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Review: The Luxe (The Luxe Series #1) by Anna Godbersen

in a sentence: pretty girls, sexy boys, juicy secrets, fancy dresses, breathtaking ballrooms...all in a typical day for the Holland sisters in 1899 New York.

i have to admit - i had a hard time getting into this. everything i heard about the book was outstanding, and of course being a historical fiction nerdo, this should have been right up my alley.

i think it took me awhile to get into because it all seemed so cliche in the beginning...high society girl loves low society boy, bitchy best friend, etc. however, somewhere around the middle i got SO sucked in that i finished the last 250 pages in 2 days. again - not sure if it just took longer for me to connect with the characters, if i was apprehensive about the seemingly cliche plot...who knows. but i ended up LOVING IT.

elizabeth holland is the unwilling victim of her best friend and chief social rival, penelope hayes, nasty dirty tricks. juicy! there is quite the love triangle...hexagon?...going on in the luxe. between lovely Lizzie, the fun and free spirited sister Diana, Will the stable boy, Henry the local ladies man, Penelope the bitchy best friend, and Lina the personal assistant of Lizzie - the drama runs thick and deliciously intriguing. the alternating narration helps to present all sides of the story, so that we (as the reader) get in on all the juicy inside information before the other characters. kinda makes you want to get all dressed up in a custom made gown and share secrets! elizabeth holland is ultimately put into a romantic situation she hates, and finds herself with very few options on how to get out of it. elizabeth is saddled with the financial responsibility of her family, and NEEDS a way out...

the characters really developed near the end. it wasn't as predictable as i had originally thought, and so i found myself pleasantly surprised with the turn of events. i figured a lot of what we learn, or didn't learn, will play into the next 'luxe' novel. i loved the rich characterization of the gowns, shoes, coaches, and all the other girly stuff. it really added to the 'luxe' appeal.

fave: the quotes from the "Gamesome Gallant" column that proceeded some of the chapters. you get just enough of a peek into the chapter to keep you obsessively reading!

fix er up: i just keep coming back to the fact that i had such a hard time getting into it...

Title: The Luxe (The Luxe Series #1)
Author: Anna Godbersen
Genre: Chick Lit, Historical Fiction

Review: Avalon High by Meg Cabot

in a sentence: Ellie (new girl at new school, thanks to her professor parents on sabbatical) meets will, the
potential reincarnation of king arthur (and serious hottie). let the fun begin!

this was seriously one of the most fun, enjoyable, and sweet stories i have ever heard. i listened to it in the car, and i found myself laughing out loud, smiling, and sometimes even gasping while listening! Ellie, the main character and narrator, was very relatable, and you felt as if you were her best friend through the whole ordeal. the teen lingo was spot on - all of the "whatevers" and "duhs" were perfectly placed, to make it that much more believable. the story moves quickly and deliberately through her first days at a new school with all of the token, and realistic, awkwardness of the experience. you could tell that Cabot knew where she was taking you with the plot, but was making sure you enjoyed the journey too.

the blend of the chick lit + hist fic novel was PERFECT. the story of king arthur is one that is well known enough to be hinted at, but is explored more deeply by Cabot throughout the tale. the romance is sweet and genuine, while the drama - though fantasy - is very tastefully done. i also found ellie's parents to be so refreshing - genuinely caring, loving, and interested in her...despite their aloofness at times. i feel like a lot of young adult novels out there have the token 'crappy' parents, and it was nice to have the alternative in this novel.

i can't say enough great things about this book. as soon as i was done, i was 1) sad it was over and 2) ready to pop disc one back in and start at the beginning!

favorite quote (listening to it makes it harder): i liked how each chapter was prefaced by a stanza or so from the Tennyson poem that Ellie gets her name from. so clever, that Cabot...

fix er up: while i did find the style of writing to be true to a teenage girl speak - i could see that being irritating while reading. that is really my only complaint, and that's nit-picking hardcore.

title: Avalon High
author: Meg Cabot
genre: historical fiction, romance, fantasy

Review: The Messenger by Lois Lowry

in a sentence: matty, a teenage boy and the blind man known as the seer, are painfully aware of changing times in village, and it will take matty's gift to save the fate of everyone.

in true Lois Lowry fashion a la 'the giver', this novel was rich with incredible characters and dialog. i listened to it in the car, so i can't comment on whether it was a fast read - but i would assume that it is. matty's thoughts are a great insight into the society that Lowry has created, and his interactions remind the reader of 'the giver's' main character too. the character development is deliberate and detailed without being overwhelming. immediately i plunged into village, and was becoming familiar with the histories, roles, and changes within it.

while it makes a nice companion to 'the giver' and 'gathering blue', 'the messenger' is a solid stand alone read. there are references to the other books, but they are eventually explained as necessary. the idea of village was interesting, and the whole 'trade' thing in the story is mysterious, creepy, and scary all over the place - i was super intrigued and pleasantly creeped out at the same time. this was an incredible book, and well worth the emotional investment.

favorite quote: (since i listened to it, i can't look it up) pretty much every interaction between Leader and matty was incredible.

fix er up: the ending was quasi-predictable, though i dont think that hurt the novel that much. i was also frustrated with the return journey through the forest - too drawn out for my liking.

Title: The Messenger
Author: Lois Lowry
Genre: Dystopian, Fantasy

Review: The Arrival by Shaun Tan

in a sentence: a story of a man's journey to the unknown place, people, food, language, and total confusion for the sake of his family.

much to my surprise, my second graphic novel ever (the first was "Robot Dreams") was just as pleasing as the first. the images are incredibly creative, yet familiar at the same time. i loved how Shaun Tan used sepia-tones with the images, to create a nostalgic feel.

while there are some obvious allusions to early-modern immigration, the fantasy aspects are still thriving and alive. the emotions are tangible and clear.

favorite quote: not a quote exactly, but how the cycle begins again at the end of the novel - 'pay it forward' kind of deal.

fix er up: i was a little confused at parts of the story, but i assume that was a literary device to illustrate the confusion of being foreign in a new place.

Title: The Arrival
Author: Shaun Tan
Genre: Graphic Novel

Review: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

in a sentence: the freshman year of high school sucks when you have no friends, a weird thing with chewing your lips, and a horrible secret that renders you silent.

melinda enters her freshman year of high school having ruined the end of summer party for everyone - she had called the cops. the real reason for the call surfaces mid-novel, though is pretty predictable early on. even though i've been out of high school for 5 years, i can feel her awkwardness and share her frustrations with the dynamics of high school through the vivid self dialogue.

as the adult reader, i hurt for her. i want her to get better, to share, to do SOMETHING. but the novel is so real, leaving melinda to react as i expect an actual girl in her situation might.

i listened to this on audio book, so i think how i heard and experienced things might have varied verses if i had read it. through the audio book, i was connected, concerned, laughed out loud, and was completely immersed in the emotional roller coaster that was this novel. it rocked!

favorite quote: again, since i don't have the book on me, i'm going on memory here. i did love when she said the "top ten lies about high school". those were so clever, funny, and true.

fix er up: the use of art and gardening for her to "find her voice" seemed a bit cliche to me...not that it isn't a venue for those who are having a hard time finding what they want to express.

Title: Speak
Author: Laurie Halse Anderson
Genre: Drama, Problem Novel, Printz Award Winner