Year of the Bookwormz: 2011

52 weeks. 2 friends. 1 challenge.

Book #49: LibraryLove November 28, 2010

The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May & June by Robin Benway

Book description~ I hugged my sisters and they fit against my sides like two jigsaw pieces that would never fit anywhere else. I couldn’t imagine ever letting them go again, like releasing them would be to surrender the best parts of myself. Three sisters share a magical, unshakeable bond in this witty high-concept novel from the critically acclaimed author of Audrey, Wait! Around the time of their parents’ divorce, sisters April, May, and June recover special powers from childhood—powers that come in handy navigating the hell that is high school. Powers that help them cope with the hardest year of their lives. But could they have a greater purpose? April, the oldest and a bit of a worrier, can see the future. Middle-child May can literally disappear. And baby June reads minds—everyone’s but her own. When April gets a vision of disaster, the girls come together to save the day and reconcile their strained family. They realize that no matter what happens, powers or no powers, they’ll always have each other. Because there’s one thing stronger than magic: sisterhood.

Phew. After FOUR, yes, FOUR Thanksgivings meals shared with both family and friends over the last few days, I finally had this morning and afternoon COMPLETELY unscheduled and uninterrupted to read, read, read like the wind! Although I enjoyed every moment of spending time with friends, families, and babies this weekend, I’ve felt the pressure of this challenge now more than ever. Back in the summer, I was inundated with books to read and review and unfortunately didn’t get to them all. This book fell by the wayside and I finally got around to it this week. Special thanks to Penguin Books and Young Adult (YA) author Robin Benway for sending me this galley copy of April, May & June to review. What a fun and unexpected read! Although I do enjoy the YA genre from time to time, this story was really well-written and could be enjoyed by adults and not just young readers.

“No thanks. I know smoking kills and all that but also, you get these really weird pucker lines around your mouth. And I haven’t been using moisturizer every night since I was ten for no reason. “

The story is focused around the three sisters, named sequentially after the months in which they were each born, each with unique abilities (think Jedi mind tricks!). Dealing with the emotions of being a teenager is more than enough for these three girls. Add on to that a painful divorce for the girls’ mother and you have yourself the starting threads for this fun, suspenseful tale of love, sisterhood, and teen angst. The girls are trying to navigate through high school while missing their father, who now lives states away. The girls’ mother starts to date and so too, do the girls. However, as I was trying to sink my teeth into this quick read, my main criticism is that the mysterious and suspenseful juicy rising action of the plot line didn’t unfurl until almost 200 pages in, then the book suddenly halts and leaves the reader wanting more. I loved April & her love interest Julian’s storyline; I would have much preferred more of them than some of the other extraneous half-developed characters. What is it with most YA novels these days? YOUNG kids are reading 600+ pages of Harry Potter and/or Lord of the Rings; why can’t YA books go a little more in-depth too??

This was a fun and for the most part lighthearted book. Although rated as Young Adult, many of the “party scenes” in this book, to me, wouldn’t be what I’d want my teenager reading. Alright, off I go to enjoy the afternoon with my hubby and puppies in front of the fireplace and excited to crack open of my friends’ suggested reading of The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. Off I go….stay tuned!

3/5 stars

49 down, 3 to go!




Book #47: LibraryLove November 19, 2010

Anything But Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin

Book description~ Jason Blake is an autistic 12-year-old living in a neurotypical world. Most days it’s just a matter of time before something goes wrong. But Jason finds a glimmer of understanding when he comes across PhoenixBird, who posts stories to the same online site as he does. Jason can be himself when he writes and he thinks that PhoneixBird-her name is Rebecca-could be his first real friend. But as desperate as Jason is to met her, he’s terrified that if they do meet, Rebecca wil only see his autism and not who Jason really is. By acclaimed writer Nora Raleigh Baskin, this is the breathtaking depiction of an autistic boy’s struggles-and a story for anyone who has ever worried about fitting in…

As if the teenage-angst years weren’t hard enough, imagine how frustrated and confused you’d feel if you struggled with Asperger’s Syndrome as well as being a typical teenager? For Jason, his life is “Anything But Typical”. If you may recall from my earlier review of House Rules by Jodi Picoult, we met a teenage boy with the same disease, a mild form on the autism spectrum that affects social behaviors and the way you view and articulate your world. In Typical, Baskin’s latest novel, the main character and budding young teen author Jason Blake, also struggles with Asperger’s, living in a wo rld that is a confusing one that he can’t quite seem to grip. His two major outlets- writing and surfing the online writer’s forum he joins, help him make sense of the world as he knows it.

