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Review: The Juliet Club

Author: Suzanne Harper
Series: N/A
Publishing: May 27, 2008/HarperTeen/402 pages
Format Read: Paperback
Source: Borrowed
Classroom shelfability: Yes
Rating:
Review Blue Egg 3
Summary (from GoodReads): Italy . . . Shakespeare . . . but no romance? Kate Sanderson inherited her good sense from her mother, a disciplined law professor, and her admiration for the Bard from her father, a passionate Shakespeare scholar. When she gets dumped, out of the blue, for the Practically Perfect Ashley Lawson, she vows never to fall in love again. From now on she will control her own destiny, and every decision she makes will be highly reasoned and rational. She thinks Shakespeare would have approved.So when she is accepted to a summer Shakespeare symposium in Verona, Italy, Kate sees it as the ideal way to get over her heartbreak once and for all. She’ll lose herself in her studies, explore ancient architecture, and eat plenty of pasta and gelato. (Plus, she’ll be getting college credit for it–another goal accomplished ) But can even completely logical Kate resist the romance of living in a beautiful villa in the city where those star-crossed lovers Romeo and Juliet met and died for each other? Especially when the other Shakespeare Scholars–in particular Giacomo, with his tousled brown hair, expressive dark eyes, and charming ways–try hard to break her protective shell?”In fair Verona, where we lay our scene . . . ”

My Thoughts: Gotta love a good Shakespeare/travel to Italy/YA romance. This was a light, fluffy fun read complete with some “meh” writing but all-in-all a cute and satisfying beach read.
Some of the writing made me cringe but in the book’s defense I’m more “A” than “Y” so perhaps I just have a lower tolerance? It was definitely high school chatty-type writing that served it’s purpose but kinda grated on my nerves.
Kate is your typical YA star – pretty but doesn’t know it, grumpy but still had at least one good friend, headstrong but easily wooed by a pretty boy. And, Giacomo fits his mold perfectly as well.
The story is predictable but I’m a super for Shakespeare so I can’t complain much. 😉
Don’t let my cynicism prevent you from picking up this perfect Spring Break read. It is definiely “good” and it sure is fun. It would find space on my classroom’s book shelf but maybe not my shelf at home.


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Review: The Truth About Forever

 

Author: Sarah Dessen
Series: N/A
Publishing: May 11, 2004/Penguin Group/374 pages
Format Read: Paperback
Source: Borrowed
Classroom shelfability: Yes
Rating:
Review Blue Egg 3
Summary (from GoodReads): That’s what Macy has to look forward to while her boyfriend, Jason, is away at Brain Camp. Days will be spent at a boring job in the library, evenings will be filled with vocabulary drills for the SATs, and spare time will be passed with her mother, the two of them sharing a silent grief at the traumatic loss of Macy’s father.But sometimes unexpected things can happen—things such as the catering job at Wish, with its fun-loving, chaotic crew. Or her sister’s project of renovating the neglected beach house, awakening long-buried memories. Things such as meeting Wes, a boy with a past, a taste for Truth-telling, and an amazing artistic talent, the kind of boy who could turn any girl’s world upside down. As Macy ventures out of her shell, she begins to wonder, Is it really better to be safe than sorry?
My Thoughts: I was really nervous about this book. I am typically not a YA “regular” fiction kinda gal. I don’t really like books that don’t have some type of fantasy/paranormal/alternate universe thing goin’ on. I’ve always said “I don’t like reading books about real life or drama – I have enough of that in my own life!” Which is totes true, y’all.
For years I’ve heard wonderful things about Sarah Dessen and decided to pick up The Truth About Forever. The cover seemed the least offensive – no one was hugging on the beach or standing under the sun kissing.
The good news? I liked it! I really liked it! The bad? I “liked it” – didn’t love it, wouldn’t read another Dessen book, probably, but hey, progress is progress.
Dessen IS good at what she writes. The characters and the plot were both well developed. I felt connected to her characters, I was invested in their stories. There were just enough romantic elements without being overbearing. And I’ll admit it: I may have teared up at the end.. so sweet!
I typically find that YA books about teens, heartbreak, love, etc are pretty painful to read. Not true with Dessen. Everything was well balanced and she weaved a story that held my attention and had my rooting for and against all the right characters.
So, why 3 eggs? It was just “meh” to me. Perhaps I’m biased – I shouldn’t review non-fantasy/paranormal/adventure YA books because they really just aren’t my cup of tea. It was fun to experience the emotions of falling in love, having a great best friend, etc. but I’ve gotta be honest: I’d much rather prefer some magic or dare I even say it… vampires.
I think most people would enjoy this book. As I said, it is well written and it’s engaging. Dessen is a good author and there is no denying that. In addition, I’d put this on my classroom shelf – my kids would eat this book up. For my genre specific loving readers, this may be one to skip if you’re picky like me.


