Saturday, July 30, 2011

Summer Rental - Review

Title:  Summer Rental
Author: Mary Kay Andrews
Publisher:  St. Martin's Press

Goodreads Summary:

Sometimes, when you need a change in your life, the tide just happens to pull you in the right direction….
Ellis, Julia, and Dorie. Best friends since Catholic grade school, they now find themselves, in their mid-thirties, at the crossroads of life and love. Ellis, recently fired from a job she gave everything to, is rudderless and now beginning to question the choices she's made over the past decade of her life. Julia—whose caustic wit covers up her wounds--has a man who loves her and is offering her the world, but she can't hide from how deeply insecure she feels about her looks, her brains, her life.  And Dorie has just been shockingly betrayed by the man she loved and trusted the most in the world…though this is just the tip of the iceberg of her problems and secrets. A month in North Carolina's Outer Banks is just what they each of them needs.
Ty Bazemore is their landlord, though he's hanging on to the rambling old beach house by a thin thread. After an inauspicious first meeting with Ellis, the two find themselves disturbingly attracted to one another, even as Ty is about to lose everything he's ever cared about.
Maryn Shackleford is a stranger, and a woman on the run. Maryn needs just a few things in life: no questions, a good hiding place, and a new identity.  Ellis, Julia, and Dorie can provide what Maryn wants; can they also provide what she needs? 
Five people questioning everything they ever thought they knew about life. Five people on a journey that will uncover their secrets and point them on the path to forgiveness.   Five people who each need a sea change, and one month in a summer rental that might just give it to them.

My thoughts:

I actually read this book on vacation, while at my family's summer rental in northern Michigan.  I figured it was the perfect book for the occasion.  I was right! It is a great, lighthearted summer read.  

I liked all the characters, although Julia did get on my nerves a little- she seemed kind of abrupt and I wouldn't like if my friends talked to me so sharply.  She did mellow out and grow on me though.  Ellis was uptight, but that was ok.  I felt her character really grew and changed as the novel progressed, which I like.   Dorie was my favorite of the friends, I hope we get a book about her soon! I just liked her go with it demeanor and silliness, but she was practical and down to earth when she needed to be.  I am not usually about books about women friend groups, they are usually so saccharine my teeth rot out of my head just reading them or the friends are really jerks to each other and sleep with each other's husbands and stuff.  This book was a nice blend of good friends and reality- they admitted after a month they were starting to get on each others nerves. I felt too, that some of the language was realistic - I am the same age as the characters, and they talked to each other alot like I do with my friends.

One thing that bothered me and made me anxious the whole book, was the dog Biggie.  The character Maryn left her husband and her beloved dog, and worried that perhaps her husband would do something horrid to Biggie in retaliation.  This made me nervous the entire book!!! I didn't like Maryn for doing that, who leaves an animal they love behind if they think there is a chance they might be injured, and I was kind of irritated at Andrews for saying that and then never mentioning Biggie again.  At one point while Maryn is reminiscing, she thinks about how Biggie was her husband's real best friend, and I kind of relaxed a bit after that, but I was a little on edge the whole book.  

This was a really fun read - I usually always enjoy Andrew's books, and this was no exception.  Looking forward to the next read by her!

Heart of Evil - Review

Title:  Heart of Evil
Author: Heather Graham
Publisher:  Mira
Reviewed for netGalley

Goodreads Summary:

Emerging from the bayou like an apparition, Donegal Plantation is known for its unsurpassed dining, captivating atmosphere, haunting legends…and now a corpse swinging from the marble angel that marks its cemetery’s most majestic vault. A corpse discovered in nearly the same situation as that of Marshall Donegal, the patriarch killed in a skirmish just before the Civil War. Desperate for help traditional criminologists could never provide, plantation heiress Ashley Donegal turns to an elite team of paranormal investigators who blend hard forensics with rare – often inexplicable – intuition. Among them is Jake Mallory, a gifted New Orleans musician with talent that stretches beyond the realm of the physical, and a few dark ghosts of his own. The evil the team unveils has the power to shake the plantation to its very core. Jake and Ashley are forced to risk everything to unravel secrets that will not stay buried – even in death….

