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I began many challenges in 2008, but, as I suck at challenges, I did not complete most of them, though I tried. 

First up, The 2k8 Challenge! By my (probably inaccurate) count,  I was ten books away from finishing this one; I read 18 YA debuts. Check out my list here

The Read For Your Dreams Challenge, also started by me, was a success! And, okay, I had to stretch a little to include some of these, but I did read ten books about or including significant amounts of travel. My list is here. I also want to give a shout out to Cafe Shree, who finished the challenge by reading about photography!

Let us not even speak of the failure that was The Printz Award Challenge. Not one book read.

I also tried the First in a Series Challenge. By my count, this was a success! However, the rules state that the “series” must be at least a trilogy, and I’m not entirely sure all of these are slated to have at least three books. 

The Short Story Reading Challenge was a failure. I read some books, yes, but not enough to complete the challenge.

I really don’t know about The Chunkster Challenge. I suspect I completed this one, but I don’t really want to go and look up the page numbers of the books I read and figure out what I read in what quarter.

I only finished three of my eight categories in the Triple 8 Challenge

I give up. Challenges are not for me, though I like the idea of them, and I do not plan in participating in any in 2009. 

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I loved the first two books in this fabulous series, Secret Society Girl and Under The Rose, and also quite enjoyed Rites of Spring (Break), though I’m not sure that it’s quite as good as the first two (but my love of Secret Society Girl in particular would be difficult to match!). In this book, Amy will be spending some of her spring break on her secret society’s private island, along with some of the other past and present members of Rose & Grave. Many of the delightful and colorful cast of characters from the previous two novels return in this installment, including my favorites, Poe and Malcolm. Amy is having some relationship troubles, with Brandon, an ex who currently has a girlfriend but is spending suspicious amounts of time with Amy, and with a new fling as well. She is also being subjected to vicious pranks by a rival secret society, dealing with intra-society dynamics, the disgrace of a Rose & Grave patriarch, possible invaders on the island, and everything else that goes with being a member of one of the most untraditional clubs of one of the most notorious secret societies at Eli University.

I loved every second of the time I spent reading this book! Diana Peterfreund has a way with words that will have you spending hours devouring this novel when you only meant to read a chapter or two. I love all of the interesting characters present in this book, although there were some who I wished were a little more present, and, really, Rites of Spring (Break) has so much awesomeness in it that you can’t help but love the book. There’s romance, secret society rivalry, mysteries, a vicious prankster, a private island, conspiracy theorists–basically, everything you need for a delightfully fun pageturner. I love Amy’s voice, too, funny and smart and witty and just awesome. If you’re a fan of the first two books, you’ve got to read this one, and if you haven’t read those, then what are you waiting for? Go get them, now! Rites of Spring (Break) will be out in June.

Princess Ben is a departure from Catherine Gilbert Murdock‘s previous books, Dairy Queen and its sequel The Off Season, and it is quite a wonderful book! In this book, the author proves herself to be versatile as well as extraordinarily talented.

Princess Benevolence of Montagne is no ordinary princess. She has lived her life free of the constraints of things such as court etiquette, residing outside the castle proper with her parents who let her run wild, playing outdoors with girls from the village, and devouring fairy tales and her mother’s cooking.

Ben’s life is happy and uneventful, for the most part, until one fateful, dreadful day. Both Ben’s mother and the king have been killed, by assassins from the rival kingdom of Drachensbett, it is believed, and her father has vanished on the icy slopes of Ancienne, the mysterious and impassable peak that rises over the valley that is the kingdom of Montagne.

This tragedy leaves Ben under the control of Queen Sophia, at least until Ben reaches her majority and can properly take her place as ruler of Montagne. Sophia moves Ben into the castle and controls her every movement, not even letting her eat properly, in an attempt to turn the princess’s rather rotund figure into a more slender one. Ben is forced to learn embroidery, horsemanship, music, dance–all sorts of things at which she fails miserable. However, when she is locked in the castle’s highest tower, Ben does attempt to master one new skill: magic. She finds a secret passageway to a secret room at the top of the tower, a room which provides the tools she needs to become a sorceress of sorts. Perhaps those legends of wizards back when Montagne first came to be had a basis in fact, and Ben, as a descendant of theirs, is taking the tradition back up again in secret.

