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Review: The Princess Diaries (The Princess Diaries, Book One) by Meg Cabot

in a sentence or so: Mia is your typical tall, awkward, and social outcast high school freshman. typical, that is, until she finds out she's a princess.

Mia lives with her artist mom in Manhattan. her best friend, Lilly, is a smart and socially conscious spirit with her own public access show that takes on the "tough" issues called "Lilly Tells it Like it is". mostly Mia is doing the best she can with being super tall, having huge feet, awkward hair, and surviving algebra. just when she feels like things couldn't get worse...she finds out from her dad that she is the heir to the throne of Genovia.

Mia is then expected to take Princess lessons (in exchange for daily donations to Greenpeace on behalf of her dad), while still doing homework and going to tutoring for her awful Algebra grade. turns out, being a princess doesn't make all your problems go away - it just piles more problems on top. in no time flat she's gotten into a huge fight with Lilly, had all her hair chopped off, humiliated the most popular girl in school, and is constantly swarmed by the paparazzi. yeesh!

Mia's voice was one that i easily related to and adored. she's self-conscious (constantly referring to her flat chest) but sarcastic and witty. she truly cherishes her best friend Lilly. she's wrapped up in the mysteries of boyfriends, crushes, first kisses...typical high school stuff.

i, as well as a majority of the people who would ever consider reading this book, have seen the movie before reading it. the two renditions are really similar, but the main differences are her grandmother, the fact that her dad is very much alive, and we get to have a deeper look into who Mia really is. i truly enjoyed reading her diary and experiencing the storytelling from her point of view. she's pretty clueless, but the reader is definitely able to read in between the lines to gain advantage of what the other characters are like in an honest portrayal.

at about 300 pages, i was still able to pound through this book in less than a week. i'm only sorry i didn't read it sooner! i'll be sure to pick up the next princess diaries novel asap.

fave quote: hard to say - i truly enjoyed so much of what she said and how she said it!

fix er up: having seen the movie, there were no "surprises" in there for me. that was a bit of a bummer, but not enough to have spoiled the read.

title: The Princess Diaries (The Princess Diaries, Book One)
author: Meg Cabot
genre: Chick Lit, Diary format, Romance, Humor

Review: The Knife of Never Letting Go (Chaos Walking Trilogy, Book One) by Patrick Ness

in a sentence or so: Todd is a mere month from ditching his status as the last boy to become a man in Prentisstown. little does he know, everything he's known - his entire life and history - has been a lie intended to cover up a horrible history that will cause him to run for his life.

Todd's altnernate-reality type world is unlike our own in many ways. for one thing, there's Noise. Noise is best described as hearing others thoughts and seeing the images in others minds. this includes animals. which means Todd frequently hears the thoughts of his dog, Manchee...and those thoughts typically relate to pooping and eating. the worst part about the noise is that you can hear everyone's noise in the whole town all the time. also - no women in Todd's world. none. so when Todd stumbles upon a space of total silence while in the swamp that turns out to be a girl his own age, he knows that his life is going to change.

i'm going to try and give as much of a review as i can without revealing the plot or throwing out spoilers. so much of this book is about slowly peeling back layers of Todd's origins and the mysteries of Prentisstown. essentially, Todd and Viola (the source of the silence he finds in the swamp) are on the run from the down-right evil men of Prentisstown. Todd and Viola quickly discover that people from Prentisstown are not welcome anywhere, and that the men from Prentisstown are relentless in their chase of Todd and have no qualms killing, burning, and destroying whatever and whomever may come in their way.

again - to avoid spoilers - let me just say that this book rocked. the escape from the unknown through the unknown into the unknown was fascinating and absolutely frightening. Noise is emotive as well as a means of conversation, but is also expressed in colors, shapes, and feels almost tangible. this creates an intensity to the characters and overall emotional investment in the plot. at times gruesome, at times hopeful, this read is ALWAYS consuming.

this book was thrilling, mysterious, exciting, scary, sad, and intense. mostly, the main characters - Todd, Viola, and Manchee - are so easy to relate to and care about that i was hooked from the first page and committed to reading about their discoveries of themselves and the world around them. the writing is excellent, the plot is creative and unexpected, and (yes i admit it) i cried while reading it. read this book, you'll love it.

fave quote: "The word was true. It's an army. A whole army. There's a whole army coming after me and Viola." (210)

fix er up: this is by far the most outrageous and nail-biting cliffhanger ending i've EVER read! good thing the next book is out already! i'll be getting my hands on that asap!

