Books Reviews Young Adult

Book Review: Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters by Meredith Zeitlin

Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters by Meredith Zeitlin Synopsis:

“Laugh-out-loud funny high school drama – perfect for fans of Lauren Myracle and Meg Cabot

Let’s say you’re fourteen and live in New York City. You’d think your life would be like a glamorous TV show, right? And yet . . . You don’t have a checking account, much less a personal Black American Express card. You’ve never been to a club, and the only couture in your closet is a Halloween costume your mom made from an old laundry bag.

In other words? You’re Kelsey Finkelstein – fourteen and frustrated. Every time she tries to live up to her awesome potential, her plans are foiled. Kelsey wants to rebrand herself for high school to make the kind of mark she knows is her destiny. But just because Kelsey has a plan for greatness . . . it doesn’t mean the rest of the world is in on it.

Kelsey’s hilarious commentary and sardonic narration of her freshman year will have readers laughing out loud – while being thankful that they’re not in her shoes, of course.”

If I were a teenager today I would probably be a lot like Kelsey Finkelstein.  Or at least want to be her friend.  The fourteen year old heroine in Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters, by Meredith Zeitlin is an endearing young lady with an acerbic wit and a knack for laughing off embarrassing moments.  To be sure, Kelsey has a healthy sense of her abilities and what she wants out of life; but not in a bad way.

Unlike many teen heroines, Kelsey does not seek the company of a vampire.  Nor does she use her acerbic wit to verbally attack anyone, unless they deserve it.   Kelsey has never killed anyone, nor has she covered up a murder.  She is not ruthless in her social climbing and doesn’t secret off to an unknown parallel universe.

What Kelsey does do, is get herself into embarrassing situations, much like any normal fourteen year old would.  Kelsey also dreams about boys, dates boys, talks about dating boys, talks with her besties about boys and disobey her parents (to see boys).

I like Kelsey. You can’t help but like her.  Zeitlin infuses the character with just enough positive self esteem to allow the character to laugh at her own flaws but not become so self absorbed that she has no room to consider other’s feelings.  I also like Kelsey because she’s Jewish.  While not so blatantly New York Jewish, like Fran in The Nanny, she’s enough to make her a positive multicultural character.

I would like to have seen a little more of Kelsey’s Jewish customs in the story, other than the quick mention of helping the family write Chanukah cards and a brief mention of cousin Lainie’s upcoming Bat Mitzvah. I feel as if exploring these details a little further would give Kelsey a little more depth, but that is merely my personal preference.

Cheers to Zeitlin for providing a protagonist that appeals to young women of other faiths and ethnicities.  Zeitlin’s Kelsey made me chuckle out loud.  She also reminded me not to insist on too many “mother-daughter” moments because that would be Typical Lame Parent Behavior.

Need an additional laugh? Check out the trailer!

I give this book 4 paws!




*DISCLAIMER: I received this book from the publisher to assist in my review. All opinions are my own.*

Stay tuned for my SPECIAL interview with Meredith Zeitlin! woo hoo!

Books Children


Welcome to Day 10 of the SECRETS, SPIES & SHERLOCK BLOG TOUR, featuring two exciting new middle grade mystery series: Sherlock, Lupin & Me: The Dark Lady by Irene Adler and Secrets & Spies: Treason by Jo Macauley. Each stop on the 2-week tour will feature fun posts and a chance to win a set of finished copies of the books!  Today’s post features Treason by Jo Macauley.
Meet the Cast of Treason
Movie Dream Cast
Source: Nick Step

BETH JOHNSON – Shailene Woodley
Actress extraordinaire at the King’s Theater and, unbeknownst to her admiring audience, a much-valued spy. Tall and beautiful with chestnut-brown hair and green eyes, Beth has risen from lowly depths as a foundling abandoned on the steps of Bow Church to become a celebrated actress and talented espionage agent.

SIR ALAN STRANGE – Steve Buscemi
Tall, dark, and mysterious, spymaster Alan Strange seeks out candidates from all walks of life, spotting the potential for high-quality agents in the most unlikely of places. Ruthless but fair, Strange is an inspiration for his recruits and trains them well.

Former street urchin Ralph has led a rough-and-tumble existence, but his dark beginnings have their uses when employed in his role as one of Sir Alan Strange’s spies, working in the service of the King.

