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Archive for July, 2008

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Earlier this month I read Sweethearts by Sara Zarr.  Page Numbered decided to start a book club and even though I don’t know the person who writes the blog or anyone else participating, I thought I’d read along with them.

Sweethearts was the July books, so with the last day of July being tomorrow I decided to write a post about it. 

Jennifer Harris is an outsider.  Her only friend in elementary school is the other outcase, Cameron Quick.  Jennifer knows Cameron’s home life isn’t great, but she never expects him to move away without saying goodbye.  With no ally by her side, Jennifer has to face the rest of the kids at school on her own.  To make matters worse, the kids tell her Cameron is dead…and her mom doesn’t say they are lying.

Eight years later, Jennifer Harris has turned her life around and become Jenna Vaughn.  Unlike Jennifer, Jenna is thin, popular, and has a boyfriend.  Everything is going fine until Jenna’s 17th birthday when she finds a letter from Cameron in her post box.  He’s not dead afterall and he’s back in town.

Jenna isn’t sure who she is anymore now that Cameron is back.  She finds herself slipping into her old “Jennifer Harris” ways.  She’s binging  and moody all the time.  Even her friends notice that she’s different since Cameron showed up at school.

With Cameron by her side, can Jenna finally face the ghosts of her past?

Review: First of all, I love the cover of this book.  The cookie looks delicious and I love the color choices  – teal, pink, and white.  I just want to eat it.  However, I was a little hesitant about the topic.  I don’t really like to read books that are…downers.  And from what I read about this book and the way it was constantly described as realistic fiction, I figured it would be a total downer.

Turns out I was completely wrong.  This book was so well-written and not depressing in the way I thought it would be.  The backstory, which explains the deep connection between Cameron and Jenna is explained in little chunks, not all at once.  Only a little was divulged about the back story each time so you had to keep reading to find out exactly what happened.  I hate to say it, given the topic of the back story, but it kept the book really interesting.  It is a difficult topic to write about but I think Sara Zarr did a terrific job.

I also really like the way the characters were written.  I see now why this book is referred to as realistic fiction.  It felt very real.  The characters, the dialogue, the way people interacted.  I really liked it.

I’m glad my library didn’t have a copy of this and that I had to buy my own copy.  I will be re-reading this at my earliest convenience.  It was a quick read and is worth picking up.

5 out of 5 stars.

Coming next week….Allie Finkle’s Rules for GIrls: The New Girl

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Queen of Babble Gets Hitched by Meg Cabot

When we last left Lizzie Nichols, she had just been propsed to by ex-boyfriend Luke.  However, Lizzie had broken up with Luke because he didn’t see her in her future and at the very moment Luke was proposing, Chaz – Luke’s best friend – is up in Lizzie’s bedroom sleeping.

Lizzie says yes to Luke’s proposal and upsetting just about everyone she knows.  Apparently, they all think Lizzie is too good for Luke and that neither one is in love with the other.

It doesn’t help that Chaz has also been saying things like he’s always been in love with Lizzie.  Is it a joke or is he really being serious?  And why does her heart do a flip everytime Chaz walks in the room or looks at her?  Could it be that Lizzie is really in love with Chaz?

Everything changes when Lizzie’s grandma dies suddenly.  Which man shows up to support Lizzie during her family crisis – the handsome prince or cute baseball cap wearing Chaz?

I could not wait for the latest installment of the Queen of Babble series to come out.  It was worth the wait.  This was such a good read.  I even had to try to sneak a couple words in between strokes during a Wii golf game becasue I couldn’t put it down.  It was a well-paced read and had everything you would expect from a Meg Cabot novel.  I was not disappointed in the least.

If you don’t want any real spoilers, don’t read any further.

I love how things worked out between all the characters and I like that Chaz ended up having a thing for Lizzie.  Luke is always described as being totally hot, but the way I imagine Chaz is that he is also hot but in a more casual way.  Kind of like Patrick Dempsey is hot, but not hot in the same way David Beckham is hot.

I also have to disagree with Chaz’s decision at the end of the book.  I highly doubt that a man against marriage is going to change his mind that easily.  Perhaps I’m just over-identifying, but after 6 years of dealing with someone who WON’T change his thoughts on the subject makes it seem unlikely that Chaz would change his.  But I do like a book that allows me to dream that it can happen, so I was not disappointed.

I also  liked the inner turmoil Lizzie seemed to go through when trying to figure out her feelings for Chaz.  It made the story seem more real.  She didn’t just magically fall for Chaz because he liked her, it took time and certain events to make her realize her feelings. 

I just felt nice and warm and fuzzy while reading this book.  If the stack on my bedside table wasn’t so high right now, I might re-read it right away.

I recommend this to everyone who likes Meg Cabot and romance.

5 out of 5 stars.

Coming next…Allie Finkle’s Rules for Girls: The New Girl by Meg Cabot (that’s right…it’s all Meg all the time here for the next few books.)

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Things

Thanks to the fabulous Meg Cabot, I have an advance copy of Allie Finkle’s Rules for Girls: The New Girl and will be reviewing it shortly.  I’m one of those crazy people that feels because I read Meg’s blog and all of her books that we are BFFs.  In actuality, we’ve never spoken. 

