Monday, July 30, 2012

Book Review: Goddess Girls #9 by Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams

The Girl Games by Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams
Series: #9 in the Goddess Girls series
Release Date: July 10, 2012
Publisher: Aladdin
Received: Review copy from author
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Athena, Medusa, Artemis, and Persephone are sick and tired of being left out of the annual boys-only Olympic Games. Their solution? The Girl Games! But as the Goddess Girls work to make their dream into a reality, they come up against plenty of chaos and competition. Told in alternating points of view, this superspecial is packed with Olympic spirit!

The super special! I have very positive associations with super specials from my Babysitters' Club-filled childhood, so I was highly anticipating the first Goddess Girls super special. Unsurprisingly, it not only lived up to my expectations, but predictably blew them out of the water. Goddess Girls fans are going to love this!

Each of the four main Goddess Girls gets her own narration rotating chapter by chapter. It was nice getting to read from multiple perspectives and the super special should have broad appeal because everyone's favorite Goddess Girl is featured (unless your favorite is Medusa, but she's still around.)

The plot all ties back to the overall story arc about the all-girl Olympic games (introduced in Artemis the Loyal), as well as focusing on each girl's individual story arc. Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams continue with their winning streak in combining modern interpersonal issues readers can easily relate to with creatively adapted mythological retellings (although at this point, I'm not very familiar with the original myths they're adapting, so this book was a great springboard for me).

The games provide a perfect scenario for introducing new Goddess Girls and their varied mythologies (Egyptian, Norse, Amazon). While these characters didn't play a large part, it was still nice seeing the expansion of the Goddess Girls universe. As an added bonus, there is also a little mystery that provided an adorable cameo by Medusa and her snakes (loved that scene!)

Because of the multiple narrators, this book is longer than a standard Goddess Girl book, but the altering narratives and varied stories should keep even reluctant readers entertained.

While most of the Goddess Girls books can be read as a standalone, I think readers would appreciate the asides, jokes, and development of certain plot points more if they're already familiar with previous Goddess Girl installments.

Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key

Do you have any questions about The Girl Games that I haven't addressed?

Want a chance to win a copy?
Head over to Alex's blog A Girl, Books and Other Things to enter!

Feel free to ask in the comments!

Click to add to Goodreads

Click to buy on Amazon

Looking for another book like this? 
You might like: 

Click on the covers to go to my reviews.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Book Review: The Liar Society by Lisa and Laura Roecker

The Liar Society by Lisa and Laura Roecker
Release Date: March 1, 2011
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Pages: 361
Received: Library
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
Goodreads Page


From Goodreads:

Kate Lowry didn't think dead best friends could send e-mails. But when she gets an e-mail from Grace, she’s not so sure.

Sent: Sun 9/14 11:59 PM
Subject: (no subject)

I'm here…
sort of.
Find Cameron.
He knows.
I shouldn't be writing.
Don't tell.
They'll hurt you.

Now Kate has no choice but to prove once and for all that Grace’s death was more than just a tragic accident. But secrets haunt the halls of her elite private school. Secrets people will do anything to protect. Even if it means getting rid of the girl trying to solve a murder...


Coming to you from the secret hidden bunker

Yeah, you read that right. And if I'm in hiding, then you know what that means, right? I didn't like a book that everyone else adores. I really wanted to like this book but unfortunately every area fell flat for me.

Kate's not getting an invitation from me

Kate may have gotten a secret invitation, but it so wasn't from me. She is so NOT invited to my sleepover party. First off, she'd totally bring down the mood with her sarcastic depression laced with faux apathy. I get it, her best friend died. I'm sure I'd be broken up about that too. But depressing MCs are depressing to be around and Kate just dragged me down.

Kate also has a huge wall around her and, despite the first person narration, I had a really hard time getting in touch with the real Kate.

But, even if I was feeling charitable, I still wouldn't invite her because she's a mean girl. Seth (her dorky neighbor who has a huge crush on her) is a nice guy and Kate treats him terribly. I get how awkward and uncomfortable it can be to have a guy like you when you are so not interested in him AT ALL, but that's not an acceptable excuse for using him like Kate did.

She totally played on his feelings for her because she needed him, all the while lobbing rude comments at him and thinking even meaner thoughts about him. That's just not cool.

It's a mystery

I kept reading because of the mystery, but that fell flat for me too. I never really felt grabbed with that I'm so into this book feeling. The mystery sort of washed over me and I was interested, but I wasn't invested.

Clues are revealed at an ok-ish pace and there is never really any lull in action, but I didn't feel any heart-pounding peaks either. I think I was supposed to feel a real sense of white-knuckled peril here, but instead I just feel kind of meh.

I did like learning about all of the traditions and history of the school. I love this kind of thing, and the details of the societies were fascinating. I want to know more about them though. Meaning, I want to know about other traditions and pieces of history that are hinted at, but I also wish the ones that were revealed were fleshed out more.

The final reveal was kind of a letdown for me. It's not even really fully resolved either, which is even more of a letdown. I thought this was a standalone book, but it's not. I like that this means there will be more to learn about the societies, but I'm not sure if I want to read another book with Kate. I already don't remember any of the details and I'm not too keen on the idea of a re-read.

Misleading beginnings and uncertain endings

I can't tell you much without giving things away, but the blurb is kind of misleading. At least it was for me. I was expecting a certain genre of story ghosts based on that blurb but that's not what I got.

At this point I'm not sure I'd read another book in the series. I would read another book written by the Roecker sisters,, I really didn't like Kate and the mystery isn't enough to get me to look past her.

Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Book Review: Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard

Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard
Release Date: July 24, 2012
Publisher: HarperTeen 
Pages: 400
Received: ARC from publisher
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars


From Goodreads:

The year is 1876, and there’s something strange and deadly loose in Philadelphia…

Eleanor Fitt has a lot to worry about. Her brother has gone missing, her family has fallen on hard times, and her mother is determined to marry her off to any rich young man who walks by. But this is nothing compared to what she’s just read in the newspaper—

The Dead are rising in Philadelphia.

And then, in a frightening attack, a zombie delivers a letter to Eleanor…from her brother.

Whoever is controlling the Dead army has taken her brother as well. If Eleanor is going to find him, she’ll have to venture into the lab of the notorious Spirit-Hunters, who protect the city from supernatural forces. But as Eleanor spends more time with the Spirit-Hunters, including their maddeningly stubborn yet handsome inventor, Daniel, the situation becomes dire. And now, not only is her reputation on the line, but her very life may hang in the balance.


Miss Eleanor Fitt, she of the coolest name in the land

I don't feel like I fully know Eleanor yet, but I like her enough to save her a seat at the cafeteria. I think part of the reason I feel a little hazy on Eleanor is because she's unsure of herself. Eleanor doesn't fit into the high society world her mother is pushing her toward, but she isn't exactly able to blend in with the lower classes either. Where she belongs isn't clear yet, but this is only part one of a series and I get the feeling I'm going to see Eleanor come to terms with this as her journey progresses. I like her enough that I'm invested in seeing what she ultimately decides.

I'd also be the kind of friend that tells her dragon mother of course Eleanor is hanging out at my house today, when really she's sneaking off to cavort with spirit hunters. The poor girl seriously could have used a cover friend. 

Jailbait stole my swoon

I had already developed a pretty big crush on Daniel Sheridan before I had even met him based on Susan's interview where she described him as a scalawag and compared him to Dimitri from Anastasia (only one of the hottest cartoon characters ever). So did reality mesh with my fantasy?

Yes and no. Daniel IS totally swoony, but he's also very much a younger guy (but exactly like a young Dimitri!). He is roguish and charming, but he lacks the rougher edges of an older guy. At his core, Daniel is pretty innocent and mostly makes me want to pinch the cheeks on his face...and only the cheeks on his face.

Now, does this matter at all to the target audience of actual teens? Probably not! I'm sure they'll want to do more to Daniel than chaste grandma pinches (I would have been SO in love with him when I was younger). I'm not a teen though, and I felt a little bit wrong crushing on such a boyish romantic lead.

Also, while it is technically a hate-turned-love romance, the turning point happened easily and early on and that zapped away some of the tension-filled banter I was hoping to read. Daniel's nicknames for Eleanor came off sounding more like a wistful crush he was trying to hide (still, cute) instead of the mocking sarcasm of, say, Han Solo's nicknames for Princess Leia ("Your Worship"), which is what I wanted.  

Now the other guy! HE I could have crushed on. Maybe. He was older and had that Protective Man thing going on. But that relationship so wasn't happening, and for multiple very good reasons (one of which is that he's kind of a jerk sometimes. Another reason I didn't see coming AT ALL. I think I bruised my jaw when it hit the ground on THAT revelation. Talk about an awesome out of the blue gut-punch!).

And, DON'T WORRY, this isn't a love triangle book and the romance takes a backseat to all the fun zombie stuff. 

Wait,  this is a zombie book?

Thankfully, no one kisses zombies in this book. Whew.

They do kill them though! But, despite a number of flesh-seeking hording and knee-hacking scenes, there wasn't a whole lot of peril. Underlying everything is this frothy fun feeling that made me want to giggle in the middle of the slayfests. Which isn't a bad thing at all.

See, Eleanor is so NOT a capable, badass like Deuce. She's more like adorable season 1 Willow—she's awkward and doesn't have a clue what to do, but she's willing to pitch in (with large doses of hilarious awkwardness and tons of Es for Effort)! And, as much as the badasses generally earn my awe and respect, it's the characters like Eleanor who make me want to break out my friendship-bracelet lanyard.

So while, yes, there are zombies in this book, they aren't really scary zombies. Think Army of Darkness. That said though, there are a few somewhat gory images conjured up and something happened at the end that was more hardcore than I would have ever expected from a book with a pretty dress cover (I'm not complaining! Just, surprised, that's all).

400 pages, are you kidding me?!

They go down easy, I promise. There isn't a TON of action, but I liked Eleanor so I had just as much fun following along while she went out to lunch with her friends as I did when she was sleuthing with the Spirit Hunters.

Sure, maybe a few nips and tucks here and there might have helped me a little during a few repetitive scenes, but with stuff like blowing up a dynamite factory and Eleanor nearly getting herself electrocuted peppering the pages, I'm really not complaining.

The only thing I might complain a teeny tiny bit about was the fact that I figured out the big reveals really early on. I still enjoyed myself, but that did take away from the mysteries, which would have otherwise been nicely twisty.

Bottom line

There's a lightness to Susan Dennard's writing that was almost reminiscent of Kiersten White. That's HIGH praise. This first book was very surface fun and keeps everything at a PG level. I may even give Something Strange and Deadly to older tweens who are able to handle the gory aspects. Though don't get me wrong, this is still great for YA readers.

Something Strange and Deadly is part one of a series and ends neatly but is also clearly setting up for the next book. Something MAJOR and unexpected happened at the end and I'm incredibly curious to see how Eleanor handles this change in the future. Will it toughen her up? Will it force a decision as far as where she belongs? Will she get angry? Sad? Bold? Inquiring minds want to know.

Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key 

Do you have any questions about Something Strange and Deadly that I haven't addressed?
Feel free to ask in the comments!

Something Strange and Deadly was published yesterday—no more waiting!

