Monday, January 31, 2011

Heaven Looks A Lot Like the Mall by Wendy Mass

Here's a blurb about the book from the author's website, Ms. Wendy Mass: Disillusioned sixteen-year-old Tessa is pretty unhappy with life. One minute an Ashlee Simpson song is running through her mind in gym class, and the next a dodgeball comes hurtling at her head. The next thing Tessa knows, she's floating up to heaven, only to find that it bears a striking resemblance to her hometown mall. Written in free verse, Heaven Looks a Lot Like the Mall is the story of a spunky heroine who hasn't always made the right choices but who needs to discover what makes life worth living.

My Take

Okay, I have a confession to make.  I felt like I wasn't going to reach my goal of 100 books for the year, so I started reading some of the novels in verse I had been planning to read but hadn't gotten to.  I'm almost there.
This book starts out with Tessa being hit by a dodgeball and winding up in a coma.  Dodgeball is one tough game.  : )  She winds up in what looks very much like her local mall, where both of her parents work.  She begins going through her live, significant event by significant event.  A boy is her guide part of the time.  I love how this book is divided into the various stores that relate somehow to the events in her life. 

It becomes apparent that Tessa has definitely not always done the right thing.  And she rarely even feels remorse over it all.  Her moral compass is off kilter.  The boy prods her to figure out the question that must be answered while she's 'at the mall'.  We tag along for the ride and some of it is funny and some of it is annoying but you're always pulling for Tessa.  My favorite line is "Our lives are shaped by the future, not by the past."  I thought it was profound.  I thought the cover for this one was great.  I would say age 13 and up would like this one.  I'm giving it 4 heavenly kisses!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Unwind by Neal Shusterman

I won this book from Charmaine Clancy (ages ago) at Waggin' Tales.  Thanks to her and I wish I would have gotten to this book sooner.  Here's a bit about it from Mr. Shusterman's site: In a society where unwanted teens are salvaged for their body parts, three runaways fight the system that would "unwind" them Connor's parents want to be rid of him because he's a troublemaker. Risa has no parents and is being unwound to cut orphanage costs. Lev's unwinding has been planned since his birth, as part of his family's strict religion. Brought together by chance, and kept together by desperation, these three unlikely companions make a harrowing cross-country journey, knowing their lives hang in the balance. If they can survive until their eighteenth birthday, they can't be harmed -- but when every piece of them, from their hands to their hearts, are wanted by a world gone mad, eighteen seems far, far away.

My Take

Wow, this book made me think a LOT!  The thought of unwinding a child and parsing their organs out to all sorts of people was thought provoking to say the least.  I would never do anything like that and don't think it's right, but the whole scenario really gave you pause to consider.  It was easy to get drawn into the world of Unwind and pulled along with the story.

Connor is a bit of a trouble-maker but he's also a teenage boy.  I really felt for him.  Risa is a very accomplished pianist who has the misfortune of living in a StaHo (State Home).  She in no way should be unwound.  None of them should actually.  Certainly not the answer.  And Lev.  To tithe a child and just give him up as a sacrificial person without even thinking twice is horrible.

This story was a terrific suspenseful read.  I enjoyed it and would recommend it.  I'm giving it 4 tightly wound kisses! : )

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Far From You by Lisa Schroeder

I won this book from Mrs. DeRaps with DeRaps Reads blog.  Stop by and say hi sometime.  Here's a bit about this book from Ms. Schroeder's website: This is about 16-year-old Alice's reluctant road trip with her stepmother and her new baby sister, and the terror that ensues when they wind up lost in the snow-covered woods.

My Take

Prior to this, I had read one other novel in verse.  I think I'm hooked now.  I wondered how it was possible to tell an entire story in verse.  It's not only possible, it winds up being lovely and conveys tons of emotion.  I felt as though I were inside that care with Ali.  I could feel her desperation and her regret. 

I think Ms. Schroeder has done an excellent job to deliver and taut emotional novel that speaks to living without regrets and allowing yourself to love someone and vice versa.  It's lovely and I'm giving it 4 1/2 kisses!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Hope in Patience by Beth Fehlbaum

You can read the first chapters and find additional information on The Patience Books at Ms. Fehlbaum's website.  Here's a bit about Hope In Patience: Fifteen-year-old Ashley Asher has spent half of her life living in fear. Her stepfather has been sexually abusing her for years, but her mother doesn't believe her. After his latest assault lands her in the emergency room, Child Protective Services finally removes Ashley from her home, and sends her to live with the father she barely remembers and his new family.

