Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Here's a brief blurb from Ms. Anderson's website: Melinda Sordino busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops. Now her old friends won’t talk to her, and people she doesn’t even know hate her from a distance. The safest place to be is alone, inside her own head. But even that’s not safe. Because there’s something she’s trying not to think about, something about the night of the party that, if she let it in, would blow her carefully constructed disguise to smithereens. And then she would have to speak the truth. This extraordinary first novel has captured the imaginations of teenagers and adults across the country.

My Take

I felt that it was important for me to review this book during Banned Books Week.  It's unfortunate that there are people (Wesley Scroggins) trying to ban this book.  It's the story of Melinda who is raped by an older boy.  She can't bring herself to tell anyone about it.  I can say from personal experience, the price of silence is a steep, costly one. 

This book was powerful and moving.  As the reader you can feel Melinda's quiet desperation.  The fear mounting as time goes on.  The changes in Melinda are profound though.  Over time she grows stronger and more sure of herself.  This is a beautiful book that should be a must read for girls everywhere, and maybe even boys too.  It was beautiful and profound.  Mr. Freeman the art teacher was my favorite adult character.  He was so encouraging and helped Melinda see that what she had to say was important.  That she could express it through the vehicle of her art as well.  I definitely recommend this book and am giving it four gentle kisses!

Monday, September 27, 2010

This Side of the Sky by Marie-Francine Hebert

Here's a quick blurb from the Amazon page for this book: On this side of the sky, Mona and her kid sister, Bird, hide in the woods each day because it's far better than being home. But then there's the other side, the side Bird dreams of while she sits in the tall trees she climbs to get away from a life devoid of love. Bird may be eight, but her mind's only five, and Mona has to babysit her most of the time. All their father can do when he gets home is lie on the couch and watch TV, and with another baby on the way, it seems like Mona's mother is always too occupied with her own problems and misery to pay any attention to her.

They don't have many friends, but Mona and Bird have always had each other and the hideout of the hidden lake to run to when they needed to escape from mothers and fathers and teachers and bullies and the friends they want and the friends who need their help. But then Mona and Bird witness something terrible in the woods, and suddenly life changes forever for Mona and the others trapped on this side of the sky.

Written from Mona's perspective, this translation of a Governor General's Literary Award-nominee and winner of the PRIX DU LIVRE M. CHRISTIE explores themes of racism, sexual abuse, low self-esteem and the pain all these inflict on those who deserve it least.

My Take
I discovered this little book at a library sale.  It was a thin, small little book and sounded interesting from the cover description.  This little innocent looking book deals with some heavy hitting topics.  Racism, sexual abuse, alcoholism, among other things.

Mona and Bird are let to their own devices just about all the time in this book.  Mona is constantly told "go watch your sister".  Mona does her best to keep Bird from climbing too high in the trees, for fear she will fall and injure herself. 

It's discussed how Bird's mind is lagging behind her physical age.  However, I thought of the characters Bird was insightful and wise beyond her years.  She climbs trees escaping the live below.  If only she could get to the other side of the sky.  It was sad to see these two rag-a-muffin girls slog through life with little love or joy.  Not much in the way of role models among the adults surrounding them either.

This book is touching and inspiring to see how Mona and Bird finally handle the incident they've witnessed.
My favorite line: "This time our gift comes from life itself and is served up on a tray of stars."

Worth checking out for sure.  I would say due to the delicate nature of some of the themes, 13 and up is my recommended age.  I'm giving it 3 1/2 tender kisses!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

SPEAK Out and Banned Books Week

I knew on the outset that this was going to be one of the more difficult posts I’ve ever written. Please bear with me if I begin to ramble. I have been reading a lot about banned books and more specifically about Speak and the whole Wesley Scroggins debacle. I wanted to post this during banned books week which runs from September 25, 2010 to October 2, 2010. I know I lag behind the posts in support of Speak, but just felt like the time was now, so here we are.

I started thinking about Speak and Wesley Scroggins talking about his views of rape being soft porn, which incidentally makes me want to vomit. It makes me sad to think there are people out in the world who would say such a thing. It breaks my heart that these people have any kind of influence at all. It’s horrible to think that the voice of a few can dictate the actions of many. I’m so proud of the literary community coming together and shouting “NO, this is not okay!”

