Friday, April 27, 2012

Review: "Lola & The Boy Next Door"

Lola & The Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins
4 out of 5 stars

Yay! Another Perkins book! I was so stinking excited to start reading this and it did not disappoint. Okay, just a teeny, tiny bit compared to Anna & The French Kiss, but only because nothing could have been better than that in my opinion. :)

Lola on the cover kind of reminds me of Tibby from the Traveling Pants books. No? Maybe it's just me. Okay, so obviously this is a story about Lola and that guy next door. (What's with the plaid shirt, cover guy?) Lola is a pretty awesome girl. She's way into fashion design and wears outfits that would rival Miss Claudia Kishi in kookyness.

I don't believe in fashion. I believe in costume. Life is too short to be the same person every day.

Lola is 17 years old and lives in San Francisco with her two gay dads. They are super over-protective, especially when it comes to her 22 year old boyfriend, Max. I get that they don't like the age difference, but they seem to be waaaaay on the extreme side of hating it. I liked Max as a character...he put up with her dads' questions/interrogations, he came over for brunch every Sunday, he obeyed her curfew, he was a good guy. There's really no reason for them to be so hard on her about him (as far as they know, spoiler: there was some teenage sex going on whoops!). I guess their only justification is that they don't want her to end up like her mom, who is a drug addict and abandoned Lola when she was little.

So, Lola is happy with her 2 dads (does anyone remember that TV show? My Two Dads? No? I'm dating myself again, aren't I? Darn.) and her rocker boyfriend Max and BFF Lindsey. Until her old neighbors, twins Cricket (male) and Calliope (female) Bell, move back in and everything goes up in flames. I just have to say, I found their names very distracting. I wish she had chosen different ones. Anyway, when the Bells move back, Lola is suddenly reminded of the not-so-distant past crush she had on Cricket and freaks.

As she tries to deal with that and the possibility that Cricket might like her back, we get an honest look into her life. Yes, Lola is selfish at times. She's prone to tantrums, doesn't know what she wants in life (except to be a designer), and she expects to get her way a lot of times. In short, she's a teenager. ;) Cricket is...really cool. I loved Cricket. Not as much as Etienne, but almost. Cricket is an inventor, a descendant of Alexander Graham Bell, a snazzy dresser, a lover, a poet, etc...he's the reason I draw stars on my hand randomly now. *Swoon* He has his flaws too, namely listening to his controlling sister too much.

While I loved the book on the whole, it did have its not so great moments. I feel like the denigration of Max was completely unnecessary. He starts out as this super-boyfriend and then suddenly he's a big ol' rhymes-with-pouche. I agree that Lola needed to figure out her feelings for Max & Cricket, but this was not the way. It kind of made it cheap, if you know what I mean.

I loved that Anna & Etienne were in this one as well. I actually didn't even know they were going to be, so I was completely surprised when I read that first scene with them. However, they were almost sickeningly lovey-dovey throughout most of the book. They didn't seem to have that spark from Anna.

I loved Lola's crazy outfits and the bit of her and Cricket working on her Marie Antoinette costume, although I think maybe her dads should sit down and have a talk with her about why she wants to hide her identity all the time lol. The parts with her mom made me super sad. The part where Cricket crawled into her window and held her hand when she was depressed made me cry. The ending made me sigh in happiness. And also made me really want to read Anna again. Like a lot. Mostly because (I'm ashamed to admit) I don't remember who Isla is and I want to be ready for her book next year. :)

Monday, April 23, 2012

Review: "Uglies" Series Books 1-4

Uglies Series Books 1-4 by Scott Westerfeld
3.5 out of 5 stars averaged

I finished the last book in this series the other day, so I can finally review it all! I know I'm several, several years behind everyone else probably, but I'd never even heard of Scott Westerfeld before I found these at Half Price. Now I'm kind of obsessed lol. (I have the Peeps books to review too!) Also, it took me forever to find the last one and I had to buy it new, which was kind of annoying.

