• ❤ Mon, Dec. 03, 2012

    Review: The Twelve Dates of Christmas by Catherine Hapka (WinterHaven Sleigh Tour, includes giveaway!)

    Today The Musings of ALMYBNENR is excited to join the WinterHaven Sleigh Tour hosted by WinterHaven Books! This week, we are posting our choice of a Winter Book Review. To see who else is on the sleigh, go to WinterHaven Sleigh Tour for a list of participating blogs.

    What do you do when you have lost that spark with your long-term boyfriend, are worried about your after-high school plans not working out with his, yet still want him in your life? Think up a clever plan to make him fall for another girl, that is what!

    Lexi Michaels, native of Claus Lake, Wisconsin, decides to do just that. Cameron Kehoe is a really great guy, a gentleman, but he plans to stay local to their Christmas-obsessed town and maybe one day open up a restaurant while Lexi plans to go to college far away and pursue her future career in a big city. Cam does not seem worried but Lexi cannot reconcile her plans and her relationship, but she wants to at least keep Cam’s friendship. So she decides to get him to break up with her and she even has a girl lined up for him: new-to-town southern belle Jaylene. But when Lexi’s plan works and she sees the results in person, she feels a twinge of guilt and maybe a bit of jealousy. She can barely stand seeing cute, bubbly Jaylene draped all over her Cam and she enlists the help of her best friend Allie and her cousin Nick to help her come up with a new plan: get Cam back in time for Christmas.

    Catherine Hapka wrote The Twelve Dates of Christmas (what a fun title!) from the first person point-of-view of Lexi. Lexi was one of those very logical girls who always sided with her brain rather than her heart or instincts and all signs pointed to her relationship with Cam not working out after they graduated, so she decided to end things sooner rather than later, but she also did not want to hurt him, so she needed him to break up with her. With some elaborate planning and despite protests from her romance-lovin’, budding self-help specialist best friend Allie and her cousin Nick (who was more like a brother), Lexi succeeded. It felt awkward to me as well as sad and conflicted because I agreed with Allie: Lexi made a huge mistake. I really felt badly for Cam even though he was hurt less with things working out this way, but I also felt for Lexi because she thought she had to do this instead of letting things play out and be great.

    Once Lexi began to doubt herself and began trying to get Cam back in earnest, she tried and failed over and over and Allie’s “Twelve Date” theory (once a new couple had been on twelve dates, their relationship would pretty much be solid) did not help her. She panicked and became more and more desperate. But I was rooting for her the whole time. She needed to get Cam back! What made things more difficult was despite Jaylene’s outgoing, bubbly personality, she genuinely liked Lexi and pretty much everyone and she was a really sweet girl. I worried how things would end up with her.

    And all the time, the town’s huge Christmas Eve Costume Ball was looming closer and closer and if Cam’s dates with Jaylene were any inclination, it seemed as though the ball would end up being the very important date number twelve.

    The Twelve Dates of Christmas was a beautiful Christmas story and really, the first of its kind that I have ever read, as far as I know. I have never picked up a non-children’s book that was specifically marketed as a Christmas book. But I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was exactly the kind of feel good movie I would find on ABC Family at this time of year, with the romantic screw-ups and holiday magic. It was a book about honesty, love, and the season’s magic of harmony and all-around good cheer. I even teared up with the final chapter. The Twelve Dates of Christmas was not only a good Christmas read, but also just a good young adult contemporary novel.

    Recommended for young adult readers fourteen and older who enjoy contemporary novels and are wanting ones with a holiday twist.

    Catherine Hapka has written over one hundred books for children and adults, both under her own name and as a ghostwriter. The books she has written for the Romantic Comedies series (stand-alones by various authors grouped as romantic comedies) include The Twelve Dates of Christmas, Something Borrowed, and Love on Cue. Hapka lives in Pennsylvania.

