Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The A Circuit

Authors: Georgina Bloomberg & Catherine Hapka
Pages: 272
Published: Bloomsbury, 2011
Genre: Realistic fiction
Cover Score: B
Overall Grade: A-

On the A-circuit, talented teenage equestrians travel the country competing at top levels of horse showing, in the hopes of winning prestige and glory. At Pelham Lane Stables outside of New York City, the teen riders are some of the best competing on the circuit. Tommi, a billionaire heiress, and Kate, a working student are serious about their riding. So when party girl Zara Trask, daughter of a famous rock star, shows up at Pelham Lane in a wake of drama and attitude from LA, she is not welcome. Then there's Fitz, the barn's resident Casanova, who just wants Kate to give him a chance. But for these girls, who all want to prove themselves, the real challenge will be when the drama from the real world spills into the show ring!

My thoughts: As an equestrian who competes on the A-circuit herself, I was pleasantly surprised and satisfied by Ms. Bloomberg's debut in young adult fiction. The author's account of the elite level of horseback riding is accurate (although a bit more melodramatic), and she doesn't try to gloss over the less-glamorous aspects of the sport, giving the reader a good understanding of all of the work, sweat, and tears that are part of the horse world.
All three main characters were well-developed and had a good background story: party animal Zara is sick of living under her famous father's shadow, working-girl Kate is trying to make a name for herself despite her self-doubt, and Tommi wants to prove that she is more than her father's money. It was interesting to see how each girl struggled with her personal problems, attempting to solve them, as the plot progressed. The book itself was fast-paced, and I whipped through the chapters, eagerly seeing what was next.
For girls who love horses and enjoy books like Gossip Girl, The A-Circuit is perfect. While I was expecting a Clique-like novel filled chock-full with mean girls, catfights, and tension, I was pleasantly surprised by how I could relate to all 3 of the girls, and the bonds between them and their teammates, their horses. There was still a level of privilege and social drama, but it only made the plot more interesting and juicier
However, I was expecting more action from the novel, and was a bit disappointed by the abrupt ending (I felt that it needed more closure). Nevertheless, Ms. Bloomberg has the makings of a great series on her hands--she has set up conflicts and left me with questions that I am excited to see answered in future books. All in all, I can't wait for more fast-paced action, suspense, and romance.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Tempest Rising

Author: Tracy Deebs
Pages: 341
Published: Walker Books for Young Readers, 2011
Genre: Paranormal/Romance
Cover Score: B-
Overall Grade: A

Tempest Maguire is more than comfortable with the life she has: her one love is surfing the California waves with her boyfriend, Mark, and hanging out with her dad and two little brothers. However, Tempest's 17th birthday is approaching, and she will have to make a decision that typical teenagers don't have to face: as a half-mermaid, does she want to remain on land, or does she want to give herself to the ocean like her mermaid mother, who left Tempest and her brothers 11 years ago to return to her true home? Even though Tempest loves her friends and family, the pull of the water is becoming increasingly insistent, as is her attraction to Kai, a mysterious and gorgeous surfer whose superhuman abilities hint at an otherworldly identity as well. When Tempest enters the underwater world, it is unlike anything she ever could have imagined--she will come face to face with power-hungry sea witches, terrifying monsters, her mother, and, ultimately, her destiny, which the whole sea depends on...

My thoughts: Wow! I am definitely loving this current "mermaid" trend in YA! Tempest Rising was enchanting and beautifully written. I was sucked in to Tempest's story by page one, and it was an exhilarating ride, right up to the conclusion.
I really liked how the book wasn't all fantasy: it was about romance; it was about a mother and a daughter; it was about choosing your future. There was a perfect amount of lead-up (aka Tempest's life on land), so that I got to know Tempest's character and the importance of the decisions she had to make.
There was so much emotion jam-packed into a couple of hundred pages, and as a reader, I felt them all, sympathizing for Tempest. I felt the tension within the Mark-Tempest-Kai love triangle, I felt Tempest's longing for the sea, I felt her anger towards being abandoned by her mother, I experienced her confusion and fear at turning into a mermaid, I felt the love she had for her brothers and father, and I felt her guilt as if it were my own.
In addition, Ms. Deebs created a fantastical underwater environment that gave the novel a genuine 3D feel. I felt as if I were swimming alongside Tempest in this magical alternate reality that was flawlessly created. Tempest was easy to relate to, and I saw a lot of myself in her.
Although I was expecting more action and adventure and less internal monologue, I really enjoyed the fast, thrilling, romantic, ride of Tempest Rising. Overall, a stunning debut. I can't wait to see what's next for Tracy Deebs, Tempest, and Kai!

