August 28, 2012

Being Friends With Boys by Terra Elan McVoy

Title: Being Friends With Boys
Author: Terra Elan McVoy
Ships launched: 565
Pages: 361
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Year published: 2012
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Synopsis: Charlotte and Oliver have been friends forever. She knows that he, Abe, and Trip consider her to be one of the guys, and she likes it that way. She likes being the friend who keeps them all together. Likes offering a girl's perspective on their love lives. Likes being the behind-the-scenes wordsmith who writes all the lyrics for the boys' band. Char has a house full of stepsisters and a past full of backstabbing (female) ex-best friends, so for her, being friends with boys is refreshingly drama-free...until it isn't any more. When a new boy enters the scene and makes Char feel like, well, a total girl...and two of her other friends have a falling out that may or may not be related to one of them deciding he possibly wants to be more than friends with Char...being friends with all these boys suddenly becomes a lot more complicated.

Being Friends With Boys was kind of a cute story, but it wasn't great. Most of the time, the drama felt overdone and pointless. The story also seemed a tad slow, yet somehow rushed, if that makes any sense.
The characters. Hm.
Trip and Oliver were just plain weird. What's up with the moodiness, guys? That was never really explained too well.
And Fabian! Oh, you were gorgeously amazing. I couldn't believe (spoiler, highlight the following with cursor to see:) you were gay! Well, I could. But it was disappointing. You would have been good for Charlotte. :) 
Fabian, you helped Charlotte tremendously. You were a good friend, my sweet little nerd boy. :) You were undoubtedly my favorite character.
For some reason, I was always, throughout the entire book, suspicious of Benji. He just seemed off.
Lish. Is it just me, or is that a weird name? Well, a weird name for a weird person, I guess. I read about them all the time, but I've never met people who are actually mean and manipulative.
A lot of times, in books, stepsisters are portrayed as cruel, heartless little evil things. Charlotte's stepsisters were so sisterly that it was easy to love them. :)

Why. WHY? WHY ALL THE DRAMA? I mean, I understand how a story is boring without some conflict, but really? The characters were like toddlers in a play pretending to be angry. Stomping around, being all huffy, while trying not to laugh. Without all the cuteness.
Maybe I'm being a bit harsh, but I didn't really like this book.
                      +15 - Fabian - He rocks. End of story. And his name? Isn't it the coolest thing ever???

August 21, 2012

Avalon High

Title: Avalon High
Author: Meg Cabot
Ships launched: 822
Pages: 304
Publisher: HarperTeen
Year Published: 2005
Genre: YA romance, Fantasy
Synopsis: To newcomer Ellie, Avalon High seems like a typical American high school, complete with jocks, nerds, cheerleaders, and even the obligatory senior class president, quarterback, and all-around good guy. But it doesn't take Ellie long to suspect that something weird is going on beneath the glossy surface of this tranquil hall of learning. As she pieces together the meaning of this unfolding drama, she begins to recognize some haunting Arthurian echoes, causing her to worry that she has become just a pawn in mythic history.
       The legend of King Arthur is well known throughout the world. Avalon High takes the classic tale and turns it into a fascinating story of love and adventure for teens. Ellie is just your normal everyday girl. She loves to swim, run, and do other normal things. Soon she moves to a new school in a new state where she undertakes the adventure of a lifetime with the legendary characters from camelot. At her new school Ellie catches the eye of senior class president/national merit finalist/quarterback Will. Unfortunately he seems to play a part in the reincarnation of King Arthur's court.  

   This book is of my favorite Meg Cabot books. Ellie is extremely likeable. She's quirky and a tall geek girl. Will seems perfect, except for when he's not. Even Lance and Jennifer are likeable although they... well you'll see. The characters are well crafted for teens yet still show a hint of their Arthurian legacy. 
   The plot is engaging and there is never a dull moment. Cabot doesn't skimp on the small things, Excalibur and other elements of Camelot are included in the plot. The story is packed with excitement, adventure, and romance which mix together to make the story an unique work. 

+10- Great relatable main character.
+12- Remains (somewhat) true to the legend of Camelot.



