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Charming With A Twist: Welcome Caller, This is Chloe by Shelley Coriell

Welcome back to BookTasty!

I loved participating in the 2012 Debut Author Challenge.  It introduced me to new authors like Shelley Coriell and their debut books, like Welcome, Caller, This is Chloe.

Welcome Caller This Is Chloe by Shelley CoriellBig-hearted Chloe Camden is the queen of her universe until her best friend shreds her reputation and her school counselor axes her junior independent study project. Chloe is forced to take on a meaningful project in order to pass, and so she joins her school’s struggling radio station, where the other students don’t find her too queenly. Ostracized by her former BFs and struggling with her beloved Grams’s mental deterioration, lonely Chloe ends up hosting a call-in show that gets the station much-needed publicity and, in the end, trouble. She also befriends radio techie and loner Duncan Moore, a quiet soul with a romantic heart. On and off the air, Chloe faces her loneliness and helps others find the fun and joy in everyday life. Readers will fall in love with Chloe as she falls in love with the radio station and the misfits who call it home.

This debut novel was charming, just like Chloe herself.  It was a fun story about pushing through hard times and about being there for those you care about. The book starts out lighthearted and fun but takes a twist for the more serious.

Chloe, although charming is also blind to the reality of life around her. She doesn’t realize that some people really do have real struggles that you can’t completely wipe away with a game or laughter. Seeing Chloe like this at the start of the novel you can understand why Chloe’s friends ditched her the way they did (although in my opinion that’s not the way to deal with your friendships so I’m not excusing them). I completely connected to Chloe with the whole friendship and relationship struggles as I dealt with situations that are almost exactly like Chloe’s in middle and high school. I know exactly what it feels like to not be allowed at the usual lunch table or to have rude (and blatantly untrue) things written about you in the bathroom.  High school girls are mean.

Despite all this social junk (and family junk because Chloe is dealing with that, too) Chloe matures a lot throughout the story. She not only learns how to be on her own and experience solitude, and she also learns how to just be okay in the sadness and confusion that life sometimes brings. But Chloe also learns what it means to be there for others in those difficult times.  Like the book, Chloe’s story starts out fun and lighthearted but takes a turn for the more serious.  She is a better balance of these two sides in the end.

I don’t know if Welcome Caller, This is Chloe is standalone or not, but I would love to read more about Chloe, Duncan and the staff at 88.8. This book was a really good read and recommend it to middle grades and high school readers as well as those who are older (like me!).

Author: Shelley Coriell

Publisher: Amulet Books (May 1, 2012)

Format: e-book

Length: 299 pages

Series: standalone

YA/MG: MG/YA

Buy the Book:  Welcome, Caller, This Is Chloe

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A Comeptetive Streak: The Selection by Kiera Cass

Well hello there!

Today I’m reviewing dystopian romance, The Selection by Kiera Cass.

For thirty-five girls, the Selection is the chance of a lifetime. The opportunity to escape the life laid out for them The Selection by Kiera Casssince birth. To be swept up in a world of glittering gowns and priceless jewels. To live in the palace and compete for the heart of the gorgeous Prince Maxon.

But for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare. It means turning her back on her secrett love with Aspen, who is a caste below her. Leaving her home to enter a fierce competition for a crown she doesn’t want. Living in a palace that is constantly threatened by violent rebel attacks.

Then America meets Prince Maxon. Gradually, she starts to question all the plans she’s made for herself and realizes that the life she’s always dreamed of may not compare to a future she never imagined.

I’ve wanted to read The Selection ever since I first saw the cover. Covers that have girls in pretty gowns is pretty much “a go” for me! This gown is stunning. I want it so bad!

I received the audiobook from the generous folks at Harper Audio (Harper Collins) – thank you! The Selection is Kiera Cass’ debut novel and it was a fun listen, though not without its flaws. I found the story pretty slow at first, but once America gets to the palace things start to pick up. After a few chapters of wondering if I’d get into this story, I suddenly found myself really wondering what would happen next and was anxious to get back to it! (This is why I listen to audiobooks while running people-it makes me want to run more just so I can listen!)

Cass is pretty creative in turning the premise of a The Bachelor type competition and weaving it into a dystopian setting. The Bachelor and Bachelorette TV shows have always intrigued me so I liked this as the means for which the monarchy chooses their next queen. This reminded me of one of my favorite books, The Princess Academy by Shannon Hale – they are different takes on this whole royal contest idea. I also love the fact that society is split up into different castes based on the type of work you do.

I also liked that we got an insider’s view of the whole story behind the pageantry. America is both likable yet frustrating at times. I like her down to earth nature and the fact that despite this humbleness she does get caught up in the contest and her new life in the palace, just as any girl would! She also finds her competitive streak although she originally hates the competition. She frustrates me a little because she contradicts herself a lot throughout the story. At times Cass’ dialog can be a little trite and some of the things America says don’t seem to fit her personality.

