Thursday, June 23, 2011

Before the Blog (1): Extraordinary by Nancy Werlin

I've been thinking about starting a weekly meme called "Before the Blog" for some time, and I think I'm finally going to do it....

I think it's safe to assume that if you are a book blogger, you didn't start reading when you started blogging. If you're like me, you read hundreds, if not thousands of books, before you started blogging. I often think about past books that I really loved, and would like to review on my blog, but it seems that I have a difficult enough time keeping up, reviewing the books I'm currently reading. I know there are loads of you out there that have past gems that you would like to spread the word about as well, so I thought we could motivate eachother to do it each week, We tend to review what is new, which is why many people read the blogs, but there are so many fabulous books that people don't even know about; books that they NEED to read. "Before the Blog" is a place where bloggers can post a review of a book they read and loved BEFORE they started blogging about books, along with the answers to a few questions about their choice:

  • Why did you choose this book? 
  • When did you read this book? 
  • Who would you recommend this book to? 
So... Grab the BtB button (the code is on my sidebar), create your post, add the link to my page via Mr. Linky, and check out the past loves of other bloggers. It doesn't matter which day of the week you do it, but I will be posting mine on Thursdays, so the week will be Thursday-Wednesday. Check back frequently to see who else is posting.

Without further do, here is my very first BtB post...

Extraordinary by Nancy Werlin
Publisher: Dial
Publication Date: September 7th, 2010

Why did you choose this book? I haven't really seen it much on the blogs I follow, and I think it is such a great book that a lot of YA book lovers would adore.

When did you read this book? October, 2010

Who would you recommend this book to? Anyone who is a lover of books about faery. If you are a fan of Melissa Marr, Holly Black, Julie Kagawa, or Carrie Jones, you'll really enjoy Nancy Werlin, and this book in particular.

Phoebe finds herself drawn to Mallory, the strange and secretive new kid in school, and the two girls become as close as sisters . . . until Mallory's magnetic older brother, Ryland, shows up during their junior year. Ryland has an immediate, exciting hold on Phoebe, but a dangerous hold, for she begins to question her feelings about her best friend and, worse, about herself. Soon she'll discover the shocking truth about Ryland and Mallory: that these two are visitors from the faerie realm who have come to collect on an age-old debt. Generations ago, the faerie queen promised Pheobe's ancestor five extraordinary sons in exchange for the sacrifice of one ordinary female heir. But in hundreds of years there hasn't been a single ordinary girl in the family, and now the faeries are dying. Could Phoebe be the first ordinary one? Could she save the faeries, or is she special enough to save herself?
(Courtesy of Goodreads)

I have to admit that I picked this book up for one reason, and one reason only... The cover. Isn't it absolutely STUNNING? I was choosing potential books for the Teen/YA section of our school book fair last year and was totally unfamiliar with Nancy Werlin, but this cover grabbed my eye. I knew if the content was okay, that it would grab the eye of every 6th grade girl at our school, so I had to check it out. I had another mom read it for me and she LOVED it, so of course, I had to read it (even though I had ZERO time). I loved it and instantly became a Nancy Werlin fan!

Why did I love it so much, you ask? Well for starters, the writing was flawless. Werlin was able to not only establish a connection between myself and the characters in this book, but she was able to evoke real feelings. I got that feeling you get in your gut when a charcter you've connected with goes through something tough. I felt the elation in my chest that happens when a triumph occurs. Not many people can successfully pull that off with the written word; Nancy Werlin not only succeeds, but she is a master at it. The characters are well developed and the story moves at just the right pace that you would rather give up sleep than stop reading.

Another reason I liked this book is that the fae are portrayed the way I like them to be. If you've read some of my other reviews, you know that I don't like "nice" fairies. Disney's version of fae don't do it for me. I much prefer the sort that are cold, selfish, and slightly evil, with powerful magic and at least a mild disdain for humans. That's all covered in Extraordinary.

