Saturday, April 30, 2011

Bumped by Megan McCafferty

From Goodreads:
When a virus makes everyone over the age of eighteen infertile, would-be parents are forced to pay teen girls to conceive and give birth to their children, making teens the most prized members of society.

Sixteen-year-old identical twins Melody and Harmony were separated at birth and had never met until the day Harmony shows up on Melody’s doorstep. Until now, the twins have followed completely opposite paths. Melody has scored an enviable conception contract with a couple called the Jaydens. While they are searching for the perfect partner for Melody to bump with, she is fighting her attraction to her best friend Zen, who is way too short for the job.

Harmony has spent her whole life in religious Goodside, preparing to be a wife and mother. She believes her calling is to bring Melody back to Goodside and convince her that “pregging” for profit is a sin. But Harmony has secrets of her own that she is running from.

When Melody is finally matched with the world-famous, genetically flawless Jondoe, both girls’ lives are changed forever. A case of mistaken identity takes them on a journey neither could have ever imagined, one that makes Melody and Harmony realize they have so much more than just DNA in common. 

There is so much to like about this book: a unique, humor-filled satire/dystopia that can spark lots of conversation about a controversial issue: teen pregnancy.

But there is so much that frustrated me (and many other readers) too. First of all, I'm not the first person to mention the difficulty in figuring out the vernacular of the world McCafferty created. Most of it was easy to figure out (pregg, breedy, neggy, bump) but what bothered me were the words and concepts that were difficult to pick up on due to the author's lack of explanation or context. What the heck is MiNet? MiChat? 2Vu? As part of McCafferty's world building, I thought it was her responsibility to fully bring us into that world. There wasn't enough context for the reader to completely figure these things out.

And don't get me started on the ridiculous ending. It wasn't even an ending. I couldn't even call it a cliffhanger. The book needed at least one to three more chapters to have ended in a way that would satisfy readers while still setting us up for the next book. It almost feels like authors are getting lazy because they know they have a three book deal so they can just can continue the story in an upcoming book. That really irritates me. Even though readers know there's another book coming, authors still should feel a sense of responsibility to end a book appropriately. This book did not end in such a way.

Does that mean I won't read the next book? Does it mean that I wasn't invested enough in the story to feel the need to keep going with the series? Not in the slightest. I did enjoy this story. I enjoyed the conversation it will spark. I enjoyed watching the development of the characters. My criticisms are more frustrations than feelings of outright anger. I don't have to love every book I read to appreciate its literary merit. I will definitely be adding the second book to my TBR pile when it comes out!

ETA: I had a day to think about it, and I feel bad for saying I think authors are getting lazy. I highly respect and admire the work that authors and publishers do and I don't want anyone to think I feel otherwise. I'm 100% positive Megan McCafferty and her editor and publisher had their reasons for ending this book the way they did. I'm only writing my feelings based on my frustration that the book felt incomplete. To me, even if a book is part of a series, it should still be able to stand on its own somewhat. I felt like this book was missing some sort of closure. Even when books end in cliffhangers, there is some tiny bit of closure (however small it might be) to let reader feel satisfied until the next book. I wasn't feeling any sort of closure happening here at the end of this book. If anything, even more conflicts arise at the end, while leaving old conflicts still up in the air.

Bumped by Megan McCafferty
Published: April 26, 2011 by Balzer & Bray
Pages: 336
Genre: Dystopia
Audience: YA
Format: E-galley acquired through NetGalley

In My Mailbox (27)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren.  The books you share do not have to be ones you actually received in the mail.  They can be ones you bought at the book store, checked out at the library, or downloaded to your e-reader.  The idea is just to share what's on your TBR pile for the upcoming week. 