So, was this the best series I've ever read? Not really, but I enjoyed it overall and I'd definitely recommend it to those who love any of the other dystopian novels that are so popular right now. The premise is unique and there is plenty of fun, new technology. It's set around 300 years in the future and of course, the world has self-destructed due to its extreme oil consumption and been rebuilt in a better way. That's one of the few things I didn't like about these books (and actually a lot of dystopian novels in general)....the whole "save the environment or the whole world is going to go kaboom" thing. I mean, yes I agree it's important and all but is that the only way authors can think of to destroy the world?

Okay, the main character is Tally Youngblood. She is fifteen years old and can't wait to turn sixteen, not because she gets her drivers license but because she gets an operation to turn her Pretty. (I just realized I wrote the same summary as Goodreads almost word for word lol...I swear it was an accident!) Tally is an Ugly right now and she hates it. She wants to be a Pretty like her BFF Peris (male) and live in New Pretty Town where you get to party all the time and you don't have to worry about anything. Sounds great right?

While Tally is waiting to turn sixteen, she becomes friends with Shay, another Ugly. Tally and Shay get along great, playing pranks and tricks, going hoverboarding (kind of like in Back to the Future lol), and going to The Wasteland which is a huge broken down city that the Rusties (ie: us now) used to live in. But there's one thing about Shay that doesn't sit well with Tally: Shay doesn't want to be a Pretty. She tells Tally all about a place called The Smoke, where people live "naturally" and don't get the surgery. She wants Tally to go with her, but Tally is like "no way, I wanna be Pretty and party all the time." So Shay takes off and then lots of spoilery things happen. ;)

Tally is finally turning sixteen, but the day of her surgery she is taken to meet Special Circumstances director Dr Cable (Dr Evil) instead. The Doctor wants her to tell her how to get to The Smoke, assuming Shay left her instructions. Tally refuses until they threaten to make her an Ugly for life. Tally finally agrees and goes on a big long journey to The Smoke, following the weird riddle that Shay left for her. The trip was kind of boring at times, but once she gets to The Smoke, it picks up again. She meets up with Shay and also a youngish Ugly called David. Of course, Tally falls for David, even though he's pretty much hideous and even though Shay likes him too. And hey guess what? David likes Tally back. Hello, love triangle. There were some surprises at The Smoke and I enjoyed the twist at the end, but I'm not going to spoil it for those who haven't read it yet. So let's move on to book 2, shall we? (Unless you haven't read book 1, then you should stop right here Mister/Young Lady!)

Pretties was probably my favorite out of the series. (Although, according to Goodreads reviews, it's most people's least favorite so take that how you will!) Tally is finally Pretty, just like she always wanted and living in New Pretty Town with her BFF's Shay and Peris. And her new boy-toy, Zane. This girl goes thru boys more than anyone I've ever seen! She's having tons of fun being Pretty and everything is totally bubbly and dizzy-making. I know the "bogus" language got on a lot of people's nerves, but I kind of liked it. And I've totally used "dizzy-making" in real life now. (My sister looks at me like I'm crazy every time I do though lol.)

So Tally is enjoying being Pretty, but she feels like something is missing. She feels like a Pretty fraud and she doesn't know why. Then she and Zane find a letter written from her past Ugly self with some pills and everything starts to become clear. This book does tend to run the same plot-line as Uglies, but it has some twists. The pills are the cure to the "Pretty-headedness" that David's mom came up with at the end of book 1; Tally and Zane decide to take them together and disastrous things happen.

I do have to mention this and I apologize if it is triggering for anyone: the use of cutting and starving themselves to stay clearheaded was one of the most disturbing things in these books. I feel like it was very well-written, but at the same time, Westerfeld seemed to condone it. I don't know if others felt this way or not? I can understand explaining why someone would cut to get "Icy" and how they feel doing it, but to glorify it the way he just felt icky. These are books geared towards teenagers, mostly girls. Take some responsibility here man. Okay, off my soap box.

