Perfectly Invisible

21 Oct

Perfectly InvisibleKristen Billerbeck

Publisher: Revell

Publication Date: 2011

Paperback: 272 pages

Book Blurb:

It’s Daisy Crispin’s final trimester of high school, and she plans to make it count. Her long awaited freedom is mere months away, and her big plans for college loom in the future. Everything is under control.

Or is it?

Her boyfriend is treating her like she’s invisible, and her best friend is selling bad costume jewelry in the school quad and hanging out with her boyfriend. To top it off, Daisy’s major humiliation for the year will be remembered in the year book for all eternity. It’s enough to make her wonder if maybe being invisible isn’t so bad after all.

Stand alone or series: This is the second Universally Misunderstood Novel, the first was Perfectly Dateless—a personal favorite.

Why I read this book: As I said above, I loved the first so I was not going to miss the second.

Review:

Daisy is at it again. Graduation is just a few months away, and Daisy can’t wait to get out, especially with Claire acting even crazier than normal. As always, she has it all planned out. But the more she tries to hold on to her perfect plan, the more it falls apart. Her dreams could snuff out like a light, or God could trade them for brighter ones.

The cast is as quirky as quirky as ever and I love them for it! Mrs. Crispin is still making all Daisy’s clothes, including a violet suit. Claire has traded spider nose rings for “trings,” don’t ask, she’ll tell you all about them anyway. Gil is eating onions, which is apparently a bad sign. And while Max makes her feel as if her heart has traded places with a butterfly, he’s distant and she can’t figure out why.

That being said, I must be honest with you. As much as I loved Perfectly Dateless, Perfectly Invisible fell a little flat for me. It could be that my expectations were too high, but I think it had more to do with the climax. I won’t give it away, but I will tell you I didn’t buy it.

If you are a lover of Perfectly Dateless, I’d go ahead and read it anyway. Like I said, the characters are still great. Just adjust your expectations accordingly. If you haven’t read Perfectly Dateless, check out my post from December 17 and have fun. Happy reading!

Protection for Hire

7 Oct

Protection for HireCamy Tang

Publisher: Zondervan

Publication Date: 2011

Paperback: 366 pages, though this was one of those Kindle deals for me.

Book Blurb:

Tessa Lancaster’s skills first earned her a position as an enforcer in her Uncle Teruo’s Japanese Mafia gang. Then they landed her in prison for a crime she didn’t commit. Now, three months after her release, Tessa’s abilities have gained her a job as bodyguard for wealthy socialite Elizabeth St. Amant and her three-year-old son. But there’s a problem or two … or three …. There’s Elizabeth’s abusive husband whose relentless pursuit goes deeper than mere vengeance. There’s Uncle Teruo, who doesn’t understand why Tessa’s new faith as a Christian prevents her from returning to the yakuza. And then there’s Elizabeth’s lawyer, Charles Britton, who Tessa doesn’t know is the one who ensured that she did maximum time behind bars. Now Tessa and Charles must work together in order to protect their client, while new truths emerge and circumstances spiral to a deadly fever pitch. Factor in both Tessa’s and Charles’s families and you’ve got some wild dynamics—and an action-packed, romantic read as Tessa and Charles discover the reality of being made new in Christ.

Stand alone or series: One of two (that I know of/have yet been written)

Why I read this book: To be honest, it first caught my eye cause the cover looked cool. It’s even better!

Review:

I think the blurb sells this book a little short. Not because all those things aren’t true, but because the blurb writing isn’t nearly as gripping as the novel. I didn’t want to put this book down. I would go to sleep thinking through all the crazy things that happened, and I would wake up and think about the story some more.

Tessa Lancaster is one kick butt kind of girl. It’s all she’s known how to do ever since her early school days. Now out of prison and applying to every job she sees, she can’t seem to land any gig except a position as a bodyguard. Her new friend and protectee, Elizabeth, throws her right in the path of the family she’s trying to avoid and a family unlike one she’s ever known. Charles Britton and his mom and brother have the kind of bond Tessa doesn’t dare dream of. But even she, who’s turned into a sort of detective, has no idea of the dark past that glues this gleaming family together. Will their pasts drag them under or will they emerge stronger? Just read to see.