JOHN TURNER – William Moseley
Junior clerk at the Navy Board, handsome John imagines himself in more daring, adventurous circumstances, and he soon has the opportunity when he meets Beth Johnson and becomes part of her gang of spies.

SIR HENRY VALE – Cillian Murphy
Criminal mastermind and anti-King conspirator, Sir Henry Vale was supposedly executed by beheading in 1662 for his attempt to take the King’s life — but all may not be as it seems…

Source: Justin Hoch

EDMUND GROBY – Timothy Spall
Squat, swarthy, and with one ominous finger missing from his left hand, Groby is a relentless villain and loyal henchman. He hates the monarchy and all it represents and will stop at nothing to prevent the gang from derailing the King-killer’s plans.

Source: Gage Skidmore

MAISIE WHITE – Willow Shields
A young orange-seller at the theater where Beth works, Maisie has been taken under the older girl’s wing. She knows nothing of her friend’s double life as a spy.
Enter below to win a copy of Treason and get to know this cast of characters, as well as a copy of The Dark Lady by Irene Adler!
***Today is the last day of the Secrets, Spies & Sherlock Blog Tour, but many of the giveaways are still open so stop by the blogs below for more chances to win!***
Secrets, Spies & Sherlock Blog Tour Schedule:
February 24th: The Dark Lady at The Write Path
February 25th: Treason at I Read Banned Books
February 26th: The Dark Lady at Buried in Books
February 27th: Treason at Loves2Read
February 28th: The Dark Lady at Akossiwa Ketoglo
March 3rd: Treason at GeoLibrarian
March 4th: The Dark Lady at Bookshelf Banter
March 5th: Treason at Candace’s Book Blog
March 6th:  The Dark Lady at Through the Looking Glass
March 7th: Treason at Unconventional Librarian

Personally, I’m loving Peter Pettigrew (Timothy Spall)!
About Secrets & Spies: Treason by Jo Macauley:
Fourteen-year-old Beth Johnson is a talented and beautiful young actress. She is also a spy. The year is 1664, and Charles II is on the throne, but all is not well in the bustling city of London, and there are those who would gladly kill the king and destroy the Monarchy. One morning, a mysterious ghost ship drifts up the Thames. Sent to investigate by the King’s Master of Secrets, Alan Strange, Beth quickly finds herself embroiled in a dangerous adventure. Will Beth be able to unravel the plot to kill the King before it’s too late?

About Sherlock, Lupin & Me: The Dark Lady by Irene Adler:
While on summer vacation, little Irene Adler meets a young William Sherlock Holmes. The two share stories of pirates and have battles of wit while running wild on the sunny streets and rooftops. When Sherlock’s friend, Lupin, joins in on the fun, they all become fast friends. But the good times end abruptly when a dead body floats ashore on the nearby beach. The young detective trio will have to put all three of their heads together to solve this mystery.

Wanna enter HERE AND NOW?? Here’s how. Go to the Rafflecopter link and enter to win. US only please (sorry Canada).

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Katrina by Elizabeth Lorraine

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Entering the courtyard of the Watcher compound, I found three of my brothers, Thomas, Simon, and Avery, seated around the roaring fire. The smell of venison and red cedar firewood made my mouth water and I realized I hadn’t eaten since yesterday. I needed to take my own advice and have a meal.

The food brought back to mind what had just happened with Katrina. The thoughts made my heart race and shortly my it pounded so loud, I felt certain everyone in my compound could hear it. I saw something different in the way she looked at me and I was sure it wasn’t just because I had yelled at her. Was the fact I’d cut myself and let her feed directly from my wrist, the reason that she saw me differently? After all, I had never had to hand-feed her before. But since she hadn’t awakened until afterwards, she didn’t know I had given her blood from my arm, or that she had actively engaged in a direct feeding.

I knew of course, it was strictly forbidden for a Watcher to give blood directly, but when she fainted she was clearly in danger of dormancy, so I acted. My only thought at the time, was getting fresh blood into her as quickly as possible. As my knife opened the vein on my wrist, the scent made her nostrils flare and the same instinct that kept vampires alive for centuries kicked in. She grabbed my arm and began to feed. The movement was so swift and powerful I wasn’t sure I could have stopped her even if I’d wanted to.

The feeling I had while she was feeding could only be described as pure euphoria, and only the sound of my brother coming up the stairs made me break the bond. I quickly carried her to a side room to recover. “Break the bond.” Why had I thought of it that way? Was that it? Had that short feeding changed everything between us?

I calmed as I began my meal. I needed to fortify myself since my brothers and I would be giving and storing blood for our charges for the trip.

Although Baron Von Dracek would surely hunt along our journey, in the event there was no game available in the high country, the added availability of Crimson would definitely be needed. Nothing gives strength to a vampire like the human blood in Crimson.

As I sat by the fire, my oldest brother, Gunter, approached.

“We missed you at training today,” Gunter told me gruffly. “Don’t let it become a habit. None of us can be the weak link.”

I was the youngest of seven brothers, something the other six never let me forget.

It was exciting to think I would now have a chance to prove myself on this journey. As Katrina’s Watcher, I was bound to protect her no matter what might happen, even to the point of giving my life for hers, something our family had done for generations.

“Quinn,” Gunter started to pace, “Only four of us will accompany the Baron and Katrina on this trip, and I’ve decided you are too young and untried in battle to be one of the four.”

I jumped to my feet, pulled my sword, with anger I didn’t know I possessed, looked Gunter straight in the eye and through clenched teeth I yelled, “I dare any of you to try to keep me from my duty. Nothing is going to stop me from going on this trip, including you, Gunter. If you have any doubts, let us settle them here, and now.”

Gunter gave Thomas a surprised look, and slowly rose from the seat he had just taken by the fire. Looking around at the others, he shrugged, “All right, little brother, let’s see what you’ve learned.”

As I backed into the open part of the courtyard, Gunter drew his sword and we prepared to fight. The fire reflected off our blades and made them seem to jump in our hands, as we circled first right and then left. Gunter lunged, his sword held high. When moments before I felt tired and weak, I was now invigorated by both my anger, and the thought my brothers would try to leave me behind.

I countered Gunter’s move, our swords sparking once, twice. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see servants and my other brothers gathering. Guards were now yelling encouragement from above.

“That’s it, lad, don’t let Gunter push you about!”

Gunter was strong, but I was fast and that easily made up for his extra years of training. I had always been a quick study and even before I was allowed to train with my brothers, I had mirrored the movements made during their mock battles, over and over again. Although Gunter had trained all of us, his eyes showed surprise at my proficiency; and at something in me he hadn’t seen before- pure rage. The rage brought an adrenalin surge that made me stronger, quicker, and more alert. We fought across the compound. Then Gunter made a mistake, and I seized my chance. As he lunged, I easily jumped aside. As he whirled by me, I whacked him on the back of the head with the hilt of my sword.

Gunter grunted, turned, and charged. I ducked his blow. Too late Gunter realized his mistake; his momentum had brought him closer than he wanted. With the new-found power of my anger, I hit him hard in the gut with my fist. Gunter bent over in with a gasp of pain and shock, and as I backed away, the now crowded courtyard erupted in cheers and laughter.

“I guess your little brother showed you a thing or two, Gunter,” a guard shouted from above.

Gunter raised his head, his hands still on his knees, and yelled, “Don’t you all have work to do? Be gone, morning comes quickly!”

Still breathing hard, I remained in attack stance, ready to continue if I must. The adrenalin still rushing though me would enable me to take on all of my brothers, one-by-one if I needed to. I would not be denied. The coming journey was my destiny, now more than ever.

Gunter slowly stood and put his sword back in its scabbard.

“Well, little brother, you’ve learned well and I have obviously misjudged your skill. You have just earned the right to join us. So it will be the two of us, plus Thomas and Simon on this journey. Be ready, we leave before dawn.

EXCLUSIVE: Interview with Elizabeth Lorraine!

Bio picture

1. How long does it take you to write your books?

E.L.: Usually four months.

2. Do you like to have the book finished before submitting it for publication?

E.L: I publish them myself, so yes I do.

3. If you were not writing, what would you want to be doing for a living? What are some of your other passions in life?

E.L:  Interior design. I am a decorative painter and I always have loved that.

5. Have any authors been particularly influential to your writing process?

E.L: Being a vampire lover, I love Anne Rice. But I have to say that Hans Christian Andersen really started fascination with fantasy. I loved his stories as a kid, I still do.

6. Have you written any poetry?

E.L: I would love to, but I’m really bad at it.

7. What is the biggest challenge you face as an author?

E.L: Marketing is the biggest challenge. I think most authors would agree.

8. Do you have any specific writing rituals?

E.L: I have to have sound on, usually the television. Having it quiet drives me crazy.

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