I listened to The Selection as part of the 2012 YA Audiobook Challenge and although I did think the story was entertaining I wasn’t a huge fan of the narrator. Her voice was pretty monotone and she didn’t change-up any voices for the different characters. Now, although I didn’t like the narrator, I still enjoyed the book as a whole, despite the flaws. I also think my students would absolutely love this book so I’ll definitely be adding it to our library catalog. The story ends pretty abruptly and I actually had to check my iPod to see if I missed some tracks, but I didn’t. Although I wasn’t satisfied with the ending, the story was still fun and I’ll definitely be looking for the sequels (its supposed to be a trilogy)! Sometimes it’s okay to just enjoy a book for the story and ignore any faults it may have. The Selection has such a fun story you can just sit back and enjoy!

Girls from middle grades to high school and up, who are always up for a book with some romance, will enjoy The Selection and seeing how America fares in the contest to be queen. Also, get excited (!) because it sounds like the CW is making a pilot for the The Selection series. To read more about this check out Kiera Cass’ website.

Author: Kiera Cass

Publisher: Harper Audio (April 24, 2012)

Format: Audiobook

Length: 8 hrs and 7 mins

Narrator(s): Amy Rubinate

Series: First in The Selection trilogy

YA/MG: YA

Buy the Book: The Selection (Selection – Trilogy)

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I Honestly Didn’t See it Coming: The Catastrophic History of You and Me by Jess Rothenberg

Hello!

I’m finally reviewing The Catastrophic History of You and Me by Jess Rothenberg; I finished it like two weeks ago and have been so crazy busy!  The last month of the school year is when everything ramps up and there are tons of activities going on.

The Catastrophic History of You and Me by Jess RothenbergOkay, so on to the book, which I read as part of the 2012 Debut Authors Challenge.

BRIE’S LIFE ENDS AT SIXTEEN: Her boyfriend tells her he doesn’t love her, and the news breaks her heart—literally.
But now that she’s D&G (dead and gone), Brie is about to discover that love is way more complicated than she ever imagined. Back in Half Moon Bay, her family has begun to unravel. Her best friend has been keeping a secret about Jacob, the boy she loved and lost—and the truth behind his shattering betrayal. And then there’s Patrick, Brie’s mysterious new guide and resident Lost Soul . . . who just might hold the key to her forever after. With Patrick’s help, Brie will have to pass through the five stages of grief before she’s ready to move on. But how do you begin again, when your heart is still in pieces?

I believe I received this book (an Advanced Reader Copy) from another blogger, but I can’t remember who (bad Tina!) because it was a few months ago and I didn’t write it down.  If the book gifter is reading this, THANK YOU and I’M SORRY for forgetting!

I must admit that it took a little while for me to really get into The Catastrophic History of You and Me (TCHoYaM).  I kept reading a few pages, then putting it down and picking it back up again.  It was a vicious cycle, that I finally mastered and I’m so very glad I did!  If you read it and feel the same way I did in the beginning, please persevere and keep reading, you’ll be happy in the end that you did.

One of my favorite things about TCHoYaM is the way in which Rothenberg uses song titles as chapter titles.  This was super creative and fun and really help set the scene and tone for each chapter.  Plus I had a blast trying to figure out if I recognized the songs by their titles!

At times TCHoYaM is really witty and humorous, but it is also the story of a girl coming to peace with her grief.  I believe Rothenberg combined both of these elements in a thoughtful manner that doesn’t seem contrived.  Brie, herself is a pretty funny girl.  She inserts funny little comments in her narration that had me chuckling to my self as I turned the pages and her throwback “your mom” jokes are so bad they’re hilarious.

Without giving anything away, there is a massive plot twist that makes so much sense after the fact that I’m actually disappointed in myself for not seeing it coming.  Seriously – I had no idea!  I don’t want to do any spoilers so I will stop there, but you’ll understand my thoughts on this when you read it!

All in all, it wasn’t my favorite read of the year, but I did truly enjoy it and I recommend The Catastrophic History of You and Me as a cute read for anyone in the older middle school grades and up.

Author: Jess Rothenberg

Publisher: Dial Books (February 21, 2012)

Format: Paperback (ARC)

Length: 375 pages

Series: Standalone

YA/MG: YA

Buy the Book: The Catastrophic History of You And Me

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I’m a Fairy Tale Fan: Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Hola! It’s time for a book review!

