Monday, September 30, 2013
The Coldest Girl in Coldtown
by Holly Black
Little Brown Books for Young Readers, 2013
Audience: Young Adult
Review from Advanced Reader's Copy
Publication Date: September 3, 2013
Vampirism is spreading and the only way to contain the disease is through the creation of Coldtowns, quarantines where the prisoners are in charge. But in these Coldtowns, vampires have become celebrities with reality shows and streaming video 24 hours a day. When Tana wakes up after a party and finds all of her friends dead at the hands of vampires, she is not thinking about fame and fortune, but she is full of terror about how to save her ex-boyfriend Aidan and mysterious stranger Gavriel. This wouldn't be so hard if Aidan hadn't already gone cold, been infected by a vampire. His choices now are to turn by feeding on another human, or sweat out the infection for months. This strange trio heads to the nearest Coldtown, picking up more misfits along the way, and Tana has to wait to see if she goes cold and what Gavriel has planned.
Like Gene Yang, I saw Holly Black on an author panel at ALA and wondered why I had never read her books. She was adorable on the panel, all anxious energy and awkwardness, so I picked up a galley of her latest book and gave it a try. I will say while Black is an incredibly talented author, I remember why I have never read any of her books-she's the queen of urban horror. I'm more a fan of fluffy bunnies and books about cake.
Coldtown, as I will refer to the book from here on, was chilling to me from the beginning. Like Peeps by Scott Westerfeld, vampirism is treated as a disease. Those that are infected are shut off from society, but some desperately want to be vampires, and that's where the most gruesome scenes occur. Once Tana and Aidan arrive in Coldtown and are taken in as part of a plan to award vampirism to a group of wannabes, the whole tone of the book turns even more dangerous. All along the reader knows the dangers that lie in wait at Coldtown, but once the reality of it is shown through not only the action, but the blog report from Midnight and the article by Bill Story, it gets even more real.
The characters were well-crafted. Tana was the reluctant hero and Gavriel her odd suitor. Aidan as the terrible boyfriend, but surprisingly good vampire was also a welcome surprise. Then there are the humans in Coldtown like Valentina and Jameson that are gritty and tough and there despite the danger.
I'm not sure that I would call this a plot driven novel, although the plot is compelling. The characters stand out, the setting is well described, the entire build up of the scene is wonderful. I honestly read every word, and that does not happen with plot driven novels. Holly Black is quite a talented author, I just wish she would write a lovely book about cake.
Now for the Expiration Date question. Tana and other main characters are in their teens. Some of their behavior is very rooted in adolescence, like the entire relationship between Tana and Aidan with the cheating in front of each other for sport. But at the same time, you have the older vampires with a historic memory. I'm not sure that Coldtown has an expiration date for fans of vampire fiction. Like the old woman at the truck stop said, dying's not just for the young.
There is definitely room in the vampire canon for such a well written book like Coldtown. I'm glad that I read, although it did give me some sleepless nights. I'm just a wimp, you'll be fine when you read Coldtown. But maybe keep some rosewater by your bed, just in case.
Saturday, September 28, 2013
by Helen Docherty and Thomas Docherty
Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 2013
Format: Picture Book
Audience: Preschool, Early Elementary School
Publication Date: October 1, 2013
Deep in the forest, darling little creatures get ready for bed by reading a bedtime story, but one night, something starts stealing all of their books! Eliza Brown will not be bullied and she sets a trap for the book thief, but finds out that maybe he would be good if someone only read to him. With easy rhymes and a nice rhythm, this book will fit in well at story time and during one on one reading.
I received a copy of Snatchabook for review from NetGalley, but like always, the free-ness of this book did not effect my opinion. Like most free picture books I review, I expected to dislike it, despite the glowing blurb from Brian Selznick. It is a simple and sweet story that readers will relate to and enjoy. The animal characters are clearly animals, not strange unknown species like Little Critter, so there are many programming possibilities here: Bedtime, Books about Books, Woodland Creatures, Telling the Truth, Friendship. Work this little gem in anywhere you can!
