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Monthly Archives: October 2011

Secret Sisterhood of Heartbreakers – Lynn Weingarten


Secret Sisterhood of Heartbreakers
By: Lynn Weingarten
Available 27 December 2011


Description:
When her boyfriend breaks up with her on the first day of sophomore year, Lucy has no idea how she’s going to make it through homeroom, let alone the rest of her life. Enter three stunning girls with a magical offer Lucy can’t refuse. All she has to do is get a guy to fall in love with her in the next seven days, and then…break his heart and collect one of his brokenhearted tears. As the girls teach Lucy how to hook a guy (with the help of a little magic), she quickly discovers how far she is willing to go—and who she is willing to cross—to get what she wants.

This Blonde’s Review:
Lucy starts the book as a girl who is excited to see her boyfriend after he was away all summer. She is the type of girlfriend who is constantly offering praise or help or anything he needs. She is prepared to take the next step when she suddenly finds herself dumped.

Lucy is devastated. While she struggles with her tears a girl she has seen around school offers to help. Lucy is so upset that she does things that are unusual for her, starting with sneaking out to meet the other girl. When she hears what they do she doesn’t want to believe it’s possible. Before long she finds herself wanting to have what they have.

Through it all Lucy is still dealing with her feelings for her ex-boyfriend and hoping they can get back together, rather than moving on to another guy after her broken heart is healed. Lucy isn’t alone though, because she does have her best friend, until she starts to ignore plans to spend time with the girls.

I didn’t care much for Lucy. She was the annoying girl who was obsessed with her boyfriend at the start of the story, then she becomes a pliable girl that I can’t really know. Each time I thought she would become a character I could like she quickly fell back into line with the other heartbreakers. I really didn’t have a clear picture of Lucy in my head. One of the other characters described her as blank, saying she could be anyone. I felt much the same, I had no idea what she looked like, whether she was average sized, tall or short or curvy or slim. It’s hard to care about a blank character.

I really liked the guys in this story much more than the girls. Tristan, Colin, and Paisley are the characters I liked the most, and they were all secondary at best. They were all likeable in their own ways and characters I would have loved to read about, while Lucy and the girls were less so. Of the girls Lucy was less likeable to me than the others because they knew where they stood and weren’t being pushed and pulled by others.

I like that there are some good lessons in the book if you look for them. The girls talk a lot about the perceptions of attractiveness and that the way you see yourself is self taught. I like that they go in depth about how a girl believing she’s unattractive stems from her own ideas about herself, and that she won’t really Know what others see and hear when they are with her. If they let go of all of the hang-ups comparing themselves to others and start to simply be their best self and recognize that they are beautiful they will be seen as beautiful as well. I think that more young girls need to hear that it’s not about comparing themselves to others and being More or Less than anyone else, so I love that this book put a lot of focus on that.

I really did not like the end though. I won’t say whether she became part of the sisterhood or not, but the book ended on a flat note. I felt that Lucy’s decision and what happened to her should have mattered more to her than it did. Somehow it was almost an afterthought that oh, ya, and this happened so there you go.

I’m split on this story, since it is a great concept and I love the way the author talks about beauty not being about comparisons. Yet there were the issues I had with Lucy and the end of the story. Overall… I liked it but it wasn’t a Must Read. If you think the description sounds interesting you should give it a try, while an uncertain reader is more likely to find it less than engaging. This was an easy read that I finished quickly and was a nice way to spend an evening.

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Eve – Anna Carey

Eve
By Anna Carey
Eve – Book 1
Available Now

Description:
The year is 2032, sixteen years after a deadly virus—and the vaccine intended to protect against it—wiped out most of the earth’s population. The night before eighteen-year-old Eve’s graduation from her all-girls school she discovers what really happens to new graduates, and the horrifying fate that awaits her.

Fleeing the only home she’s ever known, Eve sets off on a long, treacherous journey, searching for a place she can survive.

Along the way she encounters Caleb, a rough, rebellious boy living in the wild. Separated from men her whole life, Eve has been taught to fear them, but Caleb slowly wins her trust…and her heart. He promises to protect her, but when soldiers begin hunting them, Eve must choose between true love and her life.

