Sunday, June 10, 2012

More Books: June 10

I recently broke down and bought a Kindle (I know, for an avid reader I'm late jumping on the bandwagon), so I've read a couple of e-books this week. Mostly library copies, because somehow paying $10 for a *real* book seems like a worthwhile return, but paying the same amount for something digital is a bit much for me. So apparently I'm not a full digital convert yet.

I read Jennifer Holm's Turtle in Paradise, which is one of this year's Beehive nominees. I liked it, but I didn't love it. The story follows an 11-year-old girl with the unlikely name of Turtle, who gets shuttled off to Key West to live with relatives after her mom gets a job working as a housekeeper for a woman who doesn't like kids. Since this is set in the Great Depression and good jobs can be scarce, Turtle doesn't have much choice but to go. Turtle isn't initially impressed with Key West, which her mom calls "paradise" but which to Turtle seems crowded and dirty. Gradually, however, Turtle is won over by the people and the vivid scenery. I thought the book was well written--the voice was charming--but some parts of the plot I found just a little implausible.

I also read Meg Cabot's Teen Idol, which I think I've read before, because some of the plot seemed familiar. This book tells the story of Jen Greeley, a high school junior who's assigned the coveted role of "Ask Annie" for her high school newspaper because she's the "mayonnaise" of her school--the one who's able to smooth things over, keep everything together, and make people happy. However, when Jen is asked to show the new student Lucas (aka film star Luke Striker, under cover to research a new role) around the school, things start to change. Luke encourages her to stop trying to just smooth things over and actively make a change. When Jen does, the changes surprise even her. Like most of Cabot's books, this is a fun summer read; it's a light quick read. It's not particularly deep, but I didn't go into the story expecting depth or particularly vivid language.

I also read Laura Levine's Killing Bridezilla, one of a series about L.A. based amateur sleuth and freelance writer Jaine Austen. In this one, Jaine gets hired to write the vows for a former high school nemesis, Patti, who wants to redo the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet, only with a happy ending this time. Unfortunately, working for Patti is horrific, involving not only detailed and sometimes contradictory directions, but bringing back flashbacks of life with Patti in high school. However, when someone kills Patti during the wedding ceremony and another former high school friend is accused, Jaine springs into action to solve the case. I have to say, I found this book shallow and silly. I get that it's supposed to be funny, and parts of it were, but so many of the events seemed improbable (including the murder itself). The mystery, too, was kind of blah--I didn't feel like there were enough clues to the real killer's identity until the killer was revealed. While I'm generally a fan of cozy mysteries (I love Donna Andrews stuff), I don't think I'll be reading the other books in this series.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Reading update: June 3rd

I haven't updated in a while, so I'm sure I'm missing a few books from this list, but, here are some of the books I've read recently:

Becca Wilhite's My Ridiculous Romantic Obsession. I had mixed feelings about this book--I related well to the main character, and the writing style. But I had a hard time with the fact that the MC so clearly didn't realize this boy liked her--even I could figure that out and I'm notoriously clueless about that kind of thing. (I also listened to Becca speak at LDStorymakers and she gave some great, funny, motivational tips on writing, so I'll probably keep checking out her books).

Melanie Jacobson's The List (another author who was at Storymakers). I read this on the plane to Philly last weekend and I really enjoyed it. I'm usually skeptical about LDS fiction, but I thought she did a great job in this romantic comedy. The basic premise is that the main character has watched her mom and her sisters struggle after getting married too young, so she comes up with a bucket list and doesn't want to get married until she's done all the items. She moves to Huntington Beach for the summer, thinking it will be the perfect place to check off several items from her list (learn to surf and have a summer fling among them), but when her summer fling ends up more serious than she'd intended, she has to reevaluate priorities. Predictable? A little--but most romances are. It was funny, well-written and a fun summer read.

Lindsay Leavitt's Princess for Hire and the Royal Treatment. I read Leavitt's Sean Griswold's Head some time ago for the Whitney awards and enjoyed it, so I've been watching my library for these books to be in stock. I think these books would appeal to a lot of teen/pre-teen girls. In them, Desi Bascomb is pretty sure her social life has hit rock bottom when her crush (and his snotty girlfriend) catch her at the mall wearing a gopher costume for the pet store where she works. However, she soon finds out that she has magic potential (MP) and she gets hired for a glamorous new job (she thinks) as a princess substitute, stepping in for all those royals who find being in the limelight all the time too exhausting. Only, the princesses Desi gets for her first few gigs aren't anything like she expected (doing a tribal dance for an African princess?). Both books are well-written, if not particularly deep (but you don't really expect depth from a pink book that sparkles). I would have loved these books when I was younger.

Kiera Cass, the Selection. Let's be honest here: I picked up this book because it had a beautiful cover. And the premise sounded fun: reality TV (think the Bachelor) meets dystopian world. The main character, America Singer, wants nothing to do with the contest to find a wife for the prince of her post-war U.S. (now reconstructed as a monarchy)--she'd rather focus on building a life with the man she loves. However, he (and her parents) convince her to at least turn in her application, but no one is more shocked than she is when she's actually chosen as one of 35 contestants. She's even more shocked to find that she actually likes the prince, Maxon--as a friend, of course. (Or maybe more). At the end, though, I'm not sure what to think. The writing was fine (nothing remarkable) and I liked America's interactions with Maxon. However, she made some choices near the end that drove me crazy (I won't say what they are because I don't want spoilers) and made me lose some respect for the MC. I'll probably read the other books when the come out, because I'm just curious enough, but I won't be waiting for them.

Jennifer Nielsen, The False Prince. Of the books I've read recently, this is probably my favorite. This story follows Sage, a 14-year-old orphan, who's been recruited for a dangerous (and potentially deadly plot). Connor, one of the regents for Carthys, is trying to keep his kingdom from civil war by "resurrecting" a prince who was believed to have been killed by pirates four years ago. Sage tries to resist the plan, but Connor makes it clear that he's not above using violence against those who resist him, so Sage follows along, but just barely. I had the chance to listen to the author talk about the book, and she said that the book sold on the strength of the MC, which I would agree. Sage is a fascinating character--confrontational, troublesome, strong-willed. He talks back to Connor when playing along would save him a beating, he defies orders whenever he can, and, not surprisingly, ends up in a lot of trouble. In fact, he reminds me a lot of Megan Whalen Turner's Eugenides (from the Thief), whom I loved. The writing is tight, the characterization strong, and although the ending didn't particularly surprise me, I think young readers in particular would really enjoy this.

I also read a book on Natural Hospital Birth, which I found personally helpful in thinking through delivery options, but I don't imagine very many of my (few) readers are interested in it!