Confessions of a Serial Kisser

Confessions of a Serial Kisser by Wendelin Van DraanenConfessions of a Serial Kisser by Wendelin Van Draanen
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Number of pages: 304
My copy: hardbound, birthday gift from Aaron

EVANGELINE LOGAN WANTS a kiss. A spectacular, heart-stopping, life changing kiss. Somehow The Crimson Kiss (a romance novel she’s become obsessed with) and Four Steps to Living Your Fantasy (a self-help book she’s reading) have fused in Evangeline’s mind and sent her on a quest for a kiss. But the path to perfection is paved with many bad kisses—the smash mouth, the ear licker, the “misser.” The phrase “I don’t kiss and tell” means nothing to the boys in her school. And worse: someone starts writing her name and number on bathroom walls. And worst of all: the boy she’s just kissed turns out to be her best friend’s new crush. Kissing turns out to be way more complicated than the romance novels would have you believe . . .

* * *

Wendelin Van Draanen is the author of one of my favorite books ever, Flipped. I love Flipped — I have read several times and pushed to several people and even cried while watching the movie. I never really got around to reading the author’s other works, until I got it for a gift. It took me another year to read it (just like my other books in my TBR, heh), and I thought it would be the right book to cleanse my palate over reading something a little bit more serious.

Evangeline Logan is a serial kisser — she knows it, and she justifies this because she wants one thing: a crimson kiss. The kind of kiss she read in the romance novel she found under her mother’s bed, a kiss that will turn her world around. So after a makeover, she goes to school and starts searching for that crimson kiss. How? By kissing boys of course. But it’s not turning out the way she expected it as rumors about her started spreading. As if that’s not enough, her best friend’s too busy and her two-timing dad is making a comeback. And she still hasn’t found her crimson kiss. What’s a serial kisser to do now?

Going into Confessions of a Serial Kisser by Wendelin Van Draanen and expecting it to be like Flipped was kind of a big mistake. I wanted to like this more, but a third into the book I was very annoyed with Evangeline. I’m definitely not the kind of person who would do what she did, but let’s be honest now: who would do such a thing? How could she expect that she’d find that perfect crimson kiss by kissing random boys — by random, I mean strangers too! All because of a romance novel?

Okay, that may be the entire point of the book — that you just can’t find a crimson kiss randomly — but Evangeline not expecting that she’d have a reputation after what she has been doing was just kind of naive. It’s like getting a pair sidi cobra boots: if you keep wearing them long enough, you’ll be known as the person who wears them. Evangeline reminded me a bit of Kelsey in Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters, but I would be a bit more forgiving with Kelsey if she had done what Evangeline did because she’s still pretty young. I had to double check what year Evangeline was already in (junior to senior? There was a mention of emancipation at some point in the book) because I thought her attitude was kind of too young for her age.

The chapters in this book are pretty short and they kind of remind me of my stories back in high school. It didn’t have the same fluid story like Flipped, and there were some plot points that felt a little too stretched out or a little too contrived. The guitar thing for example — where did that come from? Sure, she likes music, but the guitar thing just came out of the blue for me. Evangeline’s issues could have had more depth in it especially since I’m sure there are kids who are in the same situations, but I’m afraid it veered towards the shallow end with how Evangeline reacted with everything. And that boy who really liked her all along? I saw that coming a mile away.

That being said, though, there’s an overall lesson in the book that wasn’t that bad, really. The book touched a bit on communication and forgiveness, which was pretty nicely done in the end. Evangeline’s penance was hard enough, although I wish she wasn’t such a whiny girl about it. How her kissing issues connect with her home issues was also explained, and at least that gives an overall hopeful resolution for them. It’s just sad that by the time those things came, I didn’t care about any of them anymore.

Confessions of a Serial Kisser could have had a good story going for it, but in the end I was just pretty annoyed with the main character and there was too much going on that I was just relieved that it was over when it was over. It was pretty fun (and I use the term lightly) sometimes, but if you’re expecting something like Flipped… well, better lower your expectations.

