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Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 Reading Overview

So, today is the last day of the year--and, as a matter of fact, the decade. Since I could barely read at the start of this decade, I don't think I'll be doing a Best Books of the Decade list, but a Best Books of 09 couldn't hurt. Basically, this is the post where I make up for the fact that I rarely ever blog by going through a bunch of books and giving them REALLY SHORT REVIEWS a la Robin Ellen. [Minor spoilers for some books.] Here goes:
  • IF I STAY by Gayle Forman: This was a book I always promised to review but never did because I was lazy like that. So, here goes. A teenage girl named Mia is the sole survivor of a car accident and must decide whether to stay on Earth or go be with her family...wherever they are. This book was excellent, wonderfully crafted, witty, wise, darkly funny, beautiful. Rating: 9.
  • THE PRINCESS DIARIES series by Meg Cabot. I read all ten books of this series in like a month. Here's what I have to say: Wow. EXTREMELY FUNNY, like, really. Above average writing, maybe 7.5-8, but really freaking hilarious. This was just a really fun series to read and I would reccomend it highly if you're looking for a lot of light-yet-occasionally-deep books to read one after another. Note: Nothing like the movie. This is a good thing. Overall series rating: 9.
  • AFTER by Amy Efaw. Devon, a straight-A student and awesome soccer player, is unable to accept that she is pregnant, so when she gives birth, she throws the baby in a trash can. This book was pretty good. I liked Devon a lot, and that was really the saving grace of the novel in some parts. The writing was maybe 7.5 quality, and while I wouldn't award any *BEST BOOKS OF 09* awards to this one, I liked reading it and everything. Reccomended to fans of Sarah Dessen looking for something a little bit darker. Rating: 8.
  • LISA, BRIGHT AND DARK by John Neufeld. Lisa, a popular, pretty high school student, begins to go crazy, and her friends are the only ones who believe her. I admit it--if this book had been long I wouldn't have read it. At 143 pages or so it's a quick read, though, so I gave it a try. Finished it in a few hours, and the biggest problem with it is that it was published in 1969 so it's extremely dated. I could stand it, but sometimes it just dragged. The writing was pretty good, though, and I liked the MC, despite the fact that she was extremely whiny at times. The slang, by the way? WTF. Rating: 6.
  • NOTES ON A NEAR-LIFE EXPERIENCE by Olivia Birdsall. I read this book back in April or so, and I don't remember some of the littler details, but basically it was about a girl named Mia whose parents get divorced, thus sparking her life falling apart. A quick, thoughtful, slightly fluffy read with a couple of laugh-out-loud moments, but it sadly sinks into the background a bit if you read something 10-rated after it. Enjoyable, though. Rating: 7.5.
  • THE MARKET/THE TAKER by J.M. Steele. In THE MARKET three high school students discover that the guys at their school have a stock marketesque system of 'ranking' the girls at their school, so they attempt to raise one of them to the top to 'beat the system.' A light read, I enjoyed it about as much as I enjoyed THE TAKER, which was about a girl who tanks her SATs and hires someone to take it for her. Both are light, yet have convincingly portrayed characters, THE MARKET more so, but THE TAKER is definitely a page-turner (finished in a school day), so there you have it. MARKET-7. TAKER- 7.5.
  • BURGER WUSS by M.T. Anderson. Hard to explain, but this book's about a kid who works for a burger chain and, like, accidentally starts a war with a rival chain over a girl or something. Good, with realistic characters, but honestly, the plot is confusing, hard to follow, and honestly not that gripping. While I'll probably read more of this author's work in the future, this probably wasn't his best. Not by a long shot. Rating: 6.5.
  • AS YOU WISH by Jackson Pearce. A girl whose boyfriend dumped her when he realized he was gay wants to belong, but she's reluctant to wish for it when a 'jinn' (read: genie) appears to grant her wishes. A fun, quick read with BIG TEXT ON THE PAGE that makes you think about friendship, belonging, love, all that good stuff. I liked the characters, with their not-stereotypeness and their believability, and the MC is someone you genuinely want to have a happy ending. Believability is stretched at a couple points in the novel, but what do you expect? It's fantasy! Rating: 8.
  • SWEETHEARTS by Sara Zarr. Jennifer--now Jenna--has put the past behind her, but when her former best friend returns, how will she deal with it? Great. I've read this and Once Was Lost, and though I liked OWL better, this is by no means 'bad' or even close. A great twist on YA chick lit by an AMAZING author, I was reading maybe 20 books while reading this one, but I couldn't put this one down. Rating: 8.
  • BOY TOY by Barry Lyga redux. I have decided to rerank this one in light of my horrible review of it earlier. Rating: 7.75--oh, what the hell, 8. There you go. The RATING IT DESERVES. ;)
  • SOMETHING, MAYBE by Elizabeth Scott. Hannah's parents are both sex icons, and they both make her life miserable. Shitty summary to a great book. I've only read this one of Elizabeth Scott's works so far, but I loved it and have Living Dead Girl and Stealing Heaven lined up for 2010 already. I LOVED IT SO MUCH YES AMAZING. Hannah was a kickass protag, and the emotions this book has rise up inside you are VARIED AND AWESOME. A CAPSLOCK AWESOME BOOK THAT DEFIES RULES OF EXPLANATION. Rating: 8.5.
  • PANTS ON FIRE by Meg Cabot. Similar to Sweethearts--in fact, very similar. Not as well-written, but the plot was captivating enough and I liked the MC. Rating: 7.
  • WILD ROSES by Deb Caletti. Cassie's life took a turn for the abnormal when her mother married Dino Cavalli, a crazy world-famous violinist, and now, with his much-awaited comeback concert on the horizon and a growing romance with his first-ever student, she wonders if things can ever be normal again. Deb is one of my favorite authors, and this was a hilarious and thought-provoking look into madness, love, family, and...yeah, madness, love and family. Seriously, though, I laughed out loud SO MANY TIMES while reading this book. Beautifully written. Rating: 8.5.
  • LEAP DAY by Wendy Mass. Josie, whose birthday is today, February 29th, has always wanted to know what other people are thinking--which you get to do. I liked the writing style and the overall plot, which was extremely compelling. The story moves fast and furiously, and the characters are so wonderfully drawn you wish you knew them. Small glances into the characters' futures are original and occasionally tragic, and the eventual ending is hilariously bittersweet (more on the sweet side). Fans of Susan Juby and Maureen Johnson, this is for you. Rating: 8.
  • DEVILISH by Maureen Johnson. Another of my favorite authors, this was a hilarious book about a girl who discovers a demon attends her Catholic school. Not her best, but oddly compelling and hilarious. Even the nuns were funny, sort of. Rating: 7.5.
  • THE KEY TO THE GOLDEN FIREBIRD by Maureen Johnson. After the sudden death of their father, three sisters find themselves growing apart. THIS WAS AMAZING. As usual, MJ's characterization was spot-on, and the feelings of loss, love, lust and longing were captured with extreme vividness. One of her best. Rating: 8.5.
  • TMI by Sarah Quigley. Becca is the queen of overshare, but after her boyfriend breaks up with her for a TMI moment, she decides she must restrict her spilling-of-the-beans to a blog...You can guess what happens next. This is actually a kind of original idea, sort of, or at least in its execution. I liked the characters, especially Becca, and I found myself screaming DON'T DO IT! several times during this novel. Rating: 7.75.
  • GOY CRAZY by Melissa Schorr. Rachel, a Jewish NYC teen, deals with issues about her faith (most notably the fact that her parents won't approve of her Catholic boyfriend) during her sophomore year. This was a really interesting book, and also uproariously funny at times. Rachel was a believable character, and the ending, though a little expected, fit with the book's tone. Rating: 7.5.
  • YOU KNOW WHERE TO FIND ME by Rachel Cohn. After the suicide of her cousin/former best friend, Miles deals by smoking, taking drugs, and wallowing in guilt, among other things. This was a great book. First Cohn novel I'd ever read, but I instantly wanted to read more (like VERY LEFREAK, one of the most anticipated books by me of 2010) of her work. Miles' anguish was real and painful, and the DC statehood subplot was well done. Great plotting and strangely 3D characters sets this novel apart. Rating: 8.
  • DROP by Lisa Papademetriou. Three Las Vegas teens find themselves drawn to the high-stakes world of gambling. A great book, but I'm trying not to let the ending get in the way like I did with BOY TOY and like I will do later. Characters--Check. Plotting--Check. Dialogue--Check. Writing--Check. Ending--WTF? It seemed just thrown in so the author could finish and go on to the next SHINY idea. Really, Lisa Papademetriou? I expected better. An amazing book nonetheless. Rating: 8.
  • SAVING FRANCESCA by Melina Marchetta. Francesca's vivacious mother suddenly becomes depressed, leaving Francesca with no one to turn to for 'support.' My first thoughts upon reading this novel: Wow. Melina Marchetta's done it again. This is a wonderfully written novel, wise and funny and gripping and just everything a Melina Marchetta novel generally is. Wow, is all I have to say. Wow. Rating: 8.5
  • EVERYTHING IS FINE. by Ann Dee Ellis. Mazzy's mom won't get out of bed, but she still maintains everything is fine. This one barely misses out on the Top Books of 09 list, but trust me it's amazing. Heart-wrenching, with beautiful, almost poetic prose, this short novel's a pageturner. Rating: 8.75.
  • ONCE WAS LOST by Sara Zarr. Samara's faith begins to slowly unravel after her mother is arrested for a DUI and a 13-year-old girl from her church is kidnapped. Another one that barely missed the list, Zarr's prose is endlessly wonderful, with a plot that works and characterization that is seamlessly melded with it. Definitely her best so far, though I've only read 2 of the 3. Must get to Story of a Girl next year... Rating: 8.75.

