Tag Archives: upcoming release

My Beating Teenage Heart by C. K. Kelly Martin

My Beating Teenage Heart by C. K. Kelly Martin. To be published by Random House in September, 2011. Read in August, 2011. ARC provided by publisher at ALA Annual.

The plot of My Beating Teenage Heart is hard to describe without giving too much away. It is told in first person through the eyes of two different characters. In the beginning, they are both unnamed, so I am going to leave them this way. A girl is floating among the stars, unsure of where she is or why she is there. She begins to fall until she stops in a bedroom where she sees a teenage boy on his bed. He is not aware of her presence, and all she can figure out is that he is wracked with emotional pain. Going forward, the reader learns more, along with the girl, about these two characters. The chapters are told from both character’s perspectives.

I loved this book. LOVED it. Even when I thought I knew where Ms. Martin was taking me, she surprised at every turn. The characters sucked me in and I needed to see them through to the end. One of my favorite things about it was the healthy relationship the male character has with both his girlfriend and his best friend. He forgets their love at times, but they love him in a way that is real and true. I enjoyed reading a book where the people closest to a main character aren’t quick to betray or otherwise hurt their friend.

If there is another female author who writes male characters better than C. K. Kelly Martin, I haven’t read said author. I admit that I have only read two of her four novels (bad YA librarian!) but in the two I have read now, I Know It’s Over and My Beating Teenage Heart, Ms. Martin’s teen male characters are deep, emotional, thoughtful, honest, and could step off the page fully formed.

The last two chapters in particular will make you want to keep the tissues close at hand. Not a fluffy read; it will take you on an emotional journey and leave you feeling wrung out yet satisfied and hopeful. Will definitely be a 2011 favorite of mine, and I can’t wait to add it to my high school’s collection.

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Wildthorn by Jane Eagland

Wildthorn by Jane Eagland; read in July, 2010.  Copy provided through Netgalley by Houghton Mifflin
Harcourt.

Louisa Cosgrove is an independent-minded young woman living in Victorian-era England in Jane Eagland‘s Wildthorn.  The novel opens on Louisa traveling in a carriage towards what she believes will be a sort-of job.  When she arrives, she realizes that she has been delivered to an insane asylum!  The staff insist on calling her by another name and point out the identity confusion as proof that she is in the right place.  Why is Louisa here?  Is she really who she says she is?  Can she rely on any family members to help her, or is she stuck inside this oppressive place?

I shudder to think of the number of women who must have suffered similar fates; locked away because they did not have the desire to follow society’s rules at the time, punished for being smart and wanting to read.  (I would not have survived!)  I’ve always had a mild fascination with old insane asylums and sanitariums/sanatoriums, the reasons people entered the facilities, and how they were treated.  Ms. Eagland allows the reader to get a realistic glimpse into these details, especially as Louisa moves throughout the asylum and sees different levels of care.

The book kept me on my toes, trying to figure out how exactly Louisa ended up in the asylum.  I liked Louisa a lot, and found her believable and sympathetic.  Her family, on the other hand, all had their faults, and I felt sorry for her being stuck with them.  None of them are likable.  One female relative (I’ll avoid saying who because it could slightly spoil the plot twists) could be an exception, but in the end of the book, I disagreed with the choices she made.  I do think said choices are what women in that time period would have done, so I think it’s just something I need to accept in my head.  I liked Eliza and could appreciate her character development.  She reminded me of Martha in The Secret Garden, which is a comparison I have since seen mentioned elsewhere.

I will definitely be adding this to my high school library once it is released.  The cover is very eye-catching and will sell itself to a number of readers.  I look forward to reading her other book, Whisper My Name.

I am an Amazon Associate. If you click from here to Amazon and buy something, I receive a percentage of the purchase price.

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On a side note, this is the first full book I have read on a Kindle.  I don’t think I read it any slower or faster than a paper book, but I have to admit that at times, I was distracted.  The “page size” is too small.  The text size is fine, but I want the screen to be bigger, to fit more text on it.  I also took a while to get used to the button set-up.  I wanted the “next page” button to the left of the screen to be a “previous page” and I kept hitting that to go back.  It’s an older release, so it appears the buttons have changed.

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Thursday Tidbits 7/15/2010

Tidbits!

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Infinite Days by Rebecca Maizel

Infinite Days by Rebecca Maizel; read in July, 2010.  Copy provided by St. Martin’s Press for review.

Rebecca Maizel begins her new series with Infinite Days.  The novel opens on Lenah Beaudonte, beginning to panic when she wakes up and realizes she is lying naked in the sunlight, expecting to burst in to flames.  She soon learns that despite the past five centuries that she has spent as a vampire, her life has been changed; she is now human again, thanks to the selfless sacrifice made by her soul mate.  He took her away from her coven to allow her to build a new life.

