Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet

Published:  June 24th, 2014
The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet
By: Bernie Su & Kate Rorick
ISBN-13:  9781476763149

Based on the Emmy Award winning YouTube series The Lizzie Bennet Diaries.

Twenty-four-year old grad student Lizzie Bennet is saddled with student loan debt and is still living at home along with her two sisters, beautiful Jane and reckless Lydia.  When she records her reflections on life for her thesis project and posts them on YouTube, she has no idea The Lizzie Bennet Diaries will soon take on a life of their own, turning the Bennet sisters into Internet celebrities seemingly overnight.

When rich and handsome Bing Lee comes to town, along with his stuck-up friend William Darcy, things really start to get interesting for the Bennets & for Lizzie's viewers.  But not everything happens on screen.  Lucky for us, Lizzie has a secret diary.

The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet takes readers deep inside Lizzie's world and well beyond the confines of her camera; from the wedding where she first meets William Darcy to the local hangout of Carter's bar, and much more.  Lizzie's private musings are filled with revealing details about the Bennet household, including her growing suspicion about her parent's unstable financial situation, her sister's budding relationship with Bing Lee, the perils of her unexpected fame, and her uncertainty over her future, and whom she wants to share it with.


     So, this review would have been up on Tuesday but I was having issues with my internet connection and couldn't get Blogger to load for me.  Therefore, here it's Thursday and I'm half a week behind, listening to John Legend and chilling at home - and finally getting you my thoughts on this book!  I will tell you one thing for certain, I am one of the rare people who watched maybe two episodes of the web series and quit.  I just am not really big on web series and even though I adore Pride and Prejudice, that form of digital media is mainly not my thing.  I went into this with a mostly clean slate and I truly enjoyed myself!  I always did say that if it ever became a book I would read it and when I saw it on NetGalley, I figured that I should keep my word.  I'm glad that I did!
     This is a book about Lizzie Bennet, 24-year-old Mass Communications grad student, who is living at home with her parents, her older sister Jane who went into fashion and makes next to nothing, and their younger sister Lydia who is more interested in partying, boys, and the YOLO lifestyle than anything else.  Lizzie decides to do a video blog for her thesis at school, enlisting the help of her best friend Charlotte Lu.  Everything begins to change when rich, young and handsome medical student Bing Lee moves into the neighborhood.  Lizzie's mother of course begins using all her Southern Belle tricks and cunning to get Bing and Jane together.  Then there's Caroline, the scheming older sister of Bing, and Bing's millionaire, digital media mogul friend Darcy.  Getting off on the wrong foot, Lizzie and Darcy's relationship to each other becomes one of challenges, arguments and prejudiced misunderstandings.  With everything being chronicled in her videos, and things spiraling out of control in her personal life, can Lizzie and Darcy ever fix their mistaken opinions of one another?  Will Bing and Jane get a happy ending?  And can Lydia overcome her most devastating mistake yet?
     So, like I said, I really enjoyed this one.  Here are my opinions on it:

  1. Kitty Bennet versus an actually Kitty:  I really didn't mind this at all.  A lot of people complained about the fact that Kitty isn't there as a person.  Yes, she got kind of shafted.  But in a book based on a series of 3-5 minute videos, she really wouldn't have served a purpose.  She was basically just the extra Bennet sister and served as Lydia's shadow.  It was unnecessary in this particular incarnation.  I commend the creators for a smart decision.
  2. The Bennet Family dynamic:  Jane and Lizzie were obviously close to one another, but they also had some snarky banter that was absent in the original Austen relationship.  I also enjoyed Lydia being fairly close with both the other sisters.  Lydia is less stupid in this one, so much as young naive and a bad decision-maker.  Not to mention slightly obnoxious.  But there is a bond between them all that shows fairly obviously to me as a reader.  The scenes with Lizzie's father were tops as well, and her mom isn't quite as hysterical or non-sensical as in the original.  She's satirized and over-the-top, but means well and really loves the girls.  Mary is the emo cousin with a hippie mother - nuff said.  She isn't really in the book all that much though.  Overall, the family dynamic in this one is really well illustrated in the interactions and dialogue.
  3. Ricky Collins and Charlotte Lu:  This particular plotline was much better handled than the original, but considering the gap of almost 200 years, the social differences definitely account for this conclusion.  I liked that they ended up as business partners instead of a married couple.  Also, Ricky wasn't quite as bad in this adaptation, more like a harmless, lost puppy with absolutely zero social skills, than a complete creeper.

