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Review – Dirty Little Secret – Jennifer Echols

dirty little secretDirty Little Secret
Author: Jennifer Echols

Review Copy Provided by Publisher via Edelweiss

Description:
I was being given the chance to do the one thing I wanted most in the world. The chance was presented to me by a guy so gorgeous, he turned my skin to fire when he touched me. And joining a band was the one thing I was most forbidden to do, the thing that would ruin my future forever.

There are too many secrets in eighteen-year-old Bailey’s life. Not just the obvious one: that she told her grandfather she was going on a date, and instead is playing fiddle in a Nashville bar. There’s all the stuff that makes it worse. Like how her younger sister, Julie, was offered a recording contract, and her family is terrified that Bailey is going to mess the deal up. Like the way that Bailey has been acting out. Like the way they’re all mad at her, even Julie.

Bailey’s parents don’t want her playing any gigs at all, but when they leave her with her grandfather in Nashville for the summer so they can tour with Julie, he lands her a music job that’s beneath the radar, playing old country songs in cheesy costumes at a local mall. That’s where she meets Sam. . . .

Review:
I have to admit that I primarily requested/downloaded this book because I fell in love with the cover. It just was to me, eye-catching. You could tell by looking at it, that the story behind it was going to be interesting – so many different elements – the violin, the picture of two people kissing…I wondered how it was all going to play out. And I’m pleased that say that it was well-worth it. In this case, the picture on the cover lived up to the story in the book (it is always disappointing when it doesn’t…).

It was also nice to see a young adult/new adult romance (since it kind of falls into both worlds), where there wasn’t a root story that involved rape (attempted or occurred); molestation; kidnapping etc. But rather, an almost normally, albeit slightly screwed up family. Sure Bailey probably got the wrong end of the stick and I felt back for her – but it was nice to see some semblance of normalcy.

I will have to admit though, that the blurb available on the authors website (as well as Amazon and other book-related ones), basically gives away the entire story. For what its worth, I edited out what you see here so it was shorter. Which is kind of disappointing…there wasn’t really that much mystery into how everything was going to play out…I wish that cover designers would go back to a more limited description, so that there is some surprise to the story…but back to the story.

The romance that developed between Bailey and Sam was sweet (there isn’t really any other way to describe it). It is definitely a book that I would recommend for older teens, because there are scenes that involve sex that would make it inappropriate for the younger people in the age group. But there was also some teenage angst (I mean, what would a YA romance novel be without the angst ;) ). But it wasn’t overdone, it felt more believeable than some of the scenarios that I have read about in different books.

This was my first book by Ms Echols, and it definitely won’t be my last. I think I have two more by her waiting on the pile at home. I gave Dirty Little Secret a solid 4 stars.

 
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Posted by on June 5, 2013 in Book Review

 

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Audiobook Review – My Awesome/Awful Popularity Plan – Seth Rudetsky

the audies

awful awesome popularity planMy Awesome/Awful Popularity Plan
Author: Seth Rudetsky

Narrated by: Seth Rudetsky, Andrea Burns, Paul Castree, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Josh Gad, Ana Gasteyer, Megan Hilty, Marc Kudisch, Will Swenson, James Wesley
Run Time: 5hr and 15 minutes
Produced By: Audible, Inc

Description:
Justin has two goals for sophomore year: to date Chuck, the hottest boy in school, and to become the king of Cool U, the table in the cafeteria where the “in” crowd sits.

Unfortunately, he has the wrong look (short, plump, Brillo-pad curls), he has the wrong interests (Broadway, chorus violin), and he has the wrong friends (Spencer, into Eastern religions, and Mary Ann, who doesn’t shave her armpits). And Chuck? Well, he’s not gay; he’s dating Becky, a girl in chorus with whom Justin is friendly.

But Justin is determined.

In detention one day (because he saw Chuck get it first), Justin comes up with a perfect plan: to allow Becky to continue dating Chuck, whom Becky’s dad hates. They will pretend that Becky is dating Justin, whom Becky’s dad loves. And when Becky and Justin go out on a fake date, Chuck will meet up with them for a real date with Becky. Chuck’s bound to find Justin irresistible, right? What could go wrong?

