Saturday, September 27, 2008

Friday (Er....Saturday) Flashback #1

OK, I admit it, I'm bad. I know it's not Friday and I know that I neglected to post my very first Friday Flashback on the scheduled date yesterday, but will you forgive me if I post it...NOW? Answer: You'd better, cause here I go!
   This month, we're flashing back of my favorite books for little bookworms, Olivia by Ian Falconer. Olivia is a lively young pig who likes to have fun, whether it's in the form of tormenting her little brother, dressing up in all sorts of different clothes, singing, building sand castles on the beach, refusing to nap, finding a lost toy, saving a circus, and painting! A few days ago, I was in my room, when I saw Olivia on my shelf and just plucked it off of the bookcase and started scanning it again. The illustrations are so cute, fun, and artsy. I just love the scene where Olivia goes to the museum, and there are all the little inlaid copies of real paintings by Pollock and Degas. Isn't the part when she goes to the beach and builds a sandy Empire State Building adorable? Ian Falconer's lovable picture book is creative, cute, and perfect for kids who are 2-7 years old. Plus I just love Olivia's fashion sense-those black and white tights are so cute! What do you like most about Olivia? What was your favorite part? Who is your favorite character? Your favorite book of the series? Any suggestions/recommendations on future Flashbacks (which is now a monthly feature)? Oh-and this week's Monday Muse has been pushed back because of my disorganization...Forgive me, it's been a crazily busy week! 

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Fresh Off the Boat

Title: Fresh Off the Boat
Author: Melissa de la Cruz
Pages: 243
HarperTrophy, 2005
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Recommended for: Girls, 12 and up
Rating: A+

14 year old Vicenza (Vi-chen-za) Arambullo's life is anything but perfect. She's just moved to San Francisco from her homeland of the Philippines, leaving behind her best friend, Peaches, her popularity, and her former lifestyle of luxury and wealth. Now, she's living in a small South San Francisco house with her whole family, rummaging through the sale bin at the Salvation Army, depending on a staff cafeteria at Sears to bring her family income, and on scholarship at the snobby all-girl's school Grosvernor High, where she is constantly tormented by the snooty queen bee, Whitney Bertoccini. Seemingly worst of all, the adorable lacrosse player Claude Caligari doesn't seem to notice that she's alive, and her mom's making her take the geeky son of a family friend to the fancy black-tie Soirée d' Hiver. Between getting in a major fight with her mom, and lying about her non-perfect American life to her best friend back in Manila, Vicenza feels like she's living every girl's worst nightmare...Until she meets an awesome new friend and discovers that she already has everything she's ever wanted and will ever need right in front of her...
   Melissa de la Cruz's heartfelt novel is fun, colorful, refreshing, and utterly enjoyable, right from page one up until the extremely satisfying, smile-inducing conclusion. OK-I'll admit it-I didn't have very high expectations for Fresh off the Boat when I first picked it up. Judging from the cover and the description on the back, I was expecting just another shallow fluff novel with no real moral, a fun beach read that I'd breeze through but not really get anything from. Well, I confess again, my friends, I was W-R-O-N-G. Sure, the book was an easy, quick read, but I found myself excited to pick it up again and read on. The plot is realistic, the characters are interesting, and Melissa de la Cruz completely opened my eyes to the life of a daughter of two culture-shocked, Lotto-crazed immigrants. I have to say, I'm pretty picky about what I like to read, analyzing every sentence, how the author set up all the dialogue. And Fresh Off the Boat completely satisfied me in every single way: it wasn't boring in the middle, it was fast-paced, well-set, and to top it off, well-written. The mother-daughter quarrel scene for me was a bit iffy, I thought that the dialogue and actions of both characters were overly melodramatic, even though Vicenza's mother had a slight point. I felt like rooting for Vicenza because, hello! Moving to America wasn't exactly easy for her, either! And she's suffering a whole lot at school, too! Luckily, de la Cruz gracefully rescued this with a few spot-on similes that perfectly lightened the mood, and boosted Vicenza's (and my!) side. Vicenza makes real mistakes, suffers real consequences, and learns real lessons that the reader will absorb right along with the lovable, just-trying-to-fit-in protagonist.  I've read other novels by Melissa de la Cruz, but this one has to be by far the best yet. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Rapunzel's Revenge