    Buy on: AmazonThe Book DepositoryBooks-A-Million

    As part of the festivities, WinterHaven Books is hosting an international giveaway that will include a copy of Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares (signed by Levithan and Cohn) and a copy of Let it Snow to four lucky winners. Good luck and happy holidays!


    Tags: 2012 | 2012 150 Reading Challenge | 2012 Books You Can Read in a Day Challenge | 2012 eBook Challenge | Kindle | WinterHaven Sleigh Tour 2012 | YA | YA Contemporary Challenge 2012 | bought | contemporary | eBook | fiction | holidays | review | giveaway |
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  • ❤ Fri, Aug. 31, 2012

    Review: Beautiful Lies by Jessica Warman

    Eighteen-year-old identical twins Alice and Rachel live with their Aunt Sharon, Uncle Jeff, and cousin Charlie and have been with them ever since their parents died nine years before. One night as the twins are hanging out with friends, one of them goes off on her own and not long after, the other does not feel their connection anymore. Being so identical, strange things happen between them. When something might happen to one, the other knows something is up. When one is harmed physically, the effects also show up on the other twin. The first time they noticed this phenomenon was when they were four. Now, one has gone missing and the other tries to make her family see that the situation is serious while trying to use her bond with her twin to find her.

    I apologize in advance if things get confusing. There is a reason why I have only mentioned the twins’ names once so far. Jessica Warman’s writing is so clever and compelling that it will be best to experience Beautiful Lies for yourself. Ever heard of the unreliable narrator? Oh yeah. That is part of this book as well as a lot of mystery and strange happenings that will have your mind spinning trying to keep track of it all as you try to decode what is going on.

    I picked up Beautiful Lies firstly because of the identical twins. I have always had a fascination with twins, I have always read books about twins, and I have always wanted a twin. Even more fascinating was learning that this pair had a very strong, very eerie bond. Add in all the mystery and I was hooked.

    I was also baffled the whole time, which was not a bad thing. Warman had so much mystery woven throughout that novel that things were still coming to light even in the last few pages. I was so into the book that after I started late one night, I read sporadically throughout the next day before finally sitting down to finish the rest in one long sitting because I was determined to finish and get some answers. It took the whole afternoon and evening, but it was so worth it. The story was swimming around my mind for the rest of the night and the rest of that week.

    I kept wondering if the main character was crazy or if she really had a gift. It was sort of resolved by the end because all of the crazy came together and made some sense, leading credence to the possibility that this twin had very good intuition or some sort of sixth sense. As Warman wrote in the book, there was a fine line between being crazy and being attuned to something that others could not begin to comprehend. Even though my confidence in the main character returned at the end, there were still a few major things that were not explained that left me wondering and turning things over in my mind. But that was the beauty of it. How can you explain the unexplainable? I wish I could be specific because I want to know what others think happened in these cases. If anyone wants to analyze this book, hit me up!

    Beautiful Lies was appropriately baffling, mysterious, and unsettling and it will definitely stick with you long after you finish reading it.

    Recommended for readers sixteen and older who enjoy mysteries, thrillers, and who, like me, always wanted a twin and are interested in so-called twin phenomena. 

    Jessica Warman is the author of Where the Truth Lies, Breathless, and Between. Beautiful Lies is currently available.

    Buy on: AmazonBook Depository


    Tags: 2012 | review | YA | fiction | contemporary | ARC | NetGalley | mystery | thriller | 2012 150 Reading Challenge | 2012 eBook Challenge | 2012 Books You Can Read in a Day Challenge | August 2012 Ultimate Reviewers' Challenge | YA Contemporary Challenge 2012 |
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  • ❤ Thu, Aug. 30, 2012

    Review: Rape Girl by Alina Klein

    Valerie is a typical sixteen-year-old girl. She does everything with her best friend, Mimi, at her side. She worries about outfits, that cute boy she is crushing on, and parties, especially the one she plans to throw while her mom is out of town.