My thoughts:

I recently read Phantom Evil, and I was not overly impressed.  This is the sequel, and second in the Krewe of Hunters series.  I liked this one so much better!!!  The characters and the relationships did not seem as forced, there was not the sense of fake camaraderie that I felt in the first book.  The mystery itself was more interesting, and had me guessing until the end, and I usually figure mysteries out early on.  I loved the ghosts in this book too - poor Marshall! His story was just as intriguing as the central mystery in the novel, and really, I wouldn't mind reading a book about him and his poor wife.

This is the first book I have ever read digitally, and I am not sure how I liked it.  I used my husband's Nook and there were things I liked and disliked.  I liked:  the portability - it was alot easier to read in bed and on the couch than some of my books. I think that is all I liked.  I disliked:  It running out of power at inconvenient times, the sensory factors of a book like the rustling of pages or the crispness and smell of a new book, and the fact that I physically could not see how much I had read and how much I had left - for some reason this really bothered me!! I never would have guessed that would even come up.  It was a very odd feeling for me, I felt slightly adrift.  I also had a hard time actually reading it in this format - I am used to reading blogs and emails online, but nothing really long.  I found myself skimming, and having to go back and reread.    So, I am still not convinced about electronic reading devices.  Maybe it is just something I have to get used to.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Vixen - Review

Title: Vixen
Author- Jillian Larkin
Publisher:  Delacorte Books for Young Readers

Goodreads Summary:

Jazz . . . Booze . . . Boys . . . It’s a dangerous combination.
Every girl wants what she can’t have. Seventeen-year-old Gloria Carmody wants the flapper lifestyle—and the bobbed hair, cigarettes, and music-filled nights that go with it. Now that she’s engaged to Sebastian Grey, scion of one of Chicago’s most powerful families, Gloria’s party days are over before they’ve even begun . . . or are they?
Clara Knowles, Gloria’s goody-two-shoes cousin, has arrived to make sure the high-society wedding comes off without a hitch—but Clara isn’t as lily-white as she appears. Seems she has some dirty little secrets of her own that she’ll do anything to keep hidden. . . . 
Lorraine Dyer, Gloria’s social-climbing best friend, is tired of living in Gloria’s shadow. When Lorraine’s envy spills over into desperate spite, no one is safe. And someone’s going to be very sorry. . . . 
From debut author Jillian Larkin, VIXEN is the first novel in the sexy, dangerous, and ridiculously romantic new series set in the Roaring Twenties . . . when anything goes.

My thoughts:

Not too shabby, as young adult books go.  We read this for book club, and it sparked some interesting conversation.  

I had the hardest time remembering that the characters were only in high school.  I didn't disapprove of their behavior, especially for the time, I just kept picturing them in my mind as in their twenties.  So when one of them would say that they had school the next day, it would throw me off- and to be honest, those moments seemed kind of throw away to me, like Larkin just threw them in randomly to remind us that these were high schoolers, and that this was a young adult book.  

The characters were not all that particularly likable- I thought Gloria to be insipid and bland, and even her rebellion seemed perfectly cliched. Her romance with Jerome I think is just starting to be played out- will she be able to handle the prejudices that are directed at her? Is she strong enough?  I am not so sure she is.

 Clara also fell way too easily into the role of a perfect influence and paragon of purity - her year of rebellion quashed in an ultimatum delivered by her aunt, Gloria's mom. The character Lorraine was my favorite-  I called her a hot mess, and she really was.  But this made her so much more interesting than the others.  She had depth that I felt the others lacked, even Clara, despite Clara's sordid past.  I really felt sorry for her too, being so in love with Marcus, and Gloria and Marcus knowing and silently mocking her.  Too cruel.  She really just wanted someone to care about her - she didn't seem to be first in anyone's life, not even her parents.