With her complete lack of grace or skill with a needle, but with a secret magical education, can Princess Ben free herself and save her kingdom from destruction or defeat?

I quite enjoyed this captivating new fairy tale, with its little references to the tales we know and love that made me grin. See if you can spot them! Ben is a wonderful princess, one who needs no prince to rescue her. I loved her even more because she didn’t care about her weight, and realized how many things in the world are more important than appearance. My pet peeve, though? When book characters claim not to care about weight and then lose some weight all the same. Sadly, Princess Ben does not escape this. That is a minor flaw, though, and overall I really loved this book. There is romance (although that is a bit hurried for my taste), adventure, magic, and an independent heroine who takes charge of her own life. Ben really grows as a character, and that was an aspect of the book that I really enjoyed. Princess Ben is written in a style that really fits the story–a bit old-fashioned and fantastical, as well as witty and intelligent. Catherine Murdock really has a way with words, and Ben’s distinct voice makes this story even more of a pleasure to read. Ben is not the only complex, interesting character, though; there were many characters I enjoyed, and the relationships between them were well-done as well. In short, Princess Ben is an extraordinarily well-written novel with all of the elements that make for an enchanting story I couldn’t put down!

This is a spoiler-free review! As Meg Cabot requested on her blog, I certainly do not intend to reveal anything that might ruin it for you, but I do want to share some of my thoughts on Airhead.

Emerson Watts is a video-game-playing tomboy, a loner at a school full of those she and her best friend, Christopher, have dubbed the Walking Dead. Christopher seems to be Em’s only friend, but she likes it that way, for the most part; she just secretly wishes that perhaps he could be something more than a friend.

What seems like an annoying but relatively routine trip to the opening of a new Stark Megastore in her neighborhood, an event at which Christopher and Em are chaperoning Em’s annoying little sister, turns out to be far more important in Em’s life than anyone could have predicted. In fact, it changes her entire existence, but that’s all I feel comfortable sharing with you at the moment–you’ll just have to wait for the book to find out what happens there!

Airhead is definitely one of my favorite Meg Cabot books, and she’s written some really fantastic ones. I loved the characters, the whole premise of the novel, and, of course, Meg’s funny, distinctive writing style. Meg Cabot fans will adore this book, but so will those who aren’t necessarily fans; I gave this to a friend of mine when she had nothing else to read on a school trip, and she quite enjoyed it, even though she usually only reads fantasy! I’d say that says a lot about the awesomeness of this book, and hopefully has convinced you to preorder it (the book will be out 1 June). Like many of Meg Cabot’s books, this is a fun and entertaining read, but also a smart, and at times thoughtful, novel. I’m really excited for this book, and already can’t wait for the next book in the series! It’s not quite a cliffhanger, but the end does leave the reader itching to know what happens next. But first, you have to read what happens to set off the whole series, and for that, you’d better mark 1 June on your calendar!

Almost Fabulous is Michelle Radford‘s first YA novel, and I certainly hope it’s not her last. It was such a fun read! I read it while sick in bed, and it was the perfect book to keep me completely interested and distracted from my various ailments, not bored for a second, but it also did not hurt my already throbbing brain. Which is great even if you’re not sick (which I hope you’re not; it sucks).

Ahem. I digress. Almost Fabulous stars Fiona Blount, a fourteen-year-old girl living in London with her mother, a former pop star and currently a major music producer. When she was younger, Fiona’s mum used to travel around with her band, the Bliss Babes, and Fiona has lived in various countries and started over so many times that she’s perfected the art of Total Anonymity. They’re staying in London now, which Fiona is happy about because she does not enjoy change, to say the least, but Fiona, now with her best friend, Gina, is still content to lay low and not attract attention from the school bully, Melissa.

