Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Read of the Month - May 2011

...or What I Read and What I Thought was best.

It'd be wonderful if my reading list was so up-to-date, I'd be able to pick as 'best' a book that was actually published this last month, but alas, it is not to be. However, people still buy/borrow/read books despite how long ago they were published, so I think there's still plenty of validity in making a personal recommendation each month.

In May 2011, I read:

1. Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers
2. The Boyfriend List by E. Lockhart
3. Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff
4. Sweethearts by Sara Zarr
5. Valiant by Holly Black
6. Invincible Summer by Hannah Moskowitz
7. Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice
8. (re-read) The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

And my Read of the Month was:

Some Girls Are

One of the most emotionally powerful books I've read; it was dark and twisted and just really grabbed me. 

 What was your Read of the Month?

Monday, 30 May 2011

Review: Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice

In a darkened room a young man sits telling the macabre and eerie story of his life - the story of a vampire, gifted with eternal life, cursed with an exquisite craving for human blood. Anne Rice's compulsively readable novel is arguably the most celebrated work of vampire fiction since Bram Stoker's Dracula was published in 1897. As the Washington Post said on its first publication, it is a 'thrilling, strikingly original work of the imagination ...sometimes horrible, sometimes beautiful, always unforgettable'.

My review:

I was quite sad that I didn't like this one. Vampire fiction would probably not be the force it is today if not for Anne Rice and her influence can be seen in many stories that I've enjoyed. Not just books, either, but TV and movies, too. Interview with the Vampire is a bonafide phenomenon that's lasted 30-odd years and has millions of fans - I would have liked to join in and be part of that.

I'm sure a part of the problem for me is that I didn't read this thirty years ago (which would have been difficult, not being yet alive) or, more appropriately, I didn't read this before I read and saw dozens of other examples of the vampire genre. Many of the elements of Rice's novel that would have been unique and exciting to the original fans couldn't inspire the same reaction in me - I've met plenty of tortured vampires already. I found the main character, Louie, and his existential crisis just tiresome. Hundreds of years and about as many pages of his brooding was too much for me. As the plot follows he and Lestat as they party and kill humans in New Orleans, all I could think was that I'd seen it all before with Angel and Spike - it's not fair, Rice came first, but that's unfortunately how it is for me.

I was surprised at the character of Lestat. I was aware before reading that he was the main/most popular character in The Vampire Chronicles, so I thought he'd be a much bigger part of this book than he is. His role is important and sets most, if not all, of the plot points in motion but in terms of actual page count, he's not around much. I also didn't expect his character to be as he was - I thought that in Anne Rice's world he was a rock star, but Louie describes him as pathetic, stupid and boring. Still, I was intrigued by the snippets of Lestat that we got, and if I haven't sworn off all Rice's work after disliking this one, it's only because I wouldn't mind finding out more about Lestat.

However, the best character in Interview with the Vampire is Claudia, no contest (I'd read another Claudia book, but that's unlikely to happen) and the story becomes considerably more interesting once she is in it. A vampire child is still something I haven't seen much and the idea of a hundreds-year-old woman in the body of a small child is wonderfully creepy and unnerving. Claudia's the most fascinating character in the book: evil, violent, clever, manipulative...playing with her dolls in one moment and then viciously killing in the next.

The plot device of having Louie relate his tale to a young boy journalist is a good concept, but in practice those parts just slow the book down and are incredible repetitive. Louie pauses, the boy is freaked out, but wants to hear more, Louie continues...sometimes it felt like the same passage was being written over and over. The same sentence definitely was - I lost count of how many times "The vampire paused" or "The vampire stopped" appeared. I did like how things ended with the boy, though; that was interesting and kind of realistic. That is how I'd react if I found out vampires really existed.

