Sunday, July 31, 2011

In My Mailbox (11)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by the Story Siren. Here, I post any items that I buy/borrow/receive from this past Monday until the time this is posted on Sunday.

Interlibrary Loan

Meridian by Amber Kizer

Borrowed from the Library

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

What's in your mailbox?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Skipping Stones at the Center of the Earth Blog Tour and Review

I am very excited to be part of this event and have been waiting over a month since I last read the book to share it with you all. As part of this tour, here is my review of the ARC Skipping Stones at the Center of the Earth by Andy Hueller. You can see more of the book at the website, found here

Here's a quick summary from Goodreads.

Calvin Comet Cobble lives at Hidden Shores Orphanage. Location: the very center of the earth. Cal's life is full of the school bully and mean teachers, but when he meets Mr. E, who can skip a stone clear across Lake Arctic, everything about Cal's life changes. Told with wit and charm, Skipping Stones at the Center of the Earth is guaranteed to excite and inspire readers of all ages.

Pretty cool, right?

A bit confusing at parts, I found it difficult to understand the different stories in the book until at least halfway through, where the real connections begin. Once these connections are made, however, it's a lot of fun.

There are a lot of cool details in this book, like the fireman poles in the school (no stairs!) and the expedition that led to the discovery of the real center of the earth. I still had questions at the end of the book, but the ending is still satisfying and it's a great alternative to the usual orphanage story. All readers can relate to Calvin's plight with identity and his battle with the school bullies (both fellow students and the teachers) but the new setting is a nice twist.

Some mystery, adventure, and a practical lesson in skipping stones.

ARC provided by Cedar Fort via Net Galley.

Friday, July 22, 2011

TGIF! (6)

TGIF is a Friday feature hosted by Ginger at GReads to recap the week on your blog and to answer a fun question.

This Friday's Question:

Bookshelf Tour: Where do you keep your books at home? 
Are they organized?

Most of my books are at my parents' house, and they're loosely organized by series (and if they are, they must be in order from book one on through) and author. Some are lumped together because they're YA or adult, but mostly the textbooks are kept separate from the rest, normally on a bottom shelf.

At my parents' house, I have four bookshelves (five shelves each) and they're full of books, some of them double stacked, then there's a big box nearby full of books I'm selling (old textbooks, that kinda thing).

At my current apartment, I have a much smaller bookshelf full of the textbooks I need for that particular semester and whatever I got from interlibrary loan or a friend. I'm not as neat here as I am at my parents' house, so there are big piles of books that aren't organized at all. There is also a jar of peanut butter, a makeup kit and a sketchbook and pencils on the top shelf.

What doesn't fit on the shelves are piled on the floor.

I'm real classy. :P


Thursday, July 21, 2011

Review: Purge

Purge by Sarah Darer Littman.

Summary from Goodreads.

Janie Ryman hates throwing up. So why does she binge eat and then stick her fingers down her throat several times a day? That’s what the doctors and psychiatrists at Golden Slopes hope to help her discover. But first, Janie must survive everyday conflicts between the Barfers and the Starvers, attempts by the head psychiatrist to fish painful memories out of her emotional waters, and shifting friendships and alliances among the kids in the ward.


Purge is another powerful novel about eating disorders and the process of healing. Like Wintergirls, it shows both anorexia and bulimia and the dangers of both, but unlike Wintergirls, Purge was often funny. Sure, the majority of the book was serious but there were parts where I laughed out loud.

One thing that I've noticed about books featuring hospitals like Golden Slopes is that the effectiveness of the actual facility seems dubious. If a character becomes healthy again (both inside and out) it's normally because of the relationships forged within the hospital's walls, not because of any specific treatment. Unless the staff make the patients hate them on purpose, which is just plain evil.

Beautifully written with well developed characters and a bright and honest voice, Purge is another book I'll recommend to people of all ages because it informs and entertains equally well. I'm looking forward to reading more by Sarah Darer Littman, and you bet I'll post a review when I do.

Bought from Barnes and Noble.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Review: Change of Heart

Change of Heart by Shari Maurer.

Summary from Goodreads.

In a world where the most stressful thing seems to be winning a soccer game or what to wear in the morning, you take some really basic things for granted. 

Like the love of your parents. 

Or hanging with your friends. 

Or the beating of your heart. 

When you’re 16 years old, it never occurs to you that you might die. Emmi Miller’s got a fabulous life. She has tons of friends, does great in school and is an all-star soccer player who played in Europe last summer. It even looks like Sam Hunter, a totally cute baseball player, might be interested in her. And then she gets a virus. No biggy, right? Until the virus goes to her heart and weakens it so much that, without a transplant, Emmi will die. 

Will Emmi get a heart in time? Is Sam too good to be true? What about her new friend Abe, who has also had a transplant and guides her through these scary times — is he just being supportive or is there more going on between them? And will Emmi realize it before it’s too late?


Prepare the tissues! This book made me cry.

