Because who can afford books in this economy?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Character Interview: Lola from Tell Us We're Home by Marina Budhos

Hi all! Today I had the pleasure of interviewing Lola, a character in the book Tell Us We're Home by Marina Budhos! 
Here's a bit about the book:
Jaya, Maria, and Lola are just like the other eighth-grade girls in the wealthy suburb of Meadowbrook, New Jersey. They want to go to the spring dance, they love spending time with their best friends after school, sharing frappÉs and complaining about the other kids. But there’s one big difference: all three are daughters of maids and nannies. And they go to school with the very same kids whose families their mothers work for. That difference grows even bigger—and more painful—when Jaya’s mother is accused of theft and Jaya’s small, fragile world collapses.
When tensions about immigrants start to erupt, fracturing this perfect, serene suburb, all three girls are tested, as outsiders—and as friends. Each of them must learn to find a place for themselves in a town that barely notices they exist.
Marina Budhos gives us a heartbreaking and eye-opening story of friendship, belonging, and finding the way home.

Read my review.

Hi Lola! I'm so glad that you could join me today! Let's start out with some fun questions, just so we can get to know you a little better.
Chocolate or vanilla?
Cats or dogs?
Dogs!  I don’t trust cats.
Pepsi or Coke?
Pepsi, to be different.
Cake or ice cream?
Ice cream.  It lasts longer.
Pirates or Ninjas?
Okay, now here are some more serious questions:
1. You're from Slovakia, what do you miss about it most?
 All of my cousins and family.  I had a lot of boy cousins and I would boss them around or we’d hang around our town, all day, all night.  I miss not having to explain myself because my family has been there forever.  And I miss our house, which was very nice, because my Dad was working at a big job then and doing pretty well.
2. What was the hardest part of moving to America?
 My family having to start all over again, like we were right at the bottom.  I thought learning English would be hard—and it was, at first.  I’d learned it at school in Slovakia and could speak it pretty well when I came, but I remember when we took a taxi from the airport and I couldn’t understand a word the driver said.  And it cost so much!  My parents were freaked. 
But really, what was hardest was how tough everything was.  We lived in the Bronx at first in this really small apartment where my parents slept on a couch.  And we had three locks on the door and it was really noisy all the time.  I couldn’t hear myself think.  I couldn’t sleep.  This is America? I thought.  Doesn’t seem so great to me.
3. What are some of the biggest differences between the kids in America and the kids in Slovakia?
 American kids take everything for granted.  It’s like they’re the center of the world!  It drives me crazy.  And their parents do so much for them.  We feel the opposite.  We have to do for our parents.  We have to support them and take care of them in old age.
4. I hear that history is one of your passions, tell us something interesting or unusual that you've learned while studying it.
 As you know, I’m obsessed with revolutions.  I loved reading about how, in the American Revolution, the women refused to buy English products.  Of course there was tea.  But they wouldn’t buy any fabric from England either and made their own stuff.  I thought that was so cool.  I mean, my sister, I can’t imagine her giving up any bit of clothing, for anyone!  But these ladies, they did that, and it helped the revolution.  Really cool.
5. You're really good friends with two other girls in your neighborhood, Maria and Jaya, could you tell us how you met?
 Jaya I met outside school one day, when I was mouthing off to Anthony, and Jay sort of stuck around and watched.  I don’t know, I felt something about her that day, like she was someone I could be comfortable with.  I didn’t even know her mother was also a housekeeper.  She just had this air about her so I invited her to come with me to my mom’s job.
Maria we both met the day we saw her getting really sick in a park.  She doubled over and was really in bad shape.  Turns out her mom was a housekeeper too and we took her over to the job and took care of her.  Seemed like fate!
6. Describe your best friends, Maria and Jaya, in one word apiece.
 Maria: Loyal
Jaya: Deep
7. Is there anything else you'd like to add?
 I guess that for me, sure, being an immigrant can be kind of hard, especially coming to a new town like we did, and my mom having all kinds of health problems and my dad just a slug on a couch. 
But you want to know the hardest thing? Learning to be a good friend.  Man, it was really hard when Maria and Jaya and me were fighting.  I was so sore.  And I had to swallow my pride a lot.  I had to admit I was wrong.  That’s really hard to do.  But I’m so glad I did.  Because they’re what makes this place easier.  Without them, I couldn’t live.  (I know, I’m dramatic, but what can I say)
Thank you for answering my questions Lola! And thanks to The Teen {Book} Scene for setting up this tour!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Review: Death Cloud (Sherlock Holmes:The Legend Begins) by Andrew Lane

Title: Death Cloud (Sherlock Holmes: The Legend Begins)
Author: Andrew Lane
Published: February 1st, 2011
Source: Received for review from publisher
Synopsis from Goodreads:
It is the summer of 1868, and Sherlock Holmes is fourteen. On break from boarding school, he is staying with eccentric strangers—his uncle and aunt—in their vast house in Hampshire. When two local people die from symptoms that resemble the plague, Holmes begins to investigate what really killed them, helped by his new tutor, an American named Amyus Crowe. So begins Sherlock’s true education in detection, as he discovers the dastardly crimes of a brilliantly sinister villain of exquisitely malign intent. 

Let me start this off by saying that I've never read any Sherlock Holmes novels or short stories by Arthur Conan Doyle, so I have no idea how this book measures up to those or how accurate it is. All I know is that though I enjoyed it, it's not going on my favorites shelf.

This book had the potential to be everything that I'd ever wanted in a book: historical setting, mystery, smart main character, a little romance. Sadly, it just didn't fit together they way I wanted it to. I enjoyed it for sure, but not as much as I'd hoped to. Sherlock was definitely a great main character (I love it when they're smart) but some of the other characters felt a bit...flat to me. 

