Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Secrets of my Hollywood Life: On Location

Title: On Location
Author: Jen Calonita
Pages: 240
Poppy, May 2007
Genre: Chick lit
Recommended to: Girls, 12 and up
Rating: B+

(from Amazon.com): It seems like the summer of dreams come true for Hollywood celebrity princess Kaitlin Burke: the media loves her (again), super-cute and funny Austin Meyers is finally her boyfriend, and she's starring in a blockbuster movie by her all-time favorite director Hutch Adams. What could be sweeter? But life on set is not nearly as perfect as the designer makeup and couture costumes. And with a slimy ex-boyfriend and a scheming new publicist on the scene, it's about to get a whole lot messier...
  There. I couldn't sum it up any better. It's been a super-long time since I've read On Location, but the one thing I remember most was how much I loved it: the commercial glamour, glittering descriptions, fun "Hollywood secrets" inserted throughout, colorful characters, simple dialogue, snippets of the movie script, and the overall atmosphere and tone of this light and breezy story. Just as good as Secrets of My Hollywood Life, On Location is the perfect beach read: clean, fast-paced, and with just the right amounts of drama (like catfights with a witchy costar and an evil publicist). Each character was well-developed: my personal favorite is Skye Mackenzie, Kaitlin's onset rival, who is absolutely a blast to hate. I love how Calonita makes her absolutely, well, hateable, from her perfect hair, clothes, and nails right down to her sucking up to the producers and then turning on Kaitlin. However, I find Kaitlin's personality bland, bland, bland. She seems totally plastic: always saying the right thing, doing the right thing....she just seemed a little too perfect and prim. Doesn't she ever do anything wrong? Ergh.
   Oh, and isn't the cover just adorable? I love how each one looks like a purse or a journal. Creative, sparkling, and fun, On Location is a great addition to the series!

Other books in the series:

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Monday Muse: Interview with Laura Schaefer

Today's Muse: Laura Schaefer
Author of: The upcoming Teashop Girls (review here)
Bookworm: To start, what's your favorite kind of tea?
Laura: My standard tea, the one I drink over and over again, is English Breakfast tea, which is a black tea. I enjoy making it with cream and sugar--delicious! I also enjoy white tea, which has such a delicate and lovely flavor that I drink it all by itself, with no cream, sugar, or lemon. Finally, I really like citrus-flavored green tea made by Salada. It's nothing fancy, but I feel really healthy and good when I drink it, because they fortify it with extra antioxidants. That one I have with honey.

Bookworm: Who or what inspired you to write The Teashop Girls?
Laura: I was vacationing in Florida in the summer of 2005. The small town outside of Orlando where my dad and brother live has a tea shop called Sherlock's. It was when I was sitting there, on its outdoor patio, that the title The Teashop Girls came to me. I'd been a freelance writer for many years by then and always enjoyed taking my laptop to work in coffee and tea shops and cafés. It seemed natural to write about such a lively--yet comforting and peaceful--setting. I remembered how voraciously I read books when I was 10, 11, 12 years old and how the books I loved at that age were warm escape from everyday cares. I wanted to create that kind of world for my readers, and when I looked around Sherlock's that day, I knew I had found my inspiration.

Bookworm: Which Teashop Girl are you most like?
Laura: I have a bit of all the Teashop Girls in me, I think. I'm sensitive and sometimes self-conscious like Annie--yet fierce about what I believe in. I'm drawn to art like Genna and tend to enjoy lots of attention like her, too. Finally, I have a deep practical, matter-of-fact, type-A streak like Zoe. I guess when I created the girls, I really found an excuse to write all about myself! Huh.

Bookworm: Were any of the characters in the book based off of real-life people?
Laura: Yes, loosely. I'm lucky enough to have such a wonderful family, group of friends, and co-workers. I think I've stolen bits and pieces of lots of them to create the world of The Teashop Girls. But no character IS someone I know. It's my little fantasy world.

Bookworm: Did you have any influence in the choice of cover for your book?
Laura: I did not, other than to voice my complete love and enthusiasm for it. Isn't it the cutest? Annie is just how I pictured her.

Bookworm: Are you planning on writing any more books for teens?
Laura: Absolutely. There's nothing else I do--besides maybe dancing--that makes me happier than getting into the writing "zone", and just flying with it. My next project is (tentatively) called Here's Looking at You, Frankie Sullivan. It's about a teenager living in Hollywood during World War II. She's immersed in the world of movie-making, and I'm having so much fun working on it. Last summer, the Michael Mann picture Public Enemies starring Johnny Depp did some location filming in Madison, Wisconsin (where I live). I watched everything that went into shooting a scene, and I thought "I want to write about this. It's fascinating!"
  Also, I plan to have The Teashop Girls become a series. I have a second book outlined now, and hope to begin working on it soon.
Congratulations, Laura on the almost-release of The Teashop Girls (coming out December 31)! (:

