Review: Alive and Well in Prague, New York by Daphne Grab

Title: Alive and Well in Prague, New York
Author: Daphne Grab
Publisher: HarperTeen
Pub. Date: 2008
Genre: YA
Main Themes: Moving, Parkinson’s Disease, Family, Love, Friendship
Pages: 247
Plot (from book jacket):
“Matisse Osgood is a New York City girl through and through. She buys her clothes at Andy’s Cheapies, watches indie films at the Angelika, and wouldn’t be caught dead on a hayride. But when her father gets sick and Matisse’s parents decide to leave Manhattan for a small town in upstate New York, her perfect world crumbles. As Matisse trudges through life in Prague, she dreams of waking up in her apartment on West 78th Street with a father who’s well enough to walk with her in Central Park and a mother who doesn’t pretend that everything is okay. When rumors surround Matisse at school and her father’s symptoms worsen, Matisse realizes that the friends she’s making in Prague are the kind you can count on. They help Matisse find the strength to reach out to her father, who may not be as far from her as she thought. And one particular farm boy shows Matisse that country living is a lot more magical than she ever imagined.”

I liked, but didn’t love Daphne Grab’s debut novel. I felt that it had a lot of really good aspects, but overall it fell a bit flat.

I really liked the deeper, more serious aspects of the book, like Matisse’s struggle with her dad’s fight against Parkinson’s and her realization that the people she is meeting in the slow town of Prague, NY are truer than anything she’s ever known. I felt that she did have significant growth throughout the novel.

It was good that the novel was a slim volume, otherwise I don’t know if it would have help my attention throughout. Much of the novel was composed of Matisse acting like a spoiled brat and I didn’t have very much patience for her behavior. I know that she was a young girl, but even I knew in high school that the type of behavior she displayed was not acceptable. The most infuriating part of the novel is when she dates a boy based solely on the recommendation of his looks, though she can’t stand his personality. Not cool.

I also found the lead romantic counterpart to be extremely awkward. His interests seemed so random – I would have liked a bit more background about him.

Ratings (Out of 10):
Plot: 8
Characters: 6
Writing: 9
Romance: 7
Originality: 8
Total: 38/50 (C)

I probably wouldn’t recommend this book. While there were some definite good aspects of the book, it simply wasn’t a memorable novel. I will, however, look into any future novels Grab writes, as I feel that the book had tons of potential and her might novel could quite possibly be amazing!

Review: Kitty Kitty by Michele Jaffe

Title: Kitty Kitty
Author: Michele Jaffe
Publisher: HarperTeen
Pub. Date: 2008
Genre: YA
Main Themes: Mystery, Murder, Italy, Family, Love, Friendship
Pages: 307
Plot (from Booklist):
Poor Jas. “Dadzilla” has whisked her to Venice (Italy), where she’ll spend her senior year without her California pals. Her solution: be Model Daughter, so Dad will let her go home. Unfortunately, Jas can’t stay away from a mystery. This time it’s the death of a girl in her Italian class. Police rule suicide; Jas disagrees. When her friends pay a visit (surprise!), the mystery gains momentum, and Jas finds herself running around in a squirrel costume trying to catch a killer. Readers unacquainted with the first book will need time to get used to the high-octane characters and frenetic patter, which occasionally spins out of control; and except for a few appearances, forget cats. What works best is the over-the-top, laugh-out-loud silliness between Jas and her protective entourage, and Jas’ own wildly colorful personality, which, along with her insatiable curiosity, suffers from the usual teen insecurities about clothes, parents, and boys.

Michele Jaffe’s books totally rock my socks off! I don’t know how she comes up with such great plot lines and hilarious dialogue, I just hope she never stops!

Kitty Kitty is the the continuation of Jas’ story that began in Jaffe’s first YA novel, Bad Kitty. While readers will most likely be able to follow Jas’ story if they begin with Kitty Kitty, I recommend reading Bad Kitty first. Not only will you have a better idea of who the characters are and how they came to be in Venice, you’ll also laugh your head off.

One of my favorite things about reading Jaffe’s YA novels is the fact that when I’m reading, I constantly feel the need to find someone to read passages aloud to! These books are so funny that I must share them!

