Saturday, April 30, 2011

In the Arms of Stone Angels

From Goodreads:  Two years ago, Brenna did the unthinkable. She witnessed the aftermath of a murder and accused her only true friend--the first boy she ever loved--of being a killer.

Now sixteen, Brenna returns to Oklahoma only to discover that Isaac "White Bird" Henry isn't in juvie. The half-breed outcast is in a mental hospital, frozen in time, locked in his mind at the worst moment of his life. And when Brenna touches him, she's pulled into his hellish vision quest, seeing terrifying demons and illusions she doesn't understand.

Feeling isolated and alone, she's up against the whole town, targeted by bullying former classmates, a bigoted small town sheriff, and a tribe who refuses to help one of their own. But when Brenna realizes she's as trapped by the past as White Bird is, this time she won't turn her back on him. She's the only one who can free them both.

Even if she has to expose her secret--a "gift" she's kept hidden her whole life.

My take:  This is a fairly action-packed book.  The teens in this book do not play nice by any stretch.  I have mixed feelings about this book.  I'll start with what I liked - the protagonist was interesting and willing to grow.  Her mother, although first painted as the usual enemy, once apprised of the truth, becomes Brenna's fiercest ally.  I also really enjoyed the education on vision quests and a glimpse into the challenges of today's Native American population.  Enjoyed the story and the symbolism used in the vision quest.

What I didn't like:  I know these are small things but they really bugged me.  First of all, the psychiatrist breaching his ethical standards by calling the sheriff when there is a change in White Bird's status.  Huge lawsuit regarding doctor/patient confidentiality.  He won't discuss treatment with the Shaman but he will call the Sheriff?  License revoked.

I just realized I can't share another irritation because it would be a huge spoiler.  Let's just leave it at the way the law is handled.  One of which is that the sheriff should have had some consequences regarding something he did although I appreciated the justness of his conscience.  The second part is the swiftness regarding resolution.  Not the way the justice system or social services works.  The process is long and painful.

Besides those irritations, the story is interesting, enlightening and disturbing.

3/5 stars

Friday, April 29, 2011

a Cowboy's Touch by Denise Hunter Review

A Cowboy's Touch (A Big Sky Romance)

Goodread:  Four years ago, rodeo celebrity Wade Ryan gave up his identity to protect his daughter. Now, settled on a ranch in Big Sky Country, he lives in obscurity, his heart guarded by a high, thick fence.

Abigail Jones isn't sure how she went from big-city columnist to small-town nanny, but her new charge is growing on her, to say nothing of her ruggedly handsome boss. Love blossoms between Abigail and Wade--despite her better judgment. Will the secrets she brought with her to Moose Creek, Montana separate her from the cowboy who finally captured her heart?

My take:  This is just a nice, quick, feel-good book of two somewhat unlikely people finding themselves at the same place and time.  Wade's carrying the guilt of his wife's death from years before and feels unworthy to love or be loved by another woman.  Abigail is secretly doing research to try and save her mother's magazine.  There's a collision of wills and a fall-out, soul-searching, redemption and feeling good.

The protagonist is Abigail, a Chicago born and raised woman who is sent off to check on her old and eccentric Aunt Lucy in a small Montana town.  Abigail gets bored to tears and jumps on the first opportunity for something to do which is to be a companion for a motherless child whose father is a busy rancher.  Abigail's hypertension is starting to abate when she discovers the magazine is going down the tubes in Chicago and she's sitting on a potentially dynamite story about hunkish rodeo star who disappeared off the face of the earth shortly after the death of his wife.  Guess who she's working for?

Quick, fun read.

Do the secrets from our past affect who we become in the future? 

Can the hurts we’ve experienced really prevent us from finding true fulfillment? 

In her release, A Cowboy’s Touch, award-winning author Denise Hunter will explore these questions, and readers will discover that “the truth really can set us free.” 

As the first book in the Big Sky Romance series, A Cowboy’s Touch is the story about a truthseeker who ends up discovering the real truth and a cowboy who learns to let go of his past.  Hunter shines as she draws her readers into an intriguing world of boots, chaps and cowboy hats.  This heartwarming romance is a story of love, pain and forgiveness.  It has also been named a Women of Faith novel for 2011.

Hunter can also talk about encouraging others to go for their dream of becoming a writer. She talks more about that in her interview below.

An interview with author Denise Hunter:

Q: Have you always wanted to be a writer?  When did you first begin to write?