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Teashop Girls

Title: The Teashop Girls
Author: Laura Schaefer
Pages: 250
Coming out on December 31, 2008 from Simon and Schuster
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Recommended to: Girls, 11 and up
Rating: A

Meet Annie, Genna, and Zoe--also known as "The Teashop Girls". They've been BFFs forever, and their favorite hangout is Annie's grandmother's quaint tea shop, The Steeping Leaf, where tea is held weekly, and where the girls basically grew up. But this year is different-the trio are about to graduate eighth grade, and each is busy with their own schedules and activities, leaving Annie feeling a bit left behind. But when Annie scores a job as a barista for the Leaf, she learns shocking news: her beloved shop may be closing, due to eviction notices! Now, Annie needs her fellow Teashop Girls more than ever to save the Leaf...with a cute barista boy crush and an annoying classmate getting in the way, can they do it in time?
   To put it simply, I loved The Teashop Girls. The plot was smooth, quick, easy, and sweet as honey, and while I was reading, I felt warm and fuzzy, like I was drinking a steaming cup of chamomile. I appreciated how special and affectionate Ms. Schaefer made her story--unlike some books nowadays, the plot was about the importance of friends, family and community; age-appropriate, and not constantly dropping brand names. All the characters were delightfully unique--from the lovable Louisa to Annie's two messy, annoying little brothers to the other two Teashop Girls, all with their own little quirks (I also liked how Ms. Schaefer incorporated the character's personalities into their favorite kind of tea--very clever). I felt loving towards the Leaf myself, and Sujean Rim's beautiful illustrations really brought the shop to life. I also loved all the tea facts, quotes, drawings, lists, and recipes Ms. Schaefer included in her novel--they added life, color, and creativity. My one problem was that I just didn't get what Annie saw in her barista boy crush, aka Jonathan. I found him dull and self-centered from the very beginning. Ergh. 
   With a very satisfying ending, The Teashop Girls is a genuine story that I found myself loving from the beginning to the end. I certainly hope there'll be many more sequels in the future--Ms. Schaefer has a lot of potential and an original, great first novel to start from.

In My Mailbox Take 3

Yay to The Story Siren for starting this cool feature!
Here's this week's book haul--summaries courtesy of Amazon.com!

Parties and Potions by Sarah Mlynowski
  Perfect hair, cute clothes, healthy tans-life's a breeze when you're a witch! Even special witchcraft classes Rachel agrees to attend with Miri turn out to be fun. The sisters meet other teen witches just like them-who knew? Everyone's preparing for a magical party called a Samsorta-a debutante ball for witches. And it wouldn't be a ball without warlocks. Cute ones. Like Adam, who wants to slow dance with Rachel, and ski with her in the Rockies-on a school night! Of course, Rachel is madly in love with her boyfriend, Raf. So why can't she bring herself to tell Adam-funny, charming Adam-that Raf exists?
  Rachel knows Raf likes her. Maybe even, gulp, loves her. But Raf doesn't know her secret. Unlike Adam, Raf doesn't know who she really is. And she can never tell him. Or can she?
  I love this series, and I can't wait to find out what's happening to Rachel in the fourth book! It sounds cute and creative-but I hope things work out between Rachel & Raf! Thanks to Random House for sending me a copy!

The Interns: Fashionistas by Chloe Walsh
  Fashion-it's an obsession for millions. But for four lucky, talented girls, fashion is a full-time, style-transforming...internship in New York City! Some might call it work, but as interns at high-end Couture magazine, Callie, Nadine, Ava, and Aynsley are workin' it in style.
   Callie Ryan: Innocent aspiring designer or claws-out fashion phony?
   Nadine Van Buren: Brings the party. Loves to party (even if it's a pity party).
   Ava Barton: Happy to be here--and about to take over!
   Aynsley Rothwell: Sexy sociality with a killer wardrobe--and the attitude to match.
   Hanging with the Couture interns is what's in this season. But who's the glamorous sage behind the Fashionistas blog serving up style wisdom and sartorial send-ups?
   It's enough to spark a hot-and-heavy fashion frenzy. Hold on to your Manolos...read on and find out.
  Got this one at Borders-looks a bit shallow but good none the less!

  Not a lot this week, but this may be a good thing--my shelves are jammed, and I've got tons to read! (:

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, and a Happy New Year to everyone! Hope Santa brings you some good books for the holidays! (; Have a safe and joyful holiday. 

(aka Claire) 

Waiting on Wednesday (3): Faketastic

by Alexa Young
Coming out January 6, 2008

From besties to worsties and back again...

Team Avalon: For Avalon, staying on top of trends has never been a problem-until her fellow cheerleaders decide that her BFF Halley is definitely out this season. Now Avalon must choose between the frenemy who embarrassed her in front of everyone or the new friends who stood by her.