    Little does she know that her party and the aftermath will irrevocably change her life. That cute boy she is crushing on, Adam? He turns out to be the type of guy who thinks he is a gift to all females and he rapes Valerie. Shocked and upset afterwards, Valerie waits a few days before telling her mother and involving the police. But when people at school find out what happened they all think Valerie lied about what happened and support Adam. Mimi turns on her as well as the whole school as she deals with the stress of making a case against Adam and attending a support group. She lived through a hellish experience only to find herself stuck in hell. What will happen to her now?

    Alina Klein wrote Rape Girl in the present with interspersed flashbacks that slowly revealed what actually happened to Valerie. The rape occurred over Thanksgiving break, but the dam burst at Thanksgiving dinner when Valerie blurted out what had happened to her. Her mother immediately took Valerie to the clinic, but even though Valerie did the right thing in speaking up, she did make a few mistakes. She showered away the evidence and even threw away all of the clothes she had been wearing in nearby dumpster, but luckily the police were able to salvage those. 

    Valerie’s best friend Mimi abandons her. She was convinced that Valerie was not raped because she had a crush on Adam before and because she had had a few drinks. She even wondered if Val made the whole thing up so she would not get in trouble for throwing a party. I was appalled but I also know some teens really are that stupid. Some best friend. And most everyone else at school believed she was a liar.

    Losing a friend, however crappy that friend was, hurt Val, but she gained an even better one. Sandrina bullied Mimi at school the year before but Val stopped her. But tragedy trumped their differences and Sandrina befriended Valerie, seeming totally genuine. When Val learned a bit about Sandrina’s past, she realized why the other girl understood. I really liked this new friendship. It was my favorite thing about Rape Girl.

    But other things that happened frankly pissed me off. Valerie’s school principal actually forced her to be in a room with Adam (along with the guidance counselor she had been confiding in and who heartily disapproved of this awful arrangement) to clear up their differences. Are you surprised to know that the principal was male? I was not either. I also did not understand why Val or the counselor, Ms. Gimli, did not call her mother or even the detectives they had been working with because this situation was wrong on so many levels. The asshole - I mean, Adam - asked Valerie why she ruined his life! I wanted to walk right into the book and throttle him. He was incredibly stupid and thought he had done nothing wrong. He even had the audacity to ask Val to tell another girl that he wanted to go to prom with that this whole thing was a mistake. Pause while my head spins around my neck.

    Finally, after a scene with Sandrina, Rape Girl abruptly ended. What? What about retribution? What about teaching that - Adam - and all of the other screwed up teens at that school what they did wrong since they were too dense to understand? I got so worked up and did not get any satisfaction from the ending. I wanted more to happen. 

    Rape Girl was a book with an important topic and carried extra weight because Klein is a rape survivor herself (I wonder if any of this was a bit biographical?). I just think it would have satisfied me more if it was another fifty to one hundred pages long.

    Recommended for readers fourteen and up. It was not at all graphic, but it was a heavy subject. Hopefully reading it will teach teens that everything Adam, Mimi, and the other follow-the-herd teenagers did was wrong so that they do not ever act like them.

    Alina Klein is a reader, writer, and lover of the outdoors. She lives in in Indiana with her husband, two sons, and lots of pets. Rape Girl is available now and is her debut young adult novel.

    Buy on: AmazonBook Depository


    Tags: 2012 | review | YA | fiction | contemporary | ARC | NetGalley | 2012 150 Reading Challenge | 2012 eBook Challenge | YA Contemporary Challenge 2012 | August 2012 Ultimate Reviewers' Challenge | 2012 Books You Can Read in a Day Challenge |
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  • ❤ Mon, Aug. 27, 2012

    Review: Before You Go by James Preller

    Jude’s home life is rather boring and borderline depressing. The entire house is kept dark and even though three people live inside, it is like each of them live by themselves for their lack of speech to each other. But Jude is sort of used to it; after all, it has been this way for seven years, ever since his little sister drowned in their swimming pool when he was watching her. Needing some change, Jude get a job at one of the concession stands on the beach for the summer between his junior and senior years. He spends the summer hanging out with his best friend Corey, and working, where he makes a new friend with Roberto and crushes on cashier Becka. But his summer is more than work, fun, and potential love. It all comes crashing down when his world is pushed off kilter, just like seven years before.