Some of Fiona’s problems are typical fourteen-year-old girl problems; some are not. She’s got a crush on a fantastic guy, Joe, who happens to be dating the mean girl and school bully, Melissa. Her mother might just ruin her life (if anyone finds out who Fiona’s mum really is, Total Anonymity will be difficult). Melissa might ruin her life. The new girl, Peaceflower, stands out far too much for comfort and has attached herself to Fiona and Gina. Fiona is also searching for her long-lost father, William Brown (a common name doesn’t make it any easier). And to make it even worse? She might have superpowers. Or possibly a brain tumor.

Although I do tend to find all-powerful and totally evil popular girls in teen novels a little unrealistic, because I don’t think anyone is really that powerful or that evil (but maybe I’m just lucky enough not to have experienced that), it didn’t detract from my enjoyment of this book. Almost Fabulous is completely fabulous and entertaining and hilarious! I loved the characters. I loved the London setting (I love London, actually). I loved the music aspect, the superpower aspect–well, the whole book is just pretty fantastic and fun. It’s not a seriously deep-thinking read, but my brain certainly didn’t deteriorate as I read it, either. Somewhere in between, which is just what I need a lot of the time! I really loved this book, and I would love to read more about Fiona in the future.

Daphne Grab is a member of The Longstockings blog and The Class of 2k8. Alive and Well in Prague, New York is her impressive debut novel about Matisse Osgood, a New York City girl through and through who has to move with her parents to Prague, a small town in upstate New York about four hours away from the city. Matisse loves the city, and that, along with her bitterness about having to leave her world of art galleries and foreign restaurants and everything she loves, makes her seem to be a bit of a snob at first. Matisse has a bit of a holier-than-thou attitude; in her opinion, city people (herself included) are cultured and artistic and mature and intelligent, and the residents of Prague are backward hicks. The name of the town, in Matisse’s opinion, is a cruel joke.

However, Matisse’s attitude can be forgiven, a bit, when readers discover the real reason she and her artist parents left the city. Her father, a rather famous sculptor, has Parkinson’s Disease, or PD. He can’t sculpt anymore; he can hardly function even with the help of all his medications. Matisse can’t deal with that, and she doesn’t want anyone in Prague to find out. She doesn’t want to have to deal with the huge pity party that she left behind in the city. Matisse has a lot to deal with; she may be a pain and a snob at first, but there’s a real reason she’s acting that way. She’s refusing to deal with what’s really bothering her (her father).

Soon, though, despite her attitude, she begins to make some friends. Violet, a loner who writes poetry and sits by herself with a book at lunchtime, for one. Maybe even Hal, her next-door-neighbor who Matisse at first writes off as a complete hick, and Marco, who at first just seems like a shallow stereotype of a jock. Despite alienating her best friend in New York, maybe Matisse isn’t as alone as she thought.

I quite enjoyed Daphne Grab’s debut. Matisse is a realistic character, especially in terms of the way she handles (or rather, doesn’t handle) her father’s illness. Matisse’s character development is right on. Alive and Well in Prague, New York is an engaging, interesting story, and solidly well-written. I loved Daphne Grab’s portrayal of small-town life, and it’s pretty accurate (though I don’t live in such a tiny town, the community where I live is a lot like Prague, New York in some ways. And, yeah, I’ve been on a hayride!). I put this book down feeling quite satisfied, and I look forward to Daphne Grab’s future efforts. This book will be released on June 3.

Violet by Design is Melissa Walker‘s second book about small-town-girl-turned-supermodel Violet Greenfield, and it’s just as great as Violet on the Runway. In this book, Violet has decided to return to the modeling business and she’s off to work the Sao Paolo runways. That’s right–Brazil! Violet is on her way to becoming an international star.

Of course, there was a reason she left it behind before. Modeling certainly has its ups and downs. Sure, she gets to travel to exotic places–but she also gets called “la gordita” (little fat girl) for not being afraid to gain five pounds and be normal-girl-skinny instead of anorexic-looking.  She’s in the tabloids, and anything she says can and will be used against her. Is the life of an international supermodel really worth leaving all of her friends and family at home behind to deal with so much pressure and superficiality?

On top of all of that, she’s got the typical teenage girl worries about her future, her romantic prospects, her friends, staying true to herself, and, like any recent high school graduate, balancing new with old. What’s a girl to do?