I’ve always been an avid reader, but I didn’t start dreaming about writing a novel until I was in my early twenties.  By then I was married and busy pursuing a degree.  I put writing on the back burner until my grandfather became fatally ill.  While I was visiting him in the hospital, I was struck by the brevity of life and felt God pressing on my heart to take the first step.  I started my first novel a couple weeks later.  I had two small children by this time, so I wrote while they napped.  I wrote my first four books that way.  Even if you can only write a page a day, by the end of a year you’ll have a complete manuscript!

Q: Are you a small town or a city girl?  What inspired you to write a book about the life of a cowboy?

I’m a little of both.  We live in a country setting just outside the city.  It’s the best of both worlds.  There’s something very earthy and organic about a cowboy’s life.  I was drawn by the idea of living off the land.  I think it takes us to a simpler time and place—even though the life of a cowboy is not necessarily simple!  And Montana is such a beautiful state.  I thought my readers might like to journey there with me through story.

Q: Can you tell us a little about what you have learned about the cowboy lifestyle while doing research for this book?

I learned a lot of fascinating details about the workings of a ranch: branding, breeding, cattle disease, etc.  But what I came away with is a great respect for cowboys and their families.  Those who choose this way of life do it because they love it.  It’s not easy, and it’s not for the faint of heart. 

Q: Abigail’s title at her job is “the Truthseeker.”  What is the significance of this title, and what do you think a real truthseeker does?

I thought it would be interesting to write about a protagonist whose job was to seek the truth and have her find out that she was missing the real Truth the whole time.  Since Jesus is the Truth, a real truthseeker follows Him.

Q: Forgiveness seems to be a recurring theme in your books.  Why do you feel it is so important?  Your main characters both dealt with forgiving their past mistakes.  Do you think that it is just as important to forgive ourselves as it is to forgive the mistakes of others?

With sin rampant in all of us, this is something we need to get good at!  Eventually, someone’s going to do something you struggle to forgive.  I think this is partly because forgiveness is easily misunderstood.  It’s not saying that what they did is okay.  It’s saying that you’re not going to hold it over them anymore.  I do think it’s just as important to forgive ourselves as it is to forgive others.  Oftentimes, it’s even harder. 

Q: Abigail and Wade both threw themselves into their work in order to escape their pasts.  Do you believe it is easy to find an escape in work in order to hide from our problems?

No one likes to hurt, so I think the tendency is to avoid it however we can.  Throwing ourselves into our work is certainly one way of doing so.  But these things have a way of bubbling up to the surface eventually, no matter how hard we try to avoid them.

Q: What would you like your readers to take away after reading A Cowboy’s Touch?

Abigail was essentially trying to work off her guilt.  She thought if she could just keep exposing other peoples’ wrongs, it would appease her own guilt.  I’d like readers to see that only God can redeem us.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Girl in the Gatehouse by Julie Klassen Review

The Girl in the Gatehouse

From Goodreads:  Miss Mariah Aubrey, banished after a scandal, hides herself away in a long-abandoned gatehouse on the far edge of a distant relative's estate. There, she supports herself and her loyal servant the only way she knows how--by writing novels in secret. 

Captain Matthew Bryant, returning to England successful and wealthy after the Napoleonic wars, leases an impressive estate from a cash-poor nobleman, determined to show the society beauty who once rejected him what a colossal mistake she made. When he discovers an old gatehouse on the property, he is immediately intrigued by its striking young inhabitant and sets out to uncover her identity, and her past. But the more he learns about her, the more he realizes he must distance himself. Falling in love with an outcast would ruin his well-laid plans. The old gatehouse holds secrets of its own. Can Mariah and Captain Bryant uncover them before the cunning heir to the estate buries them forever?

My take:  The book is reminiscent of a Jane Austen story but brings to awareness the glaring inequality of tainted reputations regarding men and women.  Mariah had a moment of poor judgment and was caught expressing less than stellar morals.  Oops.  She's ruined.  Practically disowned by her family and cut off from her old life, she is sent to live with an eccentric aunt and her stepson who is really quite disagreeable.  She wants to write novels but writing is not acceptable in polite society.  However, neither is her previous behavior.

Meanwhile, men are cavorting all the time in polite society.  They are also writing novels.  Their reputations do not suffer and they are still welcome at the dinner table (ahem), I mean high tea.  Captain Bryant is a spineless man who suffers from ethical blindness in other areas. Fortunately, a friend from his military life comes to live with him and tells him off a time or two.  

Mariah's relationships with new friends from the poorhouse, an armless wonder, and her old nanny (now referred to as companion since she is too old for a nanny) is entertaining and, at times, very sweet.  I enjoyed the 19th century English setting and the Jane Austen society principles being called into question.  

4 stars
Clean read.