Speaking of Meg Cabot’s books, I am almost done with Queen of Babble Gets Hitched and loving it!  I take it everywhere with me.  I’d take it to bed, but I don’t want to rumple the dust jacket. 

So I am officially back from vacation and realize I missed nothing about my job.  Everyone keeps telling me about the stuff I “missed” while I was on vacation and I have to correct them that no, I didn’t “miss” it, I just wasn’t present.

A brief rundown of things from my vacation:

– bought a Wii
– went to Darien Lake
– forgot Darien Lake tickets for half the group which created lots of extra driving
– library found my lost books – they DID have them!!
– bought 10 books at a used book sale
– had a crazy glow-stick show at my house with 30 kids I don’t know and don’t know how they got to and from my house
– my grandpa died
– had tons of relatives over
– didn’t recognize my older brother with his new hair style/facial hair style
– ate lots of pizza (pepperoni, sausage, zuccinni, fruit, cheese)
– stayed up LATE many nights in a row
– saw dark knight (AWESOME!) and hancock (TERRIBLE)
– lots of other stuff that I cannot think of right now.

It was pretty fun. I had some annoying moments, but that is to be expected. It was really the first vacation in a looong time that I didn’t think about work AT ALL. If I never came back, I wouldn’t miss it and probably wouldn’t have given it a second thought. There are a few people I would miss, but we’re friends on facebook, so we would have been ok.

I really need to find a new job. Does anyone want to pay me to read books until I finish Library school?

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The second part of my vacation starts tomorrow.  What does this mean?  No (or extremely limited) internet access.  I didn’t manage to complete my reading goal during my time off last week, but I feel good about my goals for the next few days (I’m off until July 22, y’all!).

I want to read the first 3 books in Meg Cabot’s The Princess Diaries series.  I want to read the first 3 books in the Gossip Girl series.  (I know…could I be more behind?!)  I want to read Airhead and Queen of Babble Gets Hitched, Sweethearts, and The Land Time Forgot (I’m sorry, I don’t think that’s the right title but my brain has checked out on vacation already).

How excited am I that Kristen Bell has agreed to play Lizzie Nichols in the Queen of Babble movie that apparently is going to be made?  Perfect casting decision.  It’s going to be rad.  Now if only that were coming out this summer…

Oh, another aside.  Serious, wherever those Ian Fleming books went, I’d like them back.  The library doesn’t have them, I don’t have them, none of the other libraries in the system have them.  I’m totally freaking out.  How on earth did four of my library books go missing? 

Places I’ve looked for them:

Behind the couch
Under the couch
On my “library” bookcase
On my personal bookcases
Under my bed
In my car trunk
In my closet
I’ve asked my brother
In Lover Boy’s work van
Under my car seats
In every cabinet in the kitchen
In the entertainment center
Behind the entertainment center
In every single room in the house.

Where I have not looked:
The shelf at the library to see if they perhaps had a volunteer who didn’t know what they were doing.

Oooh look at me making accusations.

I’m freaking out.

Cheers, friends! See you after vacation!

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Somewhere in Time by Richard Matheson

Somewhere in Time by Richard Matheson

Richard Collier is dying.  The headaches he’s been having are an in-operable brain tumor.  He’s been given six months to live. 

Richard decides to flee Los Angles and his life as a television writer.  He flips a penny and ends up in San Diego at the Hotel del Coronado.  From the moment he arrives, Richard has a strange feeling about the hotel.

After exploring, Richard discovers a hall of history and there a picture of stage actress Elise McKenna.  He immediately becomes obsessed with her.  In his quest to find out everything about her, he goes to a book store and the library, each time feeling a strange pull while away from the hotel.

Richard soon realizes that he’s met Elise McKenna.  They were at the same event in 1953 and when she saw him she said “Is it you?” and died the next day.  Richard becomes desperate to find out if he somehow knew Elise McKenna when she stayed at the hotel.  But is it possible?  The last time she was at the hotel was 1896.  The date now?  November 1971.  

Practically losing his mind searching for old records from the hotel, RIchard finds his answer.  There, on November 21, 1896, he has signed his name to the guest register.  Knowing now, that he has traveled back in time before, he is determined to do it again.  He needs to be with Elise. 

Richard spends hours trying to free himself from 1971 and go back to 1896.  He finally succeeds and is able to locate Elise.  But Richard is always waiting, expecting to be sucked back to 1971 at any moment.  Will he be able to hold on to 1896 and his precious Elise?

First, I would like to point out that it’s neat how many books by Richard Matheson have been made into movies.  I would also like to commend him on his range of content.

Now, I would like to say that this book drove me completely batty.  I haven’t seen the movie in a while but I thought I liked it.  After reading the book and discussing the movie with my mom (who is much more familiar with it than I) I realized that perhaps I really enjoyed the music and the story was kind of meh.

 I don’t want to spoil anything, but I can summarize the entire book for you in a few words.