Yes, this is a book about modeling. But, as with Melissa Walker’s debut novel, it’s about so much more than that! It’s about life and friends and family and romance and knowing who you are and blindly feeling your way through an uncertain future the way we all do at some point.

As you can probably guess, I was pretty disgusted with the way already-super-skinny  Violet was always being pressured to lose five pounds, but that doesn’t detract from this book because Melissa Walker knows what she’s talking about when she writes about the fashion industry, and I do believe this is true-to-life. It’s not the book that horrifies me; it’s the truth of it, of the fashion industry, of that horrible negative body image that so many girls get from it. It’s relatively minor here–five pounds. But many girls are dozens or hundreds of pounds above the “ideal” weight in the fashion industry, and there’s nothing wrong with those girls. There is, however, something wrong with the fashion industry.

PSA over for the moment. Violet by Design  is an honest, funny, thoughtful, and intelligent book about one girl’s struggle to figure out who she is and stay true to herself despite the temptations to be someone else (like international superstardom and money and free stuff and exotic travel in this case, but there can be so many things that threaten us in that way).  I love Melissa Walker’s characters, and she is quite a talented writer. I can’t wait for the third book in the series, Violet in Private.

I have to start by saying, Naomi Shihab Nye is one of the most amazing writers whose work I have ever had the pleasure of reading. I have read her poetry and her young adult novel, Habibi, which has been a favorite of mine for years. I am not the biggest fan of poetry, in general (I do like it, but not as much as I do novels or short stories most of the time), but Naomi Shihab Nye is a huge exception to that. I’d rather read her poetry (or her prose) than almost anything else. Her way with words is just astounding and beautiful. Her words, in Honeybee and in all of her other writing that I’ve ever read, bring out so many thoughts and questions and emotions and images and are just so brilliant that my words cannot possibly be enough to describe hers in any way doing justice to them.

Honeybee is a collection of poems and short prose (though the prose is more poetic than most), some right from the author’s experiences and life, others more about politics (though that’s not an adequate description for many–more about the daily lives of those people of whom all we see is the politics of their situation, but she shows their humanity), and others a mixture of the two, being about her experiences as an Arab-American in post-9/11 America. Everything in this book is so honest and true and  thoughtful and observant and so, so many things. Often, sad, when we read about the state of the Middle East today or the way we treat our fellow humans. There is despair here, but there is also hope.

Naomi Shihab Nye sees so clearly and writes so wonderfully about the sad state of the world today, as in this poem “Consolation”:

“This morning the newspaper
was too terrible to deliver
so the newsboy just pitched out
a little sheaf
of Kleenex.”*

Naomi Shihab Nye takes the title of my favorite poet, hands down, even more so after reading this collection. It will be available in May, at which point I strongly suggest you go and buy and read it. Until then, go read something else of hers, if you haven’t already!

The sad thing? One of the greatest poets and writers around is probably on a ton of government watch lists because she has the courage to speak the truth (and does so quite eloquently).  And, of course, because of her ethnicity. What a world we live in.
*This is from the Uncorrected Proof copy and subject to change in the final book.

Before I read this book, I already knew that Deb Caletti was amazing, but The Fortunes of Indigo Skye showed me just how brilliant and talented this author really is!

Indigo Skye is a waitress, and she loves her job. She loves forming personal relationships with the people who come regularly to Carrera’s (a group known as the Irregulars). She loves when she manages every table and order perfectly, like it was a dance someone choreographed. She loves her boyfriend, Trevor, and her family (her mom, her little sister, Bex, and her twin brother, Severin).  She’s about to graduate from high school, and she lives in a suburb of Seattle, Washington. Her life is great, and she’s happy just the way it is.

And then, it changes. A new guy comes into Carrera’s, a guy who seems to have a lot of money. He rides a Vespa, and becomes known as Vespa Guy. He orders “just coffee,” and becomes something of a mystery to the Irregulars, who like to speculate on who he is. One day, Indigo sees a package of cigarettes in his jacket pocket, which really sets her off. She yells at him about killing himself, then talks to him about his life. Not that remarkable, really–except then, he leaves an envelope for her at the diner. It’s a mystery that she’s sure will be disappointing when she finally opens the envelope.

