August 29, 2008

Play Me

By Laura Ruby

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Eddy likes girls and sex, and doesn’t understand why they so often think it’s more than sex. He’s a jerk and a bit of a slut, but his complete obliviousness to the hurt he causes makes him somehow harder to hate. You want to hate him sometimes because he’s just too confident and so thoughtless, but he loves his little half-brother (who might be his full brother) and his parrot Tippi Hedren, who quotes Hitchcock. He likes to drive and make movies with his friends Rory and Joe. They’re currently in an MTV contest to be on a reality show called The Producers. Eddy’s life is their show, Riot Grrl 16.

Then Lucinda Dulko walks back into his life. He falls quickly and ignores the other problems in his life. Like I said, Eddy is thoughtless. He believes Riot Grrl 16 will win the contest and makes no contingency plans. He ignores his dad and other dad’s advice because he believes he knows best. He pays no attention to Joe, who has begun to explore religion. (PLAY ME briefly mentions the events of GOOD GIRLS, but no knowledge of that novel is necessary to this one. It is, however, a good read.)

I like Laura Ruby and I liked Edward Rochester. PLAY ME was less likeable. There are high points, many of them, but they’re followed by dull stretches. The different storylines seem episodic, and some move quickly while others drag. The scene where Lucinda gives Eddy a new tennis racket was vivid, tense, and foreshadowed their break-up. The scene where Eddy and the others met with MTV execs felt like a generic na├»ve kids meet Hollywood types and couldn’t end fast enough.

It’s painful to see Eddy come apart, because even though he deserves it and will probably be better for it, the book does rest almost entirely on his voice. To see him lose his confidence and cool is painful. But it all comes to a hopeful ending, one that could be happy if Eddy takes the chances he’s been given. Besides liking Eddy, I also liked his relationships with his family and with Gina. Meatball, his little brother, is weird without being overly precious and he makes me think of Harold from Harold and Maude, which is always a plus. Eddy and Gina’s relationship is subtle, and Ruby manages to convey quite a bit considering Eddy’s lack of anything resembling a clue, and their very real relationship is a nice contrast to Eddy’s fairy tale relationship with Lucinda.

It’s also fun to play spot-the-cultural-reference. Sometimes Ruby uses something’s real name, other times she changes it (probably for copyright purposes). However, there’s more than enough material to keep a movie fan happy. I’m glad my ex-roommate was a TCM addict. I know my Hitchcock well enough to understand the references, Vertigo being the only somewhat important one. (By the way, don’t try to watch Vertigo and do something else at the same time. You’ll have no clue what’s going on within five minutes.)

PLAY ME will entertain those familiar or unfamiliar with GOOD GIRLS. Ruby writes wonderful young adult and middle grade novels, and I look forward to her future releases. You can find more information on her MySpace, website, or blog. PLAY ME is available now.

August 21, 2008

Book Vault's Birthday Contest Riddle

The Book Vault's birthday is drawing ever nearer . . . the last riddle will be posted in just a week, on August 28th. So celebrate while you can!

This is the next leg of The Book Vault’s birthday book riddle contest! For more information on the contest, go here: http://the-book-vault.blogspot.com/2008/08/birthday-contest.html
Each correct answer counts as an entry into the drawing on August 29th!

Riddle:
A girl learns that she has psychic abilities and is asked to help find several missing children by a young cop. During her second mission, she is left shaken and does not wish to help find a group of kids that have been missing. But if she does not help, they may never come home.
Which book is this?

Know the answer? Send Dominique an email at bookvault@yahoo.com with:

“BDAY CONTEST” in the subject line
and:
Name:
The Riddle: A girl learns that she has psychic abilities and is asked to help find several missing children by a young cop. During her second mission, she is left shaken and does not wish to help find a group of kids that have been missing. But if she does not help, they may never come home.
Which book is this?
Answer: (full book title + author)
The name of the site where you found the riddle: In Bed with Books
Your site’s URL: (if you have one)

Please send a separate email for each riddle you answer!

Good luck!!

August 17, 2008

Undercover

Sorry for leaving my last review unfinished for nearly a week. I've now posted the rest of the text.