This Blonde’s Review:
Imagine a world where disease has destroyed most of the population. Where the majority of children are orphaned and cared for at same sex schools. This is the world Eve lives in. She is the valedictorian of her class and is excited for life after school, when she will learn more and experience more and have a chance for a great life. When she discovers a fellow student getting ready to run away and is told why, Eve doesn’t believe. Yet she finds herself looking for the truth and is horrified to discover the truth. So she runs.

She gets lucky at first, since she has no skills outside of those the school taught her. When she runs into Arden, the girl who told her about what happens after graduation, they decide to travel together for a while even though they never liked each other. Before too long her luck runs out and she finds herself in danger again. This is where she meets Caleb.

For a girl who has been taught since she was young that men are evil and only want one thing, she is smart enough to want to live to fight another day and lets him help her. She is a classic know-it-all and doesn’t want to accept that Caleb isn’t what she was taught to expect, and she refuses to accept that he knows things she doesn’t.

When Eve, Arden, and Caleb find themselves chased by soldiers looking for Eve it because apparent that she was not just another graduate. The soldiers are after her in particular, not just anyone.

Eve is a book smart girl, which does not always lead to world smarts. She finds herself in situation after situation that sound like bad ideas, and of course they are. She makes mistakes that cost other people their pride or even their lives, over and over she shows no sense.

Arden is mostly set as a secondary character, barely involved even though she is present for most of the story. She’s sick for a good portion, then when she’s better we’re still concentrating on Eve and Caleb. When she makes a sacrifice for Eve we can’t help but hope for the best for her.  I really enjoyed Arden’s character, even though she’s presented as unfriendly and unlikable. She is stronger than Eve in many ways and has a spunk that I can’t help but admire. I hope we see more of Arden in the rest of the series, I have a feeling that she could help make the series into something better.

Caleb is a kind boy who used to live at a boys school. We learn from him how the boys are treated and what can happen to the boys there. He also gives us insight into the other boys who live in the camp that he takes the girls to when Arden is sick. Through Caleb we see how the most unlikable of the boys is one we should care for, until the boy does something terrible. Caleb is both likable and unimpressive in my mind, and I hope to know more about him during the rest of the series. He’s quick to decide he loves Eve but is equally quick to run at trouble. He claims to want to be with her, yet isn’t willing to let her stay or go with her. Worst in my mind is that he doesn’t communicate with her to tell her what’s at the other end of her journey.

Eve and Caleb’s romance is sweet, but also happens quickly. Which I would expect from two teens who have little experience with the opposite sex, but is not quite how the synopsis describes it. Eve is quick to decide that she wants to stay with the boys in order to stay with Caleb, and puts herself and Arden in an obviously bad position for him. Her naiveté and desire to be with him causes more problems than it should.

I’m not really sure how I feel about Eve since I’m not sure how I feel about Eve and Caleb. It has promise and I will definitely be reading the next in this series to discover what happens to Eve, Caleb, and Arden.  The concept of what is happening to the orphaned children of the country and what is happening in the country following the widespread deaths is a fascinating one. Hopefully the author can pull it together more and make the characters people I can care more for in the rest of this series.

If the description sounds interesting to you I do encourage you to read it. What is happening in this story is an interesting idea and it is entirely possible you’ll have stronger feelings for the characters than I did. There are just as many great reviews I’ve seen as there are uncertain ones, so trust your judgment and give it a try if you think it’ll appeal to you.

 

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer – Michelle Hodkin

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer
By Michelle Hodkin
Mara Dyer – Book 1
Available Now

Description:
Mara Dyer doesn’t think life can get any stranger than waking up in a hospital with no memory of how she got there.
It can.
She believes there must be more to the accident she can’t remember that killed her friends and left her mysteriously unharmed.
There is.
She doesn’t believe that after everything she’s been through, she can fall in love.
She’s wrong.

This Blonde’s Review:
Mara is lonely and filled with grief. Her lifelong best friend, Rachel, died in a terrible accident that left her unharmed. The boy she was dating and Rachel’s other friend, who was never kind to Mara, also died in the accident. No one knows what happened, and Mara has no memory of it to enlighten them. She has trouble coping with her losses and not remembering, so before long she and her family move to give them all a new start.

In her new school Mara soon comes to the attention of the school lothario, Noah. He is known to play with girls but never be serious. Mara has enough on her mind that she doesn’t want to play, but finds herself drawn in anyway. 

As is the way with these stories of course Mara is the one girl Noah is willing to become serious about. Throughout the story while Mara is trying to figure things out there is a romance that doesn’t fit the way Noah has been described to or by Mara.

