April 30, 2010

Review: "The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner's Dilemma"

"The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner's Dilemma"
by Trenton Lee Stewart



3

Pub. Date: October 6, 2009
Pages: 400

Synopsis: Join the Mysterious Benedict Society as Reynie, Kate, Sticky, and Constance embark on a daring new adventure that threatens to force them apart from their families, friends, and even each other. When an unexplained blackout engulfs Stonetown, the foursome must unravel clues relating to a nefarious new plot, while their search for answers brings them closer to danger than ever before. Filled with page-turning action and mind-bending brain teasers, this wildly inventive journey is sure to delight.

I loved the first two books in this series, but "The Prisoner's Dilemma" moved too slowly for me. I realized I was more than halfway through the book and very little had happened. I love Constance and was happy to learn more about her past, but I felt like most of the book was spent focusing on her past. It was just too much for me. I did listen to this book in audio, so maybe that's why it seemed so bad, but this book just didn't have the fast pace the first two books had. The characters also never seemed to be in that grave of danger for most of the book. They may have been taking a few risks, but none of them seemed that serious in comparison to some of their other adventures. Mr. Curtain was still vicious, but Stewart took some time to show a different side of him. This was another area of the book that slowed down the plot for me.

I did overall like the book and would recommend the series, but I was still surprised that it didn't have the intensity of the other books. The book was really heartwarming and I absolutely loved the ending. I still loved the characters and enjoyed their adventures. Even though Stewart seemed to wrap up the series in "The Prisoner's Dilemma", part of me wants another book just to see the characters in one more death-defying adventure.

Book Review Policy, Author Interviews, and Author Events



Book Review Policy

Timing

I wish I could say I was a super-fast reader, but sadly I am a bit of a slow poke. Sometimes I can read a book in a day or two, while other books will take me a week. I will do my best to get to any books up for review in a timely manner, but I do have a "To Be Read" pile that I try to stick to.


What I Like to Read

I read a wide variety of books, but for the purposes of this blog please only send me books marketed for teens or that involve teen characters with teen audience appeal. My favorite teen genres are fantasy, sci-fi, horror, paranormal romance, realistic fiction, and adventure books. I also enjoy romance, mysteries, and historical fiction. The only genre that I don't usually read is non-fiction, but I do enjoy that from time to time.

My Reviews

I am very honest in my reviews and sometimes I just plain don't like a book, but I always try to simply give my opinion and ultimately let it be known that I am just one person. I will not sugar coat my opinions, but I don't bash authors or books either.

Format

I do have a Nook, so I do accept Barnes and Noble ebooks. If the book is an e-pub or PDF file and compatible with the Nook, then I would be glad to accept that as well. ARCs and finished copies are also welcome.


Author Interviews

If you would like me to add an author interview or anything else to my blog, I would be happy to do one via e-mail. With my crazy work schedule I usually have issues finding time to make calls at reasonable hours of the day and night, this means that phone interviews would be very difficult for me to swing. I doubt many authors would be up to face-to-face interviews, but let me know if this would be their preferred method. Just be sure to keep in mind that I am from Massachusetts.


Author Events

If any teen authors would be interested in doing a signing or another type of event at a small town library outside of the Boston Area, then please let me know. Our library has a teen area and we are always looking for new events to host!

Contacting Me

Feel free to contact me at abookdork (a) gmail (dot) com with any questions, books you would like reviewed, or anything else I can help you with.

April 26, 2010

Review of "Marcelo in the Real World"

"Marcelo in the Real World"
by Francisco X. Stork



6


Pub. Date: March 3rd, 2009
Pages: 320

Synopsis: Marcelo Sandoval hears music no one else can hear--part of the autism-like impairment no doctor has been able to identify--and he's always attended a special school where his differences have been protected. But the summer after his junior year, his father demands that Marcelo work in his law firm's mailroom in order to experience "the real world." There Marcelo meets Jasmine, his beautiful and surprising coworker, and Wendell, the son of another partner in the firm.

He learns about competition and jealousy, anger and desire. But it's a picture he finds in a file -- a picture of a girl with half a face -- that truly connects him with the real world: its suffering, its injustice, and what he can do to fight.

Reminiscent of "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time" in the intensity and purity of its voice, this extraordinary novel is a love story, a legal drama, and a celebration of the music each of us hears inside.

I absolutely LOVED this book! Stork is a writer who knows how to tell a story. Not only was the plot interesting, but also beautifully written. Marcelo is a wonderful character and I enjoyed seeing the world through his eyes. I loved watching him mature as the summer unfolded. I understood why Marcelo's father wanted him to look at the law firm, but part of me was disappointed that Marcelo couldn't work with the pony's like he had been planning. Even though this happened at the beginning of the book, I truly felt how upsetting this change was to Marcelo. It surprised me how much I cared for him as a character so early on in the book. Some of the challenges that Marcelo faced were things I expected, but Stork surprised me with the ethical and moral decisions that Marcelo was forced to confront.