Although I was not totally in love with this book, I am a fan of this era, and I am curious to know what happens in the sequel, with Lorraine and Sebastian.  Ranked with my recent YA reads, I would put this below Libba Bray and the Hunger Games, but above Magnolia League and Twilight.  

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Honolulu- Review

Title:  Honolulu
Author:  Alan Brennert
Publisher:  St. Martin's Press

Goodreads Summary:

As a young Korean woman at the onset of 20th century, Regret knows that there is only one possible avenue to the education she seeks. She must become a mail-order bride. She travels to Hawaii to meet the man she has agreed to marry, but it becomes apparent all too quickly that he is not the genteel, prosperous young man she imagined he would be. Instead, she finds herself yoked to an impoverished plantation worker addicted to alcohol and gambling. Her painful situation forces her to fend for herself and form beneficial alliances with other "picture brides." This powerful historical novel draws you into the plight of a woman swimming in the uncertainty of a new culture.

My thoughts:

I loved this book- maybe not as much as Moloka'i, but I still am completely enamored by the worlds that Brennert creates.  What a brave woman Regret is- throughout the book, she is a force to be reckoned with, shedding like layers the ideals of her ancestors in order to live the life and be the woman she desires.  I can't imagine how frightening it would be to leave my country, language, family, and way of life behind to marry a man I had only met through a photo as a "picture bride"- what courage you must have, and what determination.  She had some serious guts, sparked initially by Regret's wish to learn and read.  I love that she chose a new name for herself, to reflect her new life- Jin, meaning Gem.  

I was surprised by the amount of racism and prejudice that existed in Hawaii at the time in this book - I never thought about, or really had anything bring this particular area and time frame (both Hawaii and Korea) into my thoughts.  The problems at the time between the Koreans and Japanese, or between the native Hawaiian people and those of the newcomers to the islands - both lands invaded by another.  I know that my husband's grandmother, a native Hawaiian, suffered at the hands of racism when she moved away from the islands in the 1960s to the southern United States, as did my mother-in-law and her siblings.  Apparently I guess I thought the times between the missionaries trying to change the Hawaiian people and the 60s was a time of equality and peace.  How naive and uninformed I feel.  

This book was beautiful in every way- I loved the descriptions of the characters lives, their courage, their love and loyalty for their friends and family, the part with May and W. Somerset Maugham.  Regret, such a sad and tragic name, made a wonderful life for herself, and made peace with her family at the end.  I almost wish this book wouldn't have ended!

Monday, July 18, 2011

It's Monday, What Are You Reading?

It's Monday, What Are You Reading is a weekly blog meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey where you list the books you read last week and the ones you hope to read this week.

Read Last Week:


Smokin' Seventeen by Janet Evanovich:  Last week was super busy for me, and this book was perfect for the amount of time I had to read.  It was like revisiting your old wacky friend, finding she is up to the same old tricks and same old problems, but still enjoying her stories.

Shem Creek by Dorothea Benton Frank:  I didn't fall in love with this book the way I wanted to.  I wanted more than I was given.  I still intend to read more of this author, although I didn't enjoy this as much as I did Pawleys Island.

Currently Reading:

Honolulu by Alan Brennert:  I started this book last week, but didn't have the time I wanted to spend on it, so I put it aside until this week.  I started reading it in earnest yesterday, and I didn't want to stop!  So far so good.

Heart of Evil by Heather Graham:  This is a netGalley book for me- I meant to read it sooner, but I am an not eReader by nature.  I had to have my husband put this on his nook for me. It is a definitely a different experience!  This is the second in the Krewe of Hunters series.

Paris to the Moon by Adam Gopnik:   I am looking forward to this one!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Shem Creek- Review

Title: Shem Creek
Author: Dorothea Benton Frank
Publisher:  Berkley

Goodreads Summary:

Meet Linda Breland, single parent of two teenage daughters. The oldest, Lindsey, who always held her younger sister in check, is leaving for college. And Gracie, her Tasmanian devil, is giving her nightmares. Linda's personal life? Well, between the married men, the cold New Jersey winters, her pinched wallet and her ex-husband who marries a beautiful, successful woman ten years younger than she is - let's just say, Linda has seen enough to fill a thousand pages.