Mara finds herself slowly remembering what happened that night in her dreams, but she keeps the information to herself. She knows that she won’t feel any peace until she knows what took them to the place her friends died and what caused their deaths. She also knows that her mother, a psychiatrist conveniently, will hover over her more than she already does.

Mara dreams about what happened to her at night and during the day she sees the ghosts of her friends everywhere. Something different happens when she’s angry. That’s even she has visions of other people, visions of them dying in very specific terrible ways.  In each situation, the person mysteriously winds up dead the way she pictured it. Anyone who has read a paranormal YA novel before knows that this means she is connected, but Mara doesn’t understand what is happening to her and tells no one.

Noah is Mara’s new boyfriend and is more than he appears as well. So when Mara confides in him he helps her as best he can, even though she knows he’s only humoring her. As they work together to find out why things are happening and how to stop it, their romance grows.

Through the course of the story there are other things going on with Mara’s family that we may not pay much attention to, but turn out to play a bigger role than we realize. When Mara has to make a choice that could cost lives and cost her relationship with Noah, we know what she’ll choose. But the consequences are a little different than we might expect.

I am eager to find out what happens in book 2! I like Mara and would love to see where the author takes Mara after the way the first book ends. There are so many things I can see happening and I don’t like waiting to find out. Noah is still a confusing character for me; he’s likable yet not solid to me in many ways. He presents as one type and switches to another several times throughout the story, so I’m hoping for a clearer picture of who he is in the next book.

If you enjoy paranormal romance novels and the description sounds intriguing you should give this one a try. We have a girl who doesn’t hide in her depression and a guy many can’t help but find charming. Watching these two figure out the paranormal aspects while they figure out the romance should keep you entertained, especially once book two comes out and we can get to know them better.

 

How to Save a Life – Sara Zarr

How to Save a Life
By Sara Zarr
Available Now

Description:
Jill MacSweeney just wants everything to go back to normal. But ever since her dad died, she’s been isolating herself from her boyfriend, her best friends–everyone who wants to support her. You can’t lose one family member and simply replace him with a new one, and when her mom decides to adopt a baby, that’s exactly what it feels like she’s trying to do. And that’s decidedly not normal. With her world crumbling around her, can Jill come to embrace a new member of the family?

Mandy Kalinowski knows what it’s like to grow up unwanted–to be raised by a mother who never intended to have a child. So when Mandy becomes pregnant, she knows she wants a better life for her baby. But can giving up a child be as easy as it seems? And will she ever be able to find someone to care for her, too?

Critically acclaimed author and National Book Award finalist Sara Zarr delivers a heart-wrenching story, told from dual perspectives, about what it means to be a family and the many roads we can take to become one.


This Blonde’s Review:

Jill and Mandy are both in tough situations. Jill’s father died suddenly and she is struggling to cope with missing the parent she was most like. Mandy is young and pregnant and wants more for her child. When Jill’s mother, Robin, agrees to adopt Mandy’s baby and tells Jill about it afterwards, they all start on a path to the unknown.

When we see things through Jill’s eyes we see Jill’s distrust and we see how her father’s death affects her. We don’t get into the emotional side of his death or hear much about what happened, only the way she pushes people away. And how she feels she can’t be a good person without him there to understand the hard side of her and remind her to be more giving. Jill resents Mandy’s presence and the child she’s going to give birth to. She feels that her mother is trying to replace her father with this new baby. She doesn’t trust that Mandy doesn’t have ulterior motives or will really do what she says she will.

Mandy has had a hard life, but she seems strangely innocent and sweet. She always does her hair a certain way because that is how her mother taught her. She meets a stranger on a train and writes him letters, imagining he may come to care for her and they could build something. Mandy believes that Robin will take good care of her child and be able to give him/her more than Mandy herself ever could. She believes in Robin. At the same time she has the same doubts and imagines keeping her child and raising it herself. As we see things through Mandy’s eyes we learn more about her past and what brought her to this point. We learn about the father of her child, and why she ran from her home as soon as she could.