Thursday, September 26, 2013
Katie Woo Rules the School
by Fran Manushkin
Format: Beginning Chapter Book
Audience: Grades K to 2
Publication Date: August 2012
Katie Woo might seem like a normal student, but she is actually pretty extraordinary. She can become the star of the show dressed as a worm, smile her way through an annoying bully's taunts, keep the class pet safe and happy, and tell the truth when it might be easier to lie. Katie is a energetic and spunky character that is sure to please many readers.
This collection of previously published stories makes a greater beginning chapter book. The text is simple but entertaining and there are just enough pictures to keep a reader's interest without competing with the text. From what I can tell, Capstone is trying to reinvent Katie Woo as a beginning chapter book and take her out of the Early Reader zone.
Which begs the question, where would you shelve Katie Woo? I would say that her stories are a little longer than Bink and Gollie, but the tone of the books are similar. It also reminded me of Mercy Watson as far as length. Where do you put those books that hug the line between Early Reader and Chapter Book? Shorter chapter books seem to get swallowed up in the Juvenile Fiction section, but they seem too grown-up for the Early Readers. I think that a Beginning Chapter book display or book list would be a great way to promote these great books that can sometimes be overlooked.
But don't overlook Katie Woo! She's fun, relatable, and sure to attract fans.
Wednesday, September 25, 2013
American Born Chinese
by Gene Luan Yang
First Second, 2006
Format: Graphic Novel
Audience: Grades 8 to 12
Publication Date: September 5, 2006
Jin Wang wants to fit in at school, but as one of the very few Asian-American students, it's a harsh reality. Chin-kee embodies every negative stereotype and embarrasses his cousin, Danny. The Monkey King rules over a large kingdom, but is not respected among the gods, so he sets out to destroy them. These stories come together amazingly in the end to show that you must be true to yourself, your history and your heritage.
I saw Gene Yang at an author panel at ALA this summer. He was so funny and charming and I wondered why I had never read anything by him. Well, because he writes graphic novels. But American Born Chinese is more than a graphic novel. It's an incredible story that had me gasping in shock or surprise, then quiet is awe at the resolution. I honestly feel a little inferior when reviewing this title because it is just so wonderful that my words can't do it justice.
Let's just say that American Born Chinese is so amazing that it won the Printz Award for the finest work of Young Adult Literature in 2007. It was also a National Book Award Finalist. So, it's not just a graphic novel, it's a work of literature worthy of your time and attention.
If you think you don't like graphic novels, read American Born Chinese. It will have you questioning your whole impression of the genre.
And when your finished, check out Boxers and Saints, the newest books from Gene Yang. I know I will!
Tuesday, September 24, 2013
A Tangle of Knots
by Lisa Graff
Format: Chapter Book
Audience: Grades 3 to 6
Publication Date: February 5, 2013
Almost everyone has a Talent, a gift, something they can do better than anyone in the world. Some skills are incredible like cake baking, knitting, or stealing other Talents, while other Talents are mundane like spitting, whistling, or knot tying (although the man that ties knots has the kind of grin that suggests her knows more about the world than he's letting on). Cady, the Talented cake baker, can meet a person right away and decide what their perfect cake is, and she makes it to make them happy. This talent takes her, and all those around her, on a great adventure in which they discover a vast and new family, Talented or not.
A Tangle of Knots reminded me of several books. Savvy by Ingrid Law because of the Talents, Pie by Sarah Weeks because of the recipes, and anything hopeful or beautiful by Lisa Graff or Wendy Mass that I read in the past because it just makes you feel good to read it.
This book is a tangle of characters! There's Cady, the cake baker, The Owner, the thief, Marigold and her whole family, Talented or not, V, the author in disguise, Mrs. Asher who gave up on her dream, Miss Mallory who only wants a family, and Toby who fears he will never have one again. Plus the man with the knots that seems to pop up like a fairy godmother to both cause trouble and mend problems. That would be my biggest problem with this book is that there are almost too many characters, but they all fit together so well that I'm not sure if any of them could really leave the story.