title: The Knife of Never Letting Go (Chaos Walking Trilogy, Book 1)
author: Patrick Ness
genre: Coming of Age, Adventure, Edgy, Lisa's Faves, Fantasy

Review: Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork

in a sentence or so: Marcelo is spiritually curious, loves music, has a gift with horses, and has what can asperger's syndrome. after Marcelo's dad challenges him to work a summer at his law firm to gain real world experience - if Marcelo is able to be successful at his job in the copy room, he can go to whichever high school he wants for his senior year - the public high school or his comfortable special private school. is Marcelo up for the challenge? is one summer of suffering worth enjoying his senior year?
best be described as high-functioning

okay, before i can even jump into the review, i need to say that i heard wonderful things about this book. i had really high expectations, and so when it was available almost immediately at my library, i was pretty surprised. also - how friggin' cool is this cover? gorgeous.

okay, on to the review. Marcelo isn't dumb, though most people probably mistake him for being slow or dim-witted. in social situations that require him to absorb a lot of information at once, require a quick verbal response, or working without a set schedule, Marcelo struggles. needless to say, working in the copy room with Jasmine at the law firm, meets every one of his anxieties. Marcelo has to do more than just survive the summer in order to get his share of the bargain, he has to succeed. without being sure what his success is measured by, Marcelo is challenged to learn, adapt, and grow. especially once he discovers a haunting photo related to a particular case being handled by the firm which is not in line with who he believes his father to be.

more than just an overcoming-the-odds story, this book has so many layers its hard to describe and do it justice. its all set from the viewpoint of a different lens than most readers are familiar with. Marcelo is the narrator, and so we read what he thinks, read what he experiences and walk with him as he processes and grows. we also learn about his look on life and infatuation with spirituality and how it affects who he is and the world around him. there are three major parts happening together - Marcelo in the law firm, Marcelo and Jasmine's relationship (and Wendell, the creepy son of another lawyer in the firm), and a big legal case that Marcelo is inexplicably drawn to.

this is a journey of self discovery, discovery of human nature, and grappling with that overwhelming and life-long struggle of what "doing the right thing" means.

this is one of those books that i will constantly encourage anyone and everyone to read! it was downright amazing. my review does not do justice to the immense adoration and love i have for this creative, thoughtful, inspiring, challenging, and incredibly well-written book.

fave quote: "But today - today I will just be." (230)

fix er up: i had a hard time figuring out how some of the smaller plot points tied together into the larger framework. but it didn't distract from the rest of the story.

title: Marcelo in the Real World
author: Francisco X. Stork
genre: Coming of Age, Lisa's Faves

Review: The White Darkness by Geraldine McCaughrean

in a sentence or so: Sym is a bit socially awkward. that could be because she has an imaginary boyfriend
that's been dead for 90 years. or that her main hobby/interest in life is all things Antarctica related. so when her uncle offers her an all expenses paid (and quite suspicious) trip to Antarctica - she's game.

Sym, short for Symone, is a 14 year old who is known by her classmates for her hearing aids and her imaginary boyfriend, Titus Oates. not exactly a social butterfly. often looking inward to hang out with Titus or to reflect with her own thoughts, her efforts to talk to others often involve awkward exchanges and incomplete sentences. Titus hasn't always been a part of Sym's life though. it wasn't until after her father's growing madness and eventual death that Titus became the most real person in her life. that's not to say her mom doesn't love her (she does) or that her Uncle Victor doesn't take care of them (he helps pay the bills).

Uncle Victor (not a real uncle, but the friends-of-the-parents type of uncle) is to be credited for Sym's obsession with Antarctica. it is his life goal to go to The Ice and to take Sym, his right hand girl. so when presented with the opportunity to travel to Antarctica, even though she suspects some weird things are going on, she becomes his traveling companion willingly and enthusiastically. their journey brings them into The Ice with several other travelers, including a Norwegian father and son combo that intrigues Uncle Victor. after mere days of being on The Ice, Sym is resisting suspcisions that Uncle Victor has alternative intentions for their time there. suspicions that turn out to be true.