 [Ahem]

Poor me poor me

Must find Elise

Time travel time travel time travel

Elise Elise Elise Elise

Richard Richard Richard

Elise Elise Elise

Richard Richard

I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you

Don’t leave me

I won’t

I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you

Awwww shit

And there you have it.  Richard was maniacal.  It was too intense for me.  If I had been Elise, I would have gotten a restraining order.  It was really too much.  I don’t think I could have put up with a man who was so intensely needy.  It was a big turn off.  Therefore, the whole love story was ruined for me.  I couldn’t get passed Richard’s incredible drive and desire to be with Elise.  It was an all-consuming need.  I wanted to tell him to reign it in a little and not show his whole hand at once.  Let’s leave some mystery.  But no, not Richard.  He let it all hang out and then some.

I might recommend this to people who have seen the movie and enjoyed it.  I know my mother is reading it now and really likes it.

I am giving this one 3 out of 5 stars.  Richard bugged me, but I think a lot of other people might find him totally romantic.

Also, for some strange reason, this book made me want to watch Avonlea (remember that great show with Sarah Polley or is it Sara?)

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Austenland by Shannon Hale

Austenland by Shannon Hale

Jane Hayes is in love.  The problem?  She’s in love with Mr. Darcy, as played by Colin Firth in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.  She also tries to keep this embarrassing secret hidden from everyone.  She even hides her Pride and Prejudice DVD in a house plant.  But when Jane goes to lunch with her mother and great-aunt, her Aunt Carolyn sees right through to her Darcy obsession.

When Aunt Carolyn dies, it turns out she has written Jane into her will.  But Jane isn’t getting any of her Aunt’s money.  What she’s getting is an all-expense paid three week vacation to Pembrook Park – a hotel that gives its guests the Regency England experience.

Jane isn’t sure she wants to go, but knows her aunt booked this trip for a reason.  If Jane ever wants to move on with her life, romantically, she’ll have to get over Darcy first.

At first Jane finds her new persona – Jane Erstwhile – to be completely ridiculous and has a difficult time staying in character.  But soon Jane is doing things she hasn’t done in years and even begins to enjoy having the gentleman actors around.  She even enjoys having the extremely proper Mr. Nobley around.  And to Jane’s surprise, he seems to enjoy having her around.  Is it all part of the experience?  Is it just a game?  Jane learns more about herself during her three weeks in Austenland then she ever expected.  But did she manage to get over Mr. Darcy?

This book was such a nice read.  It was like a nice walk in the park.  Remeniscent of Pride and Prejudice, it was like visiting old friends.  Shannon Hale had a really neat idea when she wrote this story.  How many women would pay to pretend they were living a life like the characters Jane Austen wrote about? 

Obviously, the love story in the book was totally great.  It was a little transparent, but still, I was really excited as I was reading the end of the book, furiously flipping pages because I love that kind of ending.

A lot of the dialog did seem forced and a little off but I think that was because everyone was supposed to be pretending it was a different time period.  But really, that is the only thing that bothered me while reading.  It really was just delightful.  How much fun would it be to get to play dress up and go to balls and hang out with handsome men?  The time in between balls did sound pretty dull, though.  How many games of whist can you play in a day before you want to scratch your own eyes out? 

All in all 4.5 out of 5 stars

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They Never Came Home by Lois Duncan
 
Larry Drayfus was quiet, private and very posessive of his belongings.  He was also furious with his father, who was sending him to military school after he was caught at a party where there was marijuna.  Larry’s sister Joan is a plan, tall girl, who captured the heart of Dan Cotwell, an all-around good guy.  Larry and Dan become friends and decide to do camping in the mountains early one April.  To everyone’s dismay, they do not return as planned.  Despite weeks of searching, friends and family are only able to locate Dan’s canteen.  The boys are presumed dead – drown in the river and washed away.
Joan tries to continue life without her brother – who she was never that close to – and without her boyfriend.  She befriends Dan’s younger brother Frank after she’s contacted by a Mr. Brown who claims that Larry owes him over $2,000.  Joan is afraid, but agrees to work for Mr. Brown in an attempt to pay off Larry’s debt so that her parents don’t have to deal with the shock of Larry’s financial predicament in the same year he died.
It is hard to tell anymore of the story without spoiling it.  So I will stop there.
Ok nation.  I interlibrary loaned this book because I kept reading how it was everyone’s favorite Lois Duncan book.  I’m not really sure why.  By page 20 it was completely evident what had happened and by page 50 there was practically no reason to keep reading.
I was really disappointed.  The title sounded so cool, I expected a really creepy read.  It turned out to by pretty lame.  Harsh?  Maybe.  But I was 98% disappointed.  The only redeeming quality was that the book read like a Leave It To Beaver episode because of the dialog.
Some favorite quotes include Joan telling Frank that without training she could only “take a job in a dime store or soda fountain.”  And then when Dave tells Peggy that he “doesn’t have the clothes or cash to spend on mad evenings.”  I was just waiting for Eddie Haskell to come over to see if Wally was around.
Perhaps if I had read this before the age of 27 I would have found it more exciting and full of plot twists.  Since I didn’t, it’s going to only receive 1 out of 5 stars. 

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