More great books to read that I read this year:

  • anything by SUSANE COLASANTI or SARAH DESSEN (I've read everything by both of them)
  • Th1rteen R3asons Why by JAY ASHER
  • 13 Little Blue Envelopes by MAUREEN JOHNSON
  • Honey, Baby, Sweetheart by DEB CALETTI
  • Bliss, TTYL, TTFN, and L8R, G8R by LAUREN MYRACLE
  • That Book I Forget It's Title...Shit. I think it's by...crap. I fail.
  • Absolute Brightness by JAMES LECESNE
  • Fancy White Trash by MARJETTA GEERLING
  • If a Tree Falls at Lunch Period by GENNIFER CHOLDENKO (some may say it's not YA, but read it anyway)
  • Hero by PERRY MOORE
  • Geography Club by BRENT HARTINGER
  • Lemonade Mouth by MARK PETER HUGHES
  • Poison Ivy by AMY GOLDMAN KOSS (again, more middle-grade than YA, but it's still good)
  • This Is What I Did: by ANN DEE ELLIS
  • The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by SHERMAN ALEXIE
  • Anything by LAURIE HALSE ANDERSON (Except Twisted, which I haven't read yet, but I'm sure it's still great)

Okay, that's that. Now, it's time for the big list...


There are actually two lists: The Best Books Released This Year and Best Books I Read This Year. The Best Books I Read This Year are books from 2008 and before--combine them and you get the full BEST BOOKS of 09 list. When I figured out that this year was 1 of the best years for books ever, I came up with this format, by the way--so I'm not discriminating towards 09 books. Not really.

