teens while preserving the lightness and spirit of Austen's work.

Overall, it followed the original P&P storyline very closely, although there were a few surprises that I enjoyed discovering.

Prom & Prejudice is a great book for romantics and Austen fans and will introduce many new young readers to a beloved story.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

In My Mailbox (#5)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren.

I had an epic book week- got lots of new titles from the library, found some great YA paperbacks for $1 apiece at BooksAMillion, had an online order come in and more! As you've also probably noticed, I also got an amazing new blog design by my friend Becca at Jumping Jax Designs.

From the Library:
Wolves, Boys and Other Things That Might Kill Me by Kristen Chandler (GoodReads)
Babe in Boyland by Jody Gehrman (GoodReads)
Darkness Becomes Her by Kelly Keaton (GoodReads)
Prom & Prejudice by Elizabeth Eulberg (GoodReads)
Sean Griswold's Head by Lindsey Leavitt (GoodReads)
Dead Reckoning (Sookie Stackhouse #11) by Charlaine Harris (GoodReads)
River Marked (Mercy Thompson #5) by Patricia Briggs (GoodReads)
Hex Education by Emily Gould and Zareen Jaffery (GoodReads)
Abandon by Meg Cabot (Bookperk) (GoodReads)
Roses & Bones by Francesca Lia Block (Bookperk) (GoodReads)
Demon's Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan ($1 @ BAM) (GoodReads)
Enthusiasm by Polly Shulman ($1 @ BAM) (GoodReads)
I was a Non-Blonde Cheerleader by Kieran Scott ($1 @ BAM) (GoodReads)
Brunettes Strike Back by Kieran Scott ($1 @ BAM) (GoodReads)
Devilish by Maureen Johnson ($1 @ BAM) (GoodReads)
Throne of Fire (Kane Chronicles, Book 2) by Rick Riordan (GoodReads)
 The funny thing is, for all those books I purchased this week, I only spent about $20! It felt like Christmas morning getting all those YA paperbacks for a buck each at BooksAMillion. Plus, a while ago I had ordered Roses & Bones and Abandon in a BOGO deal from BookPerk, but their computer system had a glitch which told everyone their order had been cancelled. Everyone received the books, and BookPerk credited the accounts back to make up for the confusion, so those 2 books were FREE! Yay! I also bought Throne of Fire, which wasn't too bad for a hardcover- $14. I think I did pretty good to get 9 books for $20!

In other good news, my husband and I are on vacation this week in the Outer Banks of North Carolina! It is beautiful although chillier than expected! I have a lot of reading and relaxing on the agenda this week- here's a snapshot of my view from earlier today....Bliss!

Have a great week!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Entwined by Heather Dixon

Entwined by Heather Dixon
Rating: 5/5 Hoots

Release Date: March 29, 2011 Summary:
Azalea is trapped. Just when she should feel that everything is before her . . . beautiful gowns, dashing suitors, balls filled with dancing . . . it's taken away. All of it.
The Keeper understands. He's trapped, too, held for centuries within the walls of the palace. And so he extends an invitation.
Every night, Azalea and her eleven sisters may step through the enchanted passage in their room to dance in his silver forest.
But there is a cost.
The Keeper likes to keep things.
Azalea may not realize how tangled she is in his web until it is too late.

My Review:
Entwined is a gorgeous book!  Heather Dixon presents a new take on the fairy tale "The Twelve Dancing Princesses." Azalea and her sisters are charming, spunky heroines. Their personalities were differentiated well (at least the 3 oldest princesses), and they felt believable to me- Azalea is a good leader and a typical first-born, Bramble lives up to her name with a sharp wit and fiery demeanor, and Clover is tenderhearted and sweet. I loved how the sisters cared for one another and related to each other so well. Their passion for dancing and the joy and freedom it brings them is evident throughout the book- I always appreciate when a character's interests are integrated into their personalities, and this was definitely the case with Entwined.

The princesses' relationship with their father, the King, develops wonderfully over the course of the story. He is both gruff and tender, with a dry sense of humor that pops up from time to time to surprise you.

Keeper is an extremely creepy villain, but he is also strangely enticing. The reader is drawn into his web just as the princesses are, and once he begins to show his true nature it is horrifying! The duality of his beautiful appearance and dancing ability with his cruelty is chilling!

My absolute favorite aspect of the book was by far the romances! Of the many gentleman who come to the palace in an attempt to solve the riddle of where the princesses dance at night, 3 suitors stand out. Each is as different, well-rounded, and enjoyable as the sister he pursues. I loved the Austen-esque mix-ups that ensued and the sweet, romantic gestures each suitor performed. Dixon is skilled at writing lovely kissing scenes with just the right amount of build-up!

Like the dance for which it is named, Entwined will quickly have you entangled in this beautiful book!

**Thanks so much to the lovely and talented Becca at Jumping Jax Designs, who created this AMAZING blog design for me!**