Civilized World by Susi Wyss

Goodreads: A glorious literary debut set in Africa about five unforgettable women—two of them haunted by a shared tragedy—whose lives intersect in unexpected and sometimes explosive ways

When Adjoa leaves Ghana to find work in the Ivory Coast, she hopes that one day she'll return home to open a beauty parlor. Her dream comes true, though not before she suffers a devastating loss—one that will haunt her for years, and one that also deeply affects Janice, an American aid worker who no longer feels she has a place to call home. But the bustling Precious Brother Salon is not just the "cleanest, friendliest, and most welcoming in the city." It's also where locals catch up on their gossip; where Comfort, an imperious busybody, can complain about her American daughter-in-law, Linda; and where Adjoa can get a fresh start on life—or so she thinks, until Janice moves to Ghana and unexpectedly stumbles upon the salon.

At once deeply moving and utterly charming, The Civilized World follows five women as they face meddling mothers-in-law, unfaithful partners, and the lingering aftereffects of racism, only to learn that their cultural differences are outweighed by their common bond as women. With vibrant prose, Susi Wyss explores what it means to need forgiveness—and what it means to forgive.

My Take: I am wavering between 4 and 4.5 stars. This is a beautifully written book that is presented in a number of short stories that can stand alone but when told together, the whole is much greater than the sum of its parts.

Each story gives a snapshot of the women and their struggles and concerns of that time. The stories are written chronologically and the characters weave themselves throughout the book and between the pages of the other characters' stories. The author gives a vivid and colorful snapshot littered with visual symbolism like butterflies, beauty products, and African landscape.

My personal favorite featured Comfort as she visited her son and new grandchild. Comfort's African culture directly clashes with her American daughter-in-law while her son, Peter, finds himself pulled in both directions. Like the other stories, the conflicts are not overstated. The reader is given the benefit of the doubt is left to connect the dots and intelligently predict possible outcomes, although closure is provided.

Excellent book. Loved it.


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

We'll Always Have Summer by Jenny Han

We'll Always Have Summer (Summer #3)We'll Always Have Summer by Jenny Han

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When I first met Belly, Jeremiah and Conrad I didn't like Belly. She was too raw and honest about her flaws. It made me uncomfortable. But the more I thought about it, the more authentic Jenny Han had created her. I remember the summer I turned pretty. I remember my summer boyfriend and he will always hold a special piece of my heart. I was also an awkward girl suddenly in a pretty teenager's body. A lot like Belly.

So here we are now at the end of Belly's freshman year at college. Conrad is absent, Jeremiah is in a frat house and he and Belly are still best friends who date. She's survived her first year of college and things are pretty good. She and Jere go to a frat party that is out of control. Someone spills a drink on her, she hunts down a bathroom and overhears Lacey talking about a foray she had with Jere in Cabo, when he and Belly were on a Rachel and Ross break. Belly freaks out and then Jere freaks out and tells her the truth.
Lots of crying, not speaking, texting, more crying and finally Jere is invited to Belly's room. He proposes. She accepts and then the drama really begins. They meet with opposition from parents (age and lack of education), no money, do the whole wedding prep, all that jazz. Con is strangely silent but a couple of chapters are written in his POV which adds a new dimension to Conrad. The story plays out the mother/daughter dynamics of wedding preparations, brother of groom who loves the bride dyanamics, and best friend dynamics. All uncomfortably accurate.

The problem I forsaw with this series is that, at some point, Belly would have to choose between brothers. I couldn't see a happy ending. Jenny Han does an exceptional job at playing out the relationships between all the parties. The ending is satisfying, a little bitter sweet but mostly happy. I didn't feel sad for any of the characters in the end. Okay, maybe a little bad but, like I said, it was satisfying.

Will it be Jeremiah? Conrad? Some stranger? You can find out on the very last page but you won't be satisfied unless you read the whole book. It's the journey that makes the story. Loved it.

Where She Went by Gayle Forman

From Amazon: In the three years since the tragic accident Mia barely survived in If I Stay, she and high school ex-boyfriend Adam have lived separate lives on opposite coasts. But then Adam, now the dissatisfied front man of popular LA-based band Collateral Damage, stops over in New York City for one night before kicking off the European leg of his tour. It happens to be the same evening that Mia, now well on her way to becoming a renowned cellist, is performing at Carnegie Hall. Adam buys a ticket, planning to slip in and out, but Mia spots him and for the first time in years they’re face-to-face with each other and their shared past.

Over the course of one evening, as Adam and Mia traverse the city’s streets, they relive the four days Mia spent in the intensive care unit as well as her departure to Juilliard and from the life she knew. Emotionally raw and incredibly moving, Gayle Forman again showcases her considerable talent for drawing complex characters who face impossible decisions and then bear the consequences. Equally as compelling as If I Stay, Where She Went is powerful, heartbreaking, and everything fans of Mia, Adam, and Forman could hope for.