Review:
One thing I have loved about listening to books nominated for the Audie Awards is that it made me find authors that I had never before read and narrators I had never before listened to. And in the case of My Awesome/Awful Popularity Plan, I got a double dose – with a new author, plus getting to listen to his narration/interpretation of his characters. I got to also listen to the fabulous narration by Megan Hilty (who stars in my favorite, although now cancelled show, SMASH – boo hoo). I think I spent almost the entire time chuckling at Justin’s antics. He was the epitome of the high school geek. I have to wonder how much of the book was based on the author’s experiences. There seemed to be a sense of realism that doesn’t always appear in books (that, or he never truly left his teenage years…).

To say where the plot put forth by Justin was insane, would be an understatement…I couldn’t wait to see what would happen next. It was like listening to a comedy of errors as the school-year progressed. Rudetsky managed to pack nearly a full-year of high school trials and tribulations into a relatively short book (I mean, the audiobook was just over 5 hours long). I enjoyed the various narrators who participated in the book. I thought that the director found the right blend of youthful innocence and snarky humor in their voices. I also appreciated the fact that at the beginning of the book, the various narrators were introduced and the characters that they were portraying was mentioned. This really helped me be able to put a voice to a character rather than all of the various narrators blending together. This, to me, is something that I have discovered to be important in multi-narrator books.

I gave My Awesome/Awful Popularity Plan a solid 4 stars and I know that I will be seeking out more books by the author in the future.

 
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Posted by on May 14, 2013 in Audiobook Review

 

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Review – UnWholly – Neal Shusterman

unwhollyUnWholly
Author: Neal Shusterman
Series: #2 in the Unwind Trilogy

Description:
Thanks to Connor, Lev, and Risa—and their high-profile revolt at Happy Jack Harvest Camp—people can no longer turn a blind eye to unwinding. Ridding society of troublesome teens while simltaneously providing much-needed tissues for transplant might be convenient, but its morality has finally been brought into question. However, unwinding has become big business, and there are powerful political and corporate interests that want to see it not only continue, but also expand to the unwinding of prisoners and the impoverished.

Cam is a product of unwinding; made entirely out of the parts of other unwinds, he is a teen who does not technically exist. A futuristic Frankenstein, Cam struggles with a search for identity and meaning and wonders if a rewound being can have a soul. And when the actions of a sadistic bounty hunter cause Cam’s fate to become inextricably bound with the fates of Connor, Risa, and Lev, he’ll have to question humanity itself.

Review:
Sometimes there are books that just stick vividly in our minds and even a year or so after reading it – you can recall what happened in certain parts. For me, Unwind, the first book in this trilogy was like that. So I was excited to see the second book come out late last year…I pre-ordered it and everything…and then it sat, gathering dust on my bookshelf. I wanted to read it, but was too scared to, for fear that my memories of Unwind, would be ruined by a not so good second installment (I mean, it had been like 4 years since Unwind came out). Reviews among my friends were split – some loved it, others found it ok, but the majority of the reviews had the word BUT in them…like something was missing and that was concerning to me. However, I finally sucked it up and read it (or I think devoured might be a more appropriate description).

But moving on – the one thing I really liked about UnWholly was how it took the same issue, but looked at it from a wider perspective. While Unwind really focused on the micro-issues of the kids who were subjected to being Unwound, Unwholly focused on them, as well as society. I liked the touches of written ads (very similar to those we see during elections) campaigning both for and against unwinding and the various “groups” who were contributing for/against it. There was also a lot more history involved in this installment.

Plus, Shusterman introduced Cam – who might be one of my favorite characters in the series so far. He is the complete opposite to an Unwind – someone that has been created from parts of kids that were unwound. It was kind of freaky (for lack of a better word)…but he was certainly intriguing.

I can’t wait to read the third book in the trilogy that is due out later on this year and see how he ties up all the bits and pieces. Overall, I gave UnWholly a solid 4 stars.

