Thursday, April 30, 2009

Finished Challenges

For the Once Upon a Time Reading Challenge III, I finished Quest the First:
  1. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane
  2. Wake
  3. Poison Study
  4. 11 Birthdays
  5. Magic Study
For the 2009 YA Challenge I read:
  1. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
  2. Hush
  3. Hattie Big Sky
  4. Uglies
  5. A Northern Light
  6. Saffy's Angel
  7. Just Listen
  8. The Adoration of Jenna Fox
  9. Wake
  10. Unwind
  11. The Season
  12. The Loser's Guide to Life and Love

For the Book Awards Reading Challenge, I read:
  1. Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!
  2. An Abundance of Katherines
  3. The Road Home
  4. Ender's Game
  5. The Glass Castle
  6. The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas
  7. The Hunger Games
  8. A Wrinkle in Time
  9. Because of Winn-Dixie
  10. A Bride Most Begrudging
I'm almost done with the Support Your Local Library Challenge, so that leaves just the Orbis Terrarum Challenge and the Classics Challenge (not forgetting the omnipresent 100+ Reading Challenge of course).

So, dare I ask, what other challenges should I be joining this year? Suggestions??

Miss Buncle's Book

Miss Buncle's Book Miss Buncle's Book by Dorothy Emily Stevenson

Book 43 of 100 for the 100+ Reading Challenge
Book 23 of 25 for the Support Your Local Library Challenge

rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you haven't checked out Jeanette's blog at A Comfy Chair and a Good Book, I highly recommend you do. She recommended Miss Buncle's Book about two months ago and it really was a delightful find. Originally published in 1934, Miss Buncle's Book was re-released last year by Persephone Books. My library had an old copy in the stacks that was printed in the 1960s, and even though some of the pages were a little grody, I was happy to get my hands on it.

Miss Buncle is a middle-aged woman living in the village of Silverstream. As her financial situation is becoming somewhat dire, she decides to write a book to bring in some money. The problem is, according to Miss Buncle, she has very little imagination. So, she writes about what she knows--all of the people who live in her village. Silverstream becomes Copperfield and the characters assume names somehow related to their own. I think my favorite was Mr. Fortnum who becomes Mr. Mason. When the book hits the shelves under the pseudonym of John Smith and the residents start recognizing themselves with all their faults and idiosyncracies in the writing, the village is turned upside down as the residents try to discover who wrote it.

Reminiscent of Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, this is a perfectly charming book from the first page to the last and is definitely worth tracking down a copy. There is a sequel called Miss Buncle Married, which is actually combined with my copy of Miss Buncle's Book. So, hopefully I'll get to it before I have to take it back to the library!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Magic Study

Magic Study (Study, Book 2) Magic Study by Maria V. Snyder

Book 42 of 100 for the 100+ Reading Challenge
Book 22 of 25 for the Support Your Local Library Challenge
Book 5 of 5 for the Once Upon a Time III Reading Challenge

Awards: 2006 Booksense pick; RITA Award finalist

rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the second book in the Study series by Maria V. Snyder. I loved the first book, Poison Study, which I read during the read-a-thon. To be honest, I don't expect much from the second book in a trilogy. They kind of wrap up what happened in the first book and set you up for the last book. But, I did enjoy this enough to stay up faaaar too late last night to finish it.

I can't really reveal much plot without spoiling the first book. But, this book has more mystery, more magic and fantasy, and less romance than the first book. This one was missing some of the tension for me that the first book had. But, I think it is a good solid book for those who love a feisty female heroine. I am excited to finish this trilogy with Fire Study and to start Snyder's new series with Storm Glass, which features a character introduced in Magic Study.

Also reviewed by:
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The Uncommon Reader

The Uncommon Reader: A Novella The Uncommon Reader: A Novella by Alan Bennett

Book 41 of 100 for the 100+ Reading Challenge

rating: 4 of 5 stars

I don't think anyone can deny that this book is clever, intellectual, and witty. I read this book over two evenings and actually laughed out loud.