There isn’t a lot of YA mystery out there – which is another reason to pick up Jaffe’s books. She is a seasoned mystery author, as she writes adult romantic mysteries as well. I’ve read her adult novels and was pleasantly surprised to see that she wrote YA as well. The YA novels are completely different than the adult novels, but just as good: Jaffe’s diverse writing talent astounds me!

Those of you who have read Bad Kitty will be happy to see all your favorite characters return for Kitty Kitty. Those of you who haven’t read Bad Kitty… hurry up and read it: there are some characters you need to meet!

Ratings (Out of 10):
Plot: 10
Characters: 10
Writing: 10
Romance: 10
Originality: 10
Total: 50/50 (A!)

I can’t imagine someone not laughing while reading Bad Kitty and Kitty Kitty – so if you need a laugh and are in the mood for a good book, be sure to check out Michele Jaffe’s YA novels!

Review: Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott

Title: Living Dead Girl
Author: Elizabeth Scott
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Pub. Date: 9/2008
Genre: YA/Adult
Main Themes: Kidnapping, Rape, Pedophilia
Pages: 170
Plot (from GoodReads):

Once upon a time I was a little girl who disappeared.
Once upon a time my name was not Alice.
Once upon a time I didn’t know how lucky I was.

When Alice was ten, Ray took her away from her family, her friends — her life. She learned to give up all power, to endure all pain. She waited for the nightmare to be over.
Now Alice is fifteen and Ray still has her, but he speaks more and more of her death. He does not know it is what she longs for. She does not know he has something more terrifying than death in mind for her.
This is Alice’s story. It is one you have never heard, and one you will never, ever forget.

I’m not sure that there are words to describe just how heartwrenching and horrifying Living Dead Girl is. Elizabeth Scott has written an absolutely breathtaking novel about a sickening topic, bringing light to a scenario that happens all too often and that few of us want to face.

I listened to this book on audiobook while driving to a book signing. I wasn’t sure it was a good idea – I had a feeling that it would make me cry and crying is, generally, not recommended for freeway driving. I didn’t cry though – I think I may have been in a bit of state of shock.

Living Dead Girl is written perfectly to portray the horror of the story it contains. I imagine that writing about child abductions, rape, and murder are not easy subject to write about in any circumstances – but telling the story from the point-of-view of the victim while she’s the victim – you can’t get much more personal or emotional than that.

Scott wrote a compelling story with a believable narrator. She touched on many subjects and attempted (and, I think, succeeded) in answering many questions that I know I have thought to myself on more than one occasion… Like, why didn’t she/he fight back? Why didn’t she/he try to escape?

This book is a bit graphic at points and I found myself needing to take a moment to pull myself together. While it is YA, I’m not sure all younger readers would be ready for this book. Not that they couldn’t handle it, but they may want to prep a bit before reading… especially if they are naive about sex and rape.

Ratings (Out of 10):
Plot: 10
Characters: 10
Writing: 10
Originality: 10
Total: 40/40 (A)

While Living Dead Girl is a quick read, it is not in any way a light read. If you are searching for a novel that will make you think and pull visciously at your heartstrings – this is it.

Review: The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart

Title: The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks
Author: E. Lockhart
Publisher: Hyperion
Pub. Date: 2008
Genre: MG to YA
Main Themes: Secret Societies, Gender Roles, Love, Friendship, Popularity
Pages: 342
Plot (from book jacket):
Frankie Landau-Banks at age 14:
Debate Club.Her father’s “bunny rabbit.”
A mildly geeky girl attending a highly competitive boarding school.
Frankie Landau-Banks at age 15:
A knockout figure.
A sharp tongue.
A chip on her shoulder.
And a gorgeous new senior boyfriend: the supremely goofy, word-obsessed Matthew Livingston.

Frankie Laundau-Banks.
No longer the kind of girl to take “no” for an answer.
Especially when “no” means she’s excluded from her boyfriend’s all-male secret society.
Not when her ex boyfriend shows up in the strangest of places.
Not when she knows she’s smarter than any of them.
When she knows Matthew’s lying to her.
And when there are so many, many pranks to be done.
Frankie Landau-Banks, at age 16:
Possibly a criminal mastermind.

This is the story of how she got that way.