Another thing I really enjoyed about this book was the repetition. Mrs. Asher's hairpin is described as "beige and cracked and knobby, as wide as a rib of celery and as long as a pencil". That description allows the reader to understand what it is, even before the other characters. The way the knot maker is described every time by his grin allows the reader to know who he is, even when it's not specifically mentioned. Even the St. Anthony's suitcases are mentioned so many times they either become an inside joke or character all their own.
I knew going in that A Tangle of Knots would be a heartwarming and delightful story and it did not disappoint. This is the kind of story that I love to see on award lists-I'm looking at you Caudill Committee! You love Lisa Graff! There's enough action to satisfy most readers and with so many different types of characters, you can easily sell this to both boys and girls. Plus, it's a relatively quick book which should also bring in readers. A Tangle of Knots would work great in a school setting as well. Readers could discuss Talents and what Talent they would like to have, bake a cake, and even write a sequel to the story about all the squirrels that were accidentally given talents (you'll have to read the book to find out how that happens!).
I recommend A Tangle of Knots to anyone that wants a quick, uplifting book with plenty of action and lovable characters.
Monday, September 23, 2013
It's Banned Books Week! It is absolutely amazing to see what books have been challenged and why. Right now a big debate is raging over Eleanor and Park in Minnesota, and even though I'm not a fan of that book (and judging by the comments at a YALSA feedback panel at ALA, I'm not the only one) I would still never withhold it from readers.
Just flipping through a couple of challenged book lists over at the ALA website shows me that I am quite the daring reader! Here's a list of all of the challenged books that I have read, divided into categories. How many have you read?
Books for Youth:
And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
Captain Underpants Series by Dav Pilkey
The Giver by Lois Lowry
Harry Potter Series by J. K. Rowling
James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
Little Black Sambo by Helen Bannerman
Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
Books for Young Adults:
Feed by M. T. Andersen
Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden
The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
Go Ask Alice
The Goats by Brook Cole
The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton
Note to students: Trying to ban a book will not get you out of doing your homework!
Beloved by Toni Morrison
Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Lord of the Flies by William Golding
A Separate Peace by John Knowles
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
That's my challenged book reading list. I'm sure other books that I've read have been challenged, like The Hunger Games or Going Bovine, but these are the top offenders. What challenged books have you read?
Happy (Banned) Reading!
Friday, September 20, 2013
by Wendy Mass
Audience: Grades 4 to 6
Publication Date: September 1, 2011
In an attempt to make friends, Tara tries to steal her principal's stuffed goat, and gets caught. Her punishment is to go to Willow Falls, her mother's hometown, and stay with her aunt for the summer. This is very odd considering that Tara's mother never speaks of her childhood and has never returned to Willow Falls. Once there, Tara meets some new friends and learns that Willow Falls is not like other towns. After another ill-conceived plot, Tara finds herself indebted to Angelina, and now she is hunting down 13 objects, but she doesn't know from where, from whom, or why. But in true Willow Falls fashion, they all come together in the end to make something incredible happen.
Readers of the previous two books will be happy to see the series continue and new readers won't be too lost. While it does take Tara a while to warm up to her new friends, you can tell that they are all committed to pulling off whatever unusual plan Angelina has cooked up this time. The action never stalls, the characters are true and the whole story is heartwarming.
I say that, but the end bothered me a little bit. A love potion is involved and that seemed to be the first bit of obvious fantasy and it seemed to strike me a little bit. I would like to believe in a quaint little town with just enough wonder to feel magical, without actually being magic. It's another little small thing that made me cringe.
But magic is already playing a bigger part in the final book, The Last Present, which I scored from ALA and I am currently reading. I can tell that the series is going to wrap up in glorious fashion.
Like 11 Birthdays and Finally, 13 Gifts is a book best enjoyed on a warm summer day with some birthday cake at the ready.
Thursday, September 19, 2013
by Wendy Mass
Format: Chapter Book
Audience: Grades 5 to 7
Publication Date: March 1, 2010
Rory can't wait for her twelfth birthday. Her parents are a bit overprotective, so any time she has asked for something over the years (pet, pierced ears, rollercoaster), she's been told, wait until you're twelve. Being the organized girl that she is, Rory has kept careful track of all of these promises and now her parents will have to pay up. But, just before her birthday, a strange little woman tells her that she won't get what she wants until she sees what she needs. Instead of searching for what she truly needs, Rory starts off on her list, trying to become cooler as teen heartthrob Jake Harrison starts filming a movie at her school. Rory's story is funny, sweet, and true to life in that she doesn't understand all the good in her life, and she finally sees what really counts in the end.
