Sunday, May 29, 2011

Heist Society by Ally Carter

Katarina "Kat" Bishop thought she was out of the family business. Then they dragged her back in. She made a legit life for herself at a prestigious boarding school, then the next thing she knows, she is accused of vandalizing the headmaster's car and expelled. What really sucks is that she didn't do it. The whole thing was set up to get her back in the con game.

It turns out that Kat's father is in some big trouble with a very scary man. Someone stole the man's prized paintings. Kat's father swears he didn't do it, but Kat still has no choice but to find the actual culprit and steal the paintings back.

Kat assembles her own junior Ocean's 11 to get the job done. Shenanigans ensue. Honestly, the book was a bit lackluster for me. I was more interested in the conman culture than in the whole painting plot. Hopefully, the second book focuses more on that aspect.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

My Boyfriend Wrote a Book About Me by Hilary Winston

I was reading this book while that whole big apocalypse/rapture thing was going on. It was slow going because every time I read the book, I couldn't stop thinking that I was definitely going to get left behind for reading this thing, for wanting to read this thing. Also, how much it sucks that I am definitely getting left behind for something I'm only reading about and have never done.

There are dirty, incredibly filthy moments. It's also incredibly funny. The book began when Ms. Winston saw a book at Barnes & Noble written by her ex-boyfriend. This book was all about their relationship together, even containing conversations they had, but it was in the Fiction section. In My Boyfriend Wrote a Book About Me, Winston is recounting every single relationship she ever had. But for her, everything is strictly Non-Fiction, 100% true.

There are stories about the ups and downs of relationships, elementary school crushes, high school betrayals, a string of gay boyfriends, adult relationships and casual hook ups. I found myself relating to Winston as an everygirl, as the adult trying to figure out how to be an actual adult, and as a girl with weight issues and sometimes low self esteem. Also as the owner of a cat with health issues (Mine is a senile almost 20 with kidney problems). The sheer numbers of men involved was kind of amazing to me, the girl who can't even seem to get a date. I admire her total honesty, even with embarrassing topics and uncomfortable situations. The resulting book shows a ton of love, lust, sex, baths (You'd have to read to understand), and pretty much just a single girl trying over and over again to find love, then just a good time, then realizing maybe it's not so bad being single after all.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Bumped by Megan McCafferty

As a testament to how much I liked Bumped, I will transcribe my thoughts upon reaching the last page:

"Wait...that's the end? But I want to know what happens next! There better be a sequel...I'm going to read (skim) through the dedications to see if they are making a sequel...yes, there is going to be a sequel!!! BUT I WANT TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS RIGHT NOW!!!"

It's a bit of a difference from my usual reaction of: "Dammit, there's a sequel? I signed on for one book and they're making me commit to another?"

In the world of Bumped, the world is plagued by a virus that causes adults to become infertile at the age of 18. Because of the virus, teenage girls become the most powerful members of society. Society puts a great pressure on them to get bumped, as they call it. There's pregnancy-themed stores, songs, slang, even a club to promote getting it on. Getting knocked up is basically the new black.

The book focuses on twin sisters Melody and Harmony. They were adopted separately and just found each other again. Because of their different upbringings, the girls don't get along at first. Harmony was raised in Goodside, an incredibly religious and isolated settlement. Melody was brought up to be the perfect breeder. Her parents paid for countless lessons and tutors so that she would get an incredibly lucrative deal. She was already hired by a couple, but they need to find just the right boy with whom to match her. Harmony believes that "pregging" for profit is a sin and considers it her mission to get Melody to repent and return to Goodside with her.

Nothing ends up going as planned. Basically, twin switching and shenanigans ensue. Both sisters are hiding secrets. The dystopian reality in this book seems feasible, and I enjoy having such a possibly dark subject treated with a sense of humor. I really hope the second book comes out soon.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Cellar by A.J. Whitten

It's Romeo + Juliet + zombies in this macabre teen read. This was the book I wanted the most. How can zombies, young love, and Shakespeare go wrong?

The book focuses on two sisters, Meredith and Heather. Their father was killed in a recent car accident. His death tears their family apart. Heather blames herself because she was driving the car. Their mother can't deal and starts compulsively shopping out of grief. The girls' aunt has to move in to take care of them all.

To start the conflict, a new neighbor moves in, and he's a dreamboat. All the girls fall in love with Adrien...all the girls except Meredith. She doesn't see the appeal, and notices strange things about him, things like bugs crawling where his eyes should be. Heather is totally into him, and surprised that Adrien likes her back.