I joined the #SpeakLoudly movement on twitter. I kept thinking about it, Speak Loudly. I felt a little like a hypocrite. Whew, here goes. You see, I am a survivor of sexual abuse. There are very few people who actually know that, as a matter fact, only one member of my family knows and only because I recently told them. So here I am going on about Speak Loudly and I was carrying around this secret. People like Wesley Scroggins feed into the mentality that what happened to me was dirty or my fault somehow. And that, well that’s a bunch a freakin’ crap! Thinking back to when I was a kid, reading some of the books with characters going through similar things (there probably weren’t many because I’m getting towards old), really did help me. I didn’t feel like such a freak. And now maybe it’s about time I do a little speaking out of my own.

To say that wonderful works of fiction such as To Kill a Mockingbird, The Scarlet Letter, or The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn are somehow harmful to our children, well frankly that insults me and my child. We all have to live in this world together and not simply within the confines of one’s own small, closed mind. I encourage my son to broaden his horizons, put himself in another person’s shoes, and view life from their vantage point. I would think doing this through a work of fiction would be one of the safer vehicles.

I did warn you all that I may ramble, right? My son has challenges. He has been diagnosed with ADHD, OCD and Tourette ’s syndrome. This country, not all that long ago, used to practice eugenics. Can you imagine being told that because you have some kind of disability or difference deemed ‘unacceptable’ in your familial line, that you were NOT going to be allowed to re-produce! Someone actually performing sterlization procedures on you.  Wonderful children like my son might not be here today!  Letting someone else determine what’s acceptable for us to read is akin to that very same thing. NO ONE decides what’s acceptable for me and mine, other than me and mine. Okay, I’m stepping down off my soapbox and stopping my rambling rant now.

Sneak Peek: However, I also wanted to say that on October 26th I’m interviewing Beth Fehlbaum on my blog. Beth is the author of two novels, Courage In Patience and Hope In Patience. They are the story of 15 year old Ashley Asher, abuse survivor, who not only survives, but goes on to thrive. Hope In Patience will be released October 27th 2010. I’m very excited to be able to interview Beth on my blog. I hope you’ll stop by and check it out.

Saving Max by Antoinette van Heugten

Here's a quick bit from the website: Single mother Danielle Parkman is at the end of her rope and she knows it. A successful attorney, Danielle works grueling hours for her clients, yet devotes every spare moment to her teenage son, Max, who has Asperger’s – high-functioning autism. Alarmingly, Max has become violent and suicidal. Danielle is frantic. None of the professionals have helped him. Desperate for guidance, Danielle brings Max to a psychiatric hospital in the hope that the best and the brightest will bring the son she loves back to her. The bizarre twists and turns that take place in the hospital force Danielle to consider the unimaginable -- that Max’s problems may be greater than anyone could have imagined.

And then the true horror begins. Danielle finds Max lying bloody and unconscious next to the bed of a murdered patient – a boy his own age. When Max becomes the prime suspect, Danielle is determined to find the killer and absolve her son. She risks everything in a race against time to find out the truth. Is her son a murderer?

My Take
Okay, can you say INTENSE?!  This book is the stuff my nightmares are made of.  While it's not a YA book, it was totally wicked awesome to be sure.  We're launched pretty quickly into the heart-wrenching choice of Danielle having to put her child into a psychiatric facility for diagnoses.  That in itself is difficult enough.  Then when she can't manage to get her child returned to her, scary.  Things just get worse from there. 

While I did find the fact that Danielle kept running off and taking all these crazy chances a tad on the frustrating side, I would have done the same for my child if possible.  This book kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time.  Some of the details were a little gory, but nothing I couldn't take.

I love Doaks, the crusty old private investigator.  Every time he appeared in the book, I pictured Sam Elliott.  If they ever make a movie, I vote for him to play Doaks.

Having a child that has several diagnoses, I know that mental illness among adolescents is so misunderstood.  It was a tad scary how closely this book could have potentially mirrored reality as well.  I even found myself waking up at night, pondering how this was all going to work out in the end.

SAVING MAX is released in October 2010.  This book comes with four kisses from me!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Funny How Things Change by Melissa Wyatt

Here's a quick bit from Ms. Wyatt's website: Remy Walker has it all: he found the love of his life at home in crumbling little Dwyer, West Virginia, deep in his beloved Appalachian Mountains where his family settled more than one hundred and sixty years ago. But at seventeen, you’re not supposed to already be where you want to be, right? You’ve got a whole world to make your way through, and you start by leaving your dead-end town. Like his girlfriend, Lisa. Lisa’s going away to college. If Remy goes with her, it would be the start of everything they ever dreamed of. So when a fascinating young artist from out of state shows Remy his home through new eyes, why is he suddenly questioning his future?

Over the course of a summer, Remy learns how much he has to give up for a girl, and how much he needs to give up for a mountain.