 
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Posted by on May 7, 2013 in Book Review

 

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2013 Armchair Audies – Multi-voiced Performance

Armchair Audies

Since I finished up my first category of nominations for the 2013 Armchair Audies (romance) and there was still a month and a bit before winners are to be annouced (sometime in May, I finished my category up in mid-April). I decided to take a look through the other categories and find one that no one was writing on and see if I could fit those books in prior to the announcement of the winners. I was surprised to see that there were several categories not being represented, and so I opted to do the Multi-Voice Performance Category. This is something totally new to me, I have listened to books with multiple narrators before (normally 2 or 3 – or in the case of The Help, 4). But never to the extend of the books that are being recognized in this category.

The nominations for this category are:
Dracula by Bram Stoker
Narrated by Alan Cumming, Tim Curry, Simon Vance, Katherine Kellgren, Susan Duerden, John Lee, Graeme Malcolm, Steven Crossley, Simon Prebble, and James Adams

My Awesome-Awful Popularity Plan by Seth Rudetsky
Narrated by Seth Rudetsky, Andrea Burns, Paul Castree, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Josh Gad, Ana Gasteyer, Megan Hilty, Marc Kudisch, Will Swenson, and James Wesley

October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard by Lesléa Newman
Narrated by Emily Beresford, Luke Daniels, Tom Parks, Nick Podehl, Kate Rudd, and Christina Traister

The Privilege of the Sword by Ellen Kushner
Narrated by Ellen Kushner, Barbara Rosenblat, Felicia Day, Joe Hurley, Katherine Kellgren, Nick Sullivan, and Neil Gaiman

Suddenly, a Knock on the Door: Stories by Etgar Keret
Translated by Nathan Englander (translator), Miriam Shlesinger (translator), and Sondra Silverston (translator)
Narrated by Ira Glass, Willem Dafoe, Ben Marcus, Gary Shteyngart, Michael Chabon, Neal Stephenson, Nicole Krauss, and Josh Radnor

That Is All written by John Hodgman
Narrated by Dick Cavett, Patton Oswalt, Jon Hamm, Paul Rudd, Sarah Vowell, Brooke Shields, Scott Adsit, Robin Goldwasser, Jonathan Coulton, John Roderick, Rachel Maddow, Wyatt Cenac, Stephen Fry, Paul F. Tompkins, and Prominent Ragnarok Denier Dr. Elliott Kalan

Initial Thoughts:
It was interesting to see the wide variety of genres presented here, from the classic Dracula to a book of poetry (October Mourning). I was also interested to see that for two of the books, the authors played a role in the narration. I’m looking forward to broadening my reading boundaries and listening to these books.

multivoice narration nominees

 
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Posted by on May 1, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Review – City of a Thousand Dolls – Miriam Forster

city of a thousand dollsCity of a Thousand Dolls
Author: Miriam Forster
Series: #1 in the Bhinian Empire

Description:
An exotic treat set in an entirely original, fantastical world brimming with deadly mystery, forbidden romance, and heart-stopping adventure.

Nisha was abandoned at the gates of the City of a Thousand Dolls when she was just a child. Now sixteen, she lives on the grounds of the isolated estate, where orphan girls apprentice as musicians, healers, courtesans, and, if the rumors are true, assassins. Nisha makes her way as Matron’s assistant, her closest companions the mysterious cats that trail her shadow. Only when she begins a forbidden flirtation with the city’s handsome young courier does she let herself imagine a life outside the walls. Until one by one, girls around her start to die.

Before she becomes the next victim, Nisha decides to uncover the secrets that surround the girls’ deaths. But by getting involved, Nisha jeopardizes not only her own future in the City of a Thousand Dolls—but her own life.

Review:
When I first started to read City of a Thousand Dolls, I was reminded in part of the Kushiel series’ by Jacqueline Carey. There was something about Nisha that reminded me of Phaedre – the idea of the abandoned girl finding her way in the world and eventually knowing where she belongs. I also liked the idea of the city being the place where the abandoned children are sent. It made me wonder, in places like China, where there is a limit on how many children families can have, what would have happened, if children couldn’t be adopted or what to do with them. So it was an interesting take on a problem that I see could easily occur in the world in the future.

