Saturday, December 7, 2013

Review: The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau

The Testing
by Joelle Charbonneau

Available as: hardcover, Kindle edition, ebook
Pages: 336
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
Publication date: June 4, 2013
Suggested tags: young adult, dystopia

First in The Testing series. From Goodreads:
"Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Isn’t that what they say? But how close is too close when they may be one in the same?

The Seven Stages War left much of the planet a charred wasteland. The future belongs to the next generation’s chosen few who must rebuild it. But to enter this elite group, candidates must first pass The Testing—their one chance at a college education and a rewarding career.

Cia Vale is honored to be chosen as a Testing candidate; eager to prove her worthiness as a University student and future leader of the United Commonwealth. But on the eve of her departure, her father’s advice hints at a darker side to her upcoming studies--trust no one.

But surely she can trust Tomas, her handsome childhood friend who offers an alliance? Tomas, who seems to care more about her with the passing of every grueling (and deadly) day of the Testing. To survive, Cia must choose: love without truth or life without trust.

{ I received this as an ebook ARC from NetGalley. }

To me, The Testing kind of sounded like The Hunger Games with an academic twist. So since I'm a huge Hunger Games fan and an academically-inclined person (meaning, I'd totally be a professional student if I could), I grabbed up The Testing on NetGalley as soon as I saw it offered. I found it was quite similar to The Hunger Games in a lot of ways, so I guess that might be a negative for some readers. But I thought it had some interesting ideas that made it its own, and I did find myself wanting to read the next book in the series.

The synopsis above sums up The Testing quite well. There's not a lot of time spent getting to know Cia or her world before she goes off to the Testing, which I was kind of disappointed in. I felt like I didn't really get a chance to know who Cia was or who her friends were or how she lived, so that when she left it all behind it was just kind of an "eh" moment for me, rather than feeling her loss. However, the upside of that is that it does jump into the action pretty much right away, so we get right into the story.

The trials in the Testing were interesting, although at some points it did seem a little over the top or a little needless-violence-y. But then again, The Hunger Games was pretty violent, and I liked that. I had a hard time trying to figure out why I felt differently about the two, but I came down to the fact that I guess it's the justification - the Hunger Games are a fight to the death, a fight for survival mandated by a corrupt government, and the Testing is essentially an application process. I guess I had a harder time accepting death and dismemberment when the unsuccessful applicants could have just as easily been sent back home. The corruption and secrets and all that regarding the Testing and the University do start to emerge, but I just felt like it was missing earlier on, or maybe it was there but too subtle for me.

The Testing ends with a good bit of suspense and lead-up into the next book in the series, and as I said I do want to read the next one. But I feel like it might be a make-or-break book. I finished The Testing feeling like the next book, Independent Study, needs to grab me right away in order to keep my interest in the story. I really hope it does.

If you haven't read The Testing yet and you like challenge-type books in a dystopian setting like The Hunger Games, I'd definitely recommend it. It's familiar yet different; it follows the pattern but it adds some ideas of its own. But, in all honesty, if you're a reader who's had enough Hunger-Games-type books, you may want to pass; it might be a little too familiar for you. Personally, I don't mind reading different interpretations of similar ideas, so I liked it.

Overall rating: 3 out of 5 stars

More about Joelle Charbonneau }

Joelle Charbonneau's website
Joelle Charbonneau's Goodreads profile
Follow Joelle Charbonneau on Twitter
Follow Joelle Charbonneau on Facebook

{ The Testing series }

               The Testing         Independent Study     Graduation Day
                   Book 1                      Book 2                      Book 3
                                        Expected Release Date:     Expected Release Date:
                                         January 7, 2014             June 3, 2014

Monday, December 2, 2013

New Release Round-Up: December 2-8, 2013

Young Adult

Ink is Thicker Than Water
by Amy Spalding

Release date: December 3, 2013
Available as: paperback, Kindle edition, ebook
Pages: 320
Publisher: Entangled: Teen
Suggested tags: young adult, realistic fiction, contemporary

From Goodreads:
"For Kellie Brooks, family has always been a tough word to define. Combine her hippie mom and tattooist stepdad, her adopted overachieving sister, her younger half brother, and her tough-love dad, and average Kellie’s the one stuck in the middle, overlooked and impermanent. When Kellie’s sister finally meets her birth mother and her best friend starts hanging with a cooler crowd, the feeling only grows stronger.

