Kate’s life is pretty miserable. Her best friend has dumped her. Her father quit his job to sell infomercial vitamins in the mall. Her family, as a result, is having some serious money troubles that can only be resolved by her grandmother coming to stay. Of course, Grandma being around just makes everything more tense and more stressful. Kate is also lusting after a boy who has done nothing but torment her since they met in ninth grade. Will also has a bit of a reputation around school for hooking up with every girl he sees. Kate likes Will, but she doesn’t want to, and when he starts to act like he might be interested, she certainly doesn’t want to be just another name on the long, long list of girls that Will has been with…does she?

I loved Elizabeth Scott‘s other two books, bloom and Stealing Heaven, but Perfect You just might be my favorite! It’s a close call as to which is the best, but Perfect You is in no way disappointing, and in many ways awesome. Kate is an awesome main character, but I loved all of the characters, and the complicated relationships they had with each other. Perfect You is a fresh, funny, and honest story that is everything readers will expect from this talented writer, and more! Honestly, I can’t recommend highly enough this fantastic story about family, romance, friendship, love, life, and growing up.

Maximum Ride: The Final Warning is the fourth book in this series about a “flock” of kids who were genetically modified so that their DNA mixed with avian DNA, and they now have wings and can fly (and some of them have other special abilities, too). Fourteen-year-old Max is the leader of the group, and she is also the narrator of the story. In this latest installment in the series, the flock is off to Antarctica to work with scientists to combat global warming, but, of course, as always, there’s an enemy on their trail.

This is a fast-paced, exciting story with an interesting premise. It’s well-written, and I love the character of Max. The Maximum Ride series is great for reluctant readers, and it’s quite entertaining, and at times quite thought-provoking as well. This book was a little heavy-handed with its environmentalist message (a message I do agree with, but a little more subtlety would have been nice). I certainly take issue with some of James Patterson’s recent comments about children’s and YA literature, but this is a review of the book, not the author, and the book itself is certainly worth reading, especially for fans of the series. I think the way this series came about is a little strange (James Patterson apparently got the idea from one of his other books–I guess that’s what happens when you have ghostwriters, which I suspect he does though I have no proof of that, because the similarities are really strange, and couldn’t he at least have changed the main character’s name if they’re not the same people?) , but it’s a quick adventure that I most definitely enjoyed every page of, and I do recommend it.

Jenny Davidson‘s first YA novel, The Explosionist, takes place in an alternate version of Edinburgh in 1938. Sophie’s world diverges from our own when Napoleon wins at Waterloo in 1815, though there are other discrepancies that cannot be traced back to that battle–most importantly, the paranormal element of this book. Spiritualism is alive and well in this world, and actually real and sometimes state-sponsored. It’s quite possible to speak to the dead here, though not everyone can do it, and there are certainly plenty of frauds and skeptics.

Sophie is a fifteen-year-old schoolgirl who lives with her Great-aunt Tabitha in Edinburgh. Oh, how to explain this book! All of the political intrigue (to which Sophie is privy–often by eavesdropping–because of her great-aunt’s high status) and the ways in which this world differs from our own would take pages to explain properly (which is why you’re lucky there’s a lengthy novel about it). Suffice to say, Sophie and her friend Mikael soon find themselves involved in various mysteries and plots on which the fate of Scotland and the rest of the world hangs. Seances, explosions, terrorist groups, murder, politics, and various other things are involved. This world (like our own in 1938, though for different reasons) is on the brink of a war that will shape the coming years, a war that could be avoidable.

Like I said, this is a difficult book to explain, but not difficult to finish–I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough! There’s suspense and intrigue and mystery and adventure and even a bit of romance. I was caught up in it all from the beginning, and now I absolutely cannot wait for a sequel–which is too bad for me, as this book isn’t even out until July, so there’ll be quite some time before any continuation of the adventures of Sophie and Mikael. I admire the way Jenny Davidson ended this in just the right place–readers are anxious to find out what happens next, and there’s no doubt that, barring exceptional circumstances, there will be a sequel, but there’s still a decent enough ending place so that the book actually ends rather than just stopping the way some series books do.