To be honest, what really made me dislike this book and made it a chore to finish was the writing. It was just...GAH. Not for me. Really wordy, really convoluted sentences, seemed to take 5 pages to say what could be said in one. Sometimes there were so many pages of Louie's internal monologue that I was sure the scene had moved on, only to find out it hadn't and we were still in the vampire theatre or whatever. When I look back on the plot, I can see that technically stuff did happen, but while I was reading, it just felt so slow.

I am glad I read Interview with the Vampire because it is such an important book in vampire fiction. But I am also very glad that I am done with it now.

Rating: 2 stars

Friday, 27 May 2011

Follow My Book Blog Friday #2

 Follow Friday is hosted by Parajunkee's View.

Q. How many books do you read in a week? And in what format do you read them, or listen to them?

I read on average 2 books a week, which seems like a paltry amount compared to other bloggers. I'm seriously in awe when I hear about people reading a book a day or 4 books in a weekend and craziness like that. I wish that could be me, so I could get through my TBR pile, but I think I'd worry that I wasn't really 'taking in' a book if I whizzed through it too quickly. I have enough trouble remembering the books I've read; if the number doubled or quadrupled, I think my brain might just give up completely. 

I only ever read paperbacks but I do want to start listening to audio books - I think it would be a cool way to re-read books, which I basically never do these days. And I want an electronic reader badly but can't afford one as yet!

Monday, 23 May 2011

In My Mailbox #6

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi @The Story Siren.

I won a competition! I haven't won anything since I was at school and there were raffles. So excited; a big thank you to Chicklish for my fantastic prize which was:

Only The Good Spy Young by Ally Carter
The 4th (and for now, last) book in the Gallagher series is mine, along with a very cool canvas bag with the Gallagher Academy logo printed on it. I love, love, love the UK covers for these books, not only because they're super-cute but also because they faithfully produce images that match exactly with what's written in the books. When so many front covers can't even get the colour of a main character's hair right, I really appreciate that kind of detail.

And my swapping and library borrowing continues with:

XVI by Julia Karr
From a swap from ReadItSwapIt. This has been one of the big YA releases this year. I've read some mixed reviews of it, so I'm not sure what I'll think, but I still wanted to read it myself and form my own opinion.

13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson
From North Kensington Library. I actually downloaded the free version of this book when it was available, thinking that I would be getting a Kindle soon. However, my monetary situation at the moment means that heaven only knows when I'll be able to afford an electronic device, so I borrowed this paperback edition to ensure I do read this. I love the synopsis; it totally sounds like a story I'll love.

An Education by Lynn Barber
Central Library. I've wanted to read this ever since I saw and adored the film.

Wuthering High by Cara Lockwood
From North Kensington Library. I thought this sounded like such a cute concept and I'm hoping this is a nice light read. MTV Books publishes Jenny O'Connell and Jennifer Echols, so I'm hoping I enjoy Cara Lockwood as much as I enjoy those two.

That's it for this week!

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Review: Invincible Summer by Hannah Moskowitz

Noah’s happier than I’ve seen him in months. So I’d be an awful brother to get in the way of that. It’s not like I have some relationship with Melinda. It was just a kiss. Am I going to ruin Noah’s happiness because of a kiss?

Across four sun-kissed, drama-drenched summers at his family’s beach house, Chase is falling in love, falling in lust, and trying to keep his life from falling apart. But some girls are addictive.... 

My review:
Much of the talk about Invincible Summer has been about how misleading the cover and description are. After reading the book, I find it funny to imagine how the people involved must have hunted through the pages for the one paragraph and one sentence that could sound salacious when taken out of context, to use for the blurb and tagline.

So, a more apt description would be to say that this book covers four consecutive summers in the life of the McGill family and the focus is on their family. They’re a big brood; four kids with another on the way. Noah is the eldest and feels constricted by having so many people attached to him, Chase (the narrator) wants to keep everybody happy and together and pre-teen Claudia wants to grow up too fast. However, they all adore and take care of youngest brother Gideon, whose deafness means he’s more dependent than other children. One thing I liked straightaway was the portrayal of a close, tight-knit group of siblings. I feel like most books/films/TV shows promote the idea of friendship over family and while I understand that’s the experience of many people, it wasn’t for me and it’s nice to read about somebody whose brothers and sisters are his best friends.

