Friday, May 28, 2010

Scarlett Fever

Scarlett Fever
by Maureen Johnson

After a successful summer run of Hamlet set in her parents' hotel, Scarlett and her family must now get back to the normal routines of running the run-down hotel, and Scarlett must now go back to school.

Unfortunately, Scarlett is still dealing with her break-up from Eric, as well as her needy boss, the owner of a new talent agency.  So things aren't as smooth as she would like.

Her brother, Spencer, finally lands the job of a lifetime, with a few consequences that affect the family.  Her older sister may be getting back together with her ex, Chip.  And her younger sister is being strangely nice.  

So Scarlett's life should be getting better.  But when her boss sets her sights on getting a new  fifteen year-old talent, Chelsea, Scarlett is forced to step in and be like a friend to her, and Chelsea's brother, Max.  And Max is really difficult to get along with.

Can Scarlett get over Eric, help her brother's career, keep her family intact, be Chelsea's friend, and figure out Max's motives?

Final thoughts:  I'd missed the first book in the series, Suite Scarlett, so it was a bit like jumping feet-first into the middle of the pool, but it was easy to get into the story.  There were some fun moments and the characters are great.  My only complaint is that it ends like a soap opera cliffhanger.  It's like the book is missing the chapter that would have at least rounded things out.

Rating: 3/5

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Magic Under Glass

Magic Under Glass
by Jaclyn Dolamore

Nimira was born into a respected family with a mother who could sing like an angel and a father who adored her.  Unfortunately, after her mother died, her father became a gambling addict and destroyed the family's reputation and wealth, so Nim left to find her fortune and try to save her family name.

Four years later and Nim is still singing with a traveling performance troupe and still getting nowhere.  That's until Hollin Parry shows up and makes her an offer.  She can come live in his home, have food and clothing, and sing at performances with a wind-up automaton that plays piano, which Parry recently acquired.

Nim takes him up on it, even though there are rumors that the automaton is haunted.  She decides it's worth the risk.

What she finds, however, is not an automaton, but a fairy prince who has been trapped in the automaton for decades and only wants to be free.  She also finds love, a mystery woman, intrigues, and dark magic.

Can she save the fairy prince and herself before it's too late?

Final thoughts:  Mixed feelings.  It was an easy read, but I often felt like things had been skipped or missed.  And this book was the opposite of Dragonfly in the sense that it appears that the author has decided to make this a series, possibly a trilogy, when there really isn't a need for one.  For the first 3/4 of the book, it's going along at a pace that will have everything neatly tied up at the end.  But it feels like the author decided at this point that she wanted to make this two or three books instead, so she switches gears, changes up the plot, and we're suddenly left with a kind of strange cliff-hanger.

Rating: 2/5 - Ok, but get it at the library instead of buying it for yourself.

NOTE:  As you can see from the cover images, this book was printed in 2010, but already has three covers.  This is one of those books with a "cover controversy".  Bloomsbury, the publisher of this book, initially used the image of the Caucasian girl for the cover, when Nim is clearly described as having a Middle Eastern appearance.  There has been quite a bit of talk in the blog world about this, much like the controversy over Justine Larbalestier's Liar.  This is an interesting publishing phenomena that could make for a cool research study.  I know I'd read about it.

Friday, May 21, 2010


by Jenny Moss

Shadow has always lived with the queen.  She's supposed to protect her.  A prophecy told when the queen was born warns that she will be killed by her sixteenth birthday.  So Shadow is supposed to be there to take the arrow or sword in her stead.

But when Shadow fails and the queen dies anyway, she's taken by a young knight on a journey of magic and discovery.

Her world isn't what she thought it was.

Final thoughts:  Awful, awful book.  It's obvious from the beginning what the "twist" is and it's dull in the extreme getting there.  The writing is poor and the story even more so.  Moss spends no time on any one, single aspect of the story or the world it's set in.  She can't make up her mind about the characters and their motivations.  They love each other, despise each other, like each other, can't stand each other... So annoying.  It's not a progression of one emotion to the other; it's relationship ADD or schizophrenia.  Not worth the trouble.

Rating: 1/5

Thursday, May 20, 2010


by Julia Golding

When the kingdoms of Gerfal and the Blue Crescent Islands become the targets of an evil ruler plotting to conquer all lands and make them his, there seems to be no choice but to ally together with an arranged marriage between the Prince of Gerfal, Ramil, and the Fourth Crown Princess of the Blue Crescent Islands, Taoshira (Tashi).  

Everyone understands the importance of the marriage.  Everyone understands that this may be the only way for the two countries to survive the war that's coming.

