Thursday, November 30, 2006

Review: Boys That Bite by Mari Mancusi

Boys That Bite is Mari Mancusi's entertaining story of a case of mistaken identity. A really, really bad case of mistaken identity, but an understandable one; Sunny and Rayne are identical twins, and, as their names suggest, they are as different as night and day (or sun and rain).

Rayne wanted to become a vampire. Eternal life? Sounds great! Not so much, though, to Sunny, who just wants to be a normal, happy high school girl. Unfortunately, Sunny is the one who gets bitten by Magnus, a good looking vampire who was supposed to be Rayne's blood mate. No fair! Rayne was the one who took all the classes and got on the waiting list (yes, Mancusi's vampires have classes and waiting lists to become one of them), but Sunny is the one who scored eternal life with a hottie!

Unfortunately for her, Sunny doesn't want any of it. She wants to be able to stay out in the sunshine, keep to her vegetarian lifestyle, and go to the prom! And she doesn't want Magnus, either...right?

In order to reverse her transformation, Magnus and Sunny have to find the Holy Grail. Don't worry; it sounds a lot harder than it is. Not to say that that's an easy task, though. But does Sunny even want to be human again...or is she falling for a creature of the night?

This is a fabulous vampire story! I've read a few lately, and this one is, I think, the best. Sunny is a fabulous character, and the rest of them are quite realistic (well, as realistic as a vampire can be in Magnus's case) as well. The plot was fun and absorbing, with adventure, vampires (and putting vampires in any story makes it way cooler...at least to Buffy-addicted readers like me), and even romance. This take on vampires is very different from most (these vampires are high-tech and organized), but that makes the book, if anything, cooler. Mari Mancusi is a fantastic writer, and this book had me hooked right from the beginning! The ending was a little bit of a cliffhanger, but not unbearably so; there's plenty of resolution in the ending as well. Fortunately, there's a sequel--Stake That!, which is currently on my to-read shelf. Expect a review soon!

Rating: 9.7/10

Review: Megan Meade's Guide to the McGowan Boys by Kate Brian

Megan has always moved around a lot, but this time her living situation has changed even more drastically than usual. When she refused to pack up and move to South Korea with her parents, both in the army, they proposed another option: spending her last two years of high school living in Boston with the McGowans. John McGowan is an old friend of her father's. What makes this so different? The fact that the McGowans have seven sons. Megan is an only child, and can't imagine living with seven boys!

Life with Evan, Sean, Finn, Caleb, Ian, Miller, and Doug McGowan is as foreign to Megan as South Korea would have been. Her best friend from Texas, Tracy, even calls it an immersion experience; Megan will go in clueless and come out speaking the language of boys!

Even if the McGowan boys and Megan are supposed to be siblings, they don't exactly relate that way. After all, they haven't seen each other since they were little kids. Now Megan is in hostile territory; she's not exactly welcomed by each of the nine members of the McGowan family (though Regina, John's wife, is more than thrilled to have another female in the house, taking tomboyish Megan on shopping sprees and to the spa). And then there's the fact that Finn and Evan are, well, HOT. And John and Regina even had a family meeting to tell the kids that they're all siblings now...but siblings don't want to kiss each other.

On top of dealing with the drama of living with the McGowan boys, Megan also has to handle starting over at a new school. She gets off to a good start when she makes the soccer team and even a few new possible friends, but that quickly goes sour when she is targeted by Hailey, Evan's girlfriend who's jealous of Megan's talent on the soccer field and living situation. Can Megan handle Boston and the McGowan boys, or will South Korea turn out the be the easy option?

Megan Meade's Guide to the McGowan Boys is a fantastically fun book! It's full of great characters; even the minor characters seem three-dimensional. Kate Brian is a talented writer, and this novel is an awesome page-turner. I devoured this book; I read at every spare moment and took less than 24 hours to finish it--on a weekday! Megan's transition from shy to outspoken didn't feel one hundred percent real to me, but that was only a tiny issue; the book was still great. Like Ally Carter's book, it was one that definitely felt like there could be a sequel in the works (which is exciting), but that didn't stop it from being a complete (and completely awesome) story on its own.

