Harmony Book Reviews

Archive for May 2009

Give Up the Ghost

Cass McKenna much prefers ghosts to “breathers.” Ghosts are uncomplicated and dependable. They know the dirt on everybody . . . and Cass loves dirt. 

 She’s on a mission to expose the dirty secrets of all of the poseurs in her school. But when the vice president of the student council discovers her secret, Cass’s whole scheme hangs in the balance. Timwants her help to contact his recently deceasedmother, but Cass is less than enthusiastic.

Kicking and screaming, Cass becomes increasingly entwined in Tim’s life. And she’s more surprised than anyone when she realizes that maybe some living people aren’t so bad if she’d only give them a chance.Cass McKenna much prefers ghosts to “breathers.” Ghosts are uncomplicated and dependable. They know the dirt on everybody . . . and Cass loves dirt.


The Goodbye Season

Mercy Kaplan doesn’t want to be like her mother, saddled with crying kids and failing crops for the rest of her life. Mercy longs to be on her own—until her wish comes true in the worst possible way. It is 1918 and a deadly flu epidemic ravages the country, leaving her utterly alone and penniless.
Mercy soon finds a job with Mrs. Wilder. But there’s something unsettling about the woman, whose brother died under mysterious circumstances. And then there’s Daniel, who could sweep a girl off her feet if she isn’t careful.
 My Invented Life
 With Roz and Eva everything becomes a contest—who can snag the best role in the school play, have the cutest boyfriend, pull off the craziest prank. Still, they’re as close as sisters can be. Until Eva deletes Roz from her life like so much junk e-mail for no reason that Roz understands. Now Eva hangs out with the annoyingly petite cheerleaders, and Roz fantasizes about slipping bovine growth hormone into their Gatorade. Roz has a suspicion about Eva. In turn, Eva taunts Roz with a dare, which leads to an act of total insanity. Drama geeks clamor for attention, Shakespearean insults fly, and Roz steals the show in Lauren Bjorkman’s hilarious debut novel.


Purge by Sarah Darer Littman: Book Cover

Title: Purge

Author: Sarah Darer Littman

Rating: 7.5/10

Good If… You’re looking for a book about eating disorders that’s not quite as heavy as Wintergirls.

Summary: (Taken from Amazon)

Janie Ryman hates throwing up. So why does she binge eat and then stick her fingers down her throat several times a day? That’s what the doctors and psychiatrists at Golden Slopes hope to help her discover. But first Janie must survive everyday conflicts between the Barfers and the Starvers, attempts by the head psychiatrist to fish painful memories out of her emotional waters, and shifting friendships and alliances among the kids in the ward.

My Thoughts: Purge took me a little while to get into because of the dry writing style. But, once I got past the first ten pages or so, I was drawn in.

Janie’s diary entries were the one thing that kept me going – they were well-written, fresh, and gave us a good look inside her head. I couldn’t relate much to her but I did enjoy reading about some of the secondary characters – Tom in particular. Since there’s a large group at the clinic, many of the characters faded together. I felt that Littman could have given them better personalities and made them more distinct, but since the novel was so short, it didn’t completely take away from the story.

The interactions between characters, especially at meal times, were eye-opening.

There isn’t too much more for me to say about this one. It was good but not remarkable. I felt there was so much potential in the story and wish it had been a little longer, with more character development. If you like books about eating disorders, you’ll probably enjoy this one though.

Since I only have a few days of school left and summer is just around the corner, I figured it was time for a new contest! But, I’m going to make it a contest different from any others I’ve hosted. Here’s how it will go:

1.) For every comment you leave on any post I make or have already made, you will receive one entry. (Comments already posted will not count.)

2.)If you link to this contest or any of my other posts, leave a comment on THIS POST. It will give you two extra entries. (ONLY comment on this post if you do link to my site.)

3.)Email me with a critique of my site . Include what you like and what you don’t like. Be SPECIFIC and detailed, please. This will get you five extra entries.

4.) There is no limit to how many entries you can get. You can comment on however many posts you want, link to as many posts as you want, and you will keep getting more entries.

The Prize:

There will be THREE winners. 

The grand prize winner will receive 3 books of their choice*, and a bunch of bookmarks/other things authors have sent me.

The second place winner will receive 1 book of their choice*, and a bunch of bookmarks/other things authors have sent.

The third place winner will receive an envelope full of bookmarks/other things authors have sent me.

*These books will come off a list I send to the winner. The list will consist of any ARCs and final copies I have lying around. I promise they will include good books.

Deadline: June 31st


Peace, Love, and Baby Ducks by Lauren Myracle: Book Cover

Title: Peace, Love, and Baby Ducks

Author: Lauren Myracle

Rating: 8/10

Good If… You’re looking for a summer read full of realistic relationships.