Rating:

Required Reading: March

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He’s So Not Worth It

He's So Not Worth It by Kieran ScottHe’s So Not Worth It by Kieran Scott
She’s So/He’s So Trilogy # 2
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Number of pages: 360
My copy: ebook from Galley Grab

Ally Ryan, come on down to the Jersey Shore and forget your troubles!

Have you recently been humiliated in front of your friends and family at your former best friend’s birthday party? Was your almost boyfriend partly responsible for that humiliation by withholding some vital information about where your estranged father is? Did you come home to find said estranged father sitting on your stoop?

If so, then it sounds like you could use a vacation! The Jersey Shore is the place to be. Your mother may be living with her boyfriend of only a few months, but at least the stunt Shannen pulled has put some of your friends back in your court. Even so, you’re still angry and what better way to get over Jake than to blow off some steam with local guy, Cooper? People will hardly recognize your new attitude, but the old one wasn’t getting you anywhere, so who cares!

Jake Graydon, an exciting opportunity is waiting for you in the service industry!

Are your grades so low your parents have grounded you for the summer? Did you the girl you really like unceremoniously leave you behind? Would you rather eat dirt than see your friends again? Then a job at the local coffee shop is just the ticket! Surprisingly, Ally’s father is the new manager so you get to be reminded of her nearly every day. Maybe it’s time to start flirting with your best friend’s ex or even taking school a bit more seriously. Especially when you finally see Ally and she’s hanging around with some loser and it’s couldn’t be more clear that she is over you.

Have a great summer!

* * *

She’s So Dead to Us was one of my favorite reads last year. It was a different kind of contemporary novel, almost like a guilty pleasure because of how I was able to take a peek into rich kids’ lives. But more than that, I was able to sympathize with the characters, and the author made the villains three dimensional that I was curious to know their motivations. They weren’t just plain mean girls and boys — they were doing that because of something, even if it wasn’t fair for Ally. The ending of the last book was such a cliff hanger that I had no idea what could happen next, so I was positively thrilled when I saw that the next book, He’s So Not Worth It was available in Galley Grab.

Spoilers from She’s So Dead to Us up ahead.

Ally’s dad shows up again, exactly after she was embarrassed by Shannen during her birthday party. Ally was hurt, confused and angry, especially at Jake, who knew where her dad was all along. Now Ally is faced with a choice between an entire summer with the Cresties at the beach or with her dad in Orchard Hill (who isn’t being chased by debt collectors, thankfully). Jake is also having a miserable summer, as he not only lost Ally, but he was grounded for the summer. Instead of partying with his friends at the beach, he had to go to college classes and work for Ally’s dad. Ally ends up going to the beach just to avoid Jake, where she meets a cute local guy named Cooper. If only her mom wasn’t being such a pain, then maybe her summer would be at least better than she expected.

He’s So Not Worth It is still enjoyable in the sense that it was fun reading about the Orchard Hill Cresties and Norms. The setting was solid, and I was able to sink back into the world with no problem. I also loved that part of this was set in the beach — I haven’t been able to go to the beach this summer, so reading about beaches is the next best thing, I guess. This makes for a good beach read, with the infinite possibilities of summer for the reader and the characters.

Another thing I really liked in this book is the relationships of the characters. They’re far from perfect, but boy do they feel real. Just like in the previous book, I thought the group had their own personality other than the individuals. I liked how even if they’re not exactly friends anymore, somehow old ties bring them back together, even if it did not mean well for the other characters.

That being said, however, I felt that He’s So Not Worth It is not as gripping as its predecessor. As real as these characters and their dynamics felt, I was frustrated at all the stupid decisions they keep on doing. I know being young allows us to do them, but these kids in this novel just upped it. There is drama everywhere! I was constantly annoyed at Jake for his stupid and rash decisions. Ally was no better, too, and she was actually matching Shannen in the first book for the bitch factor. I think the only character that felt a little bit normal in the book was Annie, if you don’t count her field notes and Crestie- stalking (which was very entertaining, and helped readers see what Jake and Ally weren’t seeing). It almost felt like I was watching a Gossip Girl episode, which is enjoyable, but not in too much doses for me.

