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Review: Audrey, Wait! by Robin Benway

in a sentence or so: Audrey breaks up with her boyfriend Evan. Evan writes a song about it that just happens to be the fastest rising song on the billboard charts ever. Audrey's famous, her ex-boyfriend is a rock star...what going on here?!

after working with her best friend Victoria on a pros-and-cons list, Audrey decides it's time to dump Evan, who just happens to be the lead singer of his little band, the do-gooders. as she's walking down the stairs after the breakup, Evan calls after her "Audrey, wait!" and then a new hit song is born. he shoots into stardom, which seems natural. but so does she, which is not quite what she anticipated...

first - I LOVED Audrey's voice. love love loved it. she's a music-obsessed girl whose best friend is equally awesome and music loving and loud and fun. the exchanges between Audrey and Victoria reminded me a bit of me and my bestie in high school, which goes to show that the relationship feels real and relatable. she had a hilarious sense of humor (deadpan all over the place), a quirky yet healthy relationship with her parents, and just happens to work at a place called the 'scooper dooper'. seriously, how cool is that?

essentially this walks us through Audrey's life after the song hits it big and how her life changes - but so much happens along the way. take for example her developing feelings co-worker, James, and how Victoria knew months before Audrey did that she might even maybe possibly have a crush on him - how do best friends do that? i got the feeling from time to time that this was a very personal voice for the author (which i later confirmed after checking out her website), and that allowed the personalities of Audrey and of Victoria to really shine and become like real characters as i was reading. the language and dialogue is free flowing and fun (never feeling awkward or forced) and current.

if you're looking for a fun, witty, deadpan-humor-riden, teenage saga with a touch of drama, this is for you!

fave quote: "Oh Jesus, they had heard the song. They had heard the song and listened to the lyrics and then got totally paranoid and hacked into my email account and figured out that Evan and I had slept together, and now I was going to have to sit through some intervention where my parents talked about sperm and condoms and responsibility and teenage pregnancy statistics. And then they'd probably ship me off to one of those wilderness camps where they give you a name like Little Running Bear and make you scavenge for food to build up your self esteem until you swear to be abstinent for the rest of your natural life.
I'll tell you this right now: me and nature? Not so much." (41)

fix er up: i did feel like it got a little long in the middle, but the good news was that i never grew tired of hearing Audrey's voice and her interactions with James and Victoria, so i just plugged along waiting for the plot to speed back up.

title: Audrey, Wait!
author: Robin Benway
genre: Chick Lit, Friendship, Humor

Review: Street of the Five Moons (Vicky Bliss Series #2) by Elizabeth Peters

in a sentence or two: Vicky Bliss is hot on the trail of a gang of artistic forgeries in Rome. her sly detective work (insert sarcasm here) leads her to be kidnapped, beat up, be whisked away to an Italian mansion, and attacked by garden statues while on the case of the remarkably accurate forgeries being sold to museums.

having read and loved the first Vicky Bliss mystery, Borrower of the Night, i knew i was in for a treat. Vicky is smart, witty, snarky, and all around awesome. while working for Herr Schmidt at Munich's National Museum, some suspicious activities take place. like an unidentified man carrying what seems to be a priceless and ancient gold pendant sewn into his jacket. always ready for an adventure, Vicky is off to Rome to try and discover what she can - based on a little scrap of paper found at the scene containing a quasi-clue.

due to school and other commitments (work, laundry, etc.), i didn't get a chance to read this as quickly as i would have liked. i feel like the Vicky Bliss mysteries are best read as uninterrupted as possible. that being said, i still really dug this. Vicky's discoveries are well balanced with the humor, sarcasm, and wit that sets these novels apart from other mysteries i've read. you don't know who to suspect, or why, and quite frankly - neither does Vicky. mainly it's a hodge podge of suspicions and clues leading up to the dramatic "ah-ha" moments. i don't mean that in a demeaning way at all - in fact, i absolutely love that method of suspense. plus, with a new love interest, John Smythe, i was totally sucked in.

i am wary to compare books to other books, because i feel like they are written to be judged on their own merit. however, if i had to, i'd say that i preferred Borrower of the Night to this one. only because that had a gothic/creepy ghost feel whereas this was more focused on the Italian mansion/secret gang of art thieves feel. both solid mysteries were kept exciting with suspense and the fantastic voice of Vicky.

fave quote: "I am by nature an optimistic person. But during those minutes in the mud and the dark, alone with a man who was quietly bleeding to death on my lap, with a mob of murderous brutes scouring the fields to find us...I was depressed." (271)

fix er up: i didn't want it to end. seriously. when i finally got the couple hours free i needed to sit and plow through this, i just couldn't get enough! good thing there are more mysteries for Vicky Bliss to solve...

title: Street of the Five Moons (Vicky Bliss Series #2)
author: Elizabeth Peters
genre: Mystery, Adventure

Review: Gil's All Fright Diner by A. Lee Martinez

in a sentence or two: the funny journey of Earl the vampire, Duke the werewolf, Loretta the overweight waitress, and Cathy the ghost in their quest to rid the diner of zombies. and as if that isn't enough, a foxy teenager is trying to open the gates to hell right underneath their immortal noses.

