Body Image and Self Perception Month

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Body Image and Self Perception Month (BI&SP) is a month-long event hosted by Jo at Once Upon a Bookcase during the month of July. The point of the month is to focus on how issues like eating disorders, obesity, being overweight, disabilities, disfigurement, and low self-esteem are represented in YA fiction. The month will include several bloggers reading and reviewing books, authors giving interviews and writing guest posts, and other special posts about the topics.

When I heard about this month, I was very excited to get involved. I think that there are a lot of issues that teenagers (and adults) have to deal with and focusing on the problems and discussing them is so much better than ignoring them. I’ll be reading and reviewing several books for BISP month, I’ll have a few guest posts from authors, an interview with an author, and I’m looking into a feature on body image in the media.

My plan is to read and review these books:
Shark Girl by Kelly L. Bingham
Out of the Fire by Deborah Froese
Beastly by Alex Flinn
Jane in Bloom by Deborah A. Lytton
Food, Girls, and Other Things I Can't Have: a novel by Allen Zadoff
Second Star to the Right by Deborah Hautzig
Skinny by Ibi Kaslik
Jumping to Confusions by Liz Rettig
Model: a memoir by Cheryl Diamond
Every Crooked Pot by Renee Rose

*short and snappy*
who: Jo at
Once Upon a Bookcase is the sponsor – for other bloggers and authors who are participating, check here
what: a month-long event that will include
* reviews of novels that talk about self-esteem, self confidence, eating disorders, obesity, physical disabilities, disfigurement, (and more)
* discussions of the same topics
* author interviews and guest posts
when: the whole month of July
Once Upon a Bookcase and other sites listed here
why: Jo says, “There are too many teens out there that have such low self-esteem and self-confidence, and the media - as well as bullies and peer pressure - don't help.”
And I agree. Rather than ignore the many issues that teenagers (and adults) have to deal with in terms of body image today, we'll talk about them openly.
miscellaneous: If you would like to participate in BISP month, visit
Once Upon a Bookcase for more details.

In My Mailbox (#9)

Sunday, June 27, 2010

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme that talks about books that have been bought, swapped, received for review, or borrowed from the library. It is hosted by Kristy at The Story Siren.

Things have been crazy here for a few weeks. I’m working on a few master’s classes that are really difficult and I’ve also been out of town off and on. This week’s IMM shows mainly the books I’m using to prepare for Body Image and Self Perception month in July. I’ll have a post about the month on Wednesday, and then book reviews, posts, author guest posts, and an author interview throughout July. (BISP Month is hosted by Jo at Once Upon a Bookcase, so if you want to learn more now, head over there!)

From the Library:
(For BISP Month)
Every Crooked Pot – Renee Rosen
Skin - Adrienne Maria Vrettos
Second Star to the Right by Deborah Hautzig
Out of the Fire by Deborah Froese
Jane in Bloom by Deborah A. Lytton
Shark Girl by Kelly L. Bingham
Food, Girls, and Other Things I Can't Have: a novel by Allen Zadoff
Model: a memoir by Cheryl Diamond
Skinny by Ibi Kaslik

(Just because) Wolves, Boys, & Other Things That Might Kill Me by Kristen Chandler (This is pictured above, but should be here. Thanks Jo for pointing that out!!)
Sunday’s at Tiffany’s by James Patterson
Folly by Marthe Jocelyn
Fallen by Lauren Kate
The Boys Next Door by Jennifer Echols
Death by Bikini by Linda C. Gerber
Shug by Jenny Han
Princess for Hire by Lindsey Leavitt
The Red Pyramid – Rick Riordan (I had to return it before I finished it last time)
The Ghosts of Ashbury High by Jaclyn Moriarty
Burned by P.C. Cast

Reviews Since Last IMM:
Into the Wild Nerd Yonder – Julie Halpern
If I Stay – Gayle Forman
Raven – Allison van Diepen
Claim to Fame – Margaret Peterson Haddix
The Lonely Hearts Club – Elizabeth Eulberg
The Body Finder – Kimberly Derting
Pure - Terra Elan McVoy

AND – there are still a few days left to enter my first contest!!

Into the Wild Nerd Yonder by Julie Halpern

Friday, June 25, 2010

author’s website: Julie Halpern
release date: September 29, 2009
appeals to: Young Adult
genre: Contemporary
length: 256 pages
publisher: Feiwel & Friends
overall rating: 4 stars

*the inside flap*
It’s Jessie’s sophomore year of high school. A self-professed “mathelete,” she isn’t sure where she belongs. Her two best friends have transformed themselves into punks, and one of them is going after her longtime crush. Her beloved older brother will soon leave for college (and in the meantime, has shaved his Mohawk and started dating . . . the homecoming queen!).

Things are changing fast. Jessie need new friends. And her quest is a hilarious tour through high school clique-dom, with a surprising stop along the way – the Dungeons and Dragons crowd, who out-nerd everyone! Will hanging out with them make her a nerd, too? And could she really be crushing on a guy with too-short pants and too-white gym shoes?

If you go into the wild nerd yonder, can you ever come back?

*my review*
This was a very cute story about the importance of friendship and staying true to yourself. In the book, Jessie is having friend trouble, because her two best friends (Bizza and Char) have decided that being punk and hanging out with Jessie’s brother’s friends is much cooler than they have been before. However, Jessie doesn’t see the transition as a positive thing, and begins to drift away from Bizza and Char, especially when Bizza starts to make decisions that highlight her not-so-nice nature, like going after Jessie’s long-standing crush Van. As Jessie drifts away from Bizza and Char, she experiments with different groups of people in her school and finds some great friends to hang out with at lunch and in her classes. When she is invited to an evening with the Dungeons and Dragons crowd, she has a lot of hesitation because of its “nerdy” nature – even though the evening’s host is a very cute, if pretty nerdy, guy that she might be interested in.

Throughout this book, Jessie meets new people and is questioning the new groups of friends she’s trying out, while she continues to be frustrated with the fact that her old friends dumped her. And through it all, she turns to sewing as her release time. She is on a mission to sew a different skirt for every day of the school year, and is well on her way. The sewing aspect was a fun addition, but it also makes a lot of sense later in the story.