  1. Lizzie and Darcy:  There really wasn't much of a relationship build between these two.  They just kind of fell into each other after Lizzie learned about his part in the Lydia situation.  She spends the whole web series and book (minus a few episodes and a small chunk of page-time) deconstructing him as a person and going on and on about how horrible he is and how much she hates him.  To me this did feel a little more like an "I owe you" situation than it should have.  Definitely a white knight complex in Miss Lizzie - which brings me to my next point.
  2. George Wickham:  I felt like he was a very basic, flat, plot-moving character.  George is set up as the villain from the beginning without anyone realizing it (except P&P fans) and I feel like it's all very superficial.  Not to mention the whole swim week thing was slightly bizarre.  Like, that's the best excuse they can come up with to get him into the plot?  Not to mention the whole "random bar guy" thing seemed slightly out-of-character for this particular Lizzie.  He disappears for large chunks of time and the thing with Lydia was creepy but nowhere near as personal (or involved) as the original novel.
     Basically, I found this to be an interesting read, especially with all the focus on (and talk about) the field of mass communications, of which I have little experience with personally.  I did feel that it got a little too into that at times, but it made sense with the grad student storyline.  The oddness of the Lizzie/Darcy connection and lack of any real romance/spark deducts a decent amount for me personally.  I go into P&P retelling for the Darcy and Lizzie interactions!  Not the best I've ever read, but I think I would've liked it more if I'd been into the web series.  I'd highly recommend it to fans of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries web series.

VERDICT:  3.5/5  Stars

**I received this book from Touchstone, on NetGalley.  No favors or money were exchanged for this review.  This book was published July 1st, 2014.**

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Glad Game

Published:  February 1st, 2002 (First published 1913)
Pollyanna (Pollyanna #1)
By: Eleanor H. Porter
ISBN-13:  9780689849107

When orphaned 11-year-old Pollyanna comes to live with austere and wealthy Aunt Polly, her philosophy of gladness brings happiness to her aunt and other members of the community, somewhat to their surprise.


     I love reading classic children's books, for the simple fact of them drawing me into their stories in a way that adult, or even teen books can't seem to manage quite as well.  I can lose myself in my childhood again when I pick up an old friend, or a new one that is centered on the story of a child.  Children's books from a hundred or more years ago, like Pollyanna, are no exception to this particular feeling of enjoyment.  I never read this one as a child, but did see the Disney movie of the same name starring a young Hayley Mills (I found it a little saccharine to be honest).  The book isn't exactly the same as the film, thankfully.  It actually reminds me quite a bit of Anne of Green Gables, as it's the same style of writing.  The book is made up of what is could almost be classified as vignettes, but not quite since they are a coherent story thread with and obvious timeline.
     The plot is centered around young Pollyanna, whose minister father has just died and now that she's an orphan, she's being sent to live with her rich Aunt Polly across the country.  Polly of course is absolutely miserable, and lives by herself in a big house on the hill.  Polly likes things neat, orderly and quiet.  So of course young Pollyanna's presence, with her "glad game" and constant cheerfulness is a thorn in her side.  Pollyanna plays a game every day that she calls the "glad game," which she started with her father.  In everything that happens in her life, good or bad, she looks for something to be glad about.  Before she knows it, Pollyanna's encounters with the townsfolk while playing her game, have managed to transform the lives of a great many people.  But then tragedy strikes Pollyanna - can she find something to be glad about, even in her darkest hour?  I highly recommend this to adults and children alike.  It has a great moral to it, the individual stories are all rather funny (especially the one about young Jimmy Bean trying to be the "India boy" for Pollyanna's Ladies Aide back west), and the conclusion had me on the verge of tears.  I think fans of Anne will especially enjoy it, because as I said before it's definitely in the same literary vein.

VERDICT:  5/5  Stars

**No money or favors were exchanged for this review.  This book is now available in stores, online, or maybe even at your local library.**

Monday, June 16, 2014

We Can Do Anything, Together

Published:  December 10th, 2013
These Broken Stars (Starbound #1)
By: Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner
Disney Hyperion
ISBN-13:  9781423171027

It's a night like any other on board the Icarus.  Then, catastrophe strikes: the massive luxury spaceliner is yanked out of hyperspace and plummets into the nearest planet.  Lilac LaRoux and Tarver Merendsen survive.  And they seem to be alone.

Lilac is the daughter of the richest man in the universe.  Tarver comes from nothing, a young war hero who learned long ago that girls like Lilac are more trouble than they're worth.  But with only each other to rely on, Lilac and Tarver must work together, making a torturous journey across the eerie, deserted terrain seek to help.