In this companion to Mass' 11 Birthdays, Willow Falls is again featured, and Amanda and Leo make appearances, but this is not a continuation of their story. This time, it is all about Rory and how getting what she thinks she wants ends up being a bigger curse than blessing. Oh, how I can remember what it was like to shave my legs for the first time and try to put in contacts! Poor Rory! At least I was trying out those experiences months and months apart!
It's funny that Rory has a talent for blending into the background, and that's what she needs as an extra for this new Jake Harrison movie, but once she gets that job, she begins standing out for all of the wrong reasons. I think that many readers will relate to that feeling. I'm sure that I'm not the only bookworm out there that feels pretty invisible. Bookworms tend to be a quiet and blendable people after all.
The ending was perfect. Just lovely. Rory finally understands what she needs, and gets it in a big way. That whole last part is just a big celebration of her wonderfulness. I've come to expect nothing less from Wendy Mass. Her books always seem to strike the perfect balance of positive, life-affirming ending with no sappy dribble. It's marvelous.
Up next, 13 Gifts, then The Last Present, which I picked up at ALA this summer. The Willow Falls books have been a perfect break from my less-than-stellar reality and I will be a little sad to see it all end.
Give this to any reader that is trying to grow up just a little too fast. It's not that they shouldn't grow-up, it's that you have to fully understand what you need before you can get what you want.
Wednesday, September 18, 2013
Boris on the Move
Boris Gets a Lizard
by Andrew Joyner
Format: Early Reader
Grades K to 2
Boris is a warthog that lives with his parents in a bus by the bay (not to be confused with a van down by the river). He is a happy warthog with big dreams and goals. In his first adventure, he wants to travel like he parents used to when they were young, so when he feels his bus/home moving, he's very excited. But when he finds out that they are just going a few minutes away, he forgets that you can have an adventure anywhere.
Next, Boris brags to his whole class that he is getting a lizard, specifically a Komono Dragon with poisonous spit. Of course this doesn't happen, even though he asks the zoo very nicely to let the lizard vacation at his home, but he comes up with a great solution.
Add Boris to the growing list of early readers that make me smile! The action is simple, the pictures are delightful, and Boris is just a likable kid, or warthog. My favorite thing about Boris is that in every book introduction it lists his favorite things, including his favorite book (this week). I can relate to a character that picks a new favorite as often as that!
Again, this is an easy chapter book, perfect for confidence building in newly independent readers. It just reads like a fun book. This series does not have any kind of lame disclaimer about controlled vocabulary or a doctor of some sort promoting the educational value of the message provided in the text. This is a book that will teach children that reading independently is fun! What a crazy idea! Also, who do I write to make this a Monarch nominee for next year? I'm going to start that campaign right now!
I discovered Boris from the lovely Cinjoella, and I'm glad I did. Quick and funny early chapter books like this are the perfect palate cleanser from dark YA or saucy New Adult fiction.
Give Boris to any new reader you know that has dreams as big as the moon!
Tuesday, September 17, 2013
by Lisa Wheeler
Illustration by Barry Gott
Carolrhoda Books, 2013
Previewed from NetGalley
Audience: Early Elementary
Publication Date: October 1, 2013
Let's get ready to rumble! I had to say it.
After taking on several other sports (football, basketball, baseball, hockey, and soccer), these dinosaurs are ready for some wrestling. Different types of dinos demonstrate the different types of wrestling, from the more admired Freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling, to the more entertaining world of Lucha Libre and WWF styles. The illustrations are vibrant and the whole tone is fun. Even T-Rex gets in on the action, although as the text points out "T-Rex arms are way too short/Why did he ever choose this sport?". The rhymes lose some momentum toward the end and start falling off the meter, but this mash-up of two popular topics will have your youngest readers captivated.