Add it on Goodreads
Buy it on Amazon

Looking for another book like this?
You might like:

 Click on the pictures to go to my reviews.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Tips & Tricks: How to Make Colored Boxes Align in a Row

How to Make Colored Boxes
Align in a Row

What You Will Learn

We've already gone over how to make a colored box, but that code only lets you make one colored box per line. Which is great, but you can't make two boxes sit side by side that way and sometimes that's really what you want to do.

I've gotten a lot of questions about this and sadly I didn't have an answer. Which was super annoying. So I dedicated my lunch hour last Friday to finally trying to figure out how to do this, and success! So now today we're going to learn how to make colored boxes sit next to one another! 

Your text here!Your text here! Your text here!Your text here!

Let's Do This!

Step 1: The Code

<center><table border="0" cellspacing="4"><tbody>
<tr> <td bgcolor="#B0171F" style="color: white;">Your text here!</td><td bgcolor="#4B0082" style="color: white;">Your text here!</td> <td bgcolor="#00688B" style="color: white;">Your text here!</td><td bgcolor="FF6347" style="color: white;">Your text here!</td> </tr>

Step 2: Setting the alignment

<center><table border="0" cellspacing="4"><tbody>
<tr> <td bgcolor="#B0171F" style="color: white;">Your text here!</td><td bgcolor="#4B0082" style="color: white;">Your text here!</td> <td bgcolor="#00688B" style="color: white;">Your text here!</td><td bgcolor="FF6347" style="color: white;">Your text here!</td> </tr>

Want your boxes to align in the center of your screen? Great! Copy the code exactly.

Want your boxes to align to the left? Replace the word "center" with the word "left"

Want your boxes to align to the right? Replace the word "center" with the word "right"

Easy peasy!

Step 3: Setting the borders

<center><table border="0" cellspacing="4"><tbody>
<tr> <td bgcolor="#B0171F" style="color: white;">Your text here!</td><td bgcolor="#4B0082" style="color: white;">Your text here!</td> <td bgcolor="#00688B" style="color: white;">Your text here!</td><td bgcolor="FF6347" style="color: white;">Your text here!</td> </tr>

See the zero? That's because I have no borders on here. If you want borders, then go ahead and add a number there instead of zero. Play around with the numbers until you get a border thickness you like. The larger the number you put in there, the thicker your borders.

Step 4: Setting the space between your boxes

<center><table border="0" cellspacing="4"><tbody>
<tr> <td bgcolor="#B0171F" style="color: white;">Your text here!</td><td bgcolor="#4B0082" style="color: white;">Your text here!</td> <td bgcolor="#00688B" style="color: white;">Your text here!</td><td bgcolor="FF6347" style="color: white;">Your text here!</td> </tr>

"Cellspacing" describes the amount of white space you see between my color boxes. The larger the number, the wider the space. If you don't want any space between your boxes, then change this number to 0 (that's a zero, not the letter o). 

Step 5: Setting the background color

<center><table border="0" cellspacing="4"><tbody>
<tr> <td bgcolor="#B0171F" style="color: white;">Your text here!</td><td bgcolor="#4B0082" style="color: white;">Your text here!</td> <td bgcolor="#00688B" style="color: white;">Your text here!</td><td bgcolor="FF6347" style="color: white;">Your text here!</td> </tr>

Pull up your handy dandy color code list (I like using this one) and pick whatever color you want to use! Make sure you use the "Hex" color code (you'll see a column in the link I gave called "Hex") and make sure you include the #

In my example code, I have four colored boxes, and so you'll see this code used four times. You can use a different color code for each box, or you can use the same color each time. Mix it up however you prefer!

Note: If you know the HTML acceptable name of the color you want to use, then you can type that name in instead of the number sign and letters. 

Step 6: Setting the font color

<center><table border="0" cellspacing="4"><tbody>
<tr> <td bgcolor="#B0171F" style="color: white;">Your text here!</td><td bgcolor="#4B0082" style="color: white;">Your text here!</td> <td bgcolor="#00688B" style="color: white;">Your text here!</td><td bgcolor="FF6347" style="color: white;">Your text here!</td> </tr>

See the note in step 5 about using the name of the color if you know it? That's what I did in this example. If you don't know the name of the color you want to use, then just do it the same way you did with the background color (select your color from the list and then copy the Hex code. But, helpful hint, that list I gave you? The names of the colors there are the HTML acceptable names!). 

Same as step 5, you'll see this code four times because I have four boxes. You can set them all for the same font color or you can mix them up however you'd like.

Step 7: What if I want colored boxes next to each other AND on top of each other?

Your text here!Your text here! Your text here!
Your text here!

<center><table border="0" cellspacing="4"><tbody>
<tr> <td bgcolor="#B0171F" style="color: white;">Your text here!</td><td bgcolor="#4B0082" style="color: white;">Your text here!</td> <td bgcolor="#00688B" style="color: white;">Your text here!</td></tr>
<tr><td bgcolor="FF6347" style="color: white;">Your text here!</td> </tr>

See the tags with the "tr" inside? Those are the tags that determine what line your box sits on in relation to your other boxes.

See how between my first two "tr" tags I have code for three colored boxes? Now check out my colored boxes above. See how I have three colored boxes in a row? If you want three colored boxes next to each other all in the same row, then you need to put your "tr" tags BEFORE your first box code and AFTER your last box code.

Then, if you want to make a second row, just put new "tr" tags around more colored box code and then all of the boxes you include in those tags will appear together in a separate row. Make sense?

Step 8: Can we break that code down one more time?