knowing this was a Printz Award Winner, i had high expectations. i was not disappointed. the plot - past and present, is revealed one layer at a time. some revelations are confirmed suspicions, some were shocks to me. also, the deceit runs thick with these characters. pretty much every character has something to hide - including Sym and her imaginary friend. despite the surface description of Sym, she really grew on me. i viewed her less and less like a weirdo and more like a normal teen as i read on. one of the things i liked the most about Sym was her take on Sigurd, the son of the Norwegian father and son combo. there was no romantic pining, no girlish giggling, no gushy-ness. i really appreciated the refreshing look on relationships and how Sym handled the affections of her constant companion.

this book is bursting with archetypes. most notable are the epic journey through the arctic wilderness, the good natured hero we find in Sym, the deceit running rampant, and how this is most of all a coming of age story. we begin to see Sym more clearly as she sees herself and others more clearly. sometimes that clarity brings pain, sometimes it feels rewarding. overall, a really great read. the descriptions of the arctic were great, the emotions were real, and the writing was solid.

fave quotes: "I like to do my daydreaming when I'm awake; but I didn't say so because that would sound loony. Some nights I don't sleep at all - not from midnight til morning because I'm with Titus and I've got such good imagining going, and, the next day, flashes of delight go through my stomach like electricity - as if something real and marvelous has happened and I've just remembered. But if I admitted to that, Uncle Victor would say that's why I'm so slow witted - because I waste my time and energy daydreaming." (44)

"When the White Darkness sets in, it's such a kindness. All shadows disappear - the sky, the ground - leaving nothing but a milky, trembling nothingness. It's a sweet light, a pleasant light, like lying under a sheet on a summer morning: the presence of light without any of the usual complications - like being able to see. Perfect ignorance was like this, I remember: a feeling of enlightenment without ever quite grasping what was going on. They call it the White Darkness." (305)

fix er up: i felt like it ended a bit abruptly when compared with the journey-tone of the rest of the book.

title: The White Darkness
author: Gerladine McCaughrean

genre: Adventure, Coming of Age

Review: Tithe (Modern Tale of Faeries Series #1) by Holly Black

in a sentence or so: Kaye and her mom move back in with her grandma in Jersey after her mom's latest attempt to be a rockstar doesn't turn out so well. it is when she moves back to the small town of her childhood that she starts to feel faeries on the edge of her existence. she is sure that the world of real life and magic are merging into one when she finds an elf (a pretty handsome one at that) dying in the woods.

Kaye's mom has been the lead singer in many a rock band. this means that Kaye has led a pretty nomadic life and seen her fair share of bizarre, unpleasant, and morally questionable things. but through it all, Kaye has always felt loved and encouraged by her mother. which is not always the case with her best friend in Jersey, Janet. Janet and Kaye go back to the days of elementary school, and so when Kaye returns to Jersey as a sixteen year old, Janet remembers her friend's knack for making up imaginary friends/creatures and seeing things that no one else can see. well, apparently that knack is still with her.

Kaye stumbles upon Roiben, a wounded elf, in the woods. through her help, he is able to stumble back home to his home, the Unseelie court. Kaye is being told by her childhood faerie friends that this handsome elf means to do her harm...something she has a hard time believing. what she can believe is the fact that she is starting to feel strange things happening to her and around her, and that her life is not at all what she thought it to be.

i had a tough time working my way into this book. i think part of that is because this is the first faerie book i've read, so maybe the names and mythology were supposed to be assumed knowledge of the reader and i just didn't have that assumed knowledge. i felt like the framework was established quickly and loosely, and it wasn't until about a hundred pages in that i felt comfortable with the story, the characters, and the direction. it finished strong, so i ended up really enjoying the read.

all of the characters are SERIOUSLY flawed, which is something i dig. they are also seriously humanistic, which is something else i dig. you get why people (faeries, queens, pixies, etc.) act and think the way they do. at times i felt like this wasn't a great read, but overall i enjoyed it more than i expected. after i was hooked into the plot, i was really hooked. i am genuinely interested to read the further adventures of the characters in Ironside.

there are twists and turns a plenty, laugh out loud moments, vivid descriptions of what the faerie realm is like, and the title of the book is the anchor of the plot - which i will not get into because that's a bit spoiler-y. i'd recommend this to fantasy genre junkies like myself for sure.

fave quote: "She smiled ruefully. 'But they never told me. They knew all this time, and nothing - not one hint.'' Kaye looked pensively at the joints of her fingers. Why should one extra joint make them horrifying? It did, though - flexing them bothered her." (119)

fix er up: more explanation on the background of the creatures and the plot development.

title: Tithe (Modern Tale of Faeries Series #1)
author: Holly Black

genre: Fantasy