New Girl

New Girl by Paige Harbison (Received an advanced copy through NetGalley.)

Ever since she was little she had dreamed of going to Manderly, a private school with ivy covered walls that only a select few are accepted. In her own way she’d be just like Harry Potter. But that was when she was fourteen, just a mere freshman. Now, at seventeen, her dream is coming true, and she isn’t so sure she wants it anymore.

Not wanting to disappoint her parents she packs her up the only comfortable life she’s ever known and loved and moves to Manderly for her senior year. It’s only a year, how bad could it be?

But it  isn’t what she expected. It’s isn’t just like the pictures in the brochures.  And the students, they aren’t what she expected either. No one’s even trying to be nice to her?! They immediately christened her ‘new girl’. They whisper about her constantly, saying the only reason she’s here is because Rebecca “Becca” Normandy isn’t. No one knows where Becca is, what happened to her, or if she’s even dead or alive. But Becca’s presence still lingers all over Manderly. And now that she’s gone, someone has to pay. Unfortunately, it’s the new girl who will.

She tries her hardest to adjust to life at Manderly. But being the new girl isn’t easy. Especially when her roommate Dana verbally assaults her, accusing her of trying to steal Becca’s life and identity. It seems she’s the new girl that everyone tries to avoid, but seemingly can’t. Especially Max Halloway, Becca’s boyfriend, or now, ex-boyfriend.

What happens if Becca comes back? What happens once she’s not the new girl anymore?

New Girl, a thrilling retelling of Daphne Du Maurier’s classic novel Rebecca*, is author Paige Harbison’s second novel. And boy, is it a doozy.

New Girl is full of mystery and intrigue. The two biggest mysteries between the pages are: what happened to Becca Normandy? And does the new girl have a name? Harbison excels at answering these and any other questions that arise from reading New Girl with clear skill. But not before making readers play a rousing guessing game.

Even though New Girl is a retelling Harbison has managed to, not only reinvent it in a fresh new way, but has put her own stamp upon it. She didn’t just rewrite a classic. It feels like she’s breathed new life into a story that young adults may not know even exists.

Harbison’s characters are realistic, and all play very specific parts in the overall story. There isn’t a character who isn’t a part. If they’re mention, there’s a reason. Both the new girl and Becca get equal stage time. Told from alternating perspectives, readers will gain a well-rounded view, of not only their two very separate, different lives, but also the two sides to this one story.

New Girl is a fun, captivating second novel that will not disappoint Harbison fans.

*I haven’t read the original classic, gothic story of Rebecca. Having not read the original didn’t make a difference when reading. For me, talking New Girl, as is, at face value, I found it to be a story that could stand on its own.

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Young Adult Giveaway Hop

Y’all (yes, I just said y’all … don’t judge me! ha ha) know I love all things Young Adult. In all honesty I think YA Books are by far the superior genre. And I figured what better way to show my YA love than to take part in yet another awesome giveaway hop.

This time around, I will be participating in the Young Adult giveaway Hop hosted by I Am A Reader, Not A Writer and Down the Rabbit Hole  (two awesome blogs that you should definitely make a point to check out). Thank You ladies for hosting another wonderful, book filled hop!

This time around there will be two prize packs up for grabs.

Prize Pack #1:

A (used)  copy of Michelle Rowen’s Demon Princess Reign of Shine, a bookmark for The Eternal Sea signed by author Angie Frazier, and an Angle Burn Bookmark.

Prize Pack # 2:

A (used) copy of M.T. Anderson’s Thirsty, a book-plate signed by Clarity author Kim Harrington, and an Enchanted Ivy bookmark.

The Fine Print:

This hop will be open from January 27th at 12:00 a.m. and will run through January 31st at 11:59 p.m.. This contest is open to U.S. RESIDENTS ONLY! You must be 13 or older in order to enter this giveaway.

To enter this giveaway simply leave a comment on THIS POST ONLY. Please make sure to leave a valid e-mail address with comment. Winner will be chosen randomly via Random.org, and will be notified via e-mail on February 1st. Winners will have until February 3rd to reply back with contact/shipping information. If information is not received by the 3rd of February, a new winner (or winners) will be randomly selected.

Please make sure to visit all the other blogs participating in the Young Adult Giveaway Hop! Check them out here!

Happy Hopping!

And Then Things Fall Apart

And Then Things Fall Apart by Arlaina Tibensky

Karina, a.k.a. Keek, has led a swell life. She has had two loving and semi-cool parents. A best friend, Nic, whom she makes upcycled jewelry with while spilling her guts about everything and anything.  A constant companion in fictional character Esther Greenwood of The Bell Jar. And as of recently a wrestler boyfriend who isn’t like most jocks.