By Beth Kephart

Book Cover

If UNDERCOVER were a movie, I would say it's a slice of life story. You both start and end in the middle of things, but it's still satisfying. Intelligent Elisa may not be conventionally pretty, but she walks in a world of beauty. She appreciates the outdoors and uses the nature around her to inspire poetry. In turn she gives this poetry to male classmates to aid them in attracting the girls they like. The person who taught her to pay such attention to nature, her father, is away in San Francisco. Her parents' marriage might be falling apart.

Elisa's at a crucial point in discovering who she is, but she's floundering. She's closer to her father and her sister is closer to their mother, but now her father isn't readily available. Her crush Theo is dating the possessive Lila, whom Elisa helped Theo woo. Luckily, she discovers those close to her are allies even when their relationships are strained. She's also encouraged by her English teacher, Dr. Charmin, who recognizes the potential in Elisa's poems.


As with any good slice of life story, UNDERCOVER works because reader's can see elements of their own life in Elisa's, even when the two diverge. I used to skate, although never outdoors and never over a permanently drowning girl. (I do live in Texas. Outdoor ice skating just doesn't work.) During my parents' divorce, my mother used skating to deal with her emotions. The scenes of Elisa skating on the pond, which are numerous, resonate with my own experience.

Likewise, I never had a teacher quite like Dr. Charmin. But I did have wonderful English teachers. I remember reading poetry and plays aloud in class. Of course, the only emotions I was ever overcome by were embarrasment and humor. (Deimyts and I read the two main characters of WAITING FOR GODOT. My character started asking his whether he ever hung himself, because it would give him a boner. Very startling. We also read two characters in a shorter Polish play titled THE UNVEILING. His character began to show another character how to properly seduce a woman - my character. This is the sort of stuff you need to be prepared for! These lines creep up on you!)

One of my biggest quibbles with most books set in high schools is the fact they never seem like any high school I ever attended. But Beth Kephart writes characters I could see myself knowing, in situations I could see happening. And she does it with beautiful language. Elisa's voice has a steady flow and Kephart uses elegant imagery. I hope UNDERCOVER not only pulls readers into Elisa's world, but pushes her world out into theirs and encourages them to read some of the prose and poetry mentioned within the story. (Believe me, it's worth reading.)

Beth Kephart is also the author of HOUSE OF DANCE and the upcoming novels THE HEART IS NOT A SIZE and NOTHING BUT GHOSTS. She can be found on her incredible blog, which has beautiful words to match beautiful photos. I loook forward to her future releases.

August 12, 2008

The Face of Death

By Cody McFayden

The Face of Death

I've never read the first Smoky Barrett novel, titled SHADOW MAN. I suspect it deals even more with Smoky's tragic past. Since I was a first time reader, the beginning moved quickly. I'm not sure it would do so for a returning reader. Cody McFayden spends nearly fifty pages explaining Smoky's past and who the various characters are. It takes that long to reach the main mystery.

In addition to returning readers, newcomers may be put off by the beginning. Smoky's past is grisly. She seems to be coping well, and begins to clean out her dead husband and daughter's things from her home with the help of friends as the novel begins. Then she's suddenly called into work, to view a terrible crime scene where the only survivor asks for her specifically.

THE FACE OF DEATH lies on the darker side of thrillers. If you don't like descriptions of bodies and violent crime, this is not the story for you. Sarah's diary is also disturbing.

Serial killer novels aren't for everyone. I enjoy them when in some moods, but not in all. They examine the darker side of life, what events must occur to twist a normal, or even a good, person into an insatiable killer. THE FACE OF DEATH makes not only lead detective Smoky Barrett into a foil for the killer, but most of the other characters as well. These good guys have horrible pasts, but they manage to keep survive on the side of the law.

While this creates interesting parallels, it leads to some narrative problems. The characters have too much baggage for the book to properly address everyone's issues. As this novel is part of a series, that gives McFadyen the opportunity to address the problems over a number of books, but it still feels like some problems were only brought up when dramatic effect was needed. Either a tighter cast or the same number of characters with less damaged pasts would have given the narrative tighter focus.

