Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Reformed Vampire Support Group

The Reformed Vampire Support Group
by Catherine Jinks

Maybe Stephenie Meyer has it all wrong.  Maybe being a vampire isn't as cool as it looks.

According to Nina, being a vampire is horrible.  Vamps are weak, sick, exhausted, and quite literally dead during the daylight hours. 

Once a week, she and other vamps like her meet to discuss their problems, their hopes, their dreams, and their regrets.  It's been like this since Nina was turned in 1973.  (She's now 51, but still in the body of a 15 year-old.)

But now things have changed.  Their maker, the vamp who started the chain of vamp creations years ago, is dead.  For real this time.  Staked in the heart.  Dust.  And the others must now come together, get past their weak forms, and try to find the guy who did it, before he does it again.

Can they be the stuff of legend?  Or will they all finally breathe their last breaths?

Final thoughts:  Eh.  It was what it was.  It had it's good points, but nothing really stood out.

Rating: 3/5

Thursday, June 24, 2010


by Amy Reed

Cassie has always been a social outcast.  She's smarter than everyone around her, gets A's without trying, and knows all the answers.

When Cassie's mom convinces her dad to move to a new neighborhood, Cassie knows that this is her chance.  No one knows her.  She can be anyone.  She can become anyone.  She can be Someone.

What she becomes is a drug addict who sleeps with a guy just because being his boyfriend means that she'll always have an identity: Ethan's girl.  She drinks any alcohol around.  She takes acid, smokes pot, snorts coke.

Her world is falling apart and the only way for her to cope is to keep doing it all.

The only bright spot in her life is Sarah: a girl more damaged than her who depends on her to keep her safe and sane.

Can Cassie be the person Sarah needs her to be before it's too late?

Final thoughts: The writer has a unique voice, which was hard to get into initially.  But once I got the rhythm, the book was too powerful to put down.  Cassie's downward spiral was realistic and scary.  I kept wondering when her parents would figure out what was going on.  I kept hoping that her academic intelligence would finally clue in her social incompetence as to how she was ruining her life.

Rating: 4/5

Warning: This has mature themes and issues.  Cassie may be only 13, but she's going through things in this book that would make many adults uncomfortable to read about.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Mac Slater Hunts the Cool

Mac Slater Hunts the Cool
by Tristan Bancks

Mac has always been on the outside of things.  He lives in his mother's broken-down bus that she parked in a little art community near the chicken slaughter factory.  He wears second- and third-hand clothes because his mother's only job is making and selling fire batons (not a lot of profit in that).

He's never been what most might call "popular" or "cool".  And after his little stunt on the beach trying to get a bike to fly with a parachute and a solar powered engine, Mac and his pal, Paul, are sure to be at the bottom of the social pool at his middle school.

But the guys who run coolhunters.com see something in him.  So they offer him the chance of a lifetime.  For five days, he has to record and post his own video blog about what's cool in his town.  If his vids get enough hits, he gets a job with them trying out new products, posting about them online, and generally telling everyone out there what's cool and what's not.

Besides not being very cool to most people, the only real problem is that he has to compete against the girl he's had a crush on for ages.  And she's always been "cool".

Can he be himself and still be cool?

Final thoughts: This is definitely more of a "guy" book.  Mac's dealing with a lot of issues with friends, bullies, and his outcast dad who seems to disappear whenever Mac needs him most.  A good book to recommend to reluctant male readers.

Rating: 4/5

Thursday, June 17, 2010


by Amanda Marrone

What if Snow White, her Prince Charming, and her Evil Stepmother had been real?

What if the mirror had also been real?

And what if Snow White had been given that magic mirror and handed it down to her descendants?

Megan is about to find out.

And she has to find out while dealing with her boyfriend (who seems to be waaaayyy too close to his female best friend), her mother (who ignores her), a cute guy (who has his own female follower), her dad (who's been in a coma for ten years), and her twin sister (who is a ghost).


You read that right.

Her sister is a ghost.

And she's trying to tell Megan something.

But with everything else going on is Megan's life, can she figure out what her sister is trying to say?

