December 8, 2008

Suite Scarlett – Maureen Johnson

Posted in Books, Humor, Modern, Romance, Young Adult tagged at 10:23 pm by Merissa

suitescarlettby Maureen Johnson

A formerly-grand-but-now-failing hotel, the Hopewell. Four siblings. A mysterious and demanding guest (who’s also an actress), Mrs. Anderson. And add Scarlett, who is having the most astonishing summer in her life.

This book had humor, a sweet heroine, and a nice plot. I’ve always wondered what it would be like to live in a hotel, and the Hopewell – brilliant in its day, but now fading – was great fun.

(Visit Maureen Johnson’s awesome blog @: http://maureenjohnson.blogspot.com)

November 24, 2008

The Smile – Donna Jo Napoli

Posted in Books, Historical Fiction, Romance, Young Adult tagged at 9:16 pm by Merissa

smileby Donna Jo Napoli

Who was the woman in Leonardo Da Vinci’s famous portrait, Mona Lisa? In Napoli’s story, it’s a girl named Elisabetta. One day, she will marry a noble in Florence. With her father’s friend, Leonardo Da Vinci’s help, she meets Giuliano de’ Medici. But troubled times are approaching Florence, and a woman’s choices are limited…

This novel was sweet and emphatic. The time in the novel was slightly confusing, but it matched the chaotic time in history.  Elisabetta was such a sweet narrator – it wasn’t hard to eventually invision her to be the model of the most famous picture in the world

November 20, 2008

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks

Posted in Books, Girl-Power, Humor, Modern, Romance, Young Adult tagged at 9:23 pm by Merissa

big_disreputableby E. Lockhart

A pretty, intelligent girl. Her handsome senior boyfriend, who she is pretty sure is lying to her. His cocky friend. A boarding school. A secret society. A secret fight for power.

I had a lot of fun reading this book. This was an addicting read (especially toward the end). I loved the way Frankie fought for power, and the pranks she played, and the words she played with. The ending was bittersweet, but it fit, and it’s a pretty open ending, leaving you wondering what would happen next, as Frankie was apt to do.

visit E. Lockhart at http://e-lockhart.com

Books I found somewhat similar: the Artemis Fowl series, by Eoin Colfer

November 17, 2008

The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen – Syrie James

Posted in Adult Fiction, Books, Historical Fiction, Humor, Romance tagged at 9:14 pm by Merissa

janeaustenby Syrie James

Something that is often mentioned when people bring up the famous author of Pride and Prejudice (among others) is that Jane Austen, a writer of romance, died a spinster. All her books ended with a wedding (at least one wedding) but she herself never married.

Many people have imagined what might have happened if Jane Austen had had a romance, one that she kept secret for certain reasons.

What if someone found a sealed up chest in Jane Austen’s former house – and it was revealed to be full of Austen’s own experiences – and one of them told of a romance of her own?

The novel takes place while Jane is revising Sense and Sensibility. I really liked reading how her “real-life experiences” let themselves out in S&S. And because Austen is so famous a writer about courtships, I think people (in general, woman) would love to hear that she had her own romance.

I personally loved reading all Jane Austen’s books (yes, sadly I’ve already read all of them, so I can never read one of them anew again), and I found this view into her personal life was very fun. The language was good, in a way that echoed Austen’s, and Syrie James somehow managed to blend a bittersweet romance to perfectly correspond with other events that occurred in her life at that time. It was fantastic.

October 11, 2008

Violet on the Runway & Violet by Design-Melissa Walker

Posted in Books, Humor, Modern, Romance, Sequel, Young Adult tagged at 12:13 am by Merissa

I was going through my posts, and I realized that I had these two in my draft folder. I was almost certain I’d published them, and it turned out I hadn’t! So here are those reviews. They were written some time ago (I’m not sure exactly when I actually did write them) but I think they still deserved to be seen and read. So here they are, bunched together as a double treat! :D

 

by Melissa Walker

Violet is a wallflower. She is one of those people who hang around on the sidelines. Her secret wish is to be part of Bee’s Knees, the popular girl group at school. She hates her tallness, which makes her noticeably different. But when a Tryst agent tells her she could be the next Kate Moss, and Violet goes to New York to find out what it’s about, her life changes –but for better, or for worse?

The story about a girl who becomes a supermodel, just when she thinks she’s not at all special. Who hasn’t, even for only a few weeks, years ago, wished that she could be discovered? Maybe not as a model; maybe as an actress, but anyway, a celebrity, someone famous. Who hasn’t wished that she could suddenly become famous, rich, and admired, on movies or TV shows or runways?

For those of you who have, Violet is that dream, put into reality. But it also poses questions we never consider–what about press and agents? What about pressure? What about drugs and partying, and hypocrisy?

This book brought up a lot of unasked questions, most notably, Is fame worth all this? Should I endure it? Or should I give up? Who’s real? Who’s not? Who should I trust?