This book was heartbreaking to think about, yet strangely not very emotional. Thinking of losing a father or of the things Mandy went through is enough to sadden me, yet the story was less about what had happened and more about where they were going next. As they learn more about each other and start to care, things get more complicated instead of less so.Throughout the story I juggled what I thought would be the best idea. Was it best if Robin adopted the baby from Mandy? What would happen to her if that happened? Or would it be best if Mandy kept the baby and Robin and Jill dealt with their grief together in other ways? I didn’t expect what happened, but it really was the best possible idea. I loved it.

I also really enjoyed that everything wasn’t centered around the baby. Jill had her own issues with friends and her boyfriend that had nothing to do with Mandy or her child. Mandy had things she had to deal with on her own as well, and she had to find the strength to deal with them so she could handle the situation she was already in.In some ways I think this story could have been better, since I did expect it to be more emotionally charged. At the same time I really enjoyed it and really enjoyed Mandy, Jill, and Robin as told through their eyes. The dynamics could be complicated because they all have such different personalities, yet together they can build something that would strengthen them all and help the child that was going to be born.

If you enjoy novels with complicated emotions, different viewpoints, and want to read a book that makes you hope for the best for all of the characters you should give this one a try. I have enjoyed other books by Sara Zarr and this did not make me change my opinion of her as an author that catches my eye.

 

In the Forests of the Night – Kersten Hamilton

In the Forests of the Night
By: Kersten Hamilton
Goblin Wars – Book 2
Available 22 November 2011

Caution: If you have not read Tyger Tyger, the first book in this series, Please do so before you read the description of this book, it does contain spoilers. You won’t regret it, I loved it as my review of Tyger Tyger will show you.

Description:
Teagan, Finn, and Aiden have made it out of Mag Mell alive, but the Dark Man’s forces are hot on their heels. Back in Chicago, Tea’s goblin cousins show up at her school, sure she will come back to Mag Mell, as goblin blood is never passive once awoken. Soon she will belong to Fear Doirich and join them. In the meantime, they are happy to entertain themselves by trying to seduce, kidnap, or kill Tea’s family and friends.

Teagan knows she doesn’t have much time left, and she refuses to leave Finn or her family to be tortured and killed. A wild Stormrider, born to rule and reign, is growing stronger inside her. But as long as she can hold on, she’s still Teagan Wylltson, who plans to be a veterinarian and who heals the sick and hurting. The disease that’s destroying her—that’s destroying them all—has a name: Fear Doirich. And Teagan Wylltson is not going to let him win.

This Blonde’s Review:
If you have Not read Tyger Tyger, you will have to read it before you try to pick this one up. I don’t usually need a long recounting of the things that happened in the first book before I begin the second, but I’m used to having a paragraph or two at least. In this one the author jumps right in as though we were starting a new paragraph or reading the books back to back. You may want to reread Tyger Tyger or skim the end to get a basic idea of where things end on the first book before you start this one. This really was my main complaint with this book.

I already loved Teagan, Finn, Aiden and their friends from Tyger Tyger, so I was excited to read more of their story. Teagan is struggling with the knowledge that she has goblin blood in her and that Finn seems unaffected by this news. Aiden is still adorable and lovable, they type of boy I’d want to hug if I knew him in real life.

As they fight to keep the people and things who matter to them safe, Teagan comes up with a plan. One she knows the others won’t like, so she intends to carry it out on her own. She’s going back to Mag Mell and destroy Fear Doirich before he can hurt anyone else. Finn can’t let her go on her own and helps her whether she likes it or not. There have been many changes to Mag Mell since they were there last but they make their way through Mag Mell to find Fear Doirich with help along the way.

I don’t want to give much away, but I really enjoyed In the Forests of the Night once I got past the confusing of diving in head first. I didn’t know where we’d go with this story, but looking back it seems like the perfect path.

If you enjoyed the first book you will not regret reading more about the characters you fell in love with during the first story. If you haven’t read it but read the review anyway, you should hurry and pick up Tyger Tyger so that you’re ready for this one when it comes out in November.

 

Notes from an Accidental Band Geek – Erin Dionne

Notes from an Accidental Band Geek
By Erin Dionne
Available Now

Description:
Elsie Wyatt is a born French horn player, just like her father and her grandfather before her. In order to qualify for the prestigious summer music camp of her dreams, she must expand her musical horizons and join – gasp! – the marching band. There are no French horns in marching band (what the heck is a mellophone??), but there are some cute boys. And marching band is very different from orchestra: they march, they chant, they . . . cluck? Elsie is not so sure she’ll survive, but the new friends she’s making and the actual fun she’s having will force her to question her dad’s expectations and her own musical priorities.