She is now enrolled in a boarding school and begins to experience life as a “normal” 16-year-old.  Of course, normal is not really what she is, as she still possesses some of her vampire senses, and she cannot quite bring herself to feel safe in the sun.  Lenah becomes friends with an artist, Tony, and develops feelings for the golden-boy, Justin, who is the antithesis of the vampires she spent centuries with.  Yet, she knows the coven she created is out in the world and will track her down eventually – they need their queen.  How long can she live this human life when she knows her vampire past won’t rest until it finds her?

I really enjoyed this page-turning read.  It is a refreshing take on vampires.  So often, vampires are glamorized and romanticized; but Maizel depicts them as tortured creatures who yearn to be made human again – to feel again.  Lenah is a very interesting character.  She might take a bit to win you over, but it is because she is realistic and believable.  I loved her friend Tony – he was my favorite in the book.  I have to admit, I was never completely sold on Justin; he was too perfect and didn’t have much depth.  The glimpses the reader is given of the characters that make up Lenah’s coven are intriguing.  I look forward to getting to know all the characters further in the sequel.

While the YA vampire market is over saturated at this point, Infinite Days rises to the top and is worth reading.  The cover is extremely attractive and does not set up a false expectation for the story it contains.  I look forward to seeing this devoured by the fantasy fans in my high school library this fall.

Rebecca Maizel has a blog, and there is a GREAT trailer on You Tube for Infinite Days.

I am an Amazon Associate. If you click from here to Amazon and buy something, I receive a percentage of the purchase price.

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Thursday Tidbits

Today is my 1 year blogiversary!  Happy birthday, little blog!  Just a couple tidbits for today:

  • Puppy cam is back! The famous shiba inu who had her puppy cam once before has given birth to another litter.  Puppies always brighten a day!
  • I have long been a fan of Joshua Jackson, and I don’t hide it.  He’s my TV boyfriend.  Here is an awesome older interview (about a year old).  He talks about Fringe and buying his childhood home.  My favorite part is when he talks about slipping and calling himself Pacey on Fringe.
  • There are some exciting YA books due out this year!
  • February 2nd is less than a week away!  That day will bring the Oscar nominations and the final season of LOST! So exciting!
  • I sent home 3 packages from ALA Midwinter: 1 poster tube, 1 small package of books and 1 large box of books.  Both the poster tube and small package arrived last week, but my box is still MIA.  I am worried all those books will never arrive! I didn’t insure it or get a tracking number, unfortunately.
  • There was a great blog blitz of bloggers putting forth unsung YA lit and it is worth checking out.  I was glad to see some great titles on many lists!

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This World We Live In by Susan Beth Pfeffer

This World We Live In by Susan Beth Pfeffer: read January, 2010; ARC provided by publisher at ALA Midwinter (thank you so so much, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt – you were my first stop in the exhibit hall in the hopes of getting my hands on this one)

Susan Beth Pfeffer’s third book in the “Moon series” (a name adopted by fans/publishers) is written as Miranda’s diary, like the first book.  It picks up a month after Life As We Knew It left off.  Miranda confesses to not writing in a month so the reader knows right away that they have not missed anything.  It begins to rain occasionally, giving Miranda’s family hope that it will not always be cold and snowy.  Because of the spring-ish weather, Miranda’s two brothers decide to travel to a river to catch fish as a supplement to the weekly government bag of food .  They are gone for a week and return with fish AND a third person: Syl.  Syl is a young woman they met on the trip whom Miranda’s brother Matt quickly married.  Despite the reservations about such a quick marriage, the family begrudgingly accepts Syl into their home.  Learning to live and survive with a fifth person is not easy, though.

Soon, that number grows when the doorbell rings and Miranda welcomes more people into her house.  I don’t want to say anymore to avoid spoiling the rest of the book.  If you have not read the first two, you are missing out!

I love this series.  It is realistic about humanity, yet hopeful.  (I attempted to read One Second After this past weekend and besides the main character being a complete jerk, the book also made me lose faith in humankind.  If a disaster happens and things start to resemble that book, I think I’ll just kill myself.)  Miranda never becomes perfect – she is always a teenager, but she does grow over time.  Because this is written as Miranda’s diary, there is a bit of distance from Alex, whom I missed despite the fact that he does show up.