Team Halley: Halley thinks she's got it all: her forever-friend Avalon, her new bestie Sofee, and the hottest fall wardrobe at Seaview Middle School. Her life is a total YES. But when Sofee spies Avalon flirting with Halley's crush, will it be World War Halvalon all over again?

I love Frenemies, so I was more than excited when Alexa said she'd send me a copy of no. 2! It looks great, and I can't wait to see who comes out on top this time!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Mary Margaret Mary Christmas

Title: Mary Margaret Mary Christmas
Author: Christine Kole Maclean
Pages: 152
Genre: Contemporary Fiction/Children's novel
Recommended to: Boys & girls, 8-10 years old
Rating: B-

It's almost Christmas, which means only one thing to nine-year-old Mary Margaret: presents. And this year, she's expecting a lot (five pages full, to be exact). But then her fourth-grade teacher Mr. Mooney's beautiful snow globe disappears, and later turns up on Mary Margaret's own boot, framing her! Now all Mary Margaret wants for Christmas is to have her name crossed off of the suspect list, but it will take some detective work and a little bit of Christmas magic to find the real culprit.
   Sweet, innocent, and perfect for the holiday-loving young bookworm, the fourth book in the lively Mary Margaret series is told with just as much character and enthusiasm as the previous three. The writing was simple, the dialogue was easy, and the conflicts were extremely minor, but overall the whole story reminded me of my own fourth-grade experience: the way the kids talked, acted, fought...It was all incredibly wholesome and realistic. 
  Meanwhile, towards the end, I began to get a little sick of Mary Margaret's ego, and she began to be extremely obnoxious and a little too cute. However, I found Maclean's writing perfect for the younger age group who are fans of Junie B. Jones and the Lucy Rose series who want a step up and a fun, spunky story revolving around a present-adoring character!

Other books in the series:

Saturday, December 20, 2008

My Almost Epic Summer

Title: My Almost Epic Summer
Author: Adele Griffin
Pages: 170
Speak, 2006
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Recommended to: Teens, 12-15
Rating: B-

 Irene has a dream: when she grows up, she wants to get the heck out of small-town New Jersey and move to LA, where she'll own and operate a chic beauty salon (that she's already named "Heroine Hairstyles", which will be famous for giving its clients styles of famous women in literature). Unfortunately, her future in styling begins looking bleak when she's fired from her mom's salon and is forced to find a new job. That's how Irene finds herself babysitting two kids instead of pursuing her goal of having an epic summer (even if her two BFFs are off having a fabulous time). Then Irene is acquainted with Starla, a beyond-gorgeous drama queen of a lifeguard, and everything changes. Irene instantly becomes obsessed with Starla and her fascinating past of romance, betrayal, and mystery, but when she finds herself falling for Starla's ex-boyfriend, her summer turns very exciting and interesting indeed...
  I had very high expectations for My Almost Epic Summer, but unfortunately I was a little bit disappointed. The summary on the back cover of the book advertised excitement, adventure, friendship, and one very exciting summer. However, I found the novel to be the opposite. I honestly didn't see what Irene saw in Starla the diva, who seemed cold, aloof and too mysterious for my taste. On the other hand, I liked Irene's character. I enjoyed how original she was, and appreciated how she was a total bookworm and was determined to pursue her dreams. The only thing that bugged me was that she seemed to act a little too old for her age, and when I figured out that she was just going into high school, I was totally surprised. The narration gave the illusion that Irene was at least a sophomore or junior. The plot lacked any of the adventure and summer fun that I had expected, and it felt flat and a bit dull. Anyway, I was surprisingly not bored, despite the lack of a climax. The story moved quickly and the dialogue was real and refreshing. My favorite part of the book was the ending--it was sweet and well thought-out, and, well, perfect! My Epic Summer wasn't the best book I've read, but it still makes for a pretty pleasurable, easy summer read. 

In My Mailbox: Take Two!

Yay to the Story Siren for this awesome feature! Here's this week's rundown (summaries courtesy of Amazon.com):

Death by Denim by Linda Gerber 
(May 2009)
Even though Aphra Connolly knows there are some very dangerous people on their tail when she met her mom, Natalie, in Paris, she envisioned the two of them strolling along to Champs-Elysées, sharing Nutella-smeared crepes and mother-daughter bonding. But the only strolling they've been doing is from one cheap hostel to another, and the "moments" they share consist of Natalie instructing Aphra on the finer points of anonymity and survival. When Natalie's CIA contact in Paris is found floating in the Seine with a deadly message stuffed into his mouth, Aphra realizes that, like Seth Mulo and his family, she will never be able to stop running unless she confronts the situation head-on. Sneaking away from 
her mom and her CIA protector Ryan, Aphra tracks down a criminal mastermind in Italy, only to discover that Seth had the same idea, and her presences may have just put Seth in mortal danger...

