Monthly Archives: March 2010

The Gallagher Girls Series by Ally Carter

Of all the Young Adult books I have read, the Gallagher Girls series really stands out.The series focuses on the life Cammie Morgan, who attends Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women. Cammie is not a typical teenage high school student and Gallagher Academy is not a typical school. Cammie Morgan is a spy, and The Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women is where she receives her training.

In some ways Cammie does have to deal with the same issues as typical teenage girls. One of these issues is boys. For any teenage girl, dealing with boys is a baffling and confusing thing. Being a spy does not make this any easier. Spy school can prepare you for protecting government secrets; spy school does not prepare you for first dates. Luckily Cammie does not have to unriddle how to behave around teenage boys all by herself. Bex and Liz, fellow Gallagher Girls, provide a great support system for her as she navigates the tricky world of boys.

The original nature of this story makes it such a fantastic read. The author is able to take an ordinary story–a teenage girl going to high school–and make it different and interesting. You aren’t just reading a story of boy meets girl. This is a story of a girl who meets a boy, but she has to make sure the boy isn’t using her to find out about her top secret school. You won’t want to put this book down as you read all of the original twists and turns.

The series is written by Ally Carter, and consists of four books. Three of the books, I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You, Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy, and Don’t Judge a Girl by Her Cover have been released. The fourth book, Only the Good Spy Young, is due to be released June 15th.

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Where do you buy books?

If I could afford it, I would spend a good chunk of my paycheck buying books. I buy books both online and in local book stores. In my experience, both places are great places for picking up your next read.

Membership CardI purchased most of my books in the last year from my local Barnes and Noble. I love wandering around the aisles finding books with interesting covers. With my Barnes and Noble membership, I often end up getting good prices on the books that spark my interest. The one problem with my local B&N is its size. As it is a smaller store, I often have trouble finding all of the books on my “to-read” list. That’s why I have a few other favorite places where I like to shop for books.

Target is another place I head to when looking to pick up new books. I have discovered some of my favorite books through Target’s Bookmarked Club Pick program. While they don’t have a huge selection, they always seem to have something new in one of my favorite genres. I am always able to find a new book or two after a visit to Target.

The last place I usually check for books is Amazon.com. This website has yet to let me down when looking for a book. With the option to buy used books, you can purchase books for as low as one cent. If I can’t find books at a local store, I can always count on finding whatever I am looking for on Amazon.com.

So readers…where do you get your books? Libraries? Local bookstores? Online? Inquiring minds want to know!

Hearts on a String: A Novel by Kris Radish

The next book I would like to review is Hearts on a String: A Novel by Kris Radish. I received an Advance Reader Copy of this book from the Goodreads.com First Reads program.

Description from Barnesandnoble.com

Bestselling author Kris Radish delves deeply into the emotions of five very different women who are thrown together by chance—only to discover that they have more in common than they ever could have imagined.

Holly Blandeen has always cherished the story her grandmother told her about the thread that connects all women, tying them forever in sisterhood. It’s a beautiful idea, but with all the curveballs life has thrown her way, Holly has often felt isolated, different from other women. That starts to change when she meets four strangers in an airport and they agree to share a luxury hotel suite because a powerful spring storm is barreling across the country, stranding travelers from California to Florida. What begins as a spur-of-the-moment decision becomes an unlikely, unexpected, and sometimes reluctant exercise in female bonding, as these five exceptional women—each at a crossroads—swap stories, share secrets, and seek answers to the questions they’ve been asking about life, love, and the path to true happiness. A storm may have grounded them for the moment, but after this wild adventure in which anything can and does happen, they’ll never have to fly solo again.

When reading a book about five main characters, like this one, I would like some time to get to know each character. Instead of introducing the five main characters slowly, they are thrown at the reader all at once. I was unable to enjoy meeting the women in this story as I spent the first few chapters flipping back to earlier pages to figure out who was who. Not only is the character introduction confusing but the descriptions of the women are often repetitive. Instead of getting new information, the author rehashes the same descriptions over and over again. As a result I was a third of the way into the book before I could keep the characters straight.

Another thing that I did not enjoy about this book was the narration. The author’s style of narration felt choppy in places due to her tendency to go between character dialogue and conversation summary mid-topic. I often found myself rereading passages so I could figure out what just happened.

The story was not helped by the fact that the author tried to cram too much story into the book’s 336 pages. While I understand the author was trying to capture the woman accurately, I just felt like each character had too much going on. Each character had one or two big reveals in their life, which was just too much for this story.

Not only did the characters have too much going on, but the storyline was just too much as well. The ups and downs were all over the place, and they kept coming in rapid succession. The jam-packed plot made me feel overwhelmed.