Specials is book 3 in the series, actually the final book in the original trilogy and you guessed it: Tally has had another surgery. She's now one of Dr. Cable's Special Circumstances, meaning she's a cop basically for the city. She's also a special Special; Shay has had her turned into a Cutter like herself. This group is super dangerous and lethal with unbreakable bones, razor-sharp teeth and fingernails, and all kinds of technology built into their bodies.

I enjoyed this book a lot, probably as much as Pretties, but it was really hard for me to like Tally in this one. Which I guess is the point. She's not supposed to be likable. But the way she treats Zane, who is damaged a bit from the previous book, is heartbreaking. *Highlight for spoiler if you have already read this book: She is totally disgusted with his tremors and "averageness". And when he died, I cried. Like for real, cried. /spoiler There is plenty of action in this one, but the ending felt a bit lacking to me. Another spoiler: Tally ends up staying Special and going off with David. I understand that she has grown and matured since the first book, but it still felt weird to me. /spoiler Overall though, it was a good conclusion for the series.

Extras is book 4 technically of the series, but can also be read as a stand-alone. I loved the cover of this one. Aya Fuse is the main character in this book, a 15 year old girl living in Japan 3 years after the end of Specials. It actually took me a long time to even realize they were in Japan lol...There are no longer Pretties and Uglies, but society is now based on your popularity rank. I really enjoyed the concept of this. Everyone has a face rank that is bumped up by how popular their feed is. Similar to Facebook and YouTube, the more friends and views you have, the higher your society ranking is and the more money you get from the government.

I think we can all definitely relate to this and even feel a little conceited about it sometimes. I mean, how many times do you check your blog stats to see how many views you've had in a day? Or get upset when you lose a friend on FB? Or obsessively see how many comments a review/video/picture has? This book takes that all to a new level.

Aya Fuse is obsessed with becoming popular and bumping her rank out of the 400,000s. She needs a big story to kick and she thinks she finds that when she meets up with the Sly Girls, a group that does killer tricks but stays totally anonymous at the same time. They agree to let her come along for a few tricks, including hoverboarding on a train, and she records them with secret cameras and her hovercam called Moggle. Let me just stop and say that I think Moggle is the cutest character in the whole series and I want one lol.

Okay, so Aya starts out just recording the Sly Girls' stunts but it turns into a huge secret other-wordly story that she is totally not in control of. I honestly didn't enjoy the second half of the book nearly as much as the first. There was too much preaching, ET aliens, "bigger story" here. Also, Tally Youngblood is back and not nearly as good a character as in the other books. I don't know, I think Westerfeld just wanted to write more fun technology stuff (which he is very, very good at) but didn't really think about the actual plot of the book and when it came time to end it, he was just like "oh, let's make it a good thing and how about a big party?" Yeah. 

Thursday, April 12, 2012

TILT: Typewriters!

What do I love today? Typewriters! I am obsessed with them lately. I've never even used a typewriter, but I suddenly want one (or two or seventeen). I have been told to check thrift stores and such, but until then, check out these beauties...

Red Underwood Typewriter by BrooklynRetro --*swoon* love love love the red!! Eep!

White Challenger Typewriter by WWVintage --I would put this one in our dining room which is done in a 70s retro and yellow and avocado green. :)

Mint Green Typing Hermes Typewriter by Becaruns --gorgeous minty green color!

Blue Portable Kids Typewriter by Lauraricker --I love this one because it's actually a kid's version so it's lightweight and smaller...probably perfect for my small hands lol.