<center><table border="0" cellspacing="4"><tbody>
<td bgcolor="#B0171F" style="color: white;">Your text here!</td><td bgcolor="#4B0082" style="color: white;">Your text here!</td> <td bgcolor="#00688B" style="color: white;">Your text here!</td><td bgcolor="FF6347" style="color: white;">Your text here!</td> </tr>

The code in blue is the code you always need to have, regardless of how many boxes and rows you want. This sets the basic parameters of your colored boxes.

The code in pink is the code for one colored box. If you want multiple boxes, then just copy that code as many times as you want boxes.

I hope that helps!
Have any questions? Feel free to ask in the comments!

Click here to read previous Tips & Tricks Posts

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Books I got this week (4)

It's been established so clearly that I can't even lie about it: I have no self-control when it comes to books. I acquire them at a much faster rate than I can actually read and review them, but hopefully these posts will help those books get some exposure NOW instead of waiting until I actually manage to find time to, you know, read them.

This post is for the past two weeks.

For Review

The Archived
by Victoria Schwab

Release Date: January 22, 2013
Publisher: Hyperion
Pages: 336
Goodreads Page

I loved Victoria's debut The Near Witch, so I already knew I wanted to read whatever she wrote next. BUT, this book is about a library, and not just any library, but a library where the "books" are actual dead bodies. It's up to Mac to maintain the library and figure out who is messing with the bodies to try to alter history.

I think my mind is a little blown by the description alone! I don't know that I've ever read a book with a premise quite like that. I'm expecting massive amounts of insanely cool imagery and hopefully some fun sleuthing. 

Requested and received from the publisher.

by Bridget Zinn

Release Date: March 12, 2013
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Goodreads Page

There's so much awesome in the blurb I don't even know what to do with myself! A main character who works with poisons, a princess, assassination attempts, running from the king's army, ex-boyfriends, a cute pig, and a charming adventurer! I knew I wanted to read this from the moment I heard about it, and then the pretty cover came along and I've had a hard time controlling myself from engaging in embarrassing activities, like drooling. Luckily I was able to get a copy without having to resort to the bribes I was totally prepared to offer.

Requested and received from the publisher.

Cinders and Sapphires
by Leila Rasheed

Release Date: January 22, 2013
Publisher: Disney Hyperion

Goodreads Page

Historical fiction set in England, 1910 on an ancestral estate. That right there is enough to pique my interest, but the blurb doesn't stop there. There's also mention of scandal and a marriage between two powerful families. I'm also getting the upstairs/downstairs vibe. Pretty much, I'm all over this.

It may not be called Downton Abbey, but I'm thinking I can get my long-awaited Grantham fix through Cinders and Sapphires. Also supposed to be great for Luxe fans, so I know I'll have to order a copy for my library girls (BIG fans).

Requested and received from the publisher.

by Kate Brian

Release Date: January 2013
Publisher: Hyperion

Goodreads Page

Girl survives an attack from a serial killer and goes into witness protection (!!) to escape the killer who is still on the loose. She moves on with her life and just when she feels like things are getting back to normal her friend goes missing and signs are starting to point to the return of the serial killer!

Is it wrong to say that this book sounds downright fun? I'm getting a The Body Finder slash I Know What You Did Last Summer vibe and I'm hoping for a similar level of fun peril. Also, I'm IN LOVE with the cover.
Unsolicited copy from publisher.

Girl Games
Goddess Girls Super Special
by Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams

Release Date: July 10, 2012
Publisher: Aladdin
Pages: 320
Goodreads Page

A super special!!! When I used to read The Babysitters' Club, the super specials were always the coolest books. I'm looking forward to diving into this latest Goddess Girls installment!

Requested and received from Joan.


Six Moon Summer
All Hallows Moon
Long Night Moon
by S. M. Reine

These were all available for free download on Amazon, so I quickly snatched them all up! They're werewolf books and I've read nothing but positive reviews for them. They're each under 200 pages, so hopefully I'll be able to fit them in sooner rather than later because I'm really looking forward to them.

What did you get this week? Are you interested in reading any of these books? What did you think of them if you've read them already?


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

WoW (43): Three books I'm dying to read

The "My gosh can 2013 hurry up and get here NOW?!" edition

Strands of Bronze and Gold
by Jane Nickerson

Release Date: March 12, 2013
Publisher: Knopf
Pages: 352
Goodreads Page

Did you already see this mentioned on Ruby's Reads? Well, I'm a book pusher, so I'm mentioning it again. But, really, with a plot like this, can you blame me?

A retelling of Bluebeard (don't know it? Think the creepier side of fairy tales...murder, rooms filled with dismembered wives, that sort of happy thing), Strands of Bronze and Gold is a Gothic (!) set in 1855 and follows 17-year old Sophia as she goes to live with her mysterious guardian in his haunted mansion, Wyndriven Abbey (it's named! Named houses = awesome times ahead).

by Kat Falls

Release Date: March 2013
Publisher: Scholastic

Goodreads Page

In a post-apocalyptic United States, the entire eastern part of the country is a ravaged wasteland filled with mutated creepies that could kill you...unless you begin mutating yourself! Suffice it to say, no one goes there.

Oh, wait, except a few daring people like our protagonist's father who ventures in to steal artifacts (gotta say, the little thief in me loves the idea of scavenging all those abandoned goodies. Sounds like Chernobyl.)