I have to admit that the reveal for the ultimate mystery was a bit of a disappointment – I had the potential suspects narrowed down to three, early on in the book, so for me it was more of a confirmation rather than a reveal. This was a bit disappointing for me – I was hoping for some out of the blue antagonist – even the ultimate actions of the main characters were fairly obvious as to what was going to happen. However, the world building was intriguing, I definitely want to read more in the series when the books are released. Overall, I’d give it 3.5 stars, but rounding up to 4.

 
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Posted by on April 12, 2013 in Book Review

 

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Review – Sanctum – Sarah Fine

sanctumSanctum
Author: Sarah Fine
Series: #1 in the Guards of the Shadowlands series

Description:
“My plan: Get into the city. Get Nadia. Find a way out. Simple.”

A week ago, seventeen-year-old Lela Santos’s best friend, Nadia, killed herself. Today, thanks to a farewell ritual gone awry, Lela is standing in paradise, looking upon a vast gated city in the distance—hell. No one willingly walks through the Suicide Gates, into a place smothered in darkness and infested with depraved creatures. But Lela isn’t just anyone—she’s determined to save her best friend’s soul, even if it means sacrificing her eternal afterlife.

Review:
Its times like this, that I am thankful for recommendations from friends on Goodreads – because I can say for certain that I would never have found this book, let alone read it, without their recommendation. I am still conflicted over my final star-rating, but it has the potential to be one of my first 5-star reads for the year (and yes, I know its already 3 months into the year…) At first I was skeptical how the theme of youth suicide would be handled, especially when mixed with a fantasy type world – but I felt that the author managed to walk the fine line pretty well. It wasn’t until I looked at her biography and realized that she was a child psychologist that I realized why she did it so well – it (youth suicide) is obviously a topic that she is passionate about and has done research about/likely worked with children who have been affected by it.

It did raise a lot of thought-provoking ideas – most religions, if not all, have a form of heaven – but how many of them address whether people who commit suicide end up there – are they buried on un-consecrated ground (like the Catholic church) or what happened? And is there anyway for them to move from where they end up to heaven for real. I know that I had never really considered any of it until reading Sanctum – which to me is a sign of a great book.

However, about 2/3 of the way through, it did start to hit a bit on the teenage angst that was fustrating – I think the book would have automatically been a 5 star without that, and from how it ended, I have to admit that I am a bit concerned about where book 2 in the series is going to go…hopefully it will stay clear of the total teen angst/love triangle that seems to be so prevalent in a vast majority of YA books recently…Right now, I think I am going to give it 4.5, but rounding down to 4 on the Goodreads scale.

 
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Posted by on March 26, 2013 in Book Review

 

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Review – Keeping You A Secret – Julie Anne Peters

keeping you a secretKeeping You A Secret
Author: Julie Anne Peters

Description:
With a steady boyfriend, the position of Student Council President, and a chance to go to an Ivy League college, high school life is just fine for Holland Jaeger. At least it seems to be. But when Cece Goddard comes to school, everything changes. Cece and Holland have undeniable feelings for each other, but how will others react to their developing relationship? This moving love story between two girls is a worthy successor to Nancy Garden’s classic young adult coming out novel, Annie on My Mind. With her characteristic humor and breezy style, Peters has captured the compelling emotions of young love.

Review:
Holland Jaeger is the girl who by all appearances has it all – the girl that everyone wants to emulate. But life isn’t always as simple as that, especially when she discovers that she is gay. Suddenly her whole life changes in the space of an afternoon – the loss of family and friends, of all that is known to her was written in such a way by Ms Peters that it was terrifying and yet this is what many GLBT youth go through when they come out. I felt for Holland, I got teary-eyed when everything in her life started to change, and yet at the same time, when she picked herself up and said screw it to everyone, I cheered for her.