What really stood out to me in this story was the awesome family dynamic in Jessie’s family. Her brother, Barrett, is a senior, but is super supportive of Jessie. Even though he teases her about things, he really cares about his sister, and that comes through strongly in the story. They have the very cool brother-sister relationship that I always wanted when I was growing up (as an only child).

Overall, the book was cute, fun, and easy to read, and it really drives home two important messages: (1) be true to yourself, and (2) friends are important to everyone, but they should let you be yourself.

*short and snappy*
writing: light and easy to read, even when Jessie was having a hard time
plot: a little predictable, but there were some surprises along the way
characters: fun and different – there were a lot of different personalities represented in the book, and all of them had the quirks that made them seem realistic
judging by the cover: the cover is really cute, and the die-20 in the background makes a lot more sense as you read the story!
miscellaneous: there is a lot of Dungeon and Dragon talk throughout the book, and since I know nothing about that, it was sometimes difficult to understand. BUT, Jessie knows nothing too, so it was kind of like learning along with her.

If I Stay by Gayle Forman

Thursday, June 24, 2010

author’s website: Gayle Forman
release date: April 2, 2009
appeals to: Young Adult
genre: Contemporary
length: 272 pages
publisher: Speak
overall rating: 5 stars

*the back cover*
On a day that started like any other. . .
Mia had everything: a loving family, a gorgeous, adoring boyfriend, and a bright future full o fmusic and full of choices. Then, in an instant, almost all of that is taken from her. Caught between life and death, between a happy past and an unknowable future, Mia spends one critical day contemplating the only decision she has left – the most important decision she’ll ever make.
Simultaneously tragic and hopeful, this is a romantic, riveting, and ultimately uplifting story about memory, music, living, dying, loving.

*my review*
This book was breathtaking. The book begins with the story of a seemingly normal teenage cello player with slightly quirky parents. But immediately, Mia’s world is turned upside down when a tragic accident throws her into a state between being alive and being dead. She can watch everything, hear everything, but she can’t feel or touch anything. This book covers just one day, and it is absolutely riveting. I literally read it in one sitting because I didn’t want to close the book. I just had to know what happened next.

At the end of the paperback, there are 18 pages of additional writing that talk about the story behind the story, discussion questions, a “behind the music” section, and an author Q and A section. These additional sections were just as intriguing as the story, and they really made things come together. Mia is a serious musician, and her parents are serious about music, but a totally different genre, so reading the “behind the music” section was really interesting. It really showed the attention to detail that Gayle Forman took when creating the story. Even those pages were difficult to close, because you just don’t want the story to end.

This review has been incredibly hard to write, because I have trouble explaining exactly why this book was so good (especially without giving spoilers). The raw emotions, difficult decisions, and beautiful writing come together to create an honest and breathtaking story.

*short and snappy*
writing: down to earth – Mia is narrating the story and she has a very down to earth personality that comes across in the writing
plot: stunning – for a story set in one day, there are a ton of elements at work in this plot
characters: all of the characters are interesting, but since Mia is telling the story, we learn the most about her
judging by the cover: I love the cover and the tagline under the title, “what would you do if you had to choose?”
miscellaneous: The
website for the book has a playlist, videos, an excerpt and other goodies.
one more thing: On the cover, there is a quote from USA today saying that this book will appeal to fans of Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series. I really enjoyed this book, but I don’t see any kind of connection to the Twilight series except that both books appeal to a teen audience. If I Stay does have a little bit of a paranormal aspect in the plot – since Mia is watching herself from outside her body – but there isn’t really a fantasy aspect, and there isn’t any kind of adventure story like there is in the Twilight series.

Raven by Allison van Diepen

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

author’s website: Allison van Diepen
release date: February 10, 2009
appeals to: young adult
genre: paranormal
length: 304 pages
overall rating: 3.5

*the back cover*
She wants him . . . .

Zin dances with fire in every step, speaks in a honey-sweet voice, and has eyes that can peer into your sould. Nicole’s friendship with him is the only think that saves her from the boredom of school and the turmoil of her family life. It’s no wonder she is madley in love with him. But she can’t understand why he keeps her at a distance, even though she can feel his soul reaching out for hers.

Zin is like no guy Nicole has ever met, and he carries with him a very old secret. When Nicole uncovers the truth, her love may be the only thing that can save him from it.

*my review*
This was an interesting story about a teenage girl living in Manhattan, who loves break dancing, working at a club, and her break dancing trainer Zin. There were a few things about this novel that were strange to me, but overall, it was a really interesting story. I really did enjoy the story, and I read it in one sitting (on the airplane ride home from Florida).

Raven is actually a nickname for Nicole, the main character, and the nickname plays a key part in the plot toward the middle and end of the book (telling you how would be spoilery). While Raven is a nickname, throughout the book, Nicole is most often referred to as “Nic,” so for consistency sake, I’ll use that. Nic works at a nightclub in Manhattan, and while the job seems glamorous and fun, it is a little strange, since she’s only 16. The club – Evermore – is a popular hangout for break dancers in the city, so Nic and her fellow breakers, the Toprocks, often get a chance to show off their moves. During these scenes, there were pretty elaborate descriptions of the sequences of moves the kids would do, but since I know very little about break dancing, it didn’t really paint much of a picture in my head – not a specific or accurate one anyway.

Beyond the break dancing and bar-working, there is also a paranormal element to the story that works for and against the budding romance between Nic and Zin. As the plot unfolds, there are a lot of times that Nicole has to make some very difficult decisions, and while she is a very mature teenager, she still has the hesitation that shows her age.

At times while reading this story, I felt like I could relate to Nicole. Most of her friends are guys, and her no-nonsense type of personality was something I could really relate to. (In fact, my “Memorable line” is from her explanation of why her friends are guys, and I chose it because I’ve heard myself make similar comments many times in my life.) She also thinks that family is important, not to say that hers is perfect by any means. I thought this was nice to see in a time that there are many stories about dysfunctional families. Overall, this was an interesting, good read, with an intriguing plot, paranormal characters, and a bit of romance too.

