Life's hard.

It's even harder when you're stupid.

John Wayne

Friday, May 25, 2012

Whip It by Shauna Cross ★★★★☆

I’m Sure My Coolness Factor Has Gone Up Just By Reading This Book!
Fiction - YA
Reading level: Ages 14 and up
234 pages
Original Title: Derby Girl
Publication Date: 2007

In a town where football players are high school gods and their peroxide cheerleader girlfriends reign supreme lives Bliss Cavendar, and her best friend, Pash; Bodeen, Texas’ resident rebels.  In love with music and unable to conform to her former-pageant-queen mother’s expectations, Bliss tries to find where she fits.  Her salvation comes in the form of Roller Derby, and its witty, tattooed angels.  But as with all things, even “crushworth” boys in bands, there is no such thing as perfect and the world is not always how you see it.

Whip ItTold directly to the audience by Bliss this book is fun, fairly light and pretty dang funny!  Bliss’ witty comments and scathing descriptions, from saying her mother suffers from Tiara-ism to the unironic mullet, keeps the reader wondering what she will come up with next.  Cross nicely interweave Bliss’ hilarity with some heart.  Bliss begins the process of transition from child to adult.  She realizes her parents are people and not quite the enemy she thought they were.  Bliss also makes the startling discovery that her whole world doesn’t need to revolve around herself.  Both of which are very mature ideas.

This was one of my first introductions to the world of Roller Derby and I have to say I love it.  I would definitely recommend this book for more of the high school age group and older, not younger: it deals with underage drinking, sex and shoplifting, plus occasional strong language.

Side note: The movie directed by Drew Barrymore based on this book is pretty good in its own right!

ISBN-13: 978-0312535995

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Sight Unseen by Robert Goddard ★★☆☆☆

Conflicted as the Main Character
Fiction – Mystery/Thriller/Crime
320 Pages
Publication Date: December 26, 2006

Sight Unseen“It began at Avebury.  But it did not end there”

When retired policeman George Sharp goes to Prague and attempts to convince David Umber to come back to London with him and look into the crime that brought Umber and his wife, Sally, together 23 years earlier Umber is more than a little skeptical.  Umber has tried to put that event and Sally, who died five years earlier in a supposed suicide, behind him.  But with so many unanswered questions haunting him and the urgings of an anonymous letter signed by the long dead Junius – the subject of Umber’s abandoned thesis - Umber decides to give Sharp a chance.  As they start back down the old familiar tracks, strange things occur and the investigation takes a turn neither of them could have expected. 

I found the lack luster writing style and uninspiring characters bothersome.  The characters tended to be flat and not very dynamic, especially when it came to the dialogue.  These two major factors niggled at me the whole way through the book.  What kept me going was the actual plot.  Some other reviews I read complained the plot was too complicated and hard to follow, frankly I don’t agree with them. The use of the Junius figure, an eighteenth-century polemicist known for his scathing letters on the British government, and the interest in finding out his real identity coupled with the twist and turns of the investigation was fascinating to me.  Goddard slowly doles out information so you aren’t quite sure what will happen in the end in a way I liked and he did eventually answer the questions haunting Umber.

I debated long and hard about my rating for this book and I just couldn’t bring myself to give it three stars.  A good book should not only have a good plot, but also decent writing and strong characters; which is why I only gave Sight Unseen two stars.  I do want to state, however, I haven’t completely written off Robert Goddard and plan on giving him another try at some later date when some of my dissatisfaction has bled off.

ISBN: 978-0440242802

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim ★★★☆☆

The Enchanted April
A Story Steeped in Beauty and Truth
Fiction – Classic
232 pages
Publication Date:  1922

“To Those who Appreciate Wistaria and Sunshine.  Small mediaeval Italian Castle on the Mediterranean to be Let Furnished for the month of April.”

This simple advertisement changed the course of four women’s lives forever.  Mrs. Wilkins spends her days in fear of her husband, unloved and unable to love she wishes to have some time to do exactly what she wants, without having to pretend to be virtuous.  Mrs. Arbuthnot carefully fills her days with good works, trying to ignore the distance between her and her once beloved husband.  Lady Caroline wants to only be left truly alone, with no one “grabbing at her”.  Mrs. Fisher desires time to sit and savor her memories of better times and people.  Together they chose to escape dreary London and rent the castle named San Salvatore; spending a month in “heaven” as Mrs. Wilkins comes to call it.

Set against the beautiful Mediterranean scenery we see what each of the main characters are struggling with and how their chance holiday to San Salvatore allows them to change for the better.  Each woman blossoms under the magic of flowers and sea and beauty and each other.  By the end of this miraculous April they bare very little resemblance to their London selves.  Von Arnim instantly pulls you in and introduces the characters in such a way as to let you get to know them very quickly.  You see their lives and motivations, what haunts them and their deeper desires –especially with the help of Mrs. Wilkins insight.  This book is about the inner life and not so much the outer show the characters put on. 

When I think of this book what comes to mind is the word beautiful.  I’m not sure whether it is the writing or the imagery, but all you can think of is beauty.  At the beginning of this book I found the rate of information given hard to digest, but as the story went on either the rate decreased or I might have gotten used to it.  I’m not sure which.  Either way it all worked out in the end and didn’t take away from my overall reading experience.

This was a lovely book and well worth the effort.  Sadly, I originally planned on giving it four stars until toward the end.  The way the deception at the end of the book was handled really bothered me and frankly lost the book a star.  I do, however, like this book well enough to try and search out others by Elizabeth von Arnim, who lived a very fascinating life in her own right.

ISBN: 0-671-86864-0

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan ★★★☆☆

10 and up5 and up
January 25, 2011 
Percy Jackson and the Olympians #5
Literary awards:  Goodreads Choice Nominee for Favorite Book & Young Adult Series (2009)

Percy Jackson is once again leading the demigods charge against Kronos, Lord of Time, and his army, to protect Mount Olympus.  With the prophecy laying heavy on his shoulders and facing the possibility of fighting members of Kronos’ army that were once his friends, Percy goes to extreme lengths to win.  But will anything he does be enough?  Can you truly fight your fate?

The Last Olympian (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, #5)This book is different from the others in a good way.  A more balanced plot to story ratio instead of almost entirely plot (meaning the internal conflict to the external action was more even) providing a better reading experience.  This is not to say there was less action.  This book is jammed packed, but this time we see Percy really getting the fact  people are dying especially with the sacrifice of Charlie Beckendorf, and the “all-powerful” Olympian gods may not win. The gods gather to fight a losing battle against Typhon and Percy’s father, Poseidon, is under siege in the ocean.

This book, as always, has a healthy dose of humor in even under the worst circumstances and the growth Percy exhibits as he nears his sixteenth birthday is good to see.  I finally saw the depth in Percy and a few of the other characters I have been looking for throughout the series.  Riordan makes good use of iconic places in New York and gives enough description for the reader to really picture what he is describing.  I have rarely read better fight scenes, with so many different elements and factions, anywhere else.  The ending is a satisfying wind up to the Percy Jackson series and a great set up for the next series in the demigod world, without leaving too big of a cliff hanger in this one. 

Riordan makes being a demigod seem fun; in fact the whole book is fun.  Sure you would have to deal with a nonhuman, absentee parent, and you could die, but I ask you, what’s life without a little risk and battling a Minotaur?  I really enjoyed this book and look forward to reading more by Riordan.