While the plot is nail-biting, the characters are loveable and layered. Just as in life, no one is truly good or evil, even the ones you’d expect to be… Cough, cough—mafia boss—cough, cough. It’s fascinating to see the light and the dark tugging at each heart. And I must say one of my favorite characters is Vivian Britton. This woman is as fiery as her new cooking concoctions and as sweet as her homemade cannoli. Yum! You want to wrap her up in a hug and take her to the craziest place you’ve ever eaten. Strange combination, I know, but that’s just one of the reasons Vivian and all the rest of the cast are larger-than-life.

Hmm… Now who is this book for? Gee that’s a tough one.

If you like action, this is for you.

If you like mystery, this is for you too.

If you like a little romantic tension, I’d point you this way.

If you like damsels in distress… Well, this damsel will distress anyone who stands in her way.

If you like strange families, Raman, California, car chases, or dancing, would you pick this up already?

Seriously, go pick it up! I know I can’t wait to lose more sleep over this awesome series.

Tournaments, Cocoa, and One Wrong Move

23 Sep

Tournaments, Cocoa & One Wrong MoveNancy Rue

Publisher: Zondervan

Publication Date: 2010

Paperback: 256 pages, and every one it flew by!

Book Blurb:

Everything seems to be going right for Cassidy Brewster—she’s the star of her high school basketball team, has a near-perfect GPA, and college recruiters are showing up at her games. But during the state tournament she injured herself, and her season appears to be over. With pressures at home and school, Cassidy turns desperate and makes choices that only increase the number of problems in her life. As Cassidy’s carefully controlled world falls apart, a mysterious book begins to speak to her, and it just might contain the answers Cassidy has been trying to find.

Stand alone or series: This is book three in the Real Life series. A series which I recommend for all teen girls and those who care about them. Though it is a part of a series, these are four stories of four separate girls and can be read in any order (maybe I should wait until I’ve read the last one to tell you that for certain) or as stand alones.

Why I read this book: Nancy Rue rocks! She hooked me on the first book in this series. Before I had finished Motorcycles, Sushi, and One Strange Book, I’d bought the next three. It’s definitely a choice I do not regret.

Review:

Cassidy’s life is all about control. She controls her skills, her team, and her body. Her father controls her. When she loses control and damages her knee, her world spins out of control.

Though you probably won’t notice while reading, however Nancy Rue has mastered the craft of structure. She builds and builds and builds the story, putting Cassidy through more than we thought possible, and then pushes her further.

In between the pages, you’ll find a cast of characters that you seen walking the halls of your high school. I remember girls like Kara, boys like Rafe, and other girls like Ruthie. I only wish I’d gotten to know those people as well as I know the incredible characters in this novel. The kids as well as the adults are vibrant and lovable, especially those who feel unloved. The kids learn to find their identity in a place greater than society’s labels. Which, as many of us know, is no easy feat.

This is a powerful story of a young girl who thinks she has it all together. It appears to her, her family, and the rest of the school, that she is perfect—the perfect player, the perfect student, the perfect daughter. Only when the veneer of perfection falls away is she free and open to discover Jesus and true perfection.

This book is for athletes, loners, perfectionists, lovers of chocolate, those who the world has written off as “losers,” and kids struggling to connect with parents who are disengaged or far too engaged. Really, this book is for everyone. Cassidy and her friends’ struggles and triumphs are a part of every stage of life, though they may come in different forms. Once again Rue has put heart and soul to paper.

Boyfriends, Burritos and an Ocean of Trouble

20 May

Boyfriends, Burritos and an Ocean of TroubleNancy Rue

Publisher: Zondervan

Publication Date: 2010

Paperback: 219 pages

Book Blurb:

Secrets? Bryn O’Connor is good at keeping secrets. But when a car accident reveals her boyfriend’s abusive behavior, the truth is unleashed. And it starts a tidal wave of trouble in Bryn’s life: enemies who were once friends, a restraining order violation, and her world unraveled. If that weren’t enough, her grandmother Mim arrives, attempting Mexican cuisine and insisting that Bryn try surfing. It’s all too much! Even Bryn’s habit of daydreaming won’t offer an escape this time. But could a mysterious book she found hold the secret to riding a tsunami like her life?