As the story opens, she is barreling down Interstate 95, bound for Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, the land of her ancestors. Welcomed by the generous heart of her advice-dispensing sister, Mimi, Linda and her daughters slowly begin to find their way and discover a sweeter rhythm of life.

And then there's Brad Jackson, a former investment banker of Atlanta, Georgia who hires her to run his restaurant on Shem Creek. Like everyone else, Brad's got a story of his own - namely an almost ex-wife, Loretta who is the kind of gal who gives women a bad name. 

The real protagonist of this story is the Lowcountry itself. The magical waters of Shem Creek, the abundant wildlife and the astounding power of nature give this tiny corner of the planet its infallible reputation as a place for introspection, contemplation and healing. 

My thoughts:

I give this a book a meh, it was ok, hand wave.  The parts I loved:  the description of the area, the creek itself, the beach, the lifestyle the characters led, the cute boathouse on the water they lived in. I fell more in love with the idea of this book, I think, than the actual book itself.  What I didn't like:  The crazy sudden relationship at the end between Linda and Brad- throughout most of the book you maybe got the sense that Linda was starting to develop a crush on Brad, but you didn't get the feeling that he reciprocated.  I also was put off by the lack of concern for the environment in this book- the book is set in such a gorgeous area of the United States, the author makes a point to mention that it is being destroyed, but the only character who really cares about it is an extremist maniac.  It was interesting, I guess, to see this issue from the other side, from a business who is contributing to the demise of the creek by trying to make a living, not realizing that what they are doing is causing the creek to essentially become a dead creek.  I didn't like that the characters learned this, and didn't seem to care. I think at one point, Linda's character actually says something like "like who cares, right?" when referring to the environmental problems.  Only after the restaurant is burned down by the extremist character, do they make concessions - they move the newly built restaurant back further from the creek, add appropriate drainage, and make brochures.  But it just seemed really throw away to me.  What I could overlook:  the quick turnaround in behavior from the youngest daughter, and the ease in which Linda rebuilds a brand new life.

I think this book was just ok- I liked the other Frank book I read better. I will probably read her again, however, since I have read one good, one marginal.  This book is a great vacation book, but not really much more than that.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Smokin' Seventeen - Review

Title:  Smokin' Seventeen
Author:  Janet Evanovich
Publisher:  Random House

I won this in a giveaway from Book Belle!

Goodreads Summary:

Where there’s smoke there’s fire, and no one knows this better than New Jersey bounty hunter Stephanie Plum. 

Dead bodies are showing up in shallow graves on the empty construction lot of Vincent Plum Bail Bonds. No one is sure who the killer is, or why the victims have been offed, but what is clear is that Stephanie’s name is on the killer’s list.
Short on time to find evidence proving the killer’s identity, Stephanie faces further complications when her family and friends decide that it’s time for her to choose between her longtime off-again-on-again boyfriend, Trenton cop Joe Morelli, and the bad boy in her life, security expert Ranger. Stephanie’s mom is encouraging Stephanie to dump them both and choose a former high school football star who’s just returned to town. Stephanie’s sidekick, Lula, is encouraging Stephanie to have a red-hot boudoir “bake-off.” And Grandma Bella, Morelli’s old-world grandmother, is encouraging Stephanie to move to a new state when she puts “the eye” on Stephanie.
With a cold-blooded killer after her, a handful of hot men, and a capture list that includes a dancing bear and a senior citizen vampire, Stephanie’s life looks like it’s about to go up in smoke.