*Note: I won this book from Nerds Heart YA. I want to thank them. Stop by their site sometime.
My Take
Remy is seventeen and in love with Lisa.  The roots of his small hometown run so deep into him.  The question is, do they run deep enough to hold him there?  This book was a creeper, meaning the story slowly crept over me and pulled me right into it.  It wasn't long and I could feel Remy's desperation at wanting to escape his small town.  Then the reader gets tossed about with his confusion.  Remy is a very relate-able guy.

The interesting thing about this book, is that it told a fairly simply story in an eloquent way.  Before long the reader can sense his strong familial and geographical connections.  It's not just the town that he's tied to but the land itself.  The description in this book is beautiful.  Remy thinks of the mountains as beings with water filling their capillaries.  Check this book out and find out how Remy answers the age old question, should I stay or should I go?

For all it's loveliness, I give this one four big kisses!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Hard to Hold by Julie Leto

Here's a quick blurb from Ms. Leto's lovely website:  New York lobbyist Michael Davoli feels like he’s been sucker punched when he meets Anne Miller at a concert. When fate leads him to move into same Albany apartment building where Anne lives, Michael falls hard. After all, Anne’s hot, his dog likes her, and she’s catnip to the senses after she picks a lock faster than Sydney Bristow can disarm a nuke.

Always fiercely independent, Anne’s crackerjack reporting skills and keen intellect are no match for the chemical reaction she has to this man with electric blue eyes. But while Mike effortlessly holds her with his gaze, he withholds the embrace she longs for. Why is he so distant? Has Anne misread his signals? When he finally confesses that he suffers from a neurological disorder that he’s learned to disguise from others but could keep him from ever holding her through the night—she makes a choice that changes the rest of her life.

Anne isn’t about to let anything like Tourette’s Syndrome keep her from the man of her dreams. But Mike has a second secret. Will this secret be the one that even a grand passion cannot survive?

My Take
While this is not a YA book, I wanted to read this book the moment I saw that the male lead character had Tourette's Syndrome.  My son also has Tourette's.  Like the main character, Michael, my son has a milder case of TS.  I've come to know that it is one of the most misunderstood syndromes out there.  However, I love seeing characters with differences in books. 
I liked this book a lot.  On the cover it claims this book is 'The First Reality Based Romance' and I would have to say that's probably fairly accurate.  We don't often find romance books where characters deal with reality based situations such as living with Tourette's, etc.  I felt the building up of Anne and Mike's relationship was about right.  The pacing of it all was terrific.  It was a fire that started out slow and built up over time.  I appreciated the fact that Mike's Tourette's really wasn't the focus of their issues, but merely one facet of the challenges they had to face.
I also totally <3 the fact that she mentioned Red Rocks Amphitheatre (something I pass everyday).  I grew up in Morrison, Colorado and it's just kind of a little bonus to see someplace I'm so familiar with in a book.  There were even a couple exotic locales travelled to that added some spice. 
There were only a couple of little nit picky drawbacks I noticed.  One, they discuss on the back copy how Michael is fearful of his tics hurting Anne during the night.  That situation is never discussed much in the book.  It's mentioned casually as an aside, but made to sound like not an issue.  The other very minor point, Anne is a curvy girl in the pages of the book and they put a super slender chicky on the cover (totally not under the authors control, I know that), but it would have been nice to see a curvy girl up there front and center.  Like I said, minuscule things and don't take away from the story one bit.
I'm giving this 3 big smooches!  What about you, do you like romance novels?  If so, what type of romances do you like to read?

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Health Communications, Inc. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Monday, September 13, 2010

Extraordinary by Nancy Werlin

Here's a quick bit from Nancy Werlin's website: What does it mean to be extraordinary? Phoebe finds herself drawn to Mallory, the strange and secretive new kid in school. Soon the two girls are as close as sisters . . . until Mallory’s magnetic older brother, Ryland, appears. Ryland has an immediate, exciting hold on Phoebe—but a dangerous hold, for she begins to question her feelings about her best friend and, worse, about herself.

Soon she’ll discover the shocking, fantastical truth about Ryland and Mallory, and about an age-old debt they expect Phoebe to pay. Will she be strong enough to resist? Will she be special enough to save herself?
My Take
Sometime back I read Nancy Werlin's Impossible, another faery tale.  Ms. Werlin does the faery realm quite well in my opinion.  Phoebe, the main character in this book was a very nice girl and completely likeable.  In some ways, she was almost too good.  She never seemed to find much trouble and breezed about life.

Overall, I liked this book.  I didn't particularly love it, but I liked it well enough.  The description of the faery world, towards the very last part of the book was wonderful.  I particularly enjoyed it once everything was explained, again toward the last of the book.  At that point, the excitement was ramped up quite a bit too. 