It turns out that Adrien is a zombie, the living dead walking the earth in search of flesh. He is supposed to be finding a new body for his mother, but he falls for Heather. Adrien wants to turn her into a zombie, keep her with him forever.

The Cellar had a little more gore than I would prefer. I suppose that I shouldn't be reading zombie novels if I'm feeling squeamish. Another issue is with the way the narrative is set up. The book travels from Meredith to Adrien to Heather. Strangely, Meredith always narrates in the first person, but Adrien and Heather have a narrator. Other than a few minor criticisms, the book was entertaining enough. There's suitable amounts of teenage melodrama, especially at the end, but it sort of fits the story.

I got a review copy of The Cellar from Net Galley. It's available now.

The Wilder Life by Wendy McClure

I could see Laura Ingalls WIlder everywhere. Really she was everywhere. She was no longer just a person but a universe made of hundreds of little bits, a historical fictional literary figure character person idea grandma-girl-thing.

My only encounters with Little House on the Prairie are the reruns I occasionally watch, this website, which is excellent, and reading the awesome Confessions of a Prairie Bitch. Sadly, I never read a single Laura Ingalls Wilder book in my youth. Reading The Wilder Life made me wish I had set aside the Baby-Sitters Club for a minute to try something else.

The book has a simple premise. Wendy McClure rediscovers her old copy of Little House on the Prairie. She proceeds to reread the entire series, then takes steps to recreate the "Laura World" that she had experienced as a child. McClure does a ton of research on the people, history, and places. She learns how to churn butter and make bread starter. Eventually, after continued research, she plans a road trip to important Little House locations.

The entire book is entertaining. It makes me want to get some obsession of my own, plan my own road trip. Alas, the BSC's Stoneybrook was a fictional town. I also lack the incredibly supportive boyfriend who followed McClure to the majority of her destinations. He read ALL of the Little House on the Prairie books for her! That is beyond adorable. Start reading for descriptions of property law, stay for encounters with religious sects who are using Little House as a training manual for the coming apocalypse/rapture! Trust me, just read this book.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Love You to Death by Melissa Senate

When did Abby Foote's life become an episode of Law & Order?

Abby has a terrible track record with boyfriends. As the book opens, her current boyfriend just leaves her at a Land's End when they were supposed to be attending her nephew's bris. The dude just freaks out about a baby circumcising party. Of course, everyone at the party is all, "Abby knows how to pick them!"

Granted, Abby's boyfriends suck. One tackled her so that she wouldn't catch the bouquet at her half-sister's wedding, subsequently breaking her aunt's ankle. The worst of them all brought his cousin Mary to Abby's birthday party. They were found engaged in a sexual act in Abby's bed. Soon after her Land's End abandonment, Abby spots ex Tom's engagement announcement to his not-really-cousin Mary, whose name is actually Kate. Then Tom turns up dead, and Abby is a suspect.

Detective Benjamin Orr is investigating Abby. Coincidentally, he is also her secret high school crush. She has these full-on hallucinations about him. I'm embarrassed for her. Two more ex-boyfriends report attempts on their lives near the time they broke up with Abby. Her co-workers are super nice so that she won't ax murder them. She even gets a promotion and vacation out of the deal. With all her whining about how her life is falling apart, it's not difficult to say that Abby isn't very sympathetic. She's supposed to be this everygirl. "I was awkward and invisible in high school." "I'm short and have unattractive brown hair." "The policeman assigned to investigate my murder case won't just date me!"

Love Me to Death is some sort of unholy union between chick lit and mystery. It was addictive and readable, but I spent most of my time rolling my eyes at Abby. There's a blurb on the last page that says to look out for the second Abby Foote mystery next year. The book was published in 2007, and no sequel was released. I feel embarrassed for Ms. Senate.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

This Is a Book by Demetri Martin

I'll always remember my first taste of Demetri Martin. He was a guest on Late Night with Conan O'Brien, which you young whippersnappers might not remember. I recorded the performance with an oldy-timey doohickey called a VCR. Later, I added more guest appearances by Demetri Martin to the tape. I enjoyed his one liners and deadpan humor, both accompanied by a guitar and unaccompanied. This was my new ideal for comedy, and I took Demetri Martin and placed him in a special place in my heart where he could do no wrong (Is that weird?).

This Is a Book contains short stories, illustrations, and lists. Considering my love of Demetri Martin, I am hardly an unbiased judge. Yet, at the same time, I don't lie. This Is a Book is hilarious. I read it in the break room and disturbed my co-workers with my laughter. I read it at home and disturbed my cats with my laughter. I read it at the car dealership and attempted to keep my laughter under control so I could convince them I would make a sane car purchaser.