I felt that the author did a good job of exploring not only the teenage psyche (am I or aren’t I? what is going on?) as well as society’s acceptance/non-acceptance, and the different facets within (family, friends, school community, GLBT community). You (or at least I) could tell from the writing that this was something near and dear to the author’s heart, and that it was something that she likely had experience in. Which was confirmed when I finished the book and read her letter to the readers. She discussed the idea of writing a coming-out book and what risk it was to her and her partner, and the fear of what it might incite. Stuff that was similar to events in the story itself. You can easily see why this book was not only a Lambda Literary Award Finalist in 2003 (losing to Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan) and an ALA Stonewall Honor Book (an award given by the American Library Association every year for GLBT books). I know that I will most likely be looking for more books by this author in the future to try. Overall, 4 stars.

 
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Posted by on February 28, 2013 in Book Review

 

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Audiobook Review – The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate – Jacqueline Kelly

calpurnia tateThe Evolution of Calpurnia Tate
Author: Jacqueline Kelly

Narrator: Natalie Ross
Run Time: 9hrs and 1 minute
Publisher: Brilliance Audio

Description:
Calpurnia Virginia Tate is eleven years old in 1899 when she wonders why the yellow grasshoppers in her Texas backyard are so much bigger than the green ones.With a little help from her notoriously cantankerous grandfather, an avid naturalist, she figures out that the green grasshoppers are easier to see against the yellow grass, so they are eaten before they can get any larger. As Callie explores the natural world around her, she develops a close relationship with her grandfather, navigates the dangers of living with six brothers, and comes up against just what it means to be a girl at the turn of the century.

Review:
I have to admit that I probably would have passed over this book, if it hadn’t show up on a random book list that I was browsing one day, and then that it was readily available via audiobook from the library – so I didn’t have to wait on it. I don’t know why it is, maybe because the name in the title just made me want to chuckle and not take it seriously. Either way, if I had, I would have missed out on a brilliant YA book – it was totally worth the listen and I can see why it was nominated for the Newbury Award, even if it didn’t win.

I was immediately sucked into Calpurnia Victoria Tate’s (or Cally V’s) story – she is kind of how I imagined I would be if I had grown up at the turn of the 20th century – not wanting to be what was expected of me (a housekeeper, enjoying sewing etc), but rather wanting to play outside, into science etc. I thought that the author did a job of portraying the world how it was then – the idea that as 1900 rolled around the world might end (does this sound familiar?), the introduction of coca-cola and even the invention of the automobile. Cally’s grandfather definitely made the book all the more enjoyable – in all seriousness, he was a comic relief when needed but could also be serious as well. I loved how he was so absorbed in his own world that he often forgot what was going on around him.

There wasn’t anything really earth-shattering about how the story concluded – in fact, it was a relatively logical progression through-out and you could see how it was unfolding. I did like how the use of evolution in the title could be applied in two different ways – the study of evolution as with the grasshoppers and use of Charles Darwin’s Origin of Spieces but also the evolution of Calpurnia as a woman and a person – how she changed over the course of the 7 months that the book covered.

I love Natalie Ross as a narrator of audiobooks, she is rapidly becoming a go-to person for me. But it was funny when I first started listening to the audiobook because I had just listened to another book narrated by her recently (less than 2 months ago) and I kept hearing the voice of Dani (from Iced) in my head, because they were both young female characters between the ages of 12 and 14. I hadn’t really noticed this previously and it didn’t really bother me, just intrigued me that I could hear similarities in voice patterns even though one was an urban fantasy and the other a historical fiction. I can’t say much more about the narration – I loved how Ms Ross was able to provide so many different inflections to bring the characters to life – especially with the minutia of sounds that are part of life, but don’t necessarily show up in dialogue – like hiccups (there is a relatively memorable scene featuring these), burps etc. I’m sure I would have enjoyed it as much if I read it, but listening added a whole new dimension. It would be a great audiobook to listen to with kids on a car trip because it would suck them in (hopefully).

Anyone who loves historical fiction and YA should read or listen to this book. I give it 4.5 stars.

 
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Posted by on January 6, 2013 in Audiobook Review

 

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Deja Vu Review (4) – Childhood Favorites and Banned Books

The Deja Vu Review is a weekly meme hosted by Brittany at The Book Addicts Guide. Its an opportunity to revisit old books you might have read before you launched your blog, but that you think should maybe still be highlighted.