Rating: 9.5/10

**This review is also posted on TeensReadToo.com**

Review: Homefree by Nina Wright

Homefree caught my attention with a pretty cool cover: the title and author on a tree-shaped air freshner hanging from a car's rearview mirror. I know, I know; don't judge a book by its cover. Still, though, it's got to have something to get me hooked, and a cool cover definitely does that!

The book was pretty cool as well. It's the story of Easter Hutton and her newfound, ah, talents. Sure, Easter's life does kind of suck; her dad was a junkie who she thinks is in Mexico now, her mother has remarried quite a few times and her stepfathers haven't been any better than her real one, and her mother keeps moving them from place to place, so Easter is always an outsider. However, her time at this new school in Florida is different. Not that the school itself is particularly different from all of the others she's attended, but it is while she is daydreaming in class that she begins to discover she has the power to astral project. Now that is different.

Easter's talents bring her to Homefree, an organization for kids with talents like Easter's. It turns out her old friend Andrew from Atlanta is post-cognitive (he can see people's pasts). A few other people from Easter's past turn out to have paranormal gifts as well, and Easter has to help them all out, even though she's not finished helping herself; could those two be one in the same?

Nina Wright's novel is a quick read and a fun one. It's a little too fast-paced, though. More often things are not fast-paced enough, but the opposite can happen as well. This could have been better if the two main focuses of the novel--Easter discovering her own talents and Easter helping other gifted teenagers--had been broken up into two books of this size, with each one taking about twice as long. I felt it was a bit rushed through, leaving it with two plot arcs in one book, which was a little strange. It was still a good book, though, and a good story with characters I really enjoyed. Easter is a likeable character, and I hope to see more about her in the future!

Rating: 8/10

Review: I'd Tell You I Love You But Then I'd Have To Kill You by Ally Carter

I'd Tell You I Love You But Then I'd Have To Kill You is definitely an interesting title. Doesn't it just have you itching to know more? I sure was intrigued by this title, and I'm happy to say that, while on a train headed for Philadelphia last Wednesday, I had an opportunity to read this book that's been calling to me from my to-read shelf. I was not disappointed; Ally Carter's book is awesome!

Cammie Morgan is a student at the Gallagher Academy For Exceptional Young Women. It is a school for geniuses, technically, but everyone in the building (and very, very few people outside it) knows what's really going on. These girls are being trained to be spies.

Of course, no one's forcing them to take up epsionage for a living once they graduate, but it's pretty easy to figure out what they're meant to do; they study code breaking, martial arts, and, once they're sophomores (like Cammie and her friends), Covert Operations. And it's not every school that had an alert system for when visitors come that hides every trace of what people do there every day and turns it into a regular boarding school for rich girls (the way the people in the surrounding town think the Gallagher Academy is).

Speaking of the people in town, Cammie actually meets one of them on her first Covert Operations mission! The mission does not go as well as it could, but something miraculous does happen: Cammie, who hasn't really known any boys for years, and is known for her ability to become invisible at school (a compliment at a school like hers), is noticed by a boy.

Josh is a rather cute boy, too. And the fact that he notices Cammie makes them practically soul mates already! Of course, things are never as simple as they seem. Even though Cammie and her friends can hack into Josh's email and implant a tracker in his shoe to make sure he's not trying to infiltrate the school through her, there's something Cammie isn't sure she can pull off: being a normal girl, especially when Josh can't find out the truth about Cammie's life. Can she and Josh be together, despite all of the obstacles in their way?

Ally Carter has written a fun page-turner in ITYILYBTIHTKY (wow, even shortening the title is really long), with a pretty awesome idea behind it, too; spies are inherently interesting (like pirates or superheroes), and teenage girl spies, also struggling with the dilemmas facing normal teenagers even without the added problems caused by the whole secret life thing, are even cooler! Ally Carter's book is a quick and funny read that lives up to the expectations set by the revelations made by the jacket copy, with its interesting characters, cool gadgets, and romance. The book is one of the best kind--set up for a sequel (and who wouldn't want more about Cammie and her friends and family?), but still a great story by itself. And readers are in luck--the next book starring the Gallagher Girls, Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy, will be out sometime next fall!

