Sunday, January 31, 2010

2010 Debut Author Challenge

What is the 2010 Debut Author Challenge?

•The objective is to read a set number of YA (Young Adult) or MG (Middle Grade) novels from debut authors published this year.* I'm going to challenge everyone to read at least 12 debut novels! I’m hoping to read at least 30! You don’t have to list your choices right away, but if you do feel free to change them throughout the year. I will also be focusing on mostly Young Adult novels.

•Anyone can join, you don’t need a blog to participate. If you don’t have a blog you can always share your views by posting a review on / / GoodReads / Shelfari, or any other bookish site.

•The challenge will run from January 1, 2010- December 31, 2010. You can join at anytime!

This challenge is being hosted by Kristi over at The Story Siren. I kept going back and forth between joining and not joining, but I finally decided to go ahead and participate. My hesitation was mostly based on the fact that I get most of my books from the library, and they don't always get new titles in very quickly. I also try not to buy books because if I did I'd soon be broke. However, this is supposed to be a challenge, right? So I caved and signed up.

So far, this is the list I've compiled for the challenge:

Wish by Alexandra Bullen
The Secret Year by Jennifer Hubbard
The Mark by Jen Nadol
The Wish Stealers by Tracy Trivas
Dirty Little Secrets by C.J. Omololu
Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins
The Line by Teri Hall
The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson
The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting
Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken

Want to join the fun? Sign up for the challenge here.

In My Bag (3)

In My Mailbox was started by Kristi over at The Story Siren and it explores the contents of my mailbox or shopping bag on a weekly basis.

I should have actually posted this last weekend, but with the Saints going to the Superbowl and all (!!!), I was a little distracted and decided to save it for today. These were all finds from my local library. Fever 1793 and Catalyst by Laurie Halse Anderson; Story of a Girl and Sweethearts by Sara Zarr; Looking for Alaska and An Abundance of Katherines by John Green; and Gingerbread, Shrimp, and Cupcake by Rachel Cohn.

I've already posted a few reviews from this batch, and there will be more to come soon!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Sweethearts by Sara Zarr

Nine-year-old Jennifer Harris is overweight, doesn't wear the right clothes or live in the right part of town, and her mother doesn't make enough money. She is nicknamed "Fattifer" and teased by all the other kids in school. She doesn't have a single friend until she walks across the playground one day and befriends the other social outcast, Cameron Quick. Jennifer finds a soul mate in Cameron, and soon they become the closest of friends. Until, one day Cameron mysteriously disappears without a trace. Years pass, and Jennifer Harris transforms herself into Jenna Vaughn, a popular girl with a large circle of friends and the perfect boyfriend. Jenna's life is great until it is turned upside down when a new kid shows up in her senior class - Cameron Quick. Jenna is faced with the memories of her old friend and her old self - two people her new friends know nothing about.

I just read Sara Zarr's first novel, Story of a Girl, and couldn't wait to dive in to her second. Sweethearts did not disappoint. I loved Jenna. I loved her struggle with her haunted past and her present image. I thought the whole story was very realistic, and I loved that Zarr included some not so pretty pictures. Life isn't always pretty, and I'm really enjoying YA Fiction for portraying that truth again and again. I can't wait to get my hands on Zarr's third novel, Once Was Lost.

Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr

Deanna is a girl with a reputation. After being caught by her dad in the back seat of an old Buick with her older brother's friend, she starts high school as the class slut. Trying to move on from her mistake, Deanna is forced to deal with the whispered stories at school and her father's disappointment. Combine that with her brother's family living in the basement, her job at a pathetic pizza joint, and her two best friends who happen to be dating, and you have Story of a Girl.

I love dysfunctional families because, let's face it, most are at least a little bit crazy. (I know mine is plenty crazy.) Deanna and her brother, Darren, are doing the best they can with the choices they've made, and I think that says a lot about their maturity and sense of responsibility. I really enjoyed that message. I also like the importance of honesty in this novel. Even when things get ugly and scary and painful, the characters know they have to be honest. This was my first Sara Zarr novel, and I can't wait to move on to the next!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

" It's just a small story really, about, among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist fighter, and quite a lot of thievery . . . "

Set in WWII Germany, narrarated by Death, The Book Thief tells the tale of Liesel Meminger. Liesel steals her first book at her brother's burial just before her mother delivers her to a foster home. Devastated to be separated from her family, she finds solace in her foster father, Hans Huberman, who teaches her to read. Liesel is soon stealing from Nazi book-burnings and the mayor's wife's library. As life on Himmel Street is turned upside down, Liesel finds herself sharing the power of words with her neighbors during bomb raids and her basement with a Jewish man.