Then, against all odds, Lilac and Tarver find a strange blessing in the tragedy that has thrown them into each other's arms.  Without the hope of a future together in their own world, they begin to wonder -- would they be better off staying here forever?

Everything changes when they uncover the truth behind the chilling whispers that haunt their every step.  Lilac and Tarver may find a way off this planet.  But they won't be the same people who landed on it.


     What exactly can you say about a book that's full of so much good stuff?  And how much can I reveal without spoiling the actual details of the plot and the ending?  I guess we're about to find out!  This is a book about a boy, Tarver, and a girl, Lilac, who are from different social stratospheres - but they collide together and change one another's lives irrevocably when they do.  Lilac is a society darling, daughter of the richest man in the world and Tarver is a decorated war hero, never taken seriously due to his young age.  They meet on one of her father's luxury spaceships the Icarus, conversing and connecting with each other, before she blows him off to protect him from her father.  Then the unthinkable happens, and the ship crashes down on a planet neither of them is familiar with.  The unlikely pair is forced to overcome all their differences to survive in a strange/dangerous environment, while discovering the mystery behind the planet's seeming consciousness and why colonization of that planet was deserted.  Can Lilac and Tarver come to a solution and a rescue before it's too late?
     It's such a gradual change for both of these characters, moving from the stereotypical and boxed in personalities they have when the book starts, to unlocking their full potential.  I've seen comparisons to the Titanic's history (and I assume the infamous movie) in terms of plot, and I can see some similarites.  But once the Icarus crashes (that name has some mythological irony for sure), the majority of the book is spent on the unknown planet, with Tarver and Lilac struggling to work together.  She's dealing with the restrictions of her class in society, and the stranglehold of her father's love and power, while Tarver is dealing with the guilt of surivivng his older brother, and the honors of being a hero (which he doesn't feel he deserves).  Also, Tarver's parents are both teachers so he is WAY out of Lilac's "league."  Lilac begins to experience voices and visions, while she and Tarver are fighting to find a way off, back to civilization.  This and the interactions she and Tarver have with the terrestrial environment leads up to a startling climax that is the perfect meld of science fiction and romance.  The interludes with Tarver being interrogated by men employed by Lilac's father definitely contributed to the shock of how things fit into the puzzle!  And geez, that cliffhanger!  Can't wait to read the next one and I highly recommend it for anyone wanting something innovative, surprising and overall gripping to read.
VERDICT:  4/5 Star
**I received this book from Disney Hyperion, on NetGalley.  No favors or money were exchanged for this review.  This book was published December 10th, 2013.**

Thursday, June 12, 2014

A Baker's Dozen Is One Too Many...

Published:  February 4th, 2014
Something Real
By: Heather Demetrios
Henry Holt BYR
ISBN-13:  9780805097948

Seventeen-year-old BonnieBaker has grown up on TV -- she and her twelve siblings are the stars of one-time hit reality show Baker's Dozen.  Since the show's cancellation, Bonnie™ has tried to live a normal life, under the radar and out of the spotlight.  But it's about to fall apart....because Baker's Dozen is going back on the air.  Bonnie™'s mom and the show's producers won't let her quit and soon the life she has so carefully built for herself, with real friends (and maybe even a real boyfriend), is in danger of being destroyed by the show.  Bonnie™ needs to do something drastic if her life is ever going to be her own -- even if it means being more exposed than ever before.