Change of Heart covers a very real problem that doesn't get a lot of notice, particularly in young adult literature. We automatically think that issues with a heart happen to people who are older, not teens or children, but that isn't true.  If you think you won't be able to relate to Emmi, think again. She's a normal teenager, concerned with school, boys and prom, with the added problem of needing a new heart.

My only thought is that I wished that there had been more of Abe. He was a great character and had some of the best lines, but he only appeared almost halfway through the book and then it still took a bit for Emmi to reach out to him. I think the story could have benefited with more of him, particularly the emergence of his relationship with Emmi.

Otherwise, I really liked this book. Powerful and heart wrenching, Emmi is a very honest character and at times, it's difficult to read because of the content but well worth it in the end. It doesn't have to be a fantasy or action and adventure book to depict a life or death situation and this book does it well.

Check out the back of the book for the website Donate Life America and sign up to be an organ donor. You could save a few lives in the process.

Bought from Barnes and Noble.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Review: Will Work for Prom Dress

Will Work for Prom Dress by Aimee Ferris.

Summary from Goodreads.

Quigley Johnson has, reluctantly, given up the rest of her last year of high school to take part in her best friend Ann's Betterment Plan, which will turn them into the best-dressed, most sought-after, most admired girls at their senior formal. Because - hey - who doesn't want the perfect prom, complete with a dream dress and a devastatingly handsome date? 

But the prom costs money - lots of money - and even though the girls could easily have Ann's mom design their dresses (she's only Victoria Parisi, one of the most famous designers in the world), Ann insists that they pay their own way.  And that's how Quigley gets stuck making artistic topping masterpieces on frozen pizzas canvases, before becoming a live model for Ms. Parisi's fashion design class, where she meets Zander.

He's cute, and cool, and funny, with a killer design sensibility (even if he can't sketch).  But is he too good to be true? And what about David, the hot, talented artist at school, who's also kind of a jerk, but won't leave Quigley alone? And Ann - she started the Betterment Plan to improve Quigley and herself, but it seems like it's ripping their friendship to shreds.

This road to the prom dream may just end in disaster.


This book made me giggle. Light and fluffy and a very fast read, I thoroughly enjoyed Quigley's antics (particularly at the frozen pizza factory, that was a stroke of genius) even if I couldn't quite relate to the whole prom thing. (I never went to prom, so I never had to save up for the dress or find a date.) That said, I had a lot of fun reading this.

I can't say that I know much about fashion, or really care much about it, but it didn't matter with this book. I also never thought I would be so interested in fashion designers but Zander and the Spikester were great characters, both breaking the mold when it comes to the stereotypical male fashion designer. In that respect, hooray for breaking stereotypes!

A good way to experience prom if you haven't before, or just to laugh at the crazy antics Quigley and Ann get into. The boys are wonderful and while the antagonist felt a little over the top (particularly at the end) I still enjoyed this book immensely. After all, isn't drama what high school is all about?

Happy reading!

Bought from Barnes and Noble.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

In My Mailbox (10)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by the Story Siren. Here, I post any items that I buy/borrow/receive from this past Monday until the time this is posted on Sunday.

Interlibrary Loan

City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare


The Anti-Vampire Tale by Lewis Aleman
The Lovely Shoes by Susan Shreve


Want to Go Private? by Sarah Darer Littman

What's in your mailbox?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday (6)

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine where bloggers share a highly anticipated read.

Phew, it's been a long time! Oops!

This week's is...

Want to Go Private? by Sarah Darer Littman.
In stores July 31st, 2011.

Summary from Goodreads.

Abby and Luke chat online. They've never met. But they are going to. Soon.
Abby is starting high school—it should be exciting, so why doesn't she care? Everyone tells her to "make an effort," but why can't she just be herself? Abby quickly feels like she's losing a grip on her once-happy life. The only thing she cares about anymore is talking to Luke, a guy she met online, who understands. It feels dangerous and yet good to chat with Luke—he is her secret, and she's his. Then Luke asks her to meet him, and she does. But Luke isn't who he says he is. When Abby goes missing, everyone is left to put together the pieces. If they don't, they'll never see Abby again.

This book sounds absolutely incredible and after reading an earlier novel by Sarah, Purge (review coming soon), and loving it, I can't wait to read this one. I just got the ARC in the mail today so I'll dive into it tomorrow and post a review soon!

Other books by Sarah Darer Littman

Confessions of a Closet Catholic
Life, After

So what book are you waiting for?

Friday, July 8, 2011

Review: Jeremy Bender vs the Cupcake Cadets

Jeremy Bender vs the Cupcake Cadets by Eric Luper.

Summary from Goodreads

When eleven-year-old Jeremy Bender does major damage to his father's prized boat, he figures he has one way to avoid being grounded for life: Fix it before Dad finds out. But even if Jeremy and his best friend, Slater, combined their allowances for a year, they still wouldn't have enough money for the cost of repairs. 

Inspiration strikes when the boys see an ad for the Windjammer Whirl. Sponsored by the Cupcake Cadets, the model sailboat race pays five hundred dollars to the winner. There's just one problem: You must be a Cadet—and a girl—to compete.