Another thing that really surprised me about the book was how honest the characters were. None of the characters were perfect, they all had flaws that were flushed out. This made them all feel more realistic, which made me fall in love with them all the more. Arturo, Marcelo's dad, is a character that I struggled with throughout the book. I agreed with Marcelo’s mother that he was just trying to do the best for him, but at the same time it seemed like he was concerned about what society thought about his family. My feelings about him got even more complicated by the end of the book (I would explain but I would be giving away too much), but sometimes family relationships are the most complicated ones that we have.

I wasn't sure where working at the law firm would take him, but the end of the book pleasantly surprised me. "Marcelo in the Real World" has mature language and deals with topics such as sexual exploitation; I would recommend this book to most readers, but I felt you should be aware of some of this content. Even though this is a beautiful story, it is also very realistic and doesn't sugarcoat life. There is a lot of religious discussion in the book, but it does not focus on one religion. I was not raised as a religious person, so I wasn't sure if this aspect of the book would bother me; however, Stork was able to bring it into a book in a way that doesn't feel preachy or exclusive. I truly feel that this is one of those rare books able to combine all my favorite elements that leaving me awed and content.

April 22, 2010

Review of "Heist Society" by Ally Carter

"Heist Society"
by Ally Carter


5

Pub. Date:
February 9, 2010
Pages: 304

Synopsis: When Katarina Bishop was three, her parents took her to the Louvre . . . to case it. For her seventh birthday, Katarina and her Uncle Eddie traveled to Austria . . . to steal the crown jewels. When Kat turned fifteen, she planned a con of her own — scamming her way into the best boarding school in the country, determined to leave the family business behind. Unfortunately, leaving “the life” for a normal life proves harder than she’d expected. Soon, Kat’s friend and former co-conspirator, Hale, appears out of nowhere to bring her back into the world she tried so hard to escape. But he has good reason: a powerful mobster’s priceless art collection has been stolen and he wants it returned. Only a master thief could have pulled off this job, and Kat’s father isn’t just on the suspect list, he is the list. Caught between Interpol and a far more deadly enemy, Kat’s dad needs her help. For Kat there is only one solution: track down the paintings and steal them back. So what if it’s a spectacularly impossible job? She’s got two weeks, a teenage crew, and, hopefully, just enough talent to pull off the biggest heist in her family’s (very crooked) history — and with any luck, steal her life back along the way.

Ally Carter’s “Heist Society” had me hooked from the first chapter. Even though I knew the basic premise of the book, I loved how Carter took her time developing Kat’s character. Even though we have an idea about her past, she really gets flushed out as the story continues and when new characters are introduced. Kat’s relationship with Hale was another highlight to the story. It is clear that they both have feelings for each other, but it is interesting to see how their flirty friendship unfolds. I also really enjoyed meeting Kat’s family, both her relatives and the one she made for herself in the life of crime.

The plot of the story was very fast past. Arturo Taccone made a great villain for the story and I truly feared for Kat’s father’s safety. Even when the characters came up with plans they thought would work, there would be a twist or something would go wrong and I started worrying all over. Some sacrifices were made and I'm not sure if I would be brave enough to make those decisions. The characters really surprised me how much they were willing to give up in order to help the people they loved.

I was never really interested in reading any of Ally Carter's books before, but now I think I might try her "Gallagher Girls" Series. I just couldn't put "Heist Society" down and I have heard really great things about the rest of her books. I hope that Carter starts on the next book in the series soon, because I can't wait to see what she has in store for her characters.

April 20, 2010

Review "Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side"

"Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side"
By Beth Fantaskey

4

Pub. Date: February 2, 2009
Pages: 368

Synopsis:

The undead can really screw up your senior year . . .

Marrying a vampire definitely doesn’t fit into Jessica Packwood’s senior year “get-a-life” plan. But then a bizarre (and incredibly hot) new exchange student named Lucius Vladescu shows up, claiming that Jessica is a Romanian vampire princess by birth—and he’s her long-lost fiancĂ©. Armed with newfound confidence and a copy of Growing Up Undead: A Teen Vampire’s Guide to Dating, Health, and Emotions, Jessica makes a dramatic transition from average American teenager to glam European vampire princess. But when a devious cheerleader sets her sights on Lucius, Jess finds herself fighting to win back her wayward prince, stop a global vampire war—and save Lucius’s soul from eternal destruction.

This book was a lot of fun and I was surprised how refreshing it was to read compared to other vampire books. Jessica was an interesting character to follow. She seemed a little childish at parts, but overall surprised me at the end. I liked the whole idea of being born a vampire and how there is more too it than just being bitten. The guide, "Growing Up Undead: A Teen Vampire's Guide to Dating, Health, and Emotions" was a really fun touch to Fantaskey's book; however, my favorite part of the entire book was reading Lucius's letters to his uncle. The rest of the book focuses more on Jessica, but the letters give real insight into Lucius. The letters are funny and it is interesting to see how a foreign vampire reacts to American culture. The letters are about serious things, but Lucius can't help but throw in amusing pop culture references.