The Explosionist is an amazing book! Jenny Davidson is such a talented writer, able to make more than 450 pages absolutely fly by. The complicated twists and turns of the plot are never overwhelmingly confusing, but just enough to keep your brain busy. I quite enjoyed all of the characters, who were refreshingly real and human. This is an unputdownable, read-it-in-one-sitting kind of book, a remarkable feat for one so long. And remarkable really does describe this novel! I was so impressed and completely in awe of Jenny Davidson’s skill the whole time I was reading it. And when I finished, my first thought was of course a desire for more! Seriously, read this book. If you have any way of doing so, get ahold of a copy now, and if not, well, you’ll just have to wait for July.

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.

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!

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 absolutely adored Bass Ackwards and Belly Up, to which this book is a sequel. And a very worthy sequel! Sarah Fain and Elizabeth Craft have done it again, and created a wonderfully inspiring novel sure to captivate readers.

In Bass Ackwards and Belly Up, Harper, Sophie, Becca, and Kate, four best friends from Boulder, Colorado, decided to spend the year after they graduated from high school following their dreams. Becca went to college but was given the extra mission of falling in love. Sophie decided to move to LA and pursue a career as an actress. Harper wanted to write the next Great American Novel (but the reality is less glamorous than it sounded then; she lives in her parents basement and works at a coffee shop and lusts after her former English teacher). Kate went to travel the world.

Now they’re in the second half of the year of dreams. When the book starts, Becca is in love with her boyfriend, Stuart, and doing well on the ski team at Middlebury. Sophie is not doing as well in her acting career as she would have hoped–she’s far from being a movie star yet. Kate has gone to Ethiopia, where her adopted little sister, Habiba, is from, to dig wells for poor villages. Harper is slowly but surely actually writing a novel and trying to mend her relationships with the people she cares about.

For all of them, jumping on the dream train wasn’t as easy as they hoped. But maybe, just maybe, with the support of each other, the four of them can make their dreams come true.

All four girls are, again, wonderfully realistic, unique (as real humans are) characters–and people you’d really like to know in real life! Their year of dreams is so inspiring; Harper, Becca, Kate, and Sophie do what many people have dreamed of, but few actually have the guts to do. They leave society’s prescribed path to follow their hearts. Footfree and Fancyloose is a poignant, funny, honest, and touching novel about friendship, dreams, growing up, and so much more. It’s about life.

Readers won’t be able to get enough of this book, due to be released in April. Despite its size, Footfree and Fancyloose reads quickly; it’s such a pageturner! I couldn’t wait to find out what would happen next to these characters. It is truly a wonderfully well-written novel. My only real gripe would have to be the cover. While this is clearly a book about four best friends, the cover of the ARC features three girls. Has the designer even read the book?? With any luck, that’ll change before the book is released.

I wanted to absolutely adore A Curse As Dark As Gold. After all, I’ve heard a lot of great things from people whose opinions I trust (Miss Erin and Sookie at Over My Head, for example). So maybe I had unreasonably high expectations opening this book, and I’m afraid I wasn’t quite as taken with it as they were, though I did really enjoy it, and any disappointment is probably my own fault for having unreasonably high expectations. I will certainly look forward to future work from Elizabeth C. Bunce, and highly recommend this debut novel!

That said, A Curse As Dark As Gold is an enchanting fairy tale retelling of Rumpelstiltskin.  In it, Charlotte Miller’s father has just died, leaving her in charge of Stirwaters, the mill that’s been in her family for generations. Though their cloth is lovely and they work hard, Stirwaters has always had a run of bad luck. No son has lived to adulthood, so the mill has passed from Miller to Miller, but in a rather haphazard way–from uncle to nephew to cousin to brother, etc. Charlotte and her younger sister, though, are the last of the family, and they’re determined to hold on to the mill.

