Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Revenge of the Girl with the Great Personality by Elizabeth Eulberg

Goodreads Description: "Don't mess with a girl with a great personality! Everybody loves Lexi. She's popular, smart, funny...but she's never been one of those girls, the pretty ones who get all the attention from guys. And on top of that, her seven-year-old sister, Mackenzie, is a terror in a tiara, and part of a pageant scene where she gets praised for her beauty (with the help of fake hair and tons of makeup).

Lexi's sick of it. She's sick of being the girl who hears about kisses instead of getting them. She's sick of being ignored by her longtime crush, Logan. She's sick of being taken for granted by her pageant-obsessed mom. And she's sick of having all her family's money wasted on a phony pursuit of perfection.

The time has come for Lexi to step out from the sidelines. Girls without great personalities aren't going to know what hit them. Because Lexi's going to play the beauty game - and she's in it to win it."

My Review: I have so much to say about this book. I was expecting a slightly-boring, cliche, boy-filled chick-lit...but that's not at all what I got. 
          To start with, Lexi is a great character. She's very relatable. She was a very honest mix of insecurity and confidence, of vanity and intelligence. She's a smart girl who's funny, is well-liked, and a hard worker. She's not too hard on her looks or her body and she knows she's a good person. But at the same time, she does feel depressed sometimes when she compares herself to her pretty little sister and she wishes people would pay her more attention and she gets sick of always being "the funny one" and not "the pretty one"---because, let's face it, in our world, looks do matter. And what girl can't relate to this? Even the most confident of girls feel insecure sometimes and some girls may be beauty queens, but a lot of us are a lot more average. And while that doesn't bother us 95% of the time, sometimes it can be a bit upsetting to not be really gorgeous. 
        Also, Lexi loved fashion, and since I love fashion, that was a nice thing to relate to. 
        So to say I liked and related to Lexi would be an understatement. Not only did I relate to her frustrations at always being "the funny one", I related SO much to her struggles with her family. Not that my family is that extreme---this is a novel, after all---but I can relate 100% to my parents taking my little sister's side 24/7 and blaming me for everything, even when it has nothing to do with me or was never my fault. I love my little sister but things like that make resentment hard to ignore, so I almost wept with relief when I finally found a character who GOT IT: who knew the feeling of loving her little sibling and wanting to protect her, but being frustrated by her parents and always being the one to give up HER time for her little siblings. 
        The secondary characters were also very winning. Mac was a huge brat at times, but she was also sweet at times. This is literally how my little sister is (and most little kids, to be honest). Lexi's mom frustrated me a lot. Parents need to start LISTENING to their kids a little more. The things Lexi's mom said and did made me want to throw the book at a wall and literally scream, that's how angry they made me. But on the other hand, Lexi's best friends were great. Benny was sweet and funny. Cam was sassy and loyal and seemed like she really had a heart of gold. 
       I also liked the message the book sent about beauty. Look, we all know that inner beauty is what TRULY matters---but like I said, everyone wants to feel pretty on the outside, too. So I liked that the author let readers know that it was okay to want to feel this way, as long as it didn't turn you into a total witch on the inside. Lexi initially dolled herself up as a dare, but she ended up liking looking a little girlier. She acknowledged that being a nice person is WAY more important than being pretty---which I totally agree with---but she also acknowledged that there's nothing wrong with wanting to be cute sometimes too. It's all a matter of balance.
      And I like that Lexi followed her head and was more faithful to HERSELF than she was to any boy, because at the end, she chose to respect herself and not hook up with any of the boys who liked her. She knew finding herself was more important. 
      Like I said: I was expecting a fluffy chick-lit. Instead I got an amazing story about insecurities, best friends, family struggles, and striving for the best despite all the hardships in your life. I was really pleasantly surprised by this book---even though it made me really sad at times, because of Lexi's family problems---but I'm very glad I read it. 

Cover: It's nice! It's very simple and understated. The name is pretty attention-catching and the fact that it's written in lipstick is a nice, subtle nod to the themes of inner and outer beauty layered throughout this book. Well done.

Grade: A+

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Friday Society by Adrienne Kress

Goodreads Description: "An action-packed tale of gowns, guys, guns –and the heroines who use them all...