But then she reconnects with Oliver, the sweet and sensitive college guy she had a near hookup with last year. Oliver is intense and attractive, and she’s sure he’s totally out of her league. But as she discovers that maybe intensity isn’t always a good thing, it’s yet another relationship she feels is spiraling out of her control.

It’ll take a new role on the school newspaper and a new job at her mom’s tattoo shop for Kellie to realize that defining herself both outside and within her family is what can finally allow her to feel permanent, just like a tattoo.

Rain of the Ghosts
by Greg Weisman

Release date: December 3, 2013
Available as: paperback, Kindle edition, ebook
Pages: 240
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Suggested tags: young adult, paranormal, ghosts

First in the Rain Cacique series. From Goodreads:
"Rain of the Ghosts is the first in Greg Weisman's series about an adventurous young girl, Rain Cacique, who discovers she has a mystery to solve, a mission to complete and, oh, yes, the ability to see ghosts.

Welcome to the Prospero Keys (or as the locals call them: the Ghost Keys), a beautiful chain of tropical islands on the edge of the Bermuda Triangle. Rain Cacique is water-skiing with her two best friends Charlie and Miranda when Rain sees her father waiting for her at the dock. Sebastian Bohique, her maternal grandfather, has passed away. He was the only person who ever made Rain feel special. The only one who believed she could do something important with her life. The only thing she has left to remember him by is the armband he used to wear: two gold snakes intertwined, clasping each other’s tails in their mouths. Only the armband . . . and the gift it brings: Rain can see dead people. Starting with the Dark Man: a ghost determined to reveal the Ghost Keys’ hidden world of mystery and mysticism, intrigue and adventure.

Other YA new releases for this week:

Middle Grade

Glitter Girl
by Stephen Webb & Toni Runkle

Release date: December 3, 2013
Available as: paperback, Kindle edition, ebook
Pages: 256
Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Suggested tags: middle grade, realistic fiction

From Goodreads:
"True Confessions of a Trendsetter

Hi! I'm Kat. Welcome to my blog. I may be from a small town but I'm also Glitter Girl Cosmetics' newest trendsetter. Thanks to my flair for fashion and my popular style blog, I've been chosen to be an Alpha Girl, which means I get to try out all the Glitter Girl products before they hit the stores.

Forty-eight hours after she blogs about the goodies in the new line, every girl at Kat's school is sporting the gear. Kat's popularity skyrockets, but Jules--Kat's BFF--seems to be the only one who's not buying into the Glitter Girl lifestyle. Is Kat willing to sacrifice her friendship for life in the fab lane?

Other Middle Grade new releases for this week:

Sunday, December 1, 2013

{ bon voYAge! } December 2013

The destination for November 2013 was

{ Japan }

And here are the YA & MG books we found...

The destination for December 2013 is...

{ Texas, USA }

Some examples of YA & MG books set in Texas:

Please send me links to your posts and reviews by Monday, December 30 so I can add them to the next { bon voYAge! } post!

Want to play? Here's how it works...

{ } At the beginning of each month, I'll post the name of a destination: a city, state, region, province, country, etc.
{ } Throughout the month, you can:
       1. look for a YA or MG book (or books) set in that destination to share.
       2. read a YA or MG book (or books) set in that destination and write a review.
{ } You can post the books you found or the reviews you wrote any time during that month. Just send me a link so I can link back to your post!
{ } At the beginning of the next month, I'll share everyone's books and reviews. Then I'll post another destination and we can start again! :)

Want to check out the books we've already discovered? Browse all the locations that we've explored on the { bon voYAge! } tab above!

Have a location you'd like to explore? Let me know in the comments here or on the { bon voYAge! } tab above, or email me at pidginpea (at) yahoo (dot) com!

