Thursday, March 29, 2012

Review: Goddess Interrupted by Aimee Carter

Published: March 27, 2012 by Harlequin Teen
ISBN: 0373210450 (ISBN13: 9780373210459)
Series: Goddess Test #2
Source: Harlequin Teen via NetGalley
Reviewer: Lindsay
Originally posted at The Violet Hour

Goodreads: "Kate Winters has won immortality. But if she wants a life with Henry in the Underworld, she'll have to fight for it.
Becoming immortal wasn't supposed to be the easy part. Though Kate is about to be crowned Queen of the Underworld, she's as isolated as ever. And despite her growing love for Henry, ruler of the Underworld, he's becoming ever more distant and secretive. 

Then, in the midst of Kate's coronation, Henry is abducted by the only being powerful enough to kill him: the King of the Titans. As the other gods prepare for a war that could end them all, it is up to Kate to save Henry from the depths of Tartarus. 

But in order to navigate the endless caverns of the Underworld, Kate must enlist the help of the one person who is the greatest threat to her future. Henry's first wife, Persephone."

Coming straight off of a reread of The Goddess Test, I dove right into Goddess Interrupted with some expectations. I enjoy Carter's writing, even though aspects of her characters, at times, drove me absolutely batty. I have never been  big into Greek mythology, but I enjoyed Goddess Interrupted. The storyline was great, and even though certain things became quite repetitive (which I'll address), it was very hard to put down and get out of my thoughts.
I really like Kate. Lots. She's strong, fiesty and not afraid to voice her opinion. Except to Henry about how she feels, how he makes her feel, etc.. Much of the book consists of Kate wringing her hands, worrying that Henry doesn't love her, and never will. And honestly, he, for his own reasons, doesn't give her much to go on. Kate sticks to her guns, though, and I was impressed with some of her decisions.

I am torn on whether or not I like Henry. In Goddess Interrupted, I found him to be a huge jerk 96% of the time. I understand his need to distance himself, but if he would  have simply opened up a little bit and not assumed he knew what went down or how Kate felt, it would have been so nice…for Kate, and me as a reader! When things are sweet between Henry and Kate (aka, when they actually communicate), they are wonderful together. i'm really hoping in book 3 we get a chance to see them working together, ruling the Underworld. 

Carter gives us a serious punch to the gut with the ending. I've heard that the final copy of GI has a longer ending, so that makes me happy because I felt the ARC ending could have been fleshed out a little more and tie things up as much as possible. I am definitely looking forward to everyone's reactions, and I am excited to see where Aimee Carter goes with such an interesting story.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Review: The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman

The Book of Blood and Shadow
Robin Wasserman
Published April 10, 2012
Random House Children's Books
Netgalley review copy
Reviewed by Megan

It was like a nightmare, but there was no waking up.  When the night began, Nora had two best friends and an embarrassingly storybook one true love.  When it ended, she had nothing but blood on her hands and an echoing scream that stopped only when the tranquilizers pierced her veins and left her in the merciful dark.

But the next morning, it was all still true: Chris was dead.  His girlfriend Adriane, Nora's best friend, was catatonic. And Max, Nora's sweet, smart, soft-spoken Prince Charming, was gone. He was also—according to the police, according to her parents, according to everyone—a murderer.

Desperate to prove his innocence, Nora follows the trail of blood, no matter where it leads. It ultimately brings her to the ancient streets of Prague, where she is drawn into a dark web of secret societies and shadowy conspirators, all driven by a mad desire to possess something that might not even exist. For buried in a centuries-old manuscript is the secret to ultimate knowledge and communion with the divine; it is said that he who controls the Lumen Dei controls the world. Unbeknownst to her, Nora now holds the crucial key to unlocking its secrets. Her night of blood is just one piece in a puzzle that spans continents and centuries. Solving it may be the only way she can save her own life.

This book. You guys.  THIS BOOK.  UGH.  It's really good.  Um...let me try to expand on that.  It's kind of amazing.  No? Okay.*

I have a few confessions to make before getting into a "review." 