Even though I found the beginning of the book a bit slow, it picked up towards the middle of the book and the ending was great. I liked how the characters' were able to surprise me throughout the book. This book is essentially a vampire romance, but the book also has a wider appeal because of the focus of family and self-discovery. Jessica's adopted parents aren't exactly the type that would help your social standings, but their love for her is as strong as any parent's. Jessica's struggle to accept her true identity is something that many people struggle with everyday. Jessica even has issues in high school with bullies and being teased by the popular crowd.

"Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side" is a fun book that will appeal to those who aren't normally fans of paranormal books. I can't wait to read Fantaskey's next book "Jeckel Loves Hyde". If she can create a unique storyline out of a vampire book, I can't wait to see what she can do with "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde".

April 15, 2010

Review of "The Perks of Being a Wallflower"

"The Perks of Being a Wallflower"
Stephen Chbosky



5

Pub. Date: February 2, 1999
Pages: 224

Synopsis:

Standing on the fringes of life...

offers a unique perspective. But there comes a time to see what it looks like from the dance floor.

This haunting novel about the dilemma of passivity vs. passion marks the stunning debut of a provocative new voice in contemporary fiction: The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

This is the story of what it's like to grow up in high school. More intimate than a diary, Charlie's letters are singular and unique, hilarious and devastating. We may not know where he lives. We may not know to whom he is writing. All we know is the world he shares. Caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it puts him on a strange course through uncharted territory. The world of first dates and mixed tapes, family dramas and new friends. The world of sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, when all one requires is that perfect song on that perfect drive to feel infinite.

Through Charlie, Stephen Chbosky has created a deeply affecting coming-of-age story, a powerful novel that will spirit you back to those wild and poignant roller coaster days known as growing up.

I loved this book so much, I wish I could go back in time and read it in high school. Even though parts of the story were heartbreaking, Charlie's character pulled me through the story. I loved how the kids were so into Rocky Horror in the book. In college I know a lot of people who loved the movie and even dressed up like the characters on Halloween to perform in front of the screen during a viewing of the film. "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" deals with issues that a lot of teens can relate to. Charlie struggles with coming into his sexuality, while some of his friends struggle with harassment because of their sexual preference. Abuse and drug use are also topics in the book.

The book is written in letters to an anonymous reader that is never revealed in the book, allowing Charlie to be honest about his experiences. The reader gets an intimate look into some of the characters more awkward moments that make up any teenagers life. Music is also used throughout the book to describe Charlie's feelings and emotions. Readers can get a greater understanding of Charlie's feelings by listening to the music he describes in the book. Through Chbosky's storytelling, an introverted teen like Charlie is able to share his inner most feelings with the reader.

Even though I would recommend this book to most teens, I do warn that it does have difficult content and use mature language. It may not be for everyone, but I think most teens will relate to the characters in this book.

Operation Teen Book Drop


I have dropped my books off in the town of Dover. I have never participated in this event, so I'm not really sure if I need to write anything else. Some of the books I dropped were "If I Stay", "The Lost Days: Emily the Strange", "Jake Ransom and the Skull King's Shadow", "My Soul to Save", "Ivy", and about 5 more titles.
If you want to learn more about Operation Teen Book Drop, just click here or on the image above.

Review of "Little Miss Red"- Robin Palmer

"Little Miss Red"
Robin Palmer

3

Pub. Date: Febuary 09, 2010
Pages: 272

Synopsis:
Sophie Greene gets good grades, does the right thing, and has a boyfriend that her parents— and her younger brother—just love. (Too bad she doesn't love him.) Sophie dreams of being more like Devon Deveraux, star of her favorite romance novels, but, in reality, Sophie isn't even daring enough to change her nail polish. All of that changes when Sophie goes to Florida to visit her grandma Roz, and she finds herself seated next to a wolfishly goodlooking guy on the plane. The two hit it off, and before she knows it, Sophie's living on the edge. But is the drama all it's cracked up to be?

"Little Miss Red" was a cute, quick read. I enjoyed sitting out in the sun today enjoying the nice weather while reading this book. Even though sometimes I wanted to hit Sophie, I found her to be really genuine and enjoyed her as a character. In my twenties I am sitting hear wanting to yell at her because it is clear to me she is being taken advantage of, but then when I think back to some of my relationships in high school, I know that I let one of the guys I dated get away with some of the same things. Once you live through the mistake, you don't let it happen again ;)

Even though I liked Sophie's character, I didn't really care for the rest in the book. The rest fell pretty flat to me, which made me think Sophie should just move away starting off fresh and fabulous in a new town. The reason I enjoyed this book so much is that Palmer showed that love isn't like in a romance book. Relationships are difficult and usually do not live up to our romanticized expectations; however, that doesn't mean that you can't be happy spending your life with someone you love. I also liked that Sophie grew as a character by the end of the book. She made mistakes, but she learned from them and didn't regret what happened.

I thought it was a cute retelling of Little Red Riding Hood that is fully modernized down to Sophie's addiction to her iphone. I like how Palmer was able to keep the sleazy, smooth talking wolf character, but just disguise him in a human body. I would recommend this book to girls who like fun, modernized fairytales or romances.