Of course, that won’t be as easy as it sounds. Charlotte has to keep the mill from being seized by debt collectors, and being female at this time makes things particularly difficult. And that bad luck? There have always been whispers of a curse on Stirwaters. Charlotte’s not the superstitious type, but now she’s starting to believe it might be true…

So what desperate measures will Charlotte take to save Stirwaters? She’s not sure how far she’ll go, until Jack Spinner shows up with promises to be her salvation. But what will be the cost, in the end, and is she willing to pay it?

Elizabeth C. Bunce’s debut novel is a well-told and well-written story, populated by interesting characters. Its setting is a slightly fictionalized time in English history, and, well, I’m a sucker for all things English, past and present, and I really enjoyed the setting. The story starts out a little slow for my taste, but certainly picks up by the end (the last hundred or so pages, I couldn’t put it down and read all through Spanish class). A Curse As Dark As Gold is an intelligent, original, and interesting new take on an old fairy tale, and a marvelous debut novel.

Also check out Erin’s wonderful interview with the author.

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks is the latest book by the fabulously talented and brilliant E. Lockhart. Frankie Landau-Banks is a sophomore at Alabaster, a prestigious boarding school. Previously, the institution was all-male, but it is now coeducational. Its infamous secret society, however, remains a boys-only club. The Loyal Order of the Basset Hounds, to which Frankie’s father belonged, is still on campus (although in a rather weak form), and Frankie’s new boyfriend, the sought-after Matthew Livingston, is a part of it.

And he won’t even tell her. It’s only through her own intelligence and curiosity that she figures it out, despite giving Matthew numerous opportunities to tell her. And Frankie’s not the least bit happy with any of it–her boyfriend keeping secrets, or the society not allowing girls. And Frankie, being Frankie, isn’t going to stand for that.

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks is told in the third-person (which, you may know is not my preferred point of view), but I absolutely adored it and wasn’t even bothered by the narration, it was told so wonderfully. E. Lockhart is a truly brilliant writer, and her talent really shines in this fresh, witty new novel.

I think this may be E. Lockhart’s best novel yet, and, really, that’s saying something! She’s an amazing writer, and this smart, funny book is one that is already standing out as one of the best of 2008 (and it’s not officially released until March 25). Frankie is a wonderful character–intelligent, creative, and empowered. She’s always been “bunny rabbit” to her family, and most people see her that way even if they don’t use that nickname–they think she’s cute and charming and harmless. Frankie, however, is anything but! She’s a criminal mastermind.

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks is a funny, bold, and irreverent novel sure to find many fans who are themselves not content with the established social order or the way the world sees them.

Also posted at Chicklish!

This wonderful little anthology includes stories by Lois Lowry, Meg Cabot, Sue Limb, Anne Fine, Celia Rees, Rosie Rushton, Malorie Blackman, Jacqueline Wilson, Cathy Hopkins, and Meg Rosoff. Two things about that list of star authors stand out to me: One, they’re some pretty fantastic writers–some of my favorites. Two, most of them are British. According to the biographies in the back, Lois Lowry and Meg Cabot are the only ones who live in America (but I think Meg Rosoff is from the US, she just lives in England). I now have a confession to make: I love all things British, an obsession that has its root in a trip I took last summer to England. It was one of the best experiences of my life, so now I love to read English books and watch BBC America and such. It’s kind of dorky, I’ll admit, but it meant I was super psyched to read this story collection!

And it is in no way, shape, or form disappointing. There’s not a weak story in the bunch! I was completely captivated from the moment I started reading. They are all wonderfully well written (as they should be; all of these authors are masters of their craft).

Of course, I did have the problem I always have with great short stories–I wanted more! For every short story whose characters I fall in love with over the course of a few pages, I always wish that there was more to the story. For two of these, there actually is more–Lois Lowry’s is an excerpt from her novel. And Sue Limb’s story is about her character, Jess (star of Girl, 15, Charming But Insane and its equally fabulous sequels). But for the rest, sadly, as far as I know, this is all we will see of these characters.