Confession number one: I have never read a Robin Wasserman book before.  I've tried.  I've started more than one and it's not that they were bad.  Quite the opposite.  The writing was fantastic.  It's just that the subject matters weren't really my thing so I sort of gave up.  But as I stalk her on Twitter and want to be her BFF I felt that this would be forgiven.  Especially because as soon as I heard the premise of THIS book I knew it would be the one to blow me away.  And you guys?  It totally did. 

Confession Number Two: One spring night, as an optimistic college freshman, I sat across the street from my dorm on the side of a huge planter behind our student union reading a history text and I looked up at the stars and declared, in the way that only an optimistic freshman can, that I would change my Journalism major to an Archaeology major and I would crack codes in ancient manuscripts and I would discover lost artifacts and I would be world-famous for my numerous contributions to the modern world!  It would be so exciting!  Then I changed my major to English and now this is my life. But you can see why this book had me totally psyched.

So here's what you should know.  Robin Wasserman's book reads like a young adult version of The Da Vinci Code with a few notable exceptions:  One, it's written well.  Two, she does not rely on cheap gimmicks to keep you turning the page.  Like, for instance, chapters do not end in the middle of an explosion.  Really, it's a bad comparison to make.  What I SHOULD say is that Robin Wasserman's book reads like a better version of The Da Vinci Code in the whole fiction genre as a whole.  It's smart, it's well-written, it's sharp.  This is the kind of book that you give to nay-sayers to explain what good things are happening in YA and why they should shut their mouths.  It's not a watered-down, happy story.  People die.  Stakes are high.  There is blood and there is religion and there are fights and it is AWESOME.

The story is based around the Voynich Manuscript, which actually exists, and which is full of codes and secrets.  In Wasserman's book, the kids break the code, thanks to seemingly inconsequential correspondence, and discover that two warring religious factions are after those secrets for two very different purposes.  With the secrets they can build a device that will allow direct communication with God. One group believes this will lead to disaster and that if God wanted to communicate directly He would have allowed for it already.  The other group believes God was just waiting for humans to figure out His secrets.  And Nora and her friends are stuck in the middle.

This book will leaving you guessing to the end about who to trust.  Just when you think you know she'll turn the tables again.  It wasn't until I was about 75% of the way into the book that I was like, "Oh, yeah, I know."  And I did.  But even then there were still surprises.  It's a fantastic mystery novel, a fantastic suspense novel, and a fantastic novel overall. 

I have one complaint which has nothing to do with the writing at all and is probably not so much a complaint as it is a recommendation:  I'd suggest that when (when, not if) you buy this book, you do so in hard copy.  I'm not sure if it was just the ARC copy of the e-version or if it's the e-version in general, but it looks as though there are photocopied pages of the manuscript and they didn't come through on the Kindle.  I felt like I was missing something.  So, this may be one you want to hold in your hands.  You know.  WHEN you read it.

*I realize that a majority of my reviews involve gushing praise, but that's because I typically only review books I love.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Review: The Rivals (The Mockingbirds #2)

The Rivals (The Mockingbirds #2)
Daisy Whitney
Published February 6, 2012
Little, Brown Books
Review Copy
Reviewed by Rachael

When Alex Patrick was assaulted by another student last year, her elite boarding school wouldn't do anything about it. This year Alex is head of the Mockingbirds, a secret society of students who police and protect the student body. While she desperately wants to live up to the legacy that's been given to her, she's now dealing with a case unlike any the Mockingbirds have seen before.

It isn't rape. It isn't bullying. It isn't hate speech. A far-reaching prescription drug ring has sprung up, and students are using the drugs to cheat. But how do you try a case with no obvious victim? Especially when the facts don't add up, and each new clue drives a wedge between Alex and the people she loves most: her friends, her boyfriend, and her fellow Mockingbirds.

As Alex unravels the layers of deceit within the school, the administration, and even the student body the Mockingbirds protect, her struggle to navigate the murky waters of vigilante justice may reveal more about herself than she ever expected. -Goodreads

I couldn't wait to get my hands on this book after finishing The Mockingbirds and boy, I was not disappointed in the least! I can't believe I will have to wait so long for the third book (please tell me there will be a third book...I shall live under this assumption because when I was finished, my first thought was, "I cannot believe I can't run out and buy the next book ASAP!")

