Friday, June 17, 2011

Beauty Queens

Title: Beauty Queens

Author: Libba Bray

Pages: 390

Rating: *****

Summary (from Goodreads): From bestselling, Printz Award-winning author Libba Bray, the story of a plane of beauty pageant contestants that crashes on a desert island.
Teen beauty queens. A "Lost"-like island. Mysteries and dangers. No access to email. And the spirit of fierce, feral competition that lives underground in girls, a savage brutality that can only be revealed by a journey into the heart of non-exfoliated darkness. Oh, the horror, the horror! Only funnier. With evening gowns. And a body count.

Review: When I first heard about this book, I knew I had to read it. Libba Bray is a brilliant writer, and the moral of this story is definitely one we need to share in our society that is so focused on looks.
I don't think I truly understood what a satire could be before I read this book, which is 100% satire. From the product names to The Corporation's slogans ("Because there's nothing wrong with you...that we can't fix"), I was almost gagging. Obviously we aren't to the level the country is in this novel, but we are certainly headed in that direction. The standards of beauty are constantly being set higher and higher, especially for women. When does it stop?
I found I didn't have a favorite character in this book. What I enjoyed the most was following each girl as she either found herself or accepted herself for who she was, not what her parents or The Corporation or anyone wanted her to be. I also liked how it was strictly focused on girl power--yes, the hott pirates come in for a little bit, but they don't save the damsels in distress (quite the opposite, actually...). This story is not a romance book--it's a story of female empowerment and fighting society's expectations of beauty.
When most people think of feminism, they think of the extremists (don't we always immediately define a sanction by the extremists?), burning bras and whatnot, but the story of this book shows the true definition of feminism--girls breaking out of their shells to realize they can be whoever they want to be. Their worth in the world doesn't depend on their dress size or if they have a crown or not. I'm not trying to say guys aren't held up to ridiculously high standards as well (there is some objectifying of the hot pirates, I'll admit), but it seems more strict with girls.
With its kick-ass themes, sparkle, snakes, pirates, and satire, Beauty Queens is a memorable, moving book about the true meaning of beauty. And isn't the cover awesome?!

Recommended for: anyone really, but probably teen girls for the most part.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


Title: Vixen

Author: Jillian Larkin

Pages: 421

Review: ****1/2

Summary (From Goodreads): Jazz . . . Booze . . . Boys . . . It’s a dangerous combination.

Every girl wants what she can’t have. Seventeen-year-old Gloria Carmody wants the flapper lifestyle—and the bobbed hair, cigarettes, and music-filled nights that go with it. Now that she’s engaged to Sebastian Grey, scion of one of Chicago’s most powerful families, Gloria’s party days are over before they’ve even begun . . . or are they?

Clara Knowles, Gloria’s goody-two-shoes cousin, has arrived to make sure the high-society wedding comes off without a hitch—but Clara isn’t as lily-white as she appears. Seems she has some dirty little secrets of her own that she’ll do anything to keep hidden. . . .

Lorraine Dyer, Gloria’s social-climbing best friend, is tired of living in Gloria’s shadow. When Lorraine’s envy spills over into desperate spite, no one is safe. And someone’s going to be very sorry. . . .

Review: Will someone please build a time machine to take me back to the 1920's?? Please?

After a slightly slow beginning, Vixen sucked me in and didn't let go. The drama! The jealousy! The flappers! I simply couldn't get enough! Have any of you guys seen Chicago (the movie)? It reminded me of that story in some points (especially at the end, which I won't give away here, but trust me), but waaay better. And speaking of the end, um WOW! THERE's a twist if I ever saw one! But I'm going to shut up now.

I felt almost as if each of the girl's stories could have been almost individual novels, but they were so tightly woven together that having each side the the story added depth and intrigue to the novel. Each girl had a different view and different life experiences, and thus each girl offered a different vantage point on the situation they all shared.

For once, my favorite character in a romance novel wasn't the male lead--it was Gloria. She knew her obligations, and she knew how much was riding on her. But she also knew how much she wanted a different life. And once the reader sees the reality of her predicted future, you have no choice by to pray she can somehow get the life she wants--but how?! Clara is a close second, and then come the boys.

