Review: A Crooked Kind of Perfect by Linda Urban


Title: A Crooked Kind of Perfect

Author: Linda Urban

Publisher: Harcourt

ISBN: 978-0152066086


May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Ten-year-old Zoe Elias dreams of playing a baby grand piano at Carnegie Hall. But when Dad ventures to the music store and ends up with a wheezy organ instead of a piano, Zoe’s dreams hit a sour note. Learning the organ versions of old TV theme songs just isn’t the same as mastering Beethoven on the piano. And the organ isn’t the only part of Zoe’s life that’s off-kilter, what with Mom constantly at work, Dad afraid to leave the house, and that odd boy, Wheeler Diggs, following her home from school every day. Yet when Zoe enters the annual Perform-O-Rama organ competition, she finds that life is full of surprises–and that perfection may be even better when it’s just a little off center.

What a fun book!  I have to stick with my unorthodox method of picking library books, because it seems to be working.  What attracted me to A Crooked Kind of Perfect?  I thought the colorful socks on the cover hinted at a playful story, and I was right!  Forgiving the truly terrible pun, Zoe is a ten (almost eleven!) year old with great big dreams.  She dreams of playing the piano in Carnegie Hall, and when she asks her parents to get her a piano, her dad comes home with an organ.  Not just any organ, but a Perfectone D-60. Though disappointed, Zoe begins taking lessons on her new instrument, and when she enters the annual Perfom-O-Rama organ competition, she makes some startling discovers about her family and herself. 

Zoe is such a great character!  Nothing in life seems to go her way, but she quickly learns to adjust and make the most of what she’s got.  Her dad is afraid to leave the house, so he spends his days taking classes at home.  He is afraid of everything – the weather, getting lost, running out of gas, other people.  Zoe has learned to accept his phobias, and the two of them run the house while her mom is out earning a buck.

Zoe’s mom is the rock of the family, but because she’s so busy with her work, she’s not around much.  There are times that Zoe resents her mom’s devotion to her job, but she keeps her disappointments to herself.  It’s when her mom has to work and can’t take her to the Perform-O-Rama that Zoe’s resentment bubbles to the surface.  Her dad can’t take her because he’s too scared to go outside.  What if they get a flat or a crazy truck driver runs them off the road?

What I loved about this book was how far everyone was willing to go to help each other out.  Everyone faces their fears and grows as a person.  Zoe, her dad, and her mom all go out a on a limb to make everyone happy.  Even Zoe’s friend, Wheeler, steps outside of his comfort zone to help turn Zoe’s dreams into reality.  This really is a feel good book, loaded with humor and very convincing character interaction.  Zoe isn’t perfect, and she knows it.  Her family isn’t perfect, and she accepts it.   She also discovers that even though she has to work hard for everything that she wants, achieving her goals makes all of the hard work worth the extra effort.

Grade: B+

Review copy obtained from the library

Under My Skin by Judith Graves YA Novel Review


Title: Under My Skin

Author: Judith Graves

Publisher: Leap Books

ISBN: 978-1616030001


May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

All her parents wanted was for Eryn to live a normal life… Redgrave had its share of monsters before Eryn moved to town. Mauled pets, missing children. The Delacroix family is taking the blame, but Eryn knows the truth. Something stalks the night. Wade, the police chief’s son and Redgrave High’s resident hottie, warns her the Delacroix are dangerous. But then so is Eryn–in fact, she’s lethal. But she can’t help falling for one of the Delacroix boys, dark, brooding–human Alec. And then her world falls apart. A normal life? Now that’s the real fairytale.

This was a fun read because Eryn is such a strong character.  Her life is hopelessly complicated, and she is dealing with a lot of issues.  Her parents have disappeared, and she doesn’t know if they are alive or dead.  She is half wolven, and she is afraid of giving in to the wolf inside of her.  Without her father’s potions to keep her inner beast in check, it is only a matter of time before it takes her over.  The thought of losing control terrifies her, so to keep herself from completely wigging out, she falls back on old habits.  Her parents were hunters, responsible for taking out rogue paranorms, and Eryn quickly learns that Redgrave, the hick town she’s been relocated to, has some deadly secrets of its own.