The story has communication as one of its big themes and the characters often fight about what’s not being said or how they’re not saying it. I found the portrayal of Gideon’s deafness to be eye-opening. Whenever I’ve seen a deaf character in a movie, the family members are just signing everything they say with ease. If the deaf character is an adult, even their boyfriend or girlfriend will be proficient. So it’s never actually occurred to me until reading Invincible Summer that sign language is as hard for an adult to become fluent in as any other language and you might not be that good at it. The thought of not being able to truly talk to my brother just fills me with horror and Invincible Summer really gives a rounded portrayal of what it means to have a deaf child in the family – it’s definitely not just Magical Cripples and their Life Lessons.

I thought all the members of the McGill family had very vivid personalities. In fact, I actually felt Chase was the least interesting one. I often wished the narrative could follow Noah when he ran away, or Gideon to deaf-school or let us see what was going on in Claudia’s head. Chase’s conversations with Noah did remind me of heart-to-hearts I’ve had with my sister and when he was overly dramatic (which was often), I felt pretty embarrassed because I remember being just as dramatic back then. It was realistic for the type of kids they were and the type of relationship they had, but as someone older, looking back at that time, I really wanted Chase to just cool it sometimes. However, I did not have a problem with the Camus quotes. In my experience of being part of a large family, you like to have things that only you share and understand. I don’t think it matters whether it’s lines from a cartoon or a French philosopher, what matters is that it’s a ‘thing’ between you all.

As for the love triangle that’s featured in the blurb, it’s more weird than sexy. I felt that the story was unkind to Melinda, or as it’s from Chase viewpoint, I should say that I thought Chase was very unkind to Melinda. This might be an unusual opinion, because Melinda dallying with Chase is completely inappropriate, but something terrible has happened to her and I felt that there was a distinct lack of sympathy from the boys. Maybe it’s because I’m female, but I felt that what Melinda had suffered was the bigger deal in all that.

In hindsight, the tragedy that occurs in the novel was foreshadowed throughout – there’s this underlying tension always bubbling; you always feel that something is going to happen. Still, I bawled my eyes out. I’d taken the characters to heart and I hated to see that happen to them. Surprisingly, though, I don’t think it ended on a downer as such. Somehow, you feel, the McGill family will still go on.

Rating: 4 stars

Friday, 20 May 2011

Book Blogger Hop

This week I'm taking part in the Book Blogger Hop, hosted by Crazy for Books.

Book Blogger Hop 

 "If you were given the chance to spend one day in a fictional world (from a book), which book would it be from and what would that place be?"

I was going to say something recent and common, like the world of Harry Potter, but this question made me think back to when I was a kid and I truly believed that these fictional places I read about could exist and I wished so hard that I could be part of them. So I choose, from my childhood reading days, the world of Enid Blyton's Magic Faraway Tree. For those of you who haven't read these staples of a British kid's literary education, the Faraway Tree grew in the Enchanted Wood and every week a different land came to the top of it and you could reach this land by climbing up the tree. Anyway, some of these lands weren't so great, like Topsy-Turvy land, but all manner of adventures were to be had and the child protagonists were usually rewarded at the end with a land that kicked ass, like the Land of Presents or the Land of Take-What-You-Want. These lands did exactly what they said on the tin - in them you could have any present or take anything you wanted. That sounded amazing to me as a child and I'm not sure anything has sounded as good since.