While there are certainly no weak points in Shining On, there were a few stories that stood out to me personally as being exceptionally brilliant.

Sue Limb’s You’re A Legend is one. It’s a complete story in itself, but part of a larger body of work about this wonderful character. In this story, Jess goes to help her Granny sort through her dead husband’s belongings and makes a surprising discovery in the attic. I absolutely loved it!

Another story I loved was Malorie Blackman’s Humming Through My Fingers, an incredibly wonderful story about a blind girl who sees more than most of us who are sighted do. Simply brilliant! I mean, I adore Malorie Blackman, but I was still surprised at how completely marvelous this short story is! I’d love to read more about the characters, unsurprisingly. Hmm. Perhaps I’m too greedy to read short stories!

Anyway, another one I particularly enjoyed was Rosie Rushton’s Skin Deep, about a girl who is seriously traumatized (physically and emotionally) by an accident. I’ve never read one of Rushton’s novels, but I’ll have to after reading this story, which I thought was amazing (and I really shouldn’t even bother to say it after all this, but, yes, I wanted more! I feel so greedy).

Those are just a few of the highlights for me, but, trust me, all of the stories are breathtakingly wonderful. This collection is, of course, worth buying and reading because of its marvelousness, but even more so because a portion of the profits go to charity. So, to the bookstore! Or to your favorite online bookstore, if you want to let your fingers do all the hard work. And buy this book immediately!

I personally find it more difficult to get into books written in third-person. It’s a perfectly valid choice of writing style, of course, and many of my favorite books are written from a third-person POV, like, oh, I don’t know, the Harry Potter series! Tamora Pierce usually writes in the third-person, too, and so does Melissa Marr. So, obviously, it can turn out awesome. But for me, it’s harder to get grabbed from the first page, harder to get completely into the story to the point where I don’t want to answer the phone or eat or anything! It has to be done very well to capture my attention immediately. Also because it’s a little more difficult to get to know the characters, because you’re not inside the main character’s head all the time. I guess it’s just less personal or something. And while I realize that is entirely a personal bias and that neither first nor third person point of view is intrinsically better than the other, it sometimes affects my opinions on books that I read.

And with that in mind, The Juliet Club, written in the third-person (with lots of head-hopping, which was handled with minimal confusion, thankfully–with six main characters, that had to be a little difficult!) did not fully grab my attention. I enjoyed it all the way through, but I wasn’t racing to the next page. I didn’t feel close to the characters. I kept reading, hoping I’d get drawn into the story more, but sadly, no.

The Juliet Club is about six teenagers spending a month in Verona, Italy, the city where Shakespeare’s famous Romeo and Juliet takes place. The three Americans are winners of an essay contest whose prize is to study at the Shakespeare Seminar, and the Italians are there for various reasons.

Kate, Tom, and Lucy have flown halfway around the world (not together, as they are from different parts of the country) and are excited for a summer in Italy! Kate’s father is a noted Shakespeare scholar teaching at the seminar, and they’re all staying in a villa owned by his chief rival, Francesca Marchese. Kate is suffering from a broken heart after a bitter breakup, and, as she is a very practical and sensible person, thinks that means love is not worthwhile. Her two best friends, however, think her heart will be thawed with the promise of a summer romance in Italy! Tom is not much of a scholar–his main interest is soccer (er, football, now that they are in Italy!). Lucy is a charming, bubbly Southern beauty who is absolutely swept away by the fact that she is in Italy!

Benno, Giacomo, and Silvia all live in Verona. The three teens come from different backgrounds, and are studying at the seminar for different reasons, and with entirely different attitudes about it. Benno is short, cheerful, and a hard worker who is always having to dash off to run an errand for whoever pays him. His best friend, Giacomo, is the handsome type all the girls fall for, but he never really cares about any of the girls always flocking to him. He flirts, has fun, breaks their hearts, and moves on. He is less than thrilled about having to study Shakespeare all summer, but his mother insists. Silvia is an angry beauty, lashing out at the world for various reasons that will later be revealed.

