Thursday, September 30, 2010

Cybils 2010: it is upon us!


Cybils nominations open tonight at 12am EST. That means you can start nominating your favorite titles that have been published from October 16, 2009-October 15th, 2010. I don't know about you, but I have a list ready and waiting for the nomination form to open up. And it won't even be midnight my time which makes it even better!

For all the nominations rules and guidelines, read this post as it has some good information. Remember, ANYONE can nominate. You do not have to be a book person at all except for the fact that you are a reader! So, get your nominations ready because the fun is about to start.

Can you guess what books I'm nominating???

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

What I've Been Reading

So, I've been reading this month, and quite a bit, it just hasn't been many YA stories. I've definitely been on a stronger romance reading phase this month, so I thought I'd share some of what I've been reading.

Ruthless is the first book in Anne Stuart's new House of Rohan series. I've never been a big Anne Stuart reader by any means, but this series has been absolutely wonderful. I love, love the tension between the hero and heroine and how wicked the males are. These books are somewhat hedonistic and the guys are certainly overbearing in a major sense but it's also very well written and fortunately, the ladies are not wallflowers by any means. They stand up for what they want. The second book is Reckless and follows the son of the main hero in the first book. The third book comes out this October and I cannot wait to read it. I devoured these two books in a matter of days. I'm not sure if it's the best of what Anne Stuart has written, I really haven't read much of her backlist to make that judgment, I just know I've enjoyed these books immensely. They are historical but not set in the typical Regency period. They are also darker in tone, so if you are a fan of darker historicals I think these may work for you.

Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor is the new contemporary from Lisa Kleypas. If you know anything about my romance tastes, you know I adore Lisa Kleypas. This is an okay book though, nothing all that special which is sad because it's supposed to be the new kick-off to her upcoming contemporary series. Don't get me wrong, it was romantic and sweet, but like most Christmas romance novels, it suffered from not being long enough and trying to fit the holiday season in. It's a very quick read. I read it in a matter of hours and while I enjoyed the characters, it just wasn't long enough to dig into the issues of the two main characters. However, it's not a bad way to spend some time and well, I'll read anything Lisa Kleypas writes and still get some enjoyment from it.

And I have been reading some YA books including Plain Kate. This book is very, very slow going for me. It's not that long and I'm not even half way through it. I may stop and pick it up at another time because I just cannot get into it. I enjoy the atmosphere of the story, the Russian like land that Kate lives in, and the Roamers (gypsies) but I am just not really invested yet. I've heard such great things about this book which may be part of the reason I keep trying to get through it. However, there is one YA book I'm enjoying. That is Nothing Like You by Lauren Strasnick. In the book, the main character's mom has died and Holly is kind of lost. She is falling into a bad relationship and well, has hopes for it despite the negative aspects of the relationship. It's compelling reading, seeing this girl try to find grounding in life again despite her grief. Really enjoying this story. I discovered it on one of Pop Culture Junkie's Hardcover vs. Paperback spotlights and I'm glad I requested it.

So there you have it! A few books that I've been reading. What have you been reading? Anything excellent or anything that is slow-going?

Monday, September 27, 2010

Review: Extraordinary by Nancy Werlin

Extraordinary by Nancy Werlin sadly fell really, really flat for me. I quite enjoyed Nancy Werlin's other book, Impossible, and was able to book talk it successfully at the high school level. This one I may find readers for but for me, it just was not my cup of tea.

Synopsis:
Phoebe finds herself drawn to Mallory, the strange and secretive new kid in school, and the two girls become as close as sisters . . . until Mallory's magnetic older brother, Ryland, shows up during their junior year. Ryland has an immediate, exciting hold on Phoebe but a dangerous hold, for she begins to question her feelings about her best friend and, worse, about herself.
Soon she'll discover the shocking truth about Ryland and Mallory: that these two are visitors from the faerie realm who have come to collect on an age-old debt. Generations ago, the faerie queen promised Pheobe's ancestor five extraordinary sons in exchange for the sacrifice of one ordinary female heir. But in hundreds of years there hasn't been a single ordinary girl in the family, and now the faeries are dying. Could Phoebe be the first ordinary one? Could she save the faeries, or is she special enough to save herself?

I think what bothered me the most about this book was Phoebe's lack of self-esteem. She just seemed willing to go in any direction anyone told her to, whether that was Mallory or Ryland. She had no belief in herself and after awhile, I wasn't surprised because the book really does not do a remarkable job of showing Phoebe at her best, doing the things she is good at. I mean, I wasn't expecting her to be the best at everything in the world, but seriously, we all have one or two talents that make us stand out a bit, that give us something magical about our personality. I thought Phoebe was really lacking in that category. She was an okay student, she didn't dress well, and while she had a good relationship with her parents, there was nothing to set her apart as a character for me. I think that is what made me agree in the Fae assessment that Phoebe was quite ordinary, and not in a healthy normal way I like to see teenagers being. She was just boring.

Also, this book is really, really slow. Seriously SLOW. I ended up skipping ahead a bit because I just wanted some answers to how Phoebe fit into the fairy scheme. Also, the two faeries kept saying they needed more time to convince Phoebe of her ordinariness. Well, I think that process also needed to be speeded up significantly.

What was done well was showing Phoebe as trying to fit in, as trying to find friends who were not her friends because of her parents' wealth and status. Phoebe really did have a tough time fitting in and that played out well on the pages, making her an easy target for Mallory and Ryland.

I never believed in Phoebe's attraction to Ryland either. There just was not enough in the book to compel me to believe that Phoebe was in love with him. Frankly, I didn't think Ryland did a good enough job of "playing human" as it were. He always seemed somewhat diffident and bored with Phoebe so I could not quite understand what she saw in him.

Unfortunately, this book is mostly "didn't likes" for me. I firmly believe ever book has an audience however and I'm sure this book will resonate with some teens and adults. It just did not work for me. Extraordinary was a long and plodding journey into an ending I saw coming a mile away.

ARC received from Around the World Tours.

Other reviews of Extraordinary:
The Compulsive Reader reviews Extraordinary
Ms. Martin Teaches Media reviews Extraordinary
Chick Loves Lit reviews Extraordinary 

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Giant Jenga and other wacky programming games!

So this past Tuesday, I hosted a giant game night at my library for the teens. While I was sad with my turnout (only 9 teens), I was really happy with how well my games went. Every teen there had a total blast, that much was obvious and when compared against numbers, fun always wins out. The games were: Giant Jenga, Life-Size Monopoly, and Giant Poker. You must see the props and how easy they were to create!