I personally love the Dino-Sport books by Lisa Wheeler. It can be surprisingly difficult to find simple enough books for a sport story time. The Dino-Sport books not only are great for story time read a-louds, but they also contain dinosaurs, which just ups the cool factor. Although you will have that one kid that actually knows facts about dinosaurs and he will spend the entire story time correcting you. That's just part of the job.
This Dino-Sport books is a little interesting. While I like it and I certainly think it will be a hit with the readers, I think I would pass on it for story time. Mostly because at the end, the whole crowd gets involved in the wrestling match, and I wouldn't want to put that idea in my story time crowds head. Now, for one on one reading, it could lead to a pretty epic round of couch cushion wrestling, and that's fine, just hide the metal folding chairs. If parents are really ambitious, this is also a great teachable moment for what's real and not real in the world of wrestling, although that's probably pushing things a little far. But I am the kind of person that loves to talk over children's heads on occasion just to see their reaction.
Anyway, overall, Dino-Wrestling will be a hit sure to inspire like luchadores and sumo wrestlers alike!
Monday, September 16, 2013
by Anjaki Banerjee
Wendy Lamb Books, 2010
2014 Bluestem Nominee
Format: Chapter Book
Audience: Grades 3 to 5
Publication Date: May 11, 2010
Poppy Ray has decided that she will be a veterinarian, despite having never had any kind of a pet before. While her parents travel back to India to visit family for the summer, Poppy goes to stay with her Uncle Sanjay who is a vet on a small island off the Washington coast. Her summer will be full of new experiences, both good and bad, as she learns what it really means to be a vet-that you heal not only animals, but people as well.
This is a short, simple book that will resonate with some readers, although might be troubling for others. Those that hate "dead dog books" will have a hard time dealing with the injuries and neglect seen in Sanjay's clinic, but it is honest.
Since this is a short book, the characters feel a little stock. Poppy is likeable enough, although she does seem awfully whiny, and a bit of a know-it-all, especially at the beginning. Uncle Sanjay is a little deeper and the reader learns more about him from his interactions with others than from his own dialogue. The clinic workers are predictable, and Hawk is a serviceable friend, although the plot line in which he denounces Poppy seems unnecessary.
Readers will cheer when Poppy is able to use her new skills to save Stu toward the end, and many will be impressed with her growth. As a Bluestem, it's alright. It's a quieter book that will be easily overlooked and I don't see it breaking into the top ten.
In a totally forced connection, the setting had me thinking back to Winger. Odd isn't it how two outrageously different books can have a common thread?
For young readers looking for an honest look at being a vet (because don't 80% of girls at some point dream of being a vet?), Seaglass Summer will give them enough action to decide of this is a true calling or a fad obsession.
Friday, September 13, 2013
It's been a long week. It was even longer when I was reading through my New Adult Reading list. It was even longer still when I was trying to find New Adult books that didn't make me cringe.
What I've learned is this-I don't honestly think that we can call New Adult it's own category or section if the vast majority of the books fall in the Romance genre. Right now, I think that what New Adult is actually just a subgenre of Romance. It's Romance for 20-somethings.
There is nothing in the books that I read that talk about the real plight of the 20-something. The college loans, first apartments, changing friendships, lousy jobs, and real life of it. What happened to books like The Devil Wears Prada, The Nanny Diaries, Citizen Girl, and Milkrun? I know all of those books were labeled Chick Lit which has now become as unpopular as harvest orange refrigerators, but they told the real story. They more accurately depicted the struggles that are your 20's.
These books just don't. The New Adult titles that I've read and I've considered reading are about romance, sex, and fantasy, as in sexual fantasy. Even one fantasy-fantasy NA book that I considered said that this was a book for mature audiences as it contained several sex scenes, not all of which were consensual. Perfect! The only thing I love more than gratuitous sex is gratuitous rape! (Sarcasm Sign!)
As such a new publishing trend, New Adult has some growing up to do, like it's intended audience. There was a time when "real" authors didn't write children's or YA books and now I would love for adult authors to stay on their side of the fence and let the real children's and YA authors do their thing. New Adult shouldn't just be about YA books with adult appeal or adult books with YA appeal. It can be, and should be, a whole group of books written for the 20-something reader.