Final thoughts:  Light read.  Not amazing, but not horrendous.  Interesting premise, but could have been executed with a little more flair.

Rating: 3/5

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner

The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner
by Stephenie Meyer

Bree doesn't remember much of her past, but she remembers every second of the time since she was turned.  She knows that there are some to avoid, one to stick close to, and no one to trust.  No one until she starts talking to Diego.

Now she's finding out all kinds of things about her own kind that she didn't know.  And she's finding out that the world is more dangerous than even she realized.

You may know how Bree's story ends, but here's what happened before that.

Final thoughts:  On its own, Bree's story is interesting.  It's not nearly as fleshed out as Meyer's previous work, so it felt like a different author wrote it in some ways.  Other things are quite familiar.  The only really annoying part was when Bree's story and Bella's came together.  There was too much work to try and get the puzzle to fit right, like putting a square peg in a round hole.  It felt forced, like Meyer was trying to explain too many little things from Eclipse while telling Bree's story: things that didn't really need explaining and actually changed what I thought had happened.  

Rating: 4/5

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Mark

The Mark
by Jen Nadol

At the bus stop, Cassie sees one.  A man.  With a mark.  It's all around him.  There's a light that surrounds him and Cassie thinks she knows what it means.  When she follows him and watches him get hit by a car and die, she's sure she knows what it means.

It's the mark of death.  Those with it have less than 24 hours to live.

And soon after, it surrounds her grandmother.  Despite all her efforts, she fails to stop the inevitable.

Now Cassie must try and figure out what to do with this gift... or curse.  Can she change the future for those who are marked?  Is it right to try?  Or should she just try to avoid paying attention to it at all.

Final thoughts:  Great premise with a really good follow through.  It's possible that this is the first in a series for this girl, so I'm very much looking forward to reading more about Cassie.  Is she alone?  Are there others?  And the philosophical discussions were kind of fun.  However, they may bog down younger readers, since Nadol covers quite a range of philosophical theory while Cassie audits a college philosophy course.

Rating: 5/5

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


by Courtney Sheinmel

Emerson "Emmy" Price was diagnosed with HIV when she was only four years old.  Her mother died from complications due to AIDS when Emmy was just 13.  And now Emmy's entire world has flipped.

She's living with her dad (who abandoned her and her mother soon after the diagnosis) and his new wife, who happens to be very pregnant.

For a while, whenever she does something, Emmy thinks, "This is the first time I've done _____ without a mother."  Later, she thinks about how her mother will never be able to see her do things ever again.  After a while, Emmy even questions the purpose of taking her medications at the same time every day, three times a day.  Would it really matter if she was a little late?  Would it be so horrible if she skipped a dose?

Her dad and stepmother keep trying to reach out to her, and Emmy knows that they are doing it because they love her, but every thought of being nice in return makes her feel like she's betraying her mother.

After going a little crazy and scaring her stepmother, Emmy's dad decides she needs to get away for a while.  So he sends her to Camp Positive, a six-week summer camp that solely designed for HIV-positive girls.  While she doesn't want to go, Emmy has no choice, and now she's with a group of girls just like her.

Will it make a difference?

Final thoughts:  I liked Sheinmel's earlier book, My So-Called Family, so I had good feelings walking into this one.  She could have treated this subject in a very dark way, and Emmy can be very dark, but the overall feeling is one of positivity.  My only complaint would be that the writing from Emmy's point of view felt younger than her 13 years.  I occasionally felt like she was around nine or ten, just by the sentence structure and vocabulary.  Overall, though, a good book and a great resource for kids who are dealing with HIV/AIDS in their own homes and bodies.

Rating: 4/5

Monday, June 7, 2010

Thirteen Reasons Why

Thirteen Reasons Why
by Jay Asher

Hannah Baker is dead.

She killed herself by taking pills, though no one really knows what happened that day.

She's left behind her parents, her secret crush, her desk that is left empty for her, and... tapes.

7 tapes.

13 messages to 13 people.

13 people who were key to getting her to the point of committing suicide.