August 14, 2012

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

Title: The Grapes of Wrath
Author: John Steinbeck
Ships Launched: 669
Pages: 406
Publisher: Bantam Books
Year Published: 1939
Genre: Classic
Synopsis: John Steinbeck's Pulitzer Prize-winning epic of the Great Depression follows the western movement of one family and a nation in search of work and human dignity. Perhaps the most American of American classics. The novel focuses on the Joads, a poor family of sharecroppers driven from their Oklahoma home by drought, economic hardship, and changes in financial and agricultural industries. Due to their nearly hopeless situation, and in part because they were trapped in the Dust Bowl, the Joads set out for California. Along with thousands of other "Okies", they sought jobs, land, dignity and a future. When preparing to write the novel, Steinbeck wrote: "I want to put a tag of shame on the greedy bastards who are responsible for this [the Great Depression and its effects]." The book won Steinbeck a large following among the working class, perhaps due to the book's sympathy to the workers' movement and its accessible prose style.

Hm. The Grapes of Wrath. Let me just say that I did not read this book for pleasure. I’m a little ashamed to admit it, but I’m not so intellectual as to pick up a, dare I say, boring classic and call it light reading (that’s Gemma). No, The Grapes of Wrath was our summer reading assignment. And usually, I don’t like summer reading assignments. I just hate when someone tells you to read. No matter how good the book is, I always feel a bit disgruntled that I have to follow orders and obediently turn page after page…
But, surprisingly, I liked The Grapes of Wrath. I don’t know what I expected, but I wasn’t expecting how deep and moving the book was.
The story begins with a chapter on dust.
Don’t let that scare you away! It’s interesting dust. It’s sad dust. The dusty things the dust does hurts people, but I don’t think the dust can help it.
Then Tom Joad comes along. Now, poor Tom Joad has just gotten out of prison on parole for killing a man, but he isn’t vicious. In fact, just the opposite. I like to think of Tom as a gentle giant. He has the power, but he wouldn’t hurt anyone unless he had to. Tom picks up a ride with a trucker on his way home to his family. He meets up with his old preacher who isn’t a preacher anymore, Jim Casy. They head together up to the house where Tom’s family lived.
Now, for those of you readers who haven’t yet read The Grapes of Wrath, I’ll stop there. If you haven’t noticed, we try not to be spoiler-y…
The Joad family wasn’t perfect, by any means. The children, Ruthie and Winfield, liked to beat other kids up a bit too much. The dad kept grumbling about wanting to beat his wife. Al, Tom’s younger brother, had an amazingly one-track mind; he pursued girls with abandon. And Noah, bless his little soul, just seemed quiet, lonely, and sad. The whole time.
But the Joads were good people. They looked out for their own. If someone needed help, they always tried to help, even if they weren’t in the position to be helping others.
Ma Joad held everyone together. She did every single thing she could to keep her family together. She had a sort of fiery determination in her that never ceased, even when she was bone tired and nothing seemed okay. The Joad family would never have made it anywhere without her.
Grampa and Granma Joad were good and ornery, just like a lot of other old people. They may have been ornery, but they were still good people.
Rosasharn seemed pitiful, most of the time. I mean, she was pregnant throughout the entire book. But, I don’t know. Sometimes she seemed a bit whiny and selfish, but that could have been the pregnancy hormones talking. I couldn’t really, erm, relate to that, so I don’t know. But her name? Which is it, Rosasharn or Rose of Sharon?
Connie. Connie, Connie, Connie. I think Connie was a good guy. He wanted to create a life for Rosasharn and him, but he just couldn’t figure it out. He got scared.
Al was also a good person. What am I saying? They’re all good people, they just have flaws here and there. Like real life. Al was kind of the guts and glory kind of dude. He wanted the girls, and he wanted the girls. He tried to be as much of a ladies’ man as possible, when he wasn’t working hard. He also seemed a tad arrogant, to me.
The story in The Grapes of Wrath made me sad. All of those poor people, uprooted from their homes, deceived into going to Caifornia, and treated like dirt there. I don’t know how they could have handled it. I certainly wouldn’t have been able to stand all of the uncertainty, the hard labor, the frustration, all of it. They were strong, these people. But sometimes, they just weren’t strong enough.
Pretty soon into the book, I figured out that Steinbeck wrote with a sort of pattern. He’d have one long chapter about the plot and one short chapter with philosophical thinking and beautiful descriptions after it. This continued for the whole book.
My favorite part of the book was the short, philosophical chapters. I actually started tearing up during one passage because, well, it was just so beautiful and sad.
Even though I did not find The Grapes of Wrath very exciting, I’m glad I read it. If you have the time to pick up this four hundred page novel, then I suggest you do so. It is well worth the read.