Even though this book was often confusing and jumbled, the author was able to convey her message. That message is one of the powerful bond between women, and how important that bond is in a woman’s life. The story made me realize how important friendships are in helping you survive through the tough patches in life. I felt the story would of been much more powerful had it not been told in such a confusing way. The “less is more” approach would of helped this book become the story the author was trying to tell.

Rating: As much as I wanted to love this book, it did was unable to really enjoy it. The simple thread of the story was often lost behind too many characters and too much plot.

Judging a Book by its Cover

Despite the popular saying to the contrary, I’ll regularly judge a book by its cover. If a book has an interesting cover I’ll usually pick it up and see what it’s about. One of my favorite ways to find new books is to wander through the aisles waiting for that a cover to catch my eye. This method has led me to find some great new authors in my reading days, however that is not always the case.

Bringing Home the Birkin: My Life in Hot Pursuit of the World’s Most Coveted Handbag by Michael Tonello is an example of book I picked up based on the cover. The purses on this cover grabbed my attention and made me pick up the book to read the description. The cover made me think this book would be fun and entertaining, and I found that to be very true of the story. In this case judging a book by its cover worked out, and I found a great book!

“Rich Again” by Anna Maxted is another book that attracted me with its cover. The bright colors and bags reminded me of the cover of one of my favorite books, Confessions of a Shopaholic, which I also discovered while wandering bookstore aisles. Instead of a fun chick-lit story filled with tales of shopping and boy trouble, I found a dark story filled with death, drug use, and general dysfunction. In this instance judging a book by its cover did not work out, leaving me disappointed in my book choice.

Even though I am occasionally let down by books that I have chosen as a result of their cover, the rewards of finding a great book are worth the risk. I’ve discovered some of my favorite authors by wandering book store aisles, browsing eye-catching covers. While I will always count on recommendations from friends, I will always rely on judging books by their covers for new book ideas.

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

I want to start my blog with a review of a book I read a month or so ago, Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver. I received an Advanced Reader Copy by participating in the Barnes and Noble First Reads Book Club.

Description from Goodreads.com:

What if you had only one day to live? What would you do? Who would you kiss? And how far would you go to save your own life?

Samantha Kingston has it all—looks, popularity, the perfect boyfriend. Friday, February 12th should be just another day in her charmed life. Instead, it’s her last. The catch: Samantha still wakes up the next morning. In fact, she re-lives the last day of her life seven times, until she realizes that by making even the slightest changes, she may hold more power than she had ever imagined.

I am an avid Youth Adult novel reader, so I was excited when I heard that the next First Look book would be a YA book. Even though the book was not one I would have normally picked up on my own, I entered to get a copy of the book, as I can never turn down a free book! When I received the book I figured I would quickly read the Prologue, and save the rest for the weekend. That’s not what ended up happening. Once I picked the book up I could not put it down and found myself wide awake at 1 AM trying to find out how the book would end.

While I was by no means one of the popular kids in high school, I could recognize bits of my high school self in Sam. Often in high school I had the attitude that I knew all the answers, and my parents and teachers were just there to give me a hard time and get in the way of what I wanted. It wasn’t until after I graduated that I realized my attitude during my Senior Year was just a big mess. I spent so much of that year with the wrong attitude, and I would have loved to go back and change it. Unfortunately I didn’t realize this until after I graduated when it was to late to change my how I had behaved. This main character in this story gets the chance to make those changes before it is to late. Although it takes her a while, she really learns and grows as she experiences her last day 7 times. While some changes she makes are selfish ones, she also makes changes and decisions that really help her grow. The journey she took was so captivating and interesting I just couldn’t put the book down. I couldn’t wait to see how her journey  would end, and the author did not disappoint.

Sometimes I finish a book and I am able to quickly put it down and walk away from it. Sometimes I will pick up a book I finished months ago and ask myself, “What was this book about again?” That would NEVER happen with this book. This book left me thinking and questioning things as soon as I started reading. That curiosity and thought continues to this day. I will always remember the message this story left me long after having finished it.

I feel that this book can speak to so many different people, which is why I keep recommending it to people, and why I thought it was a great book for my first review on this blog! So many high school students think that partying and being popular are the most important things in life. This book helps you realize that is not the case at all. I think that this book could help parents reach out to their high school-aged children, and also help teachers reach out to their students. This book can really help them see what is important in their lives at this time. Even for those who have long since graduated, this book helps teach a strong and important message.

Rating: In summary this book was a great read. I loved everything about it from the plot to the characters. I would HIGHLY recommend this book to others!

2010 Books

My goal for 2010 was to read 78 books, which equals a book and a half a week. These are the books I have read so far this year as I aim to meet my goal.

