Fairest of Them All by Jan Blazanin

Fairest of Them All by Jan Blazanin

If life were a fairy tale, Oribella Bettencourt would have a “happily ever after” kind of future ahead of her. A Hollywood producer has come to Des Moines in search of a perfectly modern Princess Rapunzel, and Ori — a model, dancer, and star of the beauty pageant circuit — lands the part. And why shouldn’t she? With her hardworking, self-sacrificing mother guiding her career, Ori is stunning, dedicated, poised…and then there’s her hair. Breathtakingly lustrous blond hair that sets her apart from all the other girls at school. So what if she doesn’t have any friends her age, or anyone to talk to other than her mother? She’s on the verge of having everything she’s ever dreamed of.

But in this fairy tale, the beautiful princess wakes up to her worst nightmare — when almost overnight, Ori begins to lose her hair….

I was a little worried about this book at first.  Oribella and her mother were so focused on her career and looks that I was frustrated with them and turned off.  I also felt like it took a long time for the book to get to her diagnosis.

This may sound terrible, but once it got to the point where Ori is broken down, that’s when I really started liking the book.  It was interesting to watch her grow up and deal with her diagnosis.  Her mother’s reaction made it hard to like her.  But the characters that surrounded Ori as she moved forward were a lot of fun.

This was an interesting read.  I was drawn to it because I have a friend with alopecia totalis.  Her experience was different than Ori’s as my friend lost her hair as a toddler and it never grew back, but many of the things she’s talked about dealing with are things Ori dealt with.

Favorite Books of 2009

I read a lot of books this year – the most I’ve ever read in a year – and these are some of my favorites.  I had a hard time whittling the list down to just a few, but I didn’t want to spend all day working on this, so I had to stop somewhere.  You can check out my GoodReads profile for my ratings of other books not listed here.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins – This isn’t just one of my favorite books of the year – it’s one of my favorite books of all time!  The Hunger Games is simply amazing.  Katniss is a fantastic main character.  She’s smart and resourceful, but at the same time a little vulnerable.  The rest of the characters are so well written – Peeta, Rue, Haymitch, Cinna, Effie – they’re all so fabulous.  The story is action packed and full of surprises.  I also read Catching Fire, the sequel to the Hunger Games this year and thought it was fantastic as well.  I can’t wait for the third book to come out in 2010!

Going Too Far by Jennifer Echols – Just thinking “John After” makes me swoon.  Meg is wild and doesn’t want to stay in the little town she grew up in.  John is the complete opposite – he doesn’t want to leave the town.  They’re forced to spend the week together because Meg got in trouble on a bridge one night.  Throughout the novel, we learn more and more about both of them.  It’s a romantic journey with a few twists and turns along the way.  I love Meg and John – who they are, who they become after spending the week together.  I really liked everything I read by Jennifer Echols this year.

Ballad by Maggie Stiefvater – This was the third Maggie Stiefvater book I read this year, but it was my favorite.  They’re all so good.  Maggie’s writing is very lyrical and enjoyable to read.  Ballad focuses on James, a secondary character from Lament, and his time at Thornking-Ash.  Nuala is a faerie muse that can give James amazing talent at a price.  James and Nuala are fantastic – they’re both sarcastic and multi-layered.  This book kind of continues Dee’s story in a way and introduces fantastic new characters like Sullivan and Paul.  I started reading Maggie’s books because she was at the Decatur Book Festival, where I got to meet her and be a dork.

The Maze Runner by James Dashner – Another edge of your seat, action packed book.  The world that Thomas is dropped into is confusing to him and to us and I loved learning about it with him.  Everything about the book is interesting – the things that go bump in the night, the dynamics in the boys’ society, the maze, the boys themselves.  It was just all fantastic.  The ending was crazy and I can’t wait for the next book in the trilogy to come out this year.