All is well until daddy gets himself into a pickle and his daughter Lane needs to bail him out. Which means she needs to team up with a hottie rogue of unknown loyalties from the wrong side of the tracks and venture into the mutated scaryland to go quest after some lost artifacts. YAY! I hope that giant machete in her hands is a sign of things to come, because questing + rogues + mutated beasties = SIGN ME UP!

by Maya Gold

Release Date: April 2013
Publisher: Scholastic
Pages: 272
Goodreads Page

Witches! I have a weakness for witches. I even faithfully watched every single episode of The Secret Circle, and if you're at all familiar with that show, then you'll know that means my weakness for witches is pretty extreme to put up with that

But, moving on, I'm hoping the witches in Spellbinding are a little better and actually use their powers. Judging by the blurb, it sounds like I'll be able to get my fill of hijinks and spells gone awry through ill-advised love potions, hexes, and ancient spellbooks.

I also love the new-witch-learning-her-powers thing going on here. Maybe it's that, maybe it's the Salem connection, or maybe it's just the blond cover model and my own nostalgia kicking in, but I'm sorta getting a little Sabrina the Teenage Witch vibe, and I'm just dorky enough to cross my fingers and hope it's true!

What are you waiting for in 2013? 
Are you interested in reading any of these books?


Sunday, July 15, 2012

Book Review: The Classroom by Robin Mellom

The Classroom by Robin Mellom
Release Date: June 19, 2012
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Pages: 288
Received: ARC from publisher, via NetGalley
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars


From Goodreads:

In 2012, a documentary crew descended upon Westside Middle School to detail the life of an average seventh grader and his classmates.
What they uncovered, though, was far from average. Mostly, it was upper average along with moments of extreme average, highlighted by several minutes of total epicness.
This is the story...

Trevor Jones--perfect attendance award recipient, former neurotic (he hopes)--has been preparing for the start of seventh grade his entire summer.But he is NOT ready for the news his best friend, Libby (proud neurotic, in a color-coding sort of way), drops on him: he must ask a girl to the fall dance. By the end of the day.
Trevor decides he would rather squirt hot sauce in his eyes than attend the dance. Everything changes when he meets mysterious new student Molly (excessive doodler, champion of unnatural hair colors). Trevor starts to think that going to the dance maybe wouldn't be the worst thing ever. But what if she says no to his invitation? More important, what if she says yes?!


Who is this book for?

The Classroom is one of those MG books that can be enjoyed by older readers, just so long as they expect something light and quick. This isn't a book with poignant, deep messages or complex subjects that make you think. This also isn't a book to swoon over.

But, seriously, why would you expect that from a book with the subtitle "The Epic Documentary of a Not-Yet-Epic Kid"?? You shouldn't. You should expect light fun, tongue-in-cheek humor, and an easy to like but totally face-palm-inducing (in a good way) main character. Because that's exactly what you'll get.

Where The Classroom will really shine is with the target audience (MG kids, especially those entering middle school). Trevor's worries and humorous navigation of the intimidating new middle school will resonate with both boys and girls. I especially loved watching Trevor try to transform himself into someone cool, only to continually fall back to the activities he enjoys (the scenes with the janitor were priceless!).

The documentary

The whole book is written in the third person and mostly follows Trevor, but chapters are interrupted with short "interviews" with each of the characters and whoever it is making the documentary. The documentary creator (s?) don't speak. They ask an off-screen question and then you read the answer of the character being interviewed.

I'm not really sure why this book is written as a documentary. The people making this mysterious documentary are unnamed and never even speak. Also, I don't really understand why anyone would be making a documentary and following Trevor of all people. None of this is explained.

It came off a little gimmicky and didn't serve much of a purpose, but I don't think it detracted from the book either. I liked how the short interviews broke up the narrative though. It helped make for a fast, easy read. I also liked the character illustrations.

Bottom line

I enjoyed Robin Mellom's YA debut Ditched and was hoping The Classroom would be equally funny in that groan-inducing way, and it was. I think the documentary style created some distance for me because I didn't feel a strong connection with any of the characters, but it's not a big deal. I still laughed along with Trevor's embarrassing misfortunes and sympathized with his MG-level interpersonal dramas.

This is one of those books that didn't make a strong impact on me, but I enjoyed the time I spent reading it. Robin Mellom has proven herself an author I can definitely go to if I'm looking to read something light, quick, and funny. I'm looking forward to seeing what she'll write next.

This is a standalone.

Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key 

Do you have any questions about The Classroom that I haven't addressed?
Feel free to ask in the comments!

Add it on Goodreads
Buy it on Amazon

Looking for another book like this?
You might like:

 Click on the pictures to go to my reviews.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Book Review: Soulbound by Heather Brewer

Soulbound by Heather Brewer
#1 in the Legacy of Tril series
Release Date: June 19, 2012
Publisher: Dial 
Pages: 304
Received: ARC from publisher
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars


From Goodreads:

What's worse than being blackmailed to attend a hidden school where you're treated like a second-class citizen? How about nearly getting eaten by a monster when you arrive? Or learning that your soulmate was killed in a centuries-old secret war? And then there's the evil king who's determined to rule the world unless you can stop him...

Meet Kaya, a young woman with the power to heal and the determination to fight. But struggle as she will, she remains tied to three very different men: a hero who has forsaken glory, a tyrannical ruler who wants to use Kaya, and a warrior who's stolen her heart. Kaya learns the hard way that some ties can't be broken...and blood is the strongest bond of all.


Buffy, Kaya is NOT

I started out liking Kaya a lot. She's a Healer, but she's spent her whole life living apart from the Barron/Healer world (more on that later), so she's pretty much a normal girl. She's not a super woman and she's not filled with angst (her parents are both alive and love her). She approached her new school with caution and resignation born from actual intelligent thought. I thought we were going to get along swimmingly.

Right up until Kaya took a turn for the unbelievable and super annoying. Now I think I kinda hate her. Or, at least, I really don't like her.