Despite being a downer, THE FACE OF DEATH is a fascinating novel that unfolds in an interesting manner. Some of the killer's ultimate plan doesn't make much sense, but I'll give him a pass since he's insane. Perhaps the best part of the novel is the voice McFadyen gave Sarah. Horrors fill her life, but she still possesses an inner lyricism. It makes the brutality more evident, but does the same for the hope.

THE FACE OF DEATH probably isn't for those who dislike violence or the serial killer theme. For those who do enjoy (or not mind) the presence of those things, this is a good book to pick out. I might start with the first, but don't know how essential it is as I haven't read it myself. THE FACE OF DEATH is the sequel to SHADOW MAN. The third book, THE DARKER SIDE, hits shelves September 30th. More details are available on Cody McFadyen's website.

My review copy courtesy of Pump Up Your Book Promotion.

PUYBP

August 5, 2008

Dream Girl

By Lauren Mechling

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Claire Voyante is clairvoyant, although her visions have never shown her anything useful. For her fifteenth birthday, her grandmother Kiki Merriman gives her a gorgeous cameo that should direct her powers and allow her to find adventures. Claire doesn’t seem to be finding any adventures – she’s stuck at her new school. She becomes friends with Becca, another new girl who is less than thrilled to be a student at Henry Hudson. As they get to know the other’s family, Claire discovers the first of her grandmother’s promised adventures.

The adventure in DREAM GIRL is a fairly straightforward mystery, made frustrating by Claire’s inability to see the obvious direction of her visions. Rye and Andy’s relationship also seems underdone, as it’s never explained why he’s so devoted when she’s around and seems uninterested in her at other times. This seems like Claire should worry about it as she begins to fall for him since he could do the same to her. The other characters seem remarkably unconcerned about a possible romance between a fifteen-year-old girl and an eighteen-year-old in college. In fact, the characters who know about it encourage it.

It’s a shame that much of the book’s emphasis is put on these elements when Claire’s school and home life are far more interesting. Her father is a French professor and her parents hold a salon in their apartment, full of several colorful characters. Her school is full of them too. Ian carries a roller suitcase instead of a backpack and Eleanor effortlessly transcends the high school experience. Both of them are scene stealers who are tragically underused. Sheila, the queen bee, earns more screen time, which she deserves. She’s a nerd in popular girl clothing and her mom hints at even more hidden depths. Truly, all the characters are well-done and so are most of the relationships. I just don’t get Andy and Rye or Andy and Claire.

Becca, however, does deserve her screen time. She fully enjoys having a real friend and purposefully tells Claire little about herself at first. She's sweet and clever even if I get lost every time she starts waxing poetic about ketchup. (I do hate the stuff, since it's made from tomatoes. Blech.)

I enjoyed DREAM GIRL, but the A-plot doesn’t hold up to any of the subplots. The paranormal element feels extraneous and didn’t seem to add much to the book as a whole. I believe I prefer the 10th-Grade Social Climber books, which Lauren Mechling coauthored.

You can find more information at Lauren Mechling's website or blog. DREAM GIRL is available now, and there is going to be a sequel. (I've heard that it's going to be titled DREAM LIFE, but I'm not sure that's true.)

August 3, 2008

I'm Watching You

The contest winners are:

HOW I FOUND THE PERFECT DRESS - Bishiesruleme
THE ELITE - Marjolein
VIOLET IN PRIVATE - Mari

Thanks for participating! Please e-mail me (inbedwithbooks AT yahoo DOT com) with your shipping address within 72 hours. If you do not contact me within that time new winners will be chosen.

Please go to the archives of my radio show to listen to an interview with Cynthia Leitich Smith. It's full of all sorts of goodness, including information about the upcoming ETERNAL and BLESSED.

By Mary Burton

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Lindsay O’Neil survived her father’s abuse. He killed her mother and then himself, but she managed to survive and begin a sheltered for battered women. But now someone calling himself ‘The Guardian’ is threatening that. He’s killing abusers in her name and sending her their severed hands. To complicate matters, her estranged husband Zach Kier is one of the lead detectives investigating the case.