Oh, the boys. Another reason I think I'm a teenager in the wrong decade. Be it Marcus, the suave ladies' man who happens to be Gloria's best friend, or Jerome, the icon of Gloria's forbidden life, the boys in this novel kick butt. They are tough, but smooth; sharp, but kind. But the 1920's were the years of women--more specifically, the flappers.

This book awoke my lifelong dream of being a flapper. I know, I know, smoking kills and is terribly disgusting and drinking in excess is never wise, especially as a teenager--but the dresses! The hair! The Charleston! I want to be that rebel woman with the devil-may-care attitude with the pearls and short dress. So, please, that time machine?

Recommended for: historical fiction junkies and romance lovers

The sequel, Ingenue, comes out August 9, 2011!!!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

What Happened to Goodbye

Title: What Happened to Goodbye

Author: Sarah Dessen

Pages: 402

Rating: ****1/2

Summary (from Goodreads): In the past two years, Mclean Sweet has moved four times. At each stop, she assumes a new persona, but it never quite works. Whether she's an effervescent cheerleader or an intense drama queen, nothing can permanently dispel the turmoil and rage at her mother since her parents' divorce.

Review: Not the best summary there, my dear Goodreads. What Happened to Goodbye cannot be described in two sentences.

Sarah Dessen has done it again. FINALLY she has released a new book, and it has lived up to the hype. Her writing is once again flawless and gorgeous. It draws me in until I can't put the book down! Honestly, she inspires me as a reader and a writer.

Now, I finished WHTG approximately 45 minutes ago, so I'm still processing. Please excuse any ramblings in this review, as my thoughts are still fresh and unrefined.

This book left me with a very different taste that I am used to from Sarah Dessen--it reminded me in some ways of Lock and Key, in which the male protagonist, Nate, has just as many secrets and issues to work out as the female lead, Ruby. This makes sense, as Sarah Dessen named Dave and Nate the "oddballs" of her love interests in this article...that apparently no longer exists. Sorry about that. But Mclean and Dave's relationship is similar to that of Ruby and Nate in that they aren't an obvious couple--they just kind of meld together to the point where you know they love each other, and they know it, and they know the other person loves them, but they don't feel the need to announce it.

Anyway, Mclean is a fabulous protagonist. Who hasn't ever wished they could start over and be someone else? Especially if you know it's only temporary. I know I have, and I'm looking forward to the opportunity to start over in a sense at college in the fall. However, Mclean's various personas are her way of hiding from what's going on in her real life, her Mclean life. That is, until she moves to Lakeview. She makes friends, real friends this time, to her own amazement. For once, she doesn't want to leave. She's actually being herself, and she doesn't want to risk losing the people who actually like her for who she is, not who she claims to be.

Let me just say that I loved the basketball references in this book. Basketball is basically my life, so I could relate to Mclean's near-obsession with her father's alma mater. I feel like basketball is often an underrated sport in this country, so it was quite nice to have it addressed as a "religion", the way of life for most of Mclean's new gang (which is ironic, since she's moving around to get away from the implications of the basketball world...but that's beside the point).

To those who have read Dessen's other novels, have you noticed a trend among the mothers? There is always a riff between the protagonist and her mother in some way. My friend pointed this out to me after Along For the Ride, and now What Happened to Goodbye has followed suit. Perhaps this is just supposed to generally reflect the stereotypical mother-daughter problems of teenage years. However, Sarah Dessen's books never strike me as stereotypical. Thoughts?

Maybe because I read it so fast, or maybe because I'm still processing, but What Happened to Goodbye didn't have the WOW factor I've found in Dessen's other books, like Just Listen and Along for the Ride. Maybe because I could relate to those girls' stories more that Mclean's broken family life. I don't know. HOWEVER! What Happened to Goodbye is an AMAZING novel that adds to Sarah Dessen's brilliance as a writer. The only problem? Now I'm counting down for her next book.

Recommended for: all teenage girls--or even young-adult women, or even moms.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


The cover of the long-awaited finale to the Hush, Hush Trilogy has been released! What do you all think?