The six of them are thrown together for a summer of studying Shakespeare by acting it out and answering letters for the Juliet Club. Apparently, people all over the world write the fictional character for advice in romantic matters, and they are supposed to answer these letters. The study of romance is not limited to text and letters, however; there are some romantic sparks flying around in reality, too! And, of course, with that comes romantic mishaps and misunderstandings and all sorts of things that don’t go exactly as they’re meant to.

While this sounds like a lot of fun, and it is, I do think that perhaps Suzanne Harper has taken on too much with this novel. There are six main characters, but I don’t really think we get to know any of them. Kate is in the spotlight more than the rest, but still not very much. Because Harper has to divide the story between all six of them, their motivations and personalities, everything that makes a character seem real, is just explained rather than really shown–she takes the easy way out. As a reader, I didn’t feel close to any of the characters, and didn’t feel like I knew them well. They were not well-developed.

There’s some potential in this story, certainly. I do love books with fun settings, so a summer in Italy is perfect! However, this would have been a much better book if the author had focused on one of the couples, rather than all six characters, and let the reader really get to know them, switching viewpoints. This is making me wish for what might have been! With some changes, this could have been a great book rather than a mediocre one. Especially if the ending had been less tidy. Real life is rarely tidy.

The Juliet Club is enjoyable, but it could have been so much better. You might be better off checking this one out from the library rather than spending money on the hardcover, if you are so inclined to read it. It will be released in June.

Elizabeth Scott’s debut novel, bloom, is wonderful, so her fans will be expecting something pretty amazing to live up to that! Stealing Heaven will not disappoint. It’s amazing; I absolutely loved it, and I’m sure I won’t be alone when it comes out in May! Order your copy now!

Dani and her mother do not live a traditional life, not by a long shot. They travel around the country, making their living with burglary. They are master thieves. Every job is well-planned and well-executed. Every step is calculated. It’s the only life Dani has ever known. She’s never had a normal life, with friends or school or a boyfriend or anything.

When they get to the beach town of Heaven, it seems like it’ll be just like any other place. They’ll pick the best of the big houses sure to hold lots of silver (their item of choice to steal), scout it out, find an in, grab the loot, and take off. Dani’s mom will use her looks to her advantage somehow, maybe to secure them a place to stay or find some useful information. Dani will make no lasting, important connections with anyone. That’s how it always is.

Except Heaven might be different. Dani might have an actual friend. And then there’s the guy who won’t leave her alone (and who happens to be a cop!). She has to choose–the life she’s always known, or the life she’s always secretly dreamed of?

Elizabeth Scott is amazing at creating wonderful, believable characters. I love that despite Dani’s very unusual and interesting life, she is a very relatable character, who is dealing with some very normal teenage girl problems (and some less normal ones). Stealing Heaven is a well-written, absorbing book that grabbed me from the first page and refused to let go! I highly, highly recommend it.

Earthly Pleasures is written for an adult audience, but teens will enjoy it as well. It’s a fun, fresh, and funny book starring Skye Seabring, a greeter in Heaven. Skye’s job is to help the newly dead find their way in heaven, a place that is far from the pearly-gates-and-harps-and-clouds pictures we see sometimes in old paintings. It’s a lot like Earth, really.

One of Skye’s clients is a man named Ryan Blaine, who is only dead for a few minutes before he is pulled back to his earthly body. That should be the end of it–but it’s not. Skye can’t stop thinking about him, or watching him on Earthly Pleasures, a television channel in heaven that lets souls in heaven watch people on earth, anyone from celebrities to friends and relatives. She’s head-over-heels for a man in another dimension!

There are lots of other narratives going on on this story, too, besides Skye in heaven, but they all come together wonderfully by the end of the novel. Earthly Pleasures is an engrossing read, one that I absolutely couldn’t put down! It’s well-written and full of great characters. I loved Karen Neches’s envisioning of heaven and the workings of the universe, too. This novel is smart and enjoyable and highly recommended.