Title: Rapunzel's Revenge
Authors: Shannon and Dean Hale; illustrated by Nathan Hale (no relation)
Pages: 144
Bloomsbury, August 2008
Genre: Graphic novel
Recommended for: Girls and boys, 8-15
Rating: A+

Rapunzel's life is anything but ordinary. At age twelve, she lives in an enormous and beautiful villa with her mother, Gothel, a thousand chairs, plenty of trees for an adventurous little girl to climb, servants to teach her everything she needs to know, and...walls restricting her from escaping to the real, harsh world of the mine towns outside. Determined to find out what is beyond the stone walls that block her view of the rest of her mother's kingdom, Rapunzel soon discovers a dark secret: she was wrongly taken from her mother by Gothel as an infant, and her real mom, Kate, is imprisoned in the laborious mines, resulting in a wrongful imprisonment by Gothel. But little does Gothel know that Rapunzel has wit, will, and a sharp mind (not to mention ridiculously long hair that will help her with her escape), and Rapunzel frees herself into the world of the West, where she pairs up with a clumsy outlaw named Jack. Soon a strong team, the duo works together to save Kate, and dethrone Gothel of her evil growth powers...While encountering killer coyotes, vicious sea monsters, Gothel's angry henchmen, and rip roarin' adventures...Wild West style.
   Husband-and-wife team Shannon and Dean Hale's first graphic novel is an absolute masterpiece, from the extremely well-developed characters; rollicking, quickly-paced plot; high action, and witty, fun-filled storyline. Readers will love the oh-so-talented Nathan Hale's colorful illustrations that are as kick-butt as the story's heroine, and that put a totally rockin' Wild-West twist on the classic fairytale. While reading the book, I felt like I was one of the characters, galloping alongside the two protagonists in the well-described setting. I easily finished off Rapunzel's Revenge in an hour, but unlike other novels, I was thoroughly engrossed throughout the whole period of time, at the edge of my seat as Jack and Rapunzel faced off Gothel in the highly-anticipated conclusion. I found myself flipping pages without even knowing it, my eyes soaking up the unique action-packed story like my life depended on it, right up until the perfect happily-ever-after ending. Well-known author Shannon has found a calling in the graphic novel industry, and I hope to devour many more of this dynamic trio's fairytale-turned-Western adventure.
   To view artwork from Rapunzel's Revenge, click here and here.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Monday Muse: Micol Ostow!

Welcome to Bookworm Readers' very first Monday Muse, starring the fabulous Micol Ostow in an exclusive interview below! Be sure to check out her new book, Popular Vote (click here for a review) and the big celebration on her blog (link below)-there are some great author interviews and contests! 


So, so, so excited! I saw it in the bookstore last week and got all giddy and immature. And people seem into how "timely" it its, which is really nice to hear. Also, I had a lot of fun at my "cyber-release" party on my blog, celebrating with lots of author friends.

Hmm....the first draft was probably about two months. Longer than I've had to write some stuff, but still pretty painful, deadline-wise.

Erin is like me in that she puts most of her thoughts down in her journal rather than sharing them with all of her friends all of the time. I can be that way, too--a little private. But then, the things I write can end up being published, which means they're not private at all (sort of like Erin's blog, I guess).

Well, the whole time I was writing, I imagined Erin to be very similar to Reese Witherspoon in Election. So that one is obvious. As for the others, I'd have to think. Maybe cutie Chase Crawford from Gossip Girl for Logan. 

I was always a writer opposed to a politician. I "ran" for editorships at the school newspapers and literary magazines, but never for student council. I liked to stick with my strengths.

I am pleased to report that I just joined the group YA for Obama.
Stop by and check it out!

I'm never not writing these days. (:
But I suppose I do like to read, and to run, and to watch movies, and go to the park with my dog. I am also a fan of cooking and eating, and manicures. Anything that is relaxing, really.

I am rounding the finish line on the second novel in The Bradford Novels series as we speak. In fact, I'd better get back to it! Thanks for having me!
Thanks for the interview, Ms. Ostow! Keep your eyes peeled for next week's Monday Muse (author choice to come)! Remember: I want to hear your feedback. Do you like this new feature? What would you change? What would you like to see for next week's Muse?

