Don’t Call it a Comeback

It has been seven years (SEVEN YEARS!) since I posted on this blog. Seven years ago I decided blogging was too much work and not enough fun and Goodreads fulfilled my reviewing needs. I got pregnant right around then, bought a new house, changed jobs, got pregnant again, changed jobs again, finally sold the old house, and settled into the life as a family of four with both parents working full time out of the house. But I still read! Sometimes a lot, some times less so, but reading continued in earnest. Last year I found the wonderful app Litsy where all the best of reading and social media collides and my reading exploded even more. A whole community of avid readers with pictures and quotes and reviews and recommendations all in one place. It is THE BEST. 

Litsy is what brought me here today. A friend on Litsy, Chachic, posted about her own blogging and how she has allowed herself to enjoy blogging when she wants for fun with no pressure. I am sitting here on my day off watching a bunch of mindless TV (which is totally OK except I would rather be reading but work has caused a big-time slump) and after I read her post it made me nostalgic for my blog. What ever happened to all that content? I poured hours into those reviews and most weren’t cross-posted on Goodreads. I assumed it was all lost but I typed in my old URL and guess what? It’s still here! And some of my very favorite books were some of my last posts. 

Now, an hour and a half later, I have reset passwords, changed usernames and URLs (no more bookworm4life, which I always thought was sadly generic), and updated my theme. And I am embracing the Chachic way of thinking! There are times when I want a platform that is more than Goodreads and Litsy can offer me to pour out my feelings on a particular book and I already have this blog! Maybe it will be another seven years before I post again, though I hope not. Reading slumps are great times to blog so I’m sure I’ll post again soon and blogging is a lot easier than seven years ago (smartphones FTW). But if it is another year or two or seven, that’s ok. It’s here when I need it (even if there are no readers. ūüėČ)

And go check out Chachic’s blog since she inspired my blogging revitalization.

To end with books, since this is a book blog:

All the books I could be reading if I wasn’t in a reading slump.

Harmonic Feedback

by Tara Kelly

Drea and her mother are moving.¬† Again.¬† This time to the small town of Bellingham and into Grandma Horvath’s house.¬† Drea isn’t looking forward to yet another new school, especially because she’s always had trouble making friends.¬† Drea has been diagnosed with ADHD and Asperger’s and she just doesn’t understand some of the social rules that everyone else seem to instinctively know.¬† Much to Drea’s surprise, Grandma’s neighbor is a friendly, purple-haired girl named Naomi who seems to actually like Drea.¬† Drea and Naomi connect over a mutual love of music and Naomi isn’t scared off by Drea’s straight-forward manner, but Naomi has some problems of her own, things Drea isn’t quite sure how to handle.

Drea also meets Justin, another new student who shares her passion for music.  She and Justin get off to a shaky start as she tries to figure out exactly who he is and what he wants from her.  Plus, Justin has a few secrets of his own.

Drea, Naomi, and Justin form a band together and a fast friendship but those bonds might not be enough to hold the group together as one of the trio quickly spins dangerously out of control.

Harmonic Feedback is a powerful, realistic, and poignant novel that manages to cover so much ground but do it in such gentle way.¬† Whether teens have Asperger’s or not they will be able to connect with Drea and share in many of her feelings of uncertainty regarding high school and relationships even if they do not experience these things in the same way she does.¬† The romance is done beautifully.¬† My heart just did a little hiccup as I thought about it while typing.¬† Naomi’s experiences are tough but real and well-done.¬† Despite all her flaws and all of her mistakes in judgment, readers will be rooting for her until the very end.¬† For me, this book was such an unexpected, amazing, delightful surprise and has made it to my list of favorites for the year.


by Jennifer Donnelly

Andi is a Brooklyn teenager with more on her plate than she can handle.¬† She witnessed her younger brother Truman’s fatal accident and blames herself for his death.¬† Andi’s artist mother has emotionally collapsed and spends most of her days painting endless portraits of Truman.¬† Andi’s geneticist father is even more absent than he was before Truman’s death, in fact he now lives in a different city altogether.¬† Andi is struggling to keep it together but she is quickly losing control over the grief and anger that well up inside her daily.¬† The only thing keeping her grounded is her music.

When Andi’s father unexpectedly shows up in town, he decides that Andi’s mother needs professional help, admits her to a facility and forces Andi to accompany him to Paris over Christmas break.¬† Andi doesn’t want to leave her mother or her music lessons but has little choice.¬† In Paris, Andi makes a discovery.¬† Hidden in an old guitar case is the journal of a teenage girl named Alexandrine who lived during the French Revolution.¬† Andi is inexplicably swept away by Alexandrine’s story of hardship, love, and loss beyond anything modern Andi can imagine but to which she can fully relate.

