Friday, February 24, 2012

The Fine Art of Truth or Dare by Melissa Jensen

Ella Marino knows three things to be true. One: Edward Willing, a skillful painter, is meant to be her everlasting soul mate. Two: Edward Willing has been dead for almost a century—and not in the sexy vampire way. Nope, he’s dead dead. Three: Ella Marino has more chance of getting a date with the late Edward Willing than she has of being noticed by the living, popular, and possibly nice, Alex Bainbridge.

Unless Ella happens to be taking French . . . and failing it, which she is. Apparently, being an Italian-American does not give Ella mad French skills as her French teacher wishes to believe. And unless Alex just happens to tutor French, which he does (must be all those summers abroad). Then maybe they have a chance.

The Fine Art of Truth or Dare has so much worthwhile humor. Ella’s thought process, family stories, and seemingly useless knowledge make the book. After reading The Fine Art of Truth or Dare, I am convinced that everyone deserves a crazy Uncle Ricky to continually audition for Top Chef. Uncle Ricky doesn’t play a big role, but his mentions in The Fine Art of Truth or Dare make the reader feel at home in the incredible Marino family. Ohh that Ricky . . . life just wouldn’t be the same without him.

But the humor is also one of the reasons why I give this book four stars instead of five. As the official opposite of a pop culture junkie, The Sopranos, “Freddie Krueger,” and other pop culture references make no sense to me. (But, seriously, who is this . . . “Freddie Krueger?”) Pop culture junkies, rejoice: your vast understanding of vague television and movie references will finally be put to good use. The references aren’t enough to make the book unreadable to non-pop culture fans, but by the sixth random television reference I was starting to feel a little annoyed.

Ella Marino is not a normal character, but she’s odd in a good way. How many YA main characters are there with a love for fine art and an aptitude for truth or dare? NONE. I love reading about a main character who is still pretty normal, but has his or her own unique hobbies and loves. I was happily surprised by Ella’s amazing family—no overused absentee parents here. All members are present and loving. Also over-the-top funny. Ella’s superstitious grandma’s speeches are probably my favorite parts in the book. I love her family’s differentness from other families I read about.

I grant The Fine Art of Truth or Dare four figstars.

This review may also be found on

Friday, February 10, 2012

Book titles

       I judge books based on their titles. When people ask me what I’m reading (that rarely happens, but in this case I’m going to pretend I’m inquired about that daily), I want to say, “Oh, yes, I am currently reading Straw House, Wood House, Brick House, Blow by Daniel Nayeri (I bought the book after lovingly memorizing the title. I couldn’t manage to finish the first chapter, but reading the title aloud still fills me with unspeakable joy. Bad books shouldn’t be allowed to tease people with good book names).” I do not want to say, “yup, girrlzz, I’m totes in the middle of The Death of Dark Blood’s Kiss by Made-up StupidName.” There isn’t a book with that exact embarrassing-to-be-seen-reading name, but after much random Google searching I have discovered a book by the name of Born of Blood and Retribution, the third book in The Dark Kiss Trilogy by Liz Strange. Born of Blood and Retribution may be a positively lovely tale of birthing, blood, and the retribution against the birthing of the blood; in fact, in Goodreads averages it four stars. Because of the name, I will never know.

        I’ve made two lists, one for my top five favorite types of book titles and top four most dreaded types of book titles. My lists are in order of the worst of the best book titles to the best of the best. I wish more list makers would do that; it adds wonderful suspense. (“Ohhh if THAT was his/her worst best favorite title then what is his/her SECOND worst best favorite title?!” Please do not tell me I am alone on loving that.)

5. Books with random words that don’t normally go together.

Examples: Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma or The Twin’s Daughter by Lauren Baratz-Logsted

The words “imaginary girls” isn’t something anyone hears or thinks too often... unless you happen to possess multiple imaginary girlfriends. Then those words may enter your consciousness quite often. If you are not a proud owner of multiple imaginary girlfriends or the happy daughter of a twin, the words are new and interesting. I think I made up and memorized a song to the tune of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” where the only lyrics were, “The imaginary girls are the twin’s daughters.”

4. The “of” books.

Examples: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor, The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson, Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John

I don’t have a reason for liking “of” books except I like the fancy ring to it. “Salutations, uneducated one. You may refer to me as the Duke of Awesome”

3. Good name books

Examples: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin or The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson

This can also be considered a category of “of” books, but since I am also going to have another category of bad name books later, I thought this was appropriate. Right off a character and the characters defining thing is clear. I immediately know from the start that, hey, this chick’s name is Mara Dyer and this book is about her intriguing process of unbecoming.

2. Known phrases of cool on books

Examples: Drink, Slay, Love by Sarah Beth Durst or She’s So Dead to Us by Kieran Scott

Hmmm... Drink, Slay, Love. Wonder where I’ve heard that before... Eat, Pray, Love. OHHHH. THE CLEVER IS OVERCOMING MEE. It just feels good to see something familiar once in a while.

1. Dependant clauses or phrases as titles

Examples: If I Stay by Gayle Forman, or Between the Sea and the Sky by Jaclyn Dolamore

This is where I go all ninja and use my ninth-grade grammar skills on y’all. (Side note: Isn’t it pathetic that I’ve only started learning the most basic grammatical things in 9th grade? And only the most basic skills. I’m sure my posts are still ridden with vague grammatical crimes against nature.) It’s fun to ask “what” sometimes. What does happen if she stays? Does she turn into a butterfly? Eat brown guacamole? What is between the sky and the sea? Dirt? Hand sanitizer? I may never know. Unless, of course, I read the book.