“There are only seven plots in the whole world: Man vs. Nature, Man vs. Man, Man vs. Environment, Man vs. Machine, Man vs The Supernatural, Man vs Self, Man vs Religion”.

Jason uses writing as an outlet for his creativity and along the way builds his confidence independently while having other members of the online writer’s forum critique his works. One day a girl named “PhoenixBird” stumbles upon his writing. Through providing feedback to each other, they develop a friendship where they correspond through email about writing.

“I click on one from PhoenixBird, the one I was saving until I got home. Now I am home. [“I feel I could have written your story. It is so beautiful. I have to go to cheerleading practice but I can’t wait for your next story”.] I think this girl has just said something nice to me.”

As the rising action develops, a writer’s convention comes up in a nearby town. As a surprise, Jason’s mom springs him with tickets to the convention. He and PhoenixBird have a chance to meet but of course, Jason is so socially awkward, the story unfolds into a heartwarming, sad, and uplifting tale about coming of age and acceptance.  Teen angst mixed with more social awkwardness than any one teenager should bear, and you’ll finish this book in a day or two. It brings me back to that “interesting time” where as teens, we overanalyzed every action and reaction, word, movement, etc.

“Truthfully, language arts is my best class, but not because I have a good grade in it. I like it because there are no right answers, even if the teachers says there are. Even when they mark something wrong on your test or book report, it’s really just their opinion and in my opinion they could be wrong. It’s like when you read the directions on the back of a package of brownie mix. Chewy or cake like? There is not wrong answers. Books are like brownies. “

I haven’t read a young adult novel in a while, but to quote Jason in the phrase above, one of my favorites from the book,  sums up why I just love the genre. Thanks to Sarrina for recommending I pick up this book from my library. I couldn’t put it down. I laughed and cried and wanted to give Jason a hug. He dreams of meeting his mother’s expectations, but by the end of the novel, Jason’s mother realizes how much he actually teaches her every day.

I would have liked to see another 100 pages fleshed out of this story, but as a young adult novel, I have to keep the author’s audience in mind….but dang you, oh good book for making me want more!

I would write more, but I’m exhausted from a recent week-long business trip and I need to move on to the next book which is quite a chunkster, at 600+ pages! The year is almost over. Eeek!

4/5 stars

Happy Thanksgiving one and all 🙂

47 down 5 to go!

In progress- True Colors




Book #26 LibraryLove May 12, 2010

Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman

Book description~

Twelve-year-old CeeCee Honeycutt is in trouble. For years, she has been the caretaker of her psychotic mother, Camille–the tiara-toting, lipstick-smeared laughingstock of an entire town–a woman trapped in her long-ago moment of glory as the 1951 Vidalia Onion Queen. But when Camille is hit by a truck and killed, CeeCee is left to fend for herself. To the rescue comes her previously unknown great-aunt, Tootie Caldwell.
In her vintage Packard convertible, Tootie whisks CeeCee away to Savannah’s perfumed world of prosperity and Southern eccentricity, a world that seems to be run entirely by women. From the exotic Miz Thelma Rae Goodpepper, who bathes in her backyard bathtub and uses garden slugs as her secret weapons, to Tootie’s all-knowing housekeeper, Oletta Jones, to Violene Hobbs, who entertains a local police officer in her canary-yellow peignoir, the women of Gaston Street keep CeeCee entertained and enthralled for an entire summer. Laugh-out-loud funny and deeply touching, Beth Hoffman’s sparkling debut is, as Kristin Hannah says, “packed full of Southern charm, strong women, wacky humor, and good old-fashioned heart.” It is a novel that explores the indomitable strengths of female friendship and gives us the story of a young girl who loses one mother and finds many others.

Let me first just say…holy cannoli, I’m halfway there (queue Bon Jovi’s ‘Livin on a Prayer’)! This marks the halfway point for me- 26 books so far. I absolutely love this challenge. I’ve devoured more books since January 1, 2010 than an entire calendar year in the past. I’ve grown as a person and learned so much along the way. It feels so good to be on track with completing my first ever New Year’s Resolution. I don’t make promises I don’t intend to keep, hence my reason for never making a resolution before.  This has me pondering what reading challenge I will undertake in 2011. If you have any suggestions, bring ’em on!