She and Zach separated due to his alcoholism, fueled partly by his work as an undercover vice cop. Zach managed to get clean, but Lindsay is still wary of renewing their relationship. His partner Jacob Warwick believes he’ll return to drinking as well and treats him rather brusquely.

Lindsay works with the cops to catch the killer, but she also tries to continue protecting battered women – including her secret roommate Nicole Piper. Unfortunately, some of those women are suspects. Even more unfortunately, Nicole’s husband is looking for her. I liked that Lindsay both had a reasonable motive for not cooperating completely with the police and didn’t go looking for the killer on her own. She trusts them to do their job.

I likewise enjoyed Mary Burton’s portrayal of Zach. An alcoholic is easy to make unlikeable. But I know many undercover narcotics cops do have substance abuse problems, and he made the effort to change his lifestyle and get clean. Lindsay’s decision to kick him out wasn’t the best possible, but it makes sense given her background of abuse.

Some scenes in I’M WATCHING YOU are rather violent, but I don’t think Burton revels in the gore as much as some suspense writers. Children (teenagers) are hurt during the course of the novel, which I know bothers some readers. There are many references to and scenes of abuse that might not be palatable to those close to the subject. Nothing in the story bothered me, but it does tread close to issues that bother some people (often with good reason).

Burton develops an interesting serial killer who is all the more disturbing because his motives are altruistic. I’M WATCHING YOU plays well within the conventions of the genre and possesses the favorable characteristics of a non-jerk hero and a thinking heroine.

You can find more information at Mary Burton's website. I'M WATCHING YOU is available now. The follow-up, DEAD RINGER, will be available in November.

My review copy was courtesy of Pump Up Your Book Promotion.

PUYBP

HUGE Contest - Deadline Extended

Ya'll might have noticed the layout changes here at In Bed With Books. While I was over at Deimyts' place, he reminded me that I promised to make it more gender neutral. In return, he's working on a cartoon picture of the both of us for the sidebar.

Before I continue, don't forget this is the last day to enter any of the Fashion Week contests.

This notice is about the huge contest hosted by Lauren of Shooting Stars Mag. She has decided to extend the deadline to August 22nd. That's nearly an extra month for those of you that have had trouble buying a copy of Stephanie Kuehnert's I WANNA BE YOUR JOEY RAMONE.

Full details below.

You might be seeing this post on some other blogs as well, because we’ve com together to give away an awesome prize!!! Stephanie Kuehnert's debut I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone hit shelves on July 8. We want you buy the book, so we’ve provided some motivation! Lauren from Shooting Stars Mag is the host for this contest, so please send your entries to her.


What you must do:


Get the book and either copy the receipt or take a picture with the book. Send the evidence to Lauren at: Lauren51990@aol.com and that's it!


Deadline:


This contest will end on August 22nd, so don't waste any time in getting this book!


Now...the prize:


A WHOLE BUNCH of gift cards, that will be for various bookstores and iTunes, since the book is very music-oriented. These are the current book reviewers, including me, who will be giving away a $10 gift card to the winner:


And Another Book Read: Tasha
Shooting Stars Mag: Lauren
Reading Mania: Elaina
The Compulsive Reader
Bookluverreviews: Chelsie
The Story Siren: Kristi
B is for Books: Breanna
Teen Troves: Mollie and Ariel
From the Corner of Megan's Mind: Megan
Presenting Lenore: Lenore
Writer's Block Reviews: Holly
In Bed With Books: Liviania
Reader Rabbit


If you're counting, that's 13 book sites giving away a $10 card...that means the winner will get 130 bucks in gift cards just by buying ONE book and showing us that he or she did! Not bad, right?

August 2, 2008

Fashion Week Day Six: Melissa Walker

Let's welcome the final Fashion Week guest author. In addition to writing the Violet series, she has worked for ELLEgirl and Seventeen. We've had blogs about swimsuits and bags, and now Melissa Walker is going to tell us about a true style icon.

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Melissa Walker on "Fashion People"

Sometimes my friends ask me what it's like to be around "Fashion People." Like designers and models and stylists and editors are some alien life form. And, okay, sometimes they act like it. My favorite "fashion people" are a little bit volatile, slightly catty, and always unpredictable. Razor sharp wit softens a bit when you add in a dash of brilliant creativity.