Alex and her friends are back in action and this year they stakes are high as The Mockingbirds uncover a prescription drug ring operating in the school with a huge twist. I loved where the book picked up and the way the obvious love-triangle was handled (while in general we're not teenage love-triangle lovers here at Hooked to Books, the way Daisy (who I shall now call Daisy as surely we would be BFFs in real life) is dealing with Martin and Jones is excellent, at least in my book!) Alex is definitely a mature high schooler worthy of leading The Mockingbirds. Sure, vigilante justice has its problems (which is explored in this book a bit) but the voice of the people must be heard and I love this series so much that I find myself in a Megan-state of wordlessness ;-)

Go; read The Mockingbirds and The Rivals, they are refreshing (just like your upcoming Spring Break!) and may just make you take a stand.

Monday, March 26, 2012

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

It's Monday! What Are You Reading is hosted by Book Journey!
It's a great way to share what you read the past week, what you are currently reading, and what you plan to read next!

Currently Reading:
The Hunger Games (reread) by Suzanne Collins - Rachael

Just Finished:
The Mockingbirds: The Rivals by Daisy Whitney - Rachael

Up Next:
Pure by Julianna Baggott - Rachael
UnCONventional by Various Authors - Rachael

Friday, March 23, 2012

Review: The Mockingbirds (The Mockingbirds #1)

The Mockingbirds
Daisy Whitney
Published November 2, 210 (Paperback release January 2012)
Little, Brown Books
Review Copy
Reviewed by Rachael

Some schools have honor codes.

Others have handbooks.

Themis Academy has the Mockingbirds.

Themis Academy is a quiet boarding school with an exceptional student body that the administration trusts to always behave the honorable way-the Themis way. So when Alex Patrick is date-raped during her junior year, she has two options: Stay silent and hope someone helps, or enlist the aid of the Mockingbirds-a secret society of students dedicated to righting the wrongs of the student body.

In this account of a teenage girl's search for her voice and the courage to use it, debut author Daisy Whitney reminds readers that standing up for someone, especially yourself, is worth the fight. -Goodreads

I received a paperback copy of this to get me up to speed before reviewing the second book in this series, The Rivals, which came out in February 2012. I instantly fell in love with the people of Themis Academy and was sucked into Alex's story from the very first page. The Mockingbirds are a secret student council of sorts that provides disciplinary oversight to the students of Themis, which according to the teachers and administration can do no wrong as they are all brilliant (either in math, science, the arts, athletics, etc.) The hands-off approach of the faculty have made The Mockingbirds organization a necessity, even smart people do bad things (who knew?!)

The book deals with the tough subject of date-rape in, what I felt like was, a very real manner. The internal mental debates Alex puts herself through. The support of her friends and sister vs. the perceived alienation of the student-body and mockery of the guy's friends. Most importantly, I feel like this book also gives hope. Hope to victims of all sorts of injustice in a way that is very empowering. I can't wait to see what Alex and The Mockingbird gang are up to next, stayed tuned for that review soon!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Review: Out of Sight, Out of Time by Ally Carter

Out of Sight, Out of Time
Ally Carter
Published March 13, 2012
Hyperion Books
Purchased Copy
Reviewed by Megan

The last thing Cammie Morgan remembers is leaving the Gallagher Academy to protect her friends and family from the Circle of Cavan--an ancient terrorist organization that has been hunting her for over a year. But when Cammie wakes up in an alpine convent and discovers months have passed, she must face the fact that her memory is now a black hole. The only traces left of Cammie’s summer vacation are the bruises on her body and the dirt under her nails, and all she wants is to go home.

Once she returns to school, however, Cammie realizes that even the Gallagher Academy now holds more questions than answers. Cammie, her friends, and mysterious spy-guy Zach must face their most difficult challenge yet as they travel to the other side of the world, hoping to piece together the clues that Cammie left behind. It’s a race against time. The Circle is hot on their trail and willing stop at nothing to prevent Cammie from remembering what she did last summer.

When we saw Ally Carter last week, she suggested that the progression of these books was something like, "introduction, darker, darker, much darker, and HOLY CRAP."  And you guys.  Holy. Crap.  This book takes these characters to a whole new level and, honestly, it was my favorite of the Gallagher Girl series thus far.  Maybe it was because the action was way high stakes, maybe it was the globe-trotting, but this one kept me turning the pages until I finished.  Which, okay, not necessarily different from how I read the other ones, but, you know.