In my opinion, New Adult has not arrived. It's not a thing, it's a subgenre of romance. The few books that I was excited to read for a minute were more often ranked as YA on Goodreads with a few that argued for NA. There are some mature YA books out there that can cross over-books that don't have an expiration date. But NA needs authors all it's own.
It's going to take a great author to bring credibility to this category, but I think it will happen, it just hasn't happened yet.
I know I sound like a Debbie Downer, but I think we need to expect more from this category, and I think we'll get it. Afterall, YA was once the red-headed stepchild of publishing too, and now it's wildly popular. Have patience, we're not there yet, but we will be.
For a recap of my New Adult reading adventure, see my intro and reviews to Tough to Love, Friday Night Alibi, The Social Code, Losing It, and Me, Cinderella?.
by Aubrey Rose
Audience: 18 and up
Publication Date: June 24, 2013
Brynn is brainy math major just trying to stay unnoticed, but when she offers a cup of coffee to a lonely man on a snowy night, her whole life changes. Because this is no ordinary stranger, this is Dr. Eliot Herceg, math professor, innovator, maybe royalty? When Brynn rightfully earns an internship at Dr. Herceg's prestigious math academy, her dream of going to Hungary comes true, because even though the internship is amazing, she has a deeper need for being there. At the same time, Eliot has been avoiding Hungary for years, but he is intrigued by Brynn and decides to return to him homeland and the demons that he's been avoiding. Brynn steps into a world that she always thought was beyond her and she might just find love at that the same time.
It's finally the last day of New Adult Week! I never thought this day would come, but at least I have a reasonably good book to finish up.
Another romance, but this one at least has some heart, some yearning, some math! Math has never been so sexy. Maybe not sexy, but not un-sexy.
Again, we have two rather broken characters in Brynn and Eliot, but not so broken that they feel beyond repair. They just need to learn to love again. I realize how cheesy this sounds, but honestly, Rose writes it in a way that is just this side of sappy and readers will actually be rooting for these two crazy kids.
This is a Cinderella story as Brynn has struggled for everything that she has, and there's a wicked stepmother, although we don't hear much about that plot point. That was the trouble with this book, it mentioned greater drama, but didn't deliver. There is a sequel to this book, so I know that some issues will be resolved in future volumes, but some of the plot points just felt stuck in with a pin for later. Mostly Brynn's estranged father, her fellow interns at the academy, and her mother's death. I feel like all of those points could have been a bit more developed and they would not feel so forced.
I feel like a good way to describe this romance is to say that it's the color of the winter sky just before a snowfall. Like the color of the cover, a lovely blue gray that is full of possibility, both positive and negative. I know that describing books as colors is pretty hippie of me, but that's the best way I can think to describe it.
Girls Test! Um, not really. It's a little too prim and proper for the Girls set. Really the only thing that makes this a new adult romance rather than an adult romance is Brynn's age. It's a romance for those that like some moving and heartfelt action, with just a touch of real sex at the end. But I appreciate that Rose took the time to get to know me, woo me, before the book got all hot and heavy.
This book was quite readable. The one sex scene is cancelled out by all the math, so really readers are just left with a romance, plan and simple. Well not simple, it's still a student-teacher relationship with visions of a dead wife. But that's pretty simple compared to what I've been reading.
I'll be back this afternoon with a recap of what I've learned from this experiment. Mostly I've learned that graphs are fun, I'm not a big fan of romance novels, and parents should never name their children after building materials. I'm still ticked off about Steel Brickman.
For a heartfelt romance set in Budapest, try Me, Cinderella?.
Thursday, September 12, 2013
by Cora Carmack
Harper Collins, 2012
Audience: 18 and up
Publication Date: December 5, 2013
Bliss Edwards is a senior in college and a virgin. This is a huge problem that she plans to solve immediately so when she meets a dreamy British guy in a bar, she takes him home with intentions of having sex that night. But she freaks out, something she does often in this book, and instead makes up something about picking up her cat, which is nonexistent. But when she steps into class she finds her failed one night stand teaching. The whole relationship between Bliss and her leading man Garrick is told in fits and starts wrapped up in the drama of the drama department and all the trappings that come from leaving college. The series continues with Faking It.