The Clique Summer Collection: Kristen

Title: Kristen
Author: Lisi Harrison
Pages: 122
Poppy, July 2008
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Recommended to: Girls, 11-15
Grade: A-

It's summer, and OCD scholarship girl Kristen Gregory is stuck in Westchester while her fellow members of the Pretty Committee are jet-setting across the globe. Her only source of entertainment is tutoring a total 9-year-old LBR named Ripple who is more interested in becoming a Massie clone than learning math. Just when Kristen's about to close the books (for good), she meets Ripple's hawt older brother, Dune, and the summer starts looking up. After getting dumped at the end of last year, she's ready for a new crush, and will do anything to get him to like her back, even if it means wearing baggy skater-guy clothes; bribing over-eager Ripple to help her get Dune; assembling a Witty Committee; and attempting to fill a country club pool with Jell-O...But she'll have to watch out, because she's not the only one who's got her eye on Dune...Can Kristen beat out former eighth-grade alpha Skye Hamilton? Or will any possibility of summer romance and excitement crash and burn?
   While the plot summary sounds silly and shallow, readers will be amazed at how good Kristen actually is, from the detailed descriptions (I love how Lisi Harrison describes houses, rooms, clothes, and people's appearance-they're always so colorful and easy to picture!) to the hilarious things that Kristen does in attempts to get Dune to like her, to the simple and easy-to-follow plotline. However, I think that probably the best thing about The Clique series is the dialogue: it always sounds realistic, and the girls of the Pretty Committee always have something witty to say, like a clever comeback or a little rhyme that makes you think, "I wish I had thought of that!" I also really enjoyed Kristen's character-while the rest of the PC members are hard to relate to (unless you're a 12 year old who just naturally always wears Prada), I think that readers will all find a part of Kristen that reminds them of themselves. The conflicts that she experiences seem realistic, from struggling between personalities (alpha and rich for the PC, middle-class and modest for Dune), to trying to escape from the clutches of her over-protective mother. All in all, I have to say that Kristen is now right up there with Dylan, my favorite of the 5 Clique Summer Collection books. 

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Introducing...The Monday Muse and Friday Flashbacks!

Hey everyone! I'd like to present a new Bookworm Readers feature...(drumroll, please!)....
The Monday Muse! Every Monday, a different author will be featured on BR by either a guest blog, vlog (video blog), interview, or 2-Minute-Test (details on this to come). Tomorrow, our featured author will be.....MICOL OSTOW!!!!!!! Keep your eyes peeled for the exclusive interview (TBPT-To be posted tomorrow) about the release of her new book, Popular Vote, and her new/upcoming projects! Watch out for future Monday Muses-I'm really excited about this new feature, and I hope it's a hit! This week, I'm also introducing another new weekly feature: Friday Flashbacks. Every Friday, I'll review a favorite old picture book on my blog, just for fun. I'm still deciding on this week's Flashback Pick, but if you have any suggestions of an oldie that you'd like to see reviewed, let me know! If you have any comments, suggestions, or questions, feel free to comment, and I'll be sure to answer 'em-I want to hear your feedback! 

Happy reading,

Project Paris

Title: Project Paris (The Fashion-Forward Adventures of Imogene)
Author: Lisa Barham
Pages: 217
Simon Pulse, 2007
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Recommended for: Girls, 12 and up
Grade: B+

   Imogene is back, and this time the stylish high school fashionista is headed to chérie Paris to cover Fashion Week for Hautelaw, the fashion forecasting agency that she interns for. Leaving all problems with her Italian boyfriend, Paolo, behind in Greenwich, she jets off to spend the summer in the famed fashion capital of the world, ready to dish it up with Karl and Miu Miu and catch a glimpse of all the latest European trends.
   Unfortunately, things this year in the City of Light are not going as planned: there's a major model strike, and fashion week is cancelled! Just when the hottest fashion event of the year looks like it's gone forever, Imogene and her spunky best friend, Evie (as well as their supermodel chum, Caprice) discover an abandoned designer's studio and set off on a wild goose chase to find the unnamed designer who might just save Fashion Week...
   I've gotta hand it to Lisa Barham: she's created a fun, flirty, and fashionable series that is appealing to teens, from the realistic and energetic protagonist to the fun storyline. Sujean Rim's color illustrations are adorable, the plot moves quickly, and readers will find themselves cracking up as they join Imogene on her crazy escapades, all with the glittering backdrop of France. To say it simply, Barham's second novel sparkles just as much the city it is set in-readers won't be disappointed.
   Click here to read a review of the first book, A Girl Like Moi.
   Click here to view an exclusive interview with Lisa Barham.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Pretty Face