Look, I admire her desire to buck the rules and learn how to fight. Seriously, Healers are expected to hang out on battlefields, so the rules that healers can't learn how to fight are completely messed up and make about a much sense as a screen door on a submarine. The fact that the Powers That Be didn't give squat for an explanation made the whole situation even more infuriating. So I totally sympathize.

I just wish Kaya could have focused her angry rants on the stupidity of the rule and not the sexist/unfair aspect she decided to harp on instead. Especially considering it's not sexist at all. There are male AND female healers and none of them are allowed to learn how to fight. There are also male AND female Barrons and both of them routinely kick butt. The fact that Kaya had a legitimate reason for learning how to fight and mostly ignored those arguments made me especially eye-twitchy every time she started in with her irrational railing against the unfairness of The Man.

Know what also didn't make sense? Her transformation from normal girl weakling to Buffy-level skills after about a week's worth of training. Erm, nope, not buying that. Tell me she's The Chosen One, tell me she drank a magical elixir. Tell me SOMETHING, but don't tell me she just practiced real hard for a few days and that transformed her into the second best fighter in the land 'cause I'm not buying that.

Insta-love is in the air!

But it totally makes sense because they're bound, which means there's some magical bond between them that makes them instant besties. Plus, he's a total hottie, so it's cool, right?

Normally, ok, I can sometimes make an exception when there's some kind of paranormal explanation for their insta-bond, and there IS an explanation like that here, but...their relationship was just so darn boring. I was also feeling zero chemistry from the pair. The guy was like her older brother (a very nice brother, but a brother nonetheless).

I have no idea why they care for each other and when they weren't making random googly eyes  they were fighting. And not the sexy tension-filled kind of fighting either. This was more like the silent treatment and talking to other people to make each other jealous kind of fighting. BOR-RING, especially considering I couldn't care less if they aren't together.

Then there's the other guy. Oh, yes, this is a Love Triangle book, complete with capital letters because it pretty much monopolizes the plot. Kaya knows she's bound to the first guy, but she can't help but stare at the sexy abs of the second guy. Even though it's soooo wrong and really, she totally doesn't like him but, oooh his well-muscled back is so hot.

Now, granted, I tend to favor the bad boy, and Kaya's second love interest is the typical bad boy as the outcast badass fighter. He has a mysterious past and he has a hate-turned-love thing going on with Kaya. Plus, he treats her as more of an equal whereas her bound guy is all about following strict protocol of Barron/Healer interactions (and as already discussed, they're pretty whacked). I definitely swooned a little in between my eye-rolling. Still, there was something about him (maybe his awkward dialog?) that kept me from a full on swoon.

Maybe in the next book everyone can die and Maddox can be the heroine

Maddox should be the heroine. Or she should be a guy and become the romantic lead. Because Maddox is MADE OF WIN. She's Kaya's guard/guide and eventual best friend. Maddox has the cocky attitude of a swaggering rule-breaker. She has an acid tongue, a painful past, and she does everything with a lazy grin. If we had a sleepover party, we'd end up spending the night in jail after engaging in a spate of ill-advised but totally awesome hijinks.

How can you be so good and so bad all at once??

The world building is AWESOME. The concepts of Healers, Barrons, bound, soulbound alone is worth stars. Then add on top of that the generation-spanning war (with lots of horrific battles in the not-too-distant past) and an evil adversary with a hoard of demon dogs and this is a recipe for success. I also loved all the little hints that things are not what they seem.

Those demon dog things are called Graplars and they are everything I want out of a monster. Creepy, incredibly dangerous, hard to kill, and vividly described. Kaya goes up against them multiple times and every scene was pulse-pounding fun. There was also a fun mystery to solve surrounding how the Graplars were getting into the school, though unfortunately Kaya was all talk and no sleuth. I wish there were more Graplar scenes.

As much as I loved these concepts and as much as I'm really, really looking forward to learning more about them in the sequels, I also have a lot of complaints. Most importantly, where the heck am I?? Some features made me think this was a fantasy world with quaint medieval-like villages and no modern technology. But then why was I getting such strong modern vibes? Is this book a paranormal set in the modern world, or is it a fantasy set in a medieval-like world? Pick ONE, please.

Also, much as I really do appreciate it when fantasy authors use made up curse words (seriously, I really DO appreciate that! Nothing pulls me out of a fantasy world faster than a modern slang), Heather Brewer made her characters curse waaay too much. I don't say this because I'm a tightwad. I say this because if every other word wasn't "fak" it was "dek" and that just got tiresome after the fifty millionth time. It was like the fake-cursing equivalent to Edward's bronze hair.


The climax gave me a double eye-roll sprain it was so beyond ridiculous. The villain's dialog and motivations made me cringe and laugh. I was uncomfortable reading it and award the climax NO stars (and not even an E for Effort).

Heads up, it's also a total cliffhanger (and it's probably the most obvious cliffhanger in the world). 

Bottom line

Am I complaining a lot? Yup. Am I eagerly awaiting the next book? You bet! Why? I have no idea. I guess because, even with all of my complaints, I still had fun reading Soulbound. I want to find out more about the dynamics of this world and the truth behind the war. I want to see more Graplar fights. I'm not going to go out and buy the sequel, but I'll definitely check it out from the library.

The pages listed on Goodreads says it's only 304 pages, but the ARC I read was only a few pages shy of 400, so I'm not sure what's up with that. That said, it didn't take me long to read Soulbound and I did look forward to the time I spent reading. The pacing is that deceptive kind of slow where you can read a huge chunk in a short period of time, and even though it flew by pretty quick, looking back you realize not much actually happened to account for all those pages.

I'm not really the best reader for this book considering I'm not a fan of love triangles or insta-love. Readers who do like those things will probably love Soulbound. Though I'm not really sure if this is a paranormal or a fantasy, I think paranormal fans will be more inclined to like Soulbound. I'm ordering a copy for my library because I know it will be a big hit. 

Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key 

Do you have any questions about Soulbound that I haven't addressed?
Feel free to ask in the comments!

Add it on Goodreads
Buy it on Amazon

Looking for another book like this?
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 Click on the pictures to go to my reviews.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Spotlight List: Vivian Vande Velde

Vivian Vande Velde

I am a huge, gigantic, raining-down-the-Special-Shelf-awards fan of Vivian Vande Velde. Most of her books are pretty short, but all include her notable dry humor, deceptively deep stories, and inventive twists. Also, I love how she writes her heroes. Swoon. And their often hate-turned-love romances with very flawed but totally endearing heroines gets me every time.

Dragon's Bait
Release Date: April 1, 2003
Publisher: Magic Carpet Books
Pages: 196
Goodreads Page

Charged as a witch (she's not), tied to a stake, and left out as a sacrifice to the local dragon, Alys has seen better days. Furious with the town and vowing revenge, Alys finds an unexpected ally in the dragon--a dragon who can magically shape shift into the form of a very attractive young man.

Alys is exactly the type of heroine I adore. She's strong-willed, stubborn, persistent, and entirely real. And that dragon? Oh swoon! He so nails that "lazily sarcastic" attitude I love so much. But don't expect a romance-filled plot. Alys is firmly focused on revenge, but following her as she schemes is a ton of fun.

Release Date: October 1, 2008
Publisher: Marshall Cavendish Children's Books
Pages: 158
Goodreads Page

The villages have had enough--their children have been stolen by the witch in the woods for too long. They attack the witch in her home, but she, and the baby she has just stolen, both disappear. Later that day, a 12-year-old girl appears in the woods with no memory of who she is or how she arrived in the woods. Who is she? What happened to the witch and the baby? Could this girl be one of the children stolen years ago?

At only 158 pages, there isn't a whole lot of depth here and everything reads more like a novella than a full novel. But sometimes that's ok. I was enthralled with the mystery and, though I had my suspicions, Vivian Vande Velde kept me guessing until the very end.

User Unfriendly
Release Date: November 30, 1990
Publisher: Magic Carpet Books
Pages: 256
Goodreads Page

Think fantasy computer games are fun? Imagine a game that plugged directly into your brain so you felt like you were actually IN the game? Pretty cool, right? But what if things start to go wrong? What if you don't just feel like you're in the game, but you actually are IN the game? And what happens if you die in the game?

The whole concept of this book grabbed me from the start. I'm not really into video games, but this is close enough to the idea of getting sucked into a book that I'm all over it. I also really liked keeping track of the characters and their game alter-egos. Pair it with the companion novel Heir Apparent for extra fantasy gaming fun! (Both books can be read as standalones, and in any order).

Witch Dreams
Release Date: October 30, 2005
Publisher: Marshall Cavendish Children's Books
Pages: 120
Goodreads Page

Nyssa's family was murdered six years ago and she is convinced the murderer is the nobleman's son Elsdon. Determined to prove his guilt, she uses her witchy powers of dream walking to slip into Elsdon's dreams and collect the evidence she needs to convince the town. What she discovers is not at all what she, or the reader, expects.

At only 120 pages, this is another book that reads more like a novella than a full novel. While part of me wishes Vivian Vande Velde had fleshed this out more (because I know this would have been a fantastic novel), I do appreciate how much she was able to pack into so few pages.

The mystery intrigued me and I was shocked by the ending. The characters may not be incredibly deep, but their plights are so emotionally charged and their feelings so understandable that I couldn't help but feel a strong connection. The emotional topic and Vivian Vande Velde's sensitive handling make this a special book that stands out to me.

The Conjurer Princess
Release Date: September 1, 1997
Publisher: HarperCollins
Pages: 229
Goodreads Page

Lylene is determined to rescue her sister Beryl after Beryl is kidnapped on her wedding day. Before Lylene can challenge Beryl's kidnapper, she must first enlist the help of a sketchy wizard who promises to teach Lylene magic...with a catch. A con man and a handsome but mysterious warrior round out Lylene's off-beat group of allies.

This is the book that made me create the Special Shelf. Lylene, Shile, and Weiland are the characters I hold up as the standard for my favorite characters ever. Read the companion novel The Changeling Prince to learn more about that swoony warrior and friendly con man (both books are standalones and you can read them in any order).

For fans of Alexandra Bracken's Brightly Woven and Maria V. Snyder's Poison Study and Touch of Power.

Have you read any of these books? Feel free to add links to your reviews!

Want to see more Spotlight Lists? 
Click HERE to see more of my lists

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Author Interview: Laura Powell

Please Welcome Laura Powell!

Q: Which one of your characters would you most want to kiss?

A: Troy Morgan. He’s the heir to a mobster empire, but he’s as charming and intelligent as he is ruthless. I’d want to get hold of him before he turns to the Dark Side.

Q: Which one of your characters do you most want to slap or give a verbal tongue lashing to?

A: Glory’s from a famous family of witch-gangsters; Lucas is the latest in a long line of famous witch-hunters. They both start off being rather arrogant and pleased with themselves – maybe that deserves a slap. However, they’re soon caught up in forces beyond their control and have to do a lot of growing up in quite a short space of time.  So I guess I’ll let them off.

Q: If you were transported into your book, which scene would you most want to reenact?

A: I’d like to gatecrash the posh high-society party towards the end of the book, and drink champagne with Glory and Troy.

Q: What is one piece of advice you would give your main character?

A: Trust no one!

Readers should add Burn Mark to their To Be Read list if they like...