Duke and Earl stumble upon the little diner in rockwood county (read: middle of nowhere). within minutes, they are defending the diner from zombies. the good news is, zombies aren't really that bad - just an undead nuisance really. the bad news for them (and good news for us) is, this is just the beginning of a bizarre and hilarious journey with the undead and other creepy creatures. ultimately, the foxy teenager - Tammy by day, Mistress Lilith when sorceress-ing - is trying to bring back the 'old gods' and suck the world as we know it into eternal darkness and suffering. it's up to the undead A-squad (and Loretta) to find out what's going on with the zombies, ghouls, ghosts, and even some zombie cows, so they can save the world. which is just as hard as it sounds.

i haven't read a humor novel in a long time, and so i wasn't quite sure what to expect. my fear is that they will try too hard to be funny and then lose the ability to weave a good story. well, Martinez put my fears to rest by the end of the first chapter. this book uses the supernatural elements with a tongue-in-cheek-ness that kept it light and funny while balancing the whole 'end of the world forever' aspect. there was also a good bit of sexual tension between the teenage witch and all the male characters, between the werewolf and the pleasantly plump waitress, and between the ghost and the vampire. who knew that was possible?

this was funny, wacky, unpredictable, clever, and i couldn't put it down. it won the Alex Award in 2006, and now that i've finished the hilarious journey through the book, i totally understand why. while not written explicitly for a teenage audience in mind, Martinez is able to cross genre barriers and has crafted a bizarrely awesome story that is well worth the read.

fave quotes: "Once, Make Out Barn had been a haven of teenage activity. Wholly living up to its name, the worn out building played host to regular sessions of heavy petting and awkward groping. There were even one or two acts of genuine sex on the premises, though not nearly as many as locker room boasts might lead one to believe. The barn was a place for certain people, namely those of surging hormones and acne-induced angst, preferably in groups of two, to get away from the endless hell that teenagers perceive their life to be until they grow up and realize that real hell generally strikes around middle age, when one discovers that life is either far too short or far too long." (105) my favorite phrases are bolded - seriously, awkward groping? awesome.
"Tammy raised her hands over her head and giggled the malign giggle of a schoolgirl consorting with the legions of darkness and having a hell of a time doing it." (109)

fix er up: not a thing. i loved the story, characters, and the ending. solid read!

title: Gil's All Fright Diner
author: A. Lee Martinez
genre: Fantasy, Humor, Problem Novel

Review: Right Behind You by Gail Giles

in a sentence or two: after a horrible (alleged) accident, Kip is trying to find some sense of normalcy as he transitions from a ward for juvenile delinquents into high school life. Kip has to keep to keep his past a secret, but how long do you keep such a sordid past locked inside?

Kip burned his 7 year old neighbor alive. he was only 9 at the time. to be fair, Kip was dealing with some pretty heavy stuff for a 9 year old - his mother had died of cancer, he lived with his dad out in the great Alaskan nowhere, and that neighbor kid was taunting Kip with his brand new baseball glove and teasing him that he didn't have a mom to give him one. but still...Kip took the gasoline, doused the glove (and neighbor in the process) and tossed the lighter. he wakes from a catatonic shock-coma 4 weeks later and prepares to spend the foreseeable future in juvie.

Kip's story starts from the accident in Alaska and transitions to his time in juvie. Giles was able to paint a pretty vivid picture of the fellow offenders, the process of rehabilitation and counseling, as well as Kip's inner thoughts as he grows older and living his life "behind bars" so to speak. it then moves along to high school which, lets be honest, is already anxiety-filled enough without being from no-where Alaska and having spent your childhood in juvie (which isn't really the best setting for social development). despite all that, he makes friends, does well in school, and even joins the varsity swim team. unfortunately, Kip finds that keeping his secret isn't easy...

let me just say that i LOVE Gail Giles. she writes some of the best nail-biters for young adults out there. but more than that, her books - including this one - have some honest, deep, and complicated characters. from Kip's shrink in juvie, to Kip's remorseful father, to his step-mom, even his teachers at his new school, the characters in this book are not perfect - but redeemable. the creativity and plot were incredible, but i feel the characters are what really made this book amazing. Giles also examines the psychology behind what was going on throughout Kip's journey, which i found fascinating.