Summary: (Taken from Barnes and Nobles)

Growing up in a world of wealth and pastel-tinted entitlement, fifteen-year-old Carly has always relied on the constancy—and authenticity—of her sister, Anna. But when fourteen-year-old Anna turns plastic-perfect-pretty over the course of a single summer, everything starts to change. And there are boys involved, complicating things as boys always do. With warmth, insight, and an unparalleled gift for finding humor even in stormy situations, beloved author Lauren Myracle dives into the tumultuous waters of sisterhood and shows that even very different sisters can learn to help each other stay afloat.

My Thoughts: The last time I read any of Lauren Myracle’s writing was in the Let it Snow anthology and I wasn’t all that impressed with her writing style. But when I saw the cover of Peace, Love, and Baby Ducks, I decided it was time that I give her writing another chance. It’s a good thing I did because this is one of the funniest books I’ve read in a while.

It opens with a letter between the two sisters. This is your first look into their relationship and you can tell how close they are. But, as the summary itself states and anyone who has a sister would know, things change as you get older and sometimes a summer seems like so much longer. This is where the drama begins unfolding.

Carly is probably my all-time favorite realistic character right now. I love her whole twenty-first century “hippie” vibe and almost wish I could pull off her style myself. The way she handles everything – from the way her parents act to her crazy hair style to the drama with her sister – is realistic. Anna was a little bit harder for me to relate to but she was also a fun character to read about.

Sibling drama is a very touchy territory to write about – siblings do tend to fight over little things but it’s extremely easy to go overboard with the fights. Luckily, Myracle must have some expertise in this area because she wrote everything perfectly. The fights aren’t petty and annoying – they’re realistic and fit in well with the plot.

Peace, Love, and Baby Ducks definitely restored my faith in Myracle. I look forward to her upcoming books and recommend this to everyone.

Angels & Demons: The Illustrated Movie Companion

The reason I haven’t been posting a lot this week is because I’ve been reading Angels and Demons. It’s over 700 pages, I was given it on Tuesday, and told I needed to have it done by school today. Yeah…with homework and various concerts, that’s easier said than done.

BUT, once I got into the book, I really couldn’t put it down. The friend I had borrowed it from said it was his favorite book and often commented on how much he loved it so I figured it would be good. (The only reason I even wanted to read it was because he was talking about it.) I just didn’t have a clue what it was about.

Angels and Demons is a pretty complex novel. There’s a LOT of this-symbol-means-that and the whole religion vs. science argument, as well as art history and stuff like that. I was pretty clueless when it came to all of that stuff and I sometimes had to backtrack to understand some things. Even now, I have a feeling that a little bit of it went right over my head. But to me, all of that stuff is so interesting that it kept me intrigued throughout the whole book. Plus, I couldn’t figure out who was at the head of everything so I needed to keep going to figure that out.

I really can’t recommend this enough. It’s complex and genius and will force you to think. Read it!

Has anyone seen the movie? Is it as good as the book?

TMI  Title: TMI

Author: Sarah Quigley

Rating: 9/10

Good If… You’re looking for a fun, LOL read for the summer.

Summary: (Taken from Amazon)

Friends call Becca the Overshare Queen, but her tendency for TMI never seemed like a problem to her until she blabs about her sweet band-geek boyfriend’s sloppy kisses—and gets dumped! Realizing it may be better to resist the temptation to overshare face-to-face, Becca decides to blog anonymously about everything instead. On her blog, Too Much Information, Becca unleashes her alter ego, Bella. Bella tells it like it is . . . though perhaps with a bit more drama. After all, no one’s going to read it, right???
My Thoughts: This is one book I’ve been looking forward to for a LONG time and I was so excited to get a copy. I now must admit that it is one of my new-favorite books.

Becca is probably the character I’ve been able to relate to most since I often tend of overshare a lot of information no one cares about. It tends to get me in a bit of trouble but like Becca, I find it really hard to stop. I understood everything she went through, her thoughts behind her not-so-smart actions and could easily see myself (re)acting the same exact way.

The cast of secondary characters, particularly Jai and Katie, were also well-developed and relatable. Jai is probably one of my new favorite characters and I reread the major parts he played in the last few chapters multiple times. I wish I had a friend like him.

I loved the part blogging played in the story, especially how we were actually able to see the posts she made. They were fun and often made me laugh.  Besides, who hasn’t made a slight smile from a crush into something more?

The ending was perfect – I loved how everything wasn’t necessarily tied up in a little neat package at the end but enough closure was given to be happy with it.

My only problem with TMI was its slight predictability. Certain events were easy to predict pages before they happened. However, it was easy for me to get past this.


You Are Here

I won this one in a contest Jennifer was holding. I just started it but so far, it’s really great. Look for a review soon.


These two arrived Thursday from the publisher. I read the introduction to Girlforce and it looks really interesting.

What did you get in your mailbox?

Since I adored Wintergirls so much, I could not pass up the opportunity to ask Ms. Anderson if she was interested in an interview. Lucky for us, she found some time in her super busy schedule to answer a few questions. Enjoy!