A fantastic representative of the quintessential "fashion person," in my mind, is Little Edie Beale. The cousin of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis, Little Edie lived with her mother (Big Edie) in a house called Grey Gardens in East Hampton, NY when the Maysles brothers filmed a documentary of their lives called, appropriately, Grey Gardens.

The two of them lived in a 28-room mansion off the water, where the gardens grew to cover the house and cats ran wild with raccoons in the attic.

It is a must-see film for anyone interested in fashion. From scarves wrapped into head-dresses and pinned with diamond broaches to skirts made from towels, Little Edie's style is all her own (and has inspired several fantastic fashion shoots, including this one from Vogue: http://greygardensthemusical.com/vogue/vogue.html).

Not just a fashion icon, but also a philosopher queen, Little Edie says the most wonderful things. One quote in particular, I think, is particularly fashion-worthy. She's reminiscing on the days when she was engaged to a Kennedy brother herself, the days when she was known as Edie "The Body" Beale. Then she looks off in the distance and quietly says, "It's very difficult to keep the line between the past and the present. You know what I mean? It's awfully difficult."

Little Edie is a quintessential fashion person, and she's my personal definition of crazy beautiful. Watch the movie, give it a shot, and let her inspire your whimsy.

Oh, and Drew Barrymore's doing a remake (http://justjared.buzznet.com/2007/10/23/drew-barrymore-grey-gardens/)—but watch the original first if you can!

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Don't forget to comment on this post for a bonus entry to win VIOLET IN PRIVATE, Walker's latest novel. Walker will be hosting a release party for VIP on her blog next week.

August 1, 2008

Fashion Week Day Five: Violet in Private

By Melissa Walker

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Teen model Violet would like to lose the 'teen model' title. She stayed in the picture for the travel opportunities and because she liked the message a campaign was trying to send, but now she's ready to be a Vassar Girl. In addition to finding her place in college, with new friends, she's also discovering a talent for writing that lands her a job with magazine Teen Fashionista.

I respect Violet. She thinks she's much less assertive than she actually is, but it's easy to identify with that lack of self-confidence. Besides, it lends itself to a scene of supreme irony. (Those in middle or high school, take notes for your book reports. Teachers love irony.) Her ad about loving your body comes out, and her classmates think it doesn't work because the message doesn't square when paired with an image of ideal beauty. But the real reason it doesn't work is because Violet doesn't believe the message herself; she isn't comfortable with her body or the weight she lost for the ad. It's an incredible scene.

For those who have not read VIOLET ON THE RUNWAY or VIOLET BY DESIGN, I do not think it will be hard to get into VIOLET IN PRIVATE. Melissa Walker reviews past events concisely. These instances also don't come at once, but are spread throughout the story as they become relevant. She writes the relationships between the characters so well I think even newcomers will appreciate their progression.

The new relationships are also satisfying. Oliver is a nice guy and would be excellent for Violet if Roger weren't in the picture. Kurt is hilarious, but not a one note comic relief. Some of his cutting remarks are actually pretty cruel.

While Violet gains new friendships and grows as a person, she still makes some mistakes. She enjoys her internship with Teen Fashionista and makes the most of that opportunity. On the other hand, she's horribly irresponsible about her remaining modelling jobs. She doesn't talk to her boss or her coworker sometimes, and makes no effort to promote the campaign. It's easy to understand why she wants to avoid confrontation, but in a few moments it is hard to feel sympathy for her because of the way she ignored her responsibilities.

VIOLET IN PRIVATE could be a wonderful end to the series, or we could be lucky enough for a fourth. It's a well-written story with likeable characters, reasonable dilemmas, and it addresses various issues in a mature manner. (One I would like to talk about would absolutely spoil the book. Feel the frustration of the reviewer!) Plus, there's Christian Louboutin heels. Those things are crazy.

VIOLET IN PRIVATE hits shelves this Tuesday, August 5th. That means the winner will get it pretty close to the release date! You can find out more on Walker's blog. Plus, she has contests every Wednesday!

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To win VIOLET IN PRIVATE, leave a comment on this post.

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