i loved the first two Giles books i read: What Happened to Cass McBride and Shattering Glass. i was not disappointed with this one. heck, i was thrilled! i read the thing in 2 days (with working and having an all day seminar). for such a heavy theme, the book provides thoughtful reflection, how important the support of family can be, and the beauty of hope. this is a book i'd re-nerd over any day! i love you Gail Giles!

fave quote: "I turned ten. Ten. I should have been in boy scouts. I weighed sixty-two pounds. I had a loose back tooth. I had murdered another child." (18)

fix er up: i'm not sure there's anything i'd change about this. maybe, just maybe, have a more developed conclusion (aka - i want to know what happens after the story). that's not really a fix er up, more of my being so absorbed that i want to know everything that happens ever in the life of Kip.

title: Right Behind You
author: Gail Giles
genre: Egy, Problem Novel

Review: Here Lies Arthur by Philip Reeve

in a sentence: Gwyna, a servant girl left behind after one of Arthur's raids, catches the eye of the famous wizard Myrddin. after Myrddin spots what might be some form of usefulness in the plain-faced orphan, Gwyna is in over her head and getting wrapped up in the legendary tale of Arthur.

we first meet little Gwyna as she's running away from the burning place she used to call home. a servant girl, used to being ignored (when she's not being kicked around), is shocked by the seeming kindness from the tall and clever storyteller. Myrddin has been spending his time weaving tales about wonderful and fantastic Arthur, although Gwyna knows just how crude, beastly, and aggressive Arthur really is.

without giving away any of the plot, Reeve takes the reader through some of the more famous people in the Arthurian legend. we meet Myrddin (Merlin), Arthur, Cei (Arthur's half-bro), Gwenhhwyfar (Guenevere), and others. this is not an "oh-my-gosh-Arthur-is-the-greatest-ever!" book. far from it. Reeve explores what some of the myths might have actually been like before the test of time and the romanticizing of the legend. mostly, the focus is on Gwyna, who is the narrator and Myrddin as the master behind Arthur's power.

while this is a clever idea with beautiful writing and turns of phrase, and creative characters, i found myself bored at points. Gwyna made a great narrator, though i felt that her self-professed plainness seeped through to her character development. there were insightful musings on what boys are like, what girls are like, why girls aren't mentioned in famous legends unless as a bad person or as a prize for the men, why war was glamorized, etc. the weaving of myth and reality made for excellent story-telling techniques, but i can't help feeling that there was so much potential to be tapped here, and it just fell flat for me.

fave quote: "The real Arthur had been just a little tyrant in an age of tyrants. What mattered about him was the stories." (331)

fix er up: the pacing of the book. the elaborate visual storytelling techniques and fresh ideas couldn't make up for the sluggish pace for me.

title: Here Lies Arthur
author: Philip Reeve
genre: Fantasy, Historical Fiction

Review: Forever by Judy Blume

in a sentence or two: Katherine is a senior in high school who takes the time to really think through relationships and sex. so when she meets Michael, she will have to decide if and when she is mentally, emotionally, and physically ready for...should she even think the words 'sex' and 'love'?

Katherine and Michael meet at a new years eve party, where he is so immediately interested in her that he comes back the next day for a chance to see her again. their 'weekend only' relationship is tough for the puppy love teenagers. but as they learn more about each other and spend more time together, the pressure for more physical expressions of their relationship start.

throughout the book, we have Katherine and Michael, Katherine's friend Erica and Michael's friend Artie (Artie might be gay, but Erica is determined), and Sybil (the girl who hosted the NYE party and is intimate with far too many guys). Blume takes the time to explore all of these relationships in her story, which creates a diversity and realistic feel. she takes a good look at the journey of first love. the inside cover blurb says that Katherine is in love with love, while Michael is in love with Katherine. i'd say that's a pretty solid analysis, at least for Katherine as the narrator.

i've heard sooooo much buzz about this book, and i think i expected more. now, of course this was written in 1973 so the subject manner (sex) and the way it was dealt with (not scary, but thoughtful) was groundbreaking. i think some of that is lost on me because of the generation i come from, but i still found myself giggling at parts and nodding in understanding at parts. proof that first love and relationships have some undeniable similarities.

at times poorly veiled advice for sexual relationships, at other times insightful, this book was one that kept me thinking after i'd finished. Katherine's family is understanding, supportive, loving, and patient. i think that of all the advice Blume sprinkles in the book - that is the nugget i took out of it. the good news is, there are many nuggets to choose from!