Finally, I loved the story itself. Wow. I'm not going to give any spoilers here though (I hate it when I look up a book review and the reviewer take you event by event through the story, making it pointless to read the book). Between the Goodreads synopsis above and the trailer, you can get enough of an idea to tell if you want to read this book. I liked how it developed. There were some twists that I didn't see coming, which is always a bonus, and I was happy with the ending. If that doesn't make for a great book, I don't know what does.

My Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Grade Level Recommendation: This book is pretty clean. The protagonist does consider losing her virginity, and comes very close (like naked close). For that reason, I would definitely say Middle School and up. I think it would be okay for a mature 6th grader, fine for 7th+ (ages 12+).

Well, I hope you enjoyed my very first "Before the Blog" post, and I hope you'll consider participating each week so I don't feel like a total loser! Make sure to put your link in the Mr. Linky so that I can read your BtB review!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Review: Voss by David Ives

Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Publication Date: October 2nd, 2008

In a series of letters home to his friend Meero, Vospop Vsklzwczdztwczky (Voss for short) tells the hilarious story of how he smuggles himself to America in a crate of black-market cheese puffs with his gloomy father Bogdown and his nutty uncle Shpoont.
Settling into the rundown Slobovian section of town, Voss soon finds his first job by opening the door for debutante Tiffany McBloomingdale (an unheard-of act of politeness), rescues his father from a sinister hospital, and even gets the girl of his dreams, though not the one he expects!
Through Voss's comically broken English, readers will find a remarkably fresh view of America. Brimming with pointed satire, a healthy dose of action, and a one-of-a-kind narrator, Voss's crazy adventures are sure to leave a lasting impression.
(Courtesy of Goodreads)

In a word, HILARIOUS! A quick, easy read, which is a good thing because I found this book hard to stop reading. The full title of this book is Voss: How I Came to America and Am Hero, Mostly, and I think that kind of sums up the type of humor in this book. I thought it was genius the way author, David Ives, takes the negative stereotypes of both immigrants and Americans and portrays them in a mostly non-offensive light. I found the protagonist's descriptions and interpretations of things very funny, and thoroughly enjoyed reading about our American society through his eyes. There were a couple of things that rubbed me the wrong way, but overall I thought his observations, though exaggerated, were spot on. I loved that the book was written in letter (or as Voss says, "ladder") format. His manner of speaking was similar to that of an Eastern European person, and I found myself reading the book in my head with an accent. Although I think that much of the humor would go over the heads of the intended audience, I believe tweens and teens would still find this book quite enjoyable.

My Rating: ★ ★ ★ ½

Grade Level Recommendation: As I said in my review, a lot of the humor would be lost on younger readers, so while there isn't really objectionable content, I would still recommend this for grades 8 and up (ages 13+).

Review: My Fair Godmother by Janette Rallison

Publisher: Walker Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: January 6th, 2009

Finding your one true love can be a Grimm experience!
After her boyfriend dumps her for her older sister, sophomore Savannah Delano wishes she could find a true prince to take her to the prom. Enter Chrissy (Chrysanthemum) Everstar: Savannah’s gum-chewing, cell phone–carrying, high heel-wearing Fair Godmother. Showing why she’s only Fair—because she’s not a very good fairy student—Chrissy mistakenly sends Savannah back in time to the Middle Ages, first as Cinderella, then as Snow White. Finally she sends Tristan, a boy in Savannah’s class, back instead to turn him into her prom-worthy prince. When Savannah returns to the Middle Ages to save Tristan, they must team up to defeat a troll, a dragon, and the mysterious and undeniably sexy Black Knight. Laughs abound in this clever fairy tale twist from a master of romantic comedy.
(Courtesy of Goodreads)

Initially, like many of the books I read, I picked up this book as a read-at-bedtime for my (almost) 10 year old daughter (yes, she still likes Mommy to read to her at bedtime, despite the fact that she can read as well, if not better than I can). I expected a cheesy romance that would be loved by tweens and young teens, but not by me. I can very happily report that this book was so much more than I expected!