How to Ditch Your Fairy by Justine Larbalestier
Welcome to New Avalon, where everyone has a personal fairy. Though invisible to the naked eyes, a personal fairy, like a specialized good luck charm, is vital to success. And in the case of the students at New Avalon Sports High, it might just determine whether you make the team, pass a class, or find that perfect outfit. But for 14-year-old Charlie, having a Parking Fairy is worse than having nothing at all-especially when the school bully carts her around like his own personal parking pass. Enter: The Plan. At first, teaming up with her arch-enemy Fiorenza (who has an All-The-Boys-Like-You Fairy) seems like a great idea. But when Charlie unexpectedly gets her heart's desire, is isn't at all what she thought it would be like, and she'll have to resort to extraordinary measures to ditch her fairy. The question is: will Charlie herself survive the fairy ditching experiment?

Mary Margaret Mary Christmas by Christine Kole Maclean
Mary Margaret knows the true meaning of Christmas-presents!-and she is ready for her best Christmas yet. She has an ever-growing wishlist and a tree with enough room at the bottom for lots of gifts. But when her teacher's snow globe disappears from his desk and Mary Margaret becomes the prime suspect, all she really wants for Christmas is her good name back (although she wouldn't say no to a present or two). 

Thursday, December 18, 2008


Title: Frenemies
Author: Alexa Young
Pages: 245
HarperTeen, 2008
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Recommended to: Tween girls, ages 11-14
Rating: A

  Avalon Greene and Halley Brandon have been best friends for as long as they can remember. They share everything: friends, parties, clothes, advice, their puppy Pucci, and even their school's online fashion column. This year, the girls are starting eighth grade, and Avalon is planning on having a big bash to celebrate the girls' life-long friendship. But then Halley comes home from camp with a whole new style and new friends that Avalon disapproves of, and their different tastes in fashion and pals begins to drive the two BFFs farther and farther apart. Their disagreement erupts into a enormous fight, and the two former-friends will stop at nothing to make the other one look bad and to always come out on top, even if it means sabotaging, spreading rumors and nasty lies, or pulling cruel pranks. Is Halvalon over for good? 
   Entertaining, light, and quick, Frenemies was an absolute pleasure to read. The dialogue was colorful, the characters were realistic and utterly lovable, and the plot was different and fun. Ultimately, the story sort of reminded me of the ultra-popular Clique series, what with the power struggle between friends, the jealousy, the cattiness, and yet the friendship and bonds. I can't say I had a favorite character--I found myself siding with both girls at various points of the book. Sofee was extremely cool and sophisticated, Avalon was clever and real, Halley was unique and always said the right thing to say, and The Moms were awesome (if only every mom could be that cool)! Young's descriptions were exquisite and sparkling, and I always found myself looking forward to the hilarious-but-sometimes-not-so-nice Style Snark columns-there was always some good advice there. I enjoyed, in an odd way, reading on to see what sort of clever, backhanded prank each girl played on the other, and overall the plot was exciting and fresh. However, I found both girls to be a little juvenile. The pranks they played were shallow and, after a while, mean and lacking creativity. They turned on each other over hardly anything, and by the time I was 3/4 through the story, both girls' behavior was getting a bit old. However, I thought that the almost-alternating points of view was cool, and overall I really loved the plot and can't wait for no. 2-Faketastic! Alexa's sending me an ARC (thanks so much, A.!) and I'm soooo excited!
  Well, what about you? Are you pro-Halley or are you on Team Avalon?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Waiting on Wednesday (2): 3 Willows

Three Willows 
by Ann Brashares
Coming out in January 2009

Summer is a time to grow
Polly has an idea that she can't stop thinking about, one that involves changing a few things about herself. She's setting her sights on a more glamorous life, but it's going to take all of her focus. At least that way she won't have to watch her friends moving so far ahead.
Jo is spending the summer at her family's beach house, working as a busgirl and bonding with the older, cooler girls she'll see at high school come September. She didn't count on a brief fling with a cute boy changing her entire summer. Or feeling embarrassed by her middle school friends. And she didn't count on her family at all...
Ama is not an outdoorsy girl. She wanted to be at an academic camp, doing research in an air-conditioned library, earning A's. Instead her summer scholarship lands her on a wilderness trip full of flirting teenagers, blisters, impossible hiking trails, and a sad lack of hair products.

It is a new summer. And a new sisterhood. Come grow with them.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Monday Muse: Interview with Barrie Summy

Today's Muse: Barrie Summy
Author of: I So Don't Do Mysteries (review here)
Featured in: An interview!
Bookworm: What made you want to right a mystery for teens?
Barrie: I was completely hooked on Nancy Drew when I was a kid. And I wanted to write one when I grew up. In fact, I So Don't Do Mysteries was originally written as a Nancy Drew. It was called The Mystery at the Wild Animal Park. But...it got rejected.