Queen Elizabeth is wandering by the kitchen in Buckingham Palace one day when she notices a mobile library outside. She steps out to have a look, and feels compelled to check a book out. She enjoys reading so much, that she turns into a voracious reader, much to the dismay of palace officials and the public at large.

This is a book about readers. It's a book about what reading does for those who read, and how it impacts others. I could relate how suspicious people became of the Queen for reading. I could relate with her feelings that there would never be enough time to read everything she wanted. I could relate with her finding out that reading makes us learn more about humanity and how she found herself changed because of how reading shaped her thoughts and desires.

I actually wish I had read this book with a pencil to underline my favorite parts. I do think that at just 120 pages, I may tempted to pick it up again someday. I should warn that some parts dragged a little for me and there was a couple instances of crude humor that just seemed out of place with the rest of the book. I also found Bennett's style a little reminiscent of his playwright self. I could almost read the stage directions: Enter Queen stage left. Exit Kitchen Servant stage right.

But overall, this is a book any serious reader should pick up.

Also reviewed by:
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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Perfect You

Perfect You by Elizabeth Scott

Book 21 of 25 for the Support Your Local Library Challenge
Book 40 of 100 for the 100+ Reading Challenge

rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

I really had to read this book. Once I saw the cover, there wasn't a choice even. Let's put it this way, when my 2 year old saw the cover, she said, "It's Mom and Dad!" Since the proof is in the pudding, here's the pudding:

Kate is a 16 year old high school sophomore who thinks she is having the worst year of her life. Her dad quit his job to sell vitamins in the mall and he's not making any money. Her best friend is ignoring her. And all she ever does is fight with the guy she's crazy about because he has a reputation of hooking up with half the school.

This book definitely had a similar feel to Sarah Dessen's books. It was a cute romance, but there was also a little too much senseless making out. I think it made the novel feel more shallow than it needed to. However, I was super pleased with how the book ended. The author didn't try to wrap everything up with a perfect bow, and I do think that gave the book honesty and authenticity.

Also reviewed by:
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Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Loser's Guide to Life and Love

The Loser's Guide to Life and Love: A Novel The Loser's Guide to Life and Love: A Novel by A. E. Cannon

Book 39 of 100 for the 100+ Reading Challenge
Book 12 of 12 for the 2009 YA Challenge

rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a cute modern take on A Midsummer Night's Dream set in Salt Lake City. The novel is written in the four distinct voices from the love quadrangle: Ed McIff (otherwise known as Sergio), Scout (Ed's best friend, who happens to be a girl, and fellow video store employee), Quark (Ed's very tall and nerdy neighbor), and Ellie (the gorgeous new girl in town desperate for friends).

I think Cannon did a great job with her four voices and they helped the book clip along at a fast pace. This would make a great read-along with the original Shakespeare that I think teens would appreciate. Nothing too deep here--just fun mind candy that's easily gobbled up in a day.

Also reviewed by:
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11 Birthdays

11 Birthdays 11 Birthdays by Wendy Mass

Book 38 of 100 for the 100+ Reading Challenge
Book 20 of 25 for the Support Your Local Library Challenge
Book 4 of 5 for the Once Upon a Time III Challenge

Recommendations: Junior Library Guild Selection

rating: 3 of 5 stars

Amanda and Leo have the same birthday and have always celebrated together. However, on their 10th birthday they have a fight and they don't talk for a whole year. Their friendship is rekindled again when they realize they are both having their 11th birthday over and over and over again and they need to figure out how to make it stop.

This book was cute but nothing I would write home about. It was basically a middle school ripoff of Groundhog Day. I gave it to my 8 year old, so I'm interested to see what she thinks about it. I suspect that since I read this in the dead of the night, she'll like it a lot more than me. However, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this for 4th-6th grade readers. It's a good clean book about friendship and following your own dreams.

Also reviewed by:
As always, let me know if I missed yours!

24 Hour Read-a-Thon Final Meme

1. Which hour was most daunting for you?
Waking up at 2:20am to finish reading was tough. So, I guess that was Hour 19.

2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year?
Poison Study and Unwind were great choices for me this time. The Hunger Games would be a great choice as well.

