Thursday, August 26, 2010

Amanda's Wedding, by Jenny Colgan

Amanda's Wedding Very funny British chick-lit. I found this on a Very Short List of the Top Five Chick-Lit books according to Sophie Kinsella, who I always enjoy, so requested it immediately at the library.
Melanie is dating Alex, but always had a fancy for Frasier. Her friend Fran is dating whoever she likes on the day, and she and Melanie have always loathed their childhood frenemy Amanda. When Amanda becomes engaged to Frasier,  Melanie, Fran, and an assortment of other characters decide to do whatever it takes to sabotage Amanda's wedding.
This was really a fun read- very Bridget Jones.

The Duff, by Kody Keplinger

The DUFF: (Designated Ugly Fat Friend) The cover on the finished copy is slightly different from the cover on the ARC that I read, and I am really dissapointed at the change. Bianca looks so much more interesting on the ARC.
The premise of this was one I though I'd find irritiating, but the book actually had more depth than I initialy thought.
Bianca goes with her friends Casey and Jessica to a teen dance club (the only really implausible thing- are there such places?) every Friday, until one night high-school playboy Wesley tells her that she is the D.U.F.F. of the group- the Designated Ugly Fat Friend- that every group of girl friends has one.  Understandably, this sends Bianca a little off the rails, but instead of turning into a girl v. girl story, it went in an unexpected and much more interesting direction. One of the few YA books I've read where sex is treated as natural and healthy, and a solid, well written book.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

39 Clues: The Maze of Bones, by Rick Riordan

The 39 Clues Book 1: The Maze Of Bones - Library Edition (39 Clues. Special Library Edition) This was fantastic!!!!!!! I am literally aching to read the rest of the series. I don't know why it took me so long, I sent this to my nephews about 2 years ago, but didn't read one myself until yesterday!
The Cahill family, whose members have included just about every important historical figure, is divided into 4 branches, who are racing each other around the world to solve a set of 39 clues left by the family matriarch in her will. Excellent puzzles, history, setting- this one was Paris, and made me want to crawl around the Catacombs and climb Mont Martre on a stormy night- great (if briefly introduced) characters- this was a wonderful start to what I hope is a great series!

My Life as A Book, by Janet Tashjian

My Life as a Book Well, this seemed to be an obvious attemp at catching the slightly older readers who might have finished the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, but I don't feel that it was successful. 12 year old Derek's voice did not ring true- he read much too young and innocent, I think. It's a tricky age to get right, but his antics were much more along the lines of Greg Heffley's 10 year old behavior, and there seemed a lot of forced-in life change and growth. I like Tashjian's Larry books so much that I had very high hopes for this, and I do (in sentiment) like it that her son did the illustrations, but maybe that collaboration led to the white-washing of the plot?

Wicked Girls, by Amy Hemphill

Wicked GirlsWonderful YA novel told in verse. I couldn't stand Stephanie Hemphill's last book, so I'm amazed I even gave this a go, but it was gripping, and so well done. Her last book, Yours, Sylvia, was an attempt at a YA verse novel in the first person, in Sylvia Plath's voice- who the heck has the nerve to do that? And, of course, it was agony for a Plath fan to read this imitation of an inimitable voice.
Here, though, Hemphill rotates narraration among the 7 girls at the heart of the Salem witch trials of 1692, and examines the shifting alliances and motivations that led to teenage girls suddenly having the power of life and death over much of Massachusetts. From 17 year old servant Mercy Lewis to 12 year old priviliged Ann Putnam, the girls' voices rang true, and the stark language of Hemphill's poetry fit in beautifully with the dark and bloody story. This was really fantastic.

Beautiful Disaster, by Kate Brian

Beautiful Disaster
After finishing Pretty Little Liars, I wanted more, so tried another Kate Brian, but they are like Brie and Velveeta- the first a delicious, slightly sinful-feeling indulgence, the second leaving you with a headache and a sense of horror that you consumed it.
The plot, if it may be called that, was if possible even more ludicrous and implausible and daffy than almost anything I've read this year, including the startling wrap up to Pretty Little Liars, and without the redeeming qualities of characters, setting, or wit.