Rating: 10/10

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Cool Contests

Here are a couple more contests! Note the deadlines.

Ending Sunday, October 19th: Jenine Wilson is giving away a copy of her novel, The Shadow Within! See details on her blog, here. All you have to do is check out the link to the teaser page for her next novel, and leave a comment on the blog post giving that link!

Ending 30 November: Enter Rachel's cupcake photo contest! Rachel Cohn is giving away an ARC of Cupcake, which won't be released until January. I can't wait to read it; she's a fantastic author! If you haven't read her other books, check them out! Contest details here.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Contests

I haven't been doing a great job of finding contests lately, but here's what I have found for the month of November:

YABC
: You could win a copy of Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez's awesome book, Haters! Contest details here & see my review here.

As always, TeensReadToo.com has a monthly contest going on! This month, they're giving away copies of Kitty Goes Californian, Dear Zoe, Before I Go, and Fangs4Freaks. Also on the page are details about an essay contest and a contest to win jewelery. Details here.

On Bookburger, you could win a copy of Nicholas Sparks' latest. That's not YA, but they do have pretty regular contests on there. All you have to do is sign up for the b-list (their newsletter)!

So, you probably know I really like the Internet Book Database. You may not, however, have known that they give away free books every month! It's true. All you have to do is sign up and make sure your full mailing address is entered in your profile, and you're eligible to win!

Ally Carter (whose first book is on my to read stack) has revealed the title of book number two! Sort of. It's in code, and there are prizes for those who can crack it! Read all about it on Ally's blog, here.

Flamingnet has book giveaways for members every month. Sign up here!

Review: Cathy's Book

Cathy's Book: If Found call (650) 266-8233 is being marketed as a new kind of young adult novel. It's interactive, with a pocket of 'evidence', real phone numbers and websites, and other extras to help you learn more about the case. To be honest, though, that wasn't what made me love this book. Sure, the extras are cool and all, but I don't think they are necessary (and that's a compliment to the book, really!). Cathy's Book could have stood on its own as a wonderful young adult novel.

It's the story of, as the title suggests, a girl named Cathy. I suppose she's fairly normal at first (though she is a better artist than most of us--I love the drawings in this book!), but she quickly finds herself mixed up in some shady business, due to her involvement with Victor, her older possible-boyfriend. I can't say too much without giving away the awesome plot twists, but nothing turns out the way you think it will! It all comes together quite nicely in the end, though. The startling revelations that finish this story, however, could set up a great sequel, and I hope that one is at least being considered!

Cathy's Book is fantastic for a number of reasons. There are great pictures (and usually I'm not a fan of pictures in novels--I think it distracts from the writing), it's well-written, the characters (especially Cathy) are realistic, and the plot is quite suspenseful! It's not all action and suspense, though--there's a bit of romance thrown in (that is, after all, the reason for Cathy's involvement in the first place), which makes it fun. The only thing that might subtract from the awesomeness of this book, I think, is the fact that the publishers or whoever made this decision seemed to think the great story needed 'extras' to make it worth reading. None of the press I've read on this book mentions the great novel; instead, it talks about the 'extras.' That is not what makes this book worth it, not at all!

Rating: 9.5/10

**This review is also posted on TeensReadToo.com**

Reviews (for teensreadtoo.com)

Recently, I started reviewing books for teensreadtoo.com. Since I haven't been writing many reviews here lately (sorry about that!), I thought I'd post a list of reviews I've written for TRT. Check out their other reviews and stuff, too!

Anyway, here's the list (so far--I have a stack of books by my computer for TRT and this blog that I need to review!):

Chasing The Jaguar by Michele Dominguez Greene
Devilish by Maureen Johnson
Is He Or Isn't He? by John Hall
Joker by Ranulfo
Lulu Dark and the Summer of the Fox by Bennett Madison