Cammie doesn't remember anything from the time she left Gallagher Academy to when she wakes up in the convent.  Returning to the school she must win over her friends again, re-evaluate the relationships in her life, and discover who to trust and who not to trust.  But if we've learned anything in this series it is that things are not always what they seem.  With the help of Bex, Liz, and Macy (and, of course, Zach, Abby, and Cam's mother), Cammie must retrace her steps and try to remember what happened to her in order to determine if everything (and everyone) is finally safe again.  The things they find surprise them and they are led on a chase that leads them to believe maybe things aren't as resolved as they had hoped and maybe Cammie's mother was right when she said it would be best if Cammie didn't remember. 

I'm super sad that after this there will be only one more, but seeing where she left Cammie this makes perfect sense.  The next book will finish out senior year at school and, you guys...I just really have NO IDEA what can possibly come in the next book.  But I'm excited to find out.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Guest Post - Jennifer Gooch Hummer

Today we are honored to welcome a guest post by author Jennifer Gooch Hummer.  You may remember her from our recent review of her novel, Girl Unmoored, the heart-breaking story of death and friendship.  And today Jennifer provides some advice on, like, writing young adult characters.   

Advice for young adults (the character kind)

The other day, someone asked me for advice on young adults. “Tell them to stop saying like so much,” was my first answer. A long pause later, I got it. “Oh. Young Adult characters you mean.” After the confirmation nod, I realized I had better come up with something smart to redeem myself. Instead, I came up with these: 

1. Listen.

Writers will always tell you to read as much as you can. And it’s true. But just as important, I think, is to listen. Real dialogue (inner and outer) is not spoken the way we tend to write it. It’s staccato, incorrect, and sometimes even a little piercing. Stepping back and really listening to what kids and teens are saying is, like, so totally super important it’s not even funny. 

2. Ask questions.

This has happened lately: My children have started to warn their friends about me. “Okay. My mom can pick us up, but she’s, like, going to ask you, like, a million questions on the way home. Sorry.” And I do. The first line of questioning will go something like this: What do your parents do? What do you like to do in school? Where’d you get those shoes? Yes, I’m relentless, but I’m also gathering information for my craft. A YA author’s job is to interrogate, I mean interview, younger generations. Otherwise how can we know the minds of our protagonists? This is my argument when my children start to balk. Well, this and; “If you don’t want to hoof it, like, all the way home, you better start talking.”

3.   Think like a dog.

My dog stares at me all day. And when she’s not staring, she’s following. Closely. Six inches away closely. It can be dangerous when carrying a load of laundry up and down stairs. Of course I have no idea what she is thinking, but I imagine there’s something going on in there, so I try to see the world through her eyes. And it’s usually a little scary. Being twelve inches tall means that everything she sees is either gigantic or threatening. I think this is the same vantage point for most kids. Growing up is scary and to create a convincing character it’s important to incorporate a little of that fear. It doesn’t have to be a conscious over-the-top vampire-ish fear. I can come out as sassy or sarcastic, or conceited. But for me, a convincing younger character has to have at least a little apprehension about becoming an adult. Thinking like a dog reminds me to see the world from a different vantage point. I should have chosen a taller dog, now that I think about it.

This is all great advice.  It's so hard to think in terms of young adults when most of the time we're thinking, "So glad that's not me!"  Thanks again for stopping by, Jennifer!

Monday, March 19, 2012

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

It's Monday! What Are You Reading is hosted by Book Journey!
It's a great way to share what you read the past week, what you are currently reading, and what you plan to read next!

Sorry we're a little late to the party, but late is better than never, yes? Yes =)

Currently Reading:
The Mockingbirds: The Rivals by Daisy Whitney - Rachael

Just Finished:
The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney - Rachael

Up Next:
The Hunger Games (reread) by Suzanne Collins - Rachael
Pure by Julianna Baggott - Rachael

Friday, March 16, 2012

Megan and Rachael *Almost* Meet Ally Carter (and Rachel Hawkins)

Megan and Rachael *almost* met Ally Carter. While not as cool as discovering a real-life Hale out in the world, it was a good time.