Giant Jenga
 So, I know this stack looks kind of paltry (only 15 Jenga blocks) but let me tell you, this was the most time consuming portion of the program and it was all volunteer prepared. The boxes were from the boxes at my library and inside, to give the jenga blocks some weight, they put cut up pieces of cardboard. This portion of the program: totally free except with volunteer labor. My two volunteers were coming in two and three days a week from August until now to get those 15 blocks. They hope to make more over the future but I guess I'll see how that promise holds out.

Here they are stacking up the blocks, hoping they won't fall. Of course, falling is part of the fun in Jenga. (As is, I learned, jumping over the blocks as high as you can stack them.) It was great fun and the various teens had fun stacking the blocks as high as possible.

Also, what can happen with the blocks after the fun and games are over:



Giant Poker/Texas Hold 'Em

 The cards! Poster board from Hobby Lobby which I got on sale. Buying 52 pieces of it on sale was great because I got it for fairly cheap. The only problem was really shuffling them just because they get heavy to hold.

The poker chips, made out of cardboard from the library with some paint on top.

I think they were playing Blackjack at this point. I love the spread of the chips. Seriously, this was easy as pie to make. My volunteers traced a circle on cardboard to make the chips, painted them, then cut out the number in each to represent how much money they represented. And all I did was just tape on the card symbols and numbers onto the poster board.

Giant Monopoly

I actually did this program as a standalone this past January but my teens told me to include it in this program too so I did and it was a hit yet again. As this game was already made, there truly wasn't much to do here at all. And you can print off Monopoly money online if you need more so it's really easy.

This is also a very easy one to make. I have all the files to print off if anyone needs them. This is all on poster board again, as the board itself. I unfortunately forgot my chance and Community Chest cards so we improvised a bit while playing. Also a definite good thing to refresh yourself on the rules before the event if possible. But it's a fun game and the players had a great time moving about the board as the pieces.

So basically, these were all volunteer based projects. My volunteers did a fabulous job of creating the blocks. Unfortunately I don't really have a great way to tell you how they were created because I left that up to them. I know there was a lot of cutting and taping involved. They measured out the top and bottom pieces and then the side pieces and basically had a template to work from as they went along. Their first blocks were definitely misfits but by the time they were making block 14 and 15, the blocks looked awesome and really professional really. I was so impressed. I'm buying them a special gift just for the overtime they put in on this project.

If you have questions, let me know! But just know, it's really fun. Totally fun program and cheap. You can do it with mostly things you already have at the library (cardboard). I also gave out a regular sized Jenga game as a program prize, but that is totally optional.

So, giant games! You know you want to do it. Feel free to email me or ask questions in the comments. I was pretty proud of this program just because it was so volunteer based and they really, really took charge of the program which freed me up for other things at work.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Review: For Keeps by Natasha Friend

This book came out several months ago and by this point I've read several reviews about it. And with most of those reviews, they bring up one major point: this book reminds them of the Gilmore Girls. Well, I agree to an extent, but I think the book stands well enough on its own also.


Synopsis: Josie’s never met her dad, and that’s fine with her. To Josie, Paul Tucci is just a guy who got her mom pregnant and then moved away. It all happened sixteen years ago, when Josie’s mom was still a teenager herself. But now Paul Tucci is back in town, and Josie has to deal with not one but two men in her life—her father and her first boyfriend, who Josie fears will hurt her just like Paul hurt her mother.

I liked the ordinary qualities of this book. Josie is not an unhappy teenager. She has a good relationship with her mother, a great friendship with her best friend, Liv (who I really thought made the pages come alive), and has a crush on a guy she just isn't too sure about. She is a soccer player, a friend, and a girl learning to drive. Sometimes these teenage qualities get passed over in favor of drama in contemporary YA books. I really enjoyed the fact that this book was kind of ordinary in its story.

Of course, there is drama! Josie has never met her father and suddenly her father is playing a big part in her present, even without her having met him. Her desire to finally meet her father and her anger with his lack of presence in her life plays out across the pages.

I thought Josie was a normal, realistic teen. She was really confused about her feelings towards her father, her feelings for her new boyfriend Matt "Riggs" Rigby (and who else couldn't help referencing Friday Night Lights every time he was called Riggs?), and even about her relationship with her mom. Plenty of emotion played out on the pages and it had highs and lows, just like a lot of teens.

I wasn't completely comfortable with Matt as a boyfriend just because of the way he is initially introduced in the story, as cheating on his current girlfriend. It kind of left me with a bad taste. I realize high school boys are far from perfect but I guess in my little YA world I like to pretend cheating doesn't happen.

While this book didn't blow me away because in many ways, it wasn't really anything new or improved in the contemporary YA world, it hooked me in the realistic way the story flowed. It seemed very every day, very small time, and very real. That realism was what had me turning the pages, even as I easily predicted most of the plot "twists." Josie and Liv's friendship was also another favorite part of the story for me and I liked how close they were, even as they argued and had some mild conflict. They reminded me in many ways of Rory and Lane (yes, I did just go there to a Gilmore Girls reference).

I would definitely hand this book to a teen girl looking for a fast read but who is not searching for anything paranormal, anything fantasy. While it's not quite as heartwrenching as many of Elizabeth Scott's contemporary stories, I think this story would be a great one to hand to girls who have gone through Scott's backlist.

For Keeps is a nice study in realistic teen fiction.

Other reviews:
S. Krishna's Books reviews For Keeps
Bookshelves of Doom reviews For Keeps
The Compulsive Reader reviews For Keeps
The Hiding Spot reviews For Keeps

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Speak Loudly

If you have been following Twitter at all in the past 24 hours or so, you may have seen the hashtag "speakloudly." And if you haven't, definitely check out Laurie Halse Anderson's post about the censorship facing Speak (amongst other titles) in Missouri. It's an eye opener and a sad, sad day for everyone when rape is ever, ever considered pornography.

I was lucky enough to be able to host Ms. Halse Anderson on a Skype chat this past January at my library. I had a good turn out in teens and let me just say, each of them had something powerful and emotional to say about Speak. If it is a rare woman, of any age, who does not know someone, whether male or female, who has been sexually abused in some way, whether that is rape or through other terrible means. These teens were giddy to talk with Laurie Halse Anderson and the book they wanted to talk about was Speak. Of course, this author has written some other pretty powerful books too but I think Speak truly resonates with today's teens in so many ways. I know I went home that day emotionally drained because these teens (and yes, they were girls, I just didn't have a high guy turn out for this event) were willing to open themselves up to the author and to virtual strangers. And no, they didn't all have something sexually horrific in nature to relate. Instead, what they chose to talk about was how Speak helped them find their own voice in different situations when they did not have any other option of talking. Whether that was art, through friends, whatever, I truly felt these teens understood what Speak means on so many levels.