Percy Jackson and The Olympians Series by Rick Riordan – This is a fun series about an ordinary boy that finds out his father is a Greek god.  He goes to a camp for the sons and daughters of the Greek gods and goddesses, Camp Half-Blood.  From there, he has several quests that he completes with his friends.  The stories are so well thought out and weave Greek mythology into modern culture so well.  I loved Percy, Annabeth, and Grover.  They’re all great characters.  The first book, The Lightning Thief, is coming out as a movie in February, and I hope it lives up to the book!

Vampire Academy Series by Richelle Mead – Richelle Mead is another author that I started reading because of the Decatur Book Festival.  I am glad I did.  The Vampire Academy books are about a group of vampires (obviously), but the story is different than any other vampire book I’ve read.  The Moroi are more good vampires with special powers, while the Dhamphir are their helpers/bodyguards, and the Strigoi are the bad vampires.  Rose, a dhamphir and the narrator of the stories, is strong, sarcastic, and fantastic.  All of the characters are really great – Dimitri, Lissa, Christian, Adrian – all of them!  The books are part high school drama, part romance, and part action.  It’s a great combination!

The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner’s Semester at America’s Holiest University by Kevin Roose – I thought I should round this out with a non fiction book.  Going into this book, I was a little unsure of if I would like it.  I was really afraid he would spend the book making fun of Christians and the students at Liberty.  But he really didn’t.  Roose wrote about this experiences in a very straight forward manner.  He was honest about his feelings about the things going on around him.  He also presented the reasons that the school or other students acted in a certain way in a non-judgemental way.  Overall it was a very interesting and insightful book.

I may have one more review for 2009 if I finish the book I’m reading now, but if I don’t, have a happy new year!  See you in 2010!

The Boys Next Door by Jennifer Echols

The Boys Next Door (Simon Romantic Comedies) by Jennifer Echols

Cute, available, and one cabin over….
Lori lives for summertime on the lake. She spends all season wakeboarding, swimming, and hanging with her friends — including the two hotties in the house next door. With the Vader brothers, Lori’s always been one of the guys.
But while Lori and the “baby” brother, Adam, are inseparable friends, she can’t deny a secret crush on Sean, the older Vader boy. This year Sean’s been paying Lori a lot of attention, and not in a brotherly way.
But just as Lori decides to prove to Sean she’s girlfriend material, she realizes that her role as girl friend to Adam may be even more important. And by trying so hard for the perfect summer romance, she could be going way overboard…

I loved this book!  I think I say that about every Jennifer Echols book I read, but seriously, she just writes good stuff!  I loved how this book was about normal people in north Alabama.  I loved the lake setting and wish it was summer!

Lori is a great character.  I loved her voice – wanting to be one of the guys but also wanting to be noticed as a girl.  I love how hard she works at being “girly” and that Adam likes her when she’s just being herself.  All the boys were fun characters.  Adam was definitely swoon-worthy, but Sean, Cameron, and McGillicuddy were all awesome.  I mean seriously, McGillicuddy?  I loved that everyone called him that.  He was a great big brother.  I loved the family dynamics within the Vaders and the McGillicuddys.  It was very realistic.

The whole book was so cute and so much fun. And funny!  There were a bunch of laugh out loud moments.

I’m just kind of sad that I’ve now read all of the Echols books that are out, but I just realized that one of the books coming out this summer, Endless Summer, is a sequel to this book!  Yay!  More Lori and Adam swooniness!

Strange Angels by Lili St. Crow

Strange Angels (Strange Angels, Bk 1) by Lili St. Crow

Dru Anderson has what her grandmother called “the touch.” (Comes in handy when you’re traveling from town to town with your dad, hunting ghosts, suckers, wulfen, and the occasional zombie.)

Then her dad turns up dead—but still walking—and Dru knows she’s next. Even worse, she’s got two guys hungry for her affections, and they’re not about to let the fiercely independent Dru go it alone. Will Dru discover just how special she really is before coming face-to-fang with whatever—or whoever— is hunting her?

I read this book because I read somewhere that it was similar to the show Supernatural, which is my one ‘watch live, can’t miss’ show.  So I had high hopes for the book.  There were a lot of similarities.  Father that begins hunting the supernatural after the mother dies, dragging the kid(s) along and teaching them the ropes (sorta).  But Sam and Dean are much more capable than Dru and the show has a lot more action than this book did.