Stand alone or series: It’s kind of both. This is book two in the Real Life series, however the novels follow the Real Life book (a mystical, physical book within the novel) instead of the girls. At the end of each novel the book is passed on to someone new and they are the person we see featured in the next book.

Why I read this book: I bought the rest of the series before I finished the first book because I really liked the characters, the writing style, and the problems she faced. I didn’t realize until I read the book two excerpt that it would be an entirely new set of characters and problems. The thought of reading about an abusive boyfriend made my stomach turn, but I’d bought it so I figured I should read it. I’m glad I did.

Review:

Bryn’s been covering for Preston—high school hunk, senior, and Olympic swim candidate—for weeks. But that ends the night of the crash. When nurses first discover the bruises Bryn swears she won’t tell, until they accuse her father. Then she lets the world know about her boyfriend’s possessive, controlling behavior and her world comes crashing down.

Suddenly, she’s the victim to her father, sister, the cops and doctors—an object to be pitied and treated like glass. To the rest of the school, controlled by Preston and his friends, she’s the liar and she must be broken at all costs. The only person who treats her like the beautiful, strong woman she is, is Mim—and Bryn does not trust her surf-school instructor grandmother.

While threats are flowing and the trial date is looming, Mim teaches Bryn to surf. At first the waves buffet and bully her just as her former friends are doing, then Bryn learns to ride and finds that maybe, with a little help from God, she can ride the waves in her life too.

I loved the twists and turns in this book. My heart broke for her, but that makes the satisfaction when she finds her strength all the sweeter. Mental and physical abuse from boyfriends and partners is a growing concern. I know I once was unable to understand how someone could let that happen, until it happened to someone close to me. This girl was smart, beautiful, incredible. And at first their relationship was all butterflies and roses. Then small problems began, forgivable issues because she loved him, she told herself. By the time the physical abuse started she was so deep into his way of thinking that she honestly believed she’d done something wrong, that she’d done something to deserve it. Bryn is much like my friend, she could be much like your friend or your daughter or you. What I love about this book is that it helps the reader to understand how to see the signs and how to recover. And it helps you find empathy for those who have gone through this terrible experience.

I’ve found the Real Life books to be educational about common issues facing teens as well as entertaining. This book is not only to be read if you or someone you know has suffered abuse. This book is for all girls. It is a story of strength and hope and love, inspirational to all.

If We Survive

8 Apr

If We SurviveAndrew Klavan

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Publication Date: 2012

Paperback: 340 pages

Book Blurb:

They
 came on a mission of mercy, but now they’re in a fight for their lives.

High schooler Will Peterson and three
friends journeyed to Central America to help rebuild a school. In a poor,
secluded mountain village, they won the hearts of the local people with their
energy and kindness.

But in one sudden moment, everything
went horribly wrong. A revolution swept the country. Now, guns and terror are
everywhere—and Americans are being targeted as the first to die.

Will and his friends have got to get
out fast. But streets full of killers . . .hills patrolled by armies . . . and
a jungle rife with danger stand between them and the border. Their one hope of
escape lies with a veteran warrior who has lost his faith and may betray them
at any moment. Their one dream is to reach freedom and safety and home.

If they can just survive.

Stand alone or series: Stand alone.

Why I read this book: I was searching for books outside my usual genre on the Thomas Nelson website and came across this novel.

Review:

Boy, this book was a shock to the system. It starts with a bang, quiet literally. Will Peterson went to Costa Verdes to build a wall, and to get away from his parents. When an upheaval takes place on the last day of their mission trip, he doesn’t know if he’ll ever see his parents again. Now he, and the five Americans with him, are trapped in a hostile land.

This novel was… breathtaking, gut-wrenching, heart stopping. The adrenaline-pumped pace starts on the first sentence of the prologue and it doesn’t stop. I couldn’t eat before, during, or after reading because the story made my stomach turn. It’s incredibly well written, but certainly not for a young audience. Violence abounds. The violence is not gratuitous, it fits perfectly into the story and scenario, nevertheless it’s hard to read.

