18-year-old Becky Randle, a recent high school graduate, works for a local grocery chain and lives in the trailer she inherited when her mom died (from complications of diabetes/being morbidly obese). One day, Becky thinks she hears her mom’s ringtone and, while searching for the phone, unearths a phone number on a scrap of paper inside an otherwise empty jewelery box. She wonders if the phone number has anything to do with the cryptic thing her mother said on the day she died — “[S]omething is going to happen to you. And it’s going to be magical.” So Becky decides to take a chance and calls the number. It’s almost too good to be true when the person on the other end of the line offers her $1000 and a plane ticket to New York City, but she has nothing to lose and decides to check it out.
Upon her arrival in NYC, she is brought to see fashion designer Tom Kelly, who offers to make her three dresses and to transform her into the most beautiful woman in the world. Becky doesn’t believe him at first, but her best friend Rocher uses some extremely colorful language to convince her to go for it. (Rocher’s expletive-laden exclamations were often hilarious, and one was so good that I actually pulled over and recorded it with my cell phone so I could later play it back for my husband. AFTER the kids had gone to bed, of course!) Anyhow… Tom comes through and works some sort of crazy magic and Becky really is transformed! She becomes Rebecca — who is tall, thin, and gorgeous, with perfect skin and hair. She can eat anything she wants without gaining an ounce, and this gives her loads more confidence than Becky ever had. The only problem is that Rebecca needs to fall in love and get married within a year or everything will go back to the way it was before.
Just as it took me WAY too long to get around to listening to this audiobook, it has taken me WAY too long to post my review… Not cool, Chrissie. Not cool! (Especially since it won a Printz Honor and that should have been excuse enough to post about it.) I need to do something about my back log of books to be reviewed, and some of my readers are on February break this week, so I need to get down to business and start pumping out some extra book reviews. Enjoy!
Eleanor & Park takes place in 1986, so it is technically “historical fiction” to the teens I serve today… I mean, they weren’t even BORN yet! (Wow, that makes me feel old!) Though it was fun to reminisce about big hair, bold makeup, “Walkman” tape players, and phones on a cord, this story was not a fluffy look back on the 80s. It was a touching story about how one person can make all the difference when the whole world seems to be against you. About how halting conversations about shared interests, like comic books and music, can open the door to friendship. And about how a barely-there friendship can blossom and turn into love. Park’s family is “Leave it to Beaver” perfect, and he is relatively popular at school. Eleanor’s home life is horrid and the kids at school take great pleasure in bullying her about her clothes, weight, and unruly red hair. And yet, Park can’t help himself. He doesn’t care what everyone else thinks about “his” Eleanor. He only knows he will do whatever it takes to try and make her happy.
To be completely honest, there was only one thing I didn’t like about this book… It ended! Seriously, though, I *really* hope that the ending was not just a “form your own opinion about what happened” thing but, instead, left it open for a sequel. A girl can hope, right?!? ;-)
I usually hate admitting when something makes me feel this stupid, but I just have to share this crazy story with y’all. I got about half way through Living With Jackie Chan and actually got into a conversation with a friend about how much I love Jo Knowles’ books before I realized this was a companion book to Jumping Off Swings! Seriously… I was telling her about how Jumping Off Swings affected me so much that I literally could not put the book down before I finished it, woke my husband up with my crying, and then had to go in and cuddle with my sleeping son [at 2am] before I could calm down enough to sleep. (I was pregnant for my daughter at the time, so I guess you can blame some of it on the hormones too!) When I started to describe this story, I stopped talking mid-sentence and said, “OH MY GOD! Josh is the guy from the first book!” Yeah… I’m quick like that! Maybe it wasn’t mentioned in the book review I read when I ordered this book? And, I know I didn’t read the book flap before starting to read the book when I picked it up off the shelf… But, still, I loved Jumping Off Swings so much that it’s hard to believe I forgot the character names and also didn’t put two and two together when I first started this story. /sigh
Living With Jackie Chan is a continuation of Josh’s story. After getting Ellie pregnant, he feels like a horrible person and finds it difficult to move on with his life. His Uncle Larry agrees to let Josh live with him while he finishes high school. And, while starting over in a new city with a “clean slate” seems like a good idea, Josh finds it impossible to embrace this fresh start. Even if no one at the new school knows what happened last year, HE knows what he did and can’t manage to forgive himself. Fortunately, Uncle Larry convinces Josh to help out with his karate classes at the local YMCA — which provides Josh with a positive new focus and a chance to make a new friend, Stella.