fave quote: "...because I love you too,' I whispered into his chest. Saying it for the first time was the hardest. There"s something so final about it. The second time I sat up and said it right to him. 'I love you, Michael Wagner.' 'Forever?' he asked. 'Forever,' I said." (75)

fix er up: while i know that some people find the idea that Michael calls his weenie Ralph funny, i find it bizarre and silly goose. there's just something about penis-names that weirds me out.

title: Forever
author: Judy Blume
genre: Coming of Age, Chick Lit, Romance, Challenged Title (pretty regularly)

Review: Borrower of the Night (Vicky Bliss Series #1) by Elizabeth Peters

in a sentence or two: Vicky Bliss is hot on the trail for what she hopes to be the missing Riemenschneider art piece. unfortunately, finding it in the seemingly haunted gothic castle might not be as easy as it seems...

Vicky is described in the opening chapters as quite the hottie. though, she does not consider this to be an asset in her life. she's tall, big (in the right places), blonde and blue-eyed. she's envious of those little sharp-featured dark haired lovelies in the world, but what can you do. she's smart, determined, and has quite a knack for adventure and mystery.

while talking with her on again/off again boy-toy Tony, she discovers what might be the clue to a missing art piece. unable to resist the temptation to spend her summer in Germany trying to discover its location, she makes plans to go unravel the secrets and find the sculpture hidden in Rothenburg. specifically, the Schloss Drachenstein.

while competing with Tony (who also wants to find it to prove his superiority to her in a romantic way) and George (the man who just has to have everything worth having), Vicky and pals discover that not all is as it should be at the Schloss. they are caught snooping - repeatedly - and no one even bats an eye. suspicious. between trying to find the missing sculpture, avoid what very well might be ghosts sliding around the castle at nighttime, attending seances at the Schloss owner's request, and unraveling the mysteries that lie in the castle - this is a pretty busy book. i never fancied myself as someone who would really like mystery/suspense, but Peter's sucked me right in.

i absolutely adored Vicky's voice. she's clever, snarky, sarcastic, dead-pan, resourceful and independent. i have a feeling i will be meeting her again in the future (i seriously plan on reading more of her series). i'm pretty blown away this was written in 1973. it felt super modern.

fave quote: (hard to choose, because as noted, Vicky is pretty snarky and i really enjoyed that) "If there is anything worse than being a tall girl, it is being a tall smart girl" (1)

fix er up: the ending wasn't totally a surprise to me, but i don't think that ruined the overall appeal. the journey was the exciting part, not the conclusion.

title: Borrower of the Night (Vicky Bliss Series #1)
author: Elizabeth Peters
genre: Mystery, Adventure, Lisa's Faves

Review: A Curse Dark as Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce

in a sentence or two: the curse on the Miller family, the mill house, and pretty much the whole town of Shearing never held much weight with Charlotte. and then she inherits the mill from her father after his death and is forced to see just how real that curse is...

for as long as she can remember, Charlotte Miller has been hearing about the Miller family curse. after some money woes surface at the mill, she is forced to solicit help from a mysterious little man who calls himself Jack Spinner. it just so happens that Mr. Spinner can spin gold and only wants a little trinket of a ring in exchange. while he temporarily relieves their financial hardship, he leaves a flood of bad luck in his wake. Charlotte and her handy sister Rosie know there has to be away to get out from under all this bad luck business and are determined to find a way to save both the mill and their family.

Bunce cleverly re-tells the Rumpelstiltskin story by using the miller's daughter as the narrator. Charlotte is a way to explore the depths and unanswered questions from the original fairy tale and, quite frankly, is done pretty darn well. the theme of curse vs. luck is examined through the different characters, who are each complex and multidimensional - even the minor ones. Bunce balances the fantasy element with the authenticity of Charlottes impossible situation to show her path of self-discovery and deep love of family. the writing style was so intricate and thoughtful, which really complimented the peaceful plot pace and helped to walk the line between fantasy and reality.

bursting with mystery, plot twists, and magical elements, this 1700s-era tale is something that can definitely be enjoyed by a broad audience of young adults and adults alike. after all, who doesn't like a fairy tale?

fave quote:
"But I sensed a fragility in that barrier, and I vowed then that I would let nothing disturb it. Whatever else happened, this was sacred. I think that was the moment when I truly drew Randall close in to me, alongside Rosie and Shearing and Stirwaters. These things were mine, and I would let no harm come to them." (198)

fix er up: for whatever reason, i really got bored with it halfway through. looking back, i think it was a case of the right book at the wrong time for me. i really really really liked this one!

title: A Curse Dark as Gold
author: Elizabeth C. Bunce
genre: Drama, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Problem Novel