February 11th, 2011

Prom and Prejudice by Elizabeth Eulburg

Prom and Prejudice by Elizabeth Eulburg
Publisher: Scholastic
Release Date: Jan 2011
Pages: 288 pgs.
Source: Publisher
Buy from (affil. links): Amazon, Powell’s, Indie Bound

Lizzie Bennet is attending Longbourn Academy, a top boarding school, on scholarship. Normally, this would be a good thing…if only the scholarship kids weren’t hated so much. Add on that Lizzie is also the “new” kid and her life is complete hell. While the other girls become obsessed over prom, designer dresses, and the prefect date, Lizzie tries to keep her focus on school and her part-time job. That is until Will Darcy,who has just returned from his semester abroad in London, enters her life. Handsome Darcy, who Lizzie is drawn to, until she learns he’s as snobby and pretentious as the other rich kids; the ones who think her lack of money makes her beneath them. Can Lizzie look beyond a bad impression and found her perfect match? Or will her pride keep her from discovering love?

The Short of It: Very cute. Eulburg does a fantastic job of retelling a classic while adding her own twists. Adaptations can be hit or miss, but this one got it just right.

Plot: It’s no secret that I’m a Jane Austen freak, so to say I was a bit nervous picking up this one is a bit of an understatement. Surely, this could not compare to the original and leave me sorely disappointed, right? Wrong, oh so wrong. Eulburg takes the beloved favorites like Darcy, Lizzie, Bingley, and Jane and transports them into the present. Yes, there is a bit of predictability in that you know Lizzie and Darcy will end up together, but journey is not quite the same. There is definitely echoes of the original story, but Eulburg adds in her own twist and turns and slowly makes it her own.

The only thing that nagged me a bit was the prom emphasis felt a bit out of place. I know that it was the big to-do at the school, but really wasn’t for Lizzie. She was more worried about surviving the year rather than what shoes to wear. I know for some of the secondary characters the prom fueled their motivations, but it wasn’t the meat and the bone of the story. With the title, cover, and even had it opened I thought it would play out much differently than it did. Although, while misleading, I am glad that Eulburg shaped it the way she did.

Characters: I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I took an instant liking to Darcy while I wanted to kick Lizzie out of a window a couple of times. Talk about your role reversals. Lizzie jumped to conclusions and was slow to forgive mistakes. I hated how she was unwilling to give Darcy a second chance even though he repeatedly tried to show he was a good guy. She refuses to drop her rich = snobby belief. I understand the girls at school, except Jane, treat her awful, but Darcy missteps are not in the same ballpark. I do like that she is big enough to admit when she is wrong though!

Now that said, Darcy is not without his faults. He does snap judge himself, but he does try to make amends even before he knows how the girls have been treating her. But don’t worry, he still kind of has that haughty I’m better than you attitude, however, his good guyness shines more often than not. Honestly, I may have loved him even more than the Darcy; perhaps because he wasn’t as priggish and I felt as if he were someone I could be friends with. I will say that he has to be my favorite character in Eulburg’s story.

Romance: As with the original, there is a lot of push and pull to the romance. Okay, mainly push. Lizzie’s first meeting with Darcy didn’t exactly go swimmingly and her distrust only grows from there. Darcy tries to show he is interested again and again, but her distrust and self-doubt get in the way. However, even during all this, you know they both really like each other. And despite it all, they really do work together and make a cute couple. I just wish they could have made it work a little sooner.

Writing: This area is pretty straightforward for me. Eulburg delivers a tightly written that delivered almost from page one. I rarely finish books in one sitting, but this was one I kept doing the “one more chapter” thing with until I was complete. The only thing that felt slightly out of place was the opening with the prom scene, but again I think that goes back to my whole prom emphasis point from earlier.

Librarian-Mode: I really do think that Pride and Prejudice/Austen lovers will enjoy this adaption, however, this would also make a good pairing with Anna and the French Kiss and Karma Club. If you want to pair it with other classic adaptations, be sure to look into Prada and Prejudice and Jane.