Here's our story.

Since we had Rachael's little one (L.J.) in tow, we sort of tag-teamed the Q&A. Megan took the first half and Rachael took the second and it worked out sort of perfectly. So to tell you about it, I (Megan) will talk about it and then Rachael will jump in and close us out. Also, most of the discussion (at least on my part) will center around Ally Carter. Not because Rachel Hawkins didn't seem lovely, but we haven't read her books. Also, one of us will be reviewing the new Gallagher Girl book soon.

We arrived at Bethesda library around 4:40 thinking we'd totally have plenty of time. As you can see from the picture, it was standing room only and the standing room that remained was in the doorway. The room was packed with excited teenagers, which we agreed was awesome. We were super excited that so many would come out to hear an author speak because things like that just didn't happen when we were growing up. Or if they did, certainly not in our small towns. Ally and Rachel decided not to read from their books, opting instead for a Q&A session before signing.

I think the thing that was so awesome was that although there were the typical questions about characters (Q: "Will Josh be back?" A: "I wish I'd killed him."), a lot of the questions centered around the writing process in general. So, as a writer, I found it super exciting that the readers were interested in that. Here are some of the most important things I learned.

For you Rachel Hawkins fans: This is the last Hex Hall book, but there will be a spin-off based on a character in the third book. She is also writing a new series which is about, in the simplest terms, a debutante assassin. Which sounds awesome and now I might be a Rachel Hawkins fan.

For Heist Society fans (like me!): Ally clued us in that whatever Kat steals in the book is reflected in her sunglasses on the cover. Maybe other people already knew that, but I had no idea. So someone asked what Kat was stealing in the third book and though she did not give specifics, Ally said that thing reflected in Kat's glasses....wait for it....will be HALE. Let the speculation begin!!! I'm pretty psyched. She also said that the book is currently titled something like, "The Saga of Brooding, Shirtless Hale." So yeah. I'll read that. Hale. *Swoon.*

There will be six Gallagher Girl books and, as of now, only three Heist Society.

And as for the best advice the ladies delivered about the writing process and about when you don't know where you're going you just sort of start adding stuff like car chases and more kissing, they admitted "Car chases and kisses only get you so far." Advice that I will be printing out and taping above my computer.

And then I left to go do puzzles with L.J. Take it away Rachael!

By the time I took my place at the back of the Q&A crowd it was completely out the door (hence the AWESOME photo I took of Ally and Rachel). The crowd was getting restless and parents were started to push their way inside to retrieve their children (Note to Self: if my child ever is interested enough in reading that they want to meet an actual author, let her do it...let her have the full experience and don't be the weirdo lurking in the background tapping the watch saying it's time to go.)

I'm pretty sure my favorite question was "Hale, Josh, or Nick?" To which Rachel Hawkins was the first to respond "HALE!" which got lots of giggles. (Also, obviously Megan and my choice as well.) Ally was nice and wouldn't choose...whatever, you know she meant Hale ;-)

An interesting tidbit that I'd sort of read online was that the girl on the cover of the Gallagher Girls books looks the same, but is actually a different model. The rest of the story: the original girl which they have tried to get for the other books, her mom isn't letting her model anymore until she gets her grades up. Ha! Loved this story a lot. (Lesson: You can't even be a photo-op Gallagher Girl without doing your homework!)

Both writers were asked whether or not they would ever write non-YA books and neither said it was a thing right now. Ally Carter's first two books (which one girl in the audience had and she spotted and said, "You and my mom were the only ones that read that...") were for adults and she doesn't see herself writing anymore. Rachel mentioned other genres she enjoyed, but the research aspect of say, historical fiction, was a big turn-off rather than just telling the stories that come to her imagination.