When people ask Richard Casey what’s wrong with him, he likes to reply that he has SUTHY syndrome. He waits an uncomfortable beat and then explains that SUTHY stands for “Somebody Up There Hates You.” After all, what other reason would there be for a 17-year-old to be in hospice care with a terminal cancer diagnosis? If I hadn’t already read John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, I may not have believed it was possible that Seamon could have written so much humor into this story. Between Rich’s wry sense of humor and his bumbling romance with a girl named Sylvie [the only other teen in the hospice unit], I laughed out loud often enough that my cat gave up on falling asleep in my lap — and that never happens! If you already read TFiOS and need something to hold you over until the movie comes out in June, you will probably enjoy this story too.
To be completely honest, I chose to read this book last summer because it counted for a square on the Adult Summer Reading BINGO card! (It was a gardening theme, and the book had the name of a flower in the title.) The fact that I didn’t get around to reviewing this book until now, nevertheless, is not any indication of the quality of the story. I am just *very* bad at reviewing books as soon as I finish them. I have such a back-log to get through that I often play “eeny, meeny, miny, moe” to pick which one to do!
Though this book tells the story of a 15-year-old girl named Tiger Lily, it is actually narrated by a fairy named Tinkerbell. [Yes, the same Tinkerbell you've heard of before!] Tiger Lily, a native girl who has always lived as an outcast of sorts within her tribe, is desperate to find a way out of marrying a horrid man to whom she has been betrothed. Tiger Lily spends time in the woods to avoid her tribe and to try to escape her life, if only for short periods of time, and ends up running into Peter Pan and the Lost Boys. Not only does she fall for Peter, fully knowing she can’t actually make a life with him, but then Wendy Darling shows up in Neverland… If you aren’t don’t get your heart broken at least once by the end of this story, you don’t have a heart.
I was very resistant to use an e-reader for quite some time, but recently got a Kindle Fire so my nearly-4-year-old daughter could have a tablet to play with while her older brother plays video games. (She doesn’t quite get how to play yet and always gets frustrated. But, I digress.) The main point is that I still didn’t really anticipate that I would actually use my tablet to read ebooks. Until, that is, my director told me the first chapter of Cress was available on NetGalley! (For those of you who don’t know, Cress is book three in the Lunar Chronicles — which began with Cinder and Scarlett.) It was amazing… but it was only one chapter. So, I decided to see what else was available. As I was browsing through titles to request, I found this book. Talk about kismet! I was anxiously awaiting the new season of Downton Abbey and just *knew* this would give me a quick fix. I was not disappointed!
Charlotte Edmonds is expected to be a perfect lady. After all, how will she land the perfect husband if she doesn’t dress, speak, and act exactly as society expects? She seems to be a constant disappointment to her mother, Lady Diana, who has her sights set on a marriage proposal from Lord Andrew Broadhurst before Charlotte even makes it to her first season. Even though her best friend, Fran, seems content to play by the rules and to hope for a marriage proposal from a suitable man, Charlotte longs for more — for fun, spontaneity, and a career as a writer. When Charlotte spies a scullery maid, Janie, sneaking away from a garden party to wade in the lake on a hot summer day, she decides to try it too. Thus begins an unlikely friendship between the girls. Secret rendezvous and rule-breaking abound as Charlotte and Janie try to find a way to live the lives they want instead of the lives they’ve been pigeonholed into, and all of The Manor’s secrets come spilling out. The ending is tidy enough, but just begs for a sequel.
People have been telling me to read this series since the first book came out. And, although I trust the opinions of the people who kept recommending it, I kept thinking about how often I get frustrated waiting for the next books to come out in all the series I read. I get so caught up in the characters that waiting for the next book in a series is like waiting to reunite with a friend who just moved away and won’t be home to visit for at least another year. I don’t get desperate, per se, but it’s not fun to have to keep on waiting all the time! So, I purposely waited to even get started. For real. I just refused to start this series until I knew the third book was almost out. And, boy, am I glad I decided to wait!