So, now it’s your turn…have you read Prom and Prejudice? If so, be sure to let me know what you thought.

April 6th, 2010

Rules of Attraction by Simone Elkeles

[Rating: 4.5]
Rules of Attraction
by Simone Elkeles
Publisher: Walker Books for Young Readers
Release Date: Apr 2010
Pages:
302 pgs.
Source:
ALA
Buy from (affil. links):
Amazon, Powell’s, Indie Bound

Carlos Fuentes wants nothing to do with his new life in Colorado with his brother, Alex. So what if he was in a gang in Mexico? He liked living life on the edge; safe and boring is not his style. Of course, being out of Mexico doesn’t mean that trouble won’t find him. When drugs are found in his school locker, he’s faced with two options: jail time or living with Alex’s former professor. Neither choice is particularly welcomed, but living with an all-American family has to be better than jail time, right? But when Carlos starts to fall for Kiara, the professor’s daughter, he begins to learn how complicated life can be. Torn between the growing attraction and remaining at arm’s length, Carlos will have to decide if Kiara is worth putting his heart on the line. She may not be his normal Latino hotty, but she may be exactly what Carlos needs. Will he be able to give up his bad-boy, gang lifestyle for her or will he let his perfect chance at happiness slip away?

The Short of It: There are some similarities between Rules of Attraction and Perfect Chemistry, but there are enough differences to make Rules of Attraction stand out on its own. Elkeles drew me into her world right away and I had a pretty hard time putting this one down. A sizzling romance with spunky characters, this book is one I easily recommend buying right now. And to be honest, while it’s being called a sequel, you could easily read this one without having read Perfect Chemistry.

Plot: So, the rich girl-poor boy theme is just a tad bit overplayed. We saw it Perfect Chemistry and now again in Rules of Attraction. Of course, the drugs and gang affiliation play a big role as well, but it’s more to put the story in motion than pivotal facts. Carlos has been sent to Colorado from Mexico to distance himself from his gang and the type of life his brother has worked so hard to keep him out of. And while Carlos joined to take care of his family, he doesn’t hate it like Alex did. His need to keep Kiara safe is the only thing that truly begins to change his mind. In between the fights, drugs, and gang threats, you’ll find a story of two teens falling for someone who seems wrong, but may just be the perfect match.

Characters: Carlos is, well, he’s your typical smart ass bad boy. I know a lot of girls love bad boys and I hope that Carlos will be added to their list. Yes, he has a bad attitude and doesn’t think he needs to play by the rules, but underneath it all he really isn’t a bad guy. A little rough around the edges, but he do anything for his family/those he loves. He tries to push people away by being a punk, but it is more of a defensive mechanism than truly being an ass; he thinks that if he can live his life in numbness then he’ll have nothing to worry about. There were several, several times I wanted to slap the boy because of his attitude, but I really did enjoy his character and he is easily one of my favorite “bad boys”.

Kiara, man, what can I say about her? I adored her. I loved how she wasn’t afraid to stand up to Carlos, even when he did intimidate her. (And the cookie prank, priceless!) Yes, she had some self-doubts/pity, but she proved time and again that she was able to hold her own and didn’t need a man to complete/protect her. She may look soft, but she really wasn’t. Her inner strength was one of my favorite things about her. I also liked how appearances didn’t really matter to her. I know she made comments that she wasn’t as pretty as Madison/other girls, but it really takes a certain level of self-confidence not to care about make-up or if her hair was falling. I think we need more characters like Kiara in novels; girls who are outside the “norm”, but still prove to be sexy just the way they are.

Romance: Hot, Hot, HOT. Overall, I really liked Carlos and Kiara’s relationship. There was a lot a bickering and hating on both sides to start from, but it more in the fashion of “I like you, but I shouldn’t, so I’m going to push you away”. They both had walls they had to break down in order to be with each other. I liked that even when they were trying to “hate” each other there was a lot of playfulness to them, like the cookie-locker incident was hilarious! Beyond one little spot where I felt the relationship skipped ahead really fast, I thought the romance was spot on. And the cover scene was totally my favorite scene of the whole book; it may have made me melt a little. (Did I mention I’m a big romantic sap at heart?)