Bookworm: How long did it take you to write ISDDM?
Barrie: Well, like I was saying, I first wrote ISDDM as a Nancy Drew. After it got rejected, I set it aside for a little while and worked on something else. Finally, I realized that I just couldn't let go of the teen mystery. So, I So Don't Do Mysteries was born. And because I wasn't dealing with a Nancy Drew anymore, I didn't have to follow the guidelines. So, seventeen-year-old Nancy morphed into sassy thirteen-year-old Sherry. Bess and George morphed into Junie and Amber. Ned Nickerson became Josh Morton. I added more suspects, and the whole thing just got weird and wacky and fun with ghosts and spring break in San Diego and a difficult stepmother. Oops. I guess I never really answered the question. About seven years. Which looks very looong when typed out!

Bookworm: Is Sherry's character based off of yourself or anyone you know?
Barrie: Nah, she really isn't.

Bookworm: Who are your favorite modern YA authors?
Barrie: Oh, this is a toughie. A YA author you might not have read yet is Norah McClintock, a Canadian YA mystery writer. I also love Louise Rennison, Sarah Dessen, Laurie Halse Anderson, Siobhan Dowd. Also, I've been reading through the Class of 2k8's books, and there's some serious talent in there.

Bookworm: What's next for Sherry?
Barrie: Next is I So Don't Do Spooky where Sherry and her mom have to figure out who's stalking The Ruler [Sherry's totally annoying teacher/stepmother] and stop him/her. Josh is back along with Junie and Amber. There's a really fun psychic scene which I researched by actually going to a psychic fair. And there's a spooky cemetery scene which I researched
 by, you guessed it, going to a cemetery. 

TOTALLY RANDOM BONUS QUESTION: What's your favorite kind of muffin?
Barrie: Blueberry. Hands down.
Thanks so much for the interview, Barrie! Don't forget to check out I So Don't Do Mysteries, which just came out December 9!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Black Sheep

Title: The Black Sheep
Authors: Sandy Rideout and Yvonne Collins
Pages: 348
Hyperion, 2007
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Recommended to: Teen girls, 13 and up
Rating: A

  Fifteen year old Kendra Bishop is sick of her dull, boring, orderly life. She's sick of all of her parent's stupid restrictions and rules (there's a whole binder full of them). She's sick of living in a cold marble tomb-of-a-house that's filled with busts of dead musicians. And, lastly, she's sick of being boring old Kendra, daughter of the runaholic bankers. She wants change: and that's why she writes to The Black Sheep, a reality TV show that offers a family swap with another teen. But then a camera crew (accompanied by the obnoxious ratings-obsessed producer Judy) arrives at her front door, and before she knows it, Kendra is leaving her privileged Manhattan life, friends, and her so-called family to live in Monterey, California with a laid-back family of loving hippies, their crazy kids, and their pets. Now Kendra's constantly in the spotlight, whether she's finding a newfound passion in rescuing otters, crushing on her host family's cute son, or being presented on a national talk show to speak about her family. Will Kendra survive? Or will the show completely ruin her life?
   Fun, fun, fun! The Black Sheep was a thoroughly enjoyable, quick, lighthearted novel about stardom, the true meaning of family, discovering yourself, and growing up. I loved watching Kendra's transformation from just bland, mousy, sheltered little Kendra to passionate, daring, and loving Kendra. The whole novel was realistic, the dialogue was fabulous, and I absolutely loved the unique Mulligans, no matter how dysfunctional and tree-hugging they are. And Judy's character was absolutely a blast: her speech and actions were hilarious. My one problem was that I found the story to go on for too long. It just seemed to drag a bit, and by the end, it had seemed to repeat itself and its points over and over again. I also have to say: I like the black cover better than the paperback edition. It looks more professional, and the PB just gives it a kind of overly breezy, cheesy, and cliché look, something that I expected before delving into The Black Sheep and realizing it had depth. Which one do you prefer?
 Well, consider this novel highly recommended. (:

Friday, December 12, 2008

Big Birthday Contest!

It's Bookworm Readers' first birthday (in October), and I'm having a ten-book-giveaway contest to celebrate my first anniversary in blogging (even though it is 2 months late).
Here's what I'll be giving away:
2 signed copies of Linda Gerber's Death by Latte and a Death By...bookmark
2 copies of Lynn Messina's Savvy Girl (review here)
1 copy of Mary Hogan's The Serious Kiss
1 copy of Mary Hogan's Perfect Girl
1 ARC of Wendelin Van Draanen's Confessions of a Serial Kisser
1 copy of Sasha Watson's Vidalia in Paris (review here)
1 ARC of Julie Kraut and Shallon Lester's Hot Mess: Summer in the City
1 copy of Barrie Summy's I SO Don't Do Mysteries (review here)

How to Enter:
To enter (counts as 1 entry), comment on this post with your email address and your first choice out of all the books.