    James Preller divided Before You Go into two parts, as you may have guessed from the first sentence: before and after. Along with two parts also came two different Judes and two different families. In part one, Jude was a bit scarred but was able to go on with his life, especially outside of the home with his friends and at work, while his listless mom kept herself locked up in a dark house and his father obsessed about work and running, spending little time inside. In part two, their roles were almost reversed. Jude became an angry, ugly person while his parents became more invested in him. His mom came back to the world of the living to help her son and both parents woke up to the fact that despite losing a daughter they still had another child.

    The actual “in-between”, I guess I can call it, was short and like something out of a movie or television when the scenes play in slow motion, cutting from one shot to the next. There was more of an explanation with the aftermath but at first I thought that this part, this terrible thing that happened, moved too quickly. It was also described too quickly, in too few words. But as I read on, I realized these nightmarish snapshots fit. It was a blur, like a nightmare everyone hoped to wake from. The way Preller wrote this scene did not elicit tears from me. At the time, the reader knows only Jude’s thoughts and feelings and he kind of floated through the situation aimlessly at first before getting very angry about it, so his initial numbness produced the same effect in me. It was only later when he held a conversation about it with someone’s mom that it finally brought unshed tears to my eyes. 

    An interesting device that threw me once in awhile was that Preller told the story through Jude’s third person point-of-view, but once in awhile when Jude interacted with other characters, there seemed to be a quick switch to the other character’s perspective for about a paragraph. I am still not exactly sure what to make of that. Also a minor note: this was an eARC so strange things can happen, but I think this was a first for me. Between the part about “The Accident” and part one, the text was so faint that it hurt to read it and I also was not sure if that was a blurb of sorts or the actual beginning of the novel.

    I knew from the synopsis that something bad would happen in this book so I was on edge the whole time. The first part was happy and normal while the second part was about grief and healing from it. Needless to say, the first part was the best for me. I enjoyed Jude, his best friend Corey, and his new work friend, Roberto. They all had a great sense of humor. I also adored Becka. I loved her aura and her philosophies. She was a sweet girl and perfect for Jude. Before You Go was a good, fast read with two very distinct parts and distinct characters, but perhaps too quick to make a huge impression.

    Recommended for fourteen and older who are drawn to contemporary novels that deal with serious issues. It can be read in a few hours and it will not make you break down. Some alcohol use.

    James Preller grew up in Wantagh, New York and graduated from college in 1983. He briefly worked as a waiter and then became a copy editor at Scholastic, which inspired him to write his own books, the majority of which are children’s books. His pen names include Mitzy Kafka, Izzy Bonkers, and James Patrick. He lives in Delmar, New York with his wife and children.

    Buy on: AmazonBook Depository


    Tags: 2012 | review | YA | fiction | contemporary | ARC | NetGalley | 2012 150 Reading Challenge | 2012 eBook Challenge | YA Contemporary Challenge 2012 | August 2012 Ultimate Reviewers' Challenge | 2012 Books You Can Read in a Day Challenge | August 2012 Bout of Books |
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  • ❤ Mon, Aug. 27, 2012

    Review: The Little Woods by McCormick Templeman

    Calista Wood has her reasons for applying to St. Bede’s Academy, one of which has to do with her home life and the other is a secret she plans to keep well-buried. She transfers into the junior class midyear which makes being the new girl a bit harder, along with her obvious quirkiness. Outwardly, St. Bede’s and its students seem normal, but once Cally becomes a part of the elite boarding school community, she learns that not everyone is as perfect as they seem, especially when she hears that a girl disappeared from the school before she arrived.