*short and snappy*
: straightforward – Nicole’s no-nonsense attitude is really captured in this story and since it is from her point of view, the entire telling has that same feel
plot: complex – there are a lot of elements in this story (family, romance, the paranormal stuff, and break dancing) that are all woven together to create a very interesting story
characters: also complex – Nicole is definitely a teenager, but she’s dealing with a lot of things throughout this book, so she has a depth that makes her realistic
memorable line: I’m not a tomboy, but I think I was born to be friends with guys – they laugh, they don’t backstab, they make dirty jokes, and they don’t give a shit. (p. 28)
judging by the cover: I love the cover, in fact, that’s why I picked the book up in the first place!

Claim to Fame by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Sunday, June 20, 2010

author’s website: Margaret Peterson Haddix
release date: November 10, 2009
appeals to: Middle Grade or Young Adult
genre: Paranormal
length: 272 pages
overall rating: 3.5 Stars

*the inside flap*
I have to tell you my secret. I can’t go on . . . without revealing it. I had a pretty good run, hiding from everyone for five years. For five years I was safe. But now . . .

It was a talent that came out of nowhere. One day Lindsay Scott was on the top of the world, the star of a hit TV show. The next day her fame had turned into torture. Every time anyone said anything about her, she heard it. And everyone was talking about Lindsay: fans, friends, enemies, enemies who pretended to be friends . . .

Lindsay had what looked like a nervous breakdown and vanished from the public eye. But now she’s sixteen and back in the news: A tabloid newspaper claims that Lindsay is being held hostage by her father.

The truth? Lindsay has been hiding out in a small Illinois town, living in a house that somehow provides relief from the stream of voices in her head. But when two local teenagers try to “rescue” Lindsay by kidnapping her, Lindsay is forced to confront everything she’s hiding from. And that’s when she discovers there may be others who share her strange power. Lindsay is desperate to learn more, but what is she willing to risk to find the truth?

*my review*
This was an interesting story to read. The book starts with Lindsay being kidnapped almost immediately, which sounds terrible, but the twist is that the kidnappers think that they are actually “rescuing” her from an overprotective father. From there, Lindsay’s story really begins to unfold. When she was younger, she acted in a hit tv show for kids, but at the age of eleven, she started to hear things. Not just voices, but the voice of anyone, saying anything about her, anywhere in the world. Needless to say, she couldn’t remain in the public eye (or do anything even semi-productive) with all of those voices talking in her head, so her dad moved her to a small suburban town in Illinois, and into a house that somehow quiets the voices.

When Lindsay is kidnapped – and thus taken out of the safe house – she immediately starts hearing the voices again. Since five years have passed, the voices aren’t as overwhelming as they were before unless a rerun of the show is airing. But it is still a problem that she has to tackle and wants to solve.

I enjoyed the story and thought that there was enough action to make the plot move along pretty quickly. While there is a kidnapping in the story, it isn’t really a scary situation, so this book would even be ok for middle grade readers. There is a good conclusion in this story, but I think that the ending is open enough to provide for a sequel to be written as well.

*short and snappy*
writing: interesting – the book is told from Lindsay’s point of view, but because she can hear everything people say about her, you also get a glimpse into things that aren’t happening around her, which usually isn’t possible in a first person telling of a story
plot: steady with a few twists and turns
characters: realistic (except for the paranormal part obviously) – Lindsay struggles with things that any teenager could deal with, from algebra to making friends
judging by the cover: the cover is interesting, but it doesn’t give anything away about the story

The Lonely Hearts Club by Elizabeth Eulberg

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

author’s website: Elizabeth Eulberg
release date: December 29, 2009
appeals to: Young Adult
*Debut author (technically 2009)
genre: Contemporary
length: 320 pages
overall rating: 4 Stars

*the inside flap*
Love is all you need . . . or is it?
Penny is sick of boys and sick of dating, so she vows: No more. She’s had one too many bad dates, and has been hurt by one too many bad boys.

It’s a personal choice . . . and soon everybody wants to know about it. It seems that Penny’s not the only girl who’s tired of the way girls change themselves (most of the time for the worse) in order to get their guys . . . or the way their guys don’t really care.

Girls are soon thronging to The Lonely Hearts Club, and Penny finds herself near legendary for her nondating ways – which is too bad, since the leader of The Lonely Hearts Club has found a certain boy she can’t help but like . . . .

*my review*
On the cover of the book, Stephenie Meyer is quoted as saying “A must-read for anyone who’s ever fallen in love – or sworn it off completely.” And I completely agree. It really is the story of how swearing off something can lead you to understand how that might not always be the best option.

Penny is a very likable character. She seems confident and doesn’t like getting pulled into the drama that is surrounding her in her daily high school life. Her best friend, Tracey, is equally fun, but with a lot more sass and a bigger, louder personality. Tracey is also very protective of Penny in a way that shows how important the friendship is to her. Diane rounds out the threesome, but she is a character that seems to still be looking for her identity. She’s been in a relationship for so long that she hasn’t been truly able to define her own personality.

These girls seem like many girls in high school. They have been in crappy relationships, they’ve watched (and experienced) their friends changing or ignoring them because of boys, and they have finally had enough. Penny starts the club, but Tracey and Diane quickly join, only to be followed by a huge chunk of the female population of their high school. The best thing about this growing group is that it really shows the importance of friends.

The friendship in this story is amazing. The girls are incredibly supportive of each other. They are the kinds of friends that I wish I’d had in high school – or now for that matter! The book is cute and has a fun plot, but it also has a great message: you shouldn’t ever give up yourself or your friends for a boy.

The story is a little bit predictable, but there is enough doubt about decisions to keep you interested in the story. There is a little bit of romance, a lot of friendship, and of course, a huge helping of The Beatles. In fact, sections of the book are introduced with Beatles lyrics that tie into the plot of the story. And of course, our lead character – Penny Lane – is named after a Beatles song; as are her two sisters – Lucy (in the sky with diamonds) and Rita (Lovely Rita).

*short and snappy*
: sincere – Eulberg really captures the essence of Penny to create a fun story
plot: slightly predictable, but there are a lot of times that Penny isn’t even sure what decision she’ll make, and you feel that as a reader
characters: varied in personality, but the main characters are all very fun and supportive of each other
memorable line: Anybody who has ever clung to a song like a musical life raft will understand. Or put on a song to bring out an emotion or a memory. Or had a soundtrack playing in their head to drown out a conversation or a scene. (p. 16)
judging by the cover: the cover is very cute and ties directly into the Beatles theme since it mimics the cover of the
Abbey Road album
miscellaneous: I was especially drawn to this story, because my mom actually had a Lonely Hearts Club when she was in high school (in the early 70s). When I told her about this book, she explained that their LHC didn’t have dating restrictions; it was just a group of girls that met for dinner or breakfast or to do fun things. There were even boys that came regularly.