Extra Entries:
+1 for every comment you leave on any BR posts (not counting this one), but make sure to tell me which ones so I can give you your extra entries!
+2 if you "follow" Bookworm Readers on Blogger 
+2 if you link to this post on your own page 
+1 for every person you reference to this post

 The contest ends on January 20, 2009 at midnight, PST. Results will be announced the day after. Good luck!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Waiting on Wednesday: Envy

Yay to Breaking the Spine for starting this cool feature, and thanks for letting me take part in it!
The Luxe: Envy by Anna Godbersen (coming January 2009)

Jealous whispers. Old rivalries. New betrayals. Two months after Elizabeth Holland's dramatic homecoming, Manhattan eagerly awaits her return to the pinnacle of society. When Elizabeth refuses to join her sister Diana's side, however, those watching New York's favorite family begin to suspect that all is not as it seems behind the stately doors of No. 17 Gramercy Park South. 
  Farther uptown, Henry and Penelope Schoonmaker are the city's most celebrated couple. But despite the glittering diamond ring on Penelope's finger, the newlyweds share little more than scorn for each other. And while the newspapers call Penelope's social-climbing best friend, Caroline Broad, an heiress, her fortune-and her fame-are anything but secure, especially now that one of the society's darlings is slipping tales to the eager press.

Wow. I'm a huge fan of The Luxe, and can't wait for Envy! Plus: the cover was just released. Doesn't it look amazing?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Dear Julia

Title: Dear Julia
Author: Amy Bronwen Zemser
Pages: 327
Greenwillow Books, October 2008
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Recommended to: Preteens, 11 to 13
Grade: B-

Elaine Hamilton loves to cook: in fact, she wants to become a chef when she grows older. Her ultimate dream is to attend the Cordon Bleu cooking school in Paris, France to master the art of French cooking, and to learn to cook like her number-one idol, the great Julia Child, who she writes unsent letters to regarding kitchen mishaps and questions. Unfortunately for her, her overachieving feminist mother has other plans for her shy, quiet daughter: she wants Elaine out of the kitchen and into Dartmouth College, where she can hopefully pursue a future in government, just as her mother does...But then she meets the flamboyant and colorful Isadora Wilhelminetta Fischburger (who has cleverly renamed herself Lucida Sans, like the computer font), whose greatest desire is to become famous, and the pair becomes close, unlikely friends. Together, they can tackle anything: a group of hungry brothers, a slightly nutty yoga-practicing father, an egotistical rotten fig of an actor who will stop at nothing to get his way, a cooking competition that could make the girls famous, and the dreaded omelette that Elaine just can't seem to master...Will Elaine be able to pursue her dreams, and win the competition (even if it means facing some of her worst fears)?
   Delicious. Just delicious. Where do I begin?  First, I found Dear Julia to be incredibly charming, sweet, and unique; fun, breezy, and enjoyable. Zemser possesses a unique writing style: the tone of the book was formal and old-fashioned, but simply made reading through the novel a pleasure. From the middle on, I was at the edge of my seat, madly flipping pages up until the extremely satisfying conclusion. I found the characters to be well-developed and realistic: I absolutely adored Lucida, she was eclectic, colorful, special, distinctive, and utterly lovable (Whew! That was a lot of adjectives!). I loved all of her crazy costumes and how she really discovered her true talents at the end. I loved how she had a slightly different family, how she didn't care what people thought about her, how brave and daring she was, and how she pushed Elaine to try new things. She was simply a breath of fresh air to the novel. Meanwhile, Croton Harmon was also such a fun character. Zemser made him the ultimate "pretty boy" who was totally in love with himself. In fact, he reminded me of the creepily despicable Reggie from those old Betty and Veronica comics: self-involved and utterly sleazy. From his name to his actions, Croton was utterly hateable. On the other hand, I found Elaine to be stuffy, dull, and absolutely bland. She irritated me until I wanted to scream: she was so boring and never stood up for herself. She was too quiet and mousy and, after a while, annoying. However, towards the end of the book, she really grew on me: her character matured and changed and became really likeable. All in all, I really enjoyed Dear Julia (the plot was very clever and fun with humor dotted throughout), but some aspects of it were not satisfactory to me. For the first half of the novel, I was bored out of my mind. I was sick to death of Elaine being so timid and odd, and the plot moved like molasses. I was also confused: throughout the novel, I was wondering how old each brother was, and at the end it really bugged me (was Francis younger or older? And Chris? Was he gay or not?). I also wished the author had hinted at the time period, which didn't make sense to me. Julia Child passed away in 2004, but at the end of the novel [spoiler] she makes an appearance. I just wish Zemser had been more specific, it would've made reading far more enjoyable. 
  However, the last half of Dear Julia was lovely and by the end I was practically begging for a sequel. Plus: I just love the cover withe the veggie-face! Isn't it cool? What did you think about this book? I want to hear feedback! (Oh-and sorry that this review is reallllly long! I just had a lot to say!) (:
Bon appétit!