I bought The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks shortly after it was released in 2008 and I kept passing over it when deciding what to read next out of my ridiculously large TBR pile. A couple weeks ago I decided to head home for the weekend, which is, total, a 10 hour drive. When I was browsing audio books, I stumbled across Disreputable and decided it might be fun to listen to during the long drive – I had no idea just how much fun it would be!

Disreputable was my first audiobook experience and I have to say I think I made a great choice! I will admit to feeling a bit awkward because I was laughing aloud as I was driving along and my mouth would occasionally drop open as new twists in the plot came to light. By the time I got home I was 5 hours into the book and I went straight to my bookshelf to finish up the last hundred pages – I couldn’t even wait for the drive back to listen to the rest!

Frankie Landau-Banks is a girl after my own heart. She makes her mistakes and she sticks to what she believes. I could definitely relate to her curious, and sometimes manipulative, nature. I would love to read another novel about Frankie’s adventures!

I was in love with the secret society aspect of the novel. I can’t say too much about it, as I don’t want to spoil anything for those who haven’t read this yet, but it was really well written, and from what I could tell, researched. I liked all the little facts E. Lockhart threw into the the story about different well known societies. All of the history behind the different pranks that were performed was also interesting, and, in many cases, hilarious.

The only part that I wasn’t totally satisfied with was the ending of the novel. Again, I can’t say much because of spoilers, but I really thought the story would end a bit differently. I still loved it though – ending and all!

Ratings (Out of 10):
Plot: 9
Characters: 10
Writing: 10
Romance: 10
Originality: 10
Total: 49/50 (A)

I highly recommend The Disreputable History of Frankie-Landau Banks… in both audiobook and hardcopy form! The audiobook that I listened to had a great (female) narrator that I felt voiced the characters wonderfully. This book is a fun read that kept me entertained and engaged – even throughout a long and boring drive!

Review: Paper Towns by John Green

Title: Paper Towns
Author: John Green
Publisher: Dutton Books
Date Published: 2008
Genre: YA
Main Themes: Friendship, Runaways, Mystery/Clues, Love
Pages: 305
Plot (from book jacket): “Quentin Jacobson has spent a lifetime loving the magnificently adventurous Margo Roth Speigelman from afar. So when she cracks open a window and climbs into his life – dressed like a ninja and summons him for an ingenious campaign of revenge – he follows.

After their all-nighter ends and a new day breaks, Q arrives at school to discover that Margo, always an enigma, has now become a mystery, but Q soon learns that there are clues – and they’re for him. Urged down a disconnected path, the closer he gets, the less Q sees the girl he thought he knew.”

Paper Towns was my first John Green novel, but it definitely won’t be my last. It was so seriously amazing… there aren’t words to describe my reading experience.

I’m usually not into reading books from the male perspective, but I recently read Black Rabbit Summer by Kevin Brooks (which is narrated by a male protagonist) and loved it – and am now working on not being so narrow-minded about my main characters. Q was one of my favorite main characters, so I’m glad I gave Paper Towns a chance.

I think the aspect of this book that really made it amazing was the author, John Green. I’d heard that he was a really amazing, funny guy… something about Nerd Fighters?… but he has some serious writing talent. All the little details, the plot, the dialogue – it was so great… I could not put this book down.

I loved the clues. Margo leaves clues for Quentin to find her and I was trying right along with him to figure them out. I couldn’t stop reading until I found out what happened.

This book was also so freaking funny. I was laughing out loud at 1 am, especially at the end of the book. There is some seriously hilarious dialogue during a road trip… the road trip alone is reason to read this book! 🙂

Ratings (out of 10):
Plot: 10
Characters: 10
Writing Style: 10
Romance: 10
Originality: 10
Total: 50/50 (A!)

There are so many reasons to read this book! Its just one of those books that you have to read…

Review: Black Rabbit Summer by Kevin Brooks

Title: Black Rabbit Summer
Author: Kevin Brooks
Publisher: Chicken House (Scholastic)
Date Published: 2008
Genre: Young Adult
Main Themes: Missing persons, Friendship, Growing up, Drugs and Alcohol
Pages: 488
Plot (from book jacket):
“As kids they were tight. Now they’ve grown up – and apart. Before going their separate ways for good, they decide to get together one last time.
Just like old times.
Just the five of them.
Saturday night.
Nicole asked. How could Pete say no?
But the past hurts, personal histories, soon surface, and the party’s over. The group splinters off into the darkness. Into the noise and heat and chaos of the summer carnival.
Days later, a girl goes missing. And each of them is a suspect in her disappearance. Pete doesn’t know what to believe. Could one of their own, one of the old gang, be a killer?”