Here goes:


  • LIAR by Justine Larbalestier. I gave this one a 10, right? I think so. Anyways, yeah. It was great.
  • ALONG FOR THE RIDE by Sarah Dessen. I believe I gave this one a 9. A well deserved 9 for sure.
  • WAITING FOR YOU by Susane Colasanti. Marisa's trying to get popular Derek to notice her amidst family struggles and struggles with former anxiety disorder. I loved this book. Maybe not the most original book ever, and not as good as TAKE ME THERE, but I loved it anyway. Marisa was one of the top 10 protags of the year, despite her flaws and her tendency to obsess over guys like 90 percent of female YA MCs, but I liked that she was a realistic character who'd discovered a way to live with anxiety disorder. As with all of Susane's books, highly reccomended. Rating: 9.
  • THE SECRET LIFE OF PRINCE CHARMING by Deb Caletti. Quinn's female relatives have always told her that men are no good, and when her boyfriend breaks up with her and her father's shocking secret is revealed, she wonders if maybe they weren't so wrong after all. This is a great book, funny, thoughtful and provocative (which is to say thought-provoking, but I use that word way too much, so I split it up into two parts), and one I'd highly reccomend. Fans of Elizabeth Scott and Sarah Dessen who haven't yet read Deb Caletti's books should def. pick this one up. Rating: 9.
  • FOREVER PRINCESS by Meg Cabot. This is definitely the best of the Princess Diaries series. While some people may be deterred by the length, most die-hard PD fans won't care--and will most likely rip through it in a matter of hours. Rating: 9.
  • DONUT DAYS by Lara Zielin. Emma's pastor parents want her to go to a Christian college, but Emma wants to study journalism--so she's determined to write the best article on the Crispy Dream donut campout this weekend. DONUT DAYS is funny, the quintessenial light-yet-deep read, but with a couple surprises inside. Zielin's fresh voice will captivate readers and have them flipping the 246 pages to the heartwarming, bittersweet end. I LOVED THIS BOOK. Plus, it made me want donuts. Mmm, donuts... Rating: 9.
  • GOING BOVINE by Libba Bray. Don't get me wrong, I love Sarah Dessen, Deb Caletti, Elizabeth Scott, and Justina Chen Headley just as much as the next person (as evidenced in the above and below posts), but sometimes I so miss having male protags in books. Not being female myself, I find them easier to relate to. Sort of. Anyways, when I heard Libba Bray was writing a new book with a guy for an MC, I HAD TO HAVE IT. And GOING BOVINE was great. But like DROP and BOY TOY, the ending changed things. It wasn't bad or disappointing. It was just confusing. MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD for both GOING BOVINE and, strangely, Justine Larbalestier's LIAR.
  • ...
  • ...
  • Okay, resume the GOING BOVINE post. I loved the book, but the ending confused me. I got how it was supposed to be all Schroedinger's (spelling?) cat, two realities and all, but I STILL DIDN'T GET IT. You see, I love unreliable narrator books as much as the next person, like LIAR, but this book was different. With LIAR I got that really there was only 1 truth, it was just that Micah may not have told it to you. With GOING BOVINE, though, the theory was that there were TWO truths, which just didn't add up to me. After hours and days of thinking, though, I got it. And now I'm sort of satisfied. I gotta say, though, three more spoilery things: 1) WHAT HAPPENED TO GONZO? I can forgive Libba Bray for the ending, since it made sense. But WHAT HAPPENED TO GONZO? Making me like characters and then just having them disappear is so not cool. You're still the funniest human being ever. But WHAT HAPPENED TO GONZO? I will so not rest till I find out. 2) The last scene in the second-to-last chapter? At first I didn't get it. Then I did, and I seriously almost cried. I've only cried twice while reading, once with THE HUNGER GAMES and once with...I forget which book. Crap. Anyways, the scene at the end of the 2nd to last chapter, p 476-7, was seriously wrenching. And 3) I think this is actually better than A GREAT AND TERRIBLE BEAUTY, really, despite the ending. Which reminds me, I have to read REBEL ANGELS/A SWEET FAR THING next year...Yay. (not really being sarcastic)
  • ...
  • ...Bulleted List
  • Okay, so end spoilers. Rating: 9.
  • NORTH OF BEAUTIFUL by Justina Chen Headley. Terra can't wait to escape her smothering existence in her small Washington town, so when she meets Jacob, she's intrigued by his slightly-nomadic-except-not-really Seattle existence. (Again, a really shitty summary.) A great book, amazing characters...just overall awesome. (You can see I'm delving into generalization here. God, this post has taken a long time.) AMOXING. Rating: 9
  • CATCHING FIRE by Suzanne Collins. This and the Hunger Games? Epic. Rating: 9
  • FAT CAT by Robin Brande. Cat's a great person--funny and smart--but she's fat, which she hates, so she decides to try and lose some weight. Cat is without a doubt my favorite non-Micah female protag this year (sorry, Katniss, Marisa, Destiny, Carly, Indigo, etc.). She's just really sincere about her love of science, and even if you're a writing geek like me you can't help but get swept up in her enthusiasm. Everything about this book is just perfectly melded together. Ultimately, FAT CAT is why I read--for a book that's both funny, thoughtful, wise, and has lots of food. Rating: 9.5.
  • THE MILES BETWEEN by Mary E. Pearson. Destiny always keeps a distance between herself and her fellow students, but when she goes on a road trip w/ three other students, she is able to finally disclose a painful childhood secret. THE MILES BETWEEN was amazing. Genres blending, prose styles melding, torn characters mending--wow. I love road trip novels, and this has to be one of my favorites I've ever read. Destiny was a great protag, and the two things I've heard about most against this novel--I can't say one because of spoilers, but the other one was the heavy emphasis on coincidence, which, along with friendship, forgiveness, family and love, was what this novel was basically about--hardly mattered to me once I reached the end. I loved this book. A lot. I know I say that a lot, but with THE MILES BETWEEN I really mean it. Let it take a space on the shelf next to LIAR and LOOKING FOR ALASKA, THE FORTUNES OF INDIGO SKYE and JELLICOE ROAD. It's just that good. Rating: 10.
  • WINTERGIRLS by Laurie Halse Anderson. WINTERGIRLS chronicles Lia's struggles with two things--anorexia and the death of her best friend Cassie from the disease. It's haunting, gripping, and realistically portrayed. It's not light. It's not fun. It's not really enjoyable. But you have to read it. You have to, not just because you want to know what happens to Lia at the end, but because the book is just so gripping you can't let go. Takes 'thought-provoking' 'disturbing' and 'stark' to a whole new level. Rating: 10.