For having a cover and title like that, this book was actually a little more involved. I would have liked some of the themes to be covered a little more thoroughly, like Bliss' relationship with her mother and her panic over finding a job, but at least it was mentioned and readers got a passing glance at what the last semester of college is all about.
Bliss is a mess of a character in a good way. She's awkward and funny and likable. The whole first episode in which she races out of her own apartment in a panic because she cannot have sex with Garrick is pretty funny. And then she does have to get a cat to cover her lie, which is also an interesting scene. More so interesting because of what she has to say to Cade, her male friend who is falling for her too. Let that be a lesson to you ladies, guys love an awkward and goofy girl!
Garrick is painted a little too perfectly like most romance heroes. But it's a romantic fantasy to fall for your hunky British professor and have him return the favor. Plus again we are seeing an endlessly patient man taking his time with his love interest. This professor - student relationship will be examined again tomorrow in that book. I'm thinking that professor-student romance is it's own sub genre.
There are funny parts in this book, and there are some that make your eyes roll. Like when Bliss throws an impromptu party at her place and everyone plays spin the bottle, and contracts mono. Then of course Bliss has to tell Garrick that he might be infected too. But luckily, he nurses her back to health, and she him and it's lovely if a little phlegmy. This whole nursing-back-to-health theme will be explored tomorrow too now that I come to think of it. I'm starting to develop a pretty good formula for New Adult Romance.
Time for the Girls Test and Readability Scale. This is probably my highest scorer on the Girls Test. While Bliss is in college, she is independent and making mistakes and corrections along the way. While the sex doesn't come until the end, there is still plenty of other action to add to the drama and I think that Girls fan just might approve of this series.
This is a pretty readable book. There's some action, but there are other plot points that could support the book should all the steaminess disappear. I would have still liked those other plot points to have a little more meat, but I'll take what I can get. After the first few books that I read, this one at least had some substance.
One more NA review tomorrow and then I'll recap what I've learned. I'm pretty excited to finish up New Adult Week. I long to get back to fun middle grade books, maybe some graphic novels, heck, I'd take a heavy book club book right about now!
For a book with plenty of steam and a little bit of substance, check out Losing It.
Wednesday, September 11, 2013
The Social Code
by Sadie Hayes
St. Martin's Griffin, 2013
Reviewed from NetGalley
Audience: 15 and Up
Publication Date: September 3, 2013
Amelia and Adam Dory are two scholarship kids at Stanford, finally living the life they imagined-in a way. These twins only have each other after being in the foster care system, especially after the last family they were placed with used them for corrupt purposes. But now that they are in California, all that is behind them. Amelia is a computer genius, much more comfortable behind the screen that in front of it, while Adam is charming and gregarious and he wants everything that the students around him have, namely fame and fortune. Using Amelia's skills, Adam is sure that they can have it all, but there are some very powerful people that would also like to see them fail. Combining all the glam of California with the techie-ness of Silicon Valley, The Social Code is a series to watch.
Imagine that, a New Adult book I actually enjoyed! Yes, New Adult Week is starting to look up.
Amelia is a strong character. She's talented and has incredible morals. She never wants to create a company and sell her ideas, like Adam, rather she would like to open source everything and let people use her product. She invents an app called Doreye. From what I can understand it's a radio transmission product that lets you control virtually everything from your phone: TVs, garage door, toy cars, etc. It's revolutionary and she does end up getting financing from a techie philanthropist to work on her product and code.
But this is not just Amelia's story. There's a whole cast of characters behaving badly and stirring up trouble. There's Amelia's roommate Patty, who is in love with her sister's fiancé. T.J. Bristol who works with the Dory's on their product, but might want to destroy them or help them succeed to anger his father. There's Lisa Bristol who is fooling around with Adam, but she's in a serious relationship on the side. And Amelia is secretly in love with Lisa's serious boyfriend.
This book has just a few irons in the fire.