My take: I read reviews on If I Stay and finally succumbed. I read it. I hated it. I wrote a watered down review because even though I hated it, I know good writing and Gayle Forman understands the craft better than any author I know. Perhaps it felt contrived and maybe vulturistic to write a story based on a tragedy she read in the newspaper. The story was raw and I didn't connect well with the characters.

Let's summarize: Mia gets in the car with her parents and 8 year old brother and drives someplace in Oregon (sorry, I'm not doing this justice because I've forgotten the details). Next thing Mia knows, she is standing by her own broken body, thrown from the car and watching paramedics work on her surviving brother who later dies. Her parents died on impact. Mia has a choice to make. Does she join her family in death or does she make the hard recovery back to life? Boyfriend Adam plays a big part in her choice. The End.

Do I sound callous and unappreciative of a well crafted book? I think I may have to rethink my first opinion, reread the book and rewrite my review after finishing Where She Went. All I wanted to know when I started the book (thank you, Briana!) was whether or not Adam and Mia end up together. No review I read would tell me the answer to that question. The more I read, the more I realized how nice it would be if they did but it was nearly irrelevant (nearly the operative word because I am still the romantic).

Forman does not give the easy answers with pop-psychology phrases. Like a good massage, she works the shallow muscles then goes much deeper until she hits the painful epicenter and the toxins are released. Understanding dawns and a connection occurs.

By this point in time, Adam is a successful rock star. He has the wealth, the gorgeous and intelligent girlfriend, and the talent. Although he withdrew when Mia left, he returned to the stage with raw, painful, and beautiful lyrics and songs. Clearly, their relationship, her accident and subsequent withdrawal from his life offered him muse and he used it as a catharsis. Still, Adam is completely broken. As the story progresses, the reader realizes the reasons for his brokenness is much deeper than Mia dumping him. I really liked that part. The emphasis is not on Mia, necessarily but on how the experience with Mia impacted him.

Adding to the complexity is the organization of the book. Adam toggles from now and the past and Forman paints the full picture with artistic strokes that eventually reveal a much more wholistic picture. While in Adam's head, the reader travels with the couple as they dance around the big issue: Why did Mia withdraw/dump him? Using as many distractions as possible, Mia introduces Adam to her New York until, significantly, the revelations occur on a bridge, a lyrical analogy.

Another aspect I loved about this book is that the reader is taken on the journey of Adam and his metamorphosis which is also interesting when seen in juxtaposition of Mia's quiet admission of her irrational fear of butterflies. There are no aha! moments that shatter the earth or the story. The destination is an objective but, like real life, the process is where growth really occurs.

I really, really loved this book.


Monday, April 25, 2011

The Girls Guide to Homelessness by Brianna Karp

The Girl's Guide to HomelessnessThe Girl's Guide to Homelessness by Brianna Karp

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

From Goodreads:  “If you saw me walking down the street, you wouldn’t assume I live in a parking lot. I am just like you, except without the convenience of a permanent address.” 

Brianna Karp entered the workforce at age ten, supporting her mother and sister through out her teen years in Southern California. Although her young life was scarred by violence and abuse, Karp stayed focused on her dream of a steady job and a home of her own. By age twenty-two her dream became reality. Karp loved her job as an executive assistant and signed the lease on a tiny cottage near the beach. 

And then the Great Recession hit. Karp, like millions of others, lost her job. In the six months between the day she was laid off and the day she was forced out onto the street, Karp scrambled for temp work and filed hundreds of job applications, only to find all doors closed. When she inherited a thirty-foot travel trailer after her father’s suicide, Karp parked it in a Walmart parking lot and began to blog about her search for work and a way back. 

Karp began her journey as a home less person terrified and ashamed. Fear turned to awe as she con nect ed with other homeless people whose remarkable stories inspired her to be come an activist for the homeless community. 

Deeply compassionate and darkly funny, this unforgettable memoir celebrates the courage and creativity of lives society would otherwise stigmatize.

My take:  I tried so hard to give the author the benefit of the doubt. I really did. Bottom line is that I think Brianna is a gifted writer who will write very well when she has more experience. This is not a criticism by any means. She is articulate and precise in her ideas.

My overall feeling of the book, though, is that the book itself is based on Brianna's reality and not on truth. I also felt like she spent an inordinate amount of time trying to convince the reader that she was right in all of her arguments with her mother, her sister, and her boyfriend. She provides direct quotations from a dialog where she paints herself as completely calm, intelligent and making perfect sense while the other person is a maniac. The overall message of the book was not to bring awareness to the public regarding homelessness (although that is a nice byproduct) but to publicize how she was victimized by her father, her mother, her sister, her boyfriend, and some supporting characters. She also provides a lot of "he said/she said" and supports it with saying that another character supports her in her "she said."