The only thing that would make this book better would be having Demetri Martin reading it in person.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Dead Beautiful by Yvonne Woon

Is it just me, or does the girl on this cover look like Amy Pond?

Renee Winters finds her parents dead in the woods, surrounded by coins and with gauze stuffed in their mouths. Before she knows what is happening, she is whisked away to Gottfried Academy. Gottfried emphasizes classical learning, from philosophy to horticulture (I kept thinking about that Dorothy Parker quote, "You can lead a horticulture but you can't make her think"). As often happens in these stories, Gottfried also contains Mysterious Secrets, secrets involving a mysterious death and cover up.

Who has time for Mysterious Secrets when there's brooding boys to chase? Renee's Edward Cullen is the alluring Dante. They start off with one of those verbal sparring matches that you just know are going to lead to kisses. Dante eventually offers to tutor Renee in Latin, as he is incredibly good at it. She enjoys being around him so much that she starts intentionally blowing quizzes to continue the tutoring (We've come so far! The dream is to make all boys think we are mentally incompetent). Still, there are some issues with Dante. He has freezing skin, he seems so old-fashioned, and he never kisses her on the mouth.

A great emphasis is placed upon Rene Descartes' fictional Seventh Meditation. Soon after its release, it was refuted by the church and every copy was burned. The Seventh Meditation deals with the undead. It mentions that all children, under 21, who die and are not properly interred will rise again, but without a soul. These children then have 21 years to find their proper soul, which was transferred to a baby born the day they died. If they find their soul, they kiss the person and live out a normal life. If they don't, their body rapidly deteriorates after the 21 year mark and they die. I find this concept to be terrifying. Signs that children are undead include cold skin, fluency in Latin, and awkward movement.

Not to give away too much, but it takes Renee a lo-o-ong time to connect any dots. It takes so long that I'm kind of suspicious of whether she failed those Latin quizzes on purpose. She's also kind of self-absorbed. She talks her roommate Eleanor's ear off about Dante and the Mysterious Secrets, but she never reciprocates. Eleanor goes missing at one point, and Renee doesn't even report it for two days because she, "Thought she was at the library." She kind of infuriated me with that one.

The parts of this book that I liked were: the boarding school, tying in real philosophy with the made up Seventh Meditation (I'm glad it isn't actually real, because then I would end up punching way more children than usual), the scene where Renee raids her mother's childhood closet, because I would love a closet full of vintage clothes and jewelry at my fingertips. On the other hand, I disliked: yet another retread of Twilight-esque storytelling, self-absorbed heroines, the super power of "finding dead stuff," that there is going to be a sequel, according to Wikipedia. I wouldn't normally mind, because everything has a sequel these days. The ending to Dead Beautiful just seemed very final, and I liked it that way. I'm nervous they're going to spoil that ending.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

Here's the gist of Before I Fall: Groundhog Day meets Mean Girls. It seems like a typical day for narrator Samantha Kingston. Typical, that is, until the car crashes and she dies. It doesn't end there, because she wakes up again to the exact same day.

For a little background intel, Sam hangs out with a group of girls, Elody, Ally, and queen bee Lindsay. They're the popular ones, the ones everyone admires and the ones everyone fears. Even Sam takes careful steps to ensure she doesn't get kicked out of her group because she ate the wrong sandwich or talked to the wrong person. It's difficult to sympathize with Sam, but she makes a good point: does all the Mean Girls stuff mean she deserves to die?

I enjoyed the book, how Sam learned the effects caused by her actions as she relived the day. It's fascinating how many things are happening around us and we just don't notice them. I wonder how I would react in the same situation. What would I do if there would be no consequences the next day? Would I have the courage to make the same decisions that Sam did?

I started out disliking Sam because she did what was expected, and I never exactly liked her, but I understood why she acted the way she did. I liked that she changed some of her behavior, though it's sad that she had to go through such a big event to do so. Finally, books that talk about mortality usually leave me feeling nervous, thinking about Donnie Darko and crashing buses and the million things converging to ensure that I'm dead. Thankfully, Before I Fall didn't do that for me. It wasn't so much about Sam's death as about her last day, making sure she did all the right things before that final moment.

I guess that's what saying good-bye is always like- like jumping off an edge. The worst part is making the choice to do it. Once you're in the air, there's nothing you can do but let go.