Friday, July 22, 2011

Sweet Valley Confidential

Sweet Valley Confidential: Ten Years Later, by Francine Pascal.

It was so different from being with Todd; even now it felt like a strange and disloyal thought but true. She tried to think of exactly how it was different. Yes, she and Todd had been together a fairly long time, had lived together for almost two years. That had to quiet passions. Or deepen them.

It had quieted theirs.

Sweet Valley Confidential: Ten Years LaterSweet Valley Confidential: Ten Years Later by Francine Pascal

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Kind of made me want to re-read the old Sweet Valley books, the last of which were not written by Pascal herself but rather ghost-written. She's updated the books for the 21st century and made sure to include such staples as emailing, Facebook, and Twitter, but these characters hardly feel like the Sweet Valley characters were grew to love back in the '80s and '90s. Would be a fine "beach read" if she didn't so deftly manipulate the characters to fit one.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


Attachments, by Rainbow Rowell.

"Do those papers mean that you're going back to school?"

"Not immediately." The fall semester had already started."

"I don't know how I feel about that, Lincoln. I'm starting to think you might have a problem. With school."
"You know what I mean, she said. She wagged a dirty spoon at him. "A problem. Like those women who get addicted to plastic surgery. They keep going back and going back, trying to look better until there is no more better. Like they can't look better because they don't even look like themselves anymore. And then it's just about looking different, I think."

Lincoln has an unusual job - he reads other people's email at The Courier, the paper he works at. He works the night shift and his job is to sort through whatever "WebFence" finds to be "offensive," and then send the offending parties an email warning them to only use their office computer for work and not personal emails. When he starts reading an email exchange between Beth and Jennifer, however, he becomes interested in their emails and decides not to send them the warning email, so he can read more of their emails. He also starts to fall for Beth ... and the crazy thing is, she starts to fall for him, too, after seeing him a few times around the office.

This book was really unconventional and I liked it a lot. It takes place in 1999, which may explain why The Courier had just started to let their employees use the internet/email. Lincoln is a character worth rooting for, and Rainbow Rowell gives us not only his back story, but we can see what Lincoln someday aspires to be (first step: moving out of his mom's house). I was really hoping that Beth and Lincoln end up together, and the ending is definitely upbeat. I love stories that incorporate "emails" into the narrative too, and this was a fun book to read.

4.5 stars out of 5.

Saturday, July 16, 2011


Starcrossed, by Josephine Angelini.

Helen ran the charm of her necklace along its chain, and held it out for Castor and Cassandra to look at. "This is all I got from her. A piece of jewelry. Does it mean anything to you?" she asked intensely.

A part of her had always hoped that her necklace was important - that maybe someday it would answer all her questions. In her wildest daydreams she imagined it being the talisman that would someday guide her to her mother. Cassandra and Castor studied the heart charm carefully, but there was nothing special about it.

"It's very pretty," Cassandra said kindly.

This book seemed a lot like Twilight to me, but with Greek demigods instead of vampires and werewolves. Helen's mother left her and her dad, Jerry, when she was very little, and she has always known she's been a bit strange - she is almost 6 feet tall, and she can run super fast; in fact, she's going to try to get a track scholarship for college. When the Delos family moves to the island, however, Helen feels a weird connection to them, until Lucas Delos explains to her: they are demigods, as in from Greek mythology - and so is she.

In Twilight, Bella lives with her single father and interacts with the large Cullen family; in Starcrossed, Helen lives with her single father and is drawn to the large Delos family, comprised of a family and their cousins. She falls for Lucas (like Bella did for Edward) but they can't be together because it's frowned upon in Greek mythology, and has been for many, many years; originally, Edward's family was opposed to Bella and Edward being in a relationship too.

Starcrossed is part of a trilogy and the second book in the series, Dreamless will be out in May 2012; I can't wait to read it, because Starcrossed was definitely a treat.

4.5 stars out of 5.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Berlin Boxing Club

The Berlin Boxing Club, by Robert Sharenow.

On other days I trained at the club just like the other fighters. Being the only "junior" member under eighteen years old, at first I was a novelty. Whenever I walked in, the others would laugh and make comments, mostly about my skinny physique. Worjyk had taken to calling me Knochen, or Bones, not the most flattering nickname but a step up from Piss Boy or Spit Bucket. Many of them would watch me train, chuckling and picking apart my poor technique. I wrongly assumed that they might have shown more restraint in front of Max or that he would say something to shoo them away, but he never did.

"Name calling is a part of fighting," he said. "The weakest punches are thrown with the tongue. You've got to thicken your skin against that kind of attach just the same way you thicken your muscles to throw hard punches."

Karl and his family live in Nazi Germany and are Jewish, and at a time when things are starting to get back for German Jews. Karl is a bit on the skinny side and is often teased and beat up on at school; however, his father, an art dealer, is friends with Max Schmeling, a champion boxer, and he makes a deal with Max: boxing lessons for the painting he wants, rather than money. Karl trains with Max and slowly over time becomes better at defending himself. During this time, however, this situation in Germany gets worse and worse for Jews, and he and his family must weather through these as best they can.

I like reading books about the Holocaust and this time period in Germany, and this book was written exceptionally well. It's written simply enough so that anyone can enjoy it, and we really see the mindset of Karl, his parents, and his sister during this time. The ending was left open enough so that Sharenow could even write a sequel or follow-up novel, if he wanted, and if he did write that I would definitely be open to reading it.

4 stars out of 5.

*Disclaimer: I received this book to review; the opinions listed, however, are my own.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Pictures of You

Pictures of You, by Caroline Leavitt.

She tried to heal. She went to three therapists in three months, but as soon as she walked into their offices, she wanted to leave again. One doctor peppered her with questions, another told her to get over it in a kind of tough-love therapy, and none of it mattered. She left each office feeling as terrible as she had when she arrived. If anything, talking about what happened made her feel worse.

I killed a woman. It was an accident. I love the victims. It was an accident.

Isabelle crashes into April's car on a foggy night, with April's car in the middle of the road and pointing the wrong direction. Her young son, Sam, was with her, but had briefly left the car, and was unharmed; April, however, is killed. Her husband, Charlie, is devastated, and when he finds out that Sam has been hanging out with Isabelle, whom Sam thinks is an angel, he demands that he stop. He doesn't count on Isabelle being so personable, though, and soon both Sam and Charlie are more involved than they should be with the woman who accidentally killed their mother and wife.

This book was pretty good, except that the ending was unconventional and not what I thought it would be. It still works for the book, and I can see why the author chose to write that way, but I was surprised by it. The characters of Isabelle, Sam, Charlie, and others are all very realistic, and they are easy to relate to; the revelations that Charlie finds out about his late wife, and why she had a suitcase in the trunk of her car, are life-changing for him, and eventually he learns that he must try to overcome her death.

3.5 stars out of 5.

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