It may sound callous, but I don't care that Matt was wrong. I don't care that he dumped her and lied to her after promising he'd stand by her forever. Guess what? 50% of women folk have suffered the same loss. It sucks. It hurts. But we don't publish a book about it.

I don't mean to be unkind because I really do believe that Brianna has had a hard life. On the other hand, the author has a lot of anger and unfinished business regarding her family and former boyfriend. This would have been a much stronger story if it had been told more objectively and less defensively. It would also have been much more believable.

I do hope Karp finds her home, not only physically but emotionally. Her resilience is commendable.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

God's Little Princess Review and GIVEAWAY

How to Be God's Little Princess:
Manners and etiquette tips for your "royal" tween by beloved author of the Gigi, God's Little Princess series, Sheila Walsh

Seattle, Washington - Teaching your daughter how to be a princess involves more than just a pretty dress! Women of Faith® speaker and recording artist Sheila Walsh returns to the Gigi, God's Little Princess series with a new interactive guide book for 9-12 year old readers. How to Be God's Little Princess: Royal Tips of Manners and Etiquette for Girls (Thomas Nelson, $9.99, ISBN: 1400316448, April 14, 2011) gives girls a fun tool to discover how to dress, how to act, and why that's even important!

Increasingly, we see tween girls of today embracing the prevalent "anything 
How to Be God's Little Princessgoes" spirit of our culture. Sheila seeks to combat that spirit and reinforce God's standard in their lives. She takes a holistic approach by not just focusing on behavior but also addressing the heart. Sheila says that "it is God's Word that has the power to hold us through the fiercest storms. It is God's Word that shows us how to live in a world that has largely turned its back on our Father. It is God's Word that allows us to stand firm when everything else seems to be falling apart." How to Be God's Little Princess will supplement what parents, churches, and youth workers may already be teaching their tween girls.

In our hurried world, the art of manners and etiquette may seem like rules from a by-gone era. Nothing could be further from the truth. Etiquette isn't old-fashioned-it's relevant today! Many girls find themselves lost when it comes to what to do, when to do it, and why! Girls need the confidence that good manners and proper etiquette provide. In How to Be God's Little Princess, girls will learn important life skills and discover for themselves how to navigate the do's and dont's of life. Sheila's hope is that young girls will see that making wise decisions about clothes, friends, family, make-up, and more can be FUN!

How to Be God's Little Princess is a must-have resource for tweens and parents of tweens as they navigate this growing-up "stuff" together. It's also a great educational tool as Sheila combines practical info, humor, quizzes, and fun projects into a guide that parents and tweens can do together or that tweens can share with their friends. At an affordable price, this is the perfect birthday gift for a tween or a great addition to an Easter basket. In addition, How to Be God's Little Princess would be a great bonding gift for a mom and daughter on Mother's Day. Look for the book at Barnes & Noble, Borders and wherever fine books are sold.

Additional companion resources for How to Be God's Little Princess:
·    Princess Kits
·    How-to-guide for hosting a How to Be God's Little Princess Tea
·    Etiquette and manners themed article written by Sheila Walsh for use in ministry newsletters, websites, blogs, etc.... 


How to Be God's Little Princess: Royal Tips of Manners and Etiquette for Girls

A fun guide book for God's little princesses.

What does it take to be a princess? Sheila Walsh has some important answers to share for every little girl. This trendy design features black & white line art and a two-color pink and black interior. The art will tie to each how-to topic in the book-how to make the best pink cookies, how to wear a tiara, how to earn money at home, how to care for a royal dog, how to be respectful, how to use good manners, how to help Mom, how to follow Jesus, how to act like a princess when things go terribly wrong, and many more.


Meet Sheila Walsh:

Sheila Walsh is the creator of the award-winning Gigi, God's Little 
Sheila Walsh
Princess® brand which has sold over 1.5 million units. Sheila is also a powerful communicator, Bible teacher, and best-selling author with more than 4 million books sold. As a featured speaker with Women of Faith®, Sheila has reached more than 3.5 million women by artistically combining honesty, vulnerability, and humor with God's Word.

Author of the best-selling memoir Honestly and the Gold Medallion nominee for The Heartache No One Sees, Sheila's most recent release, The Shelter of God's Promises, has also been turned into a DVD curriculum and in-depth Bible study.The Gigi, God's Little Princess book and video series has won the National Retailer's Choice Award twice and is the most popular Christian brand for young girls in the United States.