J'Adore Your Blog!

I want to thank Nadine-Stella over at Starry Night for the nomination--I feel so honored!
In return, here are my I Heart Your Blog nominees:
Mrs. Magoo Reads because I love her many fun features
Hope's Bookshelf because her reviews rock
Lauren from Lauren's Crammed Bookshelf because I love reading her great reviews
Chick Lit Teens because all of her posts are colorful, fun, and she has great taste in books (:
The Story Siren (even though she's probably been nominated a ton) because....well....her blog is awesome!
The Book Muncher-- she has well-written, in-depth reviews
Gabbi at All Five Stars--her reviews are straight-to-the-point, but she has lots of fun stuff, too!

Congrats, everyone!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

My Chocolate Year

Title: My Chocolate Year
Author: Charlotte Herman
Illustrated by: LeUyen Pham
Pages: 163
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2008
Genre: Historical Fiction
Recommended to: Kids, ages 8-11
Rating: B

It's 1945, and Dorrie Myers is beginning fifth grade in Miss Fitzgerald's class, which means one very exciting thing to her and her best friend Sunny Shapiro: it's the year of Sweet Semester, a baking and essay contest, and the winner gets their photo in the newspaper! Dorrie desperately wants to win and become famous like her favorite movie star Margaret O' Brien, but she can't bake to save her life! Her cakes fall, her brownies burn, and even successful recipes have something wrong (like accidentally putting laxatives in nut clusters!). Then her cousin Victor comes to stay with the family from war-torn Europe, and Dorrie begins to learn more about her family and background. But can Victor help her win Sweet Semester with his secret recipe?
 Herman's story is heartwarming, sweet, and down-to-earth. She excellently gives readers a peek into a close Jewish family's life in the '40s, and each character is unique and special. However, the plot was a little too predictable and cliché for me, and the dialogue was a little too simple for my taste. Overall, I found the book to be a bit young, but can't say I didn't enjoy it. The illustrations were adorable, the 12 recipes scattered throughout were clever and added a little zing to the story, and the cover is awesome (doesn't that cupcake just look soooo yummy?). I have to say, when I first saw this book on the shelf at my local bookstore, I knew I had to read it. But I thought it was a modern story, and at first I was disappointed to see it was historical fiction. But then I started reading and changed my mind: My Chocolate Year is a sweet, appropriate read for younger bookworms who like a quick but well-written novel.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

I SO Don't Do Mysteries

Title: I SO Don't Do Mysteries
Author: Barrie Summy
Pages: 264
Delacorte Press
Date of Publication: December 9, 2008
Genre: Mystery
Recommended to: Tween girls, 10-13
Rating: A

Sherlock ("Sherry") Holmes Baldwin is not the mystery-solving type, despite her name. In fact, she's the polar opposite of Nancy Drew: she'd rather spend her time gorging on Oreos, shopping at the mall, hanging with her nerdy-but-sweet best friend Junie, trying to avoid her new stepmother, and fantasizing about her major crush, Josh Morton. But then Sherry's former cop of a mom suddenly contacts her from the ghost world and requests her assistance: she's flunking out of the Academy of Spirits, and needs Sherry's help to solve a mystery that will secure her a spot in a successful afterlife. Unfortunately, Sherry so doesn't do mysteries, but before she knows it, she's being whisked to San Diego, California, with Junie and her bratty teenage cousin to solve a conflict that includes a poacher, a bunch of innocent rhinos, a chef looking for revenge, and a group of crazy old people! Can Sherry save her mom's afterlife, save the rhinos, and get Josh to like her back? It's going to be one crazy spring break...
   First off: I gotta say that I love Sherry: she's positively hilarious. She's realistic and always comes up with the craziest lies and smartest plans. Ms. Summy's dialogue is straight-to-the-point and realistic, with teenager lingo and great details. The plot flowed smoothly and was easy to get into: from the exciting climax on, it was extremely difficult to put the funny, cute book down. I loved all the crazy characters and their actions, which sometimes had me cracking up (Old people plotting serious revenge? Crazy chefs? What isn't there to love?). 
   Perhaps my most favorite aspect of the story was how unique I SO Don't Do Mysteries was. The plot was totally different from any other YA book I've ever read: Ms. Summy incorporated romance into the storyline without it being trashy; the mystery that needed to be solved was fresh and serious but at the same time funny; and the way the strong, funny characters handled things was absolutely refreshing. I also enjoyed how you could clearly hear Sherry's voice in the narration: it was positively fresh and real. All in all, I give Barrie Summy's upcoming mystery (it officially comes out in 5 days-and I know Barrie's having a countdown on her blog) two big thumbs up and can't wait to check out the sequel (coming out in mid-2009, or so I heard), I So Don't Do Spooky. Hopefully it will be as good as the first!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

You've Got Mail!