Title: Pretty Face
Author: Mary Hogan
Pages: 213
HarperTeen, 2008
Genre: Chick lit/Contemporary fiction
Recommended for: Girls, 14 and over
Grade: A

Hayley is a self-conscious "fat girl" who lives in Santa Monica, California-that's right: Land of the Bikinis, aka an overweight girl's worst nightmare. Life isn't exactly easy for Hayley, what with her pushy, thin mother; the overwhelming need to eat practically every second of the day; a crush who likes Hayley's popular best friend more than he actually likes Hayley; and a lousy reputation of being "the funny girl with the pretty face" and nothing more.
   So when her parents offer to send her to her mom's college friend's home in Assisi, Italy, for the summer and to absorb a different culture, Hayley jumps at the opportunity to leave all her problems behind in LA, and, in Italy, become a new, thinner, person that she's proud to be. Unfortunately, it's going to be difficult, what with all the pasta, pizza, and gelato that seems to haunt her the second her airplane lands in Rome...
   Then Hayley discovers what Italian culture is all about and meets an Italian boy who likes her for who she is, "Harley-sized butt" and all...The summer might just be looking up...
   I loved Mary Hogan's sparkling novel about the importance of being yourself. From beautifuldescriptions of Assisi's gorgeous landscape (I could almost picture the Italian countryside in my head) to the well-developed and realistic characters, Mary's YA novel is a grand-slam for girls 14 and over (because of mature content). Readers will clearly be able to sense Hayley's can-do attitude and the changes that she goes through while in bella Italia, and will find themselves rooting for her the whole way through. Hayley has a witty, funny sense of humor, which readers will find realistic and will enjoy hopefully as much as I did. Filled with first love, summer fun, new experiences, and a hearty dose of Italian la dolce vita, Pretty Face receives a hearty two thumbs up from Bookworm Readers.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Confessions of a Teen Nanny: Juicy Secrets

Title: Juicy Secrets
Author: Victoria Ashton
Pages: 202
Harper-Tempest, 2006
Genre: Chick Lit
Recommended to: Girls, 13 and up
Rating: B
Spoiler alert! Read no further if you haven't read the previous two books in the series!

Parties...Cute boys...Fancy clothes...Gossip....Juicy secrets...
Welcome back to the lives of best friends and fellow high-school nannies Liz Braun and Adrienne Lewis. The hectic debutante season is over, but the girls have still got their hands full:
   Liz has finally nabbed Parker Devlin, her ultimate dream guy and budding New York City socialite, but it seems that he's hiding something from her, always on his cell phone, skipping school, and leaving parties unfashionably early. Too bad that Liz doesn't know that Parker's particular secret could affect both his social life and his relationship with Liz for the worse...
   Meanwhile, Adrienne has just gotten over her ex-boyfriend, Brian, who dumped her for bratty Cameron Warner, the daughter of Adrienne's employer and stepsister of her eight-year-old genius-kid charge. And Adrienne might just also be falling for the seemingly-sweet Graydon Warner, who has always been anything but kind to the teenage nanny. Can she trust him this time? 
   Packed with twists and turns, Victoria Ashton's finale to her trilogy ends with a satisfying finish. Although I enjoyed flipping the pages of Juicy Secrets, eagerly soaking up all the details of Liz and Adrienne's love lives and work issues (including Liz's nervous charge, Heather, taking horseback riding lessons!), I found that for most of the middle section of the book, I was practically falling asleep. It just lacked the sparkling, fast plot line that the first two books possessed. Anyhow, I the series is a perfect match if you need a book for the beach (not that you'll be going to the beach anytime soon, seeing as it's September), and I really, really (fingers crossed!) hope that Victoria will keep on writin' the Teen Nanny books-they have a ton of potential! But for now: au revoir, Liz and Adrienne! ):