Sheila co-hosted The 700 Club and her own show Heart to Heart with Sheila Walsh. She is currently completing her Masters in Theology.

My Take:  I love it!  It has so much information that I want my 13 year old daughter to know!  Along with fun activities, cute illustrations, help with social situations, etiquette and manners, the author drives home the most important aspect - you are a daughter of a King.  You are a child of God and he loves you when you are having a good day and when you are having a bad day.  Scriptures are included to support each area.

My favorite parts of the book are dressing for the occasion, including modesty.  She includes suggestions for being fashionable and modest (leggings under short skirts or dresses, a long t-shirt for low-riding jeans or shop in the boys department) and how to select a tiara that is best suited for you.  Every little girl should own a tiara.  In fact, every woman should own one, too.

I think I'll go get one right now...

God's Little Princess KINDLE Giveaway

Blog Post:
Sheila Walsh is celebrating the release of How to Be God’s Little Princess with a KINDLE giveaway and Facebook Princess Tea Party!

“In How to Be God’s Little Princess, it’s my prayer that young girls will learn important life skills and discover for themselves how to navigate the do’s and don’ts of life. I want them to see that making wise decisions about clothes, friends, family, make-up, and more can be FUN! – Sheila Walsh

Read what people are saying here.

Sheila has put together a Princess prize package worth over $200!

One lucky winner will receive:

    * A brand new KINDLE with Wi-Fi & New Pearl Screen
    * How to Be God’s Little Princess (autographed copy)
    * A Princess Tea Kit (includes princess backpack, tiara, book, jewelry making kit, & mug)

To enter click on entry ports below, then tell your friends! Hurry, giveaway ends 4/30! But wait! There’s more … On May 4th join Sheila at her Author Page on Facebook for the Princess Tea Party! She will announce the winner of the KINDLE, connect with readers and give away a ton of fun products from the Gigi and God’s Little Princess line! Tweens invited! Don’t miss the fun! She is looking forward to connecting and learning more about you – so be sure to stop by on May 4th at 5:00 PM PST (6 PM MST, 7 PM CST, & 8 PM EST).

Enter Via:
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In accordance to FTC rules, I disclose that this book was given to me in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Bumped by Megan Mccafferty

The story takes place in the year 2035.  In the attrition laden U.S. of A, a virus has flamed through the population and, by the time a person is around 18 years old, they are no longer virile.  The only people who can have babies are those who have reached adolescence but not obsolescence (I may have not spelled that one right) or sterility.

At the moment, there are three kinds of teens and their attitudes regarding babies: 1) teens bumping with people they know (not necessarily who they love) to get pregnant and give their babies up for adoption to a couple who can't have them, 2) teens who have gone pro - for a large sum and more perks than imaginable, they will have sex with whoever the couple dictates to get pregnant, carry the pregnancy then get paid off and 3) the Churchies - think fundamentalists that dictate how all their members think, feel, and marry.  Very controlling.

So it is rare that a couple who actually couple (ahem) together will raise the babies they birth.  So 16 years ago, identical twin girls were dropped off at a hospital.  They are the protagonists of this story.  Melody is completely pro.  Her parents have been grooming her for all of her 16 years to birth to the highest bidder.  She is drop dead gorgeous and talented to the highest degree.  Her test scores in all areas are perfect.  If they are not perfect, they are near perfect because her parents have her regimented beyond imagination.  Although she is 16 and really should have popped out at least one or two kids by now (based on her childbearing window), she is contracted by a couple and will have sex with whoever they choose to be the sperm donor.  She is the first girl in her school to go pro even though she hasn't yet consummated with anybody.

Harmony, Melody's sister, is a Churchie.  She reads her bible every day, has prayerclique with her house sisters and brothers and marries whoever the church leaders tell her to.  They are to never question the rules or the coupling.  Never leave the gates except to be missionaries or for agricultural needs.  Cover up their skin and be chaste.  But Harmony shows up on Melody's doorstep (facespace) with unclear intentions.  Not a good time since Melody's partner is about to be announced and the identical twin thing just might impact her price.

Intriguing dystopic idea.  In and of itself, disturbing that only teenagers can make babies which forces the issue of surrogacy, health concerns, casual sex, and all the other problems with current teenage pregnancy (except STD's.  Although HIV is obliterated, the other viruses are not mentioned even though the cheer clones have no standards).  The writing style flows and is well developed.  It's not Jane Austen or John Grisham.  It is clearly geared toward youth.