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Review: The Night Circus

Author: Erin Morganstern
Series: N/A
Publishing: September 13, 2011/Doubleday/387 pages
Format Read: Hardback
Source: Borrowed
Classroom shelfability: No
Rating:
 Review Blue Egg 3
Summary (from GoodReads): The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus per­formers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.Written in rich, seductive prose, this spell-casting novel is a feast for the senses and the heart.

 My Thoughts: I have a confession– I feel like a bad book blogger. I heard WONDERFUL things about this book. Raving reviews, tons of praise, “OMG THIS IS THE BEST BOOK EVAR!”  fangirling, etc. I was all prepared to a d o r e this book and be swept up by it’s amazingness.

But, I didn’t…

In fact, the only reason this book got 3 eggs instead of 2 or 1 (eek!) is because of Morganstern’s imagination. Holy macaroni, I’d love to live in that woman’s head. I was seriously blown away by her truly fantastic writing and vivid imagery. In that sense, this book was beautiful.

I also LOVED the cover and interior of the book. Gorgeous gorgeous gorgeous.

And that’s where my praise ends. Everything else? “Meh.” I gotta be honest: I was TOTALLY bored by this book. I kept waiting for more– romance, a battle, more magic, some type of serious twist or exchange between characters. Nada.

While the characters were likeable enough, none of their stories sucked me in. I was apathetic, at best, to their situations and the only character who I even kinda liked was Bailey. And, I am the type of reader that usually wants to cuddle around a campfire with all the characters singing “Kumbaya”- not this time, folks.

I am usually very taken with changes in POV and multiple time frames but it didn’t work for me here. Perhaps because there was a very weak, boring-as-heck plot? It took me FOREVER to finish this book.. like 2 weeks, at least. Very rare for me. Even my husband said “isn’t it taking you a really long time to finish that book?”. I meekly replied: “I don’t like it.” “Well, clearly!”… yeah, pretty much solidifed my fairly unpopular opinion on The Night Circus.

I will give credit where credit is due- the ending was one of the other decent parts of this book. But even combined with the positives I discussed above, this book still fell super flat for me. Enough cannot be said about Morganstern’s craft or incredible imagination and for that I commend her highly {she very well could be one of the best writers in the bunch}. But, everything else? Not my piece of cake.

It’s funny: from the blogger folk I’ve talked to, you either love or really dislike this book. I can’t even begin to loosely group people together who I’d think would enjoy this book- it seems fairly random. So here’s what I’ll say, read The Night Circus for the imagination and creativity that oozes off the pages but don’t expect anything more.

Classroom shelfability? Heck to the n o.


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Review: Entwined

Author: Heather Dixon
Series: N/A
Publishing: March 29, 2011/ Greenwillow Books/472 pages
Format Read: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Classroom shelfability: Yes
Rating: 3 Eggs!Summary (from GoodReads): Azalea is trapped. Just when she should feel that everything is before her . . . beautiful gowns, dashing suitors, balls filled with dancing . . . it’s taken away. All of it.

The Keeper understands. He’s trapped, too, held for centuries within the walls of the palace. And so he extends an invitation.

Every night, Azalea and her eleven sisters may step through the enchanted passage in their room to dance in his silver forest.

But there is a cost.

The Keeper likes to keep things.

Azalea may not realize how tangled she is in his web until it is too late.

My Thoughts: Before I get started I need to make it clear that the 12 Dancing Princesses is my all-time favorite fairy tale. I love finding books that retell the story in a different light but usually find myself disappointed with the retold versions. I felt pretty underwhelmed by this book. Perhaps I hold 12 Dancing Princesses spin-offs at too high a standard or just assume I’m going to adore them and don’t… Either way, this turned out to just be an average read for me.

First: hot dayyummm, that cover is SWOON WORTHY. I love it!

To be fair, there were a few really good things I liked. I thought the characterization of the king was WONDERFUL. He really made the book for me and I loved watching the girls’ relationship with their father change.

I also really enjoyed the concept of hidden passageways, swearing on silver, and those adorable sugar tongs. In addition, Dixon is very skilled at description writing- there are some very beautiful pictures tied up in her words! Her description of the forest was downright stunning.

What I didn’t like: the girls. For some reason, Azalea really was irritating to me. She was feisty which I appreciated but just didn’t strike me as the heroine Dixon was trying for. The rest of them? Pretty boring.

I usually don’t have a hard time with suspending disbelief but I had a hard time believing everyone was a-okay with the final, VERY MAGICAL part of the book. I know that our main characters were aware of magic but for some reason the fact that all of the other characters were cool with (spoiler) girls being trapped in mirrors just felt not believable to me. I feel like Dixon needed to clear up whether or not everyone was aware that magic still existed or not. But, alas, I am not an author.

Keeper was just okay to me. He could’ve been creepier and I was sometimes unclear what was actually happening at his soirees.. were other “dancers” there? Speaking of dancing, the girls absolute adoration of dancing got a little too involved for my taste. In my mind, just because the book is based on dancing doesn’t mean the characters have to be obsessed with it. But, again, see comment: I am not an author.