Summer Giveaway!

Monday, June 14, 2010

(and the first giveaway at a dazzling distraction)

I've been contacted by a representative at CSN stores who has given me the opportunity to offer my readers a chance to win a $40 gift card that can be used in any of their over 200 websites. The CSN websites offer lighting, bookshelves, and a variety of other products. You can check them out at, and then enter the contest by leaving a comment with your email contact information.

I’d also like to thank CSN Stores for sponsoring my first giveaway! Please check out their many sites to find something that appeals to you!

The basics:

• To enter, please leave a comment with your email address so I can contact you
**If you aren't comfortable leaving your email in the comments, you can send me an email at adazzlingdistraction (at) gmail (dot) com with your name & email address & a note saying that you want to enter this contest
• Must be at least 13 years old to enter

• Open to U.S. and Canadian addresses (CSN stores only ships to the U.S. and Canada)
• Ends on Wednesday, June 30, 2010 at midnight


The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting

Sunday, June 13, 2010

author’s website: Kimberly Derting
release date: March 16, 2010
appeals to: Young Adult
** 2010 Debut Author **
genre: Paranormal
length: 336 pages
overall rating: 5 Stars

*the inside flap*
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 frined 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 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 dead birds her cat left for her. But now that a serial killer is terrorizing her small town, and the echoes of the local girls he’s claimed haunt her daily, Violet realizes she might be the only person who can stop him.

Despite his fierce protectiveness over her, Jay reluctantly agrees to help Violet find the murderer – and Violet is unnerved by her hop that Jay’s intentions are much more than friendly. But as she’s falling intensely in love, Violet is getting closer and closer to discovering a killer . . . and becoming his per herself.

*my review*
I absolutely loved this book. Fantastic writing flows into a highly suspense filled story with an undercurrent of the unexpected feelings of a friendship turning romantic. I literally couldn’t put it down.

The story starts with a prologue that describes Violet first experiencing her “gift” as a child. Then, we jump to present day, and a 16-year-old Violet who is living a “normal” life. She is starting her junior year of high school and over the summer, her best friend, Jay, has transformed into the hottest guy at school. She has always been friends with him, but now, she is starting to sense some crush feelings (along with every other girl in school). There is a lot of inner struggle with Violet because she doesn’t want things to change with her best friend. But she also doesn’t really like that the other girls are giving Jay so much attention either. Since the book is written from Violet’s perspective, the reader isn’t sure what Jay is feeling, just like Violet isn’t.

The mystery starts to unfold when girls start disappearing in and around Violet’s town. Then, Violet starts to find the girls, thanks to her body finding “talent.” She realizes that she can help, but it isn’t an easy decision. The biggest action of the story comes when Violet decides to get involved and start hunting for the killer. Jay is there the whole way, and becomes incredibly protective of Violet. If they weren’t best friends, his protectiveness might be a little overbearing, but since they’ve been friends since first grade, it makes a lot of sense.

Every few chapters, there is a chapter from the perspective of the killer. These chapters have one word titles, instead of numbers like Violet’s chapters. They give the reader a look into the mind of the killer, and help add to the suspense! The biggest action starts about two thirds of the way through the book, and doesn’t stop until the last page.

*short and snappy*
: fluid – the story flows and reading it is so vivid that it feels like you could watch it happen
plot: intense – there are a lot of suspenseful elements that keep you hooked, but the romance story is also pretty captivating
characters: beautifully constructed – I like that Violet isn’t really sure of herself but is very confident in her ability to use her “talent” to help
memorable line: my favorite line is spoilery, so here is one that isn’t
“He gave her a questioning look. ‘Seriouly, a ‘bad seed,’ Vi? When did you turn ninety and start saying things like ‘bad seed’?’” (p. 50)
judging by the cover: The cover is pretty, but I don’t really see the connection to the story.
miscellaneous: There is a book trailer here and information that says she’ll be putting out a new book (Desires of the Dead) on March 15, 2011.

Pure by Terra Elan McVoy

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

author’s website: Terra Elan McVoy
release date: April 6, 2010
appeals to: Young Adult
genre: Contemporary
length: 330
overall rating: 4 Stars

*the back cover*
Promise. Betrayal. Confession. Revenge.

Tabitha and her four best friends all wear purity rings, symbols of the virginity-until-marriage pledge they made back in middle school. Now Tab is fifteen, and her ring has come to mean so much more. It’s a symbol of who she is and what she believes—a reminder of her promises to herself, and her bond to her friends.

But when Tab meets a boy whose kisses make her knees go weak, everything suddenly seems a lot more complicated. Tab’s best friend, Morgan, is far from supportive, and for the first time, Tabitha is forced to keep secrets from the one person with whom she’s always shared everything. When one of those secrets breaks to the surface, Tabitha finds herself at the center of a betrayal that splits her friends apart. As her entire world starts to unravel, Tab’s forced to re-examine her friendships, her faith, and what exactly it means to be pure.

*my review*
With all of the stories about teens who are struggling with things like drinking, drugs, abusive parents or relationships, and other negative things, it was interesting to read a book with a message about abstinence. I don’t believe that this is categorized as “Christian Fiction,” but there is a lot of discussion about Tabitha’s Christian faith in the book. Primarily because she is struggling to understand acceptance and boys in terms of her faith.

Tabitha is a genuinely nice girl with nice, supportive parents. Her parents are a lot more open with her than mine ever were with me, but it is still refreshing to see supportive parents in a story sometimes. Throughout the story, Tabitha has a lot of questions and internal debates that seem very real. For example, on page 47, she is debating whether or not she should call the boy. And if she does, how does she explain the purity ring. There is an entire paragraph of questions that she is asking herself, and I would imagine that a lot of teenagers are probably asking themselves the same kinds of questions every day.