For review from Simon & Schuster GalleyGrab:
Virtuosity by Jessica Martinez
Between Here and Forever by Elizabeth Scott

Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma
The Lost Crown by Sarah Miller


Sold by Patricia McCormick

Library Loot:
The Lost Thing by Shaun Tan
The Van Gogh Cafe by Cynthia Rylant

Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Book? by Lauren Child
Hip Hop Dog by Chris Raschka, illustrated by Vladimir Radunsky

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Audiobook Review: Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

From Goodreads:
BROOKLYN: Andi Alpers is on the edge. She’s angry at her father for leaving, angry at her mother for not being able to cope, and heartbroken by the loss of her younger brother, Truman. Rage and grief are destroying her. And she’s about to be expelled from Brooklyn Heights’ most prestigious private school when her father intervenes. Now Andi must accompany him to Paris for winter break.

PARIS: Alexandrine Paradis lived over two centuries ago. She dreamed of making her mark on the Paris stage, but a fateful encounter with a doomed prince of France cast her in a tragic role she didn’t want—and couldn’t escape.

Two girls, two centuries apart. One never knowing the other. But when Andi finds Alexandrine’s diary, she recognizes something in her words and is moved to the point of obsession. There’s comfort and distraction for Andi in the journal’s antique pages—until, on a midnight journey through the catacombs of Paris, Alexandrine’s words transcend paper and time, and the past becomes suddenly, terrifyingly present. 

I don't even know how to review this book. There are so many beautiful layers and corners to explore that I couldn't possibly cover them all. So I'm going to talk about what kept me engrossed and pulling for Andi throughout the story and that was the musical aspect of the plot. The fact that Andi is a musical genius yet seems to squander her talent on grief and pill-popping is not a new concept in the world of music (in fact, if you liked Adam in Where She Went, think of Andi as his female counterpart). And yet, part of her genius is a result of the grief she is experiencing due to the death of her brother Truman and the subsequent deterioration of her family.

Andi's passion and talent for guitar playing is evident when she decides to choose the classical guitarist Amade Malherbeau for the subject of her senior thesis. Throughout the story she explains with much certainty, and quite convincingly I might add, that if it weren't for Malherbeau, there would be no Led Zeppelin or Radiohead. I was so invested in Andi's certainty in proving this thesis that I actually BELIEVED this was not fictitious and that this part of the story was where truth creeped in. Which is why I was thoroughly heartbroken when, upon finishing the book, I went to look up the composer Amade Malherbeau to see if I could find any of his recordings at the library, and discovered that he DOESN'T EXIST!!! But I wanted so badly to hear that Fireworks Concerto! I wanted to be able to listen to those tri-tones and minor chords from all the way back in the 18th century and be able to hear Radiohead and "Stairway to Heaven" in them. The way Donnelly writes of his music so fluidly and with such authority, I was bereft when I discovered that she merely made up this composer with a few taps of her keyboard.  

There are certainly other important elements to this story other than music: the strained father/daughter relationship, Andi's discovering of the diary from the French Revolution, mental illness (in Andi's mother as well as Andi herself), and while all of those elements were equally important to the story, music was the thread that stitched the entire story together and what kept me listening.

Speaking of listening, a word about the audio production. There were two narrators in this story: Emily Janice Card was Andi, and Emma Bering was Alex.  Both of these women did amazing job at playing the characters in the story, and Emily was especially masterful at portraying the roller-coaster emotions of Andi. Her voice had just enough apathetic angst to be convincing and yet was still pleasant to listen to. Plus, listening to the book rather than reading it had the added benefit of getting all of the French pronunciations correct. This is definitely a listening experience I'd recommend, in addition to a story that should not be passed by - even if you don't normally prefer historical fiction.

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly
Published: October 2010 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers & Random House Audio Publishing
Pages: 472
Audiobook Length: 15 hours, 4 minutes
Genre: Historical Fiction
Audience: Young Adult 
Book Acquisition: Library

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: Fetching by Kiera Stewart

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine and is meant to showcase upcoming books that you can't wait to read.