I really enjoy a good fairy tale re-telling, but I am VERY picky about them. Most original fairy tales are just a few pages long, and I think it takes a really talented storyteller and writer to stretch that into a full-length novel that is worth reading. That said, I was very skeptical at the beginning of this one. The cover screamed, "Disney Channel" at me. Well, Disney Channel it was not! It was clever, well written, full of life lessons (in a non-preachy way), and FUN! At times it had my daughter and I laughing until our sides hurt. I loved the premise of a "Fair Godmother"; basically a godmother that was nowhere near the top of her fairy godmother training school. Chrissy was a flaky, self-absorbed mess, and it was evident in the way that she interacted with her assigned charge (Savannah). Savannah was rather flaky and self-absorbed herself. When given her three wishes, she made some pretty shallow ones, and the adventures began...  This book was actually so well done, that I may re-read it to myself, and I definitely am recommending it to all of Emma's friends and their moms.  Emma and I had so many great conversations based on this book, which is great since she is entering a phase where most of out Mommy/Daughter conversations consist of her complaining and me yelling...  I'm sure the author's intentions didn't include facilitating parent/child interaction, but I have to thank her for it nonetheless!

I love it when a book so thoroughly surprises me, as this one did. I am now a big fan of Janette Rallison, and quite eager to read this book's recently released sequel, My Unfair Godmother. I will also probably read some of her other books in the very near future (It's a Mall World After All, Just One Wish). Keep your eye out for the reviews!

My Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Grade Level Recommendation: Obviously, if I was reading this to my 10 year old (rising 5th grader), it is clean. It is squeaky clean, as a matter of fact. No sex, drinking, drug use, language, or mature themes. There is some innocent romance; a little kissing, and that's it. I would say that this book is appropriate for ages 8+ (3rd grade+).

WWW (8) and Waiting on Wednesday (June 22nd, 2011) Double Feature

W. W. W. Wednesday is hosted by Should Be Reading a great YA blog that I subscribe to. Here's how it works... Each Wednesday I will answer the following questions:

What are you currently reading?

What did you recently finish reading?

What do you think you'll read next?

I've read some really excellent books this week, and am reading a couple of equally excellent books now. Yay me!

What are you currently reading?

The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth: Popularity, Quirk Theory, and Why Outsiders Thrive After High School by Alexandra Robbins~ This book is as compelling as the other books I've read by this author. She has a way of sucking me in so that I enjoy her books despite not being a lover of non-fiction.

The Carrie Diaries by Candace Bushnell~ I love Carrie Bradshaw and this glimpse into her life as a teenager is quite fun.

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray~ I just started this one and I am already loving it!

What did you recently finish reading?

Entwined by Heather Dixon~ This book made my "Hate List". No offense to those who loved it, but I was bored stiff. It has a gorgeous cover though...

Never Eighteen by Megan Bostic~ A great, but very sad read. I will review later on in the year, closer to it's release date.

Born at Midnight by C.C. Hunter~ LOVED THIS BOOK! Can't wait for book two to release in October! Review coming soon.

The Poison Eaters and Other Stories by Holly Black~ If you like Holly Black, this is a must read. It is true to her style and subject matter. I'm a huge fan and I loved it. Review to come.

Unlocked by Ryan G. Van Cleave~ This is a contemporary novel-in-verse about a boy's internal struggle in whether or not to report his only friend who he suspects may shoot up his school. Very intriguing. Review to come.

What do you think you'll read next?

Hourglass by Myra McEntire~ I've been looking forward to this for AGES!! I'm so excited to finally have it in my hands. I hope it lives up to all the hype! The cover is fabulous, isn't it?

The Gathering by Kelley Armstrong~ Another much anticipated book. I've heard so many fabulous things!

Darkness Becomes Her by Kelly Keaton~ I've had this on my nightstand for weeks and I really need to get on it...