13 people who possibly started it.

13 people who could have stopped it.

13 people who must now listen to all 7 tapes all the way through and pass them on by mailing them to the next person on the list.

13 people who must listen and mail on the tapes or a second set will be released publicly and everyone will know their dirty little secrets.

Clay Jensen is one of them.  And now it's his turn.

What secrets will he discover?  How will they change him?

Final thoughts:  This is an amazing book that is still haunting my thoughts.  It was so well written that I wanted to read it in one sitting... but couldn't.  The writing was breathtaking, as was the story.  It was so well written that I often had to put it down and take a few moments to get away from Hannah and her story.  For anyone who's ever been the victim of bullies and wondered what would happen if you just disappeared, this is the book you need.  And, if you really are at that point, call 1-800-SUICIDE.  If you know someone who may be at that point, go to www.hopeline.com.  Just don't let anyone become another Hannah.

Rating: 5/5

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Hush, Hush

Hush, Hush
by Becca Fitzpatrick

Nora Grey lost her father last year when some random violence randomly caught and killed him.  Since then, she's spent most nights alone in her family's farmhouse, while her mother tries to keep the bills paid with a job that takes her up and down the coast.
Nora thinks she's doing ok.  She thinks she's handling everything fine.  And, with her friend, Vee, things seem to be getting back to some semblance of normal.

Then Patch walks into her life.

He's gorgeous.  He's dangerous.  And he seems to know everything about her.
Her best friend thinks she should stay away and Nora is fighting herself every time he's near, but she just can't seem to help herself.

And now she's the target of a large person in black, wearing a ski mask.  People are getting injured and dying around her, and the only person who seems to know what's going on is the very person she thinks may be causing all of the problems.

Final thoughts:  About halfway through this, I realized I was reading Twilight.  There were just too many parallels in the story.  And while there aren't any vampires, the similarities between Nora/Bella and Patch/Edward are distracting.  This is also the first in a series, so I'm worried about future books.  Will Patch leave to make Nora safe?  Will he try to kill himself because he thinks she's dead?  Will they have to fight werewolves?  For those who get can past the constant similarities, this could be a great book.  For the rest, not so much.

Rating: 3/5

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Amaranth Enchantment

The Amaranth Enchantment
by Julie Berry

When she was just five years old, Lucinda lost her parents in a tragic accident.  Told that they were penniless debtors, instead of the wealthy merchant she always thought her father to be, Lucinda is forced to live with her uncle and his bitter second wife to work off the debt.

Ten years later, Lucinda is still working.  But events have occurred to change her life when she meets the Amaranth Witch, the heir to the throne, and a pickpocket all in the same day.  

Now she's got to make a deal with the witch and learn to steal from the heir with tips from the pickpocket.  And she's got to do it quickly.

Because the witch isn't the most dangerous person out there and he's coming their way.

Final thoughts: I love fairy tale re-tellings and this one is a really good new version of Cinderella.  It's just close enough to be familiar, but still gives quite a few new twists.  A fun read. 

Rating: 4/5

Stupid Cupid

Stupid Cupid
by Rhonda Stapleton

Teen Cupids Wanted for Matchmaking Company.  Call for Interview.

Seems like a good gig and Felicity could definitely use the cash, so she's super excited when she's offered the job.  She gets a cool pink PDA and a keep-the-secret contract, too.

But what she thought was just a simple job watching videos and of the loveless and matching them to other loveless losers turns out to be something completely different.

She discovers that she's now a cupid.  Not THE cupid, but one of the many cupids working around the world to make true love matches and get couples together.  All she has to do is send a couple of magic emails to her targets and they have two weeks of pure bliss together.  If they stick together after that, they are an official couple and Felicity gets a bonus in her paycheck!

So she starts fixing up the people around her.  Of course, she's a little too lazy to read the manual, so there are a few mistakes along the way, but what's a cupid to do?

Final thoughts:  It is what it is.  Nothing special, but no brain drain.  There are a few cute moments, but the story is fairly predictable.

Rating: 3/5


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