Confident that it will be the easiest money they've ever made, Jeremy convinces Slater they should dress up like girls and infiltrate the troop. But as the boys proceed to botch everything from camping to field hockey, they realize that being a Cadet is no piece of cupcake. 

Can Jeremy and Slater earn their badges and win the money? Or will their Cupcake careers be over faster than you can say "vanilla frosting"?


I'm a fan of Eric Luper and have reviewed a few of his books already, but this one might be my favorite so far. From start to finish, I never put it down (unless I had to help a patron since I was technically working) and I can't count the number of times I had to stifle laughter (library and all that).

It felt like I was in middle school all over again through the antics of Jeremy and Slater and their encounters with the girls in the Cadets. The boys learn a few life lessons without being preachy, which was another plus. It's a problem a lot of books have when trying to show the same thing. The dialogue was genuine and plot moved along at a satisfying clip. The characters were well fleshed out for such a short novel and did I mention that it was very funny?

The children's librarian made a few appearances and I loved her. She had blue hair!! Bit of a slam for reference librarians, but it fit the book. A reference librarian would have been a good resource for researching model sailboats though. True to life, not many people think to ask them that. I was glad to have libraries represented so favorably though, so that's another plus.

Normally I don't like middle grade books quite as much as YA or adult, but I found myself liking this one just as much. Even as an adult, I can read it fondly and remember what it was like to be that age. Everyone should read this book. Even though it's marketed for the middle grades, I think there is something (or a lot of things, really) for everyone to enjoy.

Read it! And enjoy a cupcake (or three) while you're at it.

Bought from Barnes and Noble.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Review: Bitter Melon

Bitter Melon by Cara Chow.

Summary from Goodreads.

Frances, a Chinese-American student at an academically competitive school in San Francisco, has always had it drilled into her to be obedient to her mother and to be a straight-A student so that she can go to Med school. But is being a doctor what she wants?It has never even occurred to Frances to question her own feelings and desires until she accidentally winds up in speech class and finds herself with a hidden talent. Does she dare to challenge the mother who has sacrificed everything for her? Set in the 1980s.


This is another book that I heard a lot of positive buzz about so I decided to give it a shot and I loved it.

I loved Frances and her fight to be herself while her mother tries to conform her to the traditional Chinese daughter. I have only heard of the "tiger mom" in passing but reading about it was another experience altogether. Frances's mother did what she believed was best, and maybe if they had still been in China or if Frances had not gone to a private school things would have been different. Instead, Frances chafes under her mother's influence and tries to please her mother and be herself but it's not so easy when her mother watches her like a hawk.

Frances's friendships with Theresa and Derek form two sides of a coin: American identity and traditional Chinese. They are interesting foils for each other and Frances's transformation felt fluid and genuine with their help.

Cara Chow's writing is brilliant, portraying Frances and her friends and mother with sensitivity and grace. Frances's voice is honest and the plot moved beautifully along without feeling stagnant or too fast. Cara Chow is an author to watch.

On a side note, I had forgotten about this book until a friend of mine asked me to go to the Asian food store and we were wandering around and found this: 

We called it space fruit but later we realized that it was - you guessed it - bitter melon! Realizing that, I remembered the book and yeah, you know the rest. It really does look like a space fruit though, doesn't it??

If you haven't already, pick up Bitter Melon and read it, it's worth a look and I promise you'll enjoy it. 

Received through interlibrary loan.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Camp NaNoWriMo

A long-time writer friend of mine told me about this event and I jumped at the chance. She and I are doing this together, so cheer us on!

For years I've wanted to do NaNoWriMo but because it's in November, I've always had to contend with final projects for the end of the semester and freaking out about final exams. Camp NaNoWriMo is the perfect solution. It's in July!

So what is Camp NaNoWriMo? It's a summer writing camp (in the comfort of your own home) that challenges you to write 50,000 words in 30 days. It seems like a lot (it's approximately 100 pages) but the motivation is strong and it's the kick in the pants I've needed to write my own novel, which I've been aching to do since I was in third grade.

Yeah. Third grade. That was... 15 years ago. I have wanted to be an author since I was 9 years old and I'm determined to at least get a (very) rough draft finished before the fall semester starts August 29th this year. Not a lot of time but I'm inspired.

Do you want to write your own novel? Sign up! It's free and a lot of fun. There is a teen section so if you're a teen or younger and would like to participate, there's a section just for you.

If you do sign up, add me as a friend!

In My Mailbox (9)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by the Story Siren. Here, I post any items that I buy/borrow/receive from this past Monday until the time this is posted on Sunday.

Not a long list this week but I've got some good ones!

Bought (from the lovely Barnes and Noble) and signed!

Jeremy Bender vs. the Cupcake Cadets by Eric Luper
Change of Heart by Shari Mauer
Purge by Sarah Littman
Will Work for Prom Dress by Aimee Ferris


Into the Parallel by Robin Brande

What's in your mailbox?
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