    Alright. I try not to provide any information that is not available in the synopsis, so I was surprised when I went back to read it and the main reason why Cally ended up at St. Bede’s was not in there. I totally have to skip over all of that now.

    Let me start with Cally AKA Wood to some at St. Bede’s. She had a good memory and was rather smart but to me she was stiff and she alternated between base language and language that better suited a middle-aged college professor, which was a bit extreme. Then she threw me for another loop when she lamented all the illegal activity she would miss out on with her cousin now that she was at boarding school, like getting high (though she only got a little bit high). She was like a skater tomboy type and that combined with everything about her did not work for me. I definitely did not connect to her. As I was reading, I noticed a glaring flaw of hers that she later discussed and admitted to:

    My English teachers always hated me, partially because I could be kind of obnoxious with my vocabulary, but mostly because I tended not to do the reading.* (eARC, location 196 on Kindle)

    Kind of? No. Definitely obnoxious. I could not blame all her prior English teachers because I felt the same way. Well, the first step is acceptance…

    For someone with pretentious vocabulary and supposedly high test scores and intelligence, Cally sure did suck at her classes and did a lot of stupid things. Can you tell I did not like this character? It was impressive that Cally managed to make connections at the school because if I had been in her situation with those people, I would not have. This is actually not a slight on Cally, but an insight into the other students. I would not have dealt well with that environment.

    I will not get into the other characters in depth because to me, the characters were not as important as the actual plot, which was the best part of the book. It would have been the whole package if I could have liked Cally and if the other students were not just as screwed up as she was.

    Most say that the girl who went missing before Cally showed up just ran away, but one girl, Sophie, told Cally that the missing girl was murdered. Of course, she did not know for sure, but she had a gut feeling, which also told her that Helen, Cally’s roommate, killed her. Helen and her twin sister, as well as friends, were a whole other story. These kids really disturbed me.

    The plot was the redeeming part of the novel. It was creepy all over and normally something I would not read before bed in case the images my mind produced would get stuck there, but the story - the mystery - was too compelling to take a break from bedtime reading. I did not like Cally at all in the beginning, or really at all, but as the book went on, she was the only character I could trust because I knew her mind and that helped me to understand her a bit better. I suspected and distrusted every other character in the book at different points. Even when things seemed to be well and almost normal - especially then - I did not trust anyone. The Little Woods had a nicely put together compelling murder mystery. The plot was the most important to me but I would have liked for the main character to be different and more likable. None of the characters really did it for me.

    All in all, McCormick Templeman’s debut was alright. The Little Woods was a whole big murder mystery - a triple murder mystery spanning ten years that basically involved everyone around Cally, including herself.

    Recommended for those sixteen and older who enjoy creepy murder mysteries as well as readers who jump at the chance to read books involving boarding schools. There was a lot of alcohol and drugs throughout the book, especially drugs. I am not one for banning that content - far from it - but the amount of drug use surprised and bewildered me. I guess it was feasible that selling, buying, and using could happen at any high school, but with the smart kids? Maybe it was the pressure. For intelligent teens, they were pretty dumb about that stuff, but I think it was also there to make a point since covering up drug use to protect themselves was a factor in all of the murders.

    McCormick Templeman seems to have a quirky sense of humor (just look at her FAQ). She received her BA in English Literature from Reed College before proceeding to Naropa University to earn her MFA in Writing and Poetics. The Little Woods is her debut novel and her next book, The Glass Casket, scheduled for 2014, is a retelling of Snow White.

    Buy on: AmazonBook Depository

    *Quote comes from an advanced reading copy. It may or may not change in the final version.


    Tags: 2012 | 2012 150 Reading Challenge | 2012 eBook Challenge | ARC | August 2012 Bout of Books | August 2012 Ultimate Reviewers' Challenge | NetGalley | YA | YA Contemporary Challenge 2012 | contemporary | mystery | review | thriller |
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