My thoughts:

I am having a busy jumbled up week, with different work shifts and commitments scattered here and there, which has made time for reading difficult.  This book was the perfect book to read in my sporadic short bursts of free time.  It is classic Stephanie, with the predictable car mishaps, run ins with crazy skips that are bungled by Stephanie and Lula, and then of course that little love triangle she has going on with Ranger and Morelli.  (Notice I listed Ranger's name first- guess which guy I am rooting for? ) Sometimes people say predictable like it is a bad thing- I have to disagree with that.  Sometimes you want predictable, sometimes you want things to be the same.  If I picked up the next book, and all of a sudden Stephanie had learned Krav Maga, given up doughnuts, and had no problems with apprehensions, that would be weird, and wrong.  I would feel Evanovich had finally thrown in the towel with this series.  Stephanie is not allowed to grow up that much. I guess I just don't read these books expecting them to be that different.  A little character growth might be ok, but a 360?  Maybe not.  This series is like mac and cheese- an easy place to escape back to, in my opinion, but not much more, and that is alright sometimes.

As for the Ranger/Morelli debate, I am firmly in Ranger's camp.  I just like him better - for some reason I feel he is more trustworthy.  My good friend Chrissy is a Morelli fan - and this book came with two stickers, one for each of us. Team Ranger and Team Morellli. The triangle seems to heat up a bit more than in the other books in this one as well, some of it a little surprising to me.  

If you have stuck with this series until now, I am guessing you are in it until the end.  Like me.  Its not anything new, or too different, but sometimes that is ok too.  

Monday, July 11, 2011

It's Monday, What Are You Reading?

It's Monday, What Are You Reading is a weekly blog meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey where you list the books you read last week and the ones you hope to read this week.

Read Last Week:

Stiltsville by Susanna Daniel:  I stopped reading the book around page 200 or so.  I was completely bored and felt like I only made it that far because I couldn't believe that nothing was happening in the book.  It was like being on a very long phone conversation with someone you didn't want to talk to as they filled you in on every detail of their everyday life.  Two things I learned that were cool from the book though however- Stiltsville really did exist, and that oranges explode when orange groves freeze.  I am sure that this is a good book, it is just not one for me.

Arcadia Falls by Carol Goodman:  As always, I felt Carol Goodman delivered a fantastic book.  I fell right into this isolated world of academia, with its rituals and traditions and secrets.  

Phantom Evil by Heather Graham:  I liked this book, it was an easy fun read.  There were some aspects of the book I thought lacked a little, but for the most part I enjoyed it.  I am about to read the second in this series for netGalley, and I am interested to compare the two.

Vixen by Jillian Larkin:  This is our book club book for July.  I did enjoy this book, although every so often the reader is reminded that the characters are only 17 years old, and that was hard for me to wrap my head around.  Since this is a book club book, I won't post my review on it until after we meet.  

Currently Reading:

Smokin' Seventeen by Janet Evanovich:  So excited to read this one! I won this in a giveaway hosted by Book Belle - if you haven't visited her blog, check it out.  She has well written reviews on a variety of books! 

Honolulu by Alan Brennert:  I recently read Molokai and loved it - I have hopes that I enjoy this one just as much.  

Shem Creek by Dorothea Benton Frank:  I am a sucker for a book set in the Lowcountry!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Arcadia Falls - Review

Title: Arcadia Falls
Author: Carol Goodman
Publisher: Ballantine Books

Goodreads Summary:

Financial straits and a desire for a fresh start take recently widowed Meg Rosenthal and her aloof teenage daughter, Sally, to Arcadia Falls, a tucked-away hamlet in upstate New York where Meg has accepted a teaching position at a boarding school. The creaky, neglected cottage they’ll be calling home feels like an ill omen, but Meg is determined to make the best of it. Then a shocking crisis strikes: During Arcadia’s First Night bonfire, one of Meg’s folklore students plunges to her death in a campus gorge. Sheriff Callum Reade finds the presumed accident suspicious, but then, he is a man with a dark past himself. Meg is unnerved by Reade’s interest in the girl’s death, and as long-buried secrets emerge, she must face down her own demons and the danger threatening to envelop Sally. As the past clings tight to the present, the shadows, as if in a terrifying fairy tale, grow longer and deadlier.

My thoughts:

First let me say that Carol Goodman is one of my favorite authors. I love her books, I love how there is always a story within a story, intellectuals pursuing degrees in obscure romantic subjects, rituals and traditions that are based in mythology or paganism, and what sounds like great architecture in great locations.