Disappointing? Think again: he’s left her a two-and-a-half million dollar tip.

That seems great at first, but money changes people. Indigo has been warned of it, but she doesn’t believe she will be changed by her sudden fortune. She was fortunate enough already. Once she gets over the shock, having that money is pretty great–or is it?

This book is seriously amazing. Deb Caletti is such a fantastic writer, and her characters! They’re just so real and awesome. All I can do with regard to this book is gush! The characters, and the relationships between them, are just so marvelous and honest and real and fascinating. The story, too, is very interesting, but there’s a lot more to this book than a rags-to-riches or money-doesn’t-buy-happiness story. There are real, big, fundamental truths here about life and humanity and love and family and so much more. All I can say is, read this book!

Haunted Waters is based on the little-known (I didn’t know it) German fairy tale Undine. This book begins when Lord Huldbrand finds himself stranded at a fisherman’s cottage for days after getting lost in the woods and chased by a demon. He finds himself falling in love with the fisherman’s daughter, Undine, though he does not quite know what to make of the girl or the mystery that surrounds her.

This book is a love story, a mystery, and a creepy fairy tale–it’s written in the style of a fairy tale, I guess, in that it does not delve deeply into the characters and their feelings and their pasts. It’s not a long book, but I think Mary Pop Osborne manages a lot in these few pages. It reminds me of Francesca Lia Block in that I’m not a hundred percent sure what happened (very ethereal and, well, Block-like), and I’m not entirely sure how I feel about this book. Haunted Waters is a captivating story, to be sure, but it still leaves me feeling a little uncertain. I do believe I liked it, in an odd way, and I would recommend it to fans of fairy tales or of Francesca Lia Block.

The Surrender Tree is a verse novel based on the actual events and actual historical figures in the Cuban struggle for independence (despite the publisher’s classification of this one as non-fiction, it is definitely historical fiction). It is a story I was not too familiar with, so I did learn some history, or at least refresh my memory of these events.  It is about Rosa, a slave freed by an owner who rebelled against Spain and said that freedom only existed when everyone shared in it. She healed the injured during Cuba’s three wars for independence, hiding out in the mountains and forests and caves, healing not only the sick and injured Cuban rebels, but also the Spanish soldiers–anyone who needed healing.

There are also poems told from the perspectives of the other people in Rosa’s life, but she is the common thread of the story and narrates her fair share of it. The book covers almost all of her life, but only briefly does it cover her childhood, and soon after she grows up and gets married, so I’m not certain what makes this book classified as middle grade or young adult (the back of the ARC says middle grade, the publisher’s catalog says young adult,  both mysteriously say non-fiction). I’m not sure you could find many young readers for it, especially younger than high school. The poetry is beautiful and breathtaking and more than just sentences with line breaks–and how many teenagers enjoy poetry? I do, and most of the ones who will read this will because we love language and words, but most of our peers are not big fans of poetry.

Despite the problems with nailing down an audience, this really is an amazing book. The story itself is fascinating (especially to someone who, like myself, enjoys history), but it Margarita Engle’s brilliant use of language that really makes this book shine. The poetry is just gorgeous and nearly every word is perfect. This certainly would not have been such a captivating story told another way. The Surrender Tree is a powerful, emotional portrayal of one amazing woman’s part in Cuba’s struggle for independence. Margarita Engle is an extraordinary talented writer, and I highly recommend this book.

This sequel to Michele Jaffe‘s fabulous Bad Kitty is pretty fantastic in its own right. In this book, Jasmine Callihan’s father has moved himself, Jas, and Jas’s stepmother, Sherri!, to Venice. Yes, to Italy. The day before the start of her senior year. With twenty-four hours’ notice. To research soap. He is, quite possibly, Jas thinks, insane. Or maybe evil. After all, what kind of a father would move his daughter half a world away from her friends, her new boyfriend, and her chances at graduating high school and continuing on to an institution of higher education? (Side note: I’d be thrilled to move to Italy today, right now, but I have been told that I am not representative of teenage girls–or people-in general).