It’s not a light book. But modeling isn’t a light business. And while we condemn celebrities for bad behavior, we rarely ask why they do the things they do. Violet is a real, insecure girl, stuck inside the world of modeling, full of promises and full of lies.

I really enjoyed this book. I found myself pondering these questions along with Violet. This is a life I never got to live, and in this book, I felt like I was finally having a chance to. Violet’s real, and she’s honest, but more than that? She’s a real person. And that’s why this book is so good.

 ——-

Violet Greenfield is back. With a mention of Brazil, her agent, Angela, has lured her back into the modeling world. In at once, it seems to good to be true: there’s Veronica, her rival-turned-friend who gives good advice; there’s Paulo, the designer who seems to have fallen in love with Violet; and best of all, she’s still famous. People love her. Turns out, it is too good to be true.

I read this book as quickly as the first, which means really quickly. But as I was sitting down to write this review, I realized exactly why I liked these books so much. They show Violet as a real person: a real, flawed person. I am annoyed at her sometimes. She does make mistakes that seem so obviously stupid to us. She doesn’t notice things that seem obvious. She ignores the obvious. She doesn’t make the choices I think are right.

But that’s what makes her real. Real people make mistakes. That’s why there are so many people today on the news, having been caught with drugs or being drunk.

And what makes Violet different? She learns. She grows. Sometimes she’ll make mistakes more than once, but after she realizes she does her best not to do it again. She does her best. And really, that’s the best we can hope for. Violet is encouraging as a girl discovering herself.

I really like the Violet series because of this. It’s predictable, yet it’s not predictable in an obnoxious way. It’s the sort of book that makes you hang on, rooting for the main character even when you know she’s making a mistake.

September 5, 2008

the Year of Secret Assignments-Jaclyn Moriarty

Posted in Books, Humor, Modern, Romance, Young Adult tagged at 12:44 am by Merissa

by Jaclyn Moriarty, read by various narrators, 8 CDs

Lydia, Emily, and Cassie are being forced to write to Brookfield kids, as an assignment their English teacher, Mr. Botherit, has required. As Brookfield and the girls’ school, Ashbury, has often been at feuds, the girls are somewhat unwilling.

Both Emily and Lydia receive positive letters back, which surprises them. But when they find that Cassie’s partner, Matthew, has threatened her (and has seriously hurt her), they decide to fight back.

This book was written as a series of letters, emails, and diary entries. I’ve never been that big a fan of such books, because I find they have a tendency to tell more than show, but if that happened in this book, I honestly didn’t notice.

The Year of Secret Assignments was fun and entertaining. I had a brilliant time rushing through the CDs as fast as I could, and I found myself seriously wanting to listen to more even when I should have been doing school stuff (although I didn’t let myself.)

Lydia and Emily and Cassie (along with Charlie and Seb, their corrospondents) are all so real and believable, I would definitely not mind knowing them in real life. This book was fantastic.

August 30, 2008

All Alone in the Universe- Lynne Rae Perkins

Posted in Books, Humor, Juvenile, Modern tagged at 6:45 pm by Merissa

by Lynne Rae Perkins

Debbie lives in a town called Seldem. Over the summer, she likes to hang out with her best friend, Maureen.

But there’s another girl in their town. Her name is Glenna, and she likes Maureen, too. Slowly, Maureen starts to float away from Debbie, and Debbie is devastated, because her best friend is gone.

This is a really sweet book. Debbie is a very, very real heroine. It’s not hard to believe that she does truly exist, and she did really write this book.

This novel is, basically, about friendship, which is explored thoroughly throughout the book. There are really some places which make you stop and wonder and ponder what it means. There are some places that make you laugh, and there are some places that make you sober up. I have to say, I really liked this book.

August 21, 2008

Saffy’s Angel- Hilary McKay

Posted in Books, Humor, Juvenile, Modern tagged at 1:51 am by Merissa

by Hilary McKay, read by Julia Sawalha

Saffron lives with her two sisters, one brother and mother, Eve. Her father lives in London. She’s perfectly contented-that is, until she learns to read and discovers her name isn’t on the paint chart with the rest of her family. Along with this discovery soon comes the important on: Saffy is adopted. She is really the daughter of Eve’s sister, born in Siena and raised there until her mother died in a car crash.

Then comes more news: Her grandfather has died. He leaves each of the children something-to Saffy, he leaves ‘an angel, a stone angel.’ And with the help of her family, Saffy leaves for Siena to find her angel.

This book was charming and funny and entertaining.  Caddy and Rose, Saffron’s sisters and Indigo, Saffron’s brother, were kind and fun. This is about a family, definitely not normal, but a family all the same.

This book talks about belonging. Ever since she realized she was adopted, Saffron doesn’t feel like she quite belongs. It tells about belonging, about how you don’t have to be biologically related to be part of a family. 

