Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Gimme A Call

By: Sarah Mlynowski
Book received from

Synopsis (From Goodreads):  A new life is just a phone call away!

Devi's life isn't turning out at all like she wanted. She wasted the past three years going out with Bryan—cute, adorable, break-your-heart Bryan. Devi let her friendships fade, blew off studying, didn't join any clubs . . . and now that Bryan has broken up with her, she has nothing left. 

Not even her stupid cell phone—she dropped it in the mall fountain. Now it only calls one number . . . hers. At age fourteen, three years ago! 

Once Devi gets over the shock—and convinces her younger self that she isn't some wacko—she realizes that she's been given an awesome gift. She can tell herself all the right things to do . . . because she's already done all the wrong ones! Who better to take advice from than your future self? 

Except . . .what if getting what you 
think you want changes everything?

Fans of Sarah Mlynowski's Magic in Manhattan series will love this hilarious new novel with a high-concept premise.

Julie's Review:
To be honest, this book had a rough start for me. The first few pages felt quite heavy with play-by-play description of actions and the writing was just a little clunky. The dialogue also seemed to be trying too hard to sound like teenagers. I prepared myself for a read that would be manageable and just okay. Much  to my surprise, after the first 10 pages or so, I was sucked into a premise so delightful and full of opportunity for 'newness' that I didn't even notice when the writing became smooth because I was so enjoying the story of Devi and her froshie self.

The concept could easily have gone wrong but Mlynowski did a great job of keeping it fresh and reliably  connected. Devi is able to call her freshman self and get her to change all of the things Devi thinks she's done wrong over the years. Devi is careful not to give too much away because she doesn't want the butterfly effect to kick in, but she wants to use this opportunity to change her own life and that of her friends. Mlynowski was very clear in explaining the rules of the situation and the effects of freshman Devi's actions in Senior Devi's life. She also gives the characters realistic reactions to the situation and time to adjust. (One thing I despise is when characters too easily believe that some new, previously impossible thing is now perfectly normal!) There are some interesting scenarios where, of course, young Devi's actions don't have the intended effects. Also, senior Devi sometimes chooses to lie to her younger self, thinking she knows better. But what happens when your younger self refuses to listen to you and is tired of taking your directions?

Mlynowski refrained from going over the top with morals and lessons about choosing your path and finding what is most important, etc., but still managed to give readers some food for thought. I wouldn't say that this book was one of my recent favorites, but with it's high-concept plot, interesting characters, and cleverly written back-and-forth between freshman and senior Devi, this book is definitely a fun and enjoyable read

Julie's Rating:

Profanity: Mild
Sexuality: None
Drugs and Alcohol: None
Violence: None


Friday, June 18, 2010

Shadow Hills by Anastasia Hopcus: Review

By: Anastasia Hopcus
ARC received from EgmontUSA

Synopsis (From Goodreads):  
His love captivated her... his secrets might kill her.

Since her sister’s mysterious death, Persephone “Phe” Archer has been plagued by a series of disturbing dreams. Determined to find out what happened to her sister, Phe enrolls at Devenish Prep in Shadow Hills, Massachusetts—the subject of her sister’s final diary entry.

After stepping on campus, Phe immediately realizes that there’s something different about this place—an unexplained epidemic that decimated the town in the 1700s, an ancient and creepy cemetery, and gorgeous boy Zach—and somehow she’s connected to it all.

But the more questions she asks and the deeper she digs, the more entangled Phe becomes in the haunting past of Shadow Hills. Finding what links her to this town…might cost her her life.

My Review:  When I first read the synopsis of the book, I thought, "Oh great, ANOTHER paranormal romance." Is anyone getting a little burned out by this recent trend? Anyway, I am happy to report that there are no vampires, werewolves, or faeries in this story. Everyone is human.

The setting of this book was really beautifully done. Private school, creepy graveyards and mysterious secrets all made for a very good beginning. Time after time I was so happy to read that Persephone was just so normal. She studies, has friends that are girls, likes to listen to music, and is a generally likable person.  Actually, from what I've read and seen of Anastasia Hopcus, she and Phe are very much alike.  Anastasia, if you're reading this, would you agree?