Which makes what Wesley Scroggins has to say all that much more despicable, hateful, and filled with censorship.

I read numerous posts and tweets ttoday on this topic while I thought about what Speak Loudly means to me. And it means many, many things, but one powerful thing it stands for is that everyone should be allowed to speak in his or her own way. No one should feel they have to be oppressed in silence. Find your point of expression and use it however you want. No one can tell you what not to feel or think or do, certainly not someone like Wesley Scroggins.

I just want to point you out to a few other posts that talk about this topic hell of a lot more eloquently than I ever could:

The Last Word: SPEAKing Out
Sarah Ockler on Book Banning Zealots & Ostriches
The Story Siren--Listen Hard

Saturday, September 18, 2010

In My Mailbox

Sarah Mail! (it's even more appropriate now that ANTM is back on tv.)

For review:
Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins (Jaw dropped in happiness when I received this book!)
Play of Passion by Nalini Singh (What?? You're not reading the Psy/Changeling books?? Do it! You won't regret it.) (romance review site)
Mini Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella (romance review site)
The Iron Duke by Meljean Brook (romance review site)
Riding the Night by Jaci Burton (romance review site)
The Good Greek Wife by Kate Walker (romance review site)

Bought:
Reckless by Kate Stuart (Kindle edition)
What She Needs by Lacey Calhoun (Kindle edition)

In My Mailbox is hosted by The Story Siren.

What did you get this week?

Friday, September 17, 2010

Author Interview: Caridad Ferrer

I'm very, very excited today to bring you a little peek into the world of writer Caridad Ferrer, who wrote When the Stars Go Blue, an upcoming December 2010 title. (You can read my review.) Caridad has a lot of fun things to say so enjoy!

1. The inspiration for When the Stars Go Blue is the famous opera, Carmen. What inspired you to tackle this emotional story?

I wish I could say that I'd come up with it all by myself, but that wouldn't be quite accurate.  I actually had an editor contact me, saying that she'd loved my first novel Adiós to My Old Life and how I passionately I wrote about music and had I ever considered taking on the story of Carmen, since it was so iconic.  The minute I read that, it was like the proverbial light bulb went off—I knew exactly the story I wanted to tell and the worlds in which I wanted to set it.  There's just so much drama and passion involved in the world of drum corps—and it's such a beautiful, athletic, and artistic activity that I wanted to draw out into the light a bit.  And when you have so many artistic personalities in such close quarters—sparks are bound to fly.  It seemed just too perfect. 

While sadly, the story didn't work for that original editor's house (although she, personally, loved it) thankfully, another editor—one with whom I'd wanted to work for a long time—jumped on it.  Really, it's been a match made in heaven.

2. One of the aspects I liked most about this book was the relationships. I don’t want to spoil anyone but can you talk a little bit about how easy or difficult it was writing those nuanced and in some situations, very difficult, relationships?

It was really rough from the standpoint that I've never been involved in either the type of relationship Soledad has with Jonathan or the subtler one that develops with Taz.  But at the same time, I know what it's like to pine for someone for years and feel as if they never notice you (and I never worked up the nerve to approach the objects of my pining!).  The hardest part for me was to walk that really fine line between acceptable and overwhelming behavior. I think I managed it fairly successfully, but I also realize everyone's threshold varies.  (And could I be any more vague?)

3. In the acknowledgements, you mention several different corps. Can you talk about your own experiences in a marching band/drum bugle corps?

Wow.  In short, it comprised the majority of my life from age fifteen to twenty-three.  I joined my high school marching band, which happened to be a competitive, "corps-style" band.  That was my first introduction to that particular style of marching/show construction.  A few weeks into the fall, some instructors from a local drum corps came to give us a recruitment talk—they showed us a video and that was it.  I joined the Florida Wave and became a convert.  I loved the discipline, the camaraderie, the hours spent perfecting every aspect of performance.  Three nights a week were dedicated to band practice, Friday nights for football games, Saturday nights for contests, and then on Sundays, I'd go practice with the drum corps, joining the other kids who were oftentimes  members of the area high school bands against whom we'd competed just the night before.  But on Sundays, it didn't matter.  On Sundays, we were all members of the Wave. 

Once spring rolled around and high school marching season was over, then corps ramped up into high gear.  A weeknight rehearsal was added to the Sunday rehearsals and one weekend a month, we'd have camps lasting from Friday to Sunday afternoons.  All in preparation for the summer tour season where we'd pile into buses and motor across the country, rehearsing fourteen hours a day, sleeping on gym floors, and almost every night, going under the stadium lights to perform our hearts out.  The three years I spent as a member of the Florida Wave were some of the most creative, exhilarating, amazing times of my life.  One of the things I loved most about it was as disciplined as it was, it was also very egalitarian.  We had members from age twelve to the age-out of twenty-one and while yes, there was a certain hierarchy in terms of veterans and rookies and designated leaders, such as the section captains, no one was ever looked down upon because of their age.  You were considered on the basis of your effort and talent and at its core, who you were as a person.   And there were all sorts of people in corps.  All of the artificial constraints that existed at school didn't matter in corps.  I think it served me really well when I went to college and ultimately, out in the real world.  I didn't suffer the culture shock of being jerked out of the safe, homogenous environment of high school and thrust into the larger world of college. 

Of course, in college, I was also in band, The Florida State University Marching Chiefs, 500+ strong and while different stylistically from drum corps (it was more what people consider a "traditional" band, a high step, different shows nearly every week rather than one show all season long) it was every bit as disciplined, practicing five days a week, plus the games on Saturdays (and the parties Saturday night, but shhh… we won't talk about those.)

Again, just a massively diverse group of people all bound together by a common passion.  The members of Chiefs pulled from just about every major in the university with a relatively small percentage actually being music majors (I was one of them).  I was only for one credit a semester, so it's not like we were advancing our academic careers forward.  We did it because we loved it.  And to this day, some of my closest friends are people I met in Chiefs.

Okay, reading back over my answer, maybe not so short, but trust me, there's so much I'm leaving out.

4. Is dance one of your many passions?

I absolutely adore dance, but it's not one of the arts in which I have a lot of personal experience beyond ballet classes as a little girl.  However, one of my television watching vices is Dancing With the Stars because unlike So You Think You Can Dance, you're watching people starting essentially from scratch.  People who (in theory) are accomplished in a different discipline or at least comfortable in the spotlight reduced to absolute beginners.  I had to laugh when the "authordancing" hashtag swept across Twitter because I'd been saying the same thing about authors on Dancing With the Stars for ages.  (For reals! I even posted about it on my old blog! http://fashionista-35.livejournal.com/548785.html)  But yeah, I'd love to see an author get their shot.  I'd love for it to be me, obviously, but I'm a realist.  At the very least, I figure one of these days I'll screw up my courage and sign up for lessons.