Now here goes for the Best non-09 books this year:

  • LOOKING FOR ALASKA by John Green. Miles "Pudge" Halter goes to a boarding school in Alabama and makes friends and then something happens. This is without a doubt THE BEST BOOK I HAVE READ THIS YEAR. Seriously. WOW. Emotionally haunting, darkly funny, frighteningly (almost) realistic, LOOKING FOR ALASKA has def. earned its spot as my FAVORITE BOOK EVER. It' Rating: 10.
  • AN ABUNDANCE OF KATHERINES and PAPER TOWNS by John Green. More amazingness from John Green, but funnier. I'm sure you've heard about them before, so I'll keep this short. Rating for both: 10.
  • JELLICOE ROAD by Melina Marchetta. I've done a post on this one before, so let me just say if you haven't read it yet it's AMAZING. Rating: 10.
  • THE BERMUDEZ TRIANGLE by Maureen Johnson. This blog's former namesake, the second novel of the extremely talented Johnson is awash with characterization, hilarity, sorrow, anguish, and awesome. A review has been written but in case you forgot since that was back in, like, April, it was great. Rating: 10. (I think I gave it a 9 earlier, but it deserves this.)
  • M OR F? by Lisa Papademetriou and Chris Tebbetts. The writing is maybe 7.5-8 in this book, but it's seriously funny. I love how THE STEREOTYPE IS FREAKING SAT ON BY JABBA THE HUT, plus it's, like, a hotbed for quoting. On the lighter side, but def. a worthwhile read. Rating: 9.
  • THE HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins. Haven't yet reviewed it, but most of you prob. get the gist. Prequel to CATCHING FIRE. Rating: 9.
  • JUST LISTEN by Sarah Dessen. Annabel's friends are ignoring her because they think she did something she didn't, but she finds a kindred spirit in loner Owen. Sarah Dessen is one of my favorite authors, and this is definitely my favorite of her books. Hopeful, thoughtful, and romantic, YOU HAVE TO READ IT. Rating: 9.5.
  • SPEAK by Laurie Halse Anderson. You've all heard about it. I finally got to it this year, I've read it maybe twenty times since then. Rating: 10.
  • THE FORTUNES OF INDIGO SKYE by Deb Caletti. This was my first Deb Caletti book and ultimately her best. You might think, "Whoa, that sounds unrealistic," but she handles it so realistically, so lovingly, that you can't help but be drawn in. Character delineation is subtle yet wonderfully crafted, and Indigo is one of my fav protags ever. Amazing. Rating: 10.
  • AUDREY, WAIT! by Robin Benway. Audrey becomes famous after her ex-boyfriend records a song about her. This was a really fun book. The mark of a great book, it's been said, is that one can't put it down. Personally, the mark of an AMAZING book to me is that I have to put it down because I don't want it to end, but this book, most of which I read in a few hours, was amazing. Audrey's a little whiny, but she's so relatable and so real despite the fact that she's famous that you can't help but like her a lot. Rating: 9.5.
  • THE MURDER OF BINDY MACKENZIE by Jaclyn Moriarty. Bindy's made enemies w/ everyone at school, but if she's going to solve her murder, she must 1st make FRIENDS. This book was great. I can't say much more. I can, but I seriously have to go somewhere like right now. It's 494 pages but I read it in like 3 days. It's that good. Bindy=another AMAZING PROTAG. Rating: 10.

And that's that. I read a total of 202 books that I can remember this year. I enjoyed many of them, some of them less than others. Some were 10s, some were 6s, some were 1s (I didn't post any 1s this year--must post more 1s next year! MWAHAHAHAHAHAHA). But even LISA, BRIGHT AND DARK could be reccomended of these books, I guess.

Next year, of course, I won't be so easygoing. If a book deserves a 9 or a 10 like the ones above, then it'll get it. BUT THERE IS NO WAY SYBIL DESERVES AN 8. Just saying.

There's a lot of new books coming next year, and I'm sure many of you can't wait. I sure can't.

See you next year!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

(Now Microwave Safe!)

The Bermudez Bookshelf, from here on, has changed its name BECAUSE OF COPYRIGHT (ok, not really...). It will now be known as "(Microwave Safe) Book Reviews," but the URL, will stay the same. I apologize for any inconvenience.

J Hernandez

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Long Post

I feel like making a long, well-written, quality post today. This will have to suffice:

I: review one
Today's review is Peace, Love and Baby Ducks by Lauren Myracle.