I'm intrigued! Obviously Patch is saving Nora from something....but what? And why?!

Hollywood Crush (found on Teens Read and Write) had an excerpt from Silence:
He closed the distance between us, and just when I thought he'd drawn me against him, he stopped, holding himself in check. I exhaled, trying not to cry. He leaned his elbow on the door jam, just above my ear. He smelled so devastatingly familiar, soap and spice, the heady scent bringing back a rush of memories so pleasurable, it only made the current moment that much more difficult to bear. I was seized by the desire to touch him. To trace my hands over his skin, to feel his arms tighten securely around me. I wanted him to nuzzle my neck, his whisper to tickle my ear as he said private words that belonged only to me. I wanted him near, so near, with no thought of letting go.

"This isn't over," I said. "After everything we've been through, you don't get the right to brush me off. I'm not letting you off that easily." I wasn't sure if it was a threat, my last stab at defiance, or irrational words spoken straight from my splintered heart.

"I want to protect you," Patch said quietly.
He stood so close. All strength and heat and silent power. I couldn't escape him, now or ever. He'd always be there, consuming my every thought, my heart locked in his hands; I was drawn to him by forces I couldn't control, let alone escape.
"But you didn't."


Here is the synopsis for Silence:
The noise between Patch and Nora is gone. They've overcome the secrets riddled in Patch's dark past...bridged two irreconcilable worlds...faced heart-wrenching tests of betrayal, loyalty and trust...and all for a love that will transcend the boundary between heaven and earth. Armed with nothing but their absolute faith in one another, Patch and Nora enter a desperate fight to stop a villain who holds the power to shatter everything they've worked for—and their love—forever.

I feel like the sneak peek completely contradicts the synopsis. I can't wait!

Silence will be released on October 4th.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Into the Ether

Title: Into the Ether

Author: Vanessa Barger

Review: ***

Summary (from Goodreads): As a Touch-Know, Genevieve has never been required to steal more than a few paltry coins. But when a powerful stranger requires their help, her family of street-wise thieves sends her to get the most important thing they’ve ever decided to liberate. It was supposed to be a simple overnight job. Instead, Genevieve is required to appear attached to her mark, the curator of the British Museum. For Genevieve it becomes more than an act, and her problems are far more significant than the possibility of her lies being discovered.

When her family betrays her, she must make an important choice – turn to the man who has destroyed everything she holds dear, or strike out on her own.

Review: I must admit: I do not own a Kindle. I had one, read one book on it, then gave it to my dad in favor of real books. This book was sent to me as a PDF--a first for me!--and the experience was interesting. It took a while to get used to reading on my computer (it did not convert me to an online reader, I'm afraid), but once I was able to get past the awkwardness, I was able to get into the story.
I liked the idea of this novel--it seemed very unique to me. A touch-know? In a museum? I can only imagine how fascinating (and a bit overwhelming) that would be. I really liked Gennie as a protagonist; she didn't need to be rescued, like so many female heroines it feels like. The villain was a bit of a stock character, and he could have been improved with a bit more detail.
This was a very short book (almost a novella), and I felt like that detracted from a lot of it. There were some things I felt could have been elaborated on. The plot flowed smoothly, but I would have like a little more information and depth.
The other thing that bothered me is a spoiler at the end, so I won't mention it. But it is frustrating! (Either lack of creativity--which I doubt--or purposely open-ended.)
All in all a quick read with an interesting set-up.
Barger is a very good writer, and I will keep an eye out for future (hopefully longer) books by her.

P.S. I was intrigued enough to look up the definition of "ether"--according to Miriam-Webster's website, it is a "rarefied element formerly believed the fill the upper regions of space." Have to admit, not entirely sure how that relates. Perhaps you, dear readers, can form the connection after reading it.

Friday, April 1, 2011

CUWAC: The Moonstone

Title: The Moonstone

Author: Wilkie Collins

Pages: 473

Rating: ***1/2

Summary: When Franklin Blake arrives at the Verinder house, no one would have expected the chaos that followed--not from his presence, but from what he brought with him: the Moonstone. A valuable gem with a dark and violent past, the Moonstone is said to be cursed--and when it is stolen the night after Rachel Verinder receives it for her birthday, that reputation proves to be deserved.