5. Tarot plays an important role in this story. Do you have much experience reading the cards yourself?

Not at all, but I have a deep respect for the art and did my research to make sure I wasn't disrespecting it.  I'm also lucky enough to have acquaintances who are accomplished readers.  As with so many other things, it's something that fascinates me and I'd love to continue learning more about it.

6. From reading this book, you seem like a passionate advocate for the arts, whether that is music, language, or dance. How have the fine arts shaped you?

Well, you just got the saga of my experiences with band & corps, but my involvement in music goes much further back than that.  I began playing piano at the age of four, I always loved singing, and began playing trumpet and French horn in junior high.  To this day, music is just a huge part of my everyday life and permeates almost everything I do, from writing to cooking (I have iPod speakers in my kitchen and just zone out when I cook). 

With reading and writing, I was a very early self-taught reader and began writing not long after, but perhaps even more importantly, I was a storyteller.  I come from a culture (Cuban) where every story is made bigger and more dramatic and just… more.  We're a very… verbose people (to put it mildly!).  But because I was such a shy kid, I did a lot of living in my own head and that's where I constructed my stories.  If I ran out of books to read, I'd entertain myself by making up stories—a habit that continued on into my days in corps and band where there were a lot of long bus rides (and no Internet).  And then when I went to college, I'd be driving back and forth between Miami and Tallahassee (about eight hours, each way) through some of the flattest, most boring landscape you can imagine.  So yeah, more storytelling with music as a background.  Even back then I'd make compilation tapes, pop one in, and just go on autopilot.  I have very little memory of a vast majority of those drives.  (But don't tell my mother!) 

One of those holdovers from those long drives is that to this day, I make soundtracks for all of my manuscripts and write with music that inspires me in the background.  The right piece of music can tap into a deep well of emotion and allows me to open the emotional barriers that I tend to keep pretty firmly in place as a general rule.  It's my touchstone.

Even the sport I was most involved with as a kid was something that was deeply arts-oriented since I was a competitive figure skater for a few years.  Yeah, I know—Miami's not exactly a hotbed for figure skating, but I just loved it.  It was strong and graceful and you were telling a story by yet another medium.  I guess at the heart of it I just see the arts as a whole as different mediums through which stories can be expressed.

7. What three words best sum up Soledad?

Passionate, focused, determined (Hey look! A short answer!)

8. From your website, it is obvious you enjoy a variety of experiences and activities in your life. Have you had time to take up a new hobby or interest you’d like to share?

Photography.  I can honestly claim at least passable ability in many artistic pursuits except drawing/sculpting/essentially anything visual.  Drawing pencils see me coming and they break on purpose, you know?  But I've always loved photography.  The expansive, evocative images that photographers like Ansel Adams or Alfred Stieglitz are able to capture or the portraits that Annie Liebovitz or Bruce Weber take have always captured my imagination (again—I see stories in them).  Additionally, I've always had a habit of looking at scenery or a setting and immediately freezing them in my mind as a photographs and I've always wanted to try my hand at capturing those images myself.  So this past summer, my husband bought me my first "real" camera, a Sony NEX-5 that's not quite as advanced as a digital SLR, but it's more than your typical point-and-shoot, with a detachable lens and some manual ability.  I took it on its maiden run during  a cruise to Alaska and couldn't have been more thrilled that I could finally capture the pictures I would envision.  And of course, with our recent move to Seattle, I now live in one of the most gorgeous places in the world—so I keep my camera handy and find myself reaching for it, just to take shots of anything that captures my fancy.  (I've included a couple of shots that I was particularly pleased with.)

Lessons on how to best utilize my camera is next on the list. [You can see on of Caridad's photographs early in this post.]

9. If you had to create a modern soundtrack for When the Stars Go Blue, what songs would make the list?

Funny you should ask this as I just blogged about this very topic.  This was the base soundtrack I listened to as I wrote Stars.

Heat Wave- Joan Osborne?
She’s a Beauty- The Tubes?
Amor Gitano- Alejandro Fernández & Beyoncé?
It’s Amazing- Jem?
Breathe In Breathe Out- Matt Kearney?
You Give Me Something- James Morrison?
Extraordinary Girl- Green Day?
Believe- Lenny Kravitz?
Eres- Alejandro Fernández?
Come me mira- Fonseca?
El Tango de Roxanne- Moulin Rouge Soundtrack (NOTE: This was probably the single most important song on the soundtrack. Everything stemmed from this one piece of music.)?
Hazy Shade of Winter- The Bangles?
Please Don’t Leave Me- Pink?
Hide and Seek- Imogen Heap?
Love is a Losing Game- Amy Winehouse?
Cinderella Beautiful- Peter Cincotti?
Time is a Healer- Eva Cassidy?
Quiéreme- Alejandro Fernández?
Gravity- Sara Bareilles?
Wishing on Another Lucky Star- J.D. Souther?
I’ll Be Waiting- Lenny Kravitz?
Paso a Paso (Alternate Version)- Luis Fonsi?
By the Boab Tree- Ophelia of the Spirits?
Sueños- Nelly Furtado & Alejandro Fernández?
When the Stars Go Blue- The Corrs feat. Bono?(Of course)
My Heart Was Home Again- Josh Groban

So there you have it. Eclectic, kind of all over the place, because that’s just sort of how I roll.

10. Romance is such a wonderful part of your books. Do you have a really romantic moment in your past that helps inspire your books?

A romantic moment?  Not really.  But I have many, many, many of them.  I'm lucky to be married to just the best guy on the planet (and I met him when I was twenty-one, so yeah, you can find them at an early age) and he continues to surprise me in so many ways.  Like getting me the camera, knowing how badly I wanted to take "real" pictures.  Like supporting me when I said I wanted to take on this crazy writing gig.  Like making my favorite dessert (tiramisu) for my birthday one year and presenting me with the cookbook containing the recipe from which he'd made it.  Like getting not only tickets to Robin Williams in concert, but getting a deluxe package that allowed us backstage so we could meet a man I've idolized for years.

He gets me and that, in and of itself, presents just a whole host of romantic moments, even if all we're doing is sitting around, laughing our heads off.

Beyond that, though, I just have an inherently romantic nature that I have difficulty expressing outwardly, so all those deeply romantic impulses find their way into my stories.

11. What have you been reading lately?

Gail Carriger's Parasol Protectorate series (and she's just a delightful person, too), Alyssa Day's Atlantis Betrayed, Jennifer Echols' Forget You, Holly Cupala's Tell Me a Secret, and John Paul Rathbone's The Sugar King of Havana.  Plus I'm rereading C.S. Graham's The Archangel Project &  The Solomon Effect, in preparation for the November release of The Babylonian Codex.  As you might guess, I kind of read all over the place.