Cinder by Marissa MeyerA forbidden romance. A deadly plague. Earth’s fate hinges on one girl…

Cinder, a gifted mechanic in New Beijing, is also a cyborg. She’s reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s sudden illness. But when her life becomes entwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she finds herself at the center of a violent struggle between the desires of an evil queen – and a dangerous temptation.

Cinder is caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal. Now she must uncover secrets about her mysterious past in order to protect Earth’s future.

I adore fairy tales. Always have. I also love fairy tales re-told. I love a well done retelling of a favorite classic, and they’re even better when there is a little twist thrown in. Cinder is Marissa Meyer’s debut novel and she has created a science fiction Cinderella and done it very well. What a bold and cool idea! Actually, parts of it reminded me of one of my favorite sci-fi shows of all time, Firefly. It was mainly the use of the Chinese language and the science fiction backdrop, but also the mix of the super sterile futuristic settings (like the research hospital) and the dirty, crowded medieval town-ish setting (like the market where Cinder’s booth is located). Additionally Cinder reminded me a little of Kaylee, from Firefly, who is a tomboyish mechanic but is also sweet and feminine like Cinder. Kaylee Firefly

Cinder is a fun character. I like that she is both smart and strong but also deeply insecure and vulnerable. She knows who she is and works with what she has, but also is sharply aware of how the rest of the world views her. Cinder feels the pain of people treating her like she’s nothing, but doesn’t let it consume or inhibit her. Sometimes I thought she was a little whiny, in the way she buts heads with her evil stepmother, but it didn’t ruin my enjoyment of the story. It could have been the narrator’s interpretation of Cinder that I just wasn’t fond of. Overall, however the narrator, Rebecca Soler, did a great job and I actually liked her better in this story than others I’ve heard her narrate.

The story is set in a futuristic, and slightly dystopian, China. The city of New Beijing is exactly what I would think a crowded plague ridden city would be like – crowded, dirty, and bustling. But, on the other hand, New Beijing is also a bastion of technological innovation and scientific research. Knowing that China is a major world power today adds to the believability of this setting. Also, an Asian retelling of Cinderella makes the story more exotic than your average everyday European backdrop.

Romance. Yes it is a huge factor in every fairy tale. To be honest though, I wasn’t that impressed with Prince Kai. Maybe, there will be more of him to appreciate and get to know in the following books, but for now I think his character was a little bit lacking. Oh well.

I’ll also add that I loved the plot twist. Although I did suspect it earlier on, my guessing didn’t ruin the story for me. Actually I was so excited that I yelled, “I knew it! I knew it!” while driving (and listening).

Speaking of listening, I received the audiobook version of the Cinder from Macmillan Audio, which was so nice of them! Thank you to MacMillan! So, this book counts toward both the 2012 Debut Author Challenge and the 2012 Young Adult Audiobook Challenge. YAY!

Cinder is a read that will be enjoyed by older middle grade readers and up who are looking for a new and interesting take on a classic fairy tale.

Author: Marissa Meyer

Publisher: Macmillan Audio (January 3, 2012)

Format: Audiobook

Length: 10 hours and 6 minutes

Narrator(s): Rebecca Soler

Series: First in a series, The Lunar Chronicles

YA/MG: MG/YA

Buy the Book: Cinder: Book One of the Lunar Chronicles

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An Unlikely Heroine: May B., A Novel by Caroline Starr Rose

Before we focus on the review, don’t forget there is still a few more hours to enter the Tempest Audiobook Giveaway! Okay, now to the book review!

May B by Caroline Starr Rose

I’ve known it since last night:
It’s been too long to expect them to return.
Something’s happened.

May is helping out on a neighbor’s Kansas prairie homestead—just until Christmas, says Pa. She wants to contribute, but it’s hard to be separated from her family by 15 long, unfamiliar miles. Then the unthinkable happens: May is abandoned. Trapped in a tiny snow-covered sod house, isolated from family and neighbors, May must prepare for the oncoming winter. While fighting to survive, May’s memories of her struggles with reading at school come back to haunt her. But she’s determined to find her way home again.

May B.: A Novel is Caroline Starr Rose’s debut into middle grades fiction and I’m so happy I got to read it as a part of the 2012 Debut Author Challenge, which is being hosted by The Story Siren. Plus that cover is gorgeous!

May B. is written in verse so the story reads very quickly – seriously, I read it in less than 24 hours! Although I adore historic fiction, I must admit it can sometimes be slow, but this story is anything but. The writing moves you along and the reader can really sense the feeling of panic that the main character is experiencing.

The main character, Mavis Elizabeth Betterly or May B., is a rather unlikely heroine. May B. is a twelve-year-old girl struggling with dyslexia and living on the Kansas prairie with a family not her own. She was sent away to help a newlywed couple so as to help bring in some money for her family, but the couple leaves her all alone during a threatening prairie winter, and May B. is forced to fend her herself. The story is told through the eyes of May B., so the reader understands May B.’s fears, insecurities, memories and courage in a deep way.