My anxiously awaited title this week is:

Fetching by Kiera Stewart
Publish Date: November 8, 2011 by Hyperion
Pages: 304
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Audience: Middle Grade

From Goodreads:
A crew of middle school nobodies secretly use dog training techniques on their classmates to go from eighth-grade underdogs to leaders of the pack, only to discover being top dog isn’t all they expected it to be.

This book sounds like a mad-cap riot! Middle school outcasts and dogs? Sign me up! I'm just bummed it's not coming out until November. I want to read it now!

Hoppy Easter Eggstravaganza Giveaway Hop Winner

 The Winner of my Easter Eggstravaganza Giveaway Hop is:

Shannon from Shannons Fun Page

Congrats!  I will be sending out your copy of Photo Jojo! by Amit Gupta and Kelly Jensen

The winner of this giveaway was chosen using

Monday, April 25, 2011

13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson

Ginny has always lived in awe and admiration of her eccentric Aunt Peg. But a few years ago, Aunt Peg packed up her NYC apartment without so much as a word to her family as to where she was going. Recently, Ginny received news of the passing of her aunt along with 13 envelopes from her that includes instructions to fly to London and a strict warning to only open the envelopes one at a time.

What Ginny encounters at the hand of her dead aunt is the adventure of a lifetime and an eventual sense of closure as to what happened to Peg before she died.  Ginny meets some friends and some shady characters along the way, but all of it is done in a spirit of adventure and a hope that Ginny will find herself through discovering her aunt's mysterious story.

I was excited to discover that Maureen Johnson's e-book version of 13 Little Blue Envelopes was free on Barnes & Noble and Amazon's website for two weeks. It was such a great offer to entice people to want to read her upcoming sequel The Last Little Blue Envelope.

So let me get the bad stuff out of the way first: while I loved the story itself, I was not a fan of the characters.  Ginny felt much too distant and difficult to empathize with. I think part of that had to do with the fact that it was written in third person and I have a REALLY hard time connecting with characters in third person POV. I wanted Ginny to tell her own story rather than some distant, unknown narrator. Even if Ginny did tell her own story though, I think a major part of her unlikability was how disconnected she felt from her own experience. Part of that I'm sure had to do with the fact that she was grieving the loss of her aunt, but another part of it felt like she just wasn't a character that had been fully developed.  

In addition to Ginny, I thought the rest of the characters felt underdeveloped as well. Keith, who should have been bigger than life (I mean, the dude wears a KILT and writes and performs his own musicals for Pete's sake!) just felt sort of "blah" and difficult to imagine.  Richard was another character who should have popped off the page, but instead he was just kind of "there" (which in a way I think was by design since his purpose in the story was just to be there for Ginny).

Given my preference for character-driven stories rather than plot-driven stories, I probably would have immediately abandoned this book and never given it a second thought. But Maureen Johnson managed to grab me with her plot and that's because she wrote a contemporary fiction that takes place across Europe.  I absolutely adore everything about traveling across Europe so I was fully engrossed in the travelogue aspect of the story. And with passages like this, I remember just how much I miss traveling across that beautiful continent:

Paris seemed to make good on the promise it made in every photograph of it she'd ever seen. People carried long baguettes. Couples walked hand in hand through asparagus-thin streets. And before long, a round moon hung overhead in an electric blue sky and the Eiffel Tower began to twinkle with a thousand little lights. The air was warm, and as Ginny leaned against the side of the Pont Neuf and watched a dinner boat slide along the Seine under her, she thought that this was a perfect Paris night.

*Le  sigh*

I'm not even going to address the lack of believability and the fact that Ginny's parents aren't even a blip on the radar in this story.  They're mentioned in passing, but there is never any discussion about, "What will my parents do when they find out I just hopped a plane to London and can't communicate with anyone back home per my dead aunt's instructions?" I'm going to take this story for what it is: a fun, romp across Europe with a brooding, grieving, angsty teenager, and leave it at that.  

Even with my criticisms, this book was thoroughly page-turning and I look forward to seeing what The Last Little Blue Envelope has in store!