Overall, I just felt a little let down. Dixon weaves a beautiful, somewhat boring story.  Many people describe her writing as relaxing but it made me more sleepy than anything. The plot was fairly predictable (I knew exactly who Lea, Bram, and Clover were going to marry when their respective partners were introduced). That said, there were some really nice, new elements that she explored.

Like I said, maybe it’s my affinity for this fairy tale that always makes me score re-tellings lower than they probably should be. I think many people would enjoy this book (that cover is gorgeous!!) and it most certainly has classroom shelfability.


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Review: The Lightning Thief


Author: Rick Riordan
Series: Percy Jackson and the Olympians #1
Publishing: April 1, 2006/ Hyperion/375 pages
Format Read: NOOK
Source: Borrowed
Classroom shelfability: Yes
Rating:
Review Blue Egg 3

 

Summary from GoodReadsPercy Jackson is about to be kicked out of boarding school… again. And that’s the least of his troubles. Lately, mythological monsters and the gods of Mount Olympus seem to be walking straight out of the pages of Percy’s Greek mythology textbook and into his life. And worse, he’s angered a few of them. Zeus’ master lightning bolt has been stolen, and Percy is the prime suspect.

Now Percy and his friends have just ten days to find and return Zeus’ stolen property and bring peace to a warring Mount Olympus. But to succeed on his quest, Percy will have to do more than catch the true thief: he must come to terms with the father who abandoned him; solve the riddle of the Oracle, which warns him of betrayal by a friend; and unravel a treachery more powerful than the gods themselves.

My Thoughts: I foggily remembered the plot of this book because I saw the movie on an international flight. As a result, the book left me kind of underwhelmed.

First things first: I adore Greek mythology. Always have. That’s the number one reason I chose the movie on that plane. The good news is that the book on the whole is good. Not bad, not great– good. Average.

The characters are likeable enough. Percy is relatable and all of the characterization felt appropriate. I loved the basis of the backstory: a “summer camp” for half bloods. The different cabins, the kids, all a lot of fun. I wish we could’ve spent more time there instead of questing.

Riordan did a beautiful job describing things. I got a little weak kneeded at the descriptions of Olympus and the Underworld. And, I loved that Cerebus was a Rottie like my baby Bowser.

Another thing I really enjoyed was all of Percy & Co.’s encounters with different mythological beings. Their human tie-ins were funny and overall I think those scenes were some of the best parts of the book.

So what did I not like? Having spoiled the plot for myself. As I said, I was left pretty under-wow’d because I knew the twist from that dumb movie. While it was still fun to read, I probably should’ve skipped this one. However, I do believe that 3 eggs would be what I would’ve rated it had I seen the movie or not. The book was your average, fun, middle-grade read. And, my students would love it. It most certainly has shelfability in my classroom.

If you’ve seen the movie or don’t typically like middle grade YA, steer clear, although the mythological aspect is enough to pull most fantasy lovers in.


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Review: Graceling


Author: Kristin Cashore
Series: Graceling Realm #1
Publishing: October 1, 2008/ Harcourt/471 pages
Format Read: NOOK
Source: Purchased
Classroom shelfability: Yes
Rating:
 
 
 
Summary (from GoodReads): In a world where people born with an extreme skill—called a Grace—are feared and exploited, Katsa carries the burden of the skill even she despises: the Grace of killing. She lives under the command of her uncle Randa, King of the Middluns, and is expected to execute his dirty work, punishing and torturing anyone who displeases him.When she first meets Prince Po, who is Graced with combat skills, Katsa has no hint of how her life is about to change.She never expects to become Po’s friend.She never expects to learn a new truth about her own Grace—or about a terrible secret that lies hidden far away…a secret that could destroy all seven kingdoms with words alone.
 

My Thoughts: 
I didn’t think I was going to make it through this book. It started off SO slow and I still don’t like Katsa. Cashore is a talented writer but I feel like this book didn’t live up to it’s potential. I was intrigued by the 7 kingdoms and by the prospect of Graces but on the whole this book left me wanting more.
Katsa really irritated me. I understand she had a tough life, really, I do. But she just rubbed me the wrong way. I’m all about the strong heroine model but I felt she was more obnoxious and underdeveloped than anything. On the other hand, I adored Po. His Grace is awesome and he has got to be the most patient, nicest guy on the planet. Seriously.
Another gripe- I hate all of their names. Katsa, Po, Bitterblue… I know beggars can’t be choosers and that Fantasy names are always usually a littly wonky but Idid lots of eyerolling throughout these 471 pages.The only reason this book didn’t get 1 egg? King Leck and his daughter. The whole book should’ve been less journeying/ feeling sorry for Katsa and replaced with Leck and the Princess’ story. I NEED more Leck.
Finally, classroom shelfability: Graceling would for sure have a place in my classroom library. My middle schoolers would eat this book up.
At the end of the day, I can’t honestly say that I’m interested in reading Graceling Realm #2. I wish the story would’ve expanded more on the kingdoms and Graces– then I’d be in.