3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?

4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon?
I liked the mixture of mini-challenges. I didn't feel compelled to participate in all of them, but I enjoyed the ones I did participate in.

5. How many books did you read? 5

6. What were the names of the books you read?
Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder
Unwind by Neal Shusterman
The Season by Susan MacLean
11 Birthdays by Wendy Mass
The Loser's Guide to Life and Love by A.E. Cannon

7. Which book did you enjoy most?
Poison Study

8. Which did you enjoy least?
11 Birthdays

9. If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders? n/a

10. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time?
I would be thrilled to participate again as a reader.

24 Hour Read-a-Thon Update #6

It's 5:10am here on the East Coast and I've only slept 90 minutes since I started 21 hours ago. I just finished The Loser's Guide to Life and Love by A.E. Cannon. It's a cute modern-day version of A Midsummer Night's Dream set in Salt Lake City.

I'm signing off the Read-a-Thon now. I've thoroughly enjoyed it, both participating and reading everyone else's blogs. I'll review my last two books in the next few days. But for now, here's my final totals:

Books read: 5
(with 5 BookMooch points going to charity)
Pages read: 1,426
Hours read: 14.5

Thanks to the organizers, the cheerleaders, the readers, and everyone who stopped by to comment today! You guys are the best!

24 Hour Read-a-Thon Update #5

Less than 5 hours left. I can't believe I'm actually awake. I did fall asleep for about an hour and a half, but my cute husband left the light shining on my face because he knows I'd be disappointed if I slept the rest of the night.

Totals so far:

Books read: 4
Pages read: 1,170
Hours read: 13

I just finished read 11 Birthdays by Wendy Mass. It's a cute juvenile fiction book with a Groundhog Day plot. I'm not coherent enough to attempt writing a review, so that will have to wait for another day.

I'd really like to read one more book tonight to reach my goal. So, I better go choose a book and get to it.

Good thing I have church in the afternoon!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Season

The Season The Season by Sarah MacLean

Book 37 of 100 for the 100+ Reading Challenge
Book 19 of 25 for the Support Your Local Library Challenge
Book 11 of 12 for the 2009 YA Challenge

rating: 4 of 5 stars

Three 17-year old British aristocrats are "coming out" in the 1815 London season. However, these three girls are more interested in their intellectual and cultural pursuits than being seen on the marriage market. But as the season begins with it's endless social engagements, young Lady Alexander, Lady Eleanor, and Lady Vivian get themselves into a much bigger adventure than they bargained for.

This book definitely has a modern feel to it, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. This is a Regency romance YA book that is about female friendship, but of course, it is also about love. I appreciated that it was a nice clean book that I would recommend to girls 12 and up.

Also reviewed by:
Let me know if I missed yours!

24 Hour Read-a-Thon Update #4

Wow! I can't believe we are more than halfway through already.

Here's my answers to the mid-even survey:

1. What are you reading right now?
I'm about 3/4 the way done with The Season by Sarah MacLean.

2. How many books have you read so far?
Getting close to 3.

3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon?
Hmmm, I'm really just taking it one at a time right now. I'm not sure what I'll end up reading, but The Loser's Guide to Life and Love and 11 Birthdays look interesting.

4. Did you have to make any special arrangements to free up your whole day?
No, my wonderful husband said he would take care of everything for me. I even left him a LIST!

5. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those?
My kids have interrupted me occasionally, but for the most part, they have been a welcome distraction. My husband has been great.

6. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far?
How quickly the first half went by.

7. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?
I'm really enjoying the moment and I'm having a great time!

8. What would you do differently, as a Reader or a Cheerleader, if you were to do this again next year?
I'd love to do this again. I don't really think I would do anything differently, but I have fantasized that it would be nice to be sitting in a really lavish hotel room doing this.

9. Are you getting tired yet?
Yes. I'm surprised that I didn't take a nap today. So, I know at some point I'm going to need some rest.