Alexandrine’s story touches Andi in a way nothing has since Truman’s death.¬† Can Andi learn to live again from a girl who lived so long ago?

Revolution is engrossing.¬† It is quite a long book, 472 pages, but when I sat down to read it time and pages would fly.¬† The writing is quite exquisite.¬† Jennifer Donnelly is truly a master.¬† I’m not often moved by specific passages in books but I marked several quotes that spoke to me in Revolution.¬† While I couldn’t specifically relate to Andi, I could definitely empathize.¬† Her emotions and reactions rang true to me.¬† My only gripe would be that I felt the transitions between Andi’s story and Alexandrine’s, being read by Andi, felt untrue and were jarring, often bringing me out of the story.¬† If you can get readers past the size, Revolution has appeal for a broad range of teen readers.

White Cat

by Holly Black

Cassel Sharpe comes from a long line of con artists, and Cassel is no exception, but there is one thing separating him from the rest of his family-Cassel isn’t a curse worker. ¬†Curse workers have many different talents. ¬†Cassel’s mother can change people’s emotions, his brother can break people’s bones, his grandfather can kill, and they all do this with a touch of a bare hand.

Cassel is currently at boarding school while his mom is in jail for a con gone wrong. ¬†He likes his school and is working hard to fit in, but when he wakes up on the roof of a dorm with no idea how he got there, his life is about to change. ¬†Expelled, at least temporarily, Cassel is shipped off to live with his grandfather and given the task of cleaning up his family home. ¬†While digging around in his family’s junk and trying to get back into school, Cassel begins to uncover a sinister plot that leads him to believe his family is running the biggest con of all time…on him!

I love Holly Black and she definitely delivers. ¬†The world of the curse workers is unique and unlike any other fantasy story I’ve read. ¬†The mystery is heart-wrenching. ¬†How hard would it be to learn that the bad guys are your family and that they’ve intentionally kept huge, horrible secrets from you? ¬†It is a fast-paced, quick read that left me ready for the next in the series.

Review: Heist Society

by Ally Carter

Kat thought she was out of the family business after pulling one last con, getting herself accepted to Colgan School, one of the most prestigious boarding schools in North America, but she’s wrong.¬† When you descend from a long line of thieves, it’s hard to stay away for long.¬† Someone has stolen some very precious paintings from a very pissed off, very deadly Italian gentleman named Arturo Taccone.¬† Taccone is convinced that Kat’s father is responsible for the heist since her father is one of the only thieves skilled enough and crazy enough to steal from Taccone.¬† Kat believes her father when he says he didn’t do it; he couldn’t have been stealing Taccone’s paintings in Italy when he was stealing a statue from a gallery in Paris the same night.¬† Taccone is not as convinced of Kat’s father’s innocence and demands that the paintings be returned in two weeks time.¬† Kat’s father doesn’t take the threat seriously, but Kat has met Taccone and knows he means business.¬† Determined to save her father, Kat assembles a crack team of teen thieves to help her find and steal back Taccone’s paintings, but things are never as they seem and Kat will have to call upon everything she’s ever learned about thieving to get those paintings back without getting caught.

Reaction: I was previously unaware of the awesomeness of Ally Carter but I have now been thoroughly schooled.¬† Heist Society was exciting and fast-paced.¬† It had many of the elements I love in a teen book: travel, interesting character relationships, strong family bonds (however weird), a bit of mystery, and a few wild card elements.¬† I really enjoyed the relationship between Kat and Hale, a billionaire’s son turned thief.¬† Both try to pretend to be indifferent to each other but it is obvious there is real affection, friendship, and possibly more between them.¬† Hale seems to realize it but Kat is slow on the uptake when it comes to her feelings for Hale.¬† I loved the interplay between the family.¬† While they all obviously still love each other, Kat is seen as a traitor and no longer completely accepted into the fold because she’s left the family business.¬† I love that while Kat is determined to no longer be a thief she is mad at herself when some of her thieving skills are rusty and her accents detectable.¬† I also really enjoyed the historical twist with the artwork.¬† It turns out that Taccone’s paintings were actually stolen from their original owners by the Nazi’s during WWII and haven’t been seen since.¬† Kat’s situation with Taccone is further complicated when she realizes he is not the rightful owner of the paintings that were stolen from him.¬† A great combo of mystery, intrigue, action, adventure, and attraction, Heist Society is a winner.