Another big issue comes when Tabitha and her best friend, Morgan, don’t see eye-to-eye on an issue. Tabitha begins to feel strain because Morgan has been there for everything, and now that they’re fighting, Tabitha has to figure things out on her own. While Tabitha’s parents are supportive of her, they are not religious people. So in this story, McVoy also introduces us to a Youth Group leader – Marilyn - who Tabitha is able to approach with her questions. I appreciated that Tabitha felt comfortable talking to someone about her problems, but I loved that Marilyn didn’t just solve them for her. Instead, Marilyn gave her some things to think about (primarily a poem and a Bible verse) so that Tabitha could figure things out on her own.

Overall, this is a very real story of a girl who is serious to her faith, a devoted friend, and a little bit curious about her first romance. The romance in this story is a first love that doesn’t move too fast, and it shows the nerves that are tangled up in the experience of having your first relationship.

*short and snappy*
writing: fun and light - McVoy captures the voice of a real teenager and creates a book that is fun and easy to read even when it covers difficult topics and situations.
plot: there are twists and turns, just like in real life, but the story feels genuine
characters: realistic – McVoy really introduces a variety of characters with their own experiences and opinions to share
memorable line: (really a conversation from pages 216-217)
“If He didn’t love us for our failures and frustrations, if He wasn’t pleased somehow with our attempts to find meaning, rather than inherently knowing it all already, I think God’d be a lot more pissed off with us, don’t you?”
“Maybe He is really pissed off with us,” I mutter back . . .
“If He was,” Marilyn whispers, “I don’t think He’d keep giving us so many beautiful things in the world, would He?”
judging by the cover: I have the paper back and I love the cover – the daisy is simple, but it reminds me of pulling the petals off thinking “I should, I shouldn’t, I should, . . .”
miscellaneous: McVoy’s next book “After the Kiss” is also available. Her page about it is here or the Amazon link is here.

In My Mailbox (#8)

Sunday, June 6, 2010

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme that talks about books that have been bought, swapped, received for review, or borrowed from the library. It is hosted by Kristy at The Story Siren.

It’s been a few weeks since I did IMM, but this week, I went a little crazy at the library, actually bought a book, and caught up on a ton of reviews. Isn’t summer vacation wonderful?!

From the Library:
Bloom – Elizabeth Scott (review link below)
It’s Not Summer Without You – Jenny Han (review link below)
Pure – Terra Elan McVoy (review coming soon!)
The Red Pyramid – Rick Riordan(review coming soon!)

Once was lost – Sara Zarr
The Body Finder – Kimberly Derting
My Soul to Take – Rachel Vincent
My Soul to Save - Rachel Vincent
Wicked Game – Jeri Smith-Ready

Every Crooked Pot – Renee Rosen
Claim to Fame – Margaret Peterson Haddix
Secret Society – Tom Dolby
Radiant shadows - Melissa Marr
Princess for hire - Lindsey Leavitt
Skin - Adrienne Maria Vrettos
The Line - Teri Hall
The Juliet club - Suzanne Harper

Nurtureshock - Po Bronson & Ashley Merriman
(This book isn’t YA or fiction, but it is a really interesting look at how some of the things that we think of as “good parenting” are actually detrimental to kids. I know that the teen readers might not be interested, but I thought that some of my adult readers that may find this interesting!)

The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner - Stephanie Meyer – (review link below)

The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner by Stephanie Meyer
It’s Not Summer Without You by Jenny Han
Ballad by Maggie Stiefvater
Lament by Maggie Stiefvater
Bloom by Elizabeth Scott
My So-Called Death by Stacey Jay

The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner by Stephanie Meyer

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Spoiler warning: If you haven’t read “Eclipse” (the 3rd book in the Twilight series”), you will want to skip this review

author’s website:
Stephanie Meyer
release date: June 5, 2010
appeals to: Young Adult
genre: Vampire Novella
length: 192 pages
overall rating: 4.5 Stars

*the inside flap*
Bree Tanner can barely remember life before she had uncannily powerful senses, superhuman reflexes, and unstoppable physical strength. Life before she had a relentless thirst for blodd . . . life before she became a vampire.

All Bree knows is that living with her fellow newborns has few certainties and even fewer rules: watch your back, don’t draw attention to yourself, and above all, make it home by sunrise or die. What she doesn’t know: her time as an immortal is quickly running out.
Then Bree finds an unexpected friend in Diego, a newborn just as curious as Bree about their mysterious creator, whom they know only as her. As they come to realize that the newborns are pawns in a game larger than anything they could have imagined, Bree and Diego must choose sides nad decide whom to trust. But when everything you know about vampires is based on a lie, how do you find the truth?

*my review*
I need to begin by saying that reading this book was kind of like watching the movie “Titanic” in that you know how it is going to end. (Another spoiler warning - If you are not sure how this story ends or haven’t read Eclipse, STOP NOW!) When I heard that this book was going to be released, I was very excited because I really enjoyed the world that Stephanie Meyer created in the Twilight series (even before all of the movie-mania). I was even more excited to learn that it accompanied Eclipse, which was my favorite book in the series. So of course, this morning I went to buy it!

The book is a novella, so it is on the shorter side (only 173 pages of story), and I read it in one sitting. The story jumps right in to Bree’s life as a newborn vampire – she’s about three months old – and it is definitely different than the lives of the Cullens’ lifestyle! Bree describes the thirst that she feels and the way that she has to pick out her victims. But Bree also exposes us to what has been happening while Riley and Victoria build the army they take to fight the Cullens in Eclipse.

As the story developed, I really grew to like Bree. She has a lot more depth than you see in her very brief role in Eclipse. In fact, after reading this book, I went to Eclipse and reread the section about Bree. It was really interesting to see the story from both Bree’s and Bella’s perspectives! As the end of the book came closer and closer, I knew what would happen, but I kept hoping it would change. I knew that it couldn’t of course, but it made me wonder --- If Stephanie Meyer had written this novella while she was editing Eclipse instead of after, would Eclipse have looked different?

I really enjoyed the story and recommend it for a quick read. It is an excellent extension to the story of Eclipse. My only complaint is that I would have loved to have learned more about Diego and Fred (two characters that interact with Bree the most). But, since the book is from Bree's perspective, the amount we learn about them makes sense. The book is being offered for free online, but if you can afford to buy it, one dollar from the sale of each book is being donated to the American Red Cross.