Wanted, by Sara Shepard

Pretty Little Liars #8: Wanted
The last of the Pretty Little Liars series! Oh noes!
Well, I have to say, Sara Shepard managed to write an ending for what was starting to feel like an un-end-able mystery series, and I honestly enjoyed every one of the books. Also, her book covers are amazing!
I wonder if the TV series based on the books will run into the same problem that Gossip Girl did- once you're past the books' end, what then?
I don't want to even risk giving any spoilers on this, so I'll end it here.
Wish there were more to come, but I've seen the cover for her newest series starter, "The Lying Game", which sounds awfully familiar, but with that cover, I know I'll grab it as soon as it's out! (December).

Friday, August 13, 2010

Heartless, by Sara Shepard

Pretty Little Liars #7: Heartless
OMG! Squee! I love a Pretty Little Liars book, and this was no exception. Rosewood sounds like a *very* dangerous town, y'all. No, seriously, I love the characters in this series and how they developed. I love that Emily's sexuality is never an *issue*. I love that Aria is always way cooler than the other girls, that Hanna knows how much of a follower she is, that Spencer knows that the golden ring she chases is fake, but needs the validation anyway- with characters like these, plot doesn't matter that much, and it keeps the pages turning!!! I can't wait to read the latest (and last?)

Envious Casca, by Georgette Heyer

Envious Casca I am super enjoying the fact that Georgette Heyer is being re-published with such flashy great covers. She is such a hidden treasure. I read somewhere (oh GOD now I have to find where) that her research for her Regency romances was so thourough that she is considered to be an expert on subjects such as coach makes, dresses and so on, and I have to say that Envious Casca was a WONDERFUL golden age locked-door fair play mystery that I loved reading. OK- here's the Wikipedia, and go forth and read about how awesome she was. LINK

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Stars in The Bright Sky, by Alan Warner

Incredible book. Follow-up to The Sopranos, where readers first meet the Scottish girls, Fionnula, Chell, Manda, Kylah, and Kay - and in this book, there's the addition of Finn's college friend Ava, an English girl who shakes up the fmailiarity of the old friends. Aiming to plan a holiday to wherever they can afford, the girls gather at Gatwick. Trapped in the timeless space of airport shopping and airport hotels, so much is revealed that the book reads like eavesdropping- that real and that uncomfortable, but I loved them even more this time than last, which says more than I can say. This might be the best book I've read this year, but it's complicated by the fact that I feel like reading The Sopranos is necessary to grok it fully. Booker Longlist nominee, and it deserves it.

Super Sad True Love Story, by Gary Shteyngart

Amazing, wonderful, memorable book. One of the best books of the year. Lenny Abramov falls, foolishly, in love with Eunice Park, and their correspondance creates the novel (which, we find out early, is a best-seller). The near-future setting is vivid and fully realized, with credit poles with blare one's credit ratings as you walk by a major feature of urban shopping districts, with a government that is half corporation, with onionskin see-through jeans that are all the rage, with a society that regards books as smelly artifacts. And in the middle of this, Lenny (whose job as a high-end salesman of endless life doesn't disturb him), manages to fall hopelessly in love with young Eunice, who majored in college in Images and Confidence, and managed not to graduate...
Wonderful, devastating, magical.

Three Quarters Dead, by Richard Peck

Three Quarters Dead Pretty fantastic YA!!! I couldn't put this down- it was fast, creepy, wonderfully written, utterly realistic (within the paranormal teenage realm) and I loved it. Kerry feels invisible at her school until the fabulous 3, Tanya, Natalie and Makenzie, ask her to join them at lunch, and in other, less civilized activities, but when the other girls die in a car crash, Kerry has to deal with how to handle summons from the other side. This was just so well done.

