Friday, June 29, 2012

The Academie by Susanne Dunlap

|Edition: Hardcover, 368 pages|Publisher: Bloomsbury|
|Release Date: February 2012|
|Genre: Historical fiction, 1800s, Napoleonic War, romance|
|Other Books: The Musician's Daughter, Anastasia's Secret, and In the Shadow of the Lamp by Susanne Dunlap; Dancing Through Fire by Kathryn Lasky|
|Overall Rating: 5/5|

Eliza Monroe-daughter of the future president of the United States-is devastated when her mother decides to send her to boarding school outside of Paris. But the young American teen is quickly reconciled to the idea when-ooh, la-la!-she discovers who her fellow pupils will be: Hortense de Beauharnais, daughter of Josephine Bonaparte; and Caroline Bonaparte, youngest sister of the famous French general. It doesn't take long for Eliza to figure out that the two French girls are mortal enemies-and that she's about to get caught in the middle of their schemes.
Loosely drawn from history, Eliza Monroe's imagined coming of age provides a scintillating glimpse into the lives, loves, and hopes of three young  during one of the most volatile periods in French history.

Yet another tale of daring adventure, love, and history is spun by Dunlap, the author of The Musician's Daughter and In the Shadow of the Lamp. Set in the backdrop of a glamourous but uneasy time in French history, our four heroines will–all in a few short months–endure great adventure, scandal, danger, and love. Only some will survive.
A fan of Dunlap's since her first novel for young adults, The Academie is of course, no surprise, a favorite. Taking once again a unique, but exciting bit a of history and combining it with historically correct characters, you get a lovely fictionalized retelling. Sharing the spotlight with not one, not two, but three young girls' perspectives was a genius way of summing up a complicated, and sometimes two-faced story. Despite it skipping sometimes between two very different events, the book is very unified. Dunlap has pulled off the threesome nicely. The Academie  seemed to be a smoother read as well. In some of her other novels, specific plot climaxes were at times far between but with this one, everything flowed into one big finale!
I would have never thought to have included an American character among the daughters of the elite Frenchmen. Although taking place before the Monroes were White House material, James Monroe (more commonly known as just "President Monroe") was an important figure-head in both the American and French Revolutions. 
Of the two French girls–Hortense was my favorite. She is the quiet thinker of the foursome, she is also the most hesitant. Though wise beyond her years, Hortense must make a risky choice. One that may require her to make a terrible sacrifice. On the other hand, Madeline is the wild card. She pops up now and then but readers will not know how to place her until the final card is played. Love will spare no one! Dunlap will leave readers vying destiny of each girl with every twist and turn.

Overall, The Academie is Dunlap's best yet. There is a nice selection to chose from on Napoleonic literature but Dunlap's will be a favorite. Highly recommend to faithful fans, historical fiction lovers, and anyone else who may be intrigued. Ages 13+

Content Awareness
Some violence and some mild sexual references/sensuality. (PG)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally

|Edition: Paperback, 281 pages|Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire|Release Date: December 2011|Genre: Contemporary fiction, relationships, romance, sports|
|Other Books: Catching Park by Miranda Kenneally (Oct. 2012), Stupid Fast by Geoff Herbach
|Overall Rating: 4/5|

What girl doesn't want to be surrounded by gorgeous jocks day in and day out? Jordan Woods isn't just surrounded by hot guys, though-she leads them as the captain and quarterback of her high school football team. They all see her as one of the guys, and that's just fine. As long as she gets her athletic scholarship to a powerhouse university. But now there's a new guy in town who threatens her starting position... suddenly she's hoping he'll see her as more than just a teammate.

A female quarterback? Get out.
Although it may not be realistic, Jordan's status of as quarterback for her high school football team sure makes for an interesting premises for a story...and a adrenaline rush of a love triangle. I don't like football let alone will you find me reading novels about the sport. Surprisingly, after a few pages into the book, I could barely tare myself away from the story. I really enjoyed Jordan's character. Jordan sees football as something more than just a sport, or a way into college. Football is Jordan's way of proving herself...especially to her hard-sell professional football player dad. Talk about a hard thing to live up to.
Getting to know not only Jordan's personal dilemmas but the "behind the scenes" of the entire team as well made the book all the more interesting. You have your star players of course, who are closest to Jordan. They protect her, carry out her plays, and of course never leave her out of a party. Alas, though these are still guys we're talking about. Even worse...jocks. Whether Kenneally had first-hand experience on either being on or observing a football team, all those stereotypes are right on the dot. Girls, hook-ups, partying, and just being egoistic. There is a lot of crude humor and sexual remarks throughout the book. Although mostly coming from the guys, Jordan is a natural "tom-boy" and is not shy about calling shots. It's what makes her character daring and fits her into quarterback material. Despite them all being gruff and fairly egoistic, Jordan and the team care for each other quite a bit. Each player has a special relationship with Jordan which heightens the emotional tension and makes the story all the more captivating.

