Thursday, July 18, 2013

Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld

I admit that I read Curtis Sittenfeld's Prep years ago. It seemed like something I would enjoy, but I ended up disliking the book. The main character is detestable, and there is way too much sex for my liking. Sisterland sounded good, because twins with psychic powers sounds like an awesome premise. Yet again, I was met with a main character that I didn't like and way more sex than I'd prefer.

Sisterland is about twin sisters Violet and Kate (Daisy). Violet receives a lot of attention when she makes a public prediction that an earthquake will occur. She creates a media frenzy, even gets a spot on the Today Show. Some people ridicule her, but others believe her prediction. Kate is upset that she would draw attention, attention that might end up falling on Kate.

While Violet works as a psychic, Kate is a stay-at-home mom. She used to have "senses," but she forced them away long ago. She even started calling herself Kate, from her middle name, instead of Daisy so that nobody would connect her with the freaky psychic twins. We get to see the bad experiences that Kate had had, her reasons for wanting a normal life. Personally, I understand her reasons, but I think she is a bit of a stick in the mud. I'd have liked a book from Violet's perspective, maybe even a shared narrative. Kate is very judgmental of her twin. Violet gives her reasons to judge a lot of the time, but the constant judging and snippy remarks reflect poorly on Kate.

I really would have preferred more psychic stuff and less sex. There is a lot of sex in this book. Most of it is fine, but the scenes toward the end of the book started to gross me out. I'm probably starting to sound like the Sex Police here, and writing the word sex so many times is making me feel embarrassed (Though I will probably get some new and fun items in the searches-that-brought-people-to-my-blog list). In summary, I do not like the main character or the sex. I do like the psychic aspects of the story, and the book is very well written. It wasn't really my cup of tea, but I can see how others might enjoy it.

I received a copy of Sisterland from Edelweiss and Netgalley, courtesy of Random House. It's available for purchase now.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Prep School Confidential by Kara Taylor

Anne used to be in charge at her old school, St. Bernadette's. She knew how to break the rules in all the right ways, and she had the headmistress wrapped around her little finger. Then she accidentally burned down part of the school. Anne's charm isn't going to get her out of that mess.

Anne is sent away to Wheatley, a boarding school in Boston. She is used to the excitement of New York, and fears that Wheatley will be dull. It appears that she is right...until her roommate is murdered.

What is more surprising is that the school seems to be sweeping Isabella's murder under the rug. Anne knows that they are covering for someone. She takes it upon herself to bring the culprit to justice, with help from Isabella's delinquent brother Anthony. Was it the scary type-A senator's daughter? Or the creepy stalker from the powerful family? Could it be the foreign professor who is overly attached to his work study students? Or was it Isabella's very own brother? They all have motives, but the further Anne digs, the more dirt she finds.

Prep School Confidential was a fun mystery, and I will always love a boarding school story. It was the rare YA mystery that wasn't completely predictable, and in fact had me guessing and second guessing all my theories. Anne was a commendable heroine, and I admire her bravery and detective skills. She did have a tendency to jump to conclusions too quickly with regards to her suspects, but she cracked the case wide open in the end. This book wasn't quite the over the top, guilty pleasure fix of the Pretty Little Liars, but I am looking forward to the next installment and further adventures of Anne Dowling.

I received my copy of Prep School Confidential from Edelweiss, courtesy of St. Martin's Griffin. I also received a copy from the Goodreads First Reads program, courtesy of Sarah G. The book will be available for purchase July 30, 2013.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Crushed by Sara Shepard

In #13 of the illustrious Pretty Little Liars series, we get to find out Aria's new secret. We know it happened while she and Hanna were vacationing in Iceland with their boyfriends. Let me say that it. Is. Awesome.

Avert your eyes, folks who don't want to be spoiled. Aria and her boyfriend Noel were having a tiff in Iceland. She was getting in a self-righteous mood, as she does, when she met a hipster named Olaf. One thing led to another, and they were kissing in an alley. Yet another thing led to another thing, and they were stealing a Van Gogh from a villa. I'll just let that absorb for a minute. Olaf played hipster chicken with Aria, and it ended with them trying to return Nazi-stolen artwork to its Jewish owners. That is the best, most outrageous secret yet.

In the present, Spencer decides that enough is enough. They are going to find A and end the torment. The Liars gather and deduce that Alison must have had an accomplice, who must be A. Their suspects are Grant (Tabitha's boyfriend who got all blown up on the eco cruise last book), Iris (Ali's roommate at the asylum), Jason (Ali's brother, not important because he is never mentioned again), and Noel Kahn (Aria's boyfriend, who suddenly became incredibly precious to me when I knew these girls were going to get him murdered).