Want to put a { bon voYAge! } button on your blog? I'd love that! I made it using deviantART stock resources from SneakyTomato and artist00 and fonts from

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Review: My Date From Hell by Tellulah Darling

My Date From Hell
by Tellulah Darling

Available as: paperback, Kindle edition, ebook
Pages: 288
Publisher: Te Da Media
Publication date: October 31, 2013
Suggested tags: young adult, paranormal, mythology

Second in The Blooming Goddess Trilogy. From Goodreads:
"Sophie Bloom’s junior year has been a bit of a train wreck. After the world’s greatest kiss re-awakened Sophie’s true identity as Persephone (Goddess of Spring and Savior of Humanity), she fought her dragon-lady guidance counselor to the death, navigated mean girl Bethany’s bitchy troublemaking, and dealt with the betrayal of her backstabbing ex, Kai (sexy Prince of Darkness). You’d think a girl could catch a break.

Yeah, right.

With Zeus stepping things up, it’s vital that Sophie retrieve Persephone’s memories and discover the location of the ritual to stop Zeus and Hades. So when Aphrodite strikes a deal that can unlock Sophie’s pre-mortal past, what choice does the teen goddess have but to accept?

The mission: stop media mogul Hermes from turning Bethany into a global mega-celebrity. The catch? Aphrodite partners Sophie and Kai to work together … and treat this suicide mission as a date. Which could work out for Sophie’s plan to force Kai to admit his feelings for her–if she doesn’t kill him first.

Add to that the fact that BFF Theo’s love life and other BFF Hannah’s actual life are in Sophie’s hands, and suddenly being a teenager—even a godlike one—seems a bit like … well, hell. Whatever happened to dinner and a movie?

The YA romantic comedy/Greek mythology fireworks continue to fly in
My Date From Hell. Love meets comedy with a whole lot of sass in book two of this teen fantasy romance series. Breaking up is easy; dating is deadly."

{ I was kindly provided an ebook ARC by the author in exchange for an honest review. }

Ok. It is now official. Anything Tellulah Darling writes, I will devour. I was a big fan of the first book in this trilogy, My Ex From Hell (you can read my review here), so I was very excited (reality: I freaked the heck out) when the fabulous author herself invited me to join the Sassy Girl Swoony God Tourney and read book 2! My Date From Hell brings us right back to the saga of Sophie and Kai as they work out their own issues along with their budding romance, and some pretty epic battles with other gods and goddesses too.

First of all, Sophie and Kai, since their issues are kind of central to the story: I love the on-again,-off-again-ness of their relationship. They struggle against each other, yet they're pulled together (literally, at some points). Throughout the book, Sophie fights the feeling that Kai is not really into her, but rather acting on his feelings for Persephone, which made my heart break for her. (SPOILER - highlight to read: Although the events between her and Kai later in the book TOTALLY made up for it! So many adorable moments!)

On that note, I really liked seeing Sophie struggle to separate herself from Persephone - it felt real, and despite the fact that I've never been in any situation remotely close to being a reincarnated goddess with missing memories, I could relate to her. She's trying to make her own path, to shake off what others expect her to be and do... and really, who can't relate to that at some point in their lives? I feel like we get to see Sophie grow a bit and start to find herself in My Date From Hell. There's also plenty of sarcasm and snark from Sophie too. She had a lot of great moments in the book, but the scene at prom was one of my favorites. I felt like it really captured that sort of blindingly wonderful bliss of high school first love, along with Sophie's trademark spunk... one of her friends is in mortal danger, but Sophie still takes a moment for herself:
I'm not saying I was a good person for dancing but yeah, I took the four minutes that the damn song lasted and danced.
We also get introduced to some awesome new characters, including Festos, who might just be my favorite character in the series so far. (Seriously. Read this book and tell me you don't LOVE Festos.) (SPOILER - highlight to read: And then try and tell me you don't LOVE Theo and Festos together too! I wasn't sure about their relationship at first, since Festos was just introduced in this book and I thought it might feel too rushed, but it didn't - it was done just right!) Pierce is a great new character also. (SPOILER - highlight to read: Although I wasn't crazy about the Pierce + Hannah pairing. They were cute together, but it didn't feel as natural as Sophie + Kai or Theo + Festos.)

And there is lots of interaction with other gods and goddesses, including battles, torture, mind trips, trickery, and other god/goddess-induced mayhem. I loved the scenes in the first book with the gods and goddesses, and I thought the scenes in this book were even better! Aphrodite and Hermes are introduced, and they're both great. I tore through the pages that covered Hermes's twisted game (which was awesome).