Do you have a typewriter? What kind/color? Did you find it at a thrift shop or somewhere else? Do you actually use it or is it a pretty decoration? Inquiring minds (IE: Me!) want to know. :)

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Review: "Mallory & The Mystery Diary: The Baby-Sitters Club #29"

Mallory & The Mystery Diary: The Baby-Sitters Club #29 by Ann M Martin
4 out of 5 stars

Mindy was my BFF in 4th-6th grades...I wonder what #32 has to do with her? Hmm...This book starts out with Mallory lamenting the fact that she's never going to turn 13. If only I were thirteen instead of eleven. Life would be a picnic. I feel as if I'm going to be eleven forever. Sorry Mal, but it's true.

Stacey has moved into her new home, behind Mallory's, and as a welcome home Mal takes over a tuna casserole (side note: I've never had tuna casserole, but it sounds disgusting!). While she's there, she helps Stacey take some boxes up to the attic and they discover all this old junk up there that has been left behind by different families over the years. Mallory finds this awesome old trunk and Stacey's mom says she can have it, so she bribes the triplets into carrying it home for her and dragging it upstairs to her and Vanessa's room...but the stupid thing is locked. Vanessa immediately gets inspired by what might be inside and starts cranking out all this poetry about it. (trunk, lunk, thunk, monk, chipmunk, steampunk, who'da thunk...) This book might have been the reason I wanted a trunk so bad when I was younger, I'm not sure. I did end up getting one, a big black footlocker-type trunk. I used to lock my little sister in it (in my defense, she asked me to most of the time!) and I still have it. It has all my high school stuff in it and tons of books on top.

Anyway, while Mal is trying to figure out how to get that thing unlocked, let's do a What Claudia Was Wearing. :) Mallory starts us off with this insane statement: She [Claudia] would never, ever get arrested by the Fashion Police. Was she high??? Did she accidentally eat some of Dawn's weird mushrooms?? Claud was wearing jeans, a plain white blouse, a pink sweater, white socks, and loafers. She said she'd gone back to the fifties for the day. There's also a bit where Mal is totally amazed and shocked because Dawn is wearing a straw hat. Like ZOMG!!! 

Okay, so Mallory finally gets the trunk open and she and Vanessa are pretty excited about what's inside: a bunch of old clothes, shoes, dresses, hats, pins and best of all, a diary written by 12 year old Sophie, who lived in Stacey's house in 1894. Mal immediately starts reading the diary and it turns out there's a mystery surrounding Stacey's house. Oooh...another mystery! This one ties up the other 2 mysteries we had about Jared Mullray and Old Man Hickory a while back and brings them all together. Sophie is Jared's daughter and Hickory's granddaughter. Her mom died soon after a second child was born in Sophie's 12th year and Old Man Hickory blamed Jared and even accused him of stealing a painting of his (Hickory's) dead daughter. Sophie says there's no way her dad could have done that and she won't rest until she proves it. And that's where the diary ends. Jeez Sophie, leave us on a cliff-hanger why don't ya?
Mallory and the rest of the BSCers of course get totally consumed with the mystery, even having a séance. Kristy comes dressed as a gypsy which is totally offensive, but pretty funny because she's wearing an actual skirt and makeup.

The baby-sitting plot is pretty interesting too this time...Mallory agrees to tutor Buddy Barrett in reading because he's having some problems and his super-busy, scatterbrained mom doesn't have time/energy to help him. Baby-Sitters Club to the rescue! Yet again! Okay, well Mallory starts off with the assigned reading and those horrible flashcards so of course Buddy hates it and refuses to cooperate. Then Mal gets the bright idea to have him start off with something fun and interesting, like comic books. Because at this point, it doesn't matter what the kid is reading, as long as he is. And I agree. My stepsister is in the 6th grade this year and her reading class assignment is to read 30 books for the school year. That seems like a huge amount to me for a kid. Well, at Christmas time she got hooked on the Harry Potter books which is great, but she was getting behind since they are such big books. She said all her other classmates were reading the Magic Treehouse books, which were waaaay younger. How is that fair? That teacher needs to get her priorities straight!