But despite all of that, it's a touching story. Readers will be very sympathetic to Amelia and her desire to keep Doreye from becoming some flash in the pan. Plus, with all this action, the plot never stalls. Instead of spending pages describing a characters dreamy eyes, Hayes is describing code, backstabbing, and the beautiful Stanford scenery.
Another reader on Goodreads put it perfectly by saying that The Social Code is slightly reminiscent of Gossip Girl in that so much is happening. But it is not as shallow and consumerist so it will hopefully appeal to more readers. I could see this as an ABC Family show however, and I would probably tune in myself.
Now for the Girls Test and Readability Scale. Girls fans might want something a little more angst-ridden, they might want more struggle and frankly, more sex. But there is a ton of action and drama in this book, making it great for fans of Pretty Little Liars and Gossip Girl. I would say that The Social Code isn't a total failure on the Girls Test, but it's not a success either.
As for my own Readability Scale, it's the best so far. With several plot lines, The Social Code wouldn't exactly suffer if all the sex was taken out. Maybe there's not even enough for this to be considered New Adult, but I am going to say that The Social Code excels in characterization, plot, setting, and overall feel where the other NA books that I have read all fail.
For a quick read about techies behaving badly, pick up The Social Code.
Tuesday, September 10, 2013
Friday Night Alibi
by Cassie Mae
Reviewed from NetGalley
Audience: 15 and Up
Publication Date: July 29, 2013
Kelli Pinkins has a plan to leave her conservative Christian country club behind and travel, but in order to do that, she needs to make some money. Enter her Friday Night Alibi business in which she acts as the alibi for other conservative teens that want to go out and get their freak on without their parents suspect a thing. While Kelli is "out" with her clients, she's making pretty good money and playing a lot of online video games, but when her friend insists she actually leave her house, Kelli runs into Chase, a rather arrogant guy that just won't accept the fact that she doesn't like him-or does she? Is Chase just the guy Kelli needs to stop pretending to have a social life and actually live a little?
Yes, New Adult Week continues with another gem full of heavy sighs and dreamy endings!
I would just like to say, why didn't I run a Friday Night Alibi business in high school? The idea is actually pretty brilliant if you think about it. But I didn't know any spoiled rich kids who would be willing to pay to keep their date a secret. We just snuck around in my town. Come to think of it, I could have used that alibi a time or two.
(Mom, if by accident you are still reading this week, I was kidding!)
It was a little difficult for me to connect with Kelli. She really is the spoiled little rich girl. Her parents do honestly abandon her most weekends and it does not seem like they are all that attentive, but it really looks like she has everything else. This is the type of book that randomly drops designer names to make the reader jealous.
Chase was too good to be true. I'm just going to toss out the spoilers right here. Chase does know what it's like to lose this trust fund, because he cashed his in to travel the world with his terminally ill brother and now he is more focused for living for today than living for his family. His whole character is meant to be charming, but arrogant, stable, but exciting, safe but new. His relationship with Kelli is just a bit too safe and understanding. But, it's the fantasy of finding the perfect guy that understands you completely even when you don't understand yourself.
I feel like 50% of the sentences I type in this post could easily be tag lines for Lifetime movies, but the book is that sappy.
Okay, Girls test and Readability Scale. A fan of Girls is not going to like the innocence of this book. It's just this side of a clean romance since there is no sex, just lots of making out. They don't even make it to second base. Plus, Kelli is entirely protected from any kind of true independence. She lives in a gated, conservative community and she is entirely the kind of girl that thinks she wants a daring adventure when what she really wants is a movie night with her parents. Girls fans-pass.
As for readability, this is a tough one. Since there's only an overabundance of first base action, can it really be called smut? Then again, take out all the making out and the story is pretty thin. I don't mind a romance, but I would like it to come with a side of substance.
Remember how I said that NA is creating a whole subgenre of innocent little things wanting to unleash their inner sex kitten? That's exactly what's going on here. I would say that Friday Night Alibi has an audience with sweet high schoolers that want to have sex but aren't quite ready. It's like Twilight's Edward. Girls want a guy that wants to have sex with them, but respects them enough not to. That's a tall order, but it is possible.
Today's book represents the sappy romance side of NA. I promise to show you something a little more mainstream soon!