Writing: I really enjoy Elkeles’ writing and story telling. I like that she does switching point-of-views in alternative chapters. It’s a nice way to see into both character’s heads. The only thing is I wish that we could have had more of Kiara’s POV. At times, it felt that Carlos’ chapters were much, much longer than Kiara’s. I realize that Carlos’ story is kind of what moves the plot along, but I would have loved to see just a bit more of Kiara, too.

Librarian-Mode: Of course those who liked Perfect Chemistry will enjoy the sequel. Other than that, I think this could easily be recommended to your chick-lit/romance readers. There is a bit of predictability to it, but isn’t that true of most romances? (I mean, the guy is usually going to get the girl, right?) I’ve been reviewing a lot of this type of book lately, so if you want more suggestions try doing a search for chick-lit.

February 16th, 2010

Magic Hands by Jennifer Laurens

[Rating: 3.5]
Magic Hands
by Jennifer Laurens
Publisher: Grove Creek Publishing
Release Date: Feb 2007    
Pages:
205 pgs.
Source:
Library
Buy from (affil. links):
Amazon, Powell’s, Indie Bound

Cort, a popular, cute jock, has everything but a job; something that he desperately needs. The normal hot spots are already overrun with kids and the outlook is pretty bleak. In fact, it’s so bad that the only job he can get is at Miss Chicha’s Nail Salon. Needing money, he puts aside his pride and learns how to do girl’s nails. At first, it seems as if his new job may slide beneath the school’s radar, but when some girls from school find out it’s all over. Soon, his days are booked with endless appointments and he’s quickly learning an important lesson: girls can be catty, gossips, and cruel. But there’s one girl, Rachel, that he still has hope for. She may be elusive, but she’s intelligent, beautiful, and Colt’s dream girl. The only problem is that he has to prove to her that there’s more to him than being a good looking jock. Can Colt win her over or will she always remain just out of his reach?

The Short of It: I kind of went into this one not expecting much and came out being pleasantly surprised. There are some general editing and narrative issue and some cliquish moments, but overall it was a solid read.

Plot: The plot is what really drew me to this book. I mean, c’mon, a boy working in a nail shop?! How could you not be interested in that? Of course, what I got was not exactly what I was expecting. I figured he may do the prep work or paint a few nails, but I NEVER imagine he would actually do the nails. But maybe that was because I knew you needed training to actually do nails. (Sorry tiny spoiler-but common sense right?) The miles of miles of girls that come to have their nails done after he’s discovered seems rather accurate at first glance. The only thing that nags me is do that many high school girls really get their nails done and would older women really care? Ok, maybe the cute guy has something to do with it, but it was stated several times that the clients only really ever wanted Cort. I can understand that if you’re a high school girl (cute, popular guy + doing nails + hand massages = girl heaven) but would the older women really care? I guess some may like to be fawn over by a cute guy, but if it were me I would totally just take whoever was available. I mean, really, are you seriously going to wait hours just to have some boy do your nails?  Other than that, the plot really rang true on the realistic front.

Characters: Colt and Rachel were both great characters. They both had they’re flaws, but overall they were enjoyable characters. Colt was your All-American boy; the popular jock with enough intelligence, kindness and charm to make everyone like him. I also liked that he was a hard-worker. He could have easily walked away from the nail gig at anytime, but he kept with it no matter how tiring it could be. I’m sure part of this had to do with the big tips, but he still took the time to learn how to do everything properly. The only thing I didn’t like about him is that he seemed to be a bit of a push-over. Perhaps this went with the nice-guy routine, but it felt like he was being taken advantage of/rolled over, especially when it came to Bree, Rachel, and Miss Chachi.