Of course, that all flies out the window when Tashi, who was brought up with strict rules of conduct and behavior, meets Ramil, who... wasn't.

They dislike each other on sight and unintended insults make things worse and force Tashi to call the whole thing off.

Unfortunately, they're going to need to figure out how to work together because instead of the war coming to them, they're being forced to go to the war.

Now they must deal with kidnappers, attempted brainwashing, religious fanatics, slavery, near-death experiences, and the deadly ruler of the armies that are heading to their kingdoms.

Can Tashi and Ram learn to work together, even when their worlds are so completely different?

Final thoughts:  This one dragged me in and wouldn't let me go.  It sped through the story and even forced a few gut reactions from me.  Golding easily could have turned this into a fantasy trilogy, like so many authors do; but she's chosen to squash it all into one book.  In many ways, this is great!  No waiting around for the last book.  However, there are a few scenes that I think could have been fleshed out more and really given some depth.  And some events happen so fast that if you blink, you miss them.  There is also a smaller story about religion and religious tolerance here.  It's very timely in the sense that many people seem to believe that their religion is the only one that matters and everyone should follow it, no matter what.  This story touches on the idea of letting each person have their own faith and leave them to it.  Don't judge that faith and don't judge the person on that faith.  There are more in this series coming from Golding, though it seems to be a series based on the world that was created, rather than the characters, so I'm not sure if we'll see Ram and Tashi again... but I hope we do!

Rating: 4/5

Monday, May 17, 2010


by Kate Cann

Rayne has lived in one of the most crowded sections of London all her life.  Even her apartment with her mother and brother is crowded.  Each night is filled with the sounds of traffic, yelling, horns, and violence. All she wants is a little peace and quiet.

She gets her chance when she lands a job at Morton's Keep, a manor house far from London.  So she takes a year off of school to try and figure out who she is.

Everything starts off great.  She's happy.  It's quiet.  And there's a very good-looking boy who seems to be very interested in her.

Unfortunately, the manor itself isn't quiet.  It's seething within with some sort of evil and Rayne can feel it whenever she walks through the oldest parts of the building.  

Something's in there... And it wants out.

Final thoughts:  Eh.  It was a HUGE build-up to a lack-luster end.  There is a sequel coming out, so this may end up being the exposition to a series.  Blah in the extreme.

Rating: 2/5

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Karma Club

The Karma Club
by Jessica Brody

Things are going great for Madison.  She's had the best boyfriend ever for the last two years.  She has two amazing best friends.  And her submission for the Contempo Girl magazine's "Meet My Boyfriend" has just been published for all the world to see.  Now she can be seen with the most popular girls at school and attend the exclusive Saturday night parties at "The Loft".

But things all come crashing down when she discovers her boyfriend kissing the most popular and elite girl of them all.  Now Maddy has to make a choice: sit around and wait for Karma to punish him or help Karma out.

The choice is obvious.

So Maddy and her friends plot revenge on the four people who have done them the most wrong at school, and her ex is at the top of the list.

Unfortunately, Karma doesn't like it when you try and do its job for it.  And now Karma wants a little revenge of its own.

Can Maddy put things right before it's too late?

Final thoughts:  This was a fun read.  Everyone has had a moment or two to think about the perfect revenge against those who've caused harm.  Watching Maddy and her friends take down the students who've harmed them is very satisfying and Karma's response is realistic without being over the top.  "What goes around comes around" is excellently displayed here.

Final rating: 4/5

Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Lonely Hearts Club

The Lonely Hearts Club
by Elizabeth Eulberg

For as long as she can remember, Penny has dreamed of her future with Nate, the son of her parents' best friends.  They've hung out every summer, and every summer she's become more and more infatuated.  In fact, she's finally decided that this summer is THE summer.  

Unfortunately, Nate got tired of waiting, and when Penny goes down the stairs, ready to show Nate how much she loves him, she finds that he's not alone.  And then he even has the nerve to blame HER!

So she decides she's had enough!

She forms The Lonely Hearts Club (named after her favorite group's song "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band") with the express purpose of Not dating boys for the remainder of high school.  As her friends at school begin having problems with boys, they also join up.  Soon she has dozens of girls who hang out with each other every Saturday night and support each other in all things, even those not dealing with boys.

Unfortunately for Penny, one of the nicest, most popular boys in school has taken an interest in her, and she's more than a little interested in him.

Can she resolve her feelings about her club and guys before things get out of control?