I obviously didn't know it at the time, but this book is why I learned to read. It's one of those books I immediately want to reread as soon as I finish the last page. I don't even know how to review it. I guess I should start by saying I am a WWII/Holocaust fanatic. I first read Lois Lowry's Number the Stars in fifth grade and have been hooked ever since. I was also a Religious Studies major in college with a concentration in Judaism. I'm hoping these personal facts will give you an idea of what drew me to this book and sucked me in from the very beginning. Of course, rave reviews and beautiful writing didn't hurt either.

Liesel is the type of character you want to pick up off the page and cradle. She is so innocent and real, and I felt like I just wanted to protect her. Hans Huberman? Gold, solid gold. He's become one of my favorite book characters of all time. I really don't want to say much more because I don't want to spoil a single thing. It's just something you need to experience for yourself. So run, don't walk, and get a copy immediately.

Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac by Gabrielle Zevin

Naomi Porter loses a coin toss, falls down a flight of stairs, and hits her head. She awakes in an ambulance with a boy claiming to be her boyfriend who disappears soon after they arrive at the hospital. Naomi soon discovers that she remembers nothing that happened in the past four years. She doesn't know that she has a boyfriend (who isn't the guy from the ambulance), why her best friend calls her "Chief," or that her parents are now divorced. She returns to her junior year of high school as a stranger to herself. Memoirs takes a hard look at the high school experience, and Naomi realizes she doesn't need her memory to find her true self.

I love love loved the characters in this book. Zevin did a fantastic job filling the typical high school roles. I also loved getting to know Naomi as she got to know herself. I was very pleased with this book overall.

Friday, January 15, 2010

In My Bag (2)

In My Mailbox was started by Kristi over at The Story Siren and it explores the contents of my mailbox or shopping bag on a weekly basis.

I received a Barnes and Noble gift card from my future mother-in-law for Christmas, and it's been burning a hole in my wallet. I rarely allow myself to purchase new books, so shopping at a book store is a real treat for me. Of course, that's not to say I'm not still frugal when it comes to buying new books. I shopped the bargain bin online, used a coupon along with my membership, AND got free shipping.

Here's what I scored:

A Death in Belmont by Sebastian Junger, Every Visable Thing by Lisa Carey, Abundance by Sena Jeter Naslund, My Father's Secret War by Lucinda Franks, Mockingbird by Charles J. Shields, The Sacred Bones by Michael Byrnes, Flyboys by James Bradley, Jack's Life by Douglas Gresham, Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah, The Last Week by Borg and Crossan, The Almost Moon by Alice Sebold, Flory by Flory A. Van Beek

Thanks Mrs. Jacki for the fantastic gift :)

The Realm of Possibility by David Levithan

The Realm of Possibility is not your average novel, but then David Levithan isn't your average writer, either.

I was first introduced to Levithan when I read Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist last year, cowritten by Rachel Cohn. Someday I'll post a review of it and you'll see why immediately after finishing Nick and Norah I added all of Levithan's books to my ever-growing list.

I was nearly halfway through Possibility when I realized I was really loving it. I had no idea what it was about beforehand (I have a habit of doing that), so I was a little nervous when I discovered the entire book was written in verse by twenty different narrarators. The writing was amazing and so was Levithan's voice, which was what made me plow through the first half of the book. At that point I realized the narrarators were all students at the same high school and their stories were intertwined. Genius! Each of Levithan's characters had a distinct voice that spoke of the issues and emotions we all felt in high school - love, heartbreak, angst, etc. I finished this book last week, and I am still amazed by it.

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Speak begins with Melinda Sordino's first day of high school. All of her old friends hate her because she busted the end of summer party by calling the cops. Melinda floats through school without a voice, silenced by the shame of what happened that night. No one knows why she called the cops, and she can't bring herself to speak up. As the school year progresses she loses the only friend she has (whom she doesn't even like) and comes face to face with "IT," the boy who left her unable to speak.

Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak was on my list for a while, so finally finding it on my local library's shelf was like waking up on Christmas morning. I devoured this book in just a few sittings and was not left disappointed. Although it didn't take me long to figure out what happened to Melinda at the party, I really enjoyed the way that night was revealed piece by piece. I also loved Anderson's portrait of high school. From Melinda's relationship with her parents to her teachers to her old friends, Laurie Halse Anderson really gave what I believed to be an accurate description of what high school is like for anyone who is the least bit different.

In My Bag (1)

In My Mailbox was started by Kristi over at The Story Siren and it explores the contents of her mailbox or shopping bag on a weekly basis. My mom got me this super cute book bag for Christmas, hence my version of In My Mailbox.

So anyway, I went to my local library the other night to pick up a few things to get me started in the new year. Can I tell you how much I love my local library? The smell, the feel, the smell, the fantastic librarians... Did I mention the smell? I've been feeling a little under the weather the past few days, and I swear I feel revived from the trip. Not to mention the great finds I came home with! I was introduced to a lot of great YA fiction last year by the girls at the Nest, so I decided to kick off the new year with some of the recommended books I discovered through them.

I came home with The Realm of Possibility by David Levithan, Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac by Gabrielle Zevin, and The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak.

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