The girls split up to investigate. Hanna takes back her old volunteering gig at the burn clinic to keep tabs on poor Grant. Emily visits Iris...and ends up breaking her out and helping her with her bucket list of stealing, skinny dipping, and stalking. Aria reluctantly agrees to investigate Noel, but she does so with a heavy heart. Everything she finds makes him look more and more guilty. Spencer goes for Alison herself, contacting the creator of a conspiracy website that claims Alison might still be alive.

The other story is that it's Prom time! Hanna is nominated for Prom Queen, against a formerly unglamorous classmate. Unfortunately, she can't campaign or A will reveal her secrets about Tabitha and Iceland. Spencer's boyfriend, Reefer, wins some elite internship in South America and he breaks up with her, leaving her to attend prom alone in her fancy designer dress. Fortunately, she hits it off with the conspiracy website guy and ends up taking him to the dance. Aria goes with Noel, but things get tense.

There is a constant pattern in these books wherein someone seems suspicious, the Liars suspect that they are A, there is a confrontation, then the suspect ends up dead. I was pretty devastated when they started to suspect Noel (As I already said). Some huge stuff happens in this book, definitely. I really, really need to know what happens next, as there was a huge cliffhanger. Book #14 is also supposed to be the FINAL book, for real this time. I'm very excited for that, the continuation and the ending.

Friday, July 12, 2013

The Potty Mouth at the Table by Laurie Notaro

I really used to enjoy Laurie Notaro's books. They made me laugh out loud, even after I read them over and over again. I don't know if I have grown too disenfranchised in my old age, or if I have read them so many times that the humor is gone. Her last book, It Looked Different on the Model was good, but I barely laughed. I decided to try The Potty Mouth at the Table to see if it would get different results.

My basic impression of the new book is that I may not be old enough to relate to a lot of these stories. Notaro's early books were about dating and jobs, a lot of twentysomething anecdotes. Later books were about getting married and buying a house. Now, the majority of the stories are about complaining about one thing or another. Most of her complaints seem valid, or at least I wouldn't want them to happen to me. It just ends up feeling like I'm hanging out with my mom when she's in one of her moods ("Let me go into a diatribe about how I dislike Obama/how you shouldn't wear a Harry Potter t-shirt because it is the devil/how SNL celebrities got famous from snorting blow").

I feel pretty bad saying this, but it seems like Laurie Notaro is turning into her mother, frequent star of her stories. Don't get me wrong, overall the stories were entertaining. I even chuckled a couple of times. The last essay about her friend's battle with cancer was both unexpected and very sweet. Again, though, I may be a couple years too young to fully appreciate this book. Maybe I'll give it another try in five to ten years and see if I can relate better.

I received my copy of The Potty Mouth at the Table from Edelweiss, courtesy of Gallery Books. It's available for purchase now.

Icons by Margaret Stohl

"You can't kneel to a lord who will not show his face.
You can't pray to a god who hates the human race..."

Icons is another alien book. Aliens are the next big thing. They came when Doloria (Dol) was just a baby. Her family was killed instantly, along with a good portion of the planet's population. The icons were left in key cities to keep the humans in control. Humans were given senate positions to rule in the aliens stead, and to keep humans enslaved to the aliens.

Dol went to live with the padre at his church, where she became close with Ro, another orphan. They share a birthday, but they also share strange marks on their wrists, as well as crazy powers. Dol doesn't understand any of it, though she comes closer when the padre gives her a book on her birthday, a book about icon children. Before she can read it, the church is invaded by government soldiers.

This book made me sad because it killed off the greatest character very early on in the story. We barely even got to know her. Her name was Ramona Jamona, and this is how I imagined her to be:
She seemed awesome, and Ramona Jamona is the greatest name ever. This was a pig who did what she wanted and didn't let anyone tell her what to do. Curse you, alien overlords, for taking this delightful pig away!

Dol gives the book away to a delightful mercenary named Fortis. I love Fortis, he's my second favorite character. Fortis creates a diversion so she can get away from the soldiers. It's a waste, because Dol and Ro soon encounter a young soldier named Lucas. Ro almost kills him, but Dol stops him because Lucas is just like them. Dol, Ro, Lucas, and Lucas' friend Tima are all icon children. They have a destiny to fulfill, and the government and revolutionaries against the government all want them.