And that ENDING. God(s and goddesses) help me. That was intense. I can't wait to see how Sophie's story wraps up! The next book, My Life From Hell, is due out in 2014!

Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars

More about Tellulah Darling }

Tellulah Darling's website
Tellulah Darling's Goodreads profile
Follow Tellulah Darling on Twitter
Follow Tellulah Darling on Facebook

{ The Blooming Goddess Trilogy }

Book 1: My Ex From Hell 
Read my review

Book 2: My Date From Hell 

Book 3: My Life From Hell 
Expected release date: March 20, 2014

Friday, November 8, 2013

Friday Finds #42

Friday Finds is hosted by Should Be Reading. Each Friday, you share the great books you heard about or discovered over the past week: "books you were told about, books you discovered while browsing blogs/bookstores online, or books that you actually purchased."


by Amanda Gray

Available as: paperback, Kindle edition, ebook
Pages: 384
Publisher: Month9Books
Publication date: September 10, 2013
Suggested tags: young adult, time travel

From Goodreads:
"Jenny Kramer knows she isn't normal. After all, not everybody can see the past lives of people around them.

When she befriends Ben Daulton, resident new boy, the pair stumble on an old music box with instructions for “mesmerization” and discover they may have more in common than they thought. Like a past life.

Using the instructions in the music box, Ben and Jenny share a dream that transports them to Romanov Russia and leads them to believe they have been there together before. But they weren't alone. Nikolai, the mysterious young man Jenny has been seeing in her own dreams was there, too. When Nikolai appears next door, Jenny is forced to acknowledge that he has travelled through time and space to find her. Doing so means he has defied the laws of time, and the Order, an ominous organization tasked with keeping people in the correct time, is determined to send him back.

While Ben, Jenny and Nikolai race against the clock - and the Order - Jenny and Nikolai discover a link that joins them in life - and beyond death.

by Brandon Mull

Available as: hardcover, paperback, Kindle edition, ebook, audiobook
Pages: 351
Publisher: Shadow Mountain
Publication date: August 15, 2006
Suggested tags: middle grade, fantasy

First in the Fablehaven series. From Goodreads:
"For centuries, mystical creatures of all description were gathered to a hidden refuge called Fablehaven to prevent their extinction. The sanctuary survives today as one of the last strongholds of true magic in a cynical world. Enchanting? Absolutely. Exciting? You bet. Safe? Well, actually, quite the opposite ... Kendra and her brother Seth have no idea their grandfather is the current caretaker of Fablehaven. Inside the gated woods, ancient laws give relative order among greedy trolls, mischievous satyrs, plotting witches, spiteful imps, and jealous fairies. However, when the rules get broken, an arcane evil is unleashed, forcing Kendra and Seth to face the greatest challenge of their lives. To save her family, Fablehaven, and perhaps the world, Kendra must find the courage to do what she fears most."

Half Lives
by Sara Grant

Available as: hardcover, paperback, Kindle edition, ebook
Pages: 400
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication date: July 9, 2013
Suggested tags: young adult, dystopia

From Goodreads:
"I learned that surviving isn't all it's cracked up to be. If you survive, you've got to live with the guilt, and that's more difficult than looking someone in the eye and pulling the trigger. Trust me. I've done both. Killing takes a twitch of the finger. Absolution takes several lifetimes.

Seventeen-year-old Icie's parents have given her $10,000 in cash, a map of a top-secret bunker, and instructions to get there by any means necessary. They have news of an imminent viral attack and know that the bunker is Icie's only hope for survival. Along with three other teens, she lives locked away for months, not knowing what's happening in the outside world or who has survived. And are they safe in the bunker after all?

Generations in the future, a mysterious cult worships the very mountain where Icie's secret bunker was built. They never leave the mountain, they're ruled by a teenager...and they have surprising ties to Icie.

This high-stakes, original, and thought-provoking adventure from Sara Grant follows two unlikely heroes, hundreds of years apart, as they fight to survive.