Rachel, on the other hand, was a bit harder to like. I did end up liking her, but it took much longer. There were times she was so aloof and a little snobbish that it drove me crazy. She kind of had this superior “I’m better than you” attitude for most of the book. Even worse, there was no justification to the attitude. I think Rachel was trying to be mysterious and hard to get, but it’s not how it really came off. However, once she opened up and stopped hiding herself she was a wonderful character. I really enjoyed her job and the easy repertoire and friendship she developed with the elderly.

Romance: I would have enjoyed the romance a lot more if it had been played out a bit differently. Rachel’s hard to get attitude really affected the relationship. What bothers me the most is that she really does like him. The first page talks about how he’s great eye-candy; the only problem is he’s a jock. An irrational hate that I really don’t understand. I know the stereotype is that all jocks are jerks, but Colt proved rather quickly that he wasn’t. And every time she let him near, she would push him away without any warning. It was one-step forward, two-steps back the whole way with her. If there had been a reason for her mistrust/aloofness I might have been okay with it, but I don’t think one bad experience with a crush when she was young was enough. I felt like there should have been a pile of them to make her that leery of guys.

Colt, however, was kind of cute. He was a little crazy for continuing to go after Rachel despite all her mixed signals, but it made him more likable. I have to give him kudos for going to the lengths to prove that he wasn’t some egotistical jock and that he really did like her. In fact, I’m a little surprised that he stayed around for all her head games, but I guess the chase makes the catch more valuable? Ok, so maybe he’s a little too good to believe as a high school boy, but I did enjoy the fact that he took note of what was important to her and tied them into his own. All in all, once Rachel opened up they really did make an adorable couple.

Writing: Ok, this is where my biggest complaint lies. There were some minor editing errors that I could overlook, but the switching point of views drove me batty. Without any warning, Laurens would change from Rachel to Colt or vice versa. And I’m not talking like one chapter Colt, one chapter Rachel, I’m talking in the middle of the scene. Like they could be sitting in class, Colt could think or say something and suddenly you’re in Rachel’s mind hearing what she thought. I will admit that it was nice to hear both of their thoughts, but Laurens needed to figure out a smoother way to do it. The instant switching was much too jarring for me and drew me out of the story way more than I would have liked.

Librarian-Mode: I would easily recommend this one to my realistic, romance lovers. Those who love a good cat-and-mouse game will eat this one up. If I’m picking read-a-likes I would most likely place this one with Sarah Dessen or Elizabeth Scott (ala Bloom/Perfect You). I will also be honest in that my library does not currently own this book, but I am going to look into order it. (Well, providing it has the new cover. Old cover is HORRIBLE and almost made me send it back!)


February 15th, 2010

Girls, Boys, and Other Hazardous Materials by Rosiland Wiseman

[Rating: 4.0]
Girls, Boys, and Other Hazardous Materials
by Rosiland Wiseman
Publisher: Putnam
Release Date: Feb 2010
Pages:
279 pgs.
Source:
Library
Buy from (affil. links):
Amazon, Powell’s, Indie Bound

Charlie Healey, a freshman, believes that Harmony Falls will be her reboot to life. No longer subjected to the abuse of her “best friends,” she’s ready to hide her past away and become someone new. But on her very first day she’ll learn that you simply cannot outrun your past. Faced with a best friend turned hunk and a girl she terribly wronged, Charlie learns to blend the old with the new. She’ll need to learn to conquer old demons if she ever truly plans to achieve a new start. Amidst it all, Charlie will face many challenges such as jerky boys, a prank gone wrong, and learning what boundaries are okay to cross. Will Charlie shrink back into her shell or will she finally be brave enough to do the right thing?

The Short of It: Ah, so nice to have a book I really enjoyed. This was the first book I had read by Wiseman and wasn’t quite sure what to expect. What I got was a fun story about discovering who you are, correcting old wrongs, and standing up and doing what’s right. A story of friendship and life that’s worth checking out.