12. Any hints about what books you will have coming out in the future?

I have a lot of works in progress, but no definitive plans at the moment.  I'm kind of enjoying stretching my wings creatively a bit and trying some new things, so hopefully, that will pan out into something fabulous.  Trust me, the minute I know, I'm sure everyone will hear the sonic boom!

13. The ending of this book gave me goosebumps of happiness. Did the ending write itself or were you changing it along the way?

The ending of Stars was a complete surprise to me if only because I'm such a linear writer, the endings don't always come to me right away.  I might have a vague idea, but I just let the story play itself out and allow the ending to reveal itself.  With this one, however, I saw the end scene like a film shot, starting out from a distance, then panning in close, then finally, drawing back to see the scene as a whole.  I knew, almost from the beginning, exactly how it was going to be.  I think as many manuscripts as I've written (and trust me, I have quite a few sitting on the hard drive) this is easily my very favorite ending.  Still gives me little fluttery butterflies in my stomach when I read it, even after countless times reading it, so I'm guessing I did something right if it affects me that way after all this time.

Finally, if you want the chance to see a Drum Corps perform, here is the 2005 Madison Corps performing The Carmen Experience (Carmen and West Side Story.) SO cool!

Thank you so much for talking with me today Caridad! It's truly been a great pleasure. You can learn more about Caridad and her books at her new and improved website. And definitely be on the lookout for When the Stars Go Blue releasing the end of this year. It's a book you won't want to miss!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Review: When the Stars Go Blue by Caridad Ferrer

When the Stars Go Blue by Caridad Ferrer is a story that made a very strong impression on me. I've been lucky, this is the second book in a row I've read with a strong and resilient female protagonist.

Synopsis: Dance is Soledad Reyes’s life. About to graduate from Miami’s Biscayne High School for the Performing Arts, she plans on spending her last summer at home teaching in a dance studio, saving money, and eventually auditioning for dance companies. That is, until fate intervenes in the form of fellow student Jonathan Crandall who has what sounds like an outrageous proposition: Forget teaching. Why not spend the summer performing in the intense environment of the competitive drum and bugle corps? The corps is going to be performing Carmen, and the opportunity to portray the character of the sultry gypsy proves too tempting for Soledad to pass up, as well as the opportunity to spend more time with Jonathan, who intrigues her in a way no boy ever has before. But in an uncanny echo of the story they perform every evening, an unexpected competitor for Soledad's affections appears: Taz, a member of an all-star Spanish soccer team. One explosive encounter later Soledad finds not only her relationship with Jonathan threatened, but her entire future as a professional dancer.
 

This book mimics the ups and downs of dance and the arts so well. Caridad Ferrer does an amazing job of bringing the movements of Soledad's passions to life through words. I felt her pain when a performance did not go quite as expected. I felt her passion for each movement across the football field, and I felt her disappointment in knowing that the chances of becoming the star dancer she dreamed about may not come true. Of course, this book is about so much more than dance.

Caridad Ferrer does an absolutely exquisite job of interpreting Carmen for a YA crowd. Teen girls in particular are going to dive head first into the whirlwind romance that Jonathan stages for Soledad. Her passion for him is strong and seems invincible. Of course, as anyone knows, teen girl or not, no love is invincible and cracks start to surface. But the initial courtship, that whirlwind of meeting someone who matches you in passion and determination, it is off the charts for Soledad and Jonathan.

The romance in this book is center stage, no doubt. On first reading many of Jonathan's accolades and praise for Soledad, I was kind of creeped out. However, as the story continued, I feel like Ferrer did a good job of fleshing out Jonathan's character. He was a troubled boy in love with someone for the first time in his life. He did not make good decisions, but I truly believe, especially in the book's beginning, his heart was in the right place. He was not all evil, even if his actions were not worthy of the love he claimed for Soledad.

Then, there is Soledad herself who is this powerful, kick-ass female. She knows what she wants, even as she has many doubts that she will ever get there. I liked how she opened herself up to love, to passion, even knowing that it may not end well. I found her strength to be one of the best aspects of this story. It was a good mingling of both strong and weak because Soledad does realize, she cannot always be strong, cannot always pull off the brave face.

And Taz. What to even say except that I quietly fell in love with him as he made his mark across the story. There is a scene, and you WILL know the scene when you read it, that I think it would be pretty darn impossible to not give your heart over to this character. At least, it was for me.

Also, I really enjoyed the drum and bugle corps. I really learned quite a bit in this book, without it being information dumping at all. Ferrer obviously knows her stuff when it comes to the corps and it shows as Soledad and Jonathan face the pressure of performances and training. Honestly, sometimes I felt like I was sweating with Soledad as she worked on her routine yet again, trying to find that perfect balance for the very top deck of the bleachers to understand her passion for Don Jose.

I'm absolutely loving what YA authors are doing with female characters lately. I love a strong romance, don't get me wrong, but I also love truly amazing female characters and this is one of those stories. As soon as I finished my ARC, I went and pre-ordered a copy of this book. And I absolutely cannot wait to booktalk it because I know in my city, there is an audience for this book.

One word of warning (so to speak), particularly for my fellow teen librarians, this is a sexual book. Sex happens and love happens. The passion of dance translates very easily into the passion of love and I would say this is one of the most sensual YA stories I have read in quite some time. This is a compliment to the author because she conveyed this sensuality without always using intimacy, but it is also a charged story that is definitely for your upper level readers.

One final note, as Abby (the) Librarian noted, I think it would be helpful to know a little bit about Carmen before totally consuming this book. Having read Abby's review previously, on her recommendation, I looked up information about Carmen and yeah, it really just makes this story even more lush. It's not totally necessary but on the other hand, the layered details that Ferrer incorporates makes her reimagining of Carmen even more amazing.

Other reviews:
Abby (the) Librarian reviews When the Stars Go Blue

ARC received from Around the World Tours. (But definitely order yourself a copy!)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Giant Jenga

It's coming to my library next week...

My volunteers are hard at work on it!

There are 8 blocks so far in my very messy office area but come next week, hopefully there will be at least 12 to have a successful game of Giant Jenga.

Will update with the finished product. Me? I'm hard at work creating cards out of poster board for the game of Giant Poker we will be playing.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Review: Not That Kind of Girl by Siobhan Vivian

The phrase "not that kind of girl" carries with it certain negative connotations. As if being that girl instantly means something bad, something slutty, something gossipy. In Siobhan Vivian's new book, Not That Kind of Girl, student council president Natalie Sterling learns there is much more to being a girl, any girl, least of all "that kind of girl" than she could ever imagine.