But life is anything but predictable. When she finds out  about her father’s adulterous affair her world suddenly crashes down upon her. Her parents are divorcing. She’s pushed best friend and partner in crafting, Nic, aside. She got in a huge fight with her boyfriend over, what else, her virginity. And now, as luck would have it, she has the freaking chicken pox.

Can it get any worse?

Yes, she’s stuck at her grandmother’s technology free home, under a one hundred pound -or what seems to be one hundred pounds – knit blanket. Keek spends her days reading The Bell Jar and typing away on an old typewriter her gram has stored away. Through her daily writing sessions, Keek slowly starts to heal from the inside out. But what happens when she finds out that her biggest problem of all, her parents divorce, wasn’t caused by her father’s affair? Can Keek, a mere fifteen year old, possibly survive this?

And Then Things Fall Apart written by debut author Arlaina Tibensky is a realistic read that will tug on reader’s heartstrings. An emotional roller coaster, readers will experience grieve alongside character Keek with an understanding mind and a sympathetic heart.

Tibensky’s writing is quick paced, relatable, and above all charming. Each sentence is strong, working towards the greater good of the overall story. And Then Things Fall Apart is exceptionally well realized. In fact, readers can instantly put themselves in Keek’s shoes, and know exactly what she’s doing, why she’s doing it, and even how it makes her feel.

Readers will gain a sense that she’s a one of a kind character. Full of wit and meaningful insights to, not just her own world, but the greater world around her. Avid readers will appreciate Keek’s love of books. And Plath fans will appreciate her love of Esther Greenwood.

And Then Things Fall Apart relies heavily on Sylvia Plath’s famed The Bell Jar. Normally I do not like, nor do I gravitate towards, books that pay homage to another (more famous) book.  I ultimately feel that relying on another story is just a cop-out, that the author cannot tell his/her own story without the help of another. But reality is, I didn’t feel this way about Tibensky’s impressive first novel. I felt that Keek’s reflections of Plath’s The Bell Jar really helped to, not only better the story, but also better the reader’s understanding of Keek’s frame of mind.

Book of the Week: My Friend, the Starfinder

My Friend, the Starfinder by George Ella Lyon Illustrated by Stephen Gammell

Published: 2008 by Atheneum/Richard Jackson Books

Reasons why I liked this book, and chose it as Book of the Week:

I totally pick out books based upon the covers. And not that this cover isn’t beautiful or eye-catching, but what really made me made me pick up this book was the title. I felt that the title was so full of wonder and imagination that I just had to pick it up.

For some reason the man depicted in this book made me think of my own grandfathers and all the memories I have with them. For that reason alone, I adore this book.

I love how this story is about a storyteller. I think this shows the importance of storytelling, and the storytellers place in our world.

I think this book just how willing children are to believe. It shows a child’s innocence.

I love how when the story is being told from the young girl’s perspective it’s full of color, but when the elderly man starts to tell stories of his own, the colors shift to black and white. I love the dramatic effect it has on the overall story.

I particularly love the story of how a star fell from the heavens, down into a field, where the old man as a young boy proceeded to find it, preserved it, and kept it for all time.

The description is this book are lush, and paint beautiful pictures in the reader’s mind. For example, the fallen star is described as: “warm and smooth, as an egg straight from the hen.”

As a whole, the book is an explosion of color. And I love that.

Stephen Gammell’s illustrations are reminiscent of some of his other works – specifically the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark books. Don’t misunderstand, the illustrations aren’t scary – far from it. In fact they’re downright fantastical.

In a lot of ways this book is a fantasy.

I also love how the young girl befriends the elderly man with the soft clothes who sits on his green porch. I think this shows kids that friends come in all shapes, sizes, and ages. And that a friend could be found almost anywhere.

The writing is both strong and inviting.

I love how this book allows reader’s imagination to soar.

Book of the Week: Little Owl’s Night

Little Owl’s Night by Divya Srinivasan

Published: 2011 by Viking Juvenile

Reasons why I liked this book, and chose it as Book of the Week:

Let me point out the main character is a cute, tiny owl. I LOVE owls. Am slightly obsessed with them.

I love that the end papers  ath the beginning of the book portray a raccoon (at night), the wildlife bandit himself, stealing from an orange slumbering squirrel. The end papers at the end of the book portray that same orange squirrel stealing back his acorns from the now slumbering racoon.

Apparently, I love books where animals are the main characters.

Little owl is beyond adorable. His eyes are bigger than the rest of his body.

I love how little owl is care-free.

This book shows the importance of appreciating the world around us, just like Little Owl does.

I love Srinivasan’s description of all the animals and their nightly activities: the possum’s waddle, the fireflies dance while the beaver’s gnaw.

Little Owl is curious.  I think this aspect of him shows the importance of being curious, and the importance of asking questions. Both questioning and being curious help us learn.

I love how this book gives readers a glimpse into the lives of wild animals. I feel like author Srinivasan has hit the nail on the head.