Set in turn of the century London, The Friday Society follows the stories of three very intelligent and talented young women, all of whom are assistants to powerful men: Cora, lab assistant; Michiko, Japanese fight assistant; and Nellie, magician's assistant. The three young women's lives become inexorably intertwined after a chance meeting at a ball that ends with the discovery of a murdered mystery man.

It's up to these three, in their own charming but bold way, to solve the murder–and the crimes they believe may be connected to it–without calling too much attention to themselves.

Set in the past but with a modern irreverent flare, this Steampunk whodunit introduces three unforgettable and very ladylike–well, relatively ladylike–heroines poised for more dangerous adventures."

My Review: I don't normally like steampunk books. Something about them just usually doesn't appeal to me. Probably the fact that they are so---obviously---historically inaccurate. But this book grabbed my attention so I decided to give it a chance, and I'm so glad I did because I really ended up liking The Friday Society a lot! 
          In a world where almost 99.9% of YA of books are literally all about romance and boys, it was so refreshing to read a book where boys and romance weren't the focus at all. There was a romance in this book, but only like .01% of the book, so I didn't even care that much. This was a book that promised badass turn-of-the-century heroines---and it delivered. 
         The three leading ladies: 
         CORA: Cora's an inventor's assistant. She's incredibly intelligent, pretty sarcastic, has a proper sense of decorum (though that's not to say she bends to society's oppressive rules towards women), and thinks things through well and hard. She was probably my favorite, because she was the one who seemed to most openly stand for females' rights and to prove to people that women were more than pretty objects, and were capable of complex thought and doing complex things. Cora was smart and she let it show, and I'm glad that when it came to the boys, she let her head guide her over her heart. Very sensible of her. 
         NELLIE: Nellie's a magician's assistant. She's sassy, flirty, funny, and energetic. She always has a trick up her sleeve and though she seems ditzy, she displays real strength and toughness, rarely letting any dangerous situation phase her in the slightest. Oh, and she has a heart of gold. Nellie was fabulous because she dispelled the notion that just because you happen to blonde, pretty, and fond of glitter, that you're an idiot. Nellie was far from an idiot and she proved many stereotypes wrong. 
        MICHIKO: Michiko is a weapons specialist's assistant. She's disciplined, a badass fighter, very rational, and patient. The author manages to avoid many "Asian women" generalizations and stereotypes. Michiko is no delicate flower, no crybaby. She's tough, she's a fantastic fighter, and despite the fact that she doesn't know English very well yet, she's quick as a whip and she still manages to understand everything Cora and Nellie say. And the author deals with Japanese culture very respectfully and thoughtfully. You can tell she did her research.
       The plot is a little slow-paced and takes a good part of the book to get the ball rolling, but I didn't really care because I was enjoying reading about such refreshing characters. These girls want to be respected for their minds and for their talents---not for their bodies or faces. Also, the fact that a POC female character was used as a main character was very refreshing to read. The story takes time to tell but it ties together very neatly, and surprisingly, the mystery is a little hard to figure out---probably because with the addition of the steampunk mythology, the author could literally pull ANYTHING out of her hat next and you can't really anticipate it. 
        The secondary characters---Lord White and The Great Raheem---were also very interesting, and I actually did enjoy learning more about them. The many villains of the story---some obvious, some not so obvious---added to the fun, because there was more than one "bad guy", each of them bad in their own ways. 
        I've heard some people complain that the book is written too informally and the language doesn't match the period---but quite frankly, this is a steampunk book. There are already big changes in the time period. So who cares if the language is modern and the writing is informal? It was fun to read and I could relate to the heroines more easily. They felt like people you could be friends with.
       I'm looking forward to the next adventure with the Friday Society. 

Cover: LOVE, LOVE, LOVE IT! Words cannot describe how much I love it! Finally, a steampunk novel that doesn't feature the typical female waif in a sweeping gown with a clockwork corset, with long, flowing locks. I am SO SICK of YA book covers featuring girls in gowns for absolutely no reason; half the time, the girl never even wears a dress in the book. Ironically, in this book the girls did wear dresses so they could have easily done a boring cover with girls in gowns...but instead they put three really awesome-looking girls with really cool outfits and tough expressions on the cover. That is what initially attracted me to the book, the truly amazing cover. (Also---and this is just my opinion---the model who's representing Cora reminds me of Allison Argent from Teen Wolf, and Allison Argent is a badass, so that also made me like the cover a lot. Hey, they look alike!) Keep bringing on the covers like this, please! 