A Question of Magic
by E.D. Baker

Available as: hardcover, Kindle edition, ebook
Pages: 272
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Publication date: October 1, 2013
Suggested tags: middle grade, fairy tales, retellings

From Goodreads:
"Serafina was living the normal life of a village girl, when she gets a mysterious letter--her first letter ever, in fact--from a great aunt she's never heard of in another village. Little does 'Fina know, her great aunt is actually a Baba Yaga, a magical witch who lives in an even more magical cottage.

Summoned to the cottage, Serafina's life takes an amazing turn as she finds herself becoming the new Baba Yaga. But leaving behind home and the boy she loves isn't easy, and as Serafina grows into her new and magical role answering the first question any stranger might ask her with the truth, she also learns about the person she's meant to be, and that telling the future doesn't always mean knowing the right answers.

In her inimitable and bestselling way, ED Baker has crafted a funny and romantic story that combines some fabulous details from the original Slavic tale, with an all new spin!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Review: The Gypsy Thief by Kellie Bellamy Tayer

The Gypsy Thief
by Kellie Bellamy Tayer

Available as: paperback, Kindle edition
Pages: 342
Publisher: Vagabond Press
Publication date: November 27, 2012
Suggested tags: young adult, romance

First in the Talisman Trilogy. From Goodreads:
"The Gypsy Thief is set in modern day Rhode Island and is the story of Laura Calder and her love for two boys: Andrew Easton, a descendant of King George the First, and Miguel Dos Santos, a mysterious gypsy who has royal ties of his own. More than 300 years previously, a dying Portuguese princess named Gabriela cast a gypsy curse on King George the First who issued a royal decree to counteract that curse. In the spring of 2012, the time has come for the decree to be fulfilled: Miguel Dos Santos must die by the hand of Tristan Easton, the eldest son of the Duke of Easton. But when a tragic accident befalls Tristan, it is up to his younger brother Andrew to carry out the decree, a situation complicated by the fact that Miguel once saved Andrew's life. Andrew's father, the Duke of Easton, aware of Miguel's act of bravery, decides to let him live, but not without cost. He forces Laura into an impossible situation in order to save Miguel and her family. She must make a life-changing, heart-breaking decision, even as she tries to understand the messages from the mysterious disk she wears as a talisman around her neck, a talisman she must protect from the duke, as it is now her only tie to Miguel. Ultimately, The Gypsy Thief is a story of family honor and the lengths we will go to protect the ones we love, a story to be continued in its sequel, The Dark Prince, and concluded in The Shadow King."

{ I was kindly provided a paperback copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review. }

The historical aspect of The Gypsy Thief intrigued me, and I'm also fascinated by Gypsy/Traveller/Romani culture, so when the author asked if I wanted to review her book, I eagerly agreed. Unfortunately, I found that the cultural aspect was nearly nonexistent, and the historical aspect was buried beneath a modern-day love triangle and a frustrating heroine. I prefer my books heavier on the plot and lighter on the romance, but readers who prefer more romance and enjoy love triangles may like The Gypsy Thief more than I did.

Essentially, Laura loves both Andrew and Miguel, and they both love her too. Andrew is rich and comes across as a little stuck-up. Miguel is more modest but is portrayed continuously as the "darkness," as in choosing the light over the darkness. (SLIGHT SPOILER - highlight to read: I'm still not clear on why he's considered the darkness, though. Is it just the fact that he's a Gypsy? Because he seems like a pretty good guy that does good things. I like him way better than Andrew, actually.) This is all complicated by the fact that a centuries-old Gypsy curse is playing out around Andrew and Miguel, with Laura involved because she wears a talisman that has something to do with the curse. Honestly, I got a little confused. The historical aspect was interesting but complicated, and I'm still not sure what the talisman is about, exactly. I'm guessing this will come up more in the next books in the series.

Miguel is considered a Gypsy, but this doesn't really play into the story much except to give him a sort of bad boy reputation and get him bullied and called out as a Gypsy continuously. There isn't any sort of serious attention to Gypsy culture or his heritage, besides the fact that he has an ancestor who cast the curse. This really disappointed me, as I felt like there could have been some deeper exploration or some more research done to really bring his heritage to life, rather than relying on stereotypes and just having other characters continuously cast judgment on him simply because he is a Gypsy. But again, the focus is the contemporary romance - not so much the history and definitely not the culture - which most readers will probably prefer. I just happen to be in the minority on that point. (SPOILER - highlight to read: And while we're talking about Miguel being called out as a Gypsy, can I ask why when the robber at the convenience store recognized Miguel, Laura didn't think twice about this? I was expecting her to react with something along the lines of, "Miguel, what the what?? That violent criminal seems to know you!" But there's nothing. Neither of them acknowledge it at all. I can only assume that this was just meant to show that the whole town, complete strangers included, knows he's a Gypsy and judges him for it? Because otherwise it's kind of a plot hole.)