Final thoughts:  Yet another cotton candy book.  No brain drain, and a simple message.  It's fun and relaxing.  Fans of The Beatles will enjoy the references throughout the book since Penny is named after Penny Lane and she regularly looks to Beatles songs for inspiration and solace.

Rating: 4/5

Thursday, May 6, 2010

My Invisible Boyfriend

My Invisible Boyfriend
By Susie Day

Heidi has a hard time finding and meeting friends.  Her parents have moved from boarding school to boarding school to be teachers and administrators for as long as Heidi can remember.  That means that she also goes from boarding school to boarding school.  It’s hard to find friends when you don’t stay long and your parents can give kids detention at the drop of a hat.

Now Heidi has a real chance at friendship with a group of friends nicknamed “The Leftover Squad” whom she met the previous semester before summer break.  For once, she gets to stay at the same school, with the same kids.

Unfortunately, things changed over the summer.  Now all of her friends have boyfriends and she’s still fifteen and loveless.  Feeling left out, Heidi decides to create a guy of her own: Gingerbread Ed.  Part gingerbread man, bought from the tea shop she works at; part Mycroft Christie, fictional time-traveling hero of Heidi’s favorite TV show; part Heidi herself.  Mix together, create an online profile, and bake until ready for the world.

Now Heidi has the perfect guy; he’s so perfect that her friends are now emailing him for advice about relationships, dating, and even Heidi herself.

Of course, secrets this big are hard to keep, and when Heidi begins getting email from “arealboy” telling her that he knows what she’s doing, Heidi has to make a choice.  Keep the invisible boy and risk everyone finding out, or dump him and become known as the loveless loser again.

Final thoughts:  It’s set in England, so there’s an immediate problem with culture shock.  Day also has a weird way of expressing shock with statements like “ORES UM”, “PARD ON MOY”, and “OUTS TAN DING”, some of which are hard to interpret.  She also skips a lot of exposition and jumps almost headlong into the story, causing a bit of confusion.  However, once past the initial moments of “toss her in and see if she can swim”, it becomes a fairly good read.  There are no great messages or value statements; it’s just a rom-com type story that could be easily made into a formulaic movie.  Cotton candy, but with an English (as in England-English) twist in the language.

Rating: 4/5

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Standing for Socks

Standing for Socks
by Elissa Brent Weissman

Fara Ross is a soon-to-be-sixth-grader who wants to make the world a better place.  She loves recycling and saving water by washing fewer dishes. (You don't need a dish if you wear your morning bagel as a ring!)  She hopes to do good things, have good friends, and make good decisions.

After accidentally wearing two different colored socks to school one day, Fara decides that socks will help her make a statement about individuality, so she begins intentionally mixing her socks before school each morning.  Soon, she is famous for her socks and people begin listening to her.

And it's a good thing, too, because now she wants to be the sixth grade class president and she'll need all the publicity she can get to beat out snotty Melodee Simon.

Unfortunately, she's soon only known for her socks and, while socks could help her get elected, they aren't how Fara wants people to remember her.

Can she be an individual and still be herself?

Final thoughts: This is a typical upper-elementary book that's written for that age level.  The writing is a little stilted, but the story is sweet.

Rating: 3/5

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood

Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood
by Eileen Cook

At the end of their eighth grade year, Helen Worthington and Lauren Wood witnessed the seniors at their future high school pulling the annual senior prank.  Helen was content to keep the secret, but Lauren used it as the way to make it into the popular crowd.  And she did it by telling on the seniors and then blaming Helen.  Now Helen is the "Snitch B!tch" and Lauren is the queen.

Luckily, Helen's parents get an offer in New York over the summer and Helen moves with them.  For three years, Helen has planned the perfect revenge.  She's dreamed of all the ways to take Lauren down, all while tracking Lauren's every move on Facebook. 

Now, Helen has to move back and live with her grandma and Helen is given the chance to destroy Lauren.  It helps that she's shed 30 pounds and got an unintentional nose job after breaking her's in an accident.  She can be whoever she wants and she wants to be Claire Dantes, popular girl from New York who summers in France.

Once her identity is established, she begins her multi-step plan to take Lauren's boyfriend, her best friends, her part in the school play, and her spot as head cheerleader.
But will destroying Lauren be everything she thought it would be?  Or will Helen/Claire become the next Lauren Wood.

Final thoughts:  Well-written book on friendships and what makes a good one.  There are cotton-candy aspects to it and the resolution seems a little unbelievable, but it's still good.  Having been around too many Lauren's, it's good to see the less-than-popular take some initiative and stand up herself.

Rating: 4/5

Bonus: YouTube Book Trailer available HERE


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