2009, Dutton Juvenile, 304p
Notable awards: None (yet)
Notable books by the author: Internet Girls series; Winnie Perry series; Kissing Kate
Summary: Growing up in a world of wealth and pastel-tinted entitlement, fifteen-year-old Carly has always relied on the constancy—and authenticity—of her sister, Anna. But when fourteen-year-old Anna turns plastic-perfect-pretty over the course of a single summer, everything starts to change. And there are boys involved, complicating things as boys always do. With warmth, insight, and an unparalleled gift for finding humor even in stormy situations, beloved author Lauren Myracle dives into the tumultuous waters of sisterhood and shows that even very different sisters can learn to help each other stay afloat.
Review: So I'm at Barnes and Noble, right? And I'm looking through the YA section like always. I really want to read Thirteen Reasons Why, but they don't have any copies (!!!), so I'm looking for another book to buy around twenty dollars, because that's all I have to buy books. And then I see some familiar books: the 'ttyl' series and Bliss by Lauren Myracle, all four of which I've read and liked. There's a few other books surrounding it, one of which is Peace, Love and Baby Ducks. I pick it up, and the first thing I notice is that it's a lot longer than Amazon said, which is one reason why I decide to buy it (I resemble fantasy fans in one major aspect: I'm more likely to buy a book depending on how long it is.) I like the concept, too, plus I like Lauren Myracle as an author (the aforementioned Bliss and Internet Girls books rank on my top 100). So I get the book, and I read it. And the thing you most need to know about this book?Peace, Love and Baby Ducks is engrossing. Because I was going to go to the library soon and I had, like, 25 books checked out, I was trying to read six books at once. I was trying to read one chapter of one book, one of another, one of another, and then one of the first, you get the idea, but I kept going back to this one because it was so tautly written, so realistic and hilarious and all those good things that I had to keep going back to it. This is a quality that all Lauren Myracle Books have: I finished the 444-page Bliss in a day, same with ttyl and Kissing Kate. Her books are among the most frequently challenged, but that's because a) book banners are frequently cads, especially YA book banners, and b) she writes about stuff that us teens actually TALK ABOUT. I remember a scene in ttfn, the second Internet Girls book, where the three main characters, Zoe, Angela, and Maddie, are talking about a question one of their classmates asked in health that is kind of dirty. (I won't say what it was, but if you've read ttfn, you probably know what I'm talking about--"Tonnie is a case" should ring a bell.) Well, Peace, Love and Baby Ducks has a few of those, but they're not just put in there for "shock value" like aforementioned cads would have you believe. They're not just mindless smut. This is really what us disgusting teenagers of today think and talk about, and the fact that Myracle knows and presents this realistically is why her books are so popular with both teens and book banners alike. But on to the book itself: Peace, Love and Baby Ducks is about a girl named Carly and her one-year-younger sister Anna and how their relationship changes over a year. There was so much to like about this book: the characters, the story, the writing, the relationship between Anna and Carly. For lack of a better word, I liked the dynamic between the two sisters. Not a) being female or b) having a sister, I wouldn't know what it's like to have one, but you get the feeling from PLB that Myracle does. The secondary characters weren't cardboard, (no teen movie stereotypes here) and Carly's complicated romantic relationship type things were portrayed uber-realistically. Carly herself was a really, really, really, really likable main character, and although she sometimes talked about the hypocrisy and material obsessiveness and printed little whales of everyone around her, she wasn't openly whingeing. Although I couldn't be more different than her, I felt as if I could relate. This is just as amazing as previous Lauren Myracle novels, but it's even better, if that makes any sense.
Thoughts on the cover: I like the cover. Kind of. It's very simple, which I really like about it, and despite the white background, it's eye-catching. I've seen the paperback cover recently (Summer 2010 Penguin Young Readers Group catalog--I am such a nerd), and I have to say, I think I like it better. Sort of. (No image available, because I'm too lazy to do the Powerpoint crop-and-Photobucket thing.) Overall rating: 8.
Verdict: Peace, Love, and Baby Ducks is a realistically written, funny, crisp, and witty story about the (l.o.a.b.w.) dynamics of sisterhood, friendship, and family.
Rating: 9

II: What I'm reading.

I have a problem: I READ TOO MUCH. This isn't a problem, you say? Well, you're right, it isn't. So here's the problem: I DON'T HAVE ENOUGH TIME TO READ ALL THE BOOKS I OBTAIN.

Right now I'm reading:

Honey, Baby, Sweetheart by Deb Caletti
Magic or Madness by Justine Larbalestier
Broken Soup by Jenny Valentine
Scat by Carl Hiaasen
Going Bovine by Libba Bray
To Be Mona by Kelly Easton
Once Was Lost by Sara Zarr
Marly's Ghost by David Levithan

and the list goes on and on. That's just an excerpt.

See what I mean?

part 3: next year's books part i

Because I NEVER LEARN MY LESSON, these are some next-year books I really want.

Freefall by Ariela Anhalt
Very LeFreak by Rachel Cohn
The Less-Dead by April Lurie

Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan
This World We Live In by Susan Beth Pfeffer
The Six Rules of Maybe by Deb Caletti

Something Like Fate by Susane Colasanti

(warning: big picture)

Hunger Games series book 3 by Suzanne Collins
and on and on and on.

See what I mean?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


This video comes to you in 2 parts.