The mystery in this book was mysterious indeed. So mysterious that some of it was over my head. I had a hard time understanding the means and the motive once they were revealed, though I guess that I could have not been paying close enough attention. 

The setting was something that I loved, because I love all things historical. And English. So England in 1868 was awesome to read about. I thought that the pacing of the book was pretty good also. The beginning was a little hard to get into, but after that it was steady. 

Basically I enjoyed this book, but didn't love it. If you're a Sherlock Holmes fan you'll want to give this one a try. I think that it'll be the biggest hit with younger/middle grade boys outside of the fans. 

Characters: 7/10
Plot: 8/10
Originality: 10/10
Writing: 8/10
Ending: 8/10
Overall: 41/50 B-  

Monday, February 7, 2011

Review: The False Princess by Eilis O'Neal

Title: The False Princess
Author: Eilis O'Neal
Published: January, 2011
Source: Bought as part of the tour by The Teen {Book} Scene
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Princess and heir to the throne of Thorvaldor, Nalia's led a privileged life at court.  But everything changes when it's revealed, just after her sixteenth birthday, that she is a false princess, a stand-in for the real Nalia, who has been hidden away for her protection.  Cast out with little more than the clothes on her back, the girl now called Sinda must leave behind the city of Vivaskari, her best friend, Keirnan, and the only life she's ever known.

Sinda is sent to live with her only surviving relative, an aunt who is a dyer in a distant village. She is a cold, scornful woman with little patience for her newfound niece, and Sinda proves inept at even the simplest tasks.  But when Sinda discovers that magic runs through her veins - long-suppressed, dangerous magic that she must learn to control - she realizes that she can never learn to be a simple village girl.

Returning to Vivaskari for answers, Sinda finds her purpose as a wizard scribe, rediscovers the boy who saw her all along, and uncovers a secret that could change the course of Thorvaldor's history, forever.

A dazzling first novel, The False Princess is an engrossing fantasy full of mystery, action, and romance.

This book was definitely not what I expected, in a good way. I expected it half be about a haughty princess trying to be normal. It wasn't like that at all. Sinda was always a very grounded character, especially for a princess. I've recently realized how much I really, really like fantasy books, and this is a prime example of why: it's full of romance, and magic, and plot twists. It was truly excellent.

As I mentioned before, Sinda was very grounded. She wasn't haughty and didn't think that she was above anyone, even when she thought she was the princess. It was easy to relate to her.The other characters are well developed as well, especially her best friend Kiernan. All of the characters had depth, which I loved. 

The plot of this book moves along at a steady pace. There were a couple slow spots, but the fast pacing of the end made up for it. I wouldn't call the world this was set in completely original by any means, but O'Neal found plenty of ways to make it her own. 

Basically I loved this book and if you're a fan of fantasy this is for you. And if you're not, that's all the more reason to pick it up, because you'll love it. 

Characters: 10/10
Writing: 9/10
Originality: 8/10
Plot: 9/10
Ending: 10/10
Overall: 46/50 A-

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Review: Fall For Anything by Courtney Summers

Title: Fall for Anything
Author: Courtney Summers
Published: December 2010
Source: Bought
Synopsis from Goodreads:
When Eddie Reeves’s father commits suicide her life is consumed by the nagging question of why? Why when he was a legendary photographer and a brilliant teacher? Why when he seemed to find inspiration in everything he saw? And, most important, why when he had a daughter who loved him more than anyone else in the world? When she meets Culler Evans, a former student of her father’s and a photographer himself, an instant and dangerous attraction begins. Culler seems to know more about her father than she does and could possibly hold the key to the mystery surrounding his death. But Eddie’s vulnerability has weakened her and Culler Evans is getting too close. Her need for the truth keeps her hanging on...but are some questions better left unanswered?

To say I was eagerly anticipating this book would be an understatement. I was practically salivating for it. I adored both Cracked Up to Be and Some Girls Are and I was expecting to love this one just as much. I'm sad to say that it fell a bit short. I just couldn't connect with Eddie. I didn't understand her motivations. I also got bored during a couple parts. The book was still superb, and I really, really liked it, I just didn't like it as much as I wanted to.

Characters: 9/10
Writing: 10/10
Plot: 9/10
Originality: 10/10
Ending: 10/10
Overall: 48/50 A

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Review: Big Fat Manifesto by Susan Vaught

Title: Big Fat Manifesto
Author: Susan Vaught
Published: December 2007
Source: The Library
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Jamie is a senior in high school and, like so many of her peers, doing too much. Unlike so many of her friends, she is enormously, irreversibly, sometimes angrily (and occasionally delightedly) overweight. Her most immediate need is a scholarship to college, so she writes an explosive and controversial column every week in the school paper about being fat. Soon, Jamie finds herself fighting for her rights as a very fat girl—and not quietly. As her column raises all kinds of public questions, so too must Jamie find her own private way in the world, with love popping up in an unexpected place, and satisfaction in her size losing ground to real frustration.

Tapping into her own experience with losing weight, her training as a psychotherapist, and the current fascination in the media with teens trying drastic weight-loss measures, Susan Vaught writes searing and hilarious prose that will grip readers while asking the most profound questions about life.

Going into this book I thought that I was going to love it. Sadly, I was wrong. I thought that it was going to be about a big girl not caring about her weight or what other people thought. But it wasn't, it was about a big girl pretending to not care. Instead of a feisty, sassy, funny girl who happens to be big I got a whiny, insecure, funny girl who's whole life is her weight. That's not to say that I didn't enjoy the book, because I did. It just wasn't what I expected or craved. 

Characters: 7/10
Writing: 8/10
Plot: 8/10
Originality: 8/10
Ending: 8/10
Overall: 39/50 C+
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