Review: Valiant by Holly Black

When 17-year-old Valerie Russell runs away to New York City, she's trying to escape a life that has utterly betrayed her. Sporting a new identity, she takes up with a gang of squatters who live in the city's labyrinthine subway system. But there's something eerily beguiling about Val's new friends. Impulsive Lolli talks of monsters in the subway tunnels they call home and shoots up a shimmery amber-coloured powder that makes the shadows around her dance. Severe Luis claims he can make deals with creatures that no one else can see. And then there's Luis's brother, Dave, who makes the mistake of letting Val tag along as he makes a delivery to a woman who turns out to have goat hooves instead of feet. When a bewildered Val allows Lolli to talk her into tracking down the hidden lair of the creature for whom Luis and Dave have been working, Val finds herself bound into service by a troll named Ravus. He is as hideous as he is honourable, and as Val grows to know him, she finds herself torn between affection for him - and fear of what her new friends are becoming because of him.

My review:
I wasn’t sure if I was going to like this novel at first. Val running away from home and immediately taking up with alternative street kids seemed a little too cliché for me. I felt like I’d seen that storyline on numerous teen shows and in the end, everybody learned a Very Important Lesson about the homeless. I didn’t really care for the character Lolli and I outright disliked the brothers. Also, the life Val slips into, sleeping in the New York City sewers, is so filthy and squalid that I found it pretty unpleasant to read about and imagine. There’s a sex scene that actually made me queasy (it’s not graphic, it was the particulars around it that bothered me).

However, I was intrigued by the glimpses I was getting of the magical world beneath the surface and where the story finally got me was when Ravus was introduced. I thought the haunted troll, banished from the Seelie Court, was a great character and I totally bought Val’s feelings for him. Pairings either work for me or they don’t and this one just worked for me. The blurb describes it as Beauty and the Beast and that description works if you think of Val as the beast – she’s the pissed-off one who wants to fight back at the world and Ravus is the one who calms her and loves her, flaws and all.

The fairy-tale details that Holly Black decorates this story with are just beautiful to picture (presumably the squalor of the sewer-life is done deliberately to contrast with this). Ravus tells Val about his past by creating images from the smoke of a candle, there’s a harp that's strung with strands of hair from the dead, and their ethereal voices can be heard when a strand is plucked. These were my favourite moments in the book; gorgeous and heart-breaking.

The plot kicks into high gear in the last 100 pages and it was then that I found I couldn’t put the book down until I finished. And I got an ending I liked – it’s not too prettily tied up and there are consequences for the characters, but it was happy enough to leave me with a smile on my face.

Rating: 4 stars

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Review: Sweethearts by Sara Zarr

As children, Jennifer Harris and Cameron Quick were both social outcasts. They were also one another's only friend. So when Cameron disappears without warning, Jennifer thinks she's lost the only person who will ever understand her. Now in high school, Jennifer has been transformed. Known as Jenna, she's popular, happy, and dating, everything "Jennifer" couldn't be---but she still can't shake the memory of her long-lost friend. When Cameron suddenly reappears, they are both confronted with memories of their shared past and the drastically different paths their lives have taken. Sweethearts is a story about the power of memory, the bond of friendship, and the quiet resilience of our childhood hearts. 

My review:
This book was different to what I expected. Both the title and the fact that there’s a heart on the cover, made me think that the Jenna and Cameron story was going to be a romance, but it’s actually an intense friendship.

Here comes the over-identifying bit of my review: I could relate to Jenna as I, too, was an outcast as a child and had to really work hard at being reasonably well-liked, as decent social skills do not come easily to me. I started going by a shortened version of my name when I was a teen, as well. I did feel a connection with the Jenna who comes across through the narration of her internal thoughts and feelings, but I wasn’t fond of the Jenna we see interact with her boyfriend and friends. I’m sure that was the point; Jenna wasn’t being her true self with them, but it bugged me that she never really gave them a chance to know the real her. She just went by the assumption that they wouldn’t accept her and I felt that was unfair and became annoyed with Jenna for it. Even though it was an understandable feeling, given her background and I was totally the same so…yeah, that was the over-identify. I think I took the annoyance I feel at myself sometimes out on Jenna.*

I think Zarr does a good job in conveying her characters as layered and complex – you get the impression that there is always more to them than what you might see on the page. Jenna’s mother’s behaviour when it comes to Cameron is questionable, but you feel that it is coming from a good place. I unreservedly loved Alan, Jenna’s step-father and I felt like Zarr avoided a stereo-type by showing a step-parent as loving and nurturing. Even a relatively minor character like Steph, Jenna’s friend, gives hints that she’s a lot deeper than she appears.