This book had them all, everything I hope and expect in her books. It must seem formulaic to some, but to me, it is why I read them. I like to visit these worlds where characters study Latin or folklore and fairy tales, and live in crumbling houses in enchanted forests. Meg, the main character, repeatedly shares the story of The Changeling Child, about a girl who leaves her family for one year and creates a changeling out of a beech root, that takes her place at home. She had made a deal with a witch that she would live there and help the witch for this year, in return for wealth and happiness for her family. After the year is up, the girl realizes that she has made a mistake and is trapped at the witch's house, and can't return home. One night, she figures out a way to make it through the woods to her home- after fighting her way there, she looks down at her home, and sees that everyone is happy and prospering, just as she had made the deal for. As she stands there, she struggles with herself, wondering if she really does want to return home after all, or if she wants to return to the witch and the woods, and to the art that she had been creating there.

This story of the Changeling is important since it parallels many of the characters motivations in Arcadia Falls, the most prevalent throughout being whether a woman can be both a mother and an artist, or if she can only be one or the other. Meg, her mother, her grandmother, and Lily, a character from the past, all had to deal with this question, and it seems they all have different views and made different choices.

Something else that made me think- Meg asked her class who they would be, if they could be someone else, or if they would just stay themselves. I think if it were me, I would want to remain myself, maybe with some changes, but still my life, myself.

My only two criticisms are that the last, final, surprise twist at the end seemed unnecessary, and that when a student in the book dies, there is no mention of parents suing the school or other parents pulling their kids from the school. But maybe this was to illustrate just how isolated unto itself the school was.

What do you think? Do you think a woman can be both a mother and an artist? And if you could be someone else, would you? Who would you be?

Phantom Evil - Review

Title: Phantom Evil
Author: Heather Graham
Publisher: Mira

Goodreads Summary:

A secret government unit is formed under the oversight of Adam Harrison, famed paranormal investigator. The six members he’s gathered know a little of the otherworldly — each has honed a psychic talent of their own.

Jackson Crow, part English, part Cheyenne, heads the group. Haunted by his experience with an ancestral ghost who saved his life as a child, and the recent murders of two previous teammates, Jackson can’t tell if Adam’s demoted him or given him an extraordinary opportunity. Despite his link to the realm of spirits, he’s well aware that the living commit the most heinous crimes, with spiritualist charlatans existing merely to fool and seduce the unwary.

To counterbalance Jackson’s careful skepticism, Adam Harrison has paired him with Angela Hawkins, a young woman who learned the painful lesson of loss at an early age. A police officer utilizing her paranormal intuition in Virginia, she already has her hands full. But Adam’s call to New Orleans is strong.

The case: In a historic mansion in New Orleans’ French Quarter, a senator’s wife falls to her death from a balcony. Most think she jumped, distraught over the loss of her young son. Some say she was pushed. And yet others believe she was beckoned by the ghostly spirits that inhabit the house — once the site of a serial killer’s grisly work.

Whether supernatural or all too human, crimes of passion, greed and desire will cast the pair into danger of losing their lives... and their immortal souls.

My thoughts:

This book reminded me it has been too long since I have visited New Orleans- the sights, sounds, restaurants described all make me want to go back right this second. As for the book itself, I felt it was just ok.

The supernatural plot lines were the best - I felt that they were well written, and told a good story. Everything dealing with the house being haunted, the ghosts, the serial killer Newton- all were well done. I wish the rest of the book had been as good. However, there was just too much going on to be believable. The Aryans, the creepy church, just too much. I also did not like how the main characters, Angela and Jackson, kept referring to their teammates as "kids". Angela and Jack are in their thirties, while the rest of their crew were in their twenties. It drove me crazy, they just were not old enough to refer to them as kids- and it happened alot. It was a small thing that grated on my nerves. I am in my thirties, and have friends in their twenties, and I don't think of them as children.