I: Liar

Today's review is Liar by Justine Larbalestier.
My father is a liar and so am I.
But I'm going to stop. I have to stop.
I will tell you my story and I will tell it straight. No lies, no omissions.
This time I truly mean it.
LIAR by Justine Larbalestier
2009, Bloomsbury USA Children's Books, 384p
buy here
Notable awards: None (yet)
Notable books by the author: How To Ditch Your Fairy, Magic or Madness Series
Summary: Micah will freely admit that she’s a compulsive liar, but that may be the one honest thing she’ll ever tell you. Over the years she’s duped her classmates, her teachers, and even her parents, and she’s always managed to stay one step ahead of her lies. That is, until her boyfriend dies under brutal circumstances and her dishonesty begins to catch up with her. But is it possible to tell the truth when lying comes as naturally as breathing? Taking readers deep into the psyche of a young woman who will say just about anything to convince them—and herself—that she’s finally come clean, Liar is a bone-chilling thriller that will have readers see-sawing between truths and lies right up to the end. Honestly.
Review: I told you in a previous post how much I love this book, so feel free to tune this part out if you did, because I can't really tell you anything about Liar other than that it is gripping, fast-paced, original, has a character that is--despite her flaws--completely emotionally investing, and a book that is FREAKING AWESOME without spoiling it. For instance, in the words of Cory Doctorow:
Indeed, if this book has a failing, it's that it's nearly impossible to explain what's so great about it without risking some important spoilers. So you'll just have to trust me -- this is worth the price of admission and then some.
I couldn't have put it more eloquently, mostly because, as is obvious by now, I so don't have a way with words when it comes to book reviews.
Thoughts on the cover (which I just realized I forgot on Boy Toy): This has to be one of my favorite covers. I'm truly quite happy that they changed the Liar cover (if you haven't yet heard of the cover controversy, then click here for a post by the author about it), although some people are a bit iffy on it (Steph Su has an interesting and very well-justified take on the matter here). Overall, though, I love it. Rating on the cover? 9.
Verdict: Liar? It's a top ten pick that will--and I say this at risk of sounding like School Library Journal--grab you from the first page and spit you out 371 pages later, wondering if you even truly know who you are.
Rating: 10


This is where I admit it:
I liked the Twilight series.
Still here? Haven't run away in disgust? Good.
Anyways, so yeah, I liked it. Twilight in itself was below subpar, and Eclipse was merely okay (I will not disclose my Breaking Dawn opinion), but New Moon was awesome. You began to see the kind of person Bella really was without Edward, even if her every thought was still tinged with him. I liked the relationship between her and Jacob, what with the "friends" thing and all. I wasn't disappointed when Edward came back, mostly because you knew he would, considering there were two more books and all. Anyways, so New Moon was a top 30 pick and I liked it and the movie comes out in 26.5 hours or so. (Not that I'm counting.) Will probably go see it this weekend,

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Hardcover vs. Paperback!

in which I attempt to decide which of the upcoming paperbacks for 2008/9 hardcover releases I like
thanks to Alea at Pop Culture Junkie for the idea
you rock


The Secret Life of Prince Charming by Deb Caletti

Simon and Schuster, April 2009, 336p

Read it: Yes


I can't decide. Seriously. I mean, I like the paperback better overall, but the Quinn on the hardcover is just...Quinn. You know? (Probably not, especially if you haven't read the book.) The one on the paperback is just not Quinn. At all.
Overall, though, I like the paperback better. But just barely.


A week from yesterday I went to the Austin Teen Book Festival in Austin, TX (duh). In one word, it was awesome. I got to meet all the authors I wrote about in the previous post, plus many more. Got to buy JL's Liar (more on her later) and was photographed with the awesomeness Deb Caletti. Libba Bray's keynote speech? Awesome!
So, yeah. It was a lot of fun.
While I was reading Liar, I kind of fell in love with the book, in a creepy, mildly stalkerish way. I started referring to the book by "Micah" instead of Liar (Micah is the MC's name) and carried it everywhere. Eventually, I was obsessed with it. Has anyone ever seen that TV show on Cartoon Network, Ed, Edd n Eddy? (Last good show on CN. The network is dead.) Anyways, if you have, Micah kind of became my Plank, and I vowed to take her everywhere for as long as I could. Creepy? Yes. Good idea? That's up to you.
I have pictures of the ATBF on my camera, which I lost the cord to. I will upload as soon as I can find the cord!

(Be on the lookout for:

  • Liar review
  • "The Liar and I" post, which elaborates on me taking Micah/Liar everywhere. Includes pictures!
  • Going Bovine review
  • Gimmiques, including Hardcover vs Paperback/I WANT THIS DAMN BOOK!/Quotes on Friday.")