This Blonde’s Review:
Elsie is the kind of girl that doesn’t have many friends. She is more dedicated to her French horn than she is to any friendship. She is determined to follow in her father and grandfather’s footsteps and she believes she can do it at an earlier age than her father did. As part of qualifying for the camp she feels is an important step towards her goals she has to take part in marching band.

Elsie thinks marching band is a waste of her time and made even worse when she isn’t able to play her own instrument. She finds herself messing up often and doesn’t have the social skills to do feel comfortable in this new environment. She makes up her mind to quit until she overhears her father expressing doubts about her ability to succeed in her goals. Once Elsie puts her mind to it she starts to get better at being part of the band and even finds herself making friends.

Everything isn’t perfect for Elsie though. She is still devastated by her father’s lack of faith and refuses to practice her French horn when he can hear her. Her social skills can still use work and she finds herself alienating the friends who care about her and want to help her. She even finds a boy who likes her and soon pushes him away as well.

When she’s given an opportunity that will put more stress on her and cause her to choose between her friends and her goals, Elsie chooses her goals. As she struggles to hold it all together, she has to figure out what’s really important to her, and whether marching band is really as bad as she thinks.

I really enjoyed this one. I love that Elsie is socially awkward but doesn’t seem to notice it. We often see characters who are charming, shy and know they’re awkward, or proud to be so different from others. Elsie is just herself. She concentrates on her goals and doesn’t even recognize how she alienates others until it is thrust in her face. Her friends are all wonderful characters too, especially Punk, the boy who saves her from multiple embarrassing moments during band practice.

If you enjoy books about characters who are not socially talented, who are put in new situations they hate, and seeing the way the characters grow and change, you’ll love this one. I know I did and I look forward to reading more by this author!

 

Lola and the Boy Next Door – Stephanie Perkins

Lola and the Boy Next Door
By: ​Stephanie Perkins
Available Now

Description:
​Budding designer Lola Nolan doesn’t believe in fashion . . . she believes in costume. The more expressive the outfit — more sparkly, more fun, more wild — the better. But even though Lola’s style is outrageous, she’s a devoted daughter and friend with some big plans for the future. And everything is pretty perfect (right down to her hot rocker boyfriend) until the dreaded Bell twins, Calliope and Cricket, return to the neighborhood.

​When Cricket — a gifted inventor — steps out from his twin sister’s shadow and back into Lola’s life, she must finally reconcile a lifetime of feelings for the boy next door.

This Blonde‘s Review:
​Lola is someone I would have always described as a character. She doesn’t follow the same path others do. She would rather dress in costume and enjoy her clothing than follow the current trends. She makes her own clothes and wears them with pride. She has two fathers who support her dreams, friends who enjoy her, and a boyfriend she loves spending time with.

​When someone moves back in next door Lola hopes they’re renters. When it turns out that the Bells have moved back in she can only hope that Cricket isn’t with them. She and Calliope had a rocky history, but her past with Cricket was enough to send her for cover.

​Lola’s attempts to avoid Cricket aren’t successful since he seeks her out repeatedly. As she spends more time with him she can’t avoid their history or what happened between them. She doesn’t want to admit what is growing between them now either.

​I really loved Cricket. He was so sweet and geeky that we had to wonder what could have really happened in their past to upset Lola so much. He’s a great character and you can’t help but cheer for him, even if Lola’s boyfriend seems like he’s cooler than Cricket.

​Lola is a character you can’t help but love for her confidence. She doesn’t allow the opinions of others to keep her from dressing the way she wants to. When she does let that happen and dresses normal we can’t help but wish she’d dress flamboyantly again. It gives her a chance to see what others really think of her clothing and decide if that matters to her.

​Lola has to learn what really matters to her and who matters. Watching her struggle with how she sees the world and whether she’s on the right path were great to see. Her romance with Cricket is adorable and something we can’t help but hope turns into something lasting.

​If you’ve read Anna and the French Kiss this is a companion novel. If you haven’t you will meet Anna, but you won’t feel lost without reading her story first. I haven’t read it yet, but getting to know her makes me want to read her story soon.

​If a young adult story about a girl finding her place in the world and standing tall in it while learning to forgive sounds great, then you should give this a try. I really enjoyed it and look forward to reading more by this author.