The author’s pacing is impeccable. The plot goes hard and fast for much longer than made me comfortable. Then, just when I thought I couldn’t take it anymore, Klavan allows the reader a breath… Just for a second. Just long enough to make me think I could get through to the end.

The characterization was also superb. The group is small, just a band of six, so we get the time and detail to really learn about, and care for, each of them. We know their quirk, their reactions, their thought processes, and their flaws. We become invested in the survival of each character. The stakes rise higher and higher the more we care.

The writing is masterful, but the content is not for everyone. The entire time I read it I felt unsettled, edgy, and stressed. I read it fast because I couldn’t handle the panicky feeling it instilled in me. But I know I tend to be more squeamish than average.  So if you like action and don’t mind the violence as much this novel is perfect for you. You are in for a treat.

(For parents, this book is geared mainly towards boys and I would suggest caution. I would place the age range of this novel at at least 17+.)

Motorcycles, Sushi and One Strange Book

25 Mar

Motorcycles, Sushi, and One Strange BookNancy Rue

Publisher: Zondervan

Publication Date: 2010

Paperback: 221 pages

Book Blurb:

Normal? While family dinners and vacations to touristy destinations are ordinary events for her ‘normal’ friends, fifteen-year-old Jessie Hatcher’s normal life means dealing with her ADHD and her mother’s bipolar disorder. So why is Jessie shocked when the unexpected happens? Now her ‘normal’ includes living in Florida with the father she always thought was dead and learning the secrets of sushi from a man who teaches by tormenting her. Life isn’t any saner with her dad, but a cute guy and a mysterious book might just be the crazy Jessie needs.

Stand alone or series: It’s kind of both. This is book one in the Real Life series, however the novels follow the Real Life book (a mystical, physical book within the novel) instead of the girls. At the end of each novel the book is passed on to someone new and they are the person we see featured in the next book.

Why I read this book: I am interested in teen novels dealing with real-life issues. I’ve found many novels that gloss over the difficult parts and I’m always interested when a novel tackles those issues head-on.

Review:

Jessie’s life is messed up and she doesn’t even know it. To Jess her mom’s In-Bed Phases, where she doesn’t stir from her darken room for days or weeks, and her No-Bed Phases, where she cleans the house with a toothbrush and designs shoes, are normal. Her friends think her hyperactive flip-outs and bouts of wild behavior are funny and that’s why they keep her around. To make matters worse, her father shows up—the father she thought was dead since her birth.

Lou, missing father, walks in to a situation he couldn’t have imagined. When bad goes to worse, he takes Jess home with him to Florida. Her biggest fear is that her father will discover her “disorder”, as her ADHD has been referred to her whole life.

The writing was impressive. Rue writes the first few chapters so deep into Jess’s head that I felt ADHD as I read them. I started to fidget, my thoughts and speech became more disconnected. I was going up the wall. Yet Rue knew just when to cool it down. Right before I was about to throw the book at the wall to stop the insanity, she pulled back to focus more on the story than the style. It was a perfect maneuver and I was hooked—I had a lot of sympathy for the poor girl.

Yet Rue does not make Jess out to be a “poor girl.” That’s what I love about the Real Life series. Jess begins in a horrible situation in which she has no control. Then with the help of God, and a stabilizing adult figure, she takes control of her life. She stops surviving and starts to thrive.

This was a great book. (Don’t read it during finals when you need to concentrate thought.) I would recommend this book to all teens, though it is largely geared towards girls. I would also suggest this book to parents. I’m still closer to the teen side, than to being a parent of a teen, but I thought the parenting style of the dad was pretty cool. I enjoyed watching the way he handled a number of situations. Again, don’t start this book when you need to concentrate, but you should definitely start… and finish it.

Cast Your Votes

18 Mar

For the past year almost I’ve been writing and editing a novel, but I haven’t quite settled on a name yet. I’ve narrowed it down to two however and now I’m bringing it to you. Gut reaction: which book would you pick up off the shelf?

Happy voting!