Friday, October 23, 2009

An Unprecedented Turn of Events/Boy Toy/Quotes on Friday/YA Festival

This blog postcomes to you in four parts (and yeah, I totally stole that line):
PART ONE An Unprecedented Turn of Events
In an unprecedented turn of events that no one saw coming, I actually wrote two blog posts in one week! Hospitals, prepare for stroke patients.
Today's review is Boy Toy by Barry Lyga.
"Lucky thirteen," my dad said when I blew out the candles on my birthday cake, and my mom shot down his lame attempt at humor with a disgusted "Oh, Bill!" But honestly, that's not the important part. Not at all.
BOY TOY by Barry Lyga
2007, Houghton Mifflin Company, 416p
buy here
Notable awards: None I can think of
Notable books by the author: Goth Girl Rising, Hero-Type
Summary: Josh Mendel has a secret. Unfortunately, everyone knows what it is.Five years ago, Josh’s life changed. Drastically. And everyone in his school, his town—seems like the world—thinks they understand. But they don’t—they can’t. And now, about to graduate from high school, Josh is still trying to sort through the pieces. First there’s Rachel, the girl he thought he’d lost years ago. She’s back, and she’s determined to be part of his life, whether he wants her there or not.Then there are college decisions to make, and the toughest baseball game of his life coming up, and a coach who won’t stop pushing Josh all the way to the brink. And then there’s Eve. Her return brings with it all the memories of Josh’s past. It’s time for Josh to face the truth about what happened.If only he knew what the truth was . . .
Review: I was really excited about this book. Seriously. I was so excited to read it. AS soon as I got home from the library I sat down and started reading. And the first 175 or so pages? Amazing. And the next?...
Well, that's the thing. I'm not really so sure about what happened after that. I mean, Boy Toy was fun to read and all, but I don't know. Things didn't turn out the way I thought they would. At all. Not that the way they did turn out was bad, but still.
The book was good, there's no denying it. I liked the plot and really liked the premise. The characters were real and funny and even when I was supposed to hate them, I couldn't. Not even Eve. I don't know if that was what the author intended or not, but that's how I felt about it. In fact, if it wasn't for the ending, this book would've gotten an 8.
But the ending...
It wasn't that the ending was bad or anything. It was just really unsatisfying. I felt that so much more could've been done. The baseball subplot was tied up nicely and effectively, and while I'm sure it wasn't the author's intent, I felt it was the best done of all the plot endings. The others just didn't come together so well. I felt like...well, I felt kind of cheated.
Verdict: Overall, Boy Toy is pretty good. The author uses elements like foreshadowing and past-and-present-tense-switching (I have no idea what the real name for it is) to great acclaim. But really? I felt cheated. And that's never a good thing to feel when you finish a book. But don't take my word for it. Read it for yourself and see what you think.
Rating: 6.75
PART THREE Quotes on Friday
I don't particularly care how many calories it has, anyway. I love those butterscotch things, and besides, I'm too skinny. My mom says it's nervous energy, and I'm thinking she's right. I've probably burnt the calories I've set on the table just by worrying about the grade I'm going to get on the Faulkner paper I've just turned in.
The Nature of Jade by Deb Caletti
Excitement is filling the air here at Random High School Gym. Or at least, here in my corner it is. Tommorrow I'm going to Austin, Texas for the Austin Teen Book Festival. Several amazing authors will be there: Libba Bray (author of the Gemma Doyle trilogy and the recent Going Bovine), Justine Larbalestier (author of the acclaimed Magic or Madness trilogy, How to Ditch Your Fairy, and the recent Liar), and Deb Caletti (author of tonnes of books, including Wild Roses, The Nature of Jade, and the extremely excellent The Fortunes of Indigo Skye. I am extremely excited for this event, which promises to be at least mildly kickass. I plan to get my recently acquired copy of Going Bovine signed by Libba Herself, as well as attend panels, eat food, and do other stuff. I'll tell you how it goes Sunday.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Catching Fire

"In that one slight motion, I see the end of hope, beginning of destruction of everything I hold dear in the world. I cant guess what form my punishment will take, how wide the net will be cast, but when it is finished there most likely be nothing left.So you would think that at this moment, I would be in utter despair."

File:Catching fire.JPG

CATCHING FIRE by Suzanne Collins
2009, Scholastic Press, 400p
buy here
Notable awards: None so far
Notable books by the author: The Hunger Games
Summary: Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has won the annual Hunger Games with fellow district tribute Peeta Mellark. But it was a victory won by defiance of the Capitol and their harsh rules. Katniss and Peeta should be happy. After all, they have just won for themselves and their families a life of safety and plenty. But there are rumors of rebellion among the subjects, and Katniss and Peeta, to their horror, are the faces of that rebellion. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge.
Review: Sometime in March or April of this year, I read The Hunger Games, which, for any YA fan who's taken up residence under a rock, is the first in the Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins about 24 teenagers who battle to the death on live TV. It may sound kind of stock, but trust me, Collins' brilliant handles on suspense and plotting is not. The Hunger Games was one of the 20 best books I've ever read.
So Catching Fire came out on Sep. 1, and I really wanted to read it except that I was seriously broke, so I put a library hold on it and waited 1.5 months, and finally it came in about two weeks ago. I retrieved it from the library that Saturday, waited until Monday to started reading it (a torturous task), and then eventually started reading it.
I was a little worried before I read it. After all, we've all heard stories about how the second book in a series just doesn't measure up. I'm glad to report, though, that there was none of that here, for me at least. Catching Fire took me three days to read, and while that's nowhere near the fifteen hours it took me to read Hunger Games (sleeping's included in that), it's not because I couldn't get into it. It's just because I was really busy, it being October, a procrastinator's least favorite month. Anyways, CF was excellent. Collins is in top form in this book, ratcheting up the suspense like nobody's business. Katniss was just as...ah, illogical as in the last book, but I couldn't help but like her anyway. I gasped a lot while reading this book, though I don't gasp in real life, and I laughed a lot too (esp. on page 256--ha ha). Some people may feel that CF is a rehash of the events of HG, but I disagree--after all, the main focus wasn't supposed to be the Games, but instead the looming threat of possible rebellions AS NOTED ON THE SUMMARY, SO DON'T SAY I SPOILED YOU.
VERDICT: CF was really, really good. Being a person who can't write book reviews for squat, that's really all I have to say.
Really, really good.
Thoughts on the cover: The cover gets a 9. Simple, yet effective. It gets the job done.
Note: I know it seems I only review books I like, and I guess that's true now, but trust me, that's going to change. I check out way too many books from the library for me to like them all.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Jellicoe Road (Top Ten Pick!)

"What do you want from me?" he asks. What I want from every person in my life, I tell him. More.