Speaking of characters I liked, I was really surprised by how much I liked Adrianne, the preppy, spoiled rich girl. I was so impressed that Anastasia Hopcus was able to write a character that is so fundamentally unlikable and really make her likable. Did that make any sense? Adrianne is a character that walks a thin line of being loyal while still looking out for her own interests. Surprisingly complex for such an on-the-surface shallow character.

Unfortunately, I didn't like Zach. He was really one-dimensional and really didn't hold me interest. I think part of the problem was one of the first things he says to Phe is how dangerous he is and she should stay away. Lines like that make my eyes roll into the back of my head. But, as it turns out, he really isn't dangerous at all. He's really quite nice. On the other hand, Trent, his cousin, is a total jerk and every one should stay far away from him.  In fact, a few times as I was reading I thought, "Gee, harassment much?" Phe needed to go to a teacher or counselor and talk about the way Trent was treating her.

The next part of this review is semi-spoilerish.

One other thing that bothered me a little was that the main question of the book wasn't answered.  We never do find out why she is drawn to Shadow Hills and what was behind the mysterious death of her sister. I understand there is going to be a sequel to this book, so it wasn't a huge deal. But, I would have liked to at least see some of the questions answered before starting up a whole round of new ones.
Anastasia Hopcus is a promising debut author. I will definitely pick up the next book in this series.

My Rating:

Profanity: Moderate
Sexuality: Moderate
Alcohol and Drugs: Moderate
Violence: Mild


Want to win an ARC of Shadow Hills? Enter at Emily's Reading Room!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

I am Not a Serial Killer by Dan Wells

I had the pleasure of meeting Dan Wells. Know this: He is not scary. He is not a serial killer. He is a great guy...albeit with telekinetic book-signing abilities. (More about that at the end of the post...)

First Sentence: Mrs. Anderson was Dead.

A Favorite Passage: The dark thoughts were still there, underneath, but my actions stayed clean. In other words, I was really good at pretending to be normal. If you met me on the street, you'd never guess how much I wanted to kill you.

A Brief Summary: Dead bodies are normal to John. He likes them, actually. They don’t demand or expect the empathy he’s unable to offer. Perhaps that’s what gives him the objectivity to recognize that there’s something different about the body the police have just found behind the Wash-n-Dry Laundromat---and to appreciate what that difference means. 
Now, for the first time, John has to confront a danger outside himself, a threat he can’t control, a menace to everything and everyone he would love...if only he could.

What I Liked About This Book: I liked John Wayne Cleaver, the main character. A lot. He is brutally honest about who he is - and he knows himself well. Going into this book I thought it was pure contemporary, and when an element of "otherness" was mentioned I was not pleased. (Hang on - this turns into a thing I like!) When the, um, "other" element manifested itself, it was done so masterfully that I was literally rocked off my socks - and loving it! I also like that John's "disability" became the exact ability he needed to attempt to save his small town. And the ending - very touching!

What I Didn't Like About This Book: There was a lot of exposition (with a couple of dead bodies thrown in - nice!) for a pretty hefty chunk of the beginning of the book. The action didn't really start until page 98; the first major (and I mean major) plot twist happened two pages after that. For me, this was the "tipping point" - when I could not stop reading until I got to the end. But it would have been nice if some action had come sooner. Also there was a "major" plot twist that I figured out early on...and it bugged me that as smart as John Wayne Cleaver is, it took him forever to figure out.

Book-Alikes: Instead of comparing this to books (which will give too much of the plot away) I'm going to do an Author-Alike: J.D. Sallinger meets Stephen King

My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Profanity: None
Drugs and Alcohol: None
Sexuality: None
Violence: Oh Yeah! Not for the faint at heart.

About the telekinetic signing abilities. When I met Dan at a conference he was signing books - but I had bought his book the day before and left it home. When I told him, he said not to worry - he would sign it telekinetically. He closed his eyes, put fingers to brow, concentrated hard, then looked right into my eyes and assured me it was signed. When I got home, guess what? His signature was on the title page.


P.S. This book was read as part of the 2010 Debut Author Challenge.