Parts of the book were just really slow.  There are only so many descriptions of jewel colored eyes and wild hair I can handle before I just wanted to throw the book down.  I had to force myself to keep reading a couple times.  Dru wasn’t very likable to me at times.  Sometimes she knew what she was doing, but then she’d be back to the frightened little girl that needed someone to guide her or save her.  I hated how she referred to Graves as “kid” through most of the book.  It just seemed weird as they’re the same age and have both had abnormal life experiences.

The book picked up when Christophe appeared, but even then the action descriptions weren’t that great and a couple of times were kind of confusing.

The second book in the series is on its way to me, so hopefully I’ll like that one more than this one.

Love, Lies, and Texas Dips by Susan McBride

Love, Lies, and Texas Dips (The Debs, Bk 2) by Susan McBride

The Debs are back!
Now that her dream of becoming a deb is finally coming true, Laura’s confidence is at an all-time high. But when she dares to mess with Jo Lynn’s football star boyfriend, Dillon, Laura finds herself at the center of some heinous gossip.
As predicted, becoming a deb is a shallow undertaking that Mac can barely muddle through. Still, things go from bad to worse when the new girl at school starts working her charms on Mac’s best friend, Alex. When Ginger’s grandmother asks her to sit for a formal portrait with the son of a local legend, she discovers that she already knows him — and what she knows isn’t good.
The stakes are raised for Jo Lynn when she finds Laura’s digits in Dillon’s cell phone. Is her boyfriend cheating on her with a debu-tank? She will soon find out.

This was the second book in The Debs series and I liked it just as much as the first. The characters are still likable. Now that they’re all in the Glass Slipper Club, they’ve got to stay in, despite Jo Lynn’s best efforts to get Laura out. I still don’t understand Jo Lynn’s vendetta against Laura or what she is holding over Avery’s head to keep him in line. The rest of the girls were still interesting, though with 4 main characters, I never felt like we were getting enough of anyone’s story. This was the second book in The Debs series and I liked it just as much as the first. The characters are still likable. Now that they’re all in the Glass Slipper Club, they’ve got to stay in, despite Jo Lynn’s best efforts to get Laura out. I still don’t understand Jo Lynn’s vendetta against Laura or what she is holding over Avery’s head to keep him in line. The rest of the girls were still interesting, though with 4 main characters, I never felt like we were getting enough of anyone’s story. I guess that’s why there is another book! I really felt like this book was just setting up the next book, which was a little annoying, but it does make me excited for the next one. :)

Drive Me Crazy by Erin Downing

Drive Me Crazy (Simon Romantic Comedies) by Erin Downing

Kate’s tote is packed, and she’s ready for a road trip!

Kate and her two best friends, Sierra and Alexis, are geared up for a week of fun and freedom on the road to their family lake houses in Love, Wisconsin. Best of all, when Kate reaches Love, she’ll be reunited with Lucas, with whom she shared a steamy end-of-summer kiss last year. She can’t wait to see Lucas again and pick things up exactly where they left off.

Then Kate gets some seriously bad news: Alexis’s sarcastic, condescending, hot-but-he-knows-it cousin is crashing the girls’ road trip. Adam bugs Kate in every possible way. Now Kate just wants to get the road trip over with so she can spend the summer in Lucas’s arms. But the road to Love is full of surprises….

This book was really cute. It was also really predictable, but I was okay with that. It was a little short – I would have liked to get to know Sierra and Alexis better. The whole frat party scene seemed really rushed. I would have liked to know more about Alexis to know why she reacted the way she did.

Overall, I liked Kate and Adam and thought their relationship was really sweet.

When It Happens by Susane Colasanti

When It Happens by Susane Colasanti

Reminiscent of the movie Say Anything, a debut novel for all those searching for The One!