*short and snappy*
writing: smooth and descriptive in the style I expect from Stephanie Meyer
plot: suspenseful – even with an ending that you know is coming
characters: very well developed for such a short book! I’d love to know more about Diego and Fred though!
judging by the cover: The black, white, and red cover matches the theme of the other books, but the hourglass image is perfect!
miscellaneous: Stephenie Meyer is offering the text for free online beginning June 7th at and there is a playlist for the book available here.

It’s Not Summer Without You by Jenny Han

Spoiler warning: Because this book is a sequel, this review may contain spoilers of the first book. If you haven’t read “The Summer I Turned Pretty”, you may want to skip this review

author’s website:
release date: April 21, 2010
appeals to: Young Adult
genre: Contemporary
length: 275 pages
overall rating: 3 Stars

*the inside flap*
Can summer be truly summer without Cousins Beach?

It used to be that Belly counted the days until summer, until she was back at Cousins Beach with Conrad and Jeremiah. But not this year. Not after Susannah got sick again and Conrad stopped caring. Everything that was right and good has fallen apart, leaving Belly wishing summer would never come.

But when Jeremiah calls saying Conrad has disappeared, Belly knows what she must do to make things right again. And it can only happen back at the beach house, the three of them together, the way things used to be. If this summer really and truly is the last summer, it should end the way it started--at Cousins Beach.

*my review*
I really enjoyed the first book in this series (“The Summer I Turned Pretty”), and since my summer vacation has officially started, it seemed like a great time for a good summer book. This story starts by skipping an entire year --- it is now summer again, and a LOT has changed. Within the first chapter of the book, you realize that Belly is still the self-conscious, insecure girl she was the summer before, and that she is still obsessed with Conrad.

This story is told in alternating chapters (similar to the first book). Some are set in the present, some tell of what has happened over the last year, and a few are told from Jeremiah’s perspective (both present settings and memories). I like the alternating chapters because it really paints a more complete picture of the background while you’re still experiencing the “main” story. There were a lot of touch choices in this book, and a lot of times, they weren’t up to Belly. Even as I read, I wasn’t always sure which way the decisions would go!

I didn’t really like the ending of this book. You go through the whole story with a lot of questions, and then toward the end, they all get solved quickly and without much detail. An “epilogue” set “A Few Years Later” leaves me curious about the third book. This was a cute story, but wasn’t as happy and carefree a summer read as the first. I’ll be interested to see where the third book takes the story.

*short and snappy*
writing: light – the story was easy to read even when the topics weren’t cheerful and the decisions were tricky
plot: a story of crossroads - A lot happens in the book, but overall, the story is centered around decisions and choices.
characters: you learn more about Jeremiah in this story, and about Belly’s mom, but otherwise, the characters are about the same is in the first book. There isn’t much growth.
judging by the cover: the cover ties directly in to the cover of the first book and gets you in the mood for a summer story
miscellaneous: There is a playlist for the book available
here. And, according to her site, a third book in this series (“We’ll Always Have Summer”) will be out in the Summer of 2011.

A Few Things on a Friday

Friday, June 4, 2010

Happy Friday!!!

I just had a few things other than reviews to share today.

1. Blood and Chocolate:
I was at Walgreens on Monday (iced tea was on sale!) and I saw the move "Blood and Chocolate" on sale. I picked it up to look at it, but didn't buy it because I wasn't sure if it was really based on the
book (by Annette Curtis Klause) or if it was just coincidence. When I got home I checked IMDB (the Internet Movie Database, which is one of my favorite time-wasters/toys) and found that it is supposed to be based on the book (link for movie). So I rented it of course! The movie was pretty good – a nice werewolf story that focuses on the lore of the loup garoux – but it was almost NOTHING like the book. Don’t get me wrong – the movie was good (probably to rent, not buy), it just wasn’t at all what I was expecting.
I was wondering if anyone else has read the book and/or seen the movie and if you had thoughts about it?

2. If you read my blog much you probably know that I teach 5th grade. I am also about 80% finished with my masters in a Reading Specialist program. For the classes I’m taking now, I had to create a blog that I use to reflect on and process the materials we are using in class. It will also become a place to plan an inquiry-based unit of teaching. If you are curious, it is called “
the bookish advantage” – based on a quote by Mark Twain (“The man who doesn't read good books has no advantage over the man who can't read them.”).

And finally, the teacher and the reader in me loved
this post by Amelia at “Imagination in Focus” about C.S. Lewis. Everyone knows him for “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe,” but Amelia points out that he did so much more.

Have a great Friday and a relaxing weekend!

Ballad by Maggie Stiefvater

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Spoiler warning: Because this book is a sequel, this review may contain spoilers of the first book. If you haven’t read “Lament”, you may want to skip this review.

author’s website:
website & blog
release date: October 1, 2009
appeals to: Young Adult
genre: Fantasy (faeries)
length: 360 pages
overall rating: 5 Stars

*the back cover & inside page*
Remember us, so sing the dead, lest we remember you

James Morgan has an almost unearthly gift for music. And it has attracted Nuala, a soul-snatching faerie muse who fosters and then feeds on the creative energies of exceptional humans until they die. James has plenty of reasons to fear the faeries, but as he and Nuala collaborate on an achingly beautiful musical composition, James finds his feelings towards Nuala deepening. But the rest of the fairies are not as harmless. As Halloween—the day of the dead—draws near, James will have to battle the Faerie Queen and the horned king of the dead to save Nuala's life and his soul. (*note: this description is found inside the book on page 2)

*my review*
I have to begin with two things unrelated to the story. First, I read Maggie Stiefvater’s blog almost daily, and if you read that blog, you really get a glimpse of her personality. Second, as a teacher, I often teach my students about putting “voice” into a story. Voice is tricky to define, but my
6 + 1 Traits of Writing book says that “Voice is the soul of the piece. It’s what makes the writer’s style singular, as his or her feelings and convictions come out through the words.” (p. 12)

That being said, this story has awesome voice! You can hear Stiefvater’s personality in the writing, but each character also has his/her own personalities that come through. I was especially drawn to the character of James because he has a no-nonsense, say-it-like-it-is kind of attitude that I really enjoy. Yes, he’s arrogant. Yes, he’s kind of an ass sometimes. But overall, he has some incredible strength, and he’s an excellent character. Nuala also seems to have the no-nonsense attitude, but with a snobbish tone, so you have to love when James spits the attitude right back at her.