10. Do you have any tips for other Readers or Cheerleaders, something you think is working well for you that others may not have discovered?
I've set goals for myself that give me a mental and physical break when I need it. And the cheerleaders have been awesome! Thanks for the comments everyone!

Totals so far:

Books read: 2
Pages read: 816
Hours read: 10


Unwind Unwind by Neal Shusterman

Book 36 of 100 for the 100+ Reading Challenge
Book 18 of 25 for the Support Your Local Library Challenge
Book 10 of 12 for the 2009 YA Challenge

Awards: YALSA Top Ten; YALSA Best Books for YA; YALSA Quick Picks for Reluctant YA

rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book had me freaked out in an "I can't believe this but I can't stop reading this!" kind of way. This YA sci-fi dystopian novel set in the future when a second Civil War has been waged and abortion is now illegal. However, teens between the age of 13 and 18 can be "unwound" and their individual parts harvested completely and used in transplants.

This book follows three Unwinds: Connor's parents signed the Unwind order because of some trouble he was in at home. Lev is being tithed by his parents, as a tenth child. And Risa is a ward of the state, which will no longer afford to keep her. As circumstances force them together, their survival becomes interdependent.

This book is definitely creepy, but is also a fast-paced entertaining read with some great plot twists. This would be a great book for teens and their parents/teachers to discuss, and provides an interesting look at the abortion debate.

Also reviewed by:
Please let me know if I missed yours!

24 Hour Read-a-Thon Update #3

I just finished Neal Shusterman's Unwind. Great book! I'll review it when I get halfway through my next book. (It just gives me a mental break.)

Right now I'm off to the library before it closes to pick up my holds. I need something light to read next! Thanks for all the encouragement!

Totals so far:
Books read: 2
Pages read: 568
Hours read: 7.5

24 Hour Read-a-Thon Update #2

The challenge for Hour 7 was to take a walk. It is such a gorgeous day here in North Carolina (almost gorgeous enough to have lured me away from the read-a-thon, but not quite). :) However, I was quite happy to take a little stroll around my neighborhood.

The azaleas are in bloom:

The walking path in my development is in bloom:

And, in reference to my Just Listen post, here is my chemically-induced green grass:

Right now I'm almost halfway through Unwind by Neal Shusterman. It's a creepy book in some ways, but I'm really enjoying it. In a little bit I'm going to run over to the library. My copy of The Season by Sarah MacLean is in, and I really want to read it today.

I also forgot to mention that for every book I read today, I will donate a point to a BookMooch charity.

Totals so far:

Books finished: 1
Pages read: 390
Hours read: 5.5

Poison Study

Poison Study (Study, Book 1) Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder

Book 35 of 100 for the 100+ Reading Challenge
Book 17 of 25 for the Support Your Local Library Challenge
Book 3 of 5 for the Once Upon a Time Challenge

Awards: Compton Crook Award for Best First Novel; Salt Lake Co. Library's Reader's Choice award; 2005 Booksense pick

rating: 5 of 5 stars

I finished the majority of this book this morning as my first book finished for the 24 hour read-a-thon. I knew it would be good for me to start in the middle of a book I was already interested in, because mornings are not a good time for me! I woke up excited to finish this one.

Poison Study is the first novel in a fantasy trilogy. Yelena is in prison for killing the son of a powerful district commander. On the day before she is due to be executed, she is given a choice:

Die in the morning as scheduled
become the head commander's food taster,
risking death by poison.

This is a fabulous fantasy book that I would certainly recommend, to even those wary of fantasy. Is action-packed, intellectual, emotional, and definitely romantic. My only slight gripe is that is took me a little while to get hooked into this one. But, once I did, there was no turning back. Yelena is a spitfire heroine and I can't wait to see what happens next.

Disclaimer: I'm hesitant to call this book YA--it is in the YA section of one of my libraries, but in the adult section of another. I would suggest this book for those 16+.

Also reviewed by:
Let me know if I missed yours!

24 Hour Read-a-Thon Update #1

Good morning fellow Read-a-thoners!

This is my first read-a-thon and I'm really excited to be participating today.