Synopsis:
Natalie Sterling wants to be in control. She wants her friends to be loyal. She wants her classmates to elect her student council president. She wants to find the right guy, not the usual jerk her school has to offer. She wants a good reputation, because she believes that will lead to good things.
But life is messy, and it's very hard to be in control of it. Not when there are freshman girls running around in a pack, trying to get senior guys to sleep with them. Not when your friends have secrets they're no longer comfortable sharing. Not when the boy you once dismissed ends up
being the boy you wants to sleep with yourself - but only in secret, with nobody ever finding out.
Slut or saint? Winner or loser? Natalie is getting tired of these forced choices - and is now going to find a way to live life in the sometimes messy, sometimes wonderful in-between. 

When I first started reading this book, all I could think was, "wow, Natalie you are a bit of a prig." Way to go around with your nose in the air, thinking you are better than everyone. It was initially difficult for me to get past that attitude. However, it was balanced out with other attitudes Natalie had to hide: desperation that she was losing her only friend. Anger over how the boys at school could get away with anything while the girls were condemned to a negative reputation on the basis of gossip and whispers. She is initially unable to really reconcile her sexuality in a high school environment. Natalie sees Spencer, a new freshmen at school, and a girl Natalie used to baby-sit, as well, slutty. But on the other hand, she envies Spencer her freedom in expressing her sexuality, even if it is making her one of those girls that boys talk about in carnal terms. Natalie does not want to be anyone's object of lust and gossip but she does hunger for feeling and emotion.

Her initial remoteness can be off-putting but I do not hesitate to say, keep reading. I empathized with Natalie in so many ways because her high school experience, while not that similar to my own, carried enough attitude similarities that I could easily feel how awkward she felt being the odd girl out, being the girl who ignored popularity and her high school classmates in order to focus on a greater goal. I will be honest and say I still don't quite understand where her drive for perfection came from. Yes, her parents were very scholarly and educated, but they played such a minimal role in the book that I couldn't see the pressure for perfect achievement coming from them. It felt kind of unbelievable to me. I had to accept that Natalie herself was the catalyst for perfection.

Then, as with any good YA book, there is a boy. Connor Hughes, a football player and one of the most popular guys in school. They share a truly unexpected attraction that leads to fevered nights in his shed at home. Kisses, caresses, skin and eventually sex. Yes, sex does happen in high school and it happens in this book. I felt as if the author did a good job of building up to that point in Natalie and Connor's relationship. Unfortunately, the next day can look grim for any woman and Natalie starts to see herself, even more, as "that kind of girl."

She learns however that there are shades of gray, many shades in fact. Teachers aren't always right (I'm looking at you, Ms. Bee, who yes, I thought was a terrible person for judging Natalie), mistakes happen but it's definitely better to learn from them, and despite saying she is above believing in gossip and popularity, Natalie learns that there is a lot more to high school relationships than meets the eye. Connor is a guy and he makes mistakes along the way too but their rocky road to romance is sweet, enticing, and I thought, very healthy and realistic.

By book's end, I came away with the feeling that being "not that kind of girl" is not always a bad thing. As Natalie learns, there is a lot more to life than achieving perfection and the mistakes and differences encountered along the way make for healthy changes. I wish I could quote from one of the last chapters in the book but I don't want to ruin it for anyone. However, there is a line that sums up beautifully the changes Natalie has made for herself, and no one else. Yeah, she's not the "nice girl" anymore but she certainly fits no stereotypes of the "bad girl." She's a girl, learning as she goes along, like everyone else. I re-read many of the passages in this book to come to this conclusion because like I said, I had a hard time truly liking Natalie at first. But I came away with new feelings and revelations regarding judgments, perfection, and mistakes. I enjoyed this book immensely and while I definitely wanted to slap Natalie silly sometimes for the things she said or did, like me, she isn't perfect and I had to cut her some slack. I think this book has a lot of potential for discussions about healthy sexuality, relationships, and to a degree, feminism. Well-written and enjoyable!

ARC received from Amazon Vine.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

In My Mailbox

Ok, this week was EPIC in its mailbox awesomeness. I have several photos to share.

Sarah Mail!

Bought:
Cake Pops by the amazing Bakerella (Going to try the pumpkins to bring to Halloween at work this year.)
Body Heat by Brenda Novak
Wicked Surrender by Jade Lee
Finding Perfect by Susan Mallery

For review:
When the Stars Go Blue by Caridad Ferrer (Around the World Tours)
Invincible Summer by Hannah Moskowitz (Around the World Tours) [Side note: I always think of the Princess Diaries when I hear the Moskowitz last name.]
That Runaway Summer by Darlene Gardner

From publisher courtesy of a webinar:
The Saga of Larten Crepsley: birth of a Killer by Darren Shan
Immortal Beloved by Cate Tiernan
You Killed Wesley Payne by Sean Beaudoin (described in the webinar as a mix of things, including something like Veronica Mars! I was all over this title.)
Beautiful Darkness by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
Fixing Delilah by Sarah Ockler
Jane: a modern retelling of Jane Eyre by April Lindner (!!!! SO EXCITED TO READ!)
Bloodthirsty by Flynn Meaney (I don't remember requesting this one but it sounds interesting at any rate.)

(Most of these are just going to be prizes at teen programs since I truly don't have a whole lot interest in the paranormal books but I know my teens at the library will love them.)

And then... an early birthday present from a good online friend:

Mockingjay bookmark! Here's a close-up:


I also bought a small shelf that was on sale at Target because I needed to do more book organizing, so here's a picture of that, with books of course!

Unfortunately, I could use about two more of these because I still have books on my floor. Sigh.

In My Mailbox is a creation of The Story Siren.

What did you get this week?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Review: Indigo Blues by Danielle Joseph

It isn't often where I come across a book where I end up totally, absolutely hating the characters on every level. Truly, this doesn't happen often. I mean, I can dislike a character but still like what they contribute to the book.

Indigo Blues is not this case. This is the story of two very immature teens who act terribly and who are, at least in the case of Indigo in particular, mean-spirited and rude.

Synopsis:
Indigo:
I never asked to be famous—or infamous. Such is my fate for briefly dating (and dumping) Adam Spade. Yes, the Adam from the indie rock band who wrote "Indigo Blues"—the song that gave the band overnight success, propelled them to New York City, and stole my precious anonymity. Now I'm pawed by fans, stalked by reporters, and pegged as a vicious heartbreaker. And Adam is still calling me. Doesn't he have better things to do?
Adam:
With a hit single and a promising career, I should be on top of the world. People on the street are beginning to recognize me, which is cool. And scary. The band is counting on me to write another hit, but I can't stop thinking about Indigo. Why won't she answer the phone?