And Cameron? Classic Jordan Catalano type, all taciturn and mysterious. It was his childhood relationship with Jenna that I found touching and lovely rather than Cameron himself – I felt like I barely got to know him; he stayed so briefly and he said so little.

That last sentiment counts for the whole novel, I think. It’s a thin book, only 200 or so pages and after finishing, I feel like I only got a very small peek into the characters’ lives. Many things are left unresolved and ongoing – it’s as if Sweethearts is only one part of the story. I didn’t close the book feeling as if I really understood Cameron or Jenna’s relationship with him, (or with her mother, or with her friends) but then, she doesn’t, either. The picture on the front cover is fitting – it’s a sweet thing, this book, but you really only get one bite.

Rating: 3.5 stars

*On a similar theme, I am now wondering if I have food issues, like Jenna. The history of me thinking I have the exact same problem/ailment as a character in a book goes back as far as The Babysitters’ Club, when 11-year old me was sure I had Stacey’s diabetes (I felt thirsty all the time. According to Stacey, that was a valid symptom). I unfortunately haven’t grown out of this and a few years ago, after reading The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Asperger’s Syndrome gone undiagnosed in me for more than 25 years seemed completely plausible. So, reading Sweethearts, whenever Jenna described her bingeing, I was salivating when I’m pretty sure I was supposed to be concerned. But taking a bag of Milky Bars and a tub of ice-cream, shutting herself in her room and devouring the food in one go didn’t sound worrying to me, it sounded gooooo-ud. Is that wrong?

Friday, 13 May 2011

Follow My Book Blog Friday

I decided to take the advice of AlisonCanRead and join a blog hop. Follow Friday is hosted by Parajunkee's View. I hope I'm doing it right.

Q. The Blogger Apocalypse made me a little emotional. What is the most emotional scene in a book that you have read lately?

The ending of 2 books brought me to tears so far this year - How I Live Now and Mockingjay. Funny, they were kind of similar - damaged teen couples who survived a war and found solace in their love for each other. Well, if anything should make you cry, war should be it, I suppose. I think it's the idea of discovering a tiny bit of comfort and hope in a really bleak situation that moves me.

Review: The Boyfriend List by E. Lockhart

 The Boyfriend List was a homework assignment for my mental health. Doctor Z, my shrink, told me to write down all the boyfriends, kind-of boyfriends, almost-boyfriends, rumoured boyfriends and wished-he-were boyfriends I've ever had. Plus, she recommended I take up knitting. 

 In the same ten days I: lost my boyfriend (boy #13); lost my best friend; lost all my other friends; learned gory details about my now-ex boyfriend's sexual adventures; did something shockingly advanced with boy #15; did something suspicious with boy #10; had an argument with boy #14; drank my first beer; got caught by my mom; lost a lacrosse game; failed a maths test; became a leper and became a famous slut. Enough to give anyone panic attacks, right? I was so overwhelmed by the horror of the whole debacle that I had to skip school for a day to read mystery novels, cry and eat spearmint jelly candies.

My review:

It seems like through all my YA reading, I have, for some reason, been avoiding some of the most-loved series heroines of the genre. I only recently met Jessica Darling and Georgia Nicolson’s still waiting for me to say hi. However, I am now fresh from my first encounter with Ruby Oliver, which has given me some insight into why I might have put it off for so long - I think I knew, subconsciously, that as soon as I read these series I would fall for these girls completely. That has been the case with Ruby and now I smile when she smiles, hurt when she hurts and when two-faced beyotches are mean to her, I want to insert myself into the narrative as a new teacher who joins their school and dishes out corporal punishment.