Sara and Tobey couldn’t be more different. She is focused on getting into her first-choice college; he wants to win Battle of the Bands. Sara’s other goal is to find true love, so when Dave, a popular jock, asks her out, shes thrilled. But then there’s Tobey. His amazing blue eyes and quirky wit always creep into her thoughts. It just so happens that one of Tobey’s goals is also to make Sara fall in love with him. Told in alternating points of view, Sara and Tobey’s real connection will have everyone rooting for them from the minute they meet!

I really wanted to like this book, but I just found it silly and predictable.  There were good moments and funny moments.  I liked Sara and Tobey, but they both had moments where they were a little annoying.  I also am not a big believer in “love at first sight” or “soul mates” so I just didn’t buy that they just knew they were perfect for each other before they’d even had a real conversation and then when they got together, they were just magically perfect and have a <i>connection</i>, like every cheesy The Bachelor contestant.  It seemed pretty unbelievable.  Sara had “the perfect boyfriend” built up in her head and I get why Dave didn’t live up to that, but I never quite saw why Tobey did.  I would have liked to get to know the secondary characters a little better too.  We got glimpses of them, but I was interested in more than just them.

The Awakening by Kelley Armstrong

The Awakening (Darkest Powers, Bk 2) by Kelley Armstrong

If you had met me a few weeks ago, you probably would have described me as an average teenage girl—someone normal. Now my life has changed forever and I’m as far away from normal as it gets. A living science experiment—not only can I see ghosts, but I was genetically altered by a sinister organization called the Edison Group. What does that mean? For starters, I’m a teenage necromancer whose powers are out of control; I raise the dead without even trying. Trust me, that is not a power you want to have. Ever.

Now I’m running for my life with three of my supernatural friends—a charming sorcerer, a cynical werewolf, and a disgruntled witch—and we have to find someone who can help us before the Edison Group finds us first. Or die trying.

I liked this book just as much as I liked The Summoning.  It picked up where the first book left off.  I enjoyed the finding out more about Chloe and her friends’ powers and more about the Edison Group.  This book had a lot of action, which was great, but also a lot of character development and relationship growth.  I’m looking forward to the next book in the series!

The Summoning by Kelley Armstrong

The Summoning (Darkest Powers, Bk 1) by Kelley Armstrong

My name is Chloe Saunders and my life will never be the same again.

All I wanted was to make friends, meet boys, and keep on being ordinary. I don’t even know what that means anymore. It all started on the day that I saw my first ghost—and the ghost saw me.

Now there are ghosts everywhere and they won’t leave me alone. To top it all off, I somehow got myself locked up in Lyle House, a “special home” for troubled teens. Yet the home isn’t what it seems. Don’t tell anyone, but I think there might be more to my housemates than meets the eye. The question is, whose side are they on? It’s up to me to figure out the dangerous secrets behind Lyle House . . . before its skeletons come back to haunt me.

I have had this book and the second book in the series on my shelf for a while now, but put off starting the series because I get burned out on paranormal easily sometimes.  I finally put the second book in a game on PBS, so I really need to read them now in case someone picks it.  It took me a little while to actually get the book open – I carried it around with me for a couple days and read something else in the mean time.  But I am glad I read it!

The story is really easily to fall into.  Chloe is likable and the world around her is interesting.  Lyle House is creepy and mysterious.  I really grew to like Rae, Simon, and Derek as the story progressed and we learned more about them.  I am glad that I already have The Awakening ready to read because the ending opened up so many new questions!  I want to know what is going on with the adults and find out more about each of the Lyle House residents.

Gone by Lisa McMann

Gone (Wake, Bk 3) by Lisa McMann

The third and final book in the paranormal teen series that includes The New York Times bestseller Wake and Fade.

Not much of description there, is there?  Anyway, before I begin, I must say thank you to James the Book Chic for hosting the ARC tour!

So the book!  This was a really good conclusion to the series.  This book was much more introspective on Janie’s part.  I kind of missed the mysteries from the first two books, but I really liked weighing the options that lay before Janie along with her.  Without being spoilery, there was a big storyline that I didn’t expect, but I really liked the way it worked out.  Sort of.  This book made me cry a couple times and made me think, which I really like in a book.  I will kind of miss this series – I really enjoyed all three books!