Review: This novel took me almost four months to read. The language is slightly difficult, and there is a lot of extraneous detail. However, it is truly a great detective novel, which is why it is sometimes called the first and greatest mystery novel.
I liked how the story was told from various points of view. Each narrator offered something different to the telling of the story, and that kept me interested. Almost the first half is told from a single perspective, and in my opinion, it is the hardest to get through.
Collins weaves an imaginative ending, one I was far from expecting. I don't think anyone could predict what was going to happen--I honestly had no idea who had done it until the last 20 or so pages!
There is love, betrayal, intrigue, superstition, and mystery in this novel. I would recommend it to fans of classic literature who are patient enough to get through the boring parts for a very satisfying ending.

Recommended to: classics and detective fans

Monday, March 28, 2011

Bittersweet Borders

As most of you probably know, Borders has recently declared bankruptcy and are planning on closing many stores. Luckily, the closest Borders to my house is remaining open, but the Borders about 20 minutes away is closing. Due to this, everything in the store is 40 to 60% off! So my friend and I decided to make a little trip there and see what we could find. Here are my discoveries:

Juliet by Anne Fortier (50% off)
-This was the most expensive book I bought, but I think it will be well worth it. A modern retelling of Romeo and Juliet with an interesting spin, I am very excited about it. I love Romeo and Juliet and all related stories (see my review of a particular favorite, O, Juliet by Robin Maxwell, here).

Miss You Most of All by Elizabeth Bass (50% off)
-This book interests me because of the sister storyline. The women are step-sisters, but they still feel that bond. It reminds me of Peaches by Jodi Lynn Anderson, only an adult version.

The Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs (50% off)
-I used to knit a lot, and I loved it. There are very few books written about knitting, and I'd heard great things about this one, so I decided to pick it up. (An amazing YA trilogy about knitters is Chicks With Sticks. One of my favorite series of all time.)

Just One Wish by Janette Rallison (40% off)
-Yes, this book is just dripping with cheese and predictability, but I love Janette Rallison. I've already read at least six of her other books. They are fun, light reads, and I just couldn't resist.

So after my friend and I hit up the closing Borders, we headed to the Borders closer to our houses because I had a 40% off coupon, which was worthless at the store where everything was already at least 40% off. There I found:

XVI by Julia Karr
-This was the only book I paid full price for all day. I thought it looked interesting when someone recommended it to me on Goodreads, but I wasn't dying for it. Until I read the back when I found it at Borders. It looks different, and now I'm really excited about it.

The Element Encyclopedia of Birthdays by Theresa Cheung (40% off with coupon)
-So I love astrology. Some write it off as stupid of coincidence, but I'm fascinated by it. When I found this book for only $10 ($6 with my coupon), I had to pick it up. I've already found some insane connections to my family and friends.

So the sane person would say "Wow, six books in one day. That ought to hold her over!" But I, my blog-readers, am not a sane person when it comes to books. As luck would have it, Half Price Books sent me a coupon for 50% off one item, good for Sunday March 27 only! So you all know where I went yesterday! Here are the treasures (yes, plural, despite to fact that my coupon was only good for ONE item.) I found:

Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin (50% off with coupon)
-I've heard great things about this one for a while now, so I thought it was high time for me to get it, and it was only $4 with my coupon!

The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards
-This one just sounded good, and I'd heard of it before (it was a #1 New York Times Best Seller), and it was only $2! Who would've passed that up???

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
-So I feel terrible about The Kite Runner because I've seen the movie, but I haven't read the book. I want to read the book, so when I saw this at HPB for only $2, I picked it up too!

And that, my friends, is the profit of my book-splurge weekend. Should I be saving money for college next year? Absolutely. Have I read any of the other books I've bought it the past couple months? Not yet. Do I have room for any more books on my shelves? Noooo way. And still I found myself in three different bookstores this weekend, never leaving empty-handed. Do I regret it? No. Has this happened to you, readers? Let me know in the comments, so I can feel less guilty!