Ok, back to business…I finally had the opportunity to read this debut novel of one of our biggest fans and friends here at Year of the Bookwormz2010. Beth Hoffman, author of this New York Time’s best selling novel is sweet, kind, insightful and just a peach. She is so busy yet still finds the time to read our blog reviews and send us sweet messages. Fabookulous discovered this book and developed a rapport with Beth immediately. We look so forward to taking Beth to a girly afternoon tea or sharing some sweet tea when she adds our hometown to her paperback tour next year.

A sleepy town in Ohio in the ’60s is where we first meet young Cecilia Honeycutt (CeeCee). Managing the public embarrassment of a mother with mental illness and an absentee father leaves CeeCee with a hefty weight on her shoulders on the brink of her teenage years. CeeCee’s story is the basis for Beth Hoffman’s debut novel rich with southern charm. This novel goes down like an ice-cold glass of lemonade and a plate of cool cucumber sandwiches with the crusts cut off enjoyed mid-afternoon on a wrap-around-porch with the scent of wisteria blowing through the air.

CeeCee is swept off her feet by her Great Aunt Talullah (Tootie) during the summer of 1967. Tootie takes an otherwise series of unfortunate events, and turns it into the greatest summer of CeeCee’s young adult life giving her a second chance at enjoying her youth with the love, support, and laugh outloud hijinks along the way. The women of Gaston Street turn CeeCee’s loss into something so wonderful you’ll have to read the book to find out the rest.

Mix a pinch of Secret Life of Bees

+ a whole lotta’ Skeeter + Minny from The Help

+ a splash of Thelma & Louise

+ sprinkle of Paula Deen

= Saving CeeCee Honeycutt

“Miz Goodpepper gathered the length of her caftan and stepped on the stump. Her lips formed a devlish smile when she shook one of the slugs onto the end of the pancake flipper. She held out the jar and said, “Will you hold this for a minute?”

I wrinkled my nose but did as she asked.  With her right hand she held the handle and with her left she pulled back the top like a slingshot and said, “Enjoy the ride.” She let go and the slug catapulted through the air and disappeared into the darkness of Miz Hobbs’ backyard. She let out a low, haunting laugh. “Oh, I’m not killing them. I’m just sending them on a little ride. Slugs like to fly. They look forward to this- it’s their only sport. With any luck those slugs will eat half of that evil witch’s garden before morning.” Thelma Rae Goodpepper was a mystery to me: wise and funny and kind, yet she also possessed a darkness that was as smooth as silk and as dangerous as a slim blade. Something formidable shimmered in her cool, blue eyes. I didn’t know what to think of her. But I did know, with searing clarity, that I’d never want to fall out of her favor.”

This book had such a satisfying ending. I feel like Beth used the vignette about the hummingbird as a metaphor for CeeCee’s growth. CeeCee was that little hummingbird caught in the spiderweb and then freed to fly as high as she could. Yet somehow I was still left wanting more- in a great way! More of CeeCee, Great Aunt Tootie and Oletta’s bond, and more of CeeCee & Dixie’s new beginning.   I felt for a moment that it was Fabookulous and I walking together chatting about books headed in for our first day of school 🙂 I know that a story must be well-rounded with more than just focus on the main characters, as the events of CeeCee’s summer unfold for the reader. I felt like I didn’t get enough time with CeeCee, Toots and ‘O. Maybe another 50-75 pages worth of dialogue and plot development in the beginning or mid-point? Yes, it’s selfish, I know!  The part of me that understands how the publishing world works, also knows that breakout authors can get bombarded with book deals right after the first becomes a hit. As one of my other favorite author friends Sarah Pekkanen told me, her second novel was already written by the time the first one went to print. So *crossing fingers and toes*, hopefully Hoffman did this on purpose because CeeCee’s story isn’t yet over? I sure hope not. Make me wait too long and I’ll have to take up slug slingin’… I’ll try not to trip anyone in the process 🙂

A story of love, life, and letting go- Saving CeeCee Honeycutt will not disappoint.

If you need a quick and satisfying read for a day at the pool or beach this summer, I highly recommend this book.

5/5 stars

26 down, 26 to go!

In progress: Little Giant of Aberdeen County