The action never lets up, as Eryn and her new friends try to keep a powerful vampire from taking over the town. There’s a great love triangle to heat things up, too, as Eryn is torn between Wade, the police chief’s son, and Alec, her comrade in arms.  Wade is sleek and seductive, and he shares a bond with Eryn that no one else ever can.  Alec is earnest and brave, and he would give his life to protect her.  The tension really crackles between all three characters, and I still can’t decide who would be a better match for Eryn.  Usually, there’s one guy that you like better, and you hope all novel long that they’ll get together.  This time around, I am torn.  I like both Wade and Alec, and I like the way sparks fly whenever they are with Eryn.

I enjoyed the look of this book, too.  There are interior illustrations that add a little eye-candy, and left me wanting a few more.  It also made me wonder why more publishers don’t add more artwork to prose novels.

I have to knock the grade down just a bit because of the non-ending.  I hate non-endings!  At least throw us a bone while we wait impatiently for the next installment of the series!  When I came to the end of Under My Skin, I grabbed the book by the spine and shook it!  Hard!  Why?  I was hoping to jar just a few more words loose!  It didn’t work.  It never does!

Grade:  B+

Review copy provided by publisher

Jekel Loves Hyde by Beth Fantaskey YA Novel Review


Title:  Jekel Loves Hyde

Author: Beth Fantaskey

Publisher: Harcourt

ISBN: 9780152063900


May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Jill Jekel has always obeyed her parents’ rules—especially the one about never opening the mysterious, old box in her father’s office. But when her dad is murdered, and her college savings disappear, she’s tempted to peek inside, as the contents might be the key to a lucrative chemistry scholarship.

To improve her odds, Jill enlists the help of gorgeous, brooding Tristen Hyde, who has his own dark secrets locked away. As the team of Jekel and Hyde, they recreate experiments based on the classic novel, hoping not only to win a prize, but to save Tristen’s sanity. Maybe his life. But Jill’s accidental taste of a formula unleashes her darkest nature and compels her to risk everything—even Tristen’s love—just for the thrill of being . . . bad.

Told by both Jill and Tristen through short, tension filled chapters, Jekel Loves Hyde gives an original spin on the classic tale of a man who turns himself into a monster.  In this case, Tristen, a descendant of Hyde, wants to rid himself of the monster lurking within him.  Jill is a descendant of Jekyll, and fate seems to have thrown the two of them together. 

Jill is a fragile, shy girl who absolutely dislikes confrontations of any kind.  After her father is murdered in a gruesome act of violence, she is left to care for her mother, who suffers from a nervous breakdown.  That’s a lot for a high school senior to deal with!  Jill is keeping it together, working hard on her studies and maintaining the dwindling finances at home when she suffers from another blow – she learns that her father had emptied her college saving account before his murder, and she has no money left to chase her dreams.  Her mom is barely making ends meet, and college is starting to look like another shattered dream in her already devastated life.

Enter Tristen Hyde.  He’s cool, popular, and has a very dark and dangerous side.  A monster lurks in Tristen, and it’s just bidding its time until it takes him over completely.  With his damned soul, Tristen is desperate to rid himself of the beast within, and he will do anything to stop it from taking over.  Even kill himself.  When a science contest throws Jill and Tristen together, they both have their own motivation for entering it.  Jill wants the prize money, and Tristen want to discover a cure to his curse.

This book worked for me because the characters are both so sympathetic.  Jill is like a leaf caught in white-water rapids – she just can’t assert herself or bring herself to break the rules, especially after her father’s murder and subsequent disgrace.  Her mother is skating on thin emotional ice, and Jill doesn’t want to be responsible for pushing her over the brink.  Tristen is desperate and afraid, terrified of the hidden monster that vies with him for control.  It is a constant struggle for him to not give in to the beast, and the conflict is gripping.  Both of their voices are distinct as their paths converge and they begin to work together to decipher the key to ridding Tristen of his inner demon.

Though the story is a little slow to ramp up, it soon gathers momentum that makes it very hard to put down.  I loved all of the twists and turns as the plot plowed steadily forward, gathering both Tristen and Jill in a web of danger and romance.  

Grade: B+

Review copy provided by publisher