The story is told through chapters that alternate in perspective from James to Nuala, and with occasional text message drafts from Dee. While Dee isn’t really a lead character in this story (like she was in “Lament”), the text messages really give a glance into her thoughts and show the readers things that James doesn’t see.

This book has suspense, mystery, faeries, music, and a plot with twists and turns that creates a story that you can’t put down. It is easily a five star choice!

*short and snappy*
: full of personality – there is so much personality in this story, that you
plot: twisty and suspenseful, the book was hard to put down
characters: very well developed with a lot of depth that comes out at unexpected times
a line of great writing: “I climbed the creaking, carpet-covered steps to the second floor, which was hotter than Hades and smelled like sweat and nerves.” (p. 23)
judging by the cover: the cover ties into the story more than I realized, but you don’t fully get it until almost the end
miscellaneous: there are mp3 downloads of music that goes with the story, a playlist for the story, and a book trailer at the “Ballad” site (

Lament by Maggie Stiefvater

author’s website: website or blog
release date: October 1, 2008
appeals to: Young Adult
genre: Fantasy (faeries)
length: 336 pages
overall rating: 4.5 stars

* the back cover & inside page *
Don’t you know what happens to Cloverhands who cannot control the fey?

Sixteen-year-old Deirdre Monaghan is a prodigiously gifted musician. She's about to find out she's also a cloverhand—one who can see faeries.

Unexpectedly, Deirdre finds herself infatuated with a mysterious boy who enters her ordinary life, seemingly out of thin air. Trouble is, the enigmatic and gorgeous Luke turns out to be a gallowglass—a soulless faerie assassin—and his interest in her might be something darker than summer romance. A sinister faerie named Aodhan is also stalking Deirdre. They both carry the same assignment from the Faerie Queen, one that forces Dee right into the midst of Faerie. Caught in the crossfire with Deirdre is James, her wisecracking but loyal best friend.
Deirdre had been wishing her summer weren’t so dull, but taking on a centuries-old Faerie Queen isn’t exactly what she had in mind. (*note: this description is found inside the book on the first page)

*my review*
I am not usually a fan of faerie stories, but I’m a huge fan of Maggie Stiefvater, so when I saw that “Lament” and “Ballad” were both on the shelf at the library I decided to give it a go. Actually (to be totally honest), I knew so little about the series that I started reading “Ballad” first. After a few chapters, I realized that it was the second book, so I stopped reading, and started “Lament.”

As I read the story, I was immediately drawn to the characters, which is mostly due to the way that the book is written. One of the things that I love most about Stiefvater’s books is the way that the characters are developed. They have depth and personality and she writes their dialog to reflect both of those things. This story’s main characters were Deirdre and Luke, but several “supporting” characters were also essential to the plot. Deirdre (Dee) is an extremely talented musician (she plays the harp), but she’s also quite insecure. Luke enters the story as a mysterious stranger (which – of course - is very attractive to most females). We don’t learn much about him at first, but as the story continues, he becomes a very likable character. However, my favorite character was one of the “supporting” characters – James. He is cocky, sarcastic, snarky, and quirky --- I loved him!

As Dee is learning that she is a faerie-magnet, other characters explain a bit about different types of faeries and pieces of faerie-lore are explained. For someone like me, who isn’t used to reading faerie stories, I found that to be quite helpful. However, even without a background in this genre, I was immediately drawn into the story. There is a lot of mystery, and because I knew the premise of the story, I was able to figure some things out, but there where a lot of times, that I just thought, “I have no idea what will happen next!”

There are a lot of elements that make this a good story: suspense, mystery, romance, (and of course the snarky best friend). Be ready for a suspense-filled ending with some unexpected twists.

*short and snappy*
: personable – reading this story feels like having a conversation with the author. It is easy to read and hard to put down.
plot: suspenseful – especially toward the last third(ish) of the book
characters: intricately detailed – the characters have a lot of depth
a fun(ny) line: “I just thought a very uncharitable thing about a family member,” I admitted. ... “Did it start with a B? I thought it, too.” (p. 33)
judging by the cover: I picked up the book with the old cover, and I like it. Drawings throughout the book match the style and feelings portrayed in the cover.
miscellaneous: There are three music clips (all written and/or arranged by Maggie Stiefvater) that accompany the story available on her website (

Bloom by Elizabeth Scott

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

author’s website: Elizabeth Scott
release date: April 24, 2007
appeals to: Young Adult
genre: Contemporary
length: 240 Pages
overall rating: 4.5 Stars

*the back cover*
Lauren has a good life: decent grades, great friends, and a boyfriend every girl wants. So why is she so unhappy?
It takes the arrival of Evan Kirkland for Lauren to figure out the answer: she's been holding back. She's been denying herself a bunch of things because staying with her loyal and gorgeous boyfriend, Dave, is the "right" thing to do. After all, who would give up the perfect guy?
But as Dave starts talking more and more about their life together, planning a future Lauren simply can't see herself in -- and as Lauren's craving for Evan, and moreover, who she is with Evan becomes all the more fierce -- Lauren realizes she needs to make a choice...before one is made for her.

*my review*
“I love books. I like that the moment you open one and sink into it you can escape from the world, into a story that’s way more interesting than yours will ever be” (p. 3)

After reading that quote on page 3, I was instantly drawn to this story, because that is exactly how I feel about books. I’ve always been able to fall completely into a story, so reading about Lauren – knowing that she felt that way – was a really enjoyable experience. Throughout the book, Lauren kept comparing real life to the stories in books – and pointing out how those stories aren’t really like real life at all. I loved that a character in a book was comparing her life to characters in books – it seems a bit ironic. But even more, I loved that the character was in an Elizabeth Scott book, because if there is a list of authors who actually capture “real life” without the sugar coating, Elizabeth Scott would definitely be on that list.

A big issue in this book is Lauren’s dilemma of staying with Dave (the “perfect” boyfriend – who happens to be pretty boring) or going for Evan (the mysterious boy who knew Lauren when they were kids.) Both Dave and Evan were interesting characters, but certainly, they were an exercise in opposites! Dave is a very religious, family-centered athlete, which is nice to see. However, while I get the religious focus, it bothered me that Dave didn’t share his faith-based decisions with his friends. (In fact, in my notes I actually wrote, “it’s weird that he isn’t open about his religion with his friends, too.”) Being religious is fine, but shouldn’t you be able to share that with people?