Her new life in Patience, Texas, is much better. She's in therapy to deal with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and is trying to make her way in a new high school. She's getting used to living with her father, stepmother, and stepbrother, and she's made new friends in the summer course taught by her stepmother, Bev. She even joins the track team at the urging of her new African American friend, Z. Z.

But Ashley is so traumatized by her past that she sometimes scratches herself until she bleeds and sleeps in her armoire, even though she knows she's safe now. Worse, when her stepfather is finally put on trial for hurting her, she learns that truth and justice don't always go together. Will Ashley adjust to a better life? Will she trust enough to date Josh, the cute guy on her track team who likes her? YA readers will be caught up in the heart-pounding story of a damaged girl trying to heal herself and get on with the rest of her life.

My Take

I was fortunate enough to win a copy of this book.  It's ranks right up there with Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson.  I will say that Ms. Fehlbaum's book is more about Ashley's survival than her coming to terms with the fact that she has been sexually abused by her stepfather. 

Ashley is trying to move forward in life and realize that she is worthy of the love that her father and stepmother are giving her.  She has to overcome the fact that her mother will never be the person she wants her to be.  Ashley is determined to not let the fact that she was abused define her but for it to meerly be one aspect of her that she will rise above.  This is a wonderful book full of truth and hope.  I'm giving it 4 1/2 tender kisses!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Here's a blurb about the book from Ms. Sepetys' website: In 1941, fifteen-year-old Lina is preparing for art school, first dates, and all that summer has to offer. But one night, the Soviet secret police barge violently into her home, deporting her along with her mother and younger brother. They are being sent to Siberia. Lina's father has been separated from the family and sentenced to death in a prison camp. All is lost.

Lina fights for her life, fearless, vowing that if she survives she will honor her family, and the thousands like hers, by documenting their experience in her art and writing. She risks everything to use her art as messages, hoping they will make their way to her father's prison camp to let him know they are still alive.

It is a long and harrowing journey, and it is only their incredible strength, love, and hope that pull Lina and her family through each day. But will love be enough to keep them alive?

Between Shades of Gray is a riveting novel that steals your breath, captures your heart, and reveals the miraculous nature of the human spirit.

My Take

Once I started this book, I literally could not put it down.  The harrowing story of survival that Lina and her family endure was amazing.  My son was taught about Stalin's massacres in school.  To be honest, it was so long ago for me, I don't remember whether our history class included that info or not. 

This book was lovely even in the moments it was horrifying.  My heart broke for Lina and her family.  But even in profound sadness there were small celebrations and hope for the future.  This book took me through despair and brought me back out the other side.  It ranks up there as one of the better books I've read in 2010.  And while it's fiction it's based in facts that everyone should know and never forget.  Ms. Sepetys did extensive research and it's obvious.  Her book is beautiful and will live inside you long after you've closed it's cover.  This one gets five kisses from me!

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, January 13, 2011

Wither by Lauren DeStefano

Here's a blurb from the goodreads page for WITHER: Thanks to modern science, every human being has become a ticking genetic time bomb—males only live to age twenty-five, and females only live to age twenty. In this bleak landscape, young girls are kidnapped and forced into polygamous marriages to keep the population from dying out.

When sixteen-year-old Rhine Ellery is taken by the Gatherers to become a bride, she enters a world of wealth and privilege. Despite her husband Linden's genuine love for her, and a tenuous trust among her sister wives, Rhine has one purpose: to escape—to find her twin brother and go home.

But Rhine has more to contend with than losing her freedom. Linden's eccentric father is bent on finding an antidote to the genetic virus that is getting closer to taking his son, even if it means collecting corpses in order to test his experiments. With the help of Gabriel, a servant Rhine is growing dangerously attracted to, Rhine attempts to break free, in the limted time she has left.
My Take
I received this ARC from Simon & Schuster.  I loved this book.  It's story sucked me right in.  Ms. DeStefano's world building was wonderful and I immersed myself in the pages of this lovely book.  Rhine is taken away and forced into a polygamist marriage with a man that she doesn't know, let alone love.
She becomes a good 'sister wife' to the other girls.  I thought Rhine's strength and resolve were amazing.  I wished I'd felt a little more invested in her relationship with Gabriel.  I liked his character but wasn't pulling for them until towards the end. 
I'm looking forward to the other books within this trilogy.  I can't wait to see where the next one takes us. 1 The cover is lovely on this book as well.  I would recommend this book and am giving it 4 1/2 kisses!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Fixing Delilah by Sarah Ockler

Here's a bit from Ms. Ockler's website: Things in Delilah Hannaford’s life have a tendency to fall apart. She used to be a good student, but she can’t seem to keep it together anymore. Her “boyfriend” isn’t much of a boyfriend. And her mother refuses to discuss the fight that divided their family eight years ago. Falling apart, it seems, is a Hannaford tradition.