Cover Comments:  
The cover at the top of the page is the paperback edition and it is MUCH better than this original cover art. This is an example of a person designing a book cover that clearly did not read the book. I would almost be so bold to say that the original cover art is almost offensive it is so off the mark. Ginny is not the type of character who would ever wear something that would expose her midriff, let alone pose in such a provocative way. Perhaps she would closer to the end of the novel, but even still - her persona through most of the story was very introverted and self-deprecating. The girl on the cover of this book gives off vibes of thinking quite highly of herself and that she is quite the catch. That is not Ginny's persona in the slightest. I was glad to see that they made the paperback cover a much better reflection of Ginny.

13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson
Published: October 2006 by Harper Teen
Pages: 336
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Audience: Young Adult

Saturday, April 23, 2011

In My Mailbox (26)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren.  The books you share do not have to be ones you actually received in the mail.  They can be ones you bought at the book store, checked out at the library, or downloaded to your e-reader.  The idea is just to share what's on your TBR pile for the upcoming week.

My "mailbox" was only stuff from the library this week:

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

Graphic novel:
The Plain Janes by Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg

Picture books:
Anatole by Eve Titus, illustrated by Paul Galdone
Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up By Sitting Down by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Brian Pinkney

Square Cat by Elizabeth Schoonmaker
You're Finally Here by Melanie Watt

Compost Stew: An A to Z Recipe for the Earth by Mary McKenna Siddals, illustrated by Ashley Wolff
The Boy Who Cried Ninja by Alex Latimer

Where's Walrus? by Stephen Savage

All the Way to America: The Story of a Big Italian Family and a Little Shovel by Dan Yaccarino

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Racing in the Rain: My Life as a Dog by Garth Stein

I was elated to discover that one of my favorite books of all time was being adapted for middle-grade readers.  The Art of Racing in the Rain is a book that I longed to share with my students, but knew the content was much too mature for 6th graders.  Alas, this new adaptation has made it appropriate for kids in grades 4-8.

From Amazon:
Have you ever wondered what your dog is thinking?

Meet one funny dog—Enzo, the lovable mutt who tells this story. Enzo knows he is different from other dogs: most dogs love to chase cars, but Enzo longs to race them. He learns about racing and the world around him by watching TV and by listening to the words of his best friend, Denny, an up-and-coming race car driver, and his daughter, ZoË, his constant companion. Enzo finds that life is just like being on the racetrack—it isn't simply about going fast. And, applying the rules of racing to his world, Enzo takes on his family's challenges and emerges a hero. In the end, Enzo holds in his heart the dream that Denny will go on to be a racing champion with his daughter by his side. For theirs is an extraordinary friendship—one that reminds us all to celebrate the triumph of the human (and canine) spirit. 

This book will make you laugh, it will make you smile, and inevitably, just like almost every other dog book out there, it will make you cry. But you already know the tears will come before you even get past the first chapter because the very first scene in the book is Enzo as an ailing dog, discussing his own morality.

Because this is adapted from an already published book, the story doesn't flow as seamlessly as the original.  The primary conflict in the story is a bit more vague and ambiguous due to the amount of content that had to be deleted to make it appropriate for younger readers.  I also worry that younger readers won't identify with the story because it revolves around a thirty-something man and the demise of his family. Kids generally like to read stories about kids so I'm not sure how well they will respond to Denny as a protagonist (no matter how inherently good he is).

Even with the criticism of what the book is lacking, the heart of the book is still there and that is the voice of Enzo the dog. He is such a unique, heartfelt narrator and kids really do deserve to hear his voice. That is the main reason why I was so pleased when I discovered that Stein decided to adapt this book for young readers. Not to mention the fact that this will be a book I can put in the hands of boys because of the racing aspect.

Overall, I would say that if you have kids who you know like dogs and also racing, shove this book in their hands and they will devour it.