A book that reminds you of your childhood

With this week being Banned Books Week and many books from my childhood showing up on the list I thought I would take the opportunity to post a few of them. Growing up, I was lucky enough to have a mother that let me read pretty much anything I could get my hands on (even romances), and I remember all the trips we used to take to the local library when I was growing up and moving from the children’s section, to what at the time was a very limited YA section, to the adult section (I still remember discovering Danielle Steele when I was in my early teens…lol!).

1. Anything Judy Blume

When I hit my teenage years, I pretty much devoured all the Judy Blume books that I could get my hands on. Are you there God, It’s Me Margaret, Deenie, Tiger Eyes, Blubber – I found something in these books that I could relate to. It was surprising to me, when I looked not only at the Banned Book list from 1990-1999, but also 2000-2009, that books by Judy Blume still appeared. Many of her books have been out 30+ years now, but there must be something scary in think (snerk) to make them still show up. It will be interesting to see, now that Tiger Eyes (one of my favorite books by her) has been made into a movie, whether it makes it back onto the list.

Judy Blume’s books have also stood the test of time. Just last year, in one of the various reading challenges I do, we were asked to read some childhood favorites, so I took it as an opportunity to listen to Tiger Eyes and Are You There God, Its Me, Margaret. And I still found myself laughing hysterically hard at the “we must, we must, we must increase our bust” section.

2. Bridge to Terabithia – Katherine Paterson
Katherine Paterson’s classic about two friends and the world that they create for themselves – I had a place that I used to go and hang out with, luckily none of my friends ever died like in the book. But there was something so innocent about Jess and Leslie’s relationship. I didn’t realize that this was on the banned/challenges list until last year when I was doing some reading on Banned Books week – cited reasons include the promotion of the use of vulgar language (because damn and hell is said); the showing disrespect to adults and then the ultimate death of a main character. Here is a link to a really good blog detailing some of the challenges to the book – Bridge to Terabithia

3. The Witches – Roald Dahl
I loved pretty much all of Dahl’s books growing up – prior to discovering Judy Blume, he was one of my favorite authors (and I just recently discovered that he has several books of short stories for adults available – heaven!). While not exactly one of my favorites, I remember the enjoyment of reading the Witches and just a few years ago, watching the movie that was released. The following journal article takes a look at some of the controversy surrounding The Witches – it is a bit dense, but an interesting read

There are so many other books that I would love to mention here, but my blog post would then go on and on and on, and no one wants that right?

What about you guys – What books remind you of your childhood (banned/challenged or not)?

As a bonus at the end of the week, I’m going to collect all the names of people who have commented and throw them in the drawing for some kind of prize (yet to be determined).

 
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Posted by on September 30, 2012 in Deja Vu Review, Reading Events

 

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Recommend A…Book By A Debut Author

Kiss the Morning Star – Elissa Janine Hoole
Amazon Children’s Publishing – May 15, 2012
Harcover – 240 pages

Purchase from Amazon Kiss the Morning Star (Hardcover) or Kiss the Morning Star (Kindle – or you can borrow for free as part of their Kindle Lending Library)

The summer after high-school graduation, a year after her mother’s tragic death, Anna has no plans – beyond her need to put a lot of miles between herself and the past. With forever friend Kat, a battered copy of Kerouac’s DHARMA BUMS, and a car with a dodgy oil filter, the girls set out on an epic road trip across the USA. Maybe somewhere along the way they’ll prove or disprove the existence of God. Maybe they’ll even get laid . . .


All I can say after finishing this book was, oh gawd, was I that awkward and idiotic as a teenager…well, actually, they weren’t that bad – but looking at them through the eyes of someone over a decade older than they were, I felt like if they were my kids, I never would have trusted them on a cross-country trip. But that being said, their idiocy and naivity in parts, is what made it a fun and cute read. Plus I just love the cover. Although it isn’t disclosed on the book jacket, it should be pointed out that there is some same gender relationships that develop – this didn’t bother me, but it did take me a bit by surprise, so you are warned

 
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Posted by on August 20, 2012 in Recommend A...

 

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