Anyway! Mallory gets Buddy reading and writing his own comics and he's suddenly completely excited about reading. He even reads Sophie's journal and helps solve the mystery of the lost painting. While exploring the trunk, his hand gets stuck in a pocket and he finds a written confession by Old Man Hickory. Turns out he took the picture down himself and had it painted over with a new scene, but then when the townsfolk started asking about it, he blamed Jared! How rude! Mal & Buddy race over to Stacey's to see if the painting might still be in the attic and guess what?? It was! I know, you never would have guessed it. ;) They find it under a painting of some sailboats or something, Stacey's mom has it restored, and they hang it in their living room. Once again, the City of Townsville mystery is solved...thanks to the Powerpuff Girls Baby-Sitters Club. 

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Review: "To Kill a Mockingbird" Classic a Month #4

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
5 out of 5 stars

What I remember from high school, before I actually read it: There's a girl named Scout and her dad Atticus Finch (I love that name!!) who live in the South somewhere. Atticus is a lawyer. There's a man named Boo Radley (love that name too!) who does something? And Atticus helps him? I don't know. That's all I remember lol...

Well, I started out okay. :) I don't know exactly when I read this, I'm guessing 8th or 9th grade? I know I enjoyed it, but rereading it now as an adult gives it so much more meaning. My sister and I were discussing this the other day, how high school students are expected to get all this big meaning out of books like this or The Old Man and The Sea (which I detested) or Steinbeck or Fitzgerald. Isn't it more important for them to enjoy reading? I mean, yes, you can still get meaning out of books: Night, Their Eyes Were Watching God, Harriet Tubman, Of Mice and Men...these all affected me in a way that I still remember today. But did I get all the symbolism and crap out of them the way my teachers wanted? Who knows? That's kind of why I'm enjoying reading these classic a month books now...I feel like I can relate to and enjoy them more as an adult. Maybe because no one is forcing me to read them and I don't have to write a 6 page essay on them afterwards lol. (Although this might turn into one!) (Also, I have used the word "meaning" roughly 8 times in this one paragraph so I tried to change some of them up, but I apologize for the remaining instances.)

So let's get on with talking about the actual book, shall we? Simply put: I loved it. Hands down, my favorite classic so far that I've read. I checked it out from the library and as soon as I finished it, I realized I needed to go buy my own copy. (I did this weekend btw) I loved Scout and Atticus and Jem and Boo Radley...I loved all the characters really (except the Ewells, they were scum between my toes). I can see how all the mini stories would get on someones nerves, because it did seem to have a continuity problem at times, but it didn't really bother me. Scout is such a precocious little bugger and her daddy just lets her get away with it. Oh, I love that they call him Atticus too! This is going to turn into a gush-fest, I can tell, so just go with it. Or stop reading this review now and go get your own copy of TKAM so you can know what I mean! :)

When the book starts, Scout is around 6 years old and just starting school in Alabama during the Great Depression. Atticus taught her to read long before that, but she gets in trouble with her teacher for not learning the "right way". Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing. After this not so great beginning, Scout decides she doesn't like school and does everything in her willpower to get out of it. Of course, it doesn't work. Atticus believes in education, even if half the children in her class don't show up after the first day.

The world's endin', Atticus! Please do something--!
No it's not. It's snowing.

Growing up in rural Alabama is just about the best thing ever to Scout. She gets away with a lot of stuff and she may be a bit (a lot) of a tomboy, but she's got people who love her (Atticus, big brother Jem, housekeeper Calpurnia, all kinds of neighbors, and Dill, the neighbor's nephew, who has promised to marry her when they grow up. Plus there's Boo Radley, the eccentric neighbor that never leaves his home and no one ever sees. Starting off, the children are obviously intrigued by Boo Radley (I don't know why I have to call him his full name each time, but it just sounds right). He's a grown man living with his father and people say he's not "right in the head". Scout, Jem and Dill constantly try to get a glimpse of him and invent a game of who is brave enough to go on the Radley property. They even stage plays in their yard of the Radley family, which is quickly put to an end when Atticus finds out.