Books/movies like:
     The Sopranos TV series, Witch Child  novel by Celia Rees, The Godfather movie, Curseworkers series by Holly Black.

About Burn Mark:

Glory is from a family of witches and lives beyond the law. She is desperate to develop her powers and become a witch herself. Lucas is the son of the Chief Prosecutor for the Inquisition—the witches’ mortal enemy—and his privileged life is very different to the forbidden world that he lives alongside.

And then on the same day, it hits them both. Glory and Lucas develop the Fae—the mark of the witch. In one fell stroke, their lives are inextricably bound together, whether they like it or not . . .

Author bio:

Laura Powell grew up in rural Wales and now lives in West London. She wrote her first book while studying Classics at Oxford and worked in publishing for five years before leaving to concentrate on her writing.

Thank you so much for stopping by, Laura!

A guy that is as charming and intelligent as he is ruthless? Sounds like my kind of book boyfriend! Ever since Anakin Skywalker, I've had a thing for the guy with a good heart on the cusp of going Dark Side.

Also, I like the mob influences and the peril vibes I'm getting. Trust no one? Oooh, that has certainly piqued my interest!

Have you read Burn Mark?
How would you answer these questions?
(Remember, no spoilers please!)

Friday, July 6, 2012

Books I got this week (3)

It's been established so clearly that I can't even lie about it: I have no self-control when it comes to books. I acquire them at a much faster rate than I can actually read and review them, but hopefully these posts will help those books get some exposure NOW instead of waiting until I actually manage to find time to, you know, read them.

This post is for the past week or so.

For Review

by C. J. Redwine

Release Date: August 28, 2012
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Pages: 416
Goodreads Page

I have massive amounts of internal hype for this book. It sounds like it has so much potential to be *THAT* book. A strong girl, an orphan outcast protector, running from assassins, war! Dare I hope?

E-galley. Requested and received via Edelweiss (small and white, clean and bright...).

The Other Normals
by Ned Vizzini

Release Date: September 25, 2012
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Pages: 400
Goodreads Page

I wrote a cover review about this one where I confessed my nerdy secret wishes. I hope the book lives up to all of my cover impressions!

E-galley. Requested and received via Edelweiss (bless my homeland forever. GAH, I can't see the name of that site without Captain von Trapp singing in my head...).

The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict
by Trenton Lee Stewart

Release Date: April 10, 2012
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Pages: 480
Goodreads Page

This is a prequel to a MG adventure series that I haven't read yet, but have been meaning to for a while now. It's very popular among my library kids. This installment has a mystery and a genius orphan, sounds pretty good to me!

Hard copy. I have no idea why I got this book, but I'm happy!

From the Ever-Awesome Ruby!

Throne of Glass
by Sarah J. Maas

Release Date: August 7, 2012
Publisher: Bloomsbury Children's
Pages: 416
Goodreads Page

I had this through NetGalley but I was dying for a print copy and so Ruby battled BEA-ers and snagged me this beautiful, beautiful book. I am l-o-v-i-n-g it!

The Darkest Minds
by Alexandra Bracken

Release Date: December 18, 2012
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Pages: 496
Goodreads Page

I am so unbelievably in love with Brightly Woven (Special Shelf!) that I'm almost a little afraid to read this book on the chance that I might be disappointed. But Ruby assured me that it is worth all the mental hype I am creating (and even though I'm sure she's a little biased given the main character's name—RUBY, I'm pretty sure I can trust her on this).

by Marie Lu

Release Date: January 29, 2013
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Pages: 384
Goodreads Page

It's a good thing Ruby and I worked on (but, hm, never finished...) a joint review of the first book Legend, so Ruby was already very well aware of my massive love for June and Day because I didn't even think to ask her to pick this book up for me. Bestest surprise ever!

From the Super Sweet Sierra!

100 Cupboards
by N. D. Wilson

Release Date: December 27, 2007
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
Pages: 304
Goodreads Page

After reading Sierra's blog for a while now, I've been totally convinced to read this series. She is IN LOVE with this series, and it sounds like I will be, too. So I was super excited when I opened the envelope she sent me and discovered the housewarming gift she sent was this book! (Housewarming gift! Sierra is the absolute sweetest).


The Road to Samarcand
by Patrick O'Brian

My fiance seems to think I bought this book for him because he's a GIGANTIC Patrick O'Brian fan (ssshhh I bought it for me), but that's ok because he was super happy and kept thanking me. More importantly, it prevented him from saying anything about the OTHER books I ordered, which were all very clearly for me. Whew, got lucky there!

To Catch a Pirate
by Jade Parker

Release Date: May 1, 2007
Publisher: Scholastic
Pages: 230
Goodreads Page

I'm not sure if I'd go so far as to call this a Special Shelf book, but it's darn close. It's not the best book in the world, but it has so many elements I love (like hate-turned-love) and it's fast and fun. Perfect comfort read and I finally have my own copy.

The Queen's Thief series
by Megan Whalen Turner

I've been meaning to read this series for....a very long time, but I just haven't gotten around to them yet. But, the stars finally aligned: I found a gift certificate I had forgotten I had, the third book was marked down to only $6.80 (for a hardcover!) and I sort of have a breather for review books this month.

But really, what REALLY set a fire under me and got me to buy this whole series before reading it (something I almost NEVER do) was when Melissa from One Librarian's Book Reviews asked me if I thought Sage reminded me of Gen (from The Queen's Thief series). First off, Melissa has fabulous taste in fantasy books and so if she says I should take note of a particular book, then I had better take note. But also, SAGE?! There is a character out there who sounds like my beloved Sage from The False Prince?? GIVE ME THAT BOOK!

What did you get this week? Are you interested in reading any of these books? What did you think of them if you've read them already?

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