SPOILER ALERT:  I never completely bought the main romance.  I get that in this setting, people would tend to have more sudden couplings, but this was just wonky.  It went from, “Hm, a person of the opposite sex whom I am not related to is cute” to “Alex is annoying” to “Alex is a rare boy my age but not exciting” to “OMG ILOVEYOUALEXTRULUV4EVA.”  I would have bought it with more banter or fighting or conversations or stolen glances or love/hate stuff going on. But I can buy why two people in this situation would be drawn to each other. END SPOILERS

There are no miraculous recoveries here – no one figures out how to knock the moon back in to place.  Pfeffer does a wonderful job describing the terrible things that happen but building in hope that the survivors will find a way to stay alive.  While I appreciate the ending point, I am dying to know about where the characters end up and what it is like there.

Overall, I loved the book.  I don’t love it as much as I love the first one, but it is probably neck and neck with the second in my mind.  You MUST read the first two, and if you like those, you will like This World We Live In.

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Hate List by Jennifer Brown – review and contest!

hatelist

From Good Reads:

Five months ago, Valerie Leftman’s boyfriend, Nick, opened fire on their school cafeteria. Shot trying to stop him, Valerie inadvertently saved the life of a classmate, but was implicated in the shootings because of the list she helped create. A list of people and things she and Nick hated. The list he used to pick his targets.

Now, after a summer of seclusion, Val is forced to confront her guilt as she returns to school to complete her senior year. Haunted by the memory of the boyfriend she still loves and navigating rocky relationships with her family, former friends and the girl whose life she saved, Val must come to grips with the tragedy that took place and her role in it, in order to make amends and move on with her life.

When hearing about school shootings, one might ask, “How did this go unnoticed until it was too late?” Reading Hate List and Columbine really helps you see how some signs are never there, or are never taken seriously. Hate List is a work of fiction, but Jennifer Brown must have spent some time researching school shootings because her book feels very authentic.

The novel moves about a bit – mostly going forward starting with Valerie’s first day back at school for her senior year, but it also jumps back occasionally to scenes in Nick and Val’s relationship, the day of the shooting, and her recovery over the summer. Each change in time fits in with the story structure. Also included are some newspaper articles from the town’s local paper. Most of these articles focus on a single victim of the shooting – who they were, what people say happened to them that day. My only complaint about these articles (and it’s really my only complaint with the book, and it’s possible that it could be fixed since this is just an ARC) is that all the articles are dated May 3rd, the day after the shooting. But some of the articles reference things that seem to need more than 24 hours to happen. One girl, Lin Yong (pg 234 in my copy) was hit in the arm with a bullet. The article says she’d had 4 surgeries already and is trying to learn to write with her left hand. It really took me out of the moment to question the realism of this girl having 4 arm surgeries and already re-learning to write in 24 hours. Maybe it’s possible? It just felt like an article that would be written a couple months later, not within 24 hours of the shooting. The articles are helpful to fill in details on characters and what people think about Nick and Valerie.

The character of Valerie broke my heart. Brown has created a fully-formed character. I understood the negativity she built up towards people as an outcast and how the Hate List she created with Nick was a way of venting for her. I cannot blame her for thinking that Nick was not serious about the list. I remember writing notes with my BFF Christi in 9th grade, saying we wished our English teacher would fall in a lake and drown because of the big rock necklace she always wore. Neither of us ever actually thought it would happen or plotted to make it happen. People commiserate in bad situations like high school bullying.

Valerie has a harder time accepting this. She knows that she didn’t ask Nick to bring a gun to school, but she is aware that most of the school thinks she did. She feels guilty because she misses Nick, the Nick who read Shakespeare to her and helped her escape from her house when her parents’ marriage began to crumble. How can she have missed a whole other side of Nick? And does that mean that side exists in her, too? That she just hasn’t realized it yet?

As Valerie works to recover, she has a rough road to travel on. Her parents no longer trust her, her friends no longer speak to her. She was already an outcast at school but this just makes it worse. Even some teachers eye her warily. The school principal is in denial that bullying still exists in the school. Valerie’s biggest supporter is her therapist, who is AWESOME. She also finds some surprising allies along the way as she learns that not everyone has just one side to them, and you need to look closely to see all their facets. Val must begin to work towards letting go of Nick, healing from that terrible day, and moving on with her life.

I couldn’t put this book down once I picked it up, and the end had me in tears. I can’t wait to buy this for my library and start recommending it to my students. The book comes out in September.

5 stars

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Thanks to Hachette, I have one ARC of Hate List to give away. The contest will run from today, July 17th through Thursday, July 23rd at 5 pm. Leave a comment on this post for one entry. You can get one additional entry for each place you post about this contest, such as your blog or Twitter. Please leave links to where these are so I can keep track of how many entries you get. ALSO, please provide a way I can reach you if you win – email, etc. Good luck!

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