Review: Academy 7

by Anne Osterlund

Aerin barely escapes slavery on the planet Vizhan, fleeing in her father’s broken down ship, the Fugitive.¬† Knowing nothing of her past and having no answers since her father died when they crashed on Vizhan years ago, Aerin has no where to turn.¬† Luckily, a friendly captain takes her onto his ship and secures her a place at a prestigious school, Academy 7.¬† Aerin knows that she doesn’t really belong at Academy 7, doesn’t belong to the Alliance — the governmental body that supports the academy, and is at a disadvantage since she has had no formal education, so she works extra hard to prove herself, to prove that she belongs and give no one a reason to question her presence.¬† Dane is the son of the Alliance’s military commander.¬† His father is powerful and rich but a very hard man.¬† Nothing Dane does can measure up to his father’s standards.¬† When Dane is accepted to Academy 7, he only excepts the invitation because he knows his father would not approve, his father having some sort of falling out with the academy years ago.¬† Dane is famous because of his father’s name and his own bad boy reputation, but behind it all is a cunning mind and he is determined to stay at Academy 7, at the very least to annoy his father.¬† Aerin and Dane are very different but have more than they can expect in common.¬† They both have tough, questionable pasts.¬† They compete for top honors in every class.¬† They both have secret pasts.¬† Aerin and Dane are drawn together but will secrets and their own self destruction keep them apart?

Reaction: I found Academy 7 a quick, satisfying read.¬† While the setting is technically sci-fi, with different habitable planets, easy interplanetary travel, artificial living environments, and more, readers who are not fans of sci-fi will still enjoy the story because at its center is simply two people with complicated lives trying to get by.¬† I think teens will find themselves able to easily relate to both Aerin and Dane.¬† They are both prickly because of their pasts and not very trusting of others.¬† Aerin spent years fighting for her life as a slave.¬† Dane’s father, while highly revered, abuses Dane both verbally and physically.¬† What they don’t know is that they are connected by more than just similar experiences and attitudes, but by their family’s shared pasts.¬† While secondary to their overall connection, finding out the truth about their pasts is an important part of Dane and Aerin’s story.¬† Readers who like character driven stories with scarred but healing characters will enjoy Academy 7.

The 2009 Cybils Winners

The winners are probably old news by now but, even though I’m announcing late, I still want to give recognition to the awesome winners of the 2009 Cybils awards. Below are the winners in the Young Adult categories:


The Frog Scientist
by Pamela S. Turner; illustrated by Andy Comins
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Nominated by: Laurie Thompson

The Frog Scientist covers the ongoing research of biologist Tyrone Hayes into the effects of atrazine on frogs. Atrazine is the most commonly used pesticide in the United States, but Hays has discovered that exposure to atrazine causes “some of the male frogs to develop into bizarre half-male, half-female frogs.” His careful development, both in the lab and the wild, of experiments researching diminishing frog populations is an example of science at its best.

Author Pamela S. Turner shows the control Hayes and his assistants exert over their experiments so there can be no questions when their results are determined. For this real-world example of textbook standards alone, The Frog Scientist would be a winner. That Turner makes the biologist’s very compelling personal story key to the book’s narrative raises it above similar titles in the field. Teens will find the heavily illustrated volume visually appealing but more significantly be intrigued by this powerful example of significant science at work. It’s nonfiction writing (and photography) at its best, and incredibly inspirational to boot.

Graphic Novel

Gunnerkrigg Court: Orientation
by Tom Siddell
Archaia Press
Nominated by: Paradox

Strange happenings at a mysterious British boarding school involving magic. A talented student who seems to have unique and special abilities. And the dark past of the characters’ parents has come back to haunt them all. These elements, which may on the surface seem so familiar, are brought together in fresh and inventive ways in Gunnerkrigg Court. Tom Siddell has published nearly 300 pages of his webcomic in this first collection, and the length really allows for the reader to absorb the entire spectrum of adventures presented here: protagonist Antimony Carver and her growing assortment of friends have humorous, creepy, action-packed and mysterious storylines, all of which allow us to see the different facets of Annie’s complex and fascinating world. It also puts lots of meat on the bones of those seemingly overly familiar story elements, to tell tales both unexpected and new.

Fantasy & Science Fiction

by Kristin Cashore
Nominated by: Jenny Moss

As her homeland of the Dells descends into civil war, Fire struggles with changing relationships and her own dangerous powers. If she misuses her gifts, she runs the risk of turning into her psychotic and amoral father. But if she doesn’t use them at all, her beloved kingdom and the royal family she has come to love may be lost forever. Nobody combines the fantasy and romance genres like Kristin Cashore. With preternaturally beautiful monsters and unruly children, psychic powers and very human power struggles, her masterfully crafted worlds are close enough to ours to make sense and different enough to captivate.