While this feels a little bit of a sophomore slump for the series, it did end in another cliffhanger, which makes me wonder what would happen next. I admit that I am still curious, so I will still read the next book. :) He’s So Not Worth It isn’t really disappointing; I just think it’s not as good as She’s So Dead to Us. I wonder how the author will wrap this series up — I sure hope there’s a happy ending somewhere down the road for Jake and Ally and everyone else.

Rating:

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Between Here and Forever

Between Here and Forever by Elizabeth ScottBetween Here and Forever by Elizabeth Scott
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Number of pages: 256
My copy: ebook from Galley Grab

Abby accepted that she can’t measure up to her beautiful, magnetic sister Tess a long time ago, and knows exactly what she is: Second best. Invisible.

Until the accident.

Now Tess is in a coma, and Abby’s life is on hold. It may have been hard living with Tess, but it’s nothing compared to living without her.

She’s got a plan to bring Tess back though, involving the gorgeous and mysterious Eli, but then Abby learns something about Tess, something that was always there, but that she’d never seen.

Abby is about to find out that truth isn’t always what you think it is, and that life holds more than she ever thought it could…

* * *

Totally honest moment? This is one book I judged by its cover — the sunflower on the cover called me the moment I laid my eyes on it. I squee over anything with sunflowers and stars (if it’s not obvious with my header image), so the giant sunflower on this cover is a big plus on me. I’m just not sure where this really fits in the story, though.

Between Here and Forever is a story of sisters and family. Abby has always lived under the shadow of her popular sister, Tess. Everyone loves Tess, and Abby never felt like she could measure up to her. So she lives in that way — always putting her sister first, always saying Tess is better, Tess deserves more, even after Tess gets into an accident that puts her in a coma. On a mission to bring back Tess, Abby involves Eli, the mysterious guy she meets in the hospital who visits Tess, the only guy who isn’t wearing nursing scrubs. But as Abby tries her hardest to bring Tess back, she finds out things that she never knew about her sister, the truth that she never even thought was possible for her beautiful sister.

Elizabeth Scott is kind of a hit-or-miss author for me. I really liked Stealing Heaven and Grace, but Perfect You and Bloom were just so-so for me. Unfortunately, Between Here and Forever fell in the “miss” category. It’s not that the story or the writing is bad — I just had a hard time relating to the characters or the story. I did think the characters were all fleshed out, especially Abby. I felt bad at how low her self-esteem was after living in the shadow of her sister, and I felt happy for her when she’s finally standing up for herself. And even in a coma, Tess’ presence was palpable in the entire story – which is the way is should be since the story is all about her too.

But maybe that’s why I had a hard time connecting with this. I only have an older brother, and I never really had close girl cousins that I could almost consider as sister. While I did have some inferiority issues back in high school with some close girl friends, it was never in the way that Abby was with Tess. Maybe it was just that, the lack of common ground that made me a bit distant with this novel.

So if you’ve read this and you have a sister — tell me, did this book feel more real to you? I’d like to know. But even if I didn’t like Elizabeth Scott’s newest release, I’m still going to read her other books. She’s one YA author who has grown on me. :) Did you see her next book? Not only is the cover curious, but the premise sounds very interesting, too.

Thanks to Simon & Schuster Galley Grab for the e-galley of this book. Now where can I find a sunflower that big without going to Baguio again?

Rating:

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BoneMan’s Daughters

BoneMan's DaughtersBoneMan’s Daughters by Ted Dekker
Publisher: Center Street
Number of pages:  410
My copy: paperback, bought from Fully Booked

Would you kill an innocent man to save your daughter?

