Sunday, April 24, 2011

Deadly Little Lies by Laurie Stolarz

At the end of the first Touch series, mysterious loner Ben was leaving town after saving Camelia from her stalker ex, who planned the old "You will grow to love me" kidnapping ploy. To her credit, Camelia doesn't pull a Bella Swan and go completely catatonic.

A lot of focus in Deadly Little Lies is on Camelia's sudden development of psychometric powers of her own. She's doing psychic sculptures, which sounds ridiculous because it totally is. The intermittent chapters aren't from a psycho stalker, but journal entries from Camelia's aunt. Aunt Alexia used to paint future events, and it seems that Camelia may have inherited said trait.

I'm sorry to say that Ben graduated his Edward Cullen 101 lessons in this book. He implements lessons I and II by loitering outside Camelia's house at all hours and then telling her that he needs to protect her, but not telling her why he needs to protect her. What confuses me about Ben is that he keeps worrying about losing control of his powers, but it's not like he can touch people to death. His touching doesn't actually hurt the person. His ex-girlfriend only died because he touched her and then she backed away OFF A CLIFF.

The second Touch book definitely went off in a slightly ridiculous direction. Ben became a total creeper stalker. Camelia found a new boyfriend, but she was still all moony over Ben. There were psychic sculptures, but just of juice bottles and things that didn't really mean anything. What's the point of having psychic powers if they're useless?

Friday, April 15, 2011

Deadly Little Secret by Laurie Stolarz

Deadly Little Secret is the classic story of girl gets saved by boy, girl falls for boy, but boy has mysterious secret. Stop me if you've heard this one. Chapters about Camelia, the girl in question, are occasionally interrupted by chapters narrated by her stalker, who is clearly deranged. I liked the book much better when I realized that the boy in question, Ben, wasn't the deranged stalked. The world really only needs one Edward Cullen.

The Touch series does retread a lot of ground other Young Adult series have gone over before. A part of me also feels that the author used some form of random plot generator to come up with elements such as "quirky, horny, fashion designer friend," "platonic, fashion-challenged boy friend," and "vegan, new age mother." To be fair, the characters weren't as annoying as they could have been.

It's kind of funny that in the end, Ben's secret isn't even all that exciting. Basically, he touches things or people and can see the future or past of the object or person. It's called psychometry. I don't see why it's a big secret. The situation where his ex-girlfriend fell off the cliff seems like the juicier secret. I also don't really understand his appeal. Camelia is always talking about how good he looks, but beyond that he doesn't seem to do much of anything, except get psychic visions and trigger the bad boy/town pariah signals in Camelia's brain.

I'm being a little harsh on the book. It wasn't all that bad, and I'm almost half-way through the second book (Two words: Psychic sculptures!). Perhaps if I never read Twilight and its ilk, Deadly Little Secret wouldn't suffer from so much comparison. I thought it would be predictable, but the stalker was only my second choice as suspect. Ultimately, it was a quick and painless read.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Bad Girls Don't Die by Katie Alender

This book reminded me so much of being a teenager. Everything is set in place and these boundaries cannot be crossed. So you can only talk to certain people, and you must hate other people. Your parents, of course, just don't understand. Keep in mind that all my memories of being a teenager come from the television shows I still watch despite the fact that I am now older than the twenty-somethings playing high schoolers.

Alexis has pink hair and an attitude. She hangs out with a crowd of gothic kids that she secretly refers to as the Gloom Squad. Her enemies are the cheerleaders, especially Megan, the captain and the perfect high school girl.

One day, a boy named Carter opens a door into Alexis' head. It's pretty much the greatest meet-cute ever and I totally have a crush on a fictional high school boy, mock me if you wish. The problem is that Carter is a preppy, Young Republican type. Goths and Young Republicans dating is JUST NOT DONE!

At home, Alexis is worried about her younger sister Kasey. Kasey used to be normal, but now spends all her time with her doll collection. Sometimes she uses strange language and flies into a rage for no reason. Sometimes her blue eyes turn green. Alexis starts to wonder if her sister is crazy...or possessed?!?