Cringe-worthy are the extremes.  The Churchies are not moderated; there is no in between.  If you believe in marriage, love and monogamy, you are a Churchie who lives apart from the rest of the world and do only as you are told and, in some religious pockets in the country, exists.  The other extreme is the idea of sex without intimacy or commitment.  Even the teens who get knocked up by a significant other do not view their own pregnancies or couplehood as a family unit.  Family takes on a new and bizarre meaning.  That whole scene is like high school health on steroids.  Ick.

It is the first in series and ends in a cliffhanger.  I liked the story development without the cringe-worthy aspects.  I loved the way Jondoe turns out to be more complex and I definitely saw the Zen connection.  The resolution of the complications will prove interesting.  I will not provide the spoiler that I am totally dying to give regarding mistaken identity nor will I let on whether or not THAT is consummated.

I am mature.  Sort of.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Monster High by Lisi Harrison Review

Monster High

From Goodreads:  From Lisi Harrison, the New York Times bestselling author of The Clique and Alphas, comes a new series with a fresh twist on high school, romance, and the horrors of trying to fit in.

They prefer to call themselves RAD (Regular Attribute Dodgers), but some call them monsters. So far, the "monster" community has kept a low profile in Salem, but this year two new girls enroll at Master High School, and the town will never be the same.

Created just fifteen days ago, Frankie Stein is psyched to trade her father's formaldehyde-smelling basement lab for parties and cheerleading. But with a student body totally freaked out by rumors of monsters who might be stalking the halls, Frankie finds that life in the "normi" world can be rough for a chic freak like her.

She thinks she finds a friend in fellow new student Melody Carver--but can a normi be trusted with her big secret?

My Take:  This is simply a fun read.  It's a fresh take on new kid at high school story.  Frankie is adorable and hilarious and looking forward to showing her true colors.  Unfortunately, this is not to be.  Frankie ends up at a normal high school and has to hide who she is.  Yet her personality still makes it through the disguise.  Frankie also has the same condition as every Barbie doll.  No, not the part where all Barbies must be naked.  Body parts pop off far too easily and at critical moments.  It's hilarious.

Melody Carver is the other protagonist.  She is also entertaining but not as much as Frankie.  She's a normi and provides a different point of view for the reader.  

It's giddy and trendy.  The author uses fun word plays and works them into high school vernacular.  There are good messages smattered throughout the story but overall it is just good, clean entertainment.


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Freshman Survival Guide Review and GIVEAWAY

The Freshman Survival Guide: 25 Things You Need to Know About College

From Goodreads:  A values-based guide to navigating that critical first year of college that speaks to college students in their own language and offers practical tools that readers need to keep from drinking, sleeping or skipping their way out of college.

There are numerous guides for choosing a college, paying for college and getting good grades in college But THE FRESHMAN SURVIVAL GUIDE is the first to offer advice on academics, relationships and lifestyle and combine it with guidance on how to cope with the spiritual, emotional and ethical questions and issues that confront young adults.

Divided into five sections (Relationships, Identity &Spirituality, Academics, Risk, Balance), the book tackles issues that include: Homesickness 

• Learning Who You Are 
• Real Stats on Mental Health 
• 10 Reasons to Show Up to Class 
• Are Your Earning Your BA or Your IM 
• Safety: Don't Be Paranoid, Just be Smart 
• Doritos Is Not A Food Group 
• and 19 other equally pertinent areas that other college guides don't address.

This is one college guidebook that freshman won't be ashamed to read and keep in their backpacks.

My Take:  This is not a riveting read that kept me up at all hours of the night.  That said, I love this book. Why?  Point of reference:  I am a mother, a high school counselor, and a college survivor.  I read this book like a eat at a buffet.  I picked and chose chapters to read.  Almost everything I read was right on the money for me as a college student those many years ago.  What I didn't relate to that our kids will - is the technology issues.

Some of the topics covered:
  1. Dealing with roommates.  How to handle differences, moochers, household needs (toilet paper, cleaners, etc.) what to do when you are sexiled (roommie brought home another guy in the room).  
  2. Be Generous with Your Friendship but Stingy with Your Trust
  3. Who Are You? How the college student evolves in the absence of parents.
  4. Go to class.  As a successful college student (meaning I graduated a few times), this is the biggest determinant of success.  Skip class, miss important information, fail course.  College moves much more quickly than high school.  Just go.  Period.  
  5. Procrastination.  Very relevant.
  6. Technology.  Use it as a tool not as an escape.  
  7. Get Involved but not too involved - balancing extra-curricular with school.
  8. Religious evolution
  9. Sex and alcohol at college.  The tips encourage moderation but with the understanding that neither sex nor alcohol are a required course at college.  Weird as it seems, I went to college for six years, lived on campus, was highly involved, dated up a storm and graduated with a Master's degree, virgin, and having never imbibed.  Yes, it can be done.
  10. Hygiene.  Don't be gross.
  11. Healthy eating
  12. Managing time.
These are just a few of the topics covered.  Relevant information presented in a concise manner.  Also includes quotes from other college students, helpful tips, and interactive activities on the site  I didn't spend a lot of time exploring the site but  to me it was just another distraction.  The relevant information is contained within the pages of the book.  If the book was a freshman class, I could see using the interactive tools on the site but unnecessary.