JELLICOE ROAD by Melina Marchetta
2008, HarperTeen, 432p
originally published in 2006 by Penguin Books Australia under the title ON THE JELLICOE ROAD
buy here
Notable awards: Michael L. Printz Award; Cybils 2008 finalist
Notable books by the author: Looking for Alibrandi, Saving Francesca
Summary: Abandoned by her mother on Jellicoe Road when she was eleven, Taylor Markham, now seventeenm is finally being confronted with her past. But as the reluctant leader of her boarding school dorm, there isn't a lot of time for introspection. And while Hannah, the closest adult Taylor has to family, has disappeared, Jonah Griggs is back in town, moody stares and all. In this absorbing story by Melina Marchetta, nothing is as it seems and every clue leads to more questions as Taylor tries to work out the connection between her mother dumping her, Hannah finding her then and her sudden departure now, a mysterious stranger who once whispered something in her ear, a boy in her dreams, five kids w ho lived on Jellicoe Road eighteen years ago, and the maddening and magnetic Jonah Griggs, who knows her better than she thinks he does. If Taylor can put together the pieces of her past, she might just be able to change her future.
Review: Okay, I have to admit it. I have to be honest here, because if I'm not honest, what good does that do you, the reader? It does you a disservice, in fact. So the truth must be told. I was originally drawn to Jellicoe Road because of--of all things--the cover. Yes, the cover. I know, I know, don't judge a book by its cover and all that crap. But I loved it, for some reason. Anyways, so Jellicoe Road was duly checked out and read. I read it in four parts during the summer, each part on four different days. The following is a description of the thoughts in my head as I read this book:
part one (first 100 pages): "Okay, this is pretty good. A little confusing, but good...okay, that makes no sense...(laughs)...this is excellent..."
part two (100-200): "...hah...(laughs)...(silent in awe)...this is, that was stupid...(You get the idea.)"
part three (up to page 240): "...Oh. My. God....No, really? (laughs)...She's what?...oh, HAVE to finish this now!..."(I didn't, by the way. I waited until the next day.)
part four (rest of the book): "Wow...what?...that's a shocker...(doesn't talk for thirty minutes while reading)...oh...crap!*cries*...that was amazing."
I didn't really make myself clear there, so I'll do that now:
Jellicoe Road was one of the best books I've ever read.
I will go on to repeat myself on that several times, but there you have it: it WAS. I don't know what it was. Maybe it was the characters. Taylor was probably one of my favorite protags ever, because I just felt like I could relate to her. The writing itself was amazing. Essentially, the way I knew this book was good was that I wanted to savor it, really savor it. It took me all summer to read this book, because I wanted to make sure that there would always be more of Marchetta's bittersweet prose and heartfelt plotting to come. And although the last 170 pages or so were the best, it's not like the other parts sucked. They were better than 99 percent of the books I read. And I read a lot, so that's saying something. Plus, I cried during one part, which I've only done twice while reading a book, ever. Again, greatness.
Thoughts on the cover: The cover gets an 8, being not as good as I originally thot (although the poppy is, I admit, extremely significant). I much prefer the Australian cover. Still, pretty good.
Verdict: Jellicoe Road is beautifully written and extremely funny--thus it is the seventh best book I've ever read and the best Australian-author book I've ever read (beats out The Murder of Bindy Mackenzie, which is impressive, seeing as Bindy used to be in the top 5).
Rating: 10

Friday, August 14, 2009

MAJOR decision about the blog/All We Know of Heaven

Okay, so I've been thinking, and I've decided something major about this blog.
About fifteen minutes ago I was watching a review video about Gayle Forman's If I Stay (good book, BTW--I think I'll review it next week when I've had the chance to reread it), and I was thinking, "I like how she doesn't only review new books, just the ones she's just read." (I'd watched a few videos by the reviewer in question.) So then I thought, "I wish I could do that." Not only review older books when I read them, but also review books in a way that doesn't have to sound all scripted-School-Library-Journal-Booklist-professional-MBA-type. And then I thought, Well, you do have a blog, where you REVIEW YA BOOKS.
Thus, two major changes:
I will review whatever (YA) book I am reading at the time, and it will probably not be professional. If this bothers you in any way, sorry. (If anyone actually reads this.)
Now on to the review.

All We Know of Heaven by Jacquelyn Mitchard
This book is about two girls who have been best friends since grade school, Bridget Flannery and Maureen O'Malley. They are really close and look very much alike. One December night, when they're driving home after cheerleading practice, they get into a horrible accident. Both girls are criticially injured, and one dies on arrival. The other is in critical condition. The girl dead is identified and buried (I can't tell you who's who, because I have a no-spoiler-unless-it's-on-the-book-jacket rule).The dead girl is is mourned, and the community rallies around the other as she eventually wakes up and begins a slow transition back into normal life (and I mean slow).
But the story doesn't end there. One day, a dental specialist comes to the hospital where the alive girl is at and checks her teeth. Everything seems perfectly normal, but as the doctor checks the records against the girl's teeth before the accident, he slowly comes to realize that the hospital has made a horrible mistake...
Basically, I have to say that I really liked this book. Mitchard--who is the author of many bestseller adult novels--tells the story of Bridget and Maureen without sounding boring, blase, repetitive, or extremely cliche. The characters seem real enough that even when they're doing something completely wrong, stupid, mean, or just evil, you understand what they're doing and their reasoning behind it. The dialogue doesn't seem forced, nor does the ending. Basically, this is a book that you really should read. And, like, it's good, and all. Yeah.

Rating: 8

$16.99 / buy here


Jamie and Lance arrive at play practice with matching hickeys on their necks. I've never understood the appeal of hickeys. It's like, "Hey, I'm into you, so let me give you a bruise. I'll just latch onto your neck like a leech and suck on your skin until I break enough blood vessels to leave a mark. That way everyone will know just how much I care about you."
from TMI by Sarah Quigley (Dutton, 2009) (will probably be my next review)