Over a summer of new friendships, unexpected romance, and moments that test the complex bonds between mothers and daughters, Delilah must face her family’s painful past. Can even her most shattered relationships be pieced together again?

Rich with emotion, FIXING DELILAH is a powerful story of family, love, and self-discovery.

My Take

I loved Ms. Ockler's previous book, TWENTY BOY SUMMER.  I was sure I'd love this one too.  This book was about family.  Familial bonds - both the severing of them and the strengthing of them.  It was full of beautiful writing that made me laugh and brought tears to my eyes at times as well. 

Family is a factor that helps to mold who we are in this world.  We can sometimes come to define ourselves through family.  It certainly does not completely make you who you are, but can be a piece in the puzzle.  When some of the pieces are missing or hidden, it can be more difficult to see that picture of who you are.

Delilah Hannaford is on a mission to find as many of those pieces as she can.  My favorite line from this book was, "Now several promotions later, buying a new bottle of perfume is just another errand on her assistant's long list, and Coco Chanel is the smell of nothing but a woman leaving; a door clicked closed after a casual "don't wait up - I'll probably be late again tonight."  I particularly love the portion 'Coco Chanel is the smell of nothing but a woman leaving'.  It says so much.

I urge girsl to read this book and share with their mothers, sisters, aunts and any other women you can think of.  Another gorgeous book by Sarah Ockler.  I'm giving his lovely book 5 kisses!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting

Here's a blurb from Ms. Derting's website: Violet Ambrose is grappling with two major issues: Jay Heaton and her morbid secret ability. While the sixteen-year-old is confused by her new feelings for her best friend since childhood, she is more disturbed by her "power" to sense dead bodies—or at least those that have been murdered. Since she was a little girl, she has felt the echoes that the dead leave behind in the world... and the imprints that attach to their killers.

Violet has never considered her strange talent to be a gift; it mostly just led her to find the dead birds her cat had tired of playing with. But now that a serial killer has begun terrorizing her small town, and the echoes of the local girls he's claimed haunt her daily, she realizes she might be the only person who can stop him.

Despite his fierce protectiveness over her, Jay reluctantly agrees to help Violet on her quest to find the murderer—and Violet is unnerved to find herself hoping that Jay's intentions are much more than friendly. But even as she's falling intensely in love, Violet is getting closer and closer to discovering a killer... and becoming his prey herself.
My Take
I was late in reading this book.  I had heard such terrific things about this book.  It was all warranted.  I liked the fact that Violet had a stable family life.  Her extended family surrounding her was refreshing too.  Teen angst is warranted but not in every book. 
I could feel Violet's fear as she tried to move in closer to the killer.  The 'imprints' were are an interesting concept.  I loved Jay!  He was such a great guy.  The only drawback that I felt, was Violet was a touch dense about the depth of Jay's feelings for her.  No guy hangs out that long and does all that he did, unless he's truly interested in a girl.  I can not wait to read "Desires of the Dead".  The cover is gorgeous too!  The Body Finder I'm giving 5 kisses!
*Note: I won a signed copy of this book from Scarrlet Reader.  A great little blog!  Drop by and say hi sometime.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles

Here’s a quick blurb from Ms. Elkeles’ website: A modern tale of star-crossed lovers with a fresh urban twist. At Fairfield High School, on the outskirts of Chicago , everyone knows that south-siders mixing with north-siders can be explosive. So when Brittany Ellis and Alejandro “Alex” Fuentes are forced to be lab partners in chemistry class, this human experiment leads to unexpected revelations – that Brittany ’s flawless reputation is a cover for her troubled home life, that Alex’s bad-boy persona hides his desire to break free from gang ties, and that when they’re together, life somehow makes more sense. Breaking through the stereotypes and expectations that threaten to keep Brittany and Alex apart, Perfect Chemistry takes readers to both sides of the tracks in a passionate love story about looking beneath the surface.

My Take

I appreciate the reality that this book was grounded in. Teens today come from diverse areas and I could see this scenario being quite real. I thought Brittany was a great character. She was completely likeable and I think fairly relatable. Alex was a great guy who was caught up in some pretty awful things. It was difficult for him to realize that it was okay to want more for himself as well. I did harbor a little resentment for his mother who, I felt, thought she had to sacrifice one of her children to save the others. I can admit, it would be a difficult situation to be faced with though.

It was nice to watch the evolution of their relationship and see where it would take them in the books conclusion. I loved that the person with disabilities represented in this book was not merely a fixture, but was a living, breathing person with a personality and wit all her own. I’m giving this one 4 ½ star-crossed kisses!

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