E. Lockhart has created a wonderful heroine in Ruby. You instantly feel for her; she’s just too adorable for you not to. I can’t express how much I love that she wears glasses. It seems like such a little thing, but when you’re a teen girl and you wear glasses, it means so much to see someone wearing glasses and being regarded as attractive and popular and not some nerdy outcast.

Saying that, The Boyfriend List does introduce us to a Ruby that is friendless and alone, however, it’s a recent and temporary predicament, brought on by the two-faced beyotches I mentioned before (and OK, maybe some of Ruby’s own bad decisions. Two of those bad decisions were her choice of friends and boyfriend, though). I also was really glad about how positively seeing a therapist was represented in this book. I love Ruby’s relationship with Doctor Z and I hope the following books continue it.

As Ruby recounts her crushing/flirting/dating history to Doctor Z, some may feel that this novel and its heroine are too boy-fixated, but I think it’s clear that every ‘boy story’ is really a story about Ruby’s friendships and her family and Ruby herself. How things stand for Ruby at the end of the novel also conveys the message that boys are not the be-all and end-all. Another author might have felt the need to pair Ruby off, but although there are certainly plenty of cute options in The Boyfriend List, when all is said and done, they’re just not the most important thing.

Lockhart’s non-linear way of telling this story makes it a bit more interesting, although I confess it confused me at times. So did all the many boys and I sometimes had to skip back to pages and remind myself who was who. I was torn on Ruby’s habit of giving constant footnotes to the main text – they were funny and it’s a cute gimmick, but they are so frequent and I didn’t always like being pulled out of the main narrative.

But overall, I really liked spending time with Ruby and am looking forward to our next meeting. I might even let our time together nudge me faster into introducing myself to some of her peers.

Rating: 4 stars

Monday, 9 May 2011

In My Mailbox #5

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi @The Story Siren.

Wheee! The books I bought and were held up by all our recent bank holidays in the UK finally came! I haven't had new new books in a little while (most of mine come from the library, or swaps, or are bought second-hand) and now I have these 3:

Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon
So excited to read this; it just sounds right up my alley. Wish I could've afforded the gorgeous hardback but the important thing is I get to read it.

Invincible Summer by Hannah Moskowitz
Everybody is talking about this book - I felt so left out! Now I can join in and I'm intrigued by everything I've heard about it so far.

Bloom by Elizabeth Scott
Because I have (whisper it) never read an Elizabeth Scott book. Shameful, I know. I thought I should start with her debut. (That is her debut, right?)

I also did my usual borrowing and swapping and second-handing this week and got:

Rebel Angels by Libba Bray
Putney Library book. I actually didn't love the first Gemma Doyle book (it wasn't bad, it was just OK), so it's taken me a long time to pick up the second. But so many readers with similar tastes love this series, so it would be a shame if I never gave it another try.

Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan
Another Putney Library find. The reputation of this book certainly precedes it. I gather that it's a must-read; I just hope I can handle all the rumoured 'disturbing' parts, as I'm kind of a wimp.

Wood Angel Erin Bow
From a swap from ReadItSwapIt. This book was originally published as Plain Kate. I don't know much about it; what convinced me to get it was the pretty, pretty cover and the fact that it's blurbed by Meg Rosoff.

Love and Other Four Letter Words by Carolyn Mackler
This is another book that has much nicer covers than the one I got, but I got mine for 20p in an ex-library sale, so I'm not gonna complain.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Review: Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers

Climbing to the top of the social ladder is hard - falling from it is even harder. Regina Afton used to be a member of the Fearsome Fivesome, an all-girl clique both feared and revered by the students at Hallowell High...until vicious rumours about her and her best friend's boyfriend start going around. Now Regina's been 'frozen out' and her ex-best friends are out for revenge. If Regina was guilty, it would be one thing, but the rumours are far from the terrifying truth and the bullying is getting more intense by the day. She takes solace in the company of Michael Hayden, a misfit with a tragic past who she herself used to bully. Friendship doesn't come easily for these onetime enemies, and as Regina works hard to make amends for her past, she realizes Michael could be more than just a friend...if threats from the Fearsome Foursome don't break them both first.