Most of the book focuses on Laura's relationships with Miguel and Andrew. And yes, she is building relationships with both of them at the same time. Meaning she's cheating. And that is why I don't really like love triangle books. I guess I should have seen the whole love triangle thing coming from reading the synopsis. But it wasn't simply the "I kind of like this guy, but I also that guy, *le sigh* whatever shall I do?" sort of triangle. This one bothered me because she would go out with or accept a gift from one guy and then turn right around and go out with or make out with the other. So, blatantly cheating, basically. Laura herself even calls this cheating. Despite all her time spent trying to make a decision between the two, it came across like she was playing both sides and just enjoying the best things each guy could give her. So I had a hard time liking Laura.

All that being said, I think there are a lot of romance readers who would really like this book. As a romance, it does have an interesting edge with the historical backstory and the Gypsy curse. For me personally though, as I said, it was too heavy on the love triangle and not strong enough in other areas. I got excited by the synopsis because it sounded like it was going to be pretty full of action and more about the curse rather than Laura's love life. I guess I was just kind of disappointed that the book wasn't what I expected. Will I read the sequel, The Dark Prince? Probably not, after reading its synopsis. (SPOILER - highlight to read: Especially since I really didn't like how Laura and Andrew's relationship all of a sudden matures at blinding speed due to pressure (or, really, force) by Andrew's father. And it sounds like in the second one they're now hurtling towards producing an heir! They're in high school!!) But if you like romances and you'd like to read along as a girl tries to figure out her feelings between two guys, complicated by a curse that's threatening said guys' lives, you may really enjoy The Gypsy Thief and the Talisman Trilogy.

Overall rating: 2 out of 5 stars

More about Kellie Bellamy Tayer }

Kellie Bellamy Tayer's website
Kellie Bellamy Tayer's Goodreads profile
Follow Kellie Bellamy Tayer on Twitter
Follow Kellie Bellamy Tayer on Facebook

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

"Waiting On" Wednesdays: November 6, 2013

"Waiting On" Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine. Each Wednesday, you share upcoming releases that you're eagerly anticipating.

Side Effects May Vary
by Julie Murphy

Expected release date: March 18, 2014
Available as: hardcover, Kindle edition, ebook
Pages: 304
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Suggested tags: young adult, realistic fiction, contemporary

From Goodreads:
"What if you’d been living your life as if you were dying—only to find out that you had your whole future ahead of you?

When sixteen-year-old Alice is diagnosed with leukemia, her prognosis is grim. To maximize the time she does have, she vows to spend her final months righting wrongs—however she sees fit. She convinces her friend Harvey, whom she knows has always had feelings for her, to help her with a crazy bucket list that’s as much about revenge (humiliating her ex-boyfriend and getting back at her arch nemesis) as it is about hope (doing something unexpectedly kind for a stranger and reliving some childhood memories). But just when Alice’s scores are settled, she goes into remission.

Now Alice is forced to face the consequences of all that she’s said and done, as well as her true feelings for Harvey. But has she done irreparable damage to the people around her, and to the one person who matters most?

Julie Murphy’s SIDE EFFECTS MAY VARY is a fearless and moving tour de force about love, life, and facing your own mortality.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Review: Twerp by Mark Goldblatt

by Mark Goldblatt

Available as: hardcover, Kindle edition, ebook, audiobook
Pages: 288
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
Publication date: May 28, 2013
Suggested tags: middle grade, historical fiction, 20th century

From Goodreads:
"It's not like I meant for him to get hurt. . . .