Fire herself is a dynamic character, a mix of vulnerability and strength, and she is surrounded by others who challenge and support her, especially in the character of Brigan, one of the few who sees beyond her stunning beauty to the complex young woman beneath. Throughout the book, Fire learns to see the people she loves in shades of grey, and in the process learns to accept her own virtues and flaws. Out of all the books we read, this is the one at the top of everybody’s list. It’s great, start to finish, with appeal for both boys and girls, and the moment you finish it you’ll want to read it again.

Young Adult Fiction

Cracked Up to Be
by Courtney Summers
Nominated by: Robin Prehn

Cracked Up to Be, Courtney Summers’s debut novel, is a page turner that is sure to please. Once a model student and cheerleader, Parker Fadley has given up that life and turned instead to drinking and failing classes. But what could have caused this sudden change? Spare writing, carefully placed flashbacks, and strong character development create an intense and fascinating read, while the mystery unfolds. Whether or not you fall in love with Parker, her story will not soon be forgotten.

A list of all winners, including those in the children’s and middle grade categories, can be found here.

Thank you to all the hard working panelists and judges.¬† I know I really enjoyed the opportunity to judge for the graphic novel category and I’m looking forward the book offerings of 2010.

The Order of Odd-Fish Extravaganza/Gallery Show

James Kennedy wrote an extremely quirky, hilarious book called The Order of Odd-Fish (my review).¬† As most quirky, hilarious things do, the book has developed quite a cult following and has inspired artists from all over to create The Order of Odd-Fish art work of all sorts.¬† Check out the gallery here.¬† To celebrate his talented fans, James Kennedy is hosting a gallery show of The Order of Odd-Fish art which will open with an extravaganza.¬† Here’s how he describes the event:

It’ll be not only an art show, but also a costumed dance party and theatrical extravaganza. I’m working with a Chicago theater group called Collaboraction to do this. They’re going to decorate their cavernous space to portray scenes from the book (the fantastical tropical metropolis of Eldritch City, the digestive system of the All-Devouring Mother goddess, the Dome of Doom, etc.).

Opening night will be a dance party where people dress up as gods and do battle-dancing in the Dome of Doom. In the weeks afterward, we’ll bring in field trips from schools. They’ll browse the fan art galleries, be wowed by the elaborately decorated environment we’ve created, take in some performances from the book, and participate in an energetic writing workshop.

The big event will be taking place in Chicago in April BUT deadline for submissions in March 15.¬† So if The Order of Odd-Fish gets you’re creative juices flowing, go here to learn more about submitting your art piece for the show.

And if you haven’t read the book, definitely check it out.

Review: Lockdown

by Walter Dean Myers

Reese is in a juvie jail called the Progress Center.¬† Busted after money woes caused him to steal prescription sheets from a local doctor’s office, he’s almost to the end of his 2.5 year sentence.¬† Reese is overall a good kid, he’s even scored a spot in a new work release program where he gets out of jail for 10 days a month to work with elderly patients at a place called Evergreen, but Reese has a problem keeping his hands to himself.¬† If another inmate challenges him, Reese can’t help but defend himself with his fists, and if someone picks on one of his friends, Reese can’t stand by and watch his friends get hurt.¬† Reese’s heart may be in the right place but that won’t help him if his hands and his tempter keep getting him in trouble.¬† Will Reese be able to get his act together so he can be released from juvie and get his life on track once he’s back outside?

Reaction: I have only read one other Walter Dean Myers book — I know, for shame! — and it was Monster.¬† I loved Monster.¬† I loved the format.¬† I loved the flawed main character who was a product of both his environment and his own choices.¬† I loved that I felt for the main character despite not being entirely certain of his innocence.¬† I loved not really knowing whether he was guilty or innocent, and I love the fact of his guilt or innocence did not really matter to the message of the book.¬† Monster is obviously a classic.¬† Though very similar in many respects, Lockdown did not have the same sparkle as Monster.¬† Lockdown seems to have to try harder and tell more to accomplish a similar goal.¬† That being said, I read Lockdown pretty much all in one sitting and was invested in Reese and his outcome.