My review

This book was quite difficult for me to read at times; I had a pretty awful time at school and dealt with girls like ‘The Fearsome Fivesome’, so this book brought a lot of those horrible memories back. It’s one of the most evocative and realistic portrayals of bullying that I’ve read since Blubber – and my comparing Courtney Summers to Judy Blume is one of the highest compliments I can give her. 

Of course, Some Girls Are deals with characters that are older than those in Blubber but those feelings - that school is a battleground, that your classmates are capable of incredibly cruelty and the desperation to fit in and have that cruelty directed at anyone but you - is perfectly captured by both. What’s different about Some Girls Are, is that the protagonist and current victim, Regina, was not just a witness to past evils, she’s actually been a perpetrator of them. She’s terrorised girls before, just because she could, and when she herself is terrorised, I sometimes felt she was getting what she deserved. To be fair, so does Regina and several of the characters in the book.

This book made me take a good look at myself, because I still don’t really forgive the girls who made my life miserable and destroyed my confidence back then and I wondered if I could actually care about what happened to a girl like Regina. But ultimately I did, because it’s just a natural desire to not want to see people in pain and Regina doesn’t deserve the things that are done to her because, as her former target and now ally, Michael, says, no one does. Extreme cruelty is still extreme cruelty no matter who it’s done to.

But, yeah. Michael and Liz? Much better people that me. It actually scared me a little that I understood Josh (a wussy wimp) and to a certain extent Kara (a bullying victim turned bully crazy). There but for the grace of God, and all that. This book deals with the very worst of human nature and even Michael and Liz aren’t perfect and feel some pleasure at the pain of their enemies (Liz has a great line: “I’ve seen this show before. I totally starred in it once. Remember?”). Of all the characters, it’s probably head bitch Anna that the reader gets the least insight into and while some may find her one-dimensional, I found it fitting, as the narrative is from Regina’s perspective and Anna is the type that never lets her guard down and reveals her weaknesses. 

I was very taken by Summers’ prose and feel like she caught the spirit of true teen speak – this is basically how teenagers sound, with all the ‘ums’ and ‘erms’ and ‘likes’ taken out. Regina’s mostly uses quite simple words and short sentences, that get even shorter when she’s emotional, as if she’s struggling to choke the words out. And every so often, she makes an observation that’s profound or, bitingly funny. I cracked up when during a very tense moment, Regina notices, totally deadpan: Josh’s expression is unreadable, or he just doesn’t care. Marta is picking at her fingernails, waiting for a cue from a higher-up. Jeanette is giving the straw in her juice box head, hoping Henry will notice. He does. 

So, this novel is heart-rending and, despite the moments of warmth and humour, made me feel uncomfortable and upset. So why do I recommend it so highly (which I do)? Because it made me feel and think; it was powerful and true to life and I think it’s a book that needs to be read, by those of us who have been through it and those of you who still are.

Rating 4.5 stars

Monday, 2 May 2011

In My Mailbox #4

In My Mailbox idea is from Kristi @The Story Siren.

I actually bought books this week but they haven't arrived in my mailbox yet, so I look cheap again. :-(

Got this at Battersea Library. The UK cover is so cheesy that I love it - totally getting flashbacks to The Craft. Anyway, I hear this series is like an all-girls Hogwarts, which sounds like good times to me.

I've been wanting this for ages! Thank you, Battersea Library!

Another book I received in a swap from ReadItSwapIt. Colasanti is one of the YA authors that I've heard a lot about and I haven't read yet and I'm slowly making my way down that list.