Cover comments: While adorable, and certainly has the cuteness factor amped up, this cover really bothers me (along with some earlier covers of the original version). Enzo is not a purebred dog. Stein mentions several times in the book that he is a mixed breed and appears to have terrier in him. The dog on this cover is clearly a yellow lab. Obviously not Enzo!

Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
Publish Date: May 3, 2011 by HarperCollins
Pages: 208
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Audience: Middle-grade

ARC obtained through NetGalley

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Hoppy Easter Eggstravaganza Giveaway Hop

Thank you to I Am a Reader, Not a Writer and Once Upon a Twilight for hosting this blog hop!

The book I will be giving away for this blog hop is:
Photojojo! Insanely Great Photo Projects and DIY Ideas by Amit Gupta and Kelly Jensen
Published: September 2009 by Potter Craft
Pages: 192
Genre: Non-fiction/arts & crafts
Audience: Crafty people who love photos

From Goodreads:
A photo, an idea, and simple crafting skills are all you need to transform your pictures into useful, fun, giftable art. With clear DIY instructions, Photojojo! by Amit Gupta and Kelly Jensen shows you how to turn your forgotten photos into ingenious photo projects.

Do you have lots of pics of friends and family you want to show off? Make a sleek, stylish photo display rail so you can change them up at a moment’s notice. Need something to play with? Make photo slider puzzles, Rubik’s cubes, and temporary tattoos. Or spruce up your pad with a photo chandelier or a giant wall mural you can print at home! All the projects use basic materials and are easy enough to whip up in an afternoon.

Once you’re armed with what you can do with all your images, check out Photojojo’s inspiring ideas to get you shooting photographs more creatively. Investigate the world from a canine perspective with the amazing doggie cam, or grab your friends and head out on a photo safari. Make a sneaky hidden jacket camera and turn string, a washer, and a screw into a monopod that fits in your pocket, MacGyver-style. Learn how to motivate yourself to take a photo every day with project 365, or get the little ones involved with Photojojo’s head-spinning photography method: because you + kid + centrifugal force = awesome. Yep, photography just became a whole lot more fun.

Contest Rules:
  • Must be 13 years or older to enter
  • Open to U.S. residents only
  • You are not required to be a follower to enter but it is greatly appreciated
  • Starts April 20th at 12:00 a.m., ends April 25th at 11:59 PM EST
How to enter:
Leave a comment explaining your favorite Easter candy (don't forget to leave me your email so I can contact you if you win!)

My favorite Easter candy is Cadbury Mini eggs.  I could eat a whole bag of those in one sitting, which is strange because I'm normally not a big fan of chocolate.
 Don't forget to visit the other blogs in the blog hop:

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Decoded by Jay-Z

From Goodreads: 
Decoded is a book like no other: a collection of lyrics and their meanings that together tell the story of a culture, an art form, a moment in history, and one of the most provocative and successful artists of our time.

Part memoir, part coffee table book, and part dissertation on the merits of hip hop, Jay-Z's Decoded was a fascinating, worthwhile read. I will admit that I skimmed a few sections of the book because some of it just didn't interest me as much as other parts, but on the whole I'd have to say this book gave me a better understanding of rap culture and I have an even greater respect for the talent of this great artist.  

I have never been a huge fan of rap and hip-hop, but I certainly can appreciate when it bridges genres, and that is one thing I highly respect about Jay-Z: his willingness to work with other bands and artists outside of rap and hip-hop. In fact, his collaboration with Linkin Park a few years ago showed not only how diverse these two artists can be, but also how beautifully their musical styles compliment each other.  

Whenever you read a book that is written by a celebrity, you always wonder in the back of your mind if the person whose name is on the cover is really the one who wrote it. This happens so much in celebri-land that I rarely take those types of books seriously anymore. So when I first started reading Decoded, I had my suspicions that Jay-Z himself didn't write it. But as I continued to delve further into the book, I could feel the passion behind the words and it didn't feel forced or faked. I would venture to guess that Jay-Z really did write Decoded and if he didn't, then he had really big hand in the revision process. 