But when they start finding little trinkets in the tree on the edge of the Radley property, Jem & Scout start to wonder if maybe Boo Radley isn't so bad after all. I love Boo Radley. You don't get a lot of scenes about him and only one with him actually physically in the scene, but you get enough to care about him and feel for him. When he saved Jem & Scout at the end, I'll admit, I cried. It was just so sweet.

Atticus, he was real nice.
Most people are, Scout, when you finally see them.

You can't really talk about this book without talking about the racism and the court case, but that isn't really what the book is about to me. Atticus is asked to defend a young black man accused of raping a white girl. He does so with all the grace and quiet dignity that he does everything, but his family still suffers for it. Scout and Jem must endure taunts that their father is a "n***** lover" and a disgrace to the town and white people. It's disgusting and sad what Tom Robinson, the accused, has to go thru at the trial but unfortunately it doesn't shock me. Even in 2012, we still see that kind of blatant racism. It's honestly just ridiculous, but I'm not going to go into that too much because this review is already all kinds of long.

It's never an insult to be called what somebody thinks is a bad name. It just shows you how poor that person is, it doesn't hurt you.

I don't think there's much more I can say about this book without it being another 1,000 words. (!) I loved it so much. Maybe I should have just stopped at the 3rd paragraph up there. ;) I think this may be THE BOOK for 2012 for me, similar to The Book Thief last year. I just can't stop gushing about it, so sue me. I'll get Atticus Finch to defend me hah!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Review: "The Hunky-Dory Dairy"

The Hunky-Dory Dairy by Anne Lindbergh
5 out of 5 stars

I woke up last Saturday (a week ago) with a sore throat. I thought it was just allergies (or me snoring too much lol) but by that evening I had a fever of 102. Eep! Turned out I had strep throat and let me tell you, if you have never had it, you do NOT want it! I've always gotten sore throats when I get sick, but never strep, and it was not fun. At all. I spent the next 3 days mostly sleeping and moving from my bed to my comfy chair with my cat following me. The worst part about being sick was having no energy to even read! That was awful! By Tuesday though, I was able to concentrate a little so I decided to pick up my favorite "feeling bad or down" go-to book...The Hunky-Dory Dairy. :)

When I was a kid, I would check this book out at the library like every other visit. I didn't get my own copy until a few years ago when I found a hardbound, library copy on Amazon and knew I had to have it. I'm not sure what it is about this book that I love so's a simple quick read with a plot that's been done before and probably better. But, I don't know...I just adore it.

It starts off with eleven year old Zannah McFee going out to buy milk and a newspaper for her mom's birthday. The book is set in the mid-1980s, which is pretty funny in itself. But then, Zannah hitches a ride in a milk truck (don't ask me why, I have no idea) and ends up on this dairy farm in the middle of Washington Park. She saves a little boy from drowning in the pond and meets the family that lives there, but there is something very odd about them. It seems the 7 people living on the farm have been transplanted from the 1880s by an evil man called Rudge.

The milkman, Peter, is the only one who has ever been able to see them, until Zannah and then her mother Patty. Zannah and the young girl on the farm, Utopia, become fast friends and are soon teaching each other all about their respective lives. Zannah introduces Utopia to bubble gum (which she hates), blue jeans (loves), and a mini handheld transistor radio (run by little devils lol). Utopia shows Zannah how to make real butter and applesauce, they go sledding down a snow-covered hill and spend tons of time outdoors.

This book would be great for kids ages 8-12ish or anyone interested in time-travel, fantasy, dairy farms. ;) I am constantly looking for copies of this along with The People of Pineapple Place (another classic in my eyes) whenever I go to Half Price to save for giveaways or gifts. It's just a great little book. Okay I'm done waxing poetic lol...I hope to have some "real" reviews up this week too so stay tuned!