Of course, moving to another continent doesn’t mean Jas will stay out of trouble like her father is hoping. Trouble can find her anywhere. In this case, it begins when her only friend in Venice is murdered, and more people may be in danger. This is a mystery that Jas can’t solve on her own, so I was thrilled to see more of some of the awesome cast of characters from Bad Kitty. Tom, Polly, Roxy, Alyson, and Veronique (excuse me–Sapphyre and Tiger’s*Eye) were as hilarious and quirky as ever.

Kitty Kitty is kind of like a mixture between Ally Carter, Meg Cabot, and Louise Rennison, but with Michele Jaffe’s own fabulously unique twist (and in many ways, dare I say it, better than these authors) on it all! It’s a smart, fresh, laugh-out-loud hilarious mystery full of cool gadgets and inventions a Gallagher girl would be proud of (reference to Ally Carter’s books, for those who haven’t read them). It’s as hilarious and insane as Louise Rennison only with a much better, suspenseful, and more recognizable plot. Jas is a heroine worthy of a Meg Cabot book. Put it all together, and you have near-perfection!

My only disappointment in this book was that we did not see more of Venice, but that’s more of a personal taste than anything else. I love great settings, and Venice was a barely-there backdrop; only the canals were of any importance, and any body of water would have worked there. Jasmine’s Italian classes and hilarious troubles with the language were the only indication that they were even in Italy!

Kitty Kitty is a funny, intelligent, and adventurous mystery that readers will love. I can’t wait for the next book in the series, and this one isn’t even out until July! I guess for now I’ll have to be content rereading Bad Kitty, but I think this book may be even better than that one (unbelievable, right?). Kitty Kitty is a madcap adventure in the streets and canals of Venice involving friendship, mystery, fashion, pigeons, crime fighting, language barriers, suspense, romance, water wings, six-foot-tall squirrels, locked-door murder mysteries, tweezer tasers, cats, gondoliers, and much more hilariousness that will have readers laughing hysterically as they turn pages as quickly as their fingers will allow.

Charles de Lint‘s latest novel, Dingo, is certainly good, but it was less wonderful than I expected. Worth reading for fans? Yes. But if you haven’t read anything of his, don’t start with this, or you’ll have an unfairly low opinion of his talent (my favorite book of is is The Blue Girl).

Dingo is told from the viewpoint of Miguel, a teenager who is working at his father’s store one day when a girl and her dog come in and change his life. Lainey is a beautiful girl, with eye-catching red hair the same color as her dog’s coat. Em, the dog always at her side, is less than fond of Miguel. They have just come from Australia, and Lainey is being homeschooled by her stepfather, Stephen.

Lainey is gorgeous and smart and funny and seems to like Miguel. He can’t stop thinking about her. Still, though, there’s something a little strange, a little off about Lainey and her life. He’s not sure what it is, so he can’t tell his friends, even when strange paw prints show up outside his window, or when he starts having bizarre dreams. Lainey needs his help, and he needs Lainey–but is he up to the challenge, far greater than it seems, of saving her?

It’s hard to give a summary without  giving away too much, though if you read any summary of the book online, you’ll find out a major plot twist (which I advise you not to do, if you dislike spoilers. Don’t read anything else about it). I liked this book. I read it all at once, never putting it down. But isn’t the author’s ability to make us  suspend our disbelief essential in fantasy? I never felt like I was able to stop questioning certain elements of this book–the love story in particular, which happened quickly and was never explained in such a way as to satisfy my disbelief. I also felt like Charles de Lint took the easy way out, the short way of solving the many problems, in a way (though it was still difficult for the characters–I just mean from a writing standpoint). After thinking long and hard about it, I realized that this seems like a several-hundred-pages-more-long story abridged and shortened and made into something that makes far less sense but is only 213 pages long. This is a big story crammed into a little book, a book of such a length that Charles de Lint didn’t explain things well enough, a short book that meant he took too many shortcuts. There was so much potential in Dingo to be amazing and brilliant, and I know Charles de Lint is capable of that, but this potential was far from realized.