As a lover of music, I am always fascinated to read what inspires musicians, even if it's not a type of music I normally listen to. I am much more likely to respect an artist who has a hand in his own music rather than being a pop star who is just given songs to sing and has no say over the creative process. When the music is real and personal and not dumbed down for the masses, that's when I show mad respect for an artist.  Jay-Z is that kind of artist for me.  

Decoded by Jay-Z (Shawn Carter)
Published: November 2010 by Spiegel & Grau
Pages: 317
Genre: Nonfiction (memoir)
Audience: Adults (music and/or rap/hip-hop lovers)

Saturday, April 16, 2011

In My Mailbox (25)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren.  The books you share do not have to be ones you actually received in the mail.  They can be ones you bought at the book store, checked out at the library, or downloaded to your e-reader.  The idea is just to share what's on your TBR pile for the upcoming week.

For Review:

My Sparkling Misfortune by Laura Lond


signed copy of Cryer's Cross by Lisa McMann from Reading Lark

Free E-books:
13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson
Wings by Aprilynne Pike

Library Loot:

Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins

Picture books:
Say Hello to Zorro! by Carter Goodrich

Pirates Don't Take Baths by John Segal

The Honeybee Man by Lela Nargi and Krysten Brooker
These Hands by Margaret H. Mason, illustrated by Floyd Cooper

What did you get in your mailbox this week?

Audiobook Review: Delirium by Lauren Oliver

From Goodreads:
Before scientists found the cure, people thought love was a good thing. They didn’t understand that once love -- the deliria -- blooms in your blood, there is no escaping its hold. Things are different now. Scientists are able to eradicate love, and the governments demands that all citizens receive the cure upon turning eighteen. Lena Holoway has always looked forward to the day when she’ll be cured. A life without love is a life without pain: safe, measured, predictable, and happy.

But with ninety-five days left until her treatment, Lena does the unthinkable: She falls in love.

I acquired an advanced reader copy of Delirium through Netgalley back in December. When I read the book a few months ago, I didn't feel like I could write a review that would do it justice. Then a few weeks ago, someone at Harper Audio offered me the chance to listen to the audiobook.  It was then that I knew this was the time to start attempting to put my thoughts about this book into a cohesive message. 

The HarperCollins Children's Audio website plugs this book as "Romeo and Juliet meets 1984." What a perfect description of this story in only five words.  Lauren Oliver's latest book definitely shows large glimpses of George Orwell's classic dystopia.  Clearly Oliver was familiar with Orwell's famous work before writing Delirium as evidenced by this saying from the book:

Liberty in acceptance
Peace in enclosure
Happiness in renunciation

which mimics Orwell's famous motto from 1984:
War is Peace
Freedom is Slavery
Ignorance is Strength

Since the popularity of The Hunger Games, the dystopian genre has been so over-saturated that, at first glance, this book might just get dismissed as just another author trying to cash in on a trend. However, what sustains this book and sets it apart from all the other dystopian novels is in the beauty of Oliver's simple, no-nonsense prose.  And yet, despite its simplicity, it is also lyrical and poetic. Even further to Oliver's credit is her ability to subtly  weave a developing and evolving protagonist through a suspenseful, page-turning plot.  Lena's character begins the novel having accepted the previously stated Orwell-esque mantra. However, as the story progresses, you slowly but surely see that lie begin to unravel as everything she thought she once believed comes crashing down around her. 

In regards to the audio presentation, Sarah Drew did a phenomenal job at interpreting this story.  Her emotions were perfectly on point and they were so believable that I almost felt like SHE was feeling those emotions as she was reading the story.  When Lena cried, I could almost see the tears running down the narrator's face.   I highly recommend the audiobook if you're a fan of listening to books, but, like me, get frustrated with indifferent, apathetic, or just plain ill-suited narrators.