Must-Read! Check it Out! Don't Bother

Monday, May 9, 2011


Author: Amy Fellner Dominy
Pages: 256
Published: May 11 2011, Walker Books for Young Readers
Cover Score: B
Overall Grade: A

Ellie Taylor loves nothing more than a good argument. After all, she's been arguing with her Yiddish grandfather, Zeydeh, ever since she could talk. So when she gets accepted to the Christian Society Speech and Performing Arts summer camp, she's psyched--the end-of-camp speech tournament could present her with a scholarship to the best speech school in the country! However, winning the scholarship won't be easy. The competition is hot--literally. His name is Devon Yeats, and whether she likes it or not, he makes her sizzle! Ellie is determined to win--until she discovers that the scholarship's private benefactor has negative feelings towards Jews. Will hiding her true identity and heritage be worth a shot at her dream?

My thoughts: I really, really enjoyed OyMG. It was funny, it was witty; it was lighthearted and fun and unique.
First of all, I need to acknowledge all of the wonderful characters. Ellie was a realistic protagonist who was struggling between hiding her true identity to fit in (and therefore disappointing her family), and revealing her secret, which could ruin her dream. I felt that the situations Ellie found herself in were relatable. She had a great, energetic voice, and her story really spoke to me, even though I'm not Jewish. I feel like any teen can relate to her situation. Zeydeh, Ellie's traditional Jewish grandfather, was absolutely endearing--his words of wisdom really stuck with me, and provide a strong, positive message for the book.
I loved the humor in the plot--the witty banter between Devon and Ellie lightened up some of the heavier issues that the novel brought to the table, such as modern-day anti-Semitism and accepting who you are.
Although this story was about so much more than going to a speech camp, the setting of the camp was a fun addition, and gave the story a unique edge (and really helped boost the dramatic ending!).
All in all, OyMG gave me that warm, and satisfying feeling, like I had just eaten a bowl of hot, homemade matzo ball soup. A great debut for middle-grade readers!

Must-Read! Check it Out! Don't Bother!

*** Thank you to Kate Lied and Bloomsbury Children's Books for giving me the great opportunity to participate in this blog tour!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Free E-Book Alert!

From May 3 through May 9th, Sourcebooks is offering a free e-book copy of Kim Culbertson's Songs for a Teenage Nomad! If you're interested in checking out this award-winning YA book, click here! As well, keep your eyes peeled for a review of Kim's latest release, Instructions for a Broken Heart, coming soon on my blog! Meanwhile, you can check out the book trailer here and get excited for a novel jam-packed with romance, humor, and Italy!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Monthly Mailbox

...A very lazy book blogger's take on The Story Siren's "In My Mailbox"! Here's the contents of my mailbox for the month of April...and maybe even February and March, too. :)

  • Famous by Todd Strasser
  • The Time-Traveling Fashionista by Bianca Turetsky
  • North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley
  • Where I Belong by Gwendolyn Heasley

For Review (many thanks to Bloomsbury Children's Books & Sourcebooks!):
  • Are You Going to Kiss Me Now? by Sloane Tanen
  • The A-Circuit by Georgina Bloomberg
  • OyMG by Amy Fellner Dominy
  • Tempest Rising by Tracy Deebs
  • Flawless by Lara Chapman
For Review, cont. (many thanks to Random House Children's Books):

  • The Dark and Hollow Places by Carrie Ryan
  • The FitzOsbornes in Exile by Michelle Cooper
  • Exposed by Kimberley Marcus
  • Jersey Tomatoes are the Best by Maria Padian
  • Like Mandarin by Kirsten Hubbard
  • Orchards by Holly Thompson
  • Seven Kinds of Ordinary Catastrophes by Amber Kizer
(not pictured):
  • Faerie Winter by Janni Lee Simner
  • Flip by Martyn Bedford
  • Rotters by Daniel Kraus