Mayra Lazara Dole‘s wonderful first novel is a very necessary addition to the somewhat limited selection of LBGTQ literature out there (and what there is seems to be more about gay boys than anything). Necessary, because it represents a subset of the population that perhaps doesn’t have much literature to directly relate to. Laura, the main character, is a Latina (Cuban, specifically) lesbian living in Miami, but enjoyment of this great book is not limited to those that fit that profile, not by a long shot! I’m a straight white girl in North Carolina, and I really liked it.

Laura’s life is seriously changed when she is caught reading a love letter in class. That would be embarrassing for anyone, sure, but seeing as Laura’s love letter is from a girl, and Laura goes to a conservative Catholic high school, she’s more than embarrassed–she’s expelled from school and kicked out of the house by her mother.  Being a tortillera in Cuban Miami is completely unacceptable, and Laura’s mother won’t let her back–won’t let her even see her beloved little brother–until she is convinced that her daughter has turned straight. Laura can’t tell her it doesn’t work that way.  Laura’s life is further devastated when her first love, Marlena, is shipped off to Puerto Rico–to marry a guy.

Luckily, Laura is far from alone. She has her little brother, when he manages to call despite their mother’s forbidding they have contact. She’s got her dog, and for those who aren’t dog people out there–that means a lot. She’s got great friends, especially her best friend, Soli, and Soli’s mom, who take her in when she has nowhere else to go.  Now, if only she can come to terms with who she is, help her mother to accept her,  and find her place in the world, things might just be okay.

Down to the Bone is a funny, bold, and poignant novel  readers will quite enjoy. I loved the great characters, and the setting of Miami! I’ve never been to Miami, but reading these books set there (this and Total Constant  Order, most recently) really makes me want to go! Also the fact that I am freezing here makes the weather there sound like heaven…

I loved this fresh, engaging, and honest book about love of all kinds, friendship, heartbreak, family, and life in general.  Down to the Bone is a promising debut novel, and I look forward to Mayra Lazara Dole’s future writing.

I really need to remember to actually save my work. I had a complete review of You Know Where To Find Me last night, but I lost it when my computer crashed. Grr. Very annoying. So here is my re-written review:

Before picking up this book, I already knew that Rachel Cohn was an amazing, brilliant, and very talented author. You Know Where To Find Me, is, however, not much like her other books (it’s much more serious and depressing, but not in a bad way), so I wasn’t sure what to expect.

I was seriously impressed with how wonderfully she pulled it off. You Know Where To Find Me is by no means a light read. At the end of the first chapter, one of the main characters, Laura, commits suicide. Laura and Miles were biological cousins, but they grew up more like sisters in a wealthy part of Washington, DC. They were very different, though, superficially; Laura was thin and pretty and popular and smart and rich (Miles is, in her opinion, none of these things). She had tons of friends and an acceptance to Georgetown (Miles is a year behind in school, and has only one friend). But Laura had at least one vice–she and Miles used to get high together in their old treehouse.

Now, Miles’s whole world is falling apart, and she’s spiralling dangerously downward. She is fat and ugly and alone and, after Laura dies, all she wants to do is get high. Apparently, Laura’s pill popping and then suicide didn’t deter Miles in the least.

Miles isn’t really as alone as she thinks, though. She’s got her best friend, Jamal, and his family, Laura’s father, Jim, her often-absent father, Buddy, and maybe even an old friend of Laura’s. She’s got lots of people to count on, if only she can realize it.

I adored this book. It is wonderfully written, powerfully moving and emotional story. It’s full of interesting, well-drawn characters. Miles in particular is a great character and a fantastic narrator. Her voice and character are fresh and distinctive and honest and real.   I quite enjoyed the DC setting of this book, too. This is an engaging novel that fans of Rachel Cohn’s previous books will love because even though it’s different, it’s just as wonderful as the others! Anyone who hasn’t read her previous books will soon become a fan after reading this novel.

You Know Where To Find Me is a book about loss and grief and suicide and depression and drug abuse and family and love and friendship and life (and DC statehood, which is a very interesting political issue I’d never actually thought much about). Yes, by definition, there’s a lot of sadness in a book that starts with suicide, but, ultimately, it felt like a hopeful book to me.

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