Julian Twerski isn't a bully. He's just made a big mistake. So when he returns to school after a weeklong suspension, his English teacher offers him a deal: if he keeps a journal and writes about the terrible incident that got him and his friends suspended, he can get out of writing a report on Shakespeare. Julian jumps at the chance. And so begins his account of life in sixth grade--blowing up homemade fireworks, writing a love letter for his best friend (with disastrous results), and worrying whether he's still the fastest kid in school. Lurking in the background, though, is the one story he can't bring himself to tell, the one story his teacher most wants to hear.

Inspired by Mark Goldblatt's own childhood growing up in 1960s Queens,
Twerp shines with humor and heart. This remarkably powerful story will have readers laughing and crying right along with these flawed but unforgettable characters."

{ I received this as an ebook ARC from NetGalley. }

I wasn't sure if I would enjoy Twerp or not, since I figured I'm not exactly the target audience (being an adult female), but I still wanted to give it a shot. The journal format intrigued me, and it turns out that was my favorite thing about the book. The story as a whole just didn't grab me, despite being well written and powerfully explored. But I'm pretty sure the fact that I came away with a feeling of "well, I guess it was alright" was an issue with my own personal taste, in that I picked this book up when I had a feeling it wouldn't be my preferred sort of book. So please read my review accordingly, and know that if that synopsis sounds exactly like your sort of book, you will probably really love Twerp, because it is very well done and it does tell a great story.

Twerp is made up of a series of journal entries that Julian writes as an assignment for school. He writes reluctantly at first, but he opens up bit by bit with each entry. I thought the journal format really worked well to share Julian's stories and get to the heart of his feelings and experiences. But I found that I had a problem connecting with Julian, and I think the reason for this is, stated simply, that I grew up a girl in the 1990s and not a boy in the 1960s. I just don't have much in common with Julian, so it was hard for me to really put myself in his place, despite the author's excellent writing.

In a nutshell, I think Twerp is a great book and I can see how lots of readers would really enjoy it. Personally, I thought it was a good book but it didn't really leave a lasting impression on me, because I just felt a bit disconnected from it all. Like I was on the outside looking in. And again, that is no fault of the author's; that's my fault for choosing a book I should have known would not be quite my thing. I just wanted to try something new. But I can't stress enough that if that the synopsis appeals to you, you should definitely give Twerp a read. It delivers everything that synopsis promises: humor, heart, and unforgettable characters.

Overall rating: 3 out of 5 stars

{ Favorite Quotes from Twerp }

"I hate the guy, William Shakespeare. If I met him on the street, I'd just keep walking. Because you know, you just know, while he was writing the stuff he was writing, he was thinking how clever he was. He was sitting at his desk, writing the words, and he could've just said what he meant, but instead he prettied it up until it could mean everything or it could mean nothing or it could mean whatever the teacher says it means. That just drives me bananas."

"But it was just common sense. If his brain was right, Lonnie would've been the first to realize that. Which goes to show how love messes up your brain. It worms itself in there, inside your brain, and then there's a short circuit. I'm no expert on the subject. I'm just going by Howie and Lonnie. Love makes great guys into idiots."

{ More about Mark Goldblatt }

Mark Goldblatt's website

Sunday, November 3, 2013

{ bon voYAge! } November 2013

The destination for October 2013 was

{ New York, USA }

And here are the YA & MG books we found...

The destination for November 2013 is...

{ Japan }

Some examples of YA & MG books set in Japan:

Please send me links to your posts and reviews by Friday, November 29 so I can add them to the next { bon voYAge! } post!

Want to play? Here's how it works...

{ } At the beginning of each month, I'll post the name of a destination: a city, state, region, province, country, etc.
{ } Throughout the month, you can:
       1. look for a YA or MG book (or books) set in that destination to share.
       2. read a YA or MG book (or books) set in that destination and write a review.
{ } You can post the books you found or the reviews you wrote any time during that month. Just send me a link so I can link back to your post!
{ } At the beginning of the next month, I'll share everyone's books and reviews. Then I'll post another destination and we can start again! :)

Want to check out the books we've already discovered? Browse all the locations that we've explored on the { bon voYAge! } tab above!

Have a location you'd like to explore? Let me know in the comments here or on the { bon voYAge! } tab above, or email me at pidginpea (at) yahoo (dot) com!

Want to put a { bon voYAge! } button on your blog? I'd love that! I made it using deviantART stock resources from SneakyTomato and artist00 and fonts from