Every graduating senior who is college bound should have a copy.

Although I'm still waiting for a response, I'm pretty sure the amazing and wonderful Sarah at HBG will sponsor a giveaway for this book.  Yay Sarah and SURPRISE!  

Fill out the form HERE.

U.S. and Canada only
No P.O. boxes
Ends 4/30

Hoppy Easter Eggstravaganza Blog Hop

Hoppy Easter Eggstravaganza Blog Hop
April 20th to 25th

Hosted by I Am A Reader, Not A Writer

What you get to win on this site is a lovely copy of the following: 
Twice a Spy: A Novel

In the tradition of Robert Ludlum, with a witty twist, Thomson’s second novel featuring a former spy and his son once again poses the question: What happens when a former CIA agent can no longer trust his own mind?

Charlie and Drummond Clark are now in Switzerland, hiding out from criminal charges in America and using the time to experiment with treatments to retrieve Drummond’s memory. When NSA operative Alice Rutherford, with whom Charlie has fallen in love, is kidnapped, the Clarks must dodge a formidable CIA case officer and his team to get her back.

My take:  Charlie is a former spy of the CIA.  Charlie is starting to get older and is already showing signs of early onset Alzheimer's.  The one person he turns to for help is his son who is a deadbeat gambler.  Bottom line is that Charlie holds a lot of secrets in his progressively cloudy head.  The CIA is not very happy and feel the need to take out the possible security breach (Charlie).  Action-packed, thrilling to the end.  Fun read.

Fill out the form below or click HERE for the same form but prettier because it takes up the whole page.  And it's easier to fill out.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Compulsion by Heidi Ayarbe Book Tour and GIVEAWAY

From Publisher: 

Today has to be perfect.
I look at the clock.
10:14 am.
Ten fourteen. One plus one is two plus four is six plus ten is sixteen minus one is fifteen minus two is thirteen. OK.

I turn from the clock and walk into the hallway. "Ready.”

Saturday will be the third state soccer championship in a row for Jake Martin. Three. A good number. Prime. With Jake on the field, Carson City High can’t lose, because Jake has the magic: a self-created protection generated by his obsession with prime numbers. It’s the magic that has every top soccer university recruiting Jake, the magic that keeps his family safe, and the magic that suppresses his anxiety attacks. But the magic is Jake’s prison, because getting it means his compulsions take over nearly every aspect of his life.

Jake’s convinced the magic will be permanent after Saturday, the perfect day, when every prime has converged. Once the game is over, he won’t have to rely on his sister, Kasey, to concoct excuses for his odd rituals. His dad will stop treating him like he is some freak. Maybe he’ll even make a friend other than Luc.

But what if it doesn’t work?

What if the numbers never go away?

Acclaimed author Heidi Ayarbe has created an honest and riveting portrait of a teen struggling with obsessive compulsive disorder in this courageous and breathtaking novel.

Top 10 ways Jacob spends his time.

10.  Playing soccer
9.  Imagining life without the "need"
8.  Worrying about his sister, Kasey.
7.  Chewing his food 5 times on one side of his mouth, 7 times on the other.
6.  Tapping the grandfather clock three times.
5.  Trying to appear normal.
4.  Perseverating about that one night.
3.  Enabling his mother.
2.  Thinking bad words that should be washed out with soap
1.  Adding, subtracting, dividing, and square rooting the time until it is a prime number.
0.  Ten is not a prime number, therefore I must add one more - Holding still until the time equals a prime number.

For more of Jacob's saga, join the book tour, compliments of The {Teen} Book Scene.   For encore showings of OCD, stick with me, kid.  


So Heidi, the author is not only a brilliant story weaver and empathetic for the OCD/anxiety types (not that I'd know ANYTHING about that), but she is offering PRIZES!  What prizes you ask?  Well...


{insert images here}

Oh, yeah.  Heidi has a life that includes traveling the world and is currently in Columbia and will return sometime in May.  At that time, she will send all the prize packages which will include the following swag: 


signed book plate 

book marks

 Good Luck Charm (probably from Columbia and not the Hawaiian Bobby Brady kind, I hope)

Fill out the form below.

I included the spilled glue to irritate the OCD people out there.  

You just want to clean it up, don't you?