All in all the event was worth the drive, L.J. got to experience her first "building full of books" and we were inspired by the sheer number of teens that turned out. Way to go Ally and Rachel, write more books, inspire more readers and who knows, maybe a few future authors as well!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Review: Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters by Meredith Zeitlin

Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters
Meredith Zeitlin
Published March 1, 2012
G.P. Putnam's Sons
Review Copy e-book
Reviewed by Megan

Kelsey Finkelstein is fourteen and FRUSTRATED. Every time she tries to live up to her awesome potential, her plans are foiled – by her impossible parents, her annoying little sister, and life in general. But with her first day of high school coming up, Kelsey is positive that things are going to change. Enlisting the help of her three best friends — sweet and quiet Em, theatrical Cass, and wild JoJo — Kelsey gets ready to rebrand herself and make the kind of mark she knows is her destiny.

Things start out great - her arch-nemesis has moved across the country, giving Kelsey the perfect opportunity to stand out on the soccer team and finally catch the eye of her long-time crush. But soon enough, an evil junior’s thirst for revenge, a mysterious photographer, and a series of other catastrophes make it clear that just because KELSEY has a plan for greatness… it doesn’t mean the rest of the world is in on it.

Kelsey’s hilarious commentary throughout her disastrous freshman year will have you laughing out loud—while being thankful that you’re not in her shoes, of course.
Judy Blume.  That was my first thought while reading this book.  Meredith Zeitlin writes like Judy Blume.  And it's totally awesome.  This book so perfectly captures freshman year of high school and all of its awkwardness and hope and excitement  and fear.  Because what is high school if not every single emotion condensed into, basically, one day?  Every morning you wake up and by the time you go to sleep you have probably gone through everything.  High school, particularly that first year, is a turbulent time, and in this book we are right there feeling it all again (while being so glad we're past that point).
Kelsey is a great narrator.  She's confident while not being cocky and she's hopeful while remaining realistic.  Nothing at all goes according to her plans and by the end of the book she learns that maybe things work out even better than she could have planned.  Kelsey and her friends are completely believable and relateable from the very beginning.  Reading this book brought back so many memories, like stalking crushes and prank phone calls that dissolved into giggles and those first sips of unsupervised alcohol and the friends who would show up to Prom to rescue you from a disasterous evening.  Not that I was invited to Prom as a freshman, but you know what I mean.   
The mysterious photographer will make you swoon and you'll hate the evil junior and you'll laugh when everything in the school play goes awry.  While I absolutely would not want to have to go through high school again, I would definitely read this book again and, if given the chance, go along on more adventures with Kelsey and her friends. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Review: Fair Coin by E.C. Myers

Fair Coin
E.C. Myers
Published March 27, 2012
Review Copy
Reviewed by Megan

Sixteen-year-old Ephraim Scott is horrified when he comes home from school and finds his mother unconscious at the kitchen table, clutching a bottle of pills. The reason for her suicide attempt is even more disturbing: she thought she’d identified Ephraim’s body at the hospital that day.

Among his dead double’s belongings, Ephraim finds a strange coin—a coin that grants wishes when he flips it. With a flick of his thumb, he can turn his alcoholic mother into a model parent and catch the eye of the girl he’s liked since second grade. But the coin doesn’t always change things for the better. And a bad flip can destroy other people’s lives as easily as it rebuilds his own.

The coin could give Ephraim everything he’s ever wanted—if he learns to control its power before his luck runs out.

I feel like everything I can possibly say about this book would be a spoiler. it?  Is that enough?  No?

Each time Ephraim flips the coin his wish comes true, but always at a cost.  With every good thing he asks for he loses something, whether it be his best friend or the girl of his dreams.  Eventually he is caught up in a web of wishes, a chain of events that are just similar enough to the life before that Ephraim doesn't fully comprehend what he is experiencing.

Confused?  The book is not nearly as confusing as I am making it out to be.  This book is smart and funny and had me on the edge of my seat wanting to find out what would be different after each wish.  Things start to become a little clearer when Jena, the girl of Ephraim's dreams, explains to him the idea of parallel universes.  With each flip of the coin he is creating countless other universes where different outcomes occur.  While he may fall in love in this universe, in another universe he may not.  In another universe he is dead and in another universe he did not find his mother in time to save her.  All of time is occurring at once and all of the outcomes are possible.  You read this and think, "That is totally what it's going to be!"  

Only you'll be sort of right.  Myers has written a brilliant book that will challenge and entertain you.  If you like science fiction and shows such as Doctor Who (which you totally SHOULD), you will love, love, love this book. 