            “Two hundred and fifty thousand people over the road. Fifty thousand cars – wounded, steaming. Wrecks along the road, abandoned. Well, what happened to them? What happened to the folks in that car? Did they walk? Where are they? Where does that courage come from? Where does the terrible faith come from? And here’s a story you can hardly believe, but it’s true, and it’s funny and it’s beautiful. There was a family of twelve and they were forced off the land. They had no car. They built a trailer out of junk and loaded it with their possessions. They pulled it to the side of the 66 and waited. And pretty soon a sedan picked them up. Five of them rode in the sedan and seven on the trailer, and a dog on the trailer, and they got to California in two jumps. The man who pulled them fed them. And that’s true. But how can such courage be, and such faith in their own species? Very few things would teach such faith.
            “The people in flight from the terror behind – strange things happen to them, some bitterly cruel and some so beautiful that the faith is refired forever.”
                                                            (Chapter 12, page 106)

Also, everything in chapter 14 is absolutely amazing.
There’s a lot more stuff I could put up here, but I don’t want to make this post too long.
                        + 30 – The beauty of Steinbeck’s writing. He makes a turtle crossing the road seem utterly fascinating.
                        -  11 – As Gemma puts it, the preacher is kind of a pervert. It’s a tad disturbing.

August 7, 2012

The Princess Plot by Kristen Boie

Title: The Princess Plot
Author: Kristen Boie
Ships Launched:773
Pages: 378
Publisher: Scholastic
Year Published: 2010
Genre: Contemporary, Fantasy, Adventure
Synopsis: Jenna has just won the starring role in a film about a princess--sweet! In the wink of an eye, she's whisked off to a remote, romantic kingdom for the "shoot." But something's amiss: First, she finds out she bears an uncanny resemblance to the real princess, who has run away following the death of her father, the king. Then she learns that the conniving regent plans to use her to take control of the country, now being fought over by rebels. As the plot twists and turns, Jenna discovers just what she's made of--and just why she resembles the missing princess so much!

When I first read this book, I had no idea that it was originally a German bestseller. Yes, I'm a tad ignorant.
In The Princess Plot, a young girl named Jenna wins a starring role in a princess movie against all odds, but mysterious things begin to happen when she arrives at the filming location in the foreign country of Scandia. 
Boie did a great job with creating the country of Scandia. Every country has its problems, and Scandia certainly has its fair share of them. Made up of two islands, the South has always been rich and successful, but the North has been taken advantage of for years. They are one step away from a civil war.
Jenna seems like a normal teenage girl. She is insecure at times, and in difficult situations she tries to be brave and do the right thing, but a lot of the time she cannot help but panic.  
We don't really get much information on Malena, just that she is sad that her father is dead and that her people love her. Her character doesn't really have much depth.
Jonas, however, we know a little more about. We know that he misses his mother and that he has a strong friendship with Malena. He seems rude and sullen a lot of the time, but when you get to know him better you find that he is not like that at all. 
Norlin is a bad guy, yes, but you cannot help but feel a little sympathy for him at times. That is not the case with Bolstrom. He is rotten through and through.
The plot of The Princess Plot (ha ha) is interesting, if not a bit fantastical. It's easy to get swept up in all of the action and drama. 
The one thing that annoys me with this book is the writing. I understand that it is first and foremost a German book, and the English is translated from that, but I must say that the writing seems halting and, well, fake at some points. I find myself snorting at certain phrases and thinking, "Real teenagers would never say that." 
The translator, David Henry Wilson, is obviously not a teenage girl and never was a teenage girl, so of course he does not know the things that teenage girls know.
Take, for example, this description:
      "The young man smiled. He was good-looking, film-star good-looking. He was supercute." (pg. 21)
Um... supercute? Since when is that one word? Since when do teenagers use that to describe guys? 
Please excuse my nitpicking. It just annoys me.
Other than those kind of things, The Princess Plot is a pretty entertaining book. Read it! 
         +15 - Scandia - I know an amusement park named Scandia! I've never been there, but I drive past it every time we go to the mountains! (And no, that doesn't really have to do with the book, but...)