Beatrice Prior was born into a society divided into five factions — Abnegation (the selfless), Amity (the peaceful), Candor (the honest), Dauntless (the brave), and Erudite (the intelligent). Although she was born into Abnegation, her society came up with a selection process by which teens could choose to stay in their given faction or to move to a different faction. In preparation for making her choice, Beatrice went through a simulation that was supposed to narrow down which faction would be the best fit. Something went wrong, though, and Beatrice’s test proctor informed her that her test results were anything but definitive; Beatrice was Divergent. She didn’t know what it meant, but the proctor made it quite clear that being Divergent was dangerous and that Beatrice should not tell anyone about her results. I don’t know that I can summarize the rest of the series without getting into spoilers, so I will just wrap things up by saying that fans of other dystopias like The Hunger Games and Delirium will not be disappointed.
Fat Angie isn’t exactly the most popular girl at school. She was getting by well enough before, but slitting her wrists and running out onto the court during a basketball game kinda made her a target for the bullies and mean girls like Stacy Ann Sloan. A lot of adults simply take the other students’ word for it when Stacy Ann taunts Angie and says that Angie started a fight, but Coach Laden knew Angie’s sister and has a soft spot in her heart for the troubled girl. After all, she knows Angie’s sister is a big part of the reason Angie is such a mess. Although she was a gifted basketball player and a good student, Angie’s sister decided to enlist in the military instead of going to college. She was later captured in Iraq and has since been presumed dead. Angie refuses to believe that her sister is dead, and she often wears her sister’s old [too small for Angie] basketball t-shirt as a way to keep their connection alive.
When a new girl, KC Romance, comes to town, one of her very first actions is standing up for Angie. Even when Stacy Ann tries to warn KC that Angie is not cool, she doesn’t care. So, Angie goes against her instincts and tries to open up. Making a new friend might not seem like a whole heck of a lot to some people, but it’s pretty heroic when you consider the fact that her own mother and her adopted brother treat her like crap and refuse to acknowledge the anguish that is Angie’s every day. I especially enjoyed the fact that readers were privy to Angie’s inner dialogue so we could share every awkward thought and every frantic grasp for something to say. Whether you want a coming of age novel, a book about bullying, or just something so raw and real you desperately wish you could crawl inside the book to give the main character a hug, you need to read this book. (FWIW, I’ve got my hopes set on at least a Printz Honor for this one.)
When Tamsin was born, her grandmother predicted that she would be one of the most Talented witches in their family. Now that she is 17 years old, it seems pretty clear that Tamsin has no Talent and her grandmother must have been mistaken. She is really embarrassed by her lack of Talent and frequently wishes to be more like her older, more beautiful, and extremely Talented sister, Rowena. While working for her family’s bookstore/magic shop, Tamsin is approached by a handsome young professor who would like help locating a family heirloom cuckoo clock. Unfortunately, Tamsin has no idea that locating this clock could upset the balance of good and evil. So, when he mistakenly calls her Rowena [who is fairly well known for her ability to locate lost items], she chooses not to correct him and, instead, tries to use this as an opportunity to prove herself.
I GOT TO MEET LAURIE HALSE ANDERSON, Y’ALL!
Because I’m the [2013-2014] President of the Youth Services Section of the New York Library Association, I got to sit at the head table during the 2013 YSS Empire State Award Luncheon. Since Laurie Halse Anderson was the 2013 ESA winner, I had the honor of meeting/lunching with her! It was amazing to have the opportunity to get to know [even briefly] an author whose work has so affected me and the teens I work with. In addition to discussing her research for her next book, our mutual love for the Sterling Renaissance Fair, my work at my library and with YSS, and her views on “reluctant readers” — she thinks we should switch to the phrase “readers with very high standards” — we also took the super-hilarious profile picture my Facebook link now sports. Yeah… That happened! The icing on the cake, though, was when I received a signed copy of this ARC.
Hayley Kincain’s father is a military veteran who is haunted by his past. Though he obviously suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, he refuses to get professional help. Unfortunately, Hayley plays into the illusion that they can manage on their own and lies to everyone, including herself, about how well her father is doing. After returning from the Middle East, her dad has spent much of his time running from his past while self-medicating with drugs and alcohol. He has decided to try moving back to his hometown, though, so he can provide Hayley with more stability — like being enrolled in a traditional high school instead of being unschooled as they travel around the country in his big rig. Sometimes, it’ll seem like he’s getting his act together… But then something will trigger his PTSD and he’ll spiral out of control all over again. Fortunately, Haley manages to reconnect with a childhood friend, Gracie, and make a connection with a guy named Finn whose friendship [and love?] might just give her the strength she needs to face her harsh reality.