So, I really liked this book. Alexis could have been annoying with all her rules of high school living, but it seemed realistic for that age. I also admired her for the stands she took, for slapping "Gas Guzzler" bumper stickers on SUVs and trying to get unknown kids elected to student government instead of cheerleaders and popular kids. Of course, her preconceived notions are all wrong. She's wrong about Megan and Carter, Kasey, her parents, everything. In the end, it doesn't matter. Everyone goes to prom and it's happily ever after.

P.S. I really want to read the second book in this series that comes out in July, From Bad to Cursed.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Wanted by Sara Shepard

Once upon a time there were four girls, fair as the snow but unable to tell the truth. Long ago, their most intimate friend Alison vanished and was later found slain. In the last installment of their tale, the dastardly Billy Ford, builder of gazebos, was accused of the heinous crime. We now follow our heroines into the end of their saga (Until the new book comes out July 5th, the year of our lord 2011).

Wanted begins with the DiLaurentis family gathering men and women from every village around to share a most hidden secret. Mrs. DiLaurentis had born another daughter, identical to tragic Alison. The second child had the same hair golden as the sun and eyes as blue as sapphires, but her head suffered a form of delirium. As a result, Courtney was sent away and never spoken of until now. Her goodly physician assured her family that her brain is no longer vexed by visions and frustrations, thenceforth, Courtney returned to Rosewood and Rosewood Prep.

Courtney appeals to our duplicitous heroines one by one. She offers them their innermost desires, as though she has corresponded with them for years. To Spencer, Courtney is the sister long wished for and long denied. To Emily, Courtney is the girl forever yearned for, love reciprocated at last. To Hanna, Courtney is a means of regaining the power of her kingdom. Fair Aria is the only maiden lacking need of Courtney. Alas, it appears as though Courtney wishes to steal Aria's gentleman Noel, much as her sister Alison did years ago.

Soon, dear readers, young Courtney reveals a truth to her guileful companions: she is in truth Alison posing as Courtney. That fateful night at the conclusion of their seventh year education, Billy Ford had slain Courtney in place of her rightly-minded sister. Alison's dearest family believed her to be her addled-minded doppelganger and sent her away for years.

At last, the merry group of friends achieve the second chance they never expected. Following the school's prom festivities, the girls hearken to Courtney-now-Alison's family estate in the Poconos. Aria, so distrustful of Courtney-Alison now attends the proceedings after young Noel was found kissing his old love. At last, it appears as though serenity has returned to our unconscionable four. Yet, throughout our tome, we have received reports that pernicious gazeboman Billy Ford may not be as heinous as he first appeared. If Ford was not the murderer in days of yore, who could have committed the foul crime? And are our fair fabulists in danger whilst relaxing with their newly rectified friend?

*Read no further past this point, lest you find out the even greater secret at the conclusion of Pretty Little Liars.*

In order to forge greater bonds in the chain of friendship, the young maidens reenact the fateful night of Courtney's murder. Alison once again attempts to compel her friends. Once they emerge from their state of sleepfulness, Alison has vanished once more. Then the mythomaniacs find the letter. It tells the story of two sisters. As we knew, Alison had been posing as Courtney. What had never been revealed was that Courtney had played the part of Alison. When our storytellers had been rescued from obscurity by Alison and placed in their positions of power, Alison had been Courtney. After years spent locked away as Courtney, the true Alison became just as addled as her sister. Hence, it was Alison who killed her sister and tossed her in the pit. Alison slain poor pedophile Ian Thomas, and Alison snuffed the candle of sightless Jenna Cavanaugh. As a final act of vengeance, true Alison alights the house in an attempt to end the lives of our duplicitous four. Our heroines escape, but the villainess is ensnared by her own trap. It may not be the end, yet, as neither hide nor hair is found of the true, insane Alison DiLaurentis, also called A, tormentor of the Pretty Little Liars.