They call him BoneMan, a serial killer who’s abducted six young women. He’s the perfect father looking for the perfect daughter, and when his victims fail to meet his lofty expectations, he kills them by breaking their bones and leaving them to die.

Intelligence officer Ryan Evans, on the other hand, has lost all hope of ever being the perfect father. His daughter and wife have written him out of their lives.

Everything changes when BoneMan takes Ryan’s estranged daughter, Bethany, as his seventh victim. Ryan goes after BoneMan on his own.

But the FBI sees it differently. New evidence points to the suspicion that Ryan is BoneMan. Now the hunter is the hunted, and in the end, only one father will stand.

* * *

He is called BoneMan and he is a father in search for a perfect daughter. He takes innocent teen girls and tries to make them love him and when they fail to be the daughter he wants, he breaks their bones without breaking their skin (or using a teflon hose). On the other side of the world, Ryan Evans thinks of himself as a failure of a father — after an especially harrowing abduction in the Middle East, Ryan comes home only to find that his wife and daughter had written him out of their lives. Then the BoneMan abducts his daughter, Bethany, and Ryan goes after him. Instead of helping him, though, the FBI finds evidence that points to Ryan as the BoneMan, and he becomes a hunted man. Desperate, Ryan Evans set out to go through hell just to save his daughter.

I’ve been a fan of Ted Dekker since I read Thr3e, which I think is also one of the first books I reviewed on my old blog. I liked the fact that he wrote Christian suspense and back then, I was having a hard time looking for books with the same themes. I meant to read more of his books but he writes and comes out with new books faster than I can get my hands on them and read them. I’ve had BoneMan’s Daughters for a while now but I never got around to reading it. I’m not sure why, maybe it’s because I was concentrating more on YA and chick lit instead of suspense. I did kind of look forward to reading this, thinking that it would be nice to go back to Dekker’s world.

True to form, BoneMan’s Daughters has everything that Dekker offers in his other books. Not that it’s repetitive, but it’s exactly what you’d expect in a Dekker book. There’s the psycho serial killer whose point of view we get a glimpse of every now and then, the father who would do everything to save his daughter, and the police who are willing to help but don’t really know what to do. In a way, it’s almost like reading a CSI episode — I can easily imagine Mac Taylor/Gary Sinise as Ryan Evans. Dekker is also still very descriptive, but not too much that it gets gross — just a tad disturbing, enough to make you look over your shoulder or wonder at the things that bump at night, or develop an aversion to Noxzema, in the case of BoneMan’s Daughters. It’s still very well-written and you know in the end that the good guys will still prevail.

That being said, however, I felt that this wasn’t really at par with the other Dekker novels I’ve read. I thought some parts were a bit repetitive and I wanted to skim some parts that felt a little unimportant to me. The ending wasn’t as satisfying as I thought it would be, either — and I felt that there wasn’t much change in the characters as there should be. The Christian concept wasn’t fully explored, too, IMHO, and you’d need to read the author’s afterword to know why he wrote the novel (that story, I loved). As good as the details were done in the emotional and brutal scenes, the overall story kind of lacked. In the end, I was just happy I finished reading it, not because it was such a good story.

I’m kind of sad that this latest Dekker read is kind of disappointing compared to his other books that I really liked. I will still read his other books, of course, and I’m hoping one of them will be as good (or even better) as Thr3e or the Circle series.

Rating:

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Playing Hurt

Playing HurtPlaying Hurt by Holly Schindler
Publisher: Flux
Number of pages: 312
My copy: paperback, passed on from the Playing Hurt Philippine Blog Tour

Star basketball player Chelsea “Nitro” Keyes had the promise of a full ride to college — and everyone’s admiration in her hometown. But everything changed senior year, when she took a horrible fall during a game. Now a metal plate holds her together and she feels
like a stranger in her own family.

