Thursday, August 24, 2006

A young adult novel based on the Marvel Comics character Spider-Man and his first love, Mary Jane Watson. Except this book is written from Mary Jane's point of view.

Okay, so Mary Jane suffers from Anorexia and is in those "Nobody understands me!" years. It's still a good story. Girl befriends class nerd. Class nerd (Peter Parker) loves girl. Class nerd gets bitten by chemically altered spider, becomes buff, and moonlights as a superhero. Girl can't make up her mind whether she should date popular hottie or friendly nerd.

What's great is that MJ has depth finally. We understand more about who she is and where she comes from. Sure, Peter Parker's story is more unique, but enough about him! At last, MJ has a moment to shine in her own novel.

Disappointments: Peter Parker's sudden buffness in high school makes him popular, and cheerleaders dote on him. Also, Harry Osbourne is just the drippiest rich guy ever. Thank goodness the movie version of Harry isn't such a dweeb. Thank you, James Franco.

Loves: Pencil drawings at the beginning of chapters add definite interest. Reads like a novel, not a comic book.

4.5 stars

Whiny. Predictable. Boring.

'Nuff said.

1.5 stars.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

"All Loves Excelling" by Josiah Bunting III

A few months ago I came across this book while our library was in the midst of rebarcoding everthing to get ready for a system change. I loved the title and front cover. It sounded exactly like something I'd want to read, a lovely little story about a girl attending a prestigious boarding school in the hopes of bettering her grades and SAT scores to get into an Ivy League college.

Plus, the quote on the front said "Should stand on the same shelf [as] A Separate Peace...and The Catcher in the Rye."

So finally, I had a chance to read the book. The entire first half of the book is filled with nothing. I mean, nothing happens. It's mostly about the main character, Amanda, studying nonstop, being pressured by her overbearing mother to be the best, and a very strict exercise schedule. She makes only two friends, but they are so rarely part of the story that it's a wonder they were created at all.

The second half starts to make up for the slow beginning. The prose is beautiful throughout, slowly taking Amanda from earnest and dedicated to an addiction to drugs and an eating disorder. The stiff but well-meaning story seeks to warn parents about the pressures put upon their children. My problem with it is the lack of warmth. At the end of the book, I should feel more than a slight disappointment for poor Amanda. It's a shame because I could tell the story meant a lot to the writer. I just wish it meant more to me.

One plus, for me, was the many references to the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins, whom I also studied in college. But given the weightiness of the material and lovely prose, despite its stiffness and lack of fully realized characters, I give this book 3.5 stars.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

I have read two of Gregory Maguire’s other books, Wicked and Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister. Both were great stories that had vibrant characters and rich detail. I imagined nothing less of Lost.

The book opens with the lead character, Winnie Rudge, witnessing a car accident. It’s compelling and interesting…and has nothing to do with anything else that happens in the book. Winnie then travels to London to work on a book she’s writing, intending to stay with her cousin, John. Upon arrival, it appears as though her cousin has disappeared. None of his neighbors or co-workers is willing to talk to Winnie, either. Strewn throughout the novels are random nursery rhymes and references to Peter Pan, Ebenezer Scrooge, and Jack the Ripper. It takes a pretty long time before the reader begins to understand what lies beneath the quotes and references.

The title could be used to describe the reader after finishing this book. I felt lost. I thought, “What was the point of this book?” The main character was obviously a candidate for therapy. She continues to spiral into depression and obsession. Oh, and she gets possessed by the spirit of a 12th century French woman who was burned to death.

I wondered if I was too harsh on the book, so I checked to see what reviewers on Amazon gave it. I felt pretty justified when I saw the average review was 2.5 stars. But because I like Maguire’s other books, and there were some great lines in Lost, my final judgment is for 3 stars.

Friday, August 04, 2006

One of the advantages of working in a library is seeing books of all shapes and sizes come in and out for interlibrary loan. Chick Living was one such book that came in for a girl, and I quickly put my name on a hold list for it.

Not only does Melcher ease her readers through first apartment searches, budgeting, and entertaining, she does it with style. What a fun little book! It's colorful, easy to read, and extremely helpful.

Melcher includes pages to help readers get started on their own budgets, evaluate wants vs. needs, and checklists for inspecting apartments.

I can't think of a single chapter I didn't like. Whether you're looking for fashion tips, furnishing and decorating, or planning a party, this book has it all. You learn a lot without feeling like you're being forced to learn. There's even a recipe for homemade lip gloss! Who wouldn't like that?

This money-conscious guide to living frugally and funky will satisfy any fab chick. Loved it! I definitely give it 5 stars.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

I picked up this book simply because I liked the cover. Then when I read the inside flap, I thought, "Hey, this sounds like the plot of Just Like Heaven." Der.

I gotta say, this is one of the very few times that I have ever liked a movie better than the book on which it is based. What a disappointment. The writing is too sweet, too moralizing. It reminds me of, dare I say it? Nicholas Sparks. *shudder*

If you don't already know, the story is about Lauren, a medical intern who is in a car accident and is left in a coma. Several months later, architect Arthur moves into Lauren's apartment only to find he's not alone. Lauren's spirit or "ghost" is visible only to Arthur, and the two try to find a way to help Lauren's body and mind wake before her mother decides to pull her from life support. Unlike the movie, the novel's subplot shows Arthur finally dealing with his mother's death when he was about 12. Of course, this all happens at the end of the book, and by this time, I couldn't care less.

I really wanted to like this book, but forced dialogue, flat characters, and too-familiar lines kept me cringing. For instance, the once boyfriend of Arthur's mother says to Arthur, "Do you want to know the real reason your mom left without saying goodbye? She was a great lady, and all great ladies know how to leave in dignity..." Sound familiar? It should, if you're any kind of chick flick fan. Sipsey, in Fried Green Tomatoes, tells Idgy, "It's all right, honey. Let her go. You know, Miss Ruth was a lady. And a lady always knows when to leave."

If Only It Were True was Marc Levy's first novel, originally written in French. Wikipedia assures me that the translation is clumsy and, if read in its correct form, the book flows a lot better. Well, I'm not reading the French version. Mainly because I don't speak French.

I give this book 2.5 stars, and only that much because it led to a pretty good movie where I get to see Mark Ruffalo wearing only a towel.