*Returning to normal, spoiler-free speech*

So, that was a fairly exciting speech. I'm not sure how I feel about a ninth book. Everything is pretty wrapped up at this point. Am I going to read the ninth book? Hells yes!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

I became aware of The Help when it spent forever on the Bestsellers list at work. Women of a certain age would look for it for a book club. These factors don't bode well in getting me to read a book. What happened was that my friend recommended the book to me, and I decided when I started Cannonball Read that if someone suggested a book, I'd read that book. This was my first (and only) suggestion.

The Help is sort of amazing in that it is chock full of book club-worthy topics. It's almost a Lifetime Movie. There's racism, domestic violence, more racism, infertility, feminism, a little romance, and yet more racism. Oh, and cancer. You can't forget the cancer. It's also all about women. Even with all that working against it, I actually ended up enjoying The Help.

The plot centers around three women. Aibileen and Minny are maids for prominent families in Georgia. Skeeter is a young woman fresh out of college. She wants to pursue a career in writing, but is having difficulty because it's the 1950s and she's a dame. A publisher in New York advises her to write about something she cares about, something that nobody else is talking about. Skeeter eventually decides to write a book about black maids and their experiences working for white women.

It's not easy for Skeeter to get a maid to talk to her, let alone help her with the story. The first maid to help is Aibileen. She has been serving as a maid for over twenty years. Aibileen feels that it's important to tell her story. She eventually convinces Minny to talk as well.

At that time, much of the Southern United States was segregated. Skeeter's best friend Hilly is trying to advertise a Home Health Initiative among the Junior League, aimed at building separate bathrooms for maids and service employees of color. This issue is what inspires Skeeter's idea. It also gets Aibileen and Minny to tell their stories.

Unfortunately, nobody gets cured of their racism. I thought maybe if all the ladies played football together like in Remember the Titans...but I digress. The three narrators all had interesting points of view and compelling stories. It was also incredibly sweet to read Kathryn Stockett's essay about her own maid growing up. It's nice to know that this was such a personal story for her. So, in summary, pick this book up if you want to discuss a book with your grandma or maiden aunt, or maybe just wait and catch the movie when it comes out.

Heartless by Sara Shepard

I'm in the final stretch now, the penultimate book to be finished with the Pretty Little Liars series. Heartless is kind of a doozy of a book.

Killer ended with the PLLs narrowly escaping from a fire in the woods. They had rescued a girl who looked just like Dead Alison. She vanishes into thin air. Paramedics think the girls were just suffering smoke inhalation-induced hallucinations. Emily is so affected by seeing Ali alive that she refuses to stop mentioning the incident. Reporters start referring to the girls as the Pretty Little Liars.

Aria spends the book trying to contact Ali's spirit. She attends a seance and is surprised to see Noel Kahn there. It turns out that he is more than meets the eye. They later contact an actual medium. Aria asks who killed Alison, and the medium writes a note: "Ali killed Ali."

Spencer lost her college tuition, but her parents finally decide to stop being jackholes towards her. I was really excited for good stuff to happen because I like Spencer. Alas, A gets her to investigate her parents some more. She discovers that her dad had an affair with Ali's mom. They were half-sisters, and Spencer's mom was so disturbed by this that she killed Alison. When Spencer confronts her parents with this information, it turns out that the affair part was right. Spencer's mother never knew, though, and she definitely didn't kill Ali.

Hanna's dad sends her to an asylum for her mental well-being or something. It ends up being a really nice asylum, the kind celebrities go to when they're exhausted. She becomes friends with her roommate, a girl named Iris. Alas, Iris leaks information about Hanna to the press and turns out to be legitimately crazy.

Finally, Emily goes to an Amish community, in hopes of learning about Ali. An Amish girl named Lucy tells Emily about her sister Leah. Leah left on rumspringa to be with her boyfriend and disappeared. That boyfriend was Darren Wilden, suspicious police officer.

In a crazy plot twist, all the PLLs are then arrested. They are released after police arrest a man for Alison's murder. His name is Billy Ford and he had been working on the DiLaurentis' gazebo before Ali disappeared. They got him after they found a new victim: Jenna Cavanaugh.