I loved this book. It was descriptive and sweet, and it even had a little mystery.  I think it’s my favorite book about the Casson family.

June 19, 2008

Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree

Posted in Audio Books, Books, Humor, Juvenile, Modern tagged at 12:49 am by Merissa

Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree

by Lauren Tarshis

“Emma-Jean Lazarus is definitely different from everyone else at William Gladstone Middle School. That’s okay; she knows it. She is fond of her peers but she prefers to stand and watch their illogical behavior from afar.

“Colleen Pomerantz tries so hard to be nice—to everyone, even strange Emma-Jean Lazarus. But now the meanest girl in school is trying to steal her best friend, and it seems that the only one who cares is Emma-Jean Lazarus.

“Emma-Jean thinks it prudent to observe her fellow seventh graders instead of getting mixed up in their troubles. But now Colleen Pomerantz is asking for her help, and how can she say no?”

I really loved this book. It kind of reminded me of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series, in the way that it was centered on friendship (though in different ways) and the humor, the way it was serious but funny at the same time. I liked how both TSofTP and this book is deep, but in a light, enjoyable way. It, at times, made me giggle out loud (which is unusual) and other times feel sympathy for the people. But through the entire book, I was rooting for Emma-Jean and Colleen.

I found Emma-Jean and Colleen and all their fellow classmates believable people. Definitely real in the way that none are perfect, but none are ridiculously bad, either, the way some books seem to portray people. They are well rounded, sweet, and all have ups and downs. (Perhaps that’s what I like best about them: they all have downs).

It did slightly strike me as unusual that Colleen was one of the most popular girls in school, and yet she still took weird Emma-Jean as a close friend, and managed to convince all her friends to do the same. But I guess that situation is possible if not probable, and, other than that, it was an enjoyable book.

I’m not usually the sort to love books right off the bat and to continue to love them, even as it finishes and even days later, but I have the feeling that I’ll enjoy this book always. It’s sweet, funny, serious, and deep. The caption says it’s ‘for listeners ages 8 to 11’, but I think it can be enjoyable to everyone—maybe more to older people, who might understand it—and appreciate it—as much as it deserves to be.

June 12, 2008

Heartbeat

Posted in Audio Books, Books, Humor, Juvenile, Modern tagged at 11:44 pm by Merissa


written by Sharon Creech, read by Mandy Siegfried
I haven’t been reading lately, so I’ve been stocking up on audio books. I just finished reading Heartbeat by Sharon Creech. I love audio books—I used to think they were slow, but now I like that about them; they let you think in between, while you’re listening and while you’re resting.

When I’m reading, I tend to finish reading, then wait for a day or two until I write the book review. During that day or two, I think what happens is that the story gets arranged in my mind, and that makes it fairer when I judge. I tend to judge better a day or so after than right after with the words still ringing in my head or ears.

But with audio books, they’re nice, because I think I have the strange tendency to rush through books. I think this is because I read so many books of little worth when my reading career was beginning, that I tended to rush to the end, for hope of better plot, character design, etc., even if I didn’t realize it. And it’s been a habit ever since. I usually go back a few times, to reread certain sections, and it seems that every time I reread a book, I realize something new, which probably means I skim a lot.

In audio books, I can’t miss anything. Not anything. And it’s gives me a lot of time to think in between.

Um, to Heartbeat.

“Annie is twelve years old. Lately, her world has been changing, and she’s not exactly sure to good or bad. Her mother’s expecting a baby, and Annie’s been an only child all her life. Her grandfather seems all mixed up and confused, and much more forgetful. And her best friend, Max, is preoccupied with ambitions, which she’s not sure if she’s part of or not.”

This was a sweet, lovely book. I’m not sure if the voice of Mandy Siegfried is really the voice I’d imagine for Annie if I’d been reading instead of listening. I thought briefly about that at the beginning of the first CD, when I was beginning to know Annie. But by the time it was done, I didn’t think about it any more. Not that my opinion of the voice changed, but it was so familiar it didn’t really matter before.

I listened to the CDs (there were 2) first while I packed for the weekend camp, then while I hemmed my skirt, then while I knit a scarf, and then I just sat on my bed, hearing Annie’s bright, clear voice fill the room.

And I loved the book. I loved the rhythm of her voice, pure and sure. There was humor, and there were sentimental parts.

One thing I love about Sharon Creech is that often she leaves the character at the end of the voice, with things still unresolved, but with the hope that the main character can fix things now. You get the feeling that it doesn’t matter if she didn’t narrate it; the main character is going to fix it all, anyway.

It was the same with Heartbeat. The ending wasn’t absolutely clear, and it wasn’t the usual sort of ending, but at the same time, it was nice and comforting and sweet and kind.

And I would like to recommend Heartbeat to anyone, and everyone.

 

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