Sunday, March 13, 2011

In My Mailbox 19

In My Mailbox is a meme started by Kristi of The Story Siren, with inspiration from Alea of Pop Culture Junkie, in which bloggers post any new books they have on their shelves that week - received, bought, begged, borrowed, or - no. Not that.

So this week I got three books from NetGalley. I know I haven't been reading much the past few weeks, but that travesty should be stopping this week, and these books are going to the top(ish) of the pile!
The Last Little Blue Envelope
The Last Little Blue Envelope, by Maureen Johnson
I read 13 Little Blue Envelopes a while ago, and I loved it - I thought it was a great blend of fun and thoughtful - my favorite kind of book! So I'm really looking forward to this one.

Bumped, by Megan McCafferty
This is a dystopian novel about when everyone above 18 is infertile, so younger girls are hired out to become pregnant. It sounds like it explores a lot of issues - again, something I like!

A Tale of Two Castles
A Tale of Two Castles, by Gail Carson Levine
I actually have no idea what this one is about - but it's Gail Carson Levine!! What more recommendation that that could I possibly need? I love all her books, especially Ella Enchanted (and no, I don't like the movie at all) and The Two Princesses of Bamarre, so I can't wait to see what this one's about.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Flirt Club

Flirt ClubAuthor: Cathleen Daly
Publisher: Roaring Book Press
Released: January 4, 2011
Genre: Middle Grade

Izzy and Annie are in eighth grade, and they have a problem: they're way too shy to flirt. So they form a top-secret club, the Flirt Club, to learn and practice techniques of flirting, to get themselves to talk to boys. Soon, after they've both been cast in the school production, they expand to include more members, and the results are fantastic! At each meeting, the girls catalog their successes, and they're surprised and pleased at how quickly they each overcome their shyness - and even get boyfriends! But they also learn that having a real relationship is not only about flirting, and as they have to deal with all of it, they depend on each other to get through the joys and sorrows of middle-school relationships.

I love this book! It's so much fun, and such a real glimpse into the workings of middle-school minds. Told entirely through journal entries and notes passed back and forth between Cisco (Izzy) and Bean (Annie) with an occasional note from the other girls in the group, the story captures the way girls in middle school think and talk, and what they think and talk about. Especially the way girls feel the need to rehash every little thing that happens - why do we do that?

I like that the girls are not the popular girls, but they're not on the bottom rung, and they're not trying to become popular either. They don't like how they can't talk to boys, but they're comfortable with who they are, they're fine with being drama geeks - and they can laugh at themselves for acting like drama geeks! They're self-aware, and I love that. And they're always there for each other, so the ups and downs of their friendship are great to watch.

What I really love is how real the relationships are. The crushes each girl has on the various boys at the beginning of the novel do sound like crushes of girls who think they have no hope of going out with any of those boys at any time, and the way they completely miss when boys take interest in them is also so typical. Then when they start "flirting," the disasters and silliness sound so natural to beginners. When they start really talking to boys, going out and even kissing, again it sounds so real. Each boy is unique, too, which I like - they're not stock characters, even told through the girls' own words to each other.

And then there's the way this book really empowers girls. In every relationship, even when the guys are acting in not-so-likable ways, even when a guy ends up putting pressure on one of them, the way they deal with it shows the girls as strong, self-assured characters. Though they start out shy and unable to look at boys, they show that they're not doormats to be walked all over - they stand up for themselves, and for each other.

This is a fun but thoughtful book, an honest look at how middle-school girls deal with real issues, with boys, friends, social groups, and popularity - or lack thereof!

The Trouble With Half a Moon

The Trouble with Half a MoonAuthor: Danette Vigilante
Publisher: G. P. Putnam's Sons (Penguin)
Released: January 6, 2011
Genre: Middle Grade
Author's Website: (Really cute - check it out!)