I have been reading for the first 3.5 hours straight. I just finished up Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder. Ooooh, it was SO good. I'll post a review later.

Here the introduction meme:

Where are you reading from today?
Lots of YA.

3 facts about me …
1. I hate being cold.
2. I love Junior Mints.
3. I love playing on swings with my four kids.

How many books do you have in your TBR pile for the next 24 hours?
Way too many!

Do you have any goals for the read-a-thon (i.e. number of books, number of pages, number of hours, or number of comments on blogs)?
I'd like to read 5 books.

If you’re a veteran read-a-thoner, Any advice for people doing this for the first time?
I'm a first timer. I'm nervous, but excited too!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Legend of the Lamp

Legend of the Lamp Legend of the Lamp by Tina Monson

rating: 3 of 5 stars

I don't read very much LDS (Latter-day Saint) fiction. Maybe one or two books a year. I haven't even read The Work and the Glory (Don't shoot!). But my sister picked this up for my daughter, so I wanted to have a little pre-read.

This is an late-juvenile/YA fiction adventure book about three teenagers looking for treasure on a church history tour. I've seen it compared to National Treasure for LDS kids, and that's probably an accurate assessment. If I were 13, I'd probably think it was fabulous. Which reminded me...

When I was 16 or so, I read one LDS book I loved...Fire Weed by Terry Montague. I'd love to find that one and read it again.

Anyway, this book is Volume 1 and Volume 2 is out as well. I would definitely recommend it for teens interested in early church history. If I were teaching Doctrine & Covenants in seminary, I might also be tempted to offer this one up for extra credit. It's fun, but you might also learn a few nuggets along the way. I didn't know about the Deseret alphabet until I read this book!

I don't think my daughter is ready for this book yet. It's definitely written for a slightly older crowd. Any LDS readers out there have a series they would recommend for 8-9 year olds?

You can check out the author website here.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet: A Novel Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet: A Novel by Jamie Ford

Book 34 of 100 for the 100+ Reading Challenge

rating: 3 of 5 stars

The book world is buzzing about this novel. I really wanted to love it. Heck, I even bought it! Don't get me wrong--I liked it. But, there are some 'buts' attached.

This novel provides unique perspective on a period of American history we don't talk much about. Set in Seattle, the books switches back and forth between 1942 and 1986. In 1942, Henry is 12, the son of Chinese immigrants who truly want the best for their son. So, they send him on a scholarship to a mostly white prep school where he meets Keiko, another scholarship student. Keiko is second generation American, but ethnically from Japan. Henry's father despises the Japanese and, as American sentiment turns against those of Japanese ancestry, Henry is forced to confront racism head on in defense of his friend. In 1986, Henry is in his late 50s, recovering from the shock of losing his wife Ethel six months earlier to cancer. He has a strained relationship with his son, Marty, that he knows stems from the communication problems he had with his own parents growing up.

The concept of this book is commendable and intriguing. But I found the story to be too sentimental, predictable, and in some parts, unbelievable. Henry and Keiko seemed WAY too mature for 12 year olds. I know it was a different time, but I just didn't buy their relationship or their involvement in the Seattle jazz scene of the 1940s. And don't even get me started on the anachronisms (Internet support groups in 1986? Brandon Lee buried in a cemetery 7 years before he actually died?). I figure if the author can't get 1986 right, what hope do I have that he represented the war years accurately?

This is the first novel written by Jamie Ford and I do think his writing shows promise. Definitely look into this book if you have interest in the internment of Japanese citizens during WW2, or if you are from Seattle. I hope that in Ford's next book, he trusts his audience a little more and makes his plot a little less obvious...and that he gets a better editor.

Also reviewed by:
Please let me know if I missed yours!

Saturday, April 11, 2009


Wake Wake by Lisa McMann

Book 33 of 100 for the 100+ Reading Challenge
Book 9 of 12 for the 2009 YA Challenge
Book 16 of 25 for the Support Your Local Library Challenge

Book 2 of 5 for the Once Upon a Time III Challenge

Awards: YALSA Top Ten; YALSA Quick Picks for Reluctant YA

rating: 4 of 5 stars

As you can see by the number of reviews I have attached to this post, Wake is a popular book. And for good reason. I read it in one sitting and was glued to my seat.