Honestly, I don't even want to devote a whole lot of time to this review because I didn't enjoy it at all. When Indigo finds out about the song Adam wrote about their break-up, she reacts horribly. She is mean to people at school, she uses her brother and she whines incessantly. There is a lot I can put up with in a character but whining is not one of those things.

Adam is also pretty unlikeable. He is supposedly still obsessed with Indigo, but yet he finds enough time to make out with and sleep with blond and busty Hannah. They had gone out for barely three months but he was ready for a lifetime commitment it seemed like. In many ways, all I got from Adam was a stalker vibe. I will say, I enjoyed his antics with his band, Blank Stare, and as gross as the name of the band is, it made me laugh because its origins were such a guy thing. Totally a guy thing.

I just could not get past how much I disliked this characters and honestly, there truly didn't feel like much of a point to this book. Indigo complained about the song's effect on her life while avoiding the media until a last minute turn around. Adam went about his music making business while slowly kind of putting Indigo behind him. Then, well the ending, truly I don't know what happened there. I guess they parted as friends but it was very oddly done.

I really enjoyed the author's first book, Shrinking Violet, which also had a music motif to it but with much more interesting characters and issues. If you truly want to read a book about how a song changes a girl's life, read Robin Benway's much superior, Audrey, Wait!. I'd avoid Indigo Blues. I hope the author's next book works better for me.

Other reviews:
The Bookshelf Sophisticate reviews Indigo Blues
Ticket to Anywhere reviews Indigo Blues

ARC courtesy of Traveling ARC Tours.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Review: Fixing Delilah by Sarah Ockler


Fixing Delilah is a mix of an intergenerational story and a story of teenage heartbreak and understanding. I have never seen the movie Steel Magnolias in my life but for some reason, this book reminded me of what the movie may be like. I know that is a ridiculous comparison, but honestly, that is what I was thinking as I was reading. This book is not set in the south however, nor is there a beauty parlor anywhere involved. I guess it was the small town atmosphere.

Anyway, Delilah Hannaford is a teen who is having some trouble in life. Her grades are falling, she has no friends, but she does have a boy friend with benefits. Her mom, Claire, has no idea what is going on in Delilah's life but she is determined to fix it because Delilah's mom is a fixer. She is a doer. She is a corporate climber, an ambitious woman who somehow seemed to leave her daughter in the dust. As the book opens, Delilah's mom receives awful news. Elizabeth Hannaford has passed away. Claire and her sister Rachel have not spoken to their mom in eight years. Delilah and her mom are heading to the small Pennsylvania town where the Hannaford family has lived for generations in order to get Delilah's grandmother's estate settled and get her grandmother buried.

But as Elizabeth Hannaford is being buried, a whole treasure trove of secrets about the Hannaford family are about to come to life. Being in a place so resplendent with her family's history, Delilah is intrigued and curious. There are blockades to her questions but I liked that she persevered and kept pushing until she got answers. Granted, the answers were not necessarily what she wanted to hear, but it was the truth, finally.
What I really enjoyed about this book was the sense of understanding that finally developed between the Hannaford women. I felt like, by book's end, there was peace between them and even if the past was not completely forgiven, there had made inroads.

There is also a cute romance between Delilah and a boy she grew up with, Patrick "Little Ricky" Reese. His presence once again in her life definitely gave her something new to think about. Yet another connection Delilah had almost forgotten or given up on.

I enjoyed Sarah Ockler's second book even more than her first to be honest. The emotions felt more real to me in part because I have such a strong connection with my own mother, troubles and love and all, that I really could empathize with what Delilah was feeling. I also am a sucker for family stories (hence why I love Nora Roberts' various family category romances, MacGregors anyone?). 

Fixing Delilah had the feel of a slow summer day for me. The emotions were vivid and pulsed. I wanted to know, just as much as Delilah, what was going on in the Hannaford family. Teen girls in particular are going to gobble this book up. Not too sure about the cover myself, though the paper dolls are to a degree reflective of the tenuousness of Delilah's family situation.

ARC received from a friend to read!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Review: The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen

Sarah Dessen is one of those classic YA authors who ranks right up there with Judy Blume nowadays. Her books are read by millions (of mostly girls I'm sure) and they are definitely a mainstay of the YA genre. The Truth About Forever is my first foray into Sarah Dessen. Yes, you read that right. Up until now, I have never read a Sarah Dessen book. (I have also only read one Judy Blume book in my life, if that tells you anything.)

My good twitter friend Lynette read this book than raved about it to me. She really wanted me to read it, and this was a few months ago at this point. I am a fast reader but I also have a TBR pile a mile high and so it took me awhile to get to it. In the meantime, Lynette was kind enough to read one of the books I raved about, Jennifer Echols' Going Too Far. She enjoyed it, with some reservations. Then, when I discovered this book made #6 on Persnickety Snark's Top 100 YA novels, well I felt more pressure to move it up the list. And so this Labor Day weekend, I finally read it. And what a labor it was.

SLOWEST book I've read in a long, long time. I truly didn't get into this book, truly involved in it, until about half way through the book. I was incredibly frustrated by Macy and her goal to be perfect. In fact, I was downright fed up with Macy at times. What saved this book for me was the wonderful Wish Catering crew and the realistic way Macy finally worked through her emotions. Even at book's end, her emotions regarding her father's death had still not been totally dealt with, but they were definitely a work in progress.

This book fortunately picked up midway through because if it hadn't, I would have given up. I was just not really getting into it. And Wes, who so many readers seem to rave about, was just okay for me. Nothing all that special. I liked the friendship that developed between Macy and Wes, but I wasn't convinced it was a romantic thing at all until the very end, but even then, I didn't totally buy it.

The family dynamics that were portrayed in this book were my favorite. Whether it was Macy's family, trying to be perfect, or the family of Wish Catering, reveling in chaos and imperfection, I really felt like Sarah Dessen knew how to write families and get it right. This is where the book won me over and made me a believer.

I have to rant about one major thing. In this book, Macy is hired to work the information desk at her local public library. Let me just say it now: TOTALLY UNREALISTIC! Seriously, teenagers would not be answering questions, reference questions, at the public library. They just would not. Heck, the clerks at my public library are basically told not to answer reference questions. They need to leave it up to the trained professionals (i.e. LIBRARIANS!). Whether this is right or not, it's a fact of the professional library world. Maybe someone can point me to a library where teens man the reference desk, but I have never heard of one. Teens may shelve the books (I know I did in high school) but they aren't going to be at the reference desk unless an extreme emergency. So every time Macy was involved in a library scene, it truly took me out of the book in a major way.