Then, there is Evan – the mysterious “new kid” who really isn’t new, but rather, is returning after being away for a long time. Evan and Lauren have a history, but the Lauren that Evan knew has changed. Lauren’s best friend Katie seems to have a lot to do with Lauren’s change in behavior, but as you read, you get the sense that Lauren made the changes in order to fit in (so you can’t really blame Katie – especially because Katie has her own set of problems).

The idea of knowing yourself is woven throughout the book. And as the story develops, it really shows the importance of staying true to yourself instead of becoming someone you wish you were or someone that others want you to be. This book has a lot of great lessons, but it still feels light while you’re reading.

*short and snappy*
writing: light, but it feels very real – you can feel Lauren’s concern and stress as she experiences things – like I’ve come to expect (and love) from Elizabeth Scott
characters: detailed – all of the characters in the book have back stories and home lives that really make them seem real
memorable line: “I love books. I like that the moment you open one and sink into it you can escape from the world…” (p. 3)
judging by the cover: a great cover – and the daisy theme continues throughout the book (each chapter title has a daisy next to it)
miscellaneous: On the web page for Bloom (
here) you can read Chapter 1, see another cover design, and read interviews about Bloom (all the way at the bottom).

My So-Called Death by Stacey Jay

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

author’s website: Stacey Jay
release date: March 1, 2010
appeals to: Young Adult
genre: Paranormal (zombies)
length: 240 Pages
overall rating: 4.5 stars

*summary* (from the
publisher’s website)
Just because you don't have a pulse doesn't mean you can't be perky.

One second, freshman Karen Vera's on top of the most fabulous cheer pyramid ever. The next, she's lying on the pavement with seriously unflattering cranial damage. Freakishly alive without a pulse, Karen learns that she's a genetically undead zombie.

Suddenly, Karen's non-life is an epic disaster. She's forced to attend a boarding school for the "death-challenged," her roommate is a hateful wannabe-Goth weirdo, and she's chowing down on animal brains every day to prevent rot (um, ew?). Even worse, someone is attacking students and harvesting their brains for a forbidden dark ritual. And it might be the hottest guy at DEAD High, the one who makes Karen's non-beating heart flutter!

Armed with a perky smile and killer fashion sense, it's up to Karen to track down the brain snatcher and save her fellow students from certain zombie death.

*my review*
In three words: cute, snarky, and fun!

I thought this book was a ton of fun to read. The opening is excellent – it sets the mood for the book and really shows the personality of the narrator right away. This was an adorable story with mystery, twists and turns, and even a little bit of romance. Karen’s snarky attitude was fun to read. She isn’t afraid to make fun of herself or point out her mistakes (which isn’t always an easy thing to do!). I also liked that you were never quite sure of whether the characters were the “good guys” or the “bad guys” – and even when you are sure that you’ve figured things out, it can change!

This is a great choice for fun and light summer reading.

*short and snappy*
writing: snarky & fun – Jay writes in a style that is just fun to read
plot: full of twists and turns – you’re never quite sure of what will happen next
characters: fun – Karen especially is the kind of person that I’d want to be friends with
judging by the cover: a cute cover, but it doesn’t give anything away about the plot
miscellaneous: There is an excerpt available

The Cinderella Society by Kay Cassidy

author’s website: Kay Cassidy
release date: April 13, 2010
appeals to: Young Adult
genre: Contemporary/Chick Lit
length: 336 pages
overall rating: 5 stars

*the inside flap*
What’s a girl to do when the glass slipper fits, but she doesn’t want to wear it anymore?
Sixteen-year-old Jess Parker has always been an outsider. So when she receives an invitation to join The Cinderella Society, a secret sisterhood of the most popular girls in school, it’s like something out of a fairy tale. Swept up by the Cindys’ magical world of makeovers, and catching the eye of her Prince Charming, Jess feels like she’s finally found her chance to fit in.

Then the Wickeds – led by Jess’s archenemy – begin targeting innocent girls in their high-school war against the Cindys, and Jess discovers there’s more to being a Cindy than reinventing yourself on the outside. She has unknowingly become part of a centuries-old battle of good v. evil, and now the Cindys in charge need Jess for a mission that could change everything.

Overwhelmed, Jess wonders if The Cinderella Society made a mistake in choosing her. Is it a coincidence that her new boyfriend doesn’t want to be seen with her? And is this glamorous, secret life even what she wants, or will she risk her own happy ending to live up to the expectations of her new sisters?

*my review*
The Cinderella Society was an excellent story that was fun to read and hard to put down!

The Cindys seem kind of like a tech-savvy cross between Charlie’s Angels, a sorority, and a volunteer service, and sound pretty amazing. I especially loved that they push messages that all girls need to learn, basically that knowing yourself and being yourself makes you confident. The “signature style” piece connects directly to that. Having a signature style isn’t about being “cool” – it’s about being you. I also loved their policy of “no Wicked talk” even about yourself and even if you’re just thinking it. In a world with digital editing, it is really easy for girls to have negative thoughts and feelings, but this book really teaches that we shouldn’t let ourselves dwell on the negatives.

The other piece of advice I took from this book was the rule of 5s (p. 87). Basically, before you stress out or freak out about something, you should think about whether it will matter in 5 minutes, 5 weeks, or 5 months. It’s pretty good advice to people of all ages! I’ve found myself thinking about that advice since I read the book, and it helps to give perspective to things.

Overall, this book was quite fun to read. I’d absolutely recommend it and I’m looking forward to the next book (spring 2011), too!

*short and snappy*
: light and fun, but the book also addressed some really important concepts revolving around being true to yourself
plot: there was a lot more suspense and mystery in this book than I thought there would be
characters: realistic (mostly) – The characters in the story all have very realistic features (both positive and negative) that make them real. I’m interested to learn more about them in the upcoming books
judging by the cover: A cute cover that doesn’t give too much away.
miscellaneous: You can read an excerpt of Chapter 1
here. This is a 2010 Debut Author.
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