Grade: A-

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Firecracker by David Iserson

Goodreads Description: "Being Astrid Krieger is absolutely all it's cracked up to be. She lives in a rocket ship in the backyard of her parents' estate. She was kicked out of the elite Bristol Academy and she's intent on her own special kind of revenge to whomever betrayed her. She only loves her grandfather, an incredibly rich politician who makes his money building nuclear warheads. It's all good until...

"We think you should go to the public school," Dad said.
This was just a horrible, mean thing to say. Just hearing the words "public school" out loud made my mouth taste like urine (which, not coincidentally, is exactly how the public school smells).

Will Astrid finally meet her match in the form of public school? Will she find out who betrayed her and got her expelled from Bristol? Is Noah, the sweet and awkward boy she just met, hiding something?

Find out in this hilarious tragicomedy from New Girl and SNL writer David Iserson!"

My Review: WOW. That's all I can say. Wow. I didn't realize how bored I was with average, goody-two-shoes nice-girl characters until I read this book! Astrid is sassy, mean, rude, devious, scheming, elitist, snobby and basically...a huge asshole. But she is a nice person, way, way, WAY deep down. Like, really way deep down. 
          A lot of people were put off by how mean and sarcastic she was, but I feel like they totally missed the point. Because guess what? People like Astrid exist in the world. People who are good people but who have prickly exteriors. I happen to be one of them. I wouldn't go as far as to say I'm as mean as Astrid (nor do I have as much money or as many resources), but I can be very cynical, sarcastic, sharp---and I like it. I'm not a mean person, I won't make fun of people who don't deserve it, but I'd be lying if I said I was some nice little My Little Pony. So not only do I see parts of myself in Astrid, but I grew up loving characters like her---devious, scheming, power-hungry characters with good hearts, like Massie Block from the Clique series or Blair Waldorf from the TV show Gossip Girl or Captain Jack Sparrow. I love those types of characters. 
          So there's that. Astrid amused me a LOT. I liked how at the end, even though she had changed for the better and had become a more considerate person, she was still the same girl she had always been and would probably always be very sarcastic and power-hungry. That's fine. There are all types of people in the world, and there's room for the Astrid Krieger's of the world too. It was so refreshing to have a female character who was actually sort in love with herself, because I don't know about some people, but even I go through those moments of Ha, I love myself; I am so awesome; bow down, peasants! and it was great reading about a girl who didn't actually hate her looks, body, personality, or life. More people need to love themselves, even some of their flaws (provided their flaws aren't an inherent desire to kill beings, obviously).
         The plot itself was a little weaker, because so many random things happened in the book and I sort of wished David Iserson would have focused more on Astrid trying to figure out who got her expelled...but either way, it was a funny book. I even dismissed the scattered plot because this didn't really seem like the type of book that needed a definite plot. It was a coming-of-age novel, but definitely one of the funnier and more unique ones I have ever read. True, Astrid did have the typical A death in my past messed me up and made me who I am today story line that is so typical in coming-of-age novels---but honestly, it was nice to have a good reason for why Astrid was so sharp. If she had just been mean for no reason, then I WOULD be a little concerned that she was a sociopath. Good thing she wasn't! (I think.) Her family was amusing as well. Some people, like her father and mother, seemed irrelevant but I was interested in reading about Lisbet and especially her grandfather. Very interesting characters. Her grandfather especially gave a little insight to the business sharks and CEO's of the world that everyone loves to hate. Maybe they're like this, maybe they're not, but it was definitely a new and fascinating perspective to read about.
        So yes, it goes to say that I liked this book. I laughed a few times but it wasn't really laugh-out-loud Psych type of humor. It was more like wry, sarcastic New Girl humor. And that would make sense, since the author wrote for the show New Girl

Cover: It's definitely unique. I like it. Astrid's socks make me very happy. She is, indeed, a fire cracker. 

Overall Grade: A-