1.) Wintersgirls, for those who don’t know, is about a girl who is not only struggling with an eating disorder but also the death of her best friend. What inspired you to write about both? Was there anything specific based on your own personal experiences?  Inspired by letters from readers and my own struggle with self image.  I was not anorexic, but did not have healthy eating habits.
2.) Your books for teens seem to deal with a lot of difficult and emotional subjects (eating disorders, death, abuse, etc). Why do you choose to write about such difficult subjects? Do you ever get to a point where you have to step back and take a breather while you’re writing a particularly emotional scene?  I write about difficult subjects because teens are facing difficult subjects.  I often have to take breaks to stay emotionally healthy; that’s why physical activity, running, working in the garden, exercising, is very good for me.
3.) Can you tell us a little bit about your high school experience? Were you anything like any of your characters?  There is a little bit of me in all of my characters. Because of some issues my family was facing my high school years were not much fun. That is why I became a foreign exchange student and spent my senior year in Denmark through the American Field Service.
4.) If you could give the teens who read your books and go “That’s exactly how I feel” any advice, what would it be?  Being able to identify what you are feeling and why, is huge; that is a hard thing to do.  Teens need to be validated for that.  I would hope that if they are feeling overwhelmed that consistently that they can find a trustworthy adult to talk to about this.  Let them know that adolescence has an end point and when you can survive to reach that end point, life gets better.
5.) Can you tell us a little about your writing process and what you’re working on now?  One tenth mystical inspirations, nine tenths hard work. Right now I am working on a picture book about Abigail Adams, my next novel about the american revolution, and I am beginning to think about my next YA novel, but can’t talk about it yet.
6.) What are your favorite books? Movies? Musicians?  American Gods, by Neil Gaiman; VanHelsing, Dave Mathews, Coldplay, Tori Amos
7.) Finally, what advice do you have for any aspiring writers?   Make time to write every day.

 WintergirlsTitle: Wintergirls

Author: Laurie Halse Anderson

Rating: 10/10

Good If… You’re looking for an extremely emotional and powerful novel you won’t be able to put down.

Summary: (Taken from publisher’s site)


“Dead girl walking,” the boys say in the halls.
“Tell us your secret,” the girls whisper, one toilet to another.
I am that girl.
I am the space between my thighs, daylight shining through.
I am the bones they want, wired on a porcelain frame.
Lia and Cassie are best friends, wintergirls frozen in matchstick bodies, competitors in a deadly contest to see who can be the skinniest. But what comes after size zero and size double-zero? When Cassie succumbs to the demons within, Lia feels she is being haunted by her friend’s restless spirit.

In her most emotionally wrenching, lyrically written book since the multiple-award-winning Speak, Laurie Halse Anderson explores Lia’s descent into the powerful vortex of anorexia, and her painful path toward recovery.

My Thoughts: Wintergirls is a horrid novel. It made me sick to my stomach and I had to put it down multiple times and walk away just to take a breather. That said, Wintergirls is also one of the best novels I’ve read this year.

Wintergirls dives head first into the pain of eating disorders, something that I think is hard for healthy, eating-disorder-free teens to comprehend when they’ve never experienced anything similar. Relating with Lia wasn’t easy for me, since I see very little of myself in her, but I was instantly drawn into her world and pulled along, for better or for worse.

Once you get past the first page, it’s impossible to put down, and there’s a chance a crane may have to be hauled in to pry it from your hands.

My favorite thing about this, hands down, was how Anderson developed Lia’s character by putting down what she was really thinking, slashing it out, and writing what Lia felt she should be feeling. It gave us an inside look to her thoughts and it’s probably one of the best characterization techniques used.

There’s really nothing else I can say about this. It’s one of the best book released this year. Read it. Now. (But I must advise this for mature readers only. It’s not something that you would want your 9 year old little sister reading.)

…And the program I use to write reviews won’t work, I figure it’s time I linked you guys to some pretty sweet contests and believe me, there’s a bunch of them going on!

Though it ends tomorrow, Stephanie Kuehnert is still having a contest with a chance to win an ARC of Ballads of Suburbia. You can find more info here.

Presenting Lenore is holding TWO Penguin Prize Pack. The first is for a set of Reality Books including Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen (which is AMAZING) and After by Amy Efaw (which I REALLY want to read), as well as 7 other books. The second is for a set of Fantasy Books, including Strange Angels by Lili St. Crow (which I REALLY want to read) and 8 other books.

Steph is giving away all eight  SIX (sorry, mistake on my part) of Elizabeth Scott’s books here. To see more of what Steph has done featuring Elizabeth Scott, see her Pub Story (which I found very inspirational) and Steph’s review of Bloom.

Reader Rabbit is giving away a copy of Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler.

These are all the ones that showed up in my Google Reader lately. If you know of any others, please let me know!

  • None
  • Megan: Just read LAST CHRISTMAS. I would SOOO reccomend it to people who havent even read the private series. It is soo good.The suspense was kiling me all t
  • Lola: Oh my gosh! i just finished it....i googled the song for i had never herd it before......may have been a mistake because it is in my head for taciturn
  • mais: heeeyyyy.... can anyonePLEASE give me the link or even send me the copy of the eighth book(revelation on my email because i cant find it anywhere for