Being the all-star member of the high school isn't always easy. For one, Jordan is NOT a guy. Jordan hangs-out, puts up with, and relies on her team so much that Jordan has little time left for any other feelings. When a new player (and quarterback) threatens to take her title, instead of showing him who's boss (or sicking the guys on him), Jordan falls in love. Fast paced and full of daring moves, Catching Jordan surprised me with each play of the game and the final score.
Be on the lookout for Kenneally's next sport-oriented book! Recommend to ages 14+

Content Awareness:

(14+) Sensuality, sexual references, crude humor and language. Main character participates in [moderate] sexual activity.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Giveaway: What You Wish For

What You Wish For is a lovely collection of short stories, poems, and a graphic story by acclaimed authors like Francisco X. Stork, Cornelia Funke, Meg Cabot, and John Green. Each story deals with wishes–for love, family, safety, and friendship.
There were several stories I greatly enjoyed. One was called "The Great Wall" in which the protagonist falls in love with a Asian boy from the Chinese restaurant. The pair of friends go through great lengths to find out more about the boy and his family.
John Green's piece was also a nice story of love: a sad, but heartwarming tale of a boy who–despite much criticism–believe that the money he is sending overseas is helping an Indian girl.
I liked also the two stories near the end of book about family: "Rules for Wishing" by Francisco Stork that takes place in a orphanage/foster home and the graphic story by Nate Powell.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*Please note that this copy of What You Wish For is a ARC (Advance Reader's Copy).

Friday, May 11, 2012

Honey, Baby, Sweetheart by Deb Caletti

Edition: Softcover, 308Publisher: Simon Pulse|Release Date: 2004|Genre: Contemporary fiction, love, family, friendship|
|Overall Rating: 5/5|
|More Books by Author: The Secret Life of Prince Charming, Wild Roses, The Queen of Everything, The Nature of Jade, Stay, The Six Rules of Maybe, The Fortune's of Indigo Sky, & The Story of Us (2012)

It is summer in the Northwest town of Nine Mile Falls, and sixteen-year-old Ruby McQueen, ordinarily dubbed The Quiet Girl, finds herself hanging out with gorgeous, rich, thrill-seeking Travis Becker. But Ruby is in over her head, and finds she is risking more and more when she's with him.
In an effort to keep Ruby occupied, Ruby's mother Ann drags Ruby to the weekly book club she runs. When it is discovered that one of the group''s own members is the subject of the tragic love story they are reading, Ann and Ruby spearhead a reunion between the long-ago lovers. But for Ruby, this mission turns out to be much more than just a road trip...

Once again Caletti has created a vividly adventurous (and humorous) home-spun coming of age story. My first Caletti novel was The Secret Life of Prince Charming and oh the characters! It's the same with Honey, Baby, Sweetheart. The characters are jewels...and the story is so familiar yet so enjoyable.
Ruby McQueen doesn't hang out with boys. She's a good girl, has one girlfriend, a love-sick insecure librarian mother, a little brother, and a chewing machine of a dog. Typical family, typical girl falls for the bad boy next door. Or is it?
I love how Caletti takes a stereotype plot like this and whips it around into a heartwarming story about something completely different–something that makes you sad when the last page turns. Ruby was naturally a keep-to-yourself type. When she suddenly catches the eye of the motorcyle-ridin' bad boy, Travis, Ruby unleashes her alter-ego that has been hiding inside her. Suddenly things starts turning upside-down. Does Ruby really like Travis or does she just like the thrill of the wind rushing against her skin as they zoom down the highway. When Ruby and her family become invovled in a complicated mission to help Lillian, an elderly woman and fellow book-club member, unite with her true love, Ruby gets a lesson in more than just love. Sometimes, adventure is way more exciting.

I love the characters–Miz June, Ann Bee, Harold (he's a hoot), Peach, Lillian, Chip Jr., Ruby, Ann, and even the guy in the whale van. They're so normal, they're people you know...but yet throw them together and you get an unforgettable journey of strength, love, friendship, and breaking away. The humorous yet serious advice the seniors give Ruby is uplifting and inspiring. Highly, highly recommend. If you're a Deb Caletti fan already–what are you waiting for!? Ages 13+

Read More Great Books Like This:
Ten Miles Past Normal by Francis O'Roark Dowell, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, Faithful by Janet Fox, After the Kiss by Terra Elan McVoy, The Ruby Notebook by Laura Resau, A Little Friendly Advice by Siobhan Vivian, Girlfriend Material by Melissa Kantor
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