So, this is my first major experience with Sarah Dessen. I'm not sure if I'm going to be in a hurry to read any of her other books. Like I said, I have a TBR pile a mile high and if they are all this slow going in, well, I have books I'd rather get to in the meantime. I'm glad I was challenged to give this book a try however. I can see why Sarah Dessen is raved about by so many YA readers, even if she's not my first author of choice.

What's Your St@tus? Contest Winner!

Congratulations to Jessi E.
the winner of Katie Finn's What's Your St@tus and Top 8!

Thank you everyone who entered. I hope you get a chance to read the books even if you didn't win.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

In My Mailbox

Sarah Mail!

This week in books I received:

Mailbox:
And One Last Thing... by Molly Harper (A Romance Review)
Not that Kind of Girl by Siobhan Vivian (Amazon Vine)
Indigo Blues (Traveling ARC Tours)
Friday Mornings at Nine by Marilyn Brant (A Romance Review)
Happy Ever After by Nora Roberts (A Romance Review)
Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor by Lisa Kleypas (A Romance Review)

Bought: (All Kindle Books)
Take Me There by Carolee Dean (YA)
The Bellini Bride by Michelle Reid (re-released Harlequin Presents)
Tyler O'Neill's Redemption by Molly O'Keefe (Silhouette Super Romance)
The Temptation of Savannah O'Neill by Molly O'Keefe (Silhouette Super Romance)
Hot Island Nights by Sarah Mayberry (Harlequin Blaze)
Unbroken Connection by Angela Morrison (YA)
One Night... Nine Month Scandal by Sarah Morgan (Harlequin Presents)

(Yes, I fully recognize that the category romance titles can be silly but I've found these authors to be great romantic writers.)

Also, LAST CHANCE to enter my What's Your St@tus? Contest!. Winners announced Monday!

In My Mailbox is a feature hosted by The Story Siren with kudos to Pop Culture Junkie.

What did YOU get in your mailbox this week? Have you read any of the above titles? Let me know!

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Contemps Challenge

Ok, if you know me at all and have read my reviews here at the site, you know my favorite genre in YA lit is by far plain old contemporary. Forget paranormal, forget fantasy, I like real life events and situations. Most of the books I've reviewed in fact have been contemps (with a nice smattering of dystopian thrown in since I love those too!). Well, this year, between now, and August 15, 2011, I am taking part in the THE CONTEMPS CHALLENGE! What is this challenge you ask?? Well, let me share!

The Contemps is a group of authors who all write contemporary YA fiction. Authors like Kody Keplinger, Courtney Summers, Brent Crawford, and more! Authors I'm already reading. Their mission, if you will, is to:


We're the Contemps, a group of YA authors with contemporary novels releasing over the course of a year. We are passionate about realistic fiction because these are the books that remind us we're not alone in this real world. Our mission is simple - to spotlight contemporary fiction for young adults through blog posts, author events, and (over)sharing from our teen years.

The challenge is to read 18 of their 21 books they have coming out in the next year by August 15, 2011. Sounds doable, right?

Here is the list of books I've read so far as part of the Contemp Challenge:

1. The Duff by Kody Keplinger
2. Girl, Stolen by April Henry
3. Fixing Delilah by Sarah Ockler

So, definitely take part! I love so many of these authors already so I can't wait to see what they put out in the coming months.

And if you want to spread the contemp love, just put up this handy little badge on your page!

Celebrate realistic YA with The Contemps!
 

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Review: Relatively Famous by Jessica Park

Relatively Famous by Jessica Park is the story of fifteen-year-old Dani McKinley, a normal teenager growing up in Michigan who discovers, quite by accident, that her father, the man she has never met, is none other than the infamous Hollywood star, Mark Ocean. Dani isn't exactly thrilled. Mark's movies are lame and he seems to lead a bachelor lifestyle that she doesn't understand. And heck! When he finds out he has a child he has never none about, he claims she cannot be his!

But Mark has motivations of his own and his star is on the downfall in Hollywood. He needs Dani to help clean up his image so he invites her to California to visit him, a stay that goes from a week until the entire summer. Dani meets lots of new people, gets more fashion advice than she can handle and tries to navigate the rocky road of her relationship with her father.

Relatively Famous is a pleasant read. Dani is a typical teenager, wowed by the carefree spending of the Hollywood set. But she is enjoying it too, no doubt about that. I like that Dani essentially remained the same throughout the book. She had a set of shoulders on her, even though she did make some mistakes along the way.

I didn't think this book was totally realistic in just how nice everyone was to Dani! Seriously, all the Hollywood daughters she met her age were so nice and eager to be friends with her. There was not one hint of jealousy amongst them at all. That seemed totally unreal because no matter how wealthy girls are, there is almost always one mean girl, fact of life unfortunately. I guess I'm just used to drama, Gossip Girl style or something in my YA fiction.

Portions of this book are devoted to Mark and his quest to be taken seriously as an actor again and to be honest, I wasn't all that interested in that. I liked seeing him try to better understand Dani but I didn't need to read about his love and acting life.

Relatively Famous was a quick read. There were some parts I just didn't totally believe in but overall, it was a solid enough story. Jessica Park has a clear writing voice and I enjoyed getting to know Dani and watch her try to move between two different worlds.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Month in review: August


Who can believe it's SEPTEMBER already?? I know I can't. It seems insane. But at the same time, I'm insanely happy! I'm all about the fall love and I am so glad to see summer on its way out. (And despite the graphic, I will NOT miss summer.)

Here's what I read in August:

108. Sarah's Child by Linda Howard (8/1/10)**
109. The Tension of Opposites by Kristina McBride (8/4/10)
110. Tweet Heart by Liz Rudnick (8/6/10)
111. Burning Up by Angela Knight, Nalini Singh, et al (8/9/10)
112. The Ivy by Lauren Kunze and Rina Onur (8/12/10)
113. Something Like Fate by Susane Colasanti (8/13/10)
114. A Hellion in Her Bed by Sabrina Jeffries (8/16/10)
115. Cryer's Cross by Lisa McMann (8/17/10)
116. Delirium by Lauren Oliver (8/21/10)
117. Healer's Choice by Jory Strong (8/20/10)
118. The Secret Society of the Pink Crystal Ball by Risa Green (8/22/10)
119. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins (8/24/10)
120. Relatively Famous by Jessica Park (8/26/10)
121. Confessions of the Sullivan Sisters by Natalie Standiford (8/28/10)
122. Burning Up by Susan Andersen (8/29/10)

Total books read: 15
Favorite book this month: Delirium by Lauren Oliver (I can't wait to buy a nice new shiny copy of this)
Most disappointing: Burning Up by Susan Andersen (Why I keep trying with her I'll never know.)

What did you read in August that you really liked? Any disappointments? Please share!

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