Tuesday, May 31, 2011

"It was dumb to move away for a fresh start if you didn't actually give yourself one."

Brooke Berlin seems to have it all--an LA mansion, amazing clothes and shoes, friends who worship her, and enemies who cower at her feet. However, she is unable to attain the one thing she really wants: attention from her superstar father Brick Berlin.

Molly Dix lives a quiet life in Indiana until her mother passes away. Her mother Laurel's dying wish is to have Molly live with her long-lost father, Brick Berlin. She is suddenly thrust into the spotlight--and she becomes Brooke's sister--or as Brooke sees it: her main competition.

In order to force Brooke and Molly to get along after Molly's disastrous introduction to Hollywood, Brick forces the girls to share a room and work on a play together. At the same time, they are torn apart by gossip and Brooke's arch-nemesis, Shelby Kendall.

Molly remembers great advice from Laurel throughout the book which helps her cope with her new circumstances. Whenever Molly thought about something her mom would have told her it reminded me of the stories I have heard about moms who are terminally ill, but take time to leave behind letters and videos to get their children through milestone events.

Spoiled by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan is fun, but not as fluffy as the cover might suggest--there's a lot of work on relationships, friendships, and parenting going on throughout the book. Cocks and Morgan left the door open with several loose ends. The big question becomes: will there be a sequel? I'm sure readers will want to know more about Brooke and her mother, how Brick and Brooke repair their relationship with Molly, and a budding romance. Tell us more!

Spoiled, published by Little, Brown/Poppy, will be available in June 1, 2011. ARC from publisher.

PS: My favorite part? Molly and her boyfriend from Indiana have a ritual of telling each other how much they love one another:

"Just remember, I love you like Homer Simpson loves beer." "Like a mean kid loves dodgeball." "Like a dog loves a fire hydrant."

Reading this cracked me up. Can you think of some more awesome and endearing ways to love someone?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

"Without forgiveness, we'd all be walking this Earth angry and alone, and I think that would suck."

Confession: I love collaborative books. I'd like to think that if I
write a book, it would be in alternating chapters with another author because the dynamic makes me so happy as a reader. Notes From The Blender by Trish Cook and Brendan Halpin is no exception.

Declan and Neilly are only children of single parents. Declan's mom died when he was young and Neilly's parents are divorced. Both teens are comfortable and as happy as an angsty teens can be--until their parents turn their lives upside down with the announcement that they are getting married AND having a baby. They are about to become part of a blended family.

Both shocked and mortified, Declan (who has a crush on Neilly) has to face the fact that his father is moving on from mourning his mother. Neilly, whose thick skin has already weathered the revelation that her father is gay, can't believe that her mother is pregnant.

Notes From The Blender is hilarious and irreverent--a great combination. I giggled out loud while Declan suffered the reality of Neilly becoming more of a sister than a love interest. However, I also loved the serious parts where both Declan and Neilly came to terms with some of the big issues that had previously held them back.

Notes From The Blender is available at your local bookstore or library today. Happy Book Birthday, Trish and Brendan!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

"But how had that happened? Was everything we had not really ours? And the life we'd led, was none of it real?"

What would happen if your father lost his job? For 13-year-old Irene, this becomes reality and she is forced to leave her posh Manhattan penthouse and live with her parents at her grandfather's farm in the country. At first Irene has a difficult time adjusting to being away from her friends and having her belongings in storage. Eventually she makes friends and learns that living with her grandfather is not as bad as she might have thought.

Everything I Was by Corinne Demas is a book that addresses the realities of the current economy and how a family's life can be changed overnight. I wonder, though, if it will reach its intended audience with the current cover (the version at left is shown on the ARC, on IndieBound.org, and on Corinne Demas' website). When I requested the galley from Net Galley, I had no idea that this was a middle-grade appropriate novel. I asked several students how old the girl on the cover was and no one guessed even close to Irene's age (13). A cover makeover would really improve the appeal of this book. Most teens who pick it up are going to have completely different expectations based upon the cover.

Everything I Was will be published by Lerner in April 2011. Read from Net Galley on my NOOKcolor.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

"Even a bird in a box can get free if he uses his wits."

Living in Michigan, I often hear stories about Joe Louis. There is even a statue of his fist in downtown Detroit--a must-see if you ever visit. I was excited to read the author's note at the beginning of Bird in a Box by Andrea Davis Pinkney and find out that it is set against the backdrop of several famous Joe Louis boxing matches. Bird in a Box is the story of three children, Hibernia Lee Tyson, Willie, and Otis, and how their lives intersect throughout 1936-1937 in Elmira, New York.

Hibernia, who lives with her father, the Reverend at the True Vine Baptist Church, was born to sing. However, her mother has left the family to pursue a singing career and the Reverend is not interested in having Hibernia follow the same path. As Hibernia aptly explains, "Time and time again, I have tried to tell the reverend that to deny me the opportunity to present my vocal abilities to a dance-floor crowd is to trap my God-given gifts under a butterfly net."

Willie, an aspiring boxer himself, lives with his mother and father. His father, Sampson, is a violent drunk. After a terrible incident with Sampson, Willie's mother sends him to the safety of Mercy, an orphanage. At Mercy, Willie meets Lila, a caretaker who has recently begun attending True Vine Baptist Church and Otis, whose parents have been killed in a recent accident. The boys become fast friends and allies who also share a love of listening to Joe Louis fights on Otis' most prized possession, a Philco radio that belonged to his father.

When Lila invites the True Vine youth choir to sing for the children at Mercy during the holidays, Otis develops a crush on Hibernia. Both Lila and Willie help Otis as he offers Hibernia an important piece of himself. We also get to see Hibernia break through her father's concerns about singing and truly shine on a public stage and Willie work to overcome the tragic family events that landed him at Mercy.

I was interested to read about people gathering within the community to listen to the boxing matches on the radio. It's hard to imagine a time when media wasn't at our fingertips, but Pinkney's novel helps explain the radio my grandmother keeps on a shelf in her living room to this day. I also loved the voice of each character in the book. Lila is compassionate and kind, she cares for the children at Mercy as if they were her own. Willie and Otis are feisty boys who develop a strong and amazing friendship. Hibernia is sassy, smart, and interesting--my kind of girl!

There are some great historical notes at the end of the book about the real people and places mentioned within the text and a section of additional reading (one of my favorite things!)

And, as a side note, I LOVE this cover and can't wait to see the art in the finished copy!

Bird in a Box will be published by Little, Brown in April 2011. Read from Net Galley on my NOOKcolor.