May shares a lot of her struggles with reading while she is attempting survival. She doesn’t understand why the words on the page refuse to cooperate with her, and she doesn’t understand why everyone thinks she’s stupid when she’s not. I really appreciate Rose’s interest in the history of America’s education system and have often asked myself the question of how did students with disabilities fare in the largely reading, writing, and repetition centered classroom. Probably not so well, and May B. sheds light on this reality in a powerful way.

Historical fiction can be a hard sell to middle grade readers (it barely gets checked out in my Media Center), but the quickness of the story may allure some potential readers. I am going to buy this one for my Media Center and I recommend May B. to middle grade readers and older (actually older elementary age kids would enjoy it as well). Teachers could also use May B. in the classroom as it is a manageable length but packed with tons of curriculum connections.

Do you know of any other middle grades historical fiction titles that deserve some love? If so, please share them!

Author: Caroline Starr Rose

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade (January 10, 2012)

Format: e-book ARC (NetGalley)

Length: 240 pages

Series: Standalone

YA/MG: MG

Buy the Book: May B.

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Not My Cup of Tea: Halflings by Heather Burch

I read Halflings by Heather Burch as part of the 2012 Debut Author Challenge.

After being inexplicaHalflings by Heather Burchbly targeted by an evil intent on harming her at any cost, seventeen-year-old Nikki finds herself under the watchful guardianship of three mysterious young men who call themselves halflings. Sworn to defend her, misfits Mace, Raven, and Vine battle to keep Nikki safe while hiding their deepest secret—and the wings that come with.

A growing attraction between Nikki and two of her protectors presents a whole other danger. While she risks a broken heart, Mace and Raven could lose everything, including their souls. As the mysteries behind the boys’ powers, as well as her role in a scientist’s dark plan, unfold, Nikki is faced with choices that will affect the future of an entire race of heavenly beings, as well as the precarious equilibrium of the earthly world.

When it comes to supernatural fiction I’m finding that I’m more interested in angels instead of vampires. I have nothing against vampires or the vampire trend in YA fiction, but I just never got that excited about it (except for Vladimir Tod; he’s pretty cool!). I just think that angels are infinitely more intriguing. That being said, I think this book had a lot of potential.

Anyways, Halflings by Heather Burch is centered around three halfling angels and Nikki, the girl they’re sent to protect. Nikki is a confusing character, sometimes she’s incredibly vulnerable and embracing the whole damsel-in-distress persona and the next minute she’s a stubborn, prideful girl who just can’t let herself be seen as weak. I didn’t dislike Nikki, I just didn’t get a good grasp on who she was as a character. She does however have her own interests (i.e. painting, karate, motorcycles) which is so refreshing to see, even if we only catch glimpses of these other sides to Nikki.

So, there is a love triangle and its very simplified. One boy is the good angel on Nikki’s shoulder and the other is the devil on her other shoulder; one halfling is moral, the other is edgier. Mace and Raven are much too stereotyped to be interesting, although I wanted to be as mystified by them as Nikki was.

The only two characters who I was actually interested in were Vine, the third halfling, and Vessler the sketchy friend of Nikki’s parents. Vine seems like a side character who would actually make a more interesting main character. I was disappointed when he wasn’t in a scene; he was the only one of the halflings who had any real life to him. Also, Vessler. Who is he? What is his story and is he good or bad; you’re still not too sure even at the end of Halflings.

I really wanted to like Halflings but I didn’t. I just wasn’t impressed. But if you’ve been wanting to read this one you should give it a try, just because I’m not a fan of a particular book, doesn’t mean everyone will feel the same way. I just felt like The conversation was a little clichéd and the story ends pretty anticlimactically. However, I do think some of my students would enjoy this book, as they love supernatural fiction. So, all in all I think middle school aged readers would enjoy Halflings, even though it wasn’t my cup of tea.

Author: Heather Burch

Publisher: Zonderkids (January 17, 2012)

Format: E-book (ARC from NetGalley)

Length: 288 pages

Series: First in a series

YA/MG: Middle Grades

Buy the Book: Halflings (A Halflings Novel)

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Currently Reading

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For some reason it’s been taking me some
time to finish these books! Not that there’s anything wrong with them, I’ve just been really busy. So, as of today I’m currently reading/listening to four books:

-13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson. (YA)

-Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, audiobook (YA)

-Halflings by Heather Burch, e-book (YA/MG)

-Tempest by Julie Cross, audiobook (YA)

With the help of my reading buddy, my goal is to finish one of these today!

What are you reading?

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