Dellie is trying to cope with the many effects of her brother's death - her own grief, her parents' grief, her mother's insistence that Dellie will only be safe if she stays indoors at all times, and her own feelings of guilt at her role in her brother's death. Now that her housing project has new tenants, there's more for Dellie to deal with - gunshots at night, screaming, yelling, and fights... Corey, the little boy whose mother is at the center of all this, comes to depend on Dellie for food and companionship. Dellie becomes attached to this little boy who reminds her so much of her own brother, and through Corey, Dellie finds redemption from the demons that haunt her.

The voice of the novel, told in Dellie's words, is completely engaging and so real. It's straightforward, clear, and emotional at all the right points. Dellie's feelings are clearly portrayed, through her own words and through the things she does and the way she reacts to everything. Without Dellie coming straight out and telling the reader, her thoughts and reactions are very clear from the way she talks about what's going on. The way she deals with her grieving mother comes across especially well, as she talks about her mother's daily actions in an understated, matter-of-fact manner.

The themes of grief, blame, guilt, and love are all portrayed exceptionally well, on all levels of the plot. Dellie's interactions with Corey showcase how she feels about her brother, but the subplot of Dellie and Kayla's friendship helps bring these themes into greater relief, as Dellie grapples with the guilt, blame, and love of that relationship.

All the relationships of the story are shown really well. Every single one feels real and believable. I love the relationship between Dellie and Corey, and the one between Dellie and her dad as well. Both of those made me smile many times, and both felt completely natural - all of the relationships in the book do, really, but these two in particular struck me as extremely real.

Though told from a middle-schooler's point of view, there are shades of meaning in each character and their interactions. This book does something that is really tricky - it works well for giving middle-grade readers a real, clear picture of what could go on in real life, in relationships and in someone's own mind, and at the same time it gives enough information that an adult could pick up on and understand certain points that a middle-grade reader would not pick up on. I really like that. This book is definitely meant for middle-grade readers, but their parents can read along with them and enjoy and appreciate the book as well.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

In My Mailbox 18

In My Mailbox is a meme started by Kristi of The Story Siren, with inspiration from Alea of Pop Culture Junkie, in which bloggers post any new books they have on their shelves that week - received, bought, begged, borrowed, or - no. Not that.

For this week, I really wanted to do a vlog, because I got brand-spanking-new books that I bought!! I never buy books, I usually rely on the library, so this is so exciting, and I wanted to show off the shiny new covers! But I recorded the video on YouTube using my webcam, and the sound is off - like three seconds late, and really low. I'm posting it here, but it's not very good. And it's not just the sound, it's also the way I start and end - I need practice! Hopefully I'll do this more often and get better at it!

Oh, and also my blog apparently doesn't like too many images, so if the images show up as white and orange strips naming the picture they're supposed to be showing, my apologies!

 Dash & Lily's Book of DaresAnna and the French KissAngelUnearthly (Unearthly - Trilogy)Angelfire (Angelfire - Trilogy)DeliriumRoyal Blood (Vampire Kisses, Book 6)Disenchanted PrincessPretty Little Liars #2: FlawlessForever in Blue: The Fourth Summer of the SisterhoodWarped

Dash and Lily's Book of Dares Rachel Cohn and David Levithan (Amazon / Goodreads)
Anna and the French Kiss Stephanie Perkins (Amazon / Goodreads / Review)
Angel (Burn) L.A. Weatherly (Amazon / Goodreads / Review)
Unearthly Cynthia Hand (Amazon / Goodreads / Review)
Angelfire Courtney Allison Moulton (Amazon / Goodreads / Review)
Delirium Lauren Oliver (Amazon / Goodreads / Review)
Royal Blood Ellen Schreiber (Amazon / Goodreads)
Disenchanted Princess Julie Linker (Amazon / Goodreads)
Flawless Sara Shepard (Amazon / Goodreads)
Forever in Blue: The Fourth Summer of the Sisterhood Ann Brashares (Amazon / Goodreads / Review)

From the Library
Warped Maurissa Guibord (Amazon / Goodreads)