Happy late Thanksgiving, everyone (gobble, gobble)! The In My Mailbox feature was created by the brilliant Story Siren and it's a lot of fun to see what everyone else is reading, so I thought I'd join in!

S.A.S.S.: The Great Call of China by Cynthea Liu (February 2009)
"Chinese-born Cece was adopted when she was two years old by her American parents. Living in Texas, she's bored of her ho-hum high school and dull job. So when she learns about the S.A.S.S. program to Xi'an, China, she jumps at the chance. She'll be able to learn about her passion-anthropology-and it will give her the opportunity to find her roots. But when she arrives, she receives quite a culture shock. And the closer she comes to finding out about her birth parents, the more apprehensive she gets. Enter Will, the cute guy she first meets on the plane. He and Cece really connect during the program. But can he help her get accustomed to a culture she should already know about, or will she leave China without the answers she's been looking for?
 I'm really excited to read Cynthea's new novel. I've always been quite a fan of the fun, interesting teen travel series, and The Great Call of China seems to be different from some of the other books in the series with a more realistic plot and real conflicts. Thanks to Cynthea and Penguin for sending me a copy!

The Teashop Girls by Laura Schaefer (December 2008)
 Annie, Genna, and Zoe ha
ve been hanging out at the Steeping Leaf since elementary school. The Teashop Girls do everything together -- at least they used to. With the end of eighth grade approaching, Genna's too busy with theater, Zoe's always at tennis, and Annie totally feels left out. What happened to tea every week, no matter what?
 When Annie convinces her grandmother to give her a job as a barista at the Leaf, things begin to look up. In between whipping up chai lattes for customer, and attempting to catch the attention of her Barista Boy crush, Annie is finally beginning to feel as grown-up as her best friends. But an eviction notice spells trouble for the Leaf and unless they can turn the business around, the teashop will have to close its doors forever.
 Sounds like just the sort of book I like to read: sweet, fun, with a little bit of romance-the kind of book that makes you feel warm and happy after finishing it. This one's right at the top of my TBR pile, and I can't wait to get started! Thanks to Laura and Simon & Schuster for giving me the chance to review this fabulous-looking read!

Heaven Looks a Lot Like the Mall by Wendy Mass 
 When 16-year-old Tessa suffers a shocking accident in gym class, she finds herself in heaven (or what she thinks is heaven), which happens to bear a striking resemblance to her hometown mall. In the tradition of It's a Wonderful Life and A Christmas Carol, Tessa starts reliving her life up until that moment. She sees some things she'd rather forget, learns some things about herself she'd rather not know, and ultimately must find the answer to one burning question--if only she knew what that question was.
  Ooh, another add-on to my growing TBR stack! I've heard great things about Wendy Mass, which makes me particularly excited about starting her novel (She's also a really funny person). Thank you, Wendy, for sending me a copy of Heaven!

Yay! That was fun! Thanks for including me, Story Siren! (:

Monday, December 1, 2008


Title: Pepperland
Author: Mark Delaney
Pages: 184
Peachtree Publishers, 2004
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Recommended to: Teen boys and girls who like music, 13 and older
Rating: B

Summary (from inside jacket flap): 
  Pamela Jean (aka Star) is sixteen when her mother dies, and nothing seems to make her feel better: Not talking to her shrink. Not playing rock music with her best friend, Dooley. Not even listening to her mother's old familiar Beatles albums. 
 It is not until Star finds am unsent letter addressed to John Lennon and a broken-down vintage Gibson guitar that she begins to find a way out of her grief...and maybe even a way to take care of some unfinished business left by her mother.
   It's been such a long time since I've read this book, that I don't really remember all the details. However, I do remember how unique and special Delaney's characters are: Dr. Artaud, Syke, Dooley, and, my favorite, Teri. I loved the dialogue that was exchanged between each different, realistic character: their words really reflect their personalities (monotonous and simpleminded, gruff and grieving, genuine and quiet, and happy and outgoing). However, I found Star's overall personality to be a little dull compared to the colorful characteristics of the others. The plot was well-rounded but seemed to lack a climax (perhaps when Star found the guitar and letter?). Meanwhile, I absolutely adored the ending: it was sweet and just the right way to end the story: throughout the novel, Star was just really struggling to find who she truly was and attempting to learn more about her mother. The ending left me perfectly satisfied: I felt that Star had really accomplished getting over the past and moving on to the future. I also liked how the author incorporated music and the Beatles as metaphors of Star's life and how the music brought her, her mother, Teri, and Dooley together (it was also very clever naming each chapter after the title of a Beatles song). 
  While reading Pepperland, it sort of reminded me of Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist: a girl, a boy, music...A winning combo for fans of bittersweet, interesting stories.