Without revealing any spoilers, I will say that upon first reading, I was perplexed, almost angered by the ending.  But the second time around, I understood why the book had to end the way it did.  I would love to say more, but I don't want to give anything away.  All I can say is that if you're a fan of dystopia and you haven't read this book yet... what are you waiting for?

Delirium by Lauren Oliver
Audiobook Narrator: Sarah Drew
Published: February 2011 by Harper Teen and HarperCollins Children's Audio
Pages: 441
Audiobook Length: 11 hours, 41 minutes
Genre: Dystopia
Audience: Young Adult

Friday, April 15, 2011

Pug Hill by Alison Pace

From Goodreads:
For Hope McNeill, pugs are love, unconditional friendship, happiness, and freedom. She doesn't have one of her own (busy life, tiny apartment), but she does have Pug Hill in Central Park, where pugs (and their owners) from all over New York convene.

She also has a crush on one of her co-workers, a flailing romantic relationship, and an unspeakable fear of public speaking. Then Hope's father calls with an assignment: to make a speech at her parents' anniversary party. Frantic, she signs up for a public speaking class, but can't help wondering-will it transform her into an eloquent orator? Maybe some fears are so big that even all the pugs in the world might not be enough to assuage them.

Alison Pace has mastered her niche as an author: fun, lighthearted stories that include neurotic main characters who possess an endearing love for dogs. This is my second reading of Pug Hill and it is by far my favorite of Pace's novels because, well, like Hope, I understand that pugs are love and happiness. When Hope feels most hopeless, her go-to happy place is pug hill. The people in her life don't understand her obsession with it, and despite her incredibly neurotic, sometimes downright annoying, tendencies,  I completely get this facet of her personality. And even if you as the reader don't get that pugs are love, the way that Pace describes Hope's encounters with them, you can't help but understand why this is her happy place.When you read passages like this, you will be sure to plaster a smile on your face so big that your face will hurt:

"Eustice!" someone yells from a few feet to my right.  An extremely, let's say, girthy pug, in a gray turtleneck sweater, comes bounding up the hill.  His tongue hangs out to the side, the way so many tongues of so many pugs seem to like to do, and he's panting very loudly; I can hear the panting, accompanied by some intermittent snorting even before he gets close, even before he heads in a beeline right past his owner and right toward me.

"Well hello, Eustice," I say very encouragingly and very enthusiastically at his arrival. He looks up at me, and very politely hoists his tongue up and licks the foam from his pug nose. And the way he does it, everything about him, makes me smile so completely. I say next what makes most sense, "Thank you Eustice." With a jerking motion, he moves his whole body to the side throws back his head and turns around, and just like that, he's off. (165)

What Alison Pace did so perfectly, in just a few short paragraphs, was describe the mannerisms of a pug in such a way that you almost feel like you're in the presence of one - or even better, that you want to get one for yourself. And despite whether you think they're the most adorable dog or the most hideous dog, you can't help but smile when there are pugs around.

As a pug lover, the title and overwhelming cuteness of the cover is what initially drew me to the book, but Pace's fun, jaunty writing style is what kept me reading, and what inevitably drew me to some of her other books. 

I'm not going to lie. This book is total chick lit. There will undoubtedly be people who read this book and feel frustrated at how neurotic and self-centered the main character is. Not to mention how neatly the book ends.  And I would normally be one of those critics.  I'm one who likes books to end neatly, but not so neatly that it feels contrived.  In the hands of a less dexterous author, the ending would have felt contrived. But with Pace's deft writing style and commitment to seeing the growth of her protagonist, this story works and just makes you feel good all over. A highly recommended title for anyone who needs to be jolted out of a funk from reading books full of grave, heavy-handed prose.

And, better still, if you loved the first installment of Pug Hill, Pace has written a sequel set to be released on June 7th called A Pug's Tale.
And coming soon, Alison Pace will be joining me here on the blog for an interview to talk about her new novel. 