Even though this is a fictional picture book, I love how realistic this book is. Realistic besides the talking animals that is.

I love how this book shows the importance of being active.

The book is set at night, and as the story progresses daylight is swiftly dawning.

I love how simple this book is. I think it shows that things don’t have to be overdone to be enjoyable.

I’m a big fan of, not only owls, but also bats. In this book the bats are portrayed in a very vampire-esque way. Little fangs and when their wings are spread it looks like they are wearing capes.

I love Mama Owl’s description of how night ends: “The moon and stars fade to ghosts, Spiderwebs turn to silver threads. Dewdrops sparkle on leave and grass like tiny stars come down. Moonflowers close and mornin glories open. The sky brightens from black to blue, blue to red, red to gold […] .”

Morning glories are beautiful, and I love that they have a plae in this book.

The writing is simply beautiful, lyrical even. That’s what really struck me about this book, especially the description above.

 

The illustrations are bold.

Here Lies Bridget

Here Lies Bridget by Paige Harbison

Bridget Duke, daughter of the most popular sports caster on television, has staked out her place within her prestigious high school – mean girl. She’s the kind of girl who makes up lies about her teacher and stepmother having an adulterous affair. The girl who tells her size two  best friend that she’s fat. And she’s the kind of girl who would not only cheat on a test, but will falsely claims that she – the cheater – is the innocent party and shouldn’t have to pay for some loser’s mistake.

But that was before the world shifted, turning  Bridget’s whole life upside down. Suddenly people are growing backbones. Her two best friends are completely ignoring her. People she barely knows are talking about her … out in the open. And worst of all, there are all these things written on the bathroom walls about what a total bitch Bridget Duke is.

She just can’t take it anymore. One day, when she’s gone, they’ll be sorry, all of them. Or so she thinks. Selfishly and hastily she crashes her car. But she’s not dead … completely. Crashing her car has landed her is a board room version of limbo where six of her peers proceed to judge her. This time they’re calling the shots, deciding whether or not Bridget lives or dies.

Paige Harbison’s Here Lies Bridget is a quick paced book that will take readers on a roller coaster ride of emotional ups and downs.One moment readers will find themselves simply loathing Bridget, only to be cheering for her moments later.

Harbison’s characters all have personalities of their own, and even though Bridget is domineering their personalities shines through. They are well-rounded, each balancing out the other. And above all things, they are real. We all know or have known someone like Bridget, like Liam, even like teacher Mr. Ezhno.

Here Lies Bridget is Harbison’s first novel. The writing is simple yet strong. Readers will often times feel as if they already know Bridget’s story. Here Lies Bridget is very Dickensian. Reminiscent of The Christmas Carol, Here Lies Bridget not only allows the characters to re-examine their actions, but will also allow readers to examine themselves from the inside out.

Book of the Week: Stuck

Stuck by Oliver Jeffers

Published: 2011 by Philomel

Reasons why I liked this book, and chose it as Book of the Week:

Judging by the cover alone, there’s an earthy feel to this book.

The end papers are simply adorable: white and green illustrations of whales, gorillas, pigeons, and of course kites.

I like that the main character, Floyd, loves flying his red kite. It seems that such small activities have been forever lost to video games, televisions, and other high-tech gadgets.

I love how the little thinks in life make the Floyd happy.

The apparent  sense of humor present in this book will be appreciated by all. Young kids, older kids, and even adults will find humor within the pages.

I love how this book shows a child’s logic. When Floyd’s kite gets stuck in a nearby tree, he figures the only way to get his favorite kite down is to throw random objects at the kite and the tree to loosen it.

Floyd is an emotional character that readers will quickly relate to. He goes from hopeful (that whatever he throws up the tree with known the kite out) to annoyed to having a serious case of the blues (he’s literally illustrated blue for further effect).

I think Floyd being an emotional character shows kids the importance of expressing themselves, and the importance of expressing their emotions. We all know keeping emotions bottled up isn’t a good thing.

I love how determined Floyd is to get his kite back … and everything else he’s gotten stuck up in that tree.

So what else is stuck up in that tree besides the kite? A pair of sneakers, a cat, a bucket of paint, a duck, a chair, the kitchen sink, a whale and a rhino, the house next door, firefighters, etc..

As the story progresses readers will get to see the more absurd the object gets. It really makes me laugh…loudly.

The illustrations really drive the story forward.

I love how once he accomplishes his main goal, he’s perfectly content. Again, shows how children are pleased with the smallest things in life.

The writing is strong, charming, and will capture readers attention.

The colors used in the books really emphasize Floyd’s moods.

I love how this is the kind of book that could be read and reread over and over again. And it still will be just as funny as the first time it’s been read.

Floyd is a great character. He’s got real spunk and an apparent zest for life.