Maid of Murder, by Amanda Flower

Maid of Murder (Five Star Mystery Series) I hoped to enjoy this more than I did, but based on how many (other) readers felt this held promise to become a series comparable to Donna Andrews, I will probably check out the next one too.

Little Blog on the Prairie, by Catherine Devitt Bell

Little Blog on the Prairie
Really fun, sweet book. Genevieve's family goes to prairie camp to live out her mother's dream of experiencing life as it was for the settlers, but Genevieve's furtive and secret text messages to her friends at home gain a life of their own when her friend uses them to create a blog about the pleasures and perils of life in the 1880's. A dash of romance, a splash of 'finding oneself', and a really unusual and creative setting made this a really enjoyable read.

The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place, by MaryRose Wood

The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: Book I: The Mysterious HowlingOdd and kind of infuriating book. I loved it until the end made it quite clear that there was no resolution, was obviously the start of a series, and that there would be no real ending. Grrrr. Made me want to howl like a wolf-child, in fact.

The Double Human, by James O'Neal

The Double Human There was a LOT going on in this book. Set in an apocalyptic near-future Florida, the Unified Police Force is the last vestige of control within what is left of the USA, while anarchy basically reigns in the Miami Quarantine Zone. Manhattan has been destroyed, as has Tehran, wars flourish across the world, but mostly the book follows one officer, and his attempt to hunt down a serial killer. Talking dogs, incoming aliens, and 2 rival groups of Eastern European alternate hominids who live, seemingly, forever, only complicated what was already a pretty lively and crowded plot. It was a page turner, but left about a thousand loose ends, which I hope will be tied up in the inevitable sequels.

Book of Shadows, by Alexandra Sokoloff

Book of Shadows Horror, but without depth. Murder, witchcraft, Salem, etc.

The View From The Top, by Hilary Frank

The View from the Top Interesting, well-done YA. Told in a rotation of voices, this linked short story collection covers the summer after high school in a small Maine holiday town. Townies vs. tourists, college-bound vs. town-bound, and everyone is in love with a girl named Annabel. Well developed characters and excellent writing distinguished this book (and there was a character named Lexi, which always gives me a kick), but Annabel herself remained a bit of a blank for me.

Thin, Rich, Pretty, by Beth Harbison

Thin, Rich, Pretty Fast, fluffy and fun book. Lexi Henderson was the Mean Girl at Camp Catoctin when they were girls, and Holly and Nicola, as adults, should have long grown past her cruel comments and teases. But when Lexi turns up, her life shattered, Holly and Nicola rediscover themselves and find a way to help the girl who always seemed to have everything.

Broke, USA: From Pawnshopts toPoverty, Inc.- How the Working Poor Have Become Big Business, by Gary Rivlin

Broke, USA: From Pawnshops to Poverty, Inc.How the Working Poor Became Big Business Excellent, if depressing look at how abusive lending practices have created billions of dollars in wealth for those willing to ignore the consequences of charging interest rates up to 390%.

Star Island, by Carl Hiaasen

Star Island Very funny, classic Hiaasen. Florida capers and antics, with some familiar characters (Jim Tile, Skink, Chemo) getting mixed up in the drama surrounding a messed up starlet, her body double, and her hanger-on family.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Innocents, by Cathy Coote

Well written reverse/perverse Lolita tale. In this disturbing, twisty novel, the 19 year old author wrote a 16 year old girl who deliberately sets out to seduce her 34 year old teacher, using artful coyness to make him believe he is doing the seducing. The psychosexual manipulation was fascinating and horrifying, and made for uncomfortable reading.

The Rehearsal, by Eleanor Catton

The Rehearsal: A Novel

Amazingly well written book, set within a drama school and in a girls' school, seething with sexual tension, power shifts, and occasional discourses on the importance of theater. The nameless Saxophone Teacher, and the faceless Heads of Movement, Voice, and Acting steer their students like puppets, and show as much remorse when th

ings get broken as one would with a doll one didn't much like. Reminded me of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, but in a more distant, kind of chilling way.