Pug Hill by Alison Pace
Published: May 2006 by Berkley Trade
Pages: 312
Genre: Realistic fiction/chick lit
Audience: Adults (pug lovers!)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: Virtuosity by Jessica Martinez

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine and is meant to showcase upcoming books that you can't wait to read.

My anxiously awaited title this week is:

Virtuosity by Jessica Martinez
Expected Publication: October 18, 2011 by Simon Pulse
Pages: 304
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Audience: Young Adult

From Goodreads:
Now is not the time for Carmen to fall in love. Two weeks before the most important violin competition of her career, she has bigger things to worry about—like growing out of that suffocating “child prodigy” label, and not disappointing her mother. But it isn’t just the wrong time. It’s the wrong guy. Jeremy is Carmen’s most talented rival, and according to her mother, he’s only interested in one thing: winning.

He isn’t the only one.

Carmen is so desperate to win she takes anti-anxiety drugs to control performance nerves. But what started a year ago as an easy fix is now a hungry addiction. Her mother insists now is not the time to quit, but Carmen is sick of not feeling anything on stage and even more sick of doing what she’s told.

When the darker side of the classical music industry and her mother's ambition collide, Carmen must choose between her career and her love for music.

I have a huge affinity for stories about musicians. I played classical piano for 13 years and even planned to go to school for it when I got to college. But the reality set in - college music programs are ridiculously competitive (even at easy-to-get-in schools like the university I went to) with professors so intent on perfection and precision that it sucked the life out of any sort of love or passion I had for music. So I get stories about high-strung, competitive musicians. Even though I wasn't one, I certainly encountered some in my semester and a half as a university music student. 

I definitely have a vested interested in reading this story.  

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday: Books That Should Be Movies

This week's Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, is:

Top Ten Books That Should Be Movies:

1. The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Apparently my prediction that this book would become a movie within 5 years of publication came true because I just found out yesterday that it's set to come out some time this year! Yay!  I'm so happy about this! I can't tell you how much I adored the story and the characters in this book!

2. Prada and Prejudice by Mandy Hubbard
This would be such a perfect romantic comedy for Disney to produce. Something an Amy Adams type actress would be perfect for.

3. Wither by Lauren DeStefano
Let's ride this dystopian wave. Wither was such a thought-provoking read, I think it would be amazing on the big screen (especially the whole love triangle thing that audiences seem to clamor for).

4. The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex
I have been putting this book on every list lately, but I just can't get enough of it! I can picture this being the next great animated blockbuster. And Bahni Turpin (the narrator on the audio book) HAS to do J. Lo's voice! (for those of you who haven't read the book, that's J. Lo the alien, not Jennifer Lopez).

5. Across the Universe by Beth Revis
I think movie-goers need a good sci-fi mystery.  What do you think?

6. Half Brother by Kenneth Oppel
A family adopts a chimpanzee and raises him as their own child to see if chimps can acquire language.  There are tons of questions about ethics in this novel, along with Kenneth Oppel's amazing story telling ability. I read on Kenneth Oppel's Facebook page that this book has been optioned for a movie.  I really hope it becomes a movie!

7. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
Who wouldn't adore watching two hours of Etienne St. Clair on the big screen, in the perfectly romantic setting of Paris? If this doesn't become a movie someday there is no justice!

8. The Leisure Seeker by Michael Zadoorian
An elderly husband and wife, one dying of cancer, the other wasting away from Alzheimer's set out on one final roadtrip together along Route 66.  If done properly, with the right actors, this could be an award-winning film.

9. Monsoon Summer by Mitali Perkins
Not only was this book the perfect summer read, but it would be the perfect summer movie.  Filled with travel, teen angst, and young love.

10. Going Bovine by Libba Bray
I picked this book just because I want to see how perfectly ridiculous this movie would look on screen.  I think it would look like one giant acid trip.  I could totally picture Kevin Smith running with this story and making something purely genius from all the madness.

Wow!  I had a hard time choosing just ten.  I probably could have done a list of at least 25!