I found Reese to be a very accessible character.¬† He’s a good kid who loves his sisters, has crappy parents, and has made some bad choices.¬† He continues to make bad choices while in juvie, especially when it comes to fighting, but, I have to say, I couldn’t help but hope he stepped up and fought in some of the situations.¬† I can’t imagine how hard it would be to have to decide whether to join a fight when you know you could face severe consequences or not join a fight and watch a friend, someone who is younger, weaker, and more helpless than the person wailing on him, get beat to a pulp.¬† Because of his actions, because he is in jail, these are the kinds of choices that Reese has to make to survive, to get out, to get on with his life.¬† I enjoyed Reese’s time at Evergreen and his interactions with Mr. Hooft, a cantankerous old gentleman who lived through a work camp run by the Japanese during World War II only to be left to die pretty much alone, without visitors, in a retirement community.¬† I also really enjoyed Reese’s sister Isis, called Icy.¬† She has big dreams — to become President or to be a movie star and win an Oscar.¬† She is positive and hopeful, dreaming of college when she is only 9 years old.¬† She gives Reese hope and a reason to stay clean.¬† He wants to make sure Icy gets everything she wants and needs, and it able to reach her lofty goals.

While I do wish WDM had taken some more risks with the formatting, I can’t deny that Lockdown is compelling and will draw in readers who loved Monster and love Walter Dean Myers.

Review: She's So Dead to Us

by Kieran Scott

When Ally was a freshman, her father’s bad business decision cost her family their fortune, as well as the fortunes of most of her closest friends.¬† Ally and her parents fled in shame and haven’t been back to their hometown, Orchard Hill, since.¬† Now it is just Ally and her mother, her father’s whereabouts unknown, and they are moving back to Orchard Hill where Ally’s mother has taken a job at the high school.¬† Orchard Hill will never be the same for Ally.¬† Her old friends have shunned her, not forgiving her for her father’s mistakes, her quick exit with no goodbye, or the fact that she is no longer a member of the elite rich and famous of Orchard Hill but instead lives in — gasp — a condo!¬† Not only that but a new family has moved into her old house, the one with the personalized basketball court her father built just for her, and her former best friend, Shannen, is now best friends with the new occupant of her old bedroom.¬† Ally tries to move on when it’s clear that she can no longer go back to her old life.¬† She makes new friends, forges her own path, but she can’t seem to let go of the past or the hope to regain some of her former friendships.¬† Making it even harder to let go is her growing attraction to Jake, the occupant of her old bedroom and newest member of her former crowd.¬† Is there any way she can be with Jake when all of her old friends, his friends, shun her?¬† Will they ever forgive her for the sins of her father?

Reaction: Not my typical kind of read, this book arrived on my doorstep at the right time, just when I was looking for something light and fun to read.  I have never read a Gossip Girls or Private or It Girls or any of those other series but, from what I know, I believe this book will definitely appeal to the same audience.  Despite my reservations that it would be filled with too much drama, backstabbing, and brand name dropping, I read with an open mind and really enjoyed this novel.  I was pleasantly surprised that the brand names and pop culture references were kept to a minimum and flowed naturally in the story.

As for the story itself, I liked Ally.¬† She’s been through a lot but she has tried to make the best of it.¬† I didn’t always agree with her decisions and I don’t know why she would possibly want to be friends again with those girls, who are mostly evil and vindictive, but generally Ally was a likeable character.¬† She certainly had her flaws, one big lapse in judgement in particular that comes back to haunt her, but she is a very realistic character.¬† Jake, on the other hand, is not as likeable, at least not for me.¬† The story alternates between Ally and Jake, so we get to see his perspective on things.¬† I can see his appeal and the reason Ally is attracted to him, mostly because he is a hot boy, but he isn’t always the nicest guy.¬† He is quite the player and I fear even if he becomes serious about Ally he won’t be able to stay faithful.¬† He lives too much for his group of friends and does things against his better judgement to please them, though he gets a bit better at that as the story progresses.¬† Despite my dislike of Jake, I found him to be a pretty believable teenage rich boy and, though I usually avoid alternating narrators, I enjoyed reading Jake’s parts almost as much as Ally’s.

I have to say I really liked the format of the novel as well.  The story is broken down by months and takes place across an entire school year.  Each new month page is smattered with a gossipy conversation between unknown people who are not the main characters talking about events happening to the main characters.  Hard to explain, but I loved it.  I do not necessarily love the cover.  Looks a little too plain and the pearls a bit too old.  I did like the font and coloring of the title.

The ending is a cliffhanger and I’m excited to see what happens next but seeing how She’s So Dead to Us doesn’t come out until May, 2010, who knows when the sequel will be out!

Review copy sent by publisher.