Plot: Ok, so I admit that the plot didn’t have a lot of originality. In fact, you may even say a lot of it was predictable, but something about it really pulled me in. Beyond the stereotypes, it is an honest story about a freshman getting a second chance as she figures out the truths to life. It’s about friendship and and learning to break out of one’s shell. Having been in Charlie’s shoes most of my life, I could easily relate to the storyline and it rang true to me. But don’t think that this book is all seriousness because there are still a lot of fun, crazy, and even drama filled moments. All around, I really do think it’s a fun plot (cliques and all)!

Characters: I think Charlie is a love her or hate her type character. Being where Charlie has been, I didn’t find her as annoying as I normally may have. I understand the power that some people can have over others, but I’m really not sure why Charlie allowed herself to be stomped on and belittled for so long. At first, I thought maybe it was just because she was weak, but I no longer think that’s the case. She obviously had enough courage to break tradition and tell someone of authority about the hazing issue. Something that had been going on for years, that no one else had really been willing to challenge and see that it changed. Not to mention the way she told off her former “best friends” during the dance. That kind of courage/strength doesn’t just appear because you’re going to a new school; I just don’t understand why she didn’t use it much, much sooner. Other than that, I really did like Charlie. She was a nerdy/smart girl, who although clueless at times, really did have a lot of substance to her.

Of course, I think her best friends, Sydney and Nidhi, really helped bring her to life. Both girls were smart and sassy and didn’t allow anyone to bulldoze over them. I kind of wish Wiseman would have fleshed them out more than she had though. For the most part, they were kind of stuck in the background (especially Nidhi) and never truly got to shine. I felt like there could have been so much more to them than being Charlie’s cheerleaders or filling the high school persona quota. It really is your classic case of secondary character who have so much potential that is never fully reached.

Romance: Without ruining anything here, I’m going to say that most of the romance is a read between-the-lines one. A lot of that high school drama of “oh he could never like me” type stuff. This is probably the area that felt the most cliquish to me. You’ve got the hunky jock who will inevitable like the sexy friend and then the boy who she grew up with who is just a “friend”. But while there is a lot of back-and-forth teasing and whatnot, nothing really happens until the last page. Like, literally, the last page. While there are couple of sweet moment here or there, don’t expect a heart-throb, sweep you off your feet romance.

Writing: Really no complaints whatsoever here. Wiseman really does weave a good story, even if it has all been done before. I was sucked into her world right away and never felt myself bored/not caring. The story flowed with ease and had me eager to see how it would turn out.

Librarian-Mode: I feel like I’ve been reading a lot and lot of chick-lit lately and have been giving the same recommendations over and over. Boys, Girls, and Other Hazardous Materials really is your typical high school drama full of peer pressure, friendship, and kicking away the norm. There are hundreds of books out there like that so I won’t go off naming them all. But if I were making a booklist I would easily throw this onto one with The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, The Real Real, and Little Black Lies.


February 3rd, 2010

The Secret Year by Jennifer R. Hubbard

[Rating: 3.0]
The Secret Year
by Jennifer R. Hubbard
Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Release Date:
Jan 2010
Pages:
192 pgs.
Source:
Library
Buy from (affil. links):
Amazon, Powell’s, Indie Bound

One year. That’s how long Colt and Julie secretly dated without anyone knowing. Not their family or best friends, and certainly not Julia’s boyfriend.  Even at school, Julia would go out of her way to ignore Colt; after all, she was a county-club goer and he was “white-trash”. But when they met on Friday nights down by the creek, none of that really mattered. They become teens who connected, and possibly loved, like they never had before. However, everything changes when Julia dies in a car accident. Not being allowed to mourn in public, Colt soon learns the price of secrecy. His only saving grace is a journal that Julia wrote during their relationship that ends up in his hands. It gives him the chance to relive the past as he mourns. The only question is what was he to Julia? Did she really love him or was he just a fling? And will the journal finally answer his lingering doubts or will it just add more?