Monday, March 12, 2012

Review: Girl Unmoored by Jennifer Gooch Hummer

Girl Unmoored
Jennifer Gooch Hummer
Published March 6, 2012
Fiction Std
Review Copy
Reviewed by Megan

Apron Bramhall has come unmoored. It’s 1985 and her mom has passed away, her evil stepmother is pregnant, and her best friend has traded her in for a newer model. Fortunately, she’s about to be saved by Jesus. Not that Jesus—the actor who plays him in Jesus Christ, Superstar. Apron is desperate to avoid the look-alike Mike (no one should look that much like Jesus unless they can perform a miracle or two), but suddenly he’s everywhere. Until one day, she’s stuck in church with him—of all places. And then something happens; Apron’s broken teenage heart blinks on for the first time since she’s been adrift.

Mike and his grumpy boyfriend, Chad, offer her a summer job in their flower store and Apron’s world seems to calm. But when she uncovers Chad’s secret, coming of age becomes almost too much bear. She’s forced to see things the adults around her fail to—like what love really means and who is paying too much for it.

Confession:  98% of the time when I pick up a book I have no idea what it's about.  I either like the cover, the title, or it's been recommended to me by someone I trust.  Other times I have just skimmed the blurb on the back and saw a word or two that I thought sounded good.  When I read reviews I always skip the blurb.  I guess I just liked being surprised.  So when I volunteered to review Girl Unmoored it was because, (1) I liked the title, and (2) Jesus Christ, Superstar.  Which happens to be one of my favorite musicals.  So it's a bit of an understatement when I say that I was not prepared for the emotional roller coaster this book would take me on.  Also, I had no idea it was set in 1985.  So.  I was extremely clueless, as usual.

We begin with Apron (the story of her name is adorable and clever, btw) attending a production of Jesus Christ, Superstar and we can already see the tension between her and her best friend, Rennie.  Let me start by saying that though the girls are in the spring semester of their seventh grade year, this book deals with some tough stuff.  A lot of it has to do with the time period and may not seem so tough to us now, but for Apron experiencing it in 1985 it's a pretty huge deal.

It's definitely a coming-of-age story about a girl discovering the ups and downs of friendship, family changes, and life changes.  Her stepmother is terrible and pregnant with what Apron refers to as "the little whatever" and Apron's father is oblivious to the hate exchanged between Apron and her stepmother.  Like any 13-year-old girl, this and losing her best friend are enough to make her feel like her life is falling apart. 

But then she meets Mike and Chad while they are delivering flowers for a wedding. Mike played Jesus in the musical and Chad was the choreographer and together they own a flower business called Scent Appeal.  Mike and Chad are a gay couple in a time when tolerance was both unexpected and, to most people, undeserved.  To make matters even worse, Chad has been diagnosed with AIDS, which makes the people of the small town even more afraid of what they don't understand.  Apron's friendship with the guys is exactly what each needs at this time in their lives.  It's a beautiful story of what love really means and learning to understand what you previously do not understand.  Jennifer Gooch Hummer does a great job of understanding both sides of the situation.  This story does not tell what is right or wrong, but lets you make that decision on your own.   It is, quite simply, about the importance of love and friendship when everything is terrible.

Monday, March 5, 2012

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

It's Monday! What Are You Reading is hosted by Book Journey!
It's a great way to share what you read the past week, what you are currently reading, and what you plan to read next!
Currently Reading:
 Monument 14 by Emmy Laybourne - Michelle 
(audio) Torn by Amanda Hocking - Michelle
The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney - Rachael
The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman - Megan
Just Finished:
(audio) The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater - Michelle
The Queen of Kentucky by Alecia Whitaker - Rachael
Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters by Meredith Zeitlin - Megan
Fair Coin by E.C. Myers - Megan
Girl Unmoored by Jennifer Gooch Hummer - Megan

Up Next:
 A Million Suns by Beth Revis - Michelle
The Mockingbirds: The Rivals by Daisy Whitney - Rachael
I am a Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I Want to be your Class President by Josh Lieb - Megan

Friday, March 2, 2012

Guest Post: The Music of Article 5 by Kristen Simmons

Today, I have Kristen Simmons, author of Article 5, on the blog talking about the music that inspired Article 5. Thanks for stopping by, Kristen! 