I read this book because I am about to read the second in the series, Heart of Evil, for netGalley, and felt the need to read the first one before I did. I am anxious to compare the two.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

It's Monday, What Are You Reading?

It's Monday, What Are You Reading is a weekly blog meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey where you list the books you read last week and the ones you hope to read this week.

Read Last Week:

Pawleys Island by Dorothea Benton Frank: This was a fun summer read, set on a southern coastal island, Pawleys Island. I enjoyed it very much, and I am planning on reading more from this author this summer.

The Magnolia League by Katie Crouch: I was really excited to read this book. I love the city of Savannah, books about magic and all that, but was really let down by some aspects of this book.

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray: The surprise book- I didn't think I would like it as much as I did! I should have my review written in the next day or two. **Finished

Currently Reading:

Phantom Evil by Heather Graham: I am obviously revisiting through books some of my favorite cities - New Orleans is in the top three of my favorite cities.

Stiltsville by Susanna Daniel: I picked this because of the cover. I saw that a bunch of people around the blogs have been reading, it, but this cover is very inviting. It would be a fantastic place to live, except maybe during a hurricane.

Arcadia Falls by Carol Goodman: I love love love Carol Goodman's books. I am drawn to the history, the mystery, the romance of old worlds and times. I am very much looking forward to this book this week.

Have a great reading week everyone, and have a safe and happy Fourth of July!

Beauty Queens- Review

Title: Beauty Queens
Author: Libba Bray
Publisher: Scholastic Press

Goodreads Summary:

The fifty contestants in the Miss Teen Dream pageant thought this was going to be a fun trip to the beach, where they could parade in their state-appropriate costumes and compete in front of the cameras. But sadly, their airplane had another idea crashing on a desert island and leaving the survivors stranded with little food, little water, and practically no eyeliner.

What's a beauty queen to do? Continue to practice for the talent portion of the program--or wrestle snakes to the ground? Get a perfect tan--or learn to run wild? And what should happen when the sexy pirates show up?

Welcome to the heart of non-exfoliated darkness. Your tour guide? None other than Libba Bray, the hilarious, sensational, Printz Award-winning author of A Great and Terrible Beauty and Going Bovine. The result is a novel that will make you laugh, make you think, and make you never see beauty the same way again.

My thoughts:

Don't mess with Texas is right!! Especially Miss Texas from Miss Teen Dream!

I was prepared to hate this book - I mean, beauty queens, really? And the prologue didn't grab me, I in fact seriously disliked it. Other than at times being a little over the top and heavy on the satire of modern pop culture, I loved this book. I got past the prologue, and into the actual plot of the book, and couldn't stop reading about these girls!

There was a part in A Great and Terrible Beauty that stuck with me - at one point the girls look around at each other, and are like, (paraphrasing here) we are only told to be stuck in this victorian vision of womanhood because they fear us, fear our power as women. In Beauty Queens, Bray takes this concept and develops it fully. These shipwrecked beauty queens evolve, become self-actualized, strong, and throw off the constricts society has imposed upon them! So what if they want to a wild girl, a lesbian, a transgender - they are going to be themselves, and not let the world tell them how to act and who to be.

Besides the feminist themes, this book is actually pretty funny. Some lines made me laugh out loud, which is always embarrassing if you are reading this book somewhere public, like say, your neighborhood coffee house. It is an entirely quotable book, but this was one of my favorites:

"Occasionally, from the school bus windows, she would see other wild girls on the edges of the cornfields, running without shoes, hair unkempt. Their short skirts rode up, flashing warning lights of flesh: backs of knees, the curve of a calf, a smooth plain of thigh. Sometimes it was just a girl waiting for a bus, but in her eyes Mary Lou recognized the feral quality. That was a girl who wanted to race trains under the moon, a girl who liked the feel of a silk stockings against her skin, the whisper promise of a boy's neck under her lips, who did not want to wait for life to choose her, but wished to do the choosing herself. "

This book was funny, snarky, satirical, but at the same time addressed so many different issues that young girls today face. This is a great read, and I totally recommend it.