The Short of It: I’m beginning to believe I’m one of those readers who is not the norm. After all the rave reviews, I expected to love this one. Instead, I found myself in neutral ground where I neither loved nor hated the book. The storyline was interesting, but it didn’t quite click with me. However, while not one of my favorites, it will still be one I’ll recommend.

Plot: I was certainly intrigued by the secret romance and Julia’s journal, but something about the plot felt short for me. I really can’t put my finger on it, but I never felt as if I was completely drawn into the world created. Maybe because I didn’t feel as if I knew enough about the before to truly care about the after. There were so many whispers of possibilities that could be that I was sad to never see fully see bloom.

Of course, perhaps the real reason I didn’t fall in love with this book is my own fault. Before chapter one had even ended the thought of “Oh, hey, this is like Twenty Boy Summer, but from the boy’s perspective” had entered my mind. I know, I know, I shouldn’t have, but I really couldn’t help it. The basic story of the secret love that dies kept pulling me there. I kept expecting so much more, but it just never appeared.

Characters: This is one of those instances where I cared about the secondary characters more than the main ones. Julia was too wishy-washy; one of those girls who could never make up her mind. She was a big-name around the school, but I don’t think anyone ever truly saw who she was. And I still haven’t decided if she was a master manipulator or someone who was too scared to publicly step out of her box. I’m leaning towards the latter, but the way she played with Colt’s emotions was maddening. I wish she would have just made up her mind instead of believing she could have the best of both worlds.

And Colt. I liked Colt, I really did, I just wanted to snap him out of it. I know he was grieving and what not, but the boy needed to let go. I feel like a jerk saying that, but he grieved almost as long as they were together.  He was obsessed with this girl that was never really his. And when he got the opportunity to have the real thing he blew it because he was still too wrapped up in a dead girl. I guess I just can’t understand having such deep feelings for someone who would only acknowledge you when there was no one around. If it were me, I would feel pretty worthless and I don’t think I would really want to continue to be in that situation.

However, I did like the secondary characters, especially Syd, Tom, and Kirby. I enjoyed when they made their way into the story and would have loved to see more of them. Perhaps because they were everything that Julia and Colt couldn’t be. They had their issues, but when it came down it they were afraid to let the truth be known or stand up for what they believed in. I was definitely cheering on Tom and Kirby as they stepped out and did what they thought was right, no matter what the consequences were.

Romance: I feel like I’ve basically stated how I feel about the romance issue. As far as Julia and Colt go, I never truly felt the depth of their love. There were hints about how their world felt different when they were alone, but it still felt like a sham to me. How can you spend a year hiding something and consider it to be real? There were hints of how Julia and Colt both loved each other, but if that were true, wouldn’t they have come out of the shadows much sooner? I know we’re supposed to believe that Julia was going to break-up with her boyfriend, but I’m not sure I believe she ever would. She was too comfortable with the perfect image in the light and the perfect fling in the dark. And while it was supposed to be something with no strings attached, I think we all know that never really works.

There were other hints of romances with Colt, especially with Kirby, but they never got the chance to fully develop. I was really rooting for these two, hoping that Kirby could break him out of the endless obsession that he had. And while I think she ultimately did help him, it was too little too late. I suppose that their relationship was a very realistic approach, but the happily-ever-after part of me had hoped for so much more.

Writing: I have absolutely no complaints here. Hubbard weaves a good story that will easily keeps the reader interested. I can’t remember anything that bothered me or pulled me out of the story. My neutral attitude really does have more to do with the characters than the actual writing. Yes, the characters weren’t really intriguing to me, but Hubbard delivered them well. I really did enjoy her style and look forward to picking up future works.

Librarian-Mode: This is going to do well with your realistic-loving crowd. The ones who don’t care about happy endings and want something real. I would easily recommend The Secret Year to those who enjoy books like Play Me, You Know Where to Find Me or Twenty Boy Summer.

Ok, now it’s your turn! Have you read The Secret Year? If so, what did you think?