Icon was pretty entertaining. I almost thought this would be a single book, but it was yet another series. It made me a little sad, but I liked the book anyways. It had a solid story, and I was interested in the characters. The beginning of each chapter had classified reports of an autopsy and details on the revolution and parts of the book Dol gave to Fortis. I enjoyed the details. Ultimately, this wasn't my favorite YA alien invasion book of the year. Icons was still pretty good, and I do hope to keep up with the series when the next installment is released.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

"I'm going to tell you something important. Grown-ups don't look like grown-ups on the inside either. Outside, they're big and thoughtless and they always know what they're doing. Inside, they look just like they always have. Like they did when they were your age. The truth is, there aren't any grown-ups. Not one in the whole world..."

I'm finally going to write this review. I have been putting it off because I want to give this book a fitting review because I really liked it and I am a huge fan of Neil Gaiman. Tonight, though I should really be getting to bed, I will finish it.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a tiny little book but it contains a massive story. This is just like how Lettie Hempstock's little pond contained a whole ocean in the book! I am really excited by this connection. Also, spoilers, kind of.

Our narrator returns to his hometown to attend a funeral. He suddenly follows an urge to visit the house he grew up in, which was demolished and turned into modern houses. While there, he remembers a story long forgotten. He remembers the old house, wild and covered in brambles. He remembers the opal miner who killed himself in the family car, and the evil this attracts. He remembers Lettie and her family, how they took care of him and helped him.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane is gorgeous and bewitching. It was scary and sad and beautiful, like reliving childhood all over again.  I definitely recommend this book for Gaiman fans and for those looking for a short but haunting read.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

How Zoe Made Her Dreams (Mostly) Come True by Sarah Strohmeyer

Zoe and her cousin Jess have just been accepted for an internship at Fairyland Kingdom amusement park. It's a low-rent Disney World located in New Jersey. The internship is incredibly competitive, as every year one intern receives the $25,000 Dream & Do grant. Zoe would like to use the money to pay her deceased mother's medical bills, but she really wants Jess to get it. Her cousin has always dreamed of being an actor. Jess would like to go away to study acting in New York, but her family could never afford the tuition.

It seems that both girls are out of luck because the grant usually goes to a prince or princess. They are usually the kids whose parents paid thousands of dollars for them to attend Fairyland Kingdom camps. Unfortunately, Jess is cast as Red Riding Hood and Zoe is a lady in waiting. The lady in waiting lives to serve the Queen, the head of Fairyland, and her yippy dog Tinkerbell.

I was interested in this book because of how it shows what goes on behind the scenes at an amusement park. Apparently, it's a lot of drama. There's a lot of back-stabbing over the Dream & Do grant. The princesses have to be weighed every week and cannot gain more than three pounds. Meanwhile, Zoe is stuck in her own rendition of The Devil Wears Prada. I liked Zoe when she was competent, the super lady-in-waiting. Unfortunately, most of the time she was a mess. I was cringing through a lot of the book. Zoe had a habit of doing and/or saying the wrong thing. Ultimately, it was a pretty cute story. I didn't hate it, but I didn't love it either.

I received my copy of How Zoe Made Her Dreams (Mostly) Come True from Edelweiss, courtesy of Balzer + Bray. It's available for purchase now.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Reboot by Amy Tintera

In the not too distant future, when some people die, they come back. Young children and teenagers are taken and trained for the government. They are known as reboots. Reboots are more powerful than regular humans, stronger and faster. The longer they were dead, the more powerful they are, but also the less humanity they have left.

Wren was dead for 178 minutes, the longest of all the reboots at her facility. Because of her number, Wren gets first pick to train new recruits. She always picked the highest number. Then Callum arrived. He was only dead for 22 minutes, but he convinces her to train him. After all, maybe the lower numbers didn't survive because they didn't have Wren to help?

Callum is still practically human. He has trouble following orders from the commanding officers. Wren starts to loosen up around him. She does things that she wouldn't have done before, such as eating at the 60 and under table and interrupting training for some impromptu dance lessons.

Unfortunately, after several missions, Callum still hasn't made much progress. Wren is told that if he doesn't improve, they will have to kill him. Wren has also been noticing strange behavior in her roommate Ever, who is a lower number. She sometimes snaps in the middle of the night, attacking Wren and trying to bite her. This sometimes happens all night, with the guards doing nothing to help.

This book was all kinds of good. It reminds me of a lot of dystopian books that I have already read, but that isn't really a bad thing. I really liked Wren, and was a big fan of Wren and Callum. They were really good foils for each other. It's cute. Reboot was as compulsively readable as I had hoped, and I can't wait to read the second book when it comes out.

I received my copy of Reboot from Edelweiss, courtesy of HarperTeen. It's available for purchase now.