As a graduation present, Chelsea’s dad springs for a three-week summer “boot camp” program at a northern Minnesota lake resort. There, she’s immediately drawn to her trainer, Clint, a nineteen-year-old ex-hockey player who’s haunted by his own traumatic past. As they grow close, Chelsea is torn between her feelings for Clint and her loyalty to her devoted boyfriend back home. Will an unexpected romance just end up causing Chelsea and Clint more pain—or finally heal their heartbreak?

* * *

When my good friend Kai asked me if I wanted to be a part of the Playing Hurt Philippine Blog Tour, I said yes because she told me that the book for the tour is a contemporary YA novel. It’s no secret that my first love for YA is contemporary, so a chance to read a new one from a highly-praised author is something that I won’t say no to.

In Playing Hurt, Chelsea Keyes is a basketball star in Fair Grove High School, up until her last game when a court accident finally made her hip give way, stopping her from playing the rest of the season. Fearful and broken with the metal plate on her hip in mind, she retreated to herself and her family, only relying on her romantic and supportive boyfriend Gabe to make her happy. That summer, her dad hires Clint, an ex-hockey player with ghosts of his own as Chelsea’s personal trainer for their 3-week vacation. Chelsea and Clint feel an instant connection the moment they see each other. As they grow closer, Chelsea and Clint wrestle with their own demons, wondering if their relationship will just cause more pain or heal their heartaches.

I jumped into Playing Hurt expecting to like it a lot, especially since I don’t think I’ve read about a jock for a heroine. I’ve also always liked recovering stories, especially those that deal with fear and yes, maybe a little romance. That’s the good thing about contemporary YA — it deals with real things, and I was looking forward to seeing how Chelsea’s story turns out. However, reading Playing Hurt enforces my new found belief that one shouldn’t read another contemporary YA novel immediately after reading a Melina Marchetta one. This causes a little bit of high expectations for the next novel I read regardless of the author. For that, I apologize in advance.

The novel started out pretty good, with Chelsea reliving her last game before her accident. I liked the smooth transition from the video to real life where instead of playing, we see Chelsea watching the game and wondering where her life has gone (you can read it in the excerpt here). I liked Brandon, Chelsea’s brother, even if I can’t shake the fact that he’s younger than his age, and not a high school sophomore. I also liked Gabe very much, with his sweetness and his concern for Chelsea especially after her accident. The initial set up was very good, and it made me want to know what will happen next.

However, the novel lost me the moment Chelsea and Clint met. I cringed at how they described each other as “perfection”, and how the air zinged when they were in the mere presence of the other. I’m sorry, I just don’t buy that. Maybe it’s possible, who knows, right? I just don’t really buy it — I want history in my fictional couples. I want banter. I want long conversations that do not involve the one person staring at the other and wondering if their knees “…as pink as the wads of cotton candy…” are just as sweet. Sorry, I can’t help but roll my eyes at that. I want the whole shebang — the getting to know stage, the simmering attraction that would eventually lead to the swoon-worthy, tingle-inducing scenes that would make me sigh and doodle hearts in every available space. I think this preference is obvious based on my track record for contemporary novels that I love.

I also wished that Chelsea’s other relationships had more resolution, especially for her father. I thought there was too much focus on the relationship that the other issues weren’t really tackled. I wished there was more conflict between Chelsea, Clint and Gabe, and that Chelsea and her dad had a longer and more heartfelt conversation. I felt kind of bad for the minor characters, particularly Kenzie, whose stories weren’t really explored because of the focus on Clint and Chelsea. It somehow made the main characters come off as selfish, wanting only what they want and nothing else.

I don’t really think Playing Hurt is a bad novel. I’m a minority among those who loved this book — it’s just okay with me. This novel may just not be up my alley, you know? That, and like what I mentioned up there, reading this after a Marchetta novel (especially something as lovely as Jellicoe Road!) tends to up my expectations. I knew I should have read another genre first before jumping into this one! I’m still open to reading Holly Schindler’s other books.

Rating:

Watch out tomorrow for an interview with Holly Schindler as part of the blog tour! Thanks to Kai of Amaterasu Reads for hosting this tour!

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