December
All-American Girl (All-American Girl #1) by Meg Cabot
Belly Laughs: The Naked Truth About Pregnancy and Childbirth by Jenny McCarthy
The Help by Kathryn Stockett

November
Jinx by Meg Cabot
How to Be Popular by Meg Cabot
Zombies vs. Unicorns by Holly Black (Editor), Justine Larbalestier (Editor), Alaya Dawn Johnson, Maureen Johnson, Carrie Ryan, Scott Westerfeld, Meg Cabot, Garth Nix, Kathleen Duey, Margo Lanagan, Naomi Novik, Diana Peterfreund, Libba Bray, Cassandra Clare Review
Countdown by Deborah Wiles
Harry Potter Film Wizardry by Brian Sibley Review

October
Everything Christmas by David Bordon, Tom Winters Review
Baby Bargains by Denise Fields, Alan Fields Review

September
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan
Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson Review
Mini Shopaholic (Shopaholic #6) by Sophie Kinsella Review
Love is the Higher Law by David Levithan Review
Coraline by Neil Gaiman Review
Don’t Stop Believin’: The Unofficial Guide to Glee by Erin Balser, Suzanne Gardner Review
Heart of the Matter by Emily Giffin Review
Healer Quest: Book 10 of the Quest Series by Lisa Wright DeGroodt

August
Mockingjay (Hunger Games, #3) by Suzanne Collins
Catching Fire (Hunger Games, #2) by Suzanne Collins
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

July
Promises to Keep by Jane Green Review
Only the Good Spy Young (Gallagher Girls, #4) by Ally Carter
Storm Quest (Quest Book 9) by Lisa Wright DeGroodt Review
Sliding Into Home by Kendra Wilkinson Review
Knocked Up: Confessions of a Hip Mother-to-be
by Rebecca Eckler Review
Gimme a Call by Sarah Mlynowski

June
My Fair Lazy by Jen Lancaster
Insatiable by Meg Cabot Review

May
The Divorce Party: A Novel by Laura Dave
An Education by Lynn Barber Review
The Council of Dads: My Daughters, My Illness, and the Men Who Could Be Me by Bruce Feiler Review
The Carrie Diaries by Candace Bushnell Review
Shadowland (The Mediator, #1) by Meg Cabot
Ninth Key (The Mediator, #2) by Meg Cabot
Reunion (The Mediator, #3) by Meg Cabot
Darkest Hour (The Mediator, #4) by Meg Cabot
Haunted (The Mediator, #5) by Meg Cabot
Twilight (The Mediator, #6) by Meg Cabot
Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang by Chelsea Handler
Hacking Harvard by Robin Wasserman

April
A Bump in the Road: From Happy Hour to Baby Shower by Maureen Lipinski
Lay the Favorite: A Memoir of Gambling by Beth Raymer Review *ARC
Hollywood Is like High School with Money by Zoey Dean Review
Runaway (Airhead, #3) by Meg Cabot Review
Didn’t I Feed You Yesterday?: A Mother’s Guide to Sanity in Stilettos by Laura Bennett Review
Blue Noon (Midnighters, #3) by Scott Westerfeld Review
Touching Darkness (Midnighters, #2) by Scott Westerfeld Review
The Secret Hour (Midnighters, #1) by Scott Westerfeld Review
Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green, David Levithan Review
Model, Incorporated by Carol Alt Review
Being Nikki (Airhead, #2) by Meg Cabot Review
Airhead by Meg Cabot Review

March
Up in the Air by Walter Kirn
Nanny Returns: A Novel by Emma McLaughlin, Nicola Kraus Review
Mind-Rain: Your Favorite Authors on Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies Series by Scott Westerfeld Review
Hearts on a String: A Novel by Kris Radish Review *ARC
Don’t Judge a Girl by Her Cover (Gallagher Girls, #3) by Ally Carter Review
Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy (Gallagher Girls, #2) by Ally Carter Review
The Brightest Star in the Sky: A Novel by Marian Keyes Review
I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You (Gallagher Girls, #1) by Ally Carter Review
Corked by Kathryn Borel Review
Waking Up in the Land of Glitter: A Crafty Chica Novel Kathy Cano-Murillo Review

February
Second Time Around: A Novel by Beth Kendrick Review *ARC
A Match Made in High School by Kristin Walker Review
Heist Society by Ally Carter Review
This Year’s Model by Carol Alt Review
The Overnight Socialite by Bridie Clark Review
Rich Again by Anna Maxted Review

January
Girl at Sea by Maureen Johnson Review
The Key to the Golden Firebird by Maureen Johnson Review
Scarlett Fever by Maureen Johnson Review
The Gift by Cecelia Ahern Review
The Dressmaker: A Novel by Elizabeth Birkelund Review
Spin: A Novel by Robert Rave Review
Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver Review *ARC

* Please note that ARC stands for advance reading copy. For more information about what an ARC is or how to get your hands on one feel free to check out wikipedia.org