I want to start out by mentioning that I usually don’t read books narrated by guys. I don’t really know why, but usually I just don’t feel as connected to the novel. That said, Black Rabbit Summer might be one of my favorite books. It was absolutely stunning! There was just something so ridiculously deep about it. It might have been the narrator or Brooks himself, but this book simply shines.

It wasn’t what I expected really, it was much more than the jacket description lets on. I related to the characters in this book so well. I could see each and every character as someone from my life – someone I went to school with.

The plot involves a bit of a mystery and I honestly had no clue how it would be resovled. There were clues at first, but I had no clue how it would all end up fitting together.

Here is a quote that I read, then went back and reread because I loved it so much (Page 404):
“As I stepped over to the den and crept through the door, I wondered if that’s what it was all about. Friends. People you know. People you used to know. People you think you once knew, but you probably never did. You probably knew just part of them, the part of them that was your friend. And the rest, the parts of them that you didn’t know – the twisted parts, the untrue parts, the parts you are seeing now – well, back then you just ignored them. But now you can’t. Because now you can see it all, and now you know that “back then” wasn’t all wonderful and innocent. It was just a time and a place, just like every other time and place. The only difference now is that the things – the people – that belonged to the old time and place aren’t here anymore, and things that aren’t here anymore don’t hurt anymore. The only things that hurt are the things that hurt right now.”

Ratings (out of 10):
Plot: 10
Characters: 10
Writing style: 10
Romance: 10
Originality: 10
Total: 50/50 (A)

I loved this book – READ IT! It was darkly beautiful. I will definitely be looking into Kevin Brooks’ previous books (Lucas, Candy, Being, The Road of the Dead, and more)! I’ve heard that Lucas is really amazing as well…

Review: The Debs by Susan McBride

Title: The Debs
Author: Susan McBride
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Date Published: 2008
Genre: Young Adult
Main Themes: Debutantes, Love, Friendship, Family, Wealth
Pages: 246
From back cover: “The heat is on down South!
Debutante season in Houston is under way, and four ultraprivileed girls await their invitations from the illustrious Glass Slipper Club.

Laura Delacroix Bell: This trust-rund baby’s size-fourteen figure doesn’t stop her from attracting hot boys or the admiring eye of the GSC selection committee. But a salacious secret could take her out of the running faster than you can say “Rosebud.”

Michelle “Mac” Mackenzie: She’d rather bury her nose in a book than embrace her deb destiny. But Mac’s debut is her late mother’s dream and her stepmother’s obsession. If Mac doesn’t bow out now, she may become the crankiest deb in Texas.

Ginger Fore: She hopes to wear her grandmother’s vintage ball gown on her big presentation day. But when a mysterious college guy puts Giger’s deb eligibility in jeopardy, she may end up wearing an unflattering orange jumpsuit instead.

Jo Lynn Bidwill: A former beauty queen, she makes it her mission in life to take out the debu-trash. For now, Jo Lynn’s sights are set on Laura Bell, and what she has in store for her bitter rival is anything but ladylike.

The Debs… high society doesn’t get any lower than this.”

I was pleasantly surprised by this book! When I first saw it I was expected something pretty shallow and kind of like a southern version of Gossip Girl. While it was still primarily a light read, it had some depth as well and I found the characters easy to relate to, despite the reader’s first impressions.

I really liked how Susan McBride started off describing the girls in term of appearances, then delved deeper into who they are – their hopes, fear, and insecurities. I really enjoyed having four main characters and four points of view. I found that I related to each girl in some way or another.

One of my favorite parts of the book was the quotes at the beginning of the chapters. They were really funny and fit perfectly with the chapters!

Ratings (Out of 10):
Plot: 10
Characters: 10
Romance: 10
Writing Style: 10
Originality: 10

Total: 50/50 (A)

I recommend this novel! It was fun and humorous, with just the right amount of high society intrigue and gossip.