Janie is a young child when she realizes she gets sucked into the dreams of other people. As a teenager, it gets almost unbearable as she is around people all the time who are sleeping--at home, at work and at school. She sees not only people's hopes and desires, but also their worst nightmares.

This YA fantasy/paranormal romance book does contain a fair amount of expletives and sexual content, so it is more appropriate for the older teen reader. Wake is told in a short and choppy style that moved quickly. The only thing that bothered me about that is that sometimes I lost track of the dates and had to flip back and forth to remember where I was in time. There were some implausibility factors in the plot that bugged me a little. But when dealing with fantasy books, I'm much more forgiving about that sort of thing.

Also reviewed by:
Let me know if I missed yours!

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Adoration of Jenna Fox

The Adoration of Jenna Fox The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson

Book 32 of 100 for the 100+ Reading Challenge
Book 8 of 12 for the 2009 YA Challenge
Book 15 of 25 for the Support Your Local Library Challenge

Awards: Golden Kite Honor Recipient 2009 Fiction; SLJ Best Book; VOYA Award/Honor; Kirkus Editors Choice; YALSA Best Books for YA

rating: 4 of 5 stars

Seventeen year old Jenna Fox wakes up after a year of being in a coma. She can't remember most things, but what she discovers about her time asleep will force her to come to terms with the person she is.

I don't want to give too much away, but this book is apocalyptic YA science fiction with soul. The prose is sparse, the poetry is inviting, and the ethical dilemmas are intriguing. It's a book where you truly see all sides of a debate, and nothing is black and white. It's about finding a personal identity intermixed with those we love.

This book is clever and unique. I wasn't totally thrilled with the epilogue, but overall I would definitely recommend this for 9th grade and up.

Also reviewed by:
Please let me know if I have missed yours!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Well-Seasoned Finale

I had a great time participating in Melissa's Well-Seasoned Reader Challenge.

The books I read for the challenge were:
  1. 84, Charing Cross Road
  2. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
  3. Dear Exile
84, Charing Cross Road was definitely my favorite, although A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is a classic must-read. Other books I read during the challenge that qualify as challenge books were: The Geography of Bliss, The House on Tradd Street, Galway Bay, and Banker to the Poor. I'm not a real foodie person, but I'll try and squeeze one of those in next time!

Thank you Melissa! I look forward to joining in the fun again next year.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Just Listen

Just Listen Just Listen by Sarah Dessen

Book 31 of 100 for the 100+ Reading Challenge
Book 7 of 12 for the 2009 YA Challenge

Awards: VOYA: The Perfect Tens; Heartland Award for Excellence in Young Adult Lite; YALSA Teens' Top Ten; Junior Library Guild Selection; YALSA Best Books for YA; YALSA Popular Paperbacks

rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Truth About Forever was one of my favorite books last year. I've read one other Dessen since then--Someone Like You--and I thought it was OK. This one falls somewhere in between the two for me. This is a YA novel about Annabelle Greene, who becomes ostracized from her friends as a result of something that happened at a party during the summer. What happens over the course of the next school year will define who she is and help her understand her place in the world.

This story has some great themes--the meaning of friendship, learning how to talk openly and honestly, dealing with confrontation, helping those with eating disorders, and standing up for the truth. I like that we get a good look into Annabelle's family as well and I enjoyed exploring her relationship with her sisters and parents. However, Dessen's books are becoming a little formulaic for me. But I do have to admit that it is a formula that clearly works.

Overall, I thought this was really good. I know that when I'm in the mood for a sweet romance and easy page-turner, Dessen will hit a home run every time. This is definitely a book for the older YA crowd with some explicit language and issues of a sexual nature.

Side note: As a North Carolinian like myself, I have to say that Dessen nailed the typical North Carolina subdivision right down to the cliques at the pool and the chemically-induced green grass.

Also reviewed by: