Saturday, October 31, 2009

Prom Crashers, Erin Downing

This was another cute (I always write that but its because so far it has always been true) Simon Romantic Comedy. I like that I have a stockpile of these to turn to when I am having an emotional breakdown (thankfully, not the current situation) or when I am dying of a childhood infectious disease as an adult (sadly, the case today).

I did like Erin Downing's Drive Me Crazy better than this one though. Drive Me Crazy had more well developed characters. Prom Crashers felt like a screwball comedy- which isn't really a bad thing.

I was seriously relieved on the last few pages because near the end I was worried the story was taking a "hooray for being single, I don't need a man" stance that I can't support in fluffy teenage fiction. No one wants to read a story where the girl ends up alone... especially when you are reading books about teenagers while hacking up a lung on Halloween night. Luckily, this book ended with a perfect & cheesily romantic prom night.

Something Borrowed, Catherine Hapka

This was entertaining and cute and seriously fluffy. But the good kind of fluffy not the stupid kind. The only part that was difficult for me to suspend my disbelief about was how many, many, many guys this girl had in her little black book. Let alone how many guys she had as friends, former boyfriends, flirty acquaintances, attractive co-workers, etc to pick from. It was insane how many potential wedding dates she had. I do realize that was the point and main substance of the plot but it was pretty out there in wish fulfillment land for me to wrap my brain around. Maybe that is just a revealing statement about the lack of beaux in my own life. But all in all a very cute book!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Remember Me, Sophie Kinsella

I read the Shopaholic books back in college (and that makes me feel weird that I have been out of college long enough that I can use that phrase meaningfully) and I really enjoyed them.

I like how Trashionista sums this one up:
"The incomparable Sophie Kinsella's latest stand-alone novel is an utterly believable suspended-belief story with endearingly drawn characters which I defy anyone not to want to devour in one sitting. From the first page you'll feel a part of Lexi's life and be urging her to find the answers she so passionately needs to start piecing together her missing years."
This book was funny and believable. I really did read it in one sitting. And I am officially too tired to think any thoughts worth typing.

Scary Beautiful, Niki Burnham

Another book read on the plane. I liked this but not as much as How Not to Spend Your Senior Year. The writing was good but I felt like the story was more about mean teenage drama than fun fluffy teen romance. I was fine with the story line but did find the ending weak. Maybe its just personal experience with mean teenage girls but I don't think they are that quick to forgive and move on. I would have liked to read more about Chloe and Billy than Chloe and her BFF's.

How Not to Spend Your Senior Year, Cameron Dokey

I read this on the plane over the weekend coming back from.... Disneyland! The Simon Romantic Comedies are perfect airplane reading in addition to being perfect stress relief reading.

This one was a particularly strong one. I was really impressed with Cameron Dokey's writing. And I liked the clever story line. I really don't know what I'll do when I reach the end of these books.

The Household Guide to Dying, Debra Adelaide

I have mixed feelings about this book. First the positive: I loved the sections about Delia's love of reading. Debra Adelaide is at her best when writing about reading. These are the passages I marked and dogeared. And I liked them enough to make up for all the things I didn't like about this book.

What I didn't care for: The narrative skips around to about 3 different stages of Delia's life with no helpful hints as to which time period you are reading. This got really confusing the farther I got into the book and it was irritating to be several pages into a chapter thinking you were reading about Delia the happily married lady to realize you were reading about Delia the young single mother. This could have been avoided with simple chapter headings indicating the time.

Another issue I had with this book is how depressingly sad it was. I knew I was getting into heavy subject matter but I think I was hoping more for the "life-affirming" feelings promised on the cover blurb. I was not in the right mood for so much sadness.

And then there is the whole making blood sausages with your OWN BLOOD for your family to eat after you die. You know so they can feel your love... through your blood. And that's right you weren't planning to tell them about this. They could just innocently eat sausage that their dead mom left in the freezer unaware that they were really dining on her blood. I really don't have words for that kind of weirdness.

But it does sum up why I didn't really like Delia or relate to her. The fact that this idea sounded like a good one to her is enough to illustrate why I don't get her.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Chapbook Entry: The Household Guide to Dying

"I'd always thought that this soft margin between winter and summer could never be cruel. But now I was as bitten by cruelty as the poet was. Spring is the time of hope.Of inspiring songs and rousing actions. Of possibility,of anticipation, of plans. People emerge from winter after tolerating autumn's capricious start to the season, and know that if spring has arrived then summer isn't far away... Spring is the time of action, of cleaning, of revolution." (p.3)

"...innumerable books, many of them excellent, a lot of them trashy but wonderfully so..." (p.7)

"I tasted the smaller atoms of life in those few quiet moments, drinking tea and waiting with the chickens before the rest of the world raised its head." (p.10)

"What I needed, more than anything, were books.... Surrounded by books, I felt safe, secure." (p.46)

Monday, October 19, 2009

Borrower of the Night, Elizabeth Peters

This book really made me happy- it was suspenseful, witty, funny, and clever all at the same time. It reminded me of The Daughter of Time in a way with the whole solving a mystery from hundreds of years in the past thing. I've had Elizabeth Peters on my list of authors to check out for a long time and I'm glad I finally did.

I loved Vicky Bliss. She is hilarious and reminds me of Emily Deschanel's character on Bones- very aware of how beautiful & intelligent she but still in need of reassurance. Vicky is by no means as socially awkward and needy as Bones but she comes close.

This book also had an awesome first paragraph:
"When I was ten years old, I knew I was never going to get married. Not only was I six inches taller than any boy in the fifth grade- except Matthew Finch who was five ten and weighed ninety-eight pounds- but my IQ was as formidable as my height. It was sixty points higher than that of any of the boys- except the aforesaid Matthew Finch. I topped him by only thirty points... If there is anything worse than being a tall girl, it is being a tall smart girl." (p.1)

Vicky is a great narrator and the book is full of funny lines:

"She had fought time with some success, but the signs of battle were visible; the keen blue eyes were set in folds of waxy, crumpled flesh, and her neck had the petrified scrawniness older women get when they diet too strenuously... she looked the way a dowager countess ought to look." (p. 67)

"A girl my size needs her nourishment..." (p.126)

"Stay put tonight. That's an order."
I nodded. A reflexive movement is not binding legally." (p.192)

"Allow me then to assume my trousers."
Tony and I went out into the hall while the trousers were assumed."(p.204)

Its always comforting to find a new author who writes so satisfyingly. Its strangely calming to me knowing that there are is a whole stack of more Elizabeth Peters books out there waiting for me. To my mind the only thing that could improve Vicky's adventures is for a dash more romance in the next installments.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Hush, Hush, Becca Fitzpatrick

I really liked this one. I was actually surprised by how much I ended up liking it because I had read some negative reviews. So the whole time I was reading I kept waiting for something to bug me... and happily nothing did.

I thought the premise was clever. I liked Patch and Nora. My only complaint about Nora's friend Vee was that I didn't like how she discounted Nora's fears- that seemed a little un-best friend ish but then again maybe Vee is the kind of character who would have been killed first in a horror movie because she didn't see the obvious danger lurking in front of her so I don't know. And I liked Patch's obnoxious comments- I thought they were funny.

I am really excited that there is another book coming out about these characters too. It was very enjoyable, entertaining, suspenseful, and most importantly for me- stress relieving.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Nineteen Minutes, Jodi Picoult

I've never read any of Jodi Picoult's books before and wasn't quite sure what to expect. After reading Columbine and The Hate List earlier this year I somehow heard about Nineteen Minutes.

I feel like this book is made for a book club discussion because it brings up such a wide variety of issues. It is a really densely packed book with lots of characters and time jumps backwards and forwards. There is a lot going on and I was impressed with Jodi Picoult's ability to keep things moving along without getting muddled.

What I liked:
-the focus on Peter's (the shooter's) mother, Lacy. This was the thread that had the most interest and in some ways the most sadness to me. Speculating about how life would be for someone in this situation was painfully compelling. At one point she asks her husband "What was Hitler's mother named?"
-the fact that at least one of the worst bullies got skewered on the witness stand for being so sadistic to Peter for years was pretty satisfying to read. Many of the victims in this shooting were truly horrible, nasty people. Lots of reviews I've read mention that in some ways this story has you sympathesizing with Peter over his victims.

What I Really Didn't Like:
-the twist ending- I am just not a fan of books that like to pull a gotcha in the last chapters and change everything. For me it took away from the main impact of this book: understanding what could motivate someone to commit a crime like this. By introducing the whole Josie angle it felt very tv movie of the week to me. That is what I closed the book thinking about and being irritated about instead of remembering what happened to Peter and what he did.

There really is way more going on in this book than I have the brain power or energy to write about at the moment. I am genuinely surprised and impressed by Jodi Picoult's writing ability. There were moments when her style got a little too flowery for my taste but overall I liked it.

It was hard not to spend the day thinking about bullying, especially being surrounded by kids. Another teacher and I talked a bit about it and the scary thing is how powerless you can feel even as an adult and an authority figure in a school. I honestly don't know what teachers can do to help in bullying situations short of shadowing the children constantly which is impossible. Kids who are determined to hurt other kids usually find a way. Luckily for me I work in such a small school where we know all of the kids. I've definitely never witnessed or heard about anything approaching the experiences Peter had in his elementary school (in fact the stories from his elementary school days were the hardest for me to buy into because of that fact).

Cover Thoughts:
The top cover is the one I have and it is my least favorite. I don't know whose hands we're looking at. Initially I though maybe just some random traumatized teenagers but by the end I'm wondering if it is supposed to be Josie & Peter... but that doesn't seem very realistic to me.

The middle one is the British cover and while I like the nostalgic look back to Josie & Peter's childhood, the overall feel is too cutesy for a book about school shootings.

The bottom one is from Australia and is my favorite. I wish it was the version I had. The dark colors of the lockers and the small, waifish teenage boy on the cover look so much more appropriate to me.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Drive Me Crazy, Erin Downing

I am going on Day 5 of being sick which is making me start to panic for next week... I have to be back to school with the babies no matter what which is really a horrible experience when I feel like this.

Fortunately I have a gigantic back log of Simon Romantic Comedies in my possession to see me through. This is the first Erin Downing I have read and I loved it. She is up there with Jennifer Echols in my opinion. I'm really excited to read her other titles.

I loved Adam and especially the ending with Rachel chasing after him. I thought this story was a great blend of cute & fluffy with a realistic relationship between Rachel & Adam. And I loved the very cute epilogue with the whole locker thing. This is now one of my favorites in the series (I feel like I want to say "line" instead of "series" like its a fashion line or something... hmmm)

Friday, October 9, 2009

Dark of the Moon, Rachel Hawthorne

I still maintain that the first book in this trilogy was the strongest... it is just on a different level of quality than this one & book #2. I did enjoy this story but it was definitely a high-fluff bordering on meh read for me. I think that Kayla's story in book #1 is so much more intense because there is an element of mystery and suspense about her new friends... once you know the secret its harder to care quite so much.

The part of me that is having a hard time handling stress & tension lately was relieved that there wasn't any major angsty heart fail going on once the big reveal happened in this one. It was kind of refreshing that Connor didn't care once he knew...

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Give Up the Ghost, Megan Crewe

I liked this one... it had an interesting different take on the "I see dead people" theme. For a book with supernatural elements the emotions were realistically drawn. As a former teen outcast myself (don't worry, Nora, I giggled when typing that line) I felt like Cass's storyline and anger were pretty accurate. Maybe I was ripped off by not getting to terrorize my fellow students with my ghost whispering secret knowing powers...

And I always like a book with a satisfying ending which this one has.

Love Off-Limits, Whitney Lyles

Ahhh... another relaxing Simon Romantic Comedy. I love the books in this series & I find it really interesting that even though they are written by different authors who all have different voices & styles all of the books I have read have been the absolute perfect blend of fluff and entertainment in a non-insulting to the reader way. In some ways they remind me of the cozy/gentle mystery genre... the stories are all different but you know what you are in for in terms of the reading experience. Sometimes that is just what I need- somewhere non-stressful to go to mentally (usually while mermaiding it up in the bathtub).

I am going to be really sad when I have read all of these books- they better keep writing more! This one was particularly fun because I love Halloween and fall in general plus who doesn't love the (always fictional) problem of multiple nice guys in your life that you have to choose from. I want to read more of Whitney Lyles... she reminds me of Jennifer Echols which is a very good thing.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Devoured, Amanda Marrone

Here comes another new blog category: creepy.

I liked this book. It was perfect Sunday afternoon, stricken with the first cold of the school year, bathtub reading. But the story was pretty creepy for me and my pansy gross out threshold. I always enjoy twists on fairy tales and this book does quite a number on the Snow White story with an emphasis on the woodsman who was supposed to cut out Snow White's heart plot thread.

I also liked the descriptions of the goth-pseudo-Disneyland amusement park that Megan ends up working at. I could totally envision the Hansel & Gretel ride... which might be why I found this story so creepy- it was all described quite vividly.

Whip It, Shauna Cross

So this book inspired a new blog category: bleh. Meh is for books that are irritating but don't really raise my ire. Bleh is for books that I am actively feeling irritated about.

Last weekend we saw a sneak preview of the movie version of this book. It was completely awesome. I loved that the characters were real, belieavable, fully fleshed humans. They were not stereotypes or cariactures. Even when they were angry at each other you could tell that this family loved each other. I could keep praising the movie (it's hilarious, the music is amazing, it made me miss my roller skate obstacle course days with Katie, etc).

So after seeing the movie for the second time this weekend I saw the book and thought it would be a fun read. Especially when I realized that the author was also the screenwriter for the movie. I was wrong. In the book Bliss is incredibly unlikable. Shes whiney, self-righteous, and just plain annoying. The book is full of obnoxious asides and I just felt like Bliss was icky. I wasn't rooting for her at all. In the movie I loved that she found a place she fit it in doing something she loved and found a way to have good relationships with her family and best friend too.

In the book the ending is really rushed feeling and I just didn't buy it. I'm really glad I hadn't read the book before seeing the movie because it would have kept me from seeing it and I LOVE the movie.

The Ex Games, Jennifer Echols

I love Jennifer Echols in a big way. Her book Going Too Far is one of my favorites from this year and I might have even read it more than once...
I loved her previous Simon Romantic Comedies and was so excited to see The Ex Games on the shelves a few weeks ago (I get a special thrill when books are out before their release dates and then I wonder why I'm able to remember release dates for upcoming YA titles in the first place).
I can happily report that The Ex Games is just as enjoyable as her previous books. I have to say Going Too Far is my favorite still with The Boys Next Door in second place but there is something comfortably reliable about her books. I like knowing that I can trust an author. Jennifer Echols is the perfect blend of happy-fluff meets realistic situations which equals a relaxed and entertained reader.

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