"Waiting On" Wednesday is another fun blog event. Hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, this event gives us a chance to talk about the books we anxiously await the release of. Since there is ALWAYS a looooooong list of books I'm waiting on (I actually keep a spreadsheet), I figured this is one that I MUST do.

I saw this week's book a couple of weeks back on another blog and got REALLY excited!  I went to Susan Beth Pfeffer's blog to check it out and was blown away.  Read the first two chapters HERE.

Blood Wounds by Susan Beth Pfeffer 

Willa is lucky: She has a loving blended family that gets along. Not all families are so fortunate. But when a bloody crime takes place hundreds of miles away, it has an explosive effect on Willa’s peaceful life. The estranged father she hardly remembers has murdered his new wife and children, and is headed east toward Willa and her mother.Under police protection, Willa discovers that her mother has harbored secrets that are threatening to boil over. Has everything Willa believed about herself been a lie? As Willa sets out to untangle the mysteries of her past, she keeps her own secret—one that has the potential to tear her family apart.
(Courtesy of Goodreads)

I loved Pfeffer's Last Survivors series (Life as We Knew It, The Dead and the Gone, This World We Live In) and although I know this book will be nothing like those books, I know it will still be great. She has a way with words that manages to reach to my very core. So my WoW for this week is Blood Wounds. What are you waiting on?

Publisher: Harcourt Children's Books
Publication Date: September 12th, 2011
My Expected Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Monday, June 20, 2011

In My Mailbox Monday (9)

In My Mailbox (IMM) was started by The Story Siren a few years back, and is a great way for bloggers to give the books they are reading (or are planning to read) a quick mention.

I had a pretty good week to the point where I'm getting frustrated that my TBR is getting so ridiculous that I'm having trouble choosing what to read next...

By Michelle Harrison
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: June 7th, 2011
Source: Library
Goodreads Synopsis
I really, really enjoyed the first book, 13 Treasures. It was full of fairies the way they are meant to be, dark.
The Gathering (Darkness Rising, Book 1)
The Gathering
By Kelley Armstrong
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication Date: April 12th, 2011
Source: Library
Goodreads Synopsis
I've been waiting for this for ages. I've heard nothing but good things!!

By Myra McEntire
Publisher: Egmont USA
Publication Date: June 14th, 2011
Source: Purchase
Goodreads Synopsis
This is one of my most anticipated reads of the year. I can't wait!!!

Tempest Rising

By Tracy Deebs
Publisher: Walker Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: May 10th, 2011
Source: Library
Goodreads Synopsis
Mermaids seems to be the new thing. Let's see if this can hold a candle to Tera Lynn Childs...

What Happened to GoodbyeWhat Happened to Goodbye
By Sarah Dessen
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication Date: May 10th, 2011
Source: Library
Goodreads Synopsis
I've heard so many good things about this, I had to pick it up. :)

Blood Red Road (Dustlands)Blood Red Road
By Moira Young
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry
Publication Date: June 7th, 2011
Source: Purchase
Goodreads Synopsis
I love me a good dystopia, and this one looks awesome!

Ten (The Winnie Years)Ten
By Lauren Myracle
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Publication Date: May 12th, 2011
Source: Purchase
Goodreads Synopsis
I picked this up for my daughter because she loves this series, but I'll probably read it too. We share books. :)
By Elizabeth Woods
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
Publication Date: January 4th, 2011
Source: Library
Goodreads Synopsis
I was drawn to the cover of this book from the moment I saw it.

The Summer I Turned PrettyThe Summer I Turned Pretty
By Jenny Han
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
Publication Date: May 5th, 2009
Source: Purchase
Goodreads Synopsis
I've had my eye on this book for a couple of years, but never got around to reading it. Now my daughter has asked to read it, so I have to. Darn...

By Lara Chapman
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Publication Date: May 10th, 2011
Source: Purchase
Goodreads Synopsis
I love the cover of this book and I've heard loads of good things.