Hello Michelle!

Thanks for letting me visit today to talk about one of my favorite things in the world: music!

Music has always been an important part of my life. Even from the time I was a little girl, I remember being inspired by the transporting, transformative properties of songs. Music reaches us on a different level than the spoken word. It evokes something inside of us in a way I don’t think other things can.

When I was writing ARTICLE 5, I listened to a lot of music. Or rather, I listened to a select few songs over and over – once I found the right ones to conjure the right feeling, they stuck. I imagine this was quite annoying for anyone within, say, twenty yards. My husband for instance. Probably better not to ask.

I should clarify – I’m one of those people who can’t actually listen while I write for fear that my head will explode from over stimulation, but while brainstorming (and if you’re a writer you know that every second not actively typing is consumed by thinking about the book), I listened a lot. Here are some of the songs that inspired A5, and make me think of Chase and Ember the second I hear them.

1. Grounds for Divorce -   Elbow
2. Kingdom of Rust  -  Doves
3. Magick  -  Ryan Adams & the Cardinals
4. Call Me When You’re Sober  -  Evanescence
5. Decode  -  Paramore
6. Imaginary  -  Evanescence
7. Runnin’ Wild  -  Airbourne
8. Permanent  -   David Cook
9. For Reasons Unknown  -  The Killers
10. My Immortal  -  Evanescence
11. I Don’t Believe You  -  Pink
12. Hurt  -  Christina Aguilera

Thanks again Michelle, and High-Five for A5!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Review: The Queen of Kentucky

The Queen of Kentucky
Alecia Whitaker
Published January 2, 2012
Review Copy
Reviewed by Rachael

Fourteen-year-old Kentucky girl Ricki Jo Winstead, who would prefer to be called Ericka, thank you very much, is eager to shed her farmer's daughter roots and become part of the popular crowd at her small town high school. She trades her Bible for Seventeen magazine, buys new "sophisticated" clothes and somehow manages to secure a tenuous spot at the cool kids table. She's on top of the world, even though her best friend and the boy next door Luke says he misses "plain old Ricki Jo."

Caught between being a country girl and wannabe country club girl, Ricki Jo begins to forget who she truly is: someone who doesn't care what people think and who wouldn't let a good-looking guy walk all over her. It takes a serious incident out on Luke's farm for Ricki Jo to realize that being a true friend is more important than being popular.

Okay, so this book caught me way off guard. I thought it was going to be a cute, pretty cut and dry teen romance but that was definitely not the case. While I found the main character slightly immature (which I realize is to be expected of a freshman in high school) it was her naivety that really made this a tough read for me. Maybe because it was all too reminiscent of my own adolescence and thus, frustrating. Ricki Jo (or Ericka as she attempts to be called once joining the local public high school) is legit dealing with some tough stuff along side her best friend Luke. You'd think this would cause her to grow up a bit faster, but really only Luke makes that leap and you spend the entire book willing her to catch up. Much like I'm sure happened in my own life as I was trudging my way through high school to the on-looker waiting for me to grow up.

The portrait of small town teenage girls (probably all teenage girls, but since I'm from a small town I'll go with that) is dead-on and is every bit as frustrating to read as it was to live. Not necessarily saying that in a negative way; Whitaker has a pulse on these kids that makes them so real, you can smell Wolfe's Abercrombie cologne oozing out of the pages, and that takes talent. It deals with tough issues delicately and the religious undertones are real, refreshing, and not so over-the-top as to alienate non-Catholic readers (while the main character and her family are Catholic, this is not a major factor in the book, but naturally integrated into the lives of the characters...very well done.) The description includes the phrase, "She trades her Bible for Seventeen magazine" but I don't feel like that's super accurate...Ricki Jo doesn't abandon her faith, but she's your average teenage girl dealing with life and learning to see the world past her front porch steps.

Overall, I have to say I enjoyed this read even though it took me quite a while to get through which was a combination of getting off to a slow start and just life getting busy for a bit. I'm glad I stuck it out til the end and may or may not have woken up at 4am randomly and finished the half of the book that I had left to read ;-)
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