There was zero drugs, and drinking in this book and very minimal mentions of sex.  I would say this could easily be for 13 and up.  I'll give this book 3 little innocent kisses!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Librarything as part of their early book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Here's a teeny-tiny bit about the book from Ms. Collins site: Katniss Everdeen, girl on fire, has survived, even though her home has been destroyed. There are rebels. There are new leaders. A revolution is unfolding.

My Take - Spoiler Free
So here we are for the third, and final installment of the Hunger Games series.  What a ride it's been too.  We've all anxiously awaited the fate of Katniss and Panem.  We vascillated between team Gale or team Peeta (okay, some of held steadfast in our team support too).  We've cried, cringed, and even cheered.  I've been reading a few reviewers here and there, but here's my take on this final journey with Katniss and crew.
The first two books were beyond my wildest expectations.  I loved them - deeply.  That set the bar extremely high for me with my expectations of the third and final novel.  To be honest, I was a touch disappointed.  In the beginning, the book dragged for me.  However, when Peeta was brought in, my interest piqued and the book really began to flow again for me.
I loved the fact that an epilogue was part of it all and we got a brief glimpse into the future.  I was actually pretty pleased with the way things turned out in the end.  I'm giving this the final round of The Hunger Games, 3 1/2 big smooches!  A great series that ended on a solid note.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Crescendo by Becca Fitzpatrick

Here's a bit from Ms. Fitzpatrick's website: Nora should have known her life was far from perfect. Despite starting a relationship with her guardian angel, Patch (who, title aside, can be described as anything but angelic), and surviving an attempt on her life, things are not looking up. Patch is starting to pull away and Nora can't figure out if it's for her best interest or if his interest has shifted to her arch-enemy, Marcie Millar. Not to mention that Nora is haunted by images of her father and she becomes obsessed with finding out what really happened to him that night he left for Portland and never came home.

The further Nora delves into the mystery of her father's death, the more she comes to question if her Nephilim bloodline has something to do with it as well as why she seems to be in danger more than the average girl. Since Patch isn't answering her questions and seems to be standing in her way, she has to start finding the answers on her own. Relying too heavily on the fact that she has a guardian angel puts Nora at risk again and again. But can she really count on Patch or is he hiding secrets darker than she can even imagine?

This is available everywhere October 19, 2010.  I received a copy through Traveling ARC Tours for review.

My Take
I devoured this book.  I read through it in a day and a half.  I loved the fact that it went deeper into Nora's past.  There were twists and turns that were surprising.  It kept the pages turning right up until the end.  I'm looking forward to the next in the series. 
I did find the whole thing with Patch and Marcie a little unnerving.  I was NOT happy with Patch.  But dudes can just be that way sometimes.  I kept thinking he was going to have his reasons.  And there were instances were Nora was just being unreasonable too.  I could feel her trying to do her best and put some distance between them, but also her overwhelming desire to be close to him. 
I liked the addition of Rixson and Vee in more detail.  Vee and Nora are truly there for one another and I think that's so awesome.  I could almost taste the cotton candy at Delphic Beach.  Nora is a good girl who pushes on that envelope a bit more in this book.  I like seeing her character stretch a bit. 
Fantastic read with as many twists and turns as the Delphic roller coaster.  I'm giving it four big passionate kisses!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Linger by Maggie Stiefvater

Here's a quick bite from Maggie's website: The sequel to Shiver follows the story of Grace and the wolves of Mercy Falls.

Maggie says: "It's about after. What happens after you discover there are werewolves in the wood, after you've fallen in love for the first time, after you've lost what you think you can't live without, after you've become someone you can't live with."

My Take
This is a book I won from Jami at YA Addict.  Please visit her awesome blog sometime.
It had been awhile since I had read Shiver.  I picked right up where it left off though, without any problems.   It was nice to see how things were going with Grace and Sam. 
I like the addition of Cole and Isabel having a stronger voice in this book too.  She's an interesting character.  I was so absorbed in the wolves of Mercy Falls that I read this over Saturday afternoon and Sunday.  The green ink was kinda' coolio.  It was a shade that had my eyes turning it to black in no time. 

I thought the character development with Cole was wonderful.  The whole thing with Victor left me sad, very sad.  I feel bad that Grace left things as she did with her parents.  While I don't agree with her parents, it breaks my heart to see things so irreparbly damaged. 

I really liked this book and it felt like coming home, in a sense.  I'm giving it 4 smacks, because it was warm, enjoyable, a bit heart-wrenching.  You know the deal.

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