     Ever since Bonnie™ Baker was born, her life has been documented on film and watched on TV by millions of strangers.  They got to see her and her many siblings (twelve to be exact) grow up -- and their family fall apart.  The show ended with Bonnie's parents getting divorced and her barely alive after a failed suicide attempt.  Now four years later, Bonnie is just beginning to heal from the anxiety, depression and isolation that being on TV brought to her life.  Going by the name Chloe, she has close friends, a boy she likes and a decent relationship with her siblings.  Then Chloe/Bonnie™'s Mom invites the camera crews back into their lives, rekindling the show after writing a tell-all book.  Of course she doesn't tell any of the kids about it until the crews show up.  Bonnie and her brother Benton are absolutely furious.  The last thing they want is to be back under a microscope.  Can they find a way to take control of their own lives, in the face of total dehumanization, marketing ploys and the unwillingness of their own mother to let them live their lives free?
     When you think of reality TV (or at least when I do), I never consider the children.  I tend to focus on the trashiness and greediness of the adults involved with the shows.  They're exploiting their own personal lives, relationships, privacy and themselves for money and fame.  Not to mention the poor taste they usually exhibit while they do it.  This book shows me what it must be like to be a child on TV, displayed for the entire world to gawk at.  Bonnie's relationships with her parents crumble.  Her Mom never has any time for her after they adopt the rest of the kids, and she hasn't seen her Dad since the divorce four years before.  Her sister Lexie blames her for the loss of the cameras and the fame.  The only one in her family that Bonnie really has a good relationship with is her older brother, Benton.  That's because Benny is of the same opinion she is - fame isn't worth the price of admission.  All the family drama and the complicated relationships were compelling stuff.  
     Probably my main complaints would be the lack of depth to Chloe's friends, Tessa and Mer, who really seem to exist as her connection to normality.  I did like the way Benton's relationship with Matt wasn't portrayed as being a big deal.  They were just two boys who were in love with each other.  There was bit of friction with Matt's religious parents near the end, but overall their relationship is treated as just the normalest thing ever - as it should be in books and real life, always!  Patrick, the love interest for Chloe, was extremely close to Gary Stu territory.  He was entirely too perfect and I could not spot a single flaw.  The only thing that ever caused problems with him and Chloe was when she tried breaking up with him "for his own good."  And honestly, he's loving and supportive, never gets mad at her and is willing to put off his acceptance to Columbia for a year, so he can travel around the world with her (all because she was too chicken-shit to apply to any colleges).  The end is kind of loose, with Chloe and Benton patching things up with Lexie, moving out after they turn eighteen, and hiring a lawyer to sue MetaReel and tank the show the best they can.  But we readers never get to see the resolution to any of these conflicts.  All in all, an intriguing book that really makes you consider the people behind the reality show "characters."  I'd recommend this to someone who enjoys a good character study.

VERDICT:  3.5/5  Stars

**No money or favors were exchanged for this review.  This book is now available in stores, online, or maybe even at your local library.**

Monday, June 9, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday #20 - My Top 10 Reads So Far This Year

     Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly event hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, which allows bloggers to share lists of some of our favorite (and not-so-favorite) things.  This week we'll be highlighting the top ten books we've read so far this year!

     I had read about twice as many books this time last year as I have now.  I have a much smaller pool of reads to choose from, so I will try to make it to ten but I don't know for sure if I will.  I'm going to link the pictures back to my own reviews of the books, so that you can read in my own words what I enjoyed/loved about these books! :)

Top Ten Books I've Read So Far This Year (2014)

Somewhere, Beyond the Sea

Published:  April 1st, 2014
The Mermaid and the Shoe
By: K.G. Campbell
Kids Can Press
ISBN-13:  9781554537716

Each of King Neptune's 50 mermaid daughters boasts a special talent, except for little Minnow, who seems to be good only at asking questions.  When she finds a strange object, Minnow follows her questions to a wondrous place and finds answers, including an answer to the most important question of all:  Who am I?  A gorgeously illustrated story about finding one's purpose.


     Minnow is the youngest and smallest of King Neptune's mermaid daughters, and unlike her sisters, she hasn't discovered her talent and special place in the family yet.  One day she finds an object floating near her and doesn't know what it is.  She thinks it's interesting and goes about asking all her sisters, the other sea creatures and anyone she can think of what it is!  Minnow goes above the surface, hoping to find the answer up there.  And lo and behold, she sees a little girl and eventually learns what a shoe is and what its purpose happens to be.  Minnow goes home to her father and sisters, and tells them the story of what a "shoe" is for, and her father proclaims her an adventurer and storyteller!  Minnow has finally found her place in the family and what she is meant to do in life.
     This picture book is a very sweet, short look at finding yourself in a family that seems to have it all figured out.  Minnow starts off feeling lost, in a sea of talented sisters.  By the end of the book, she's recognized her own importance in their lives.  The illustrations were beautiful, and I loved the disgust Minnow has for feet!  It's so funny, especially after seeing mermaids traditionally envy the ability to walk on land.  Minnow definitely prefers her tail to the feet of the humans (whom she describes as "half mermaid, half octopus legs").  One thing I missed in this was the bright, primary colors associated with a lot of children's picture books.  This one is beautiful, full of soft blues, greens and grays, with the occasional pop of color.   But as its set under the ocean, everything is rather muted.  I could definitely see myself reading this one to my four year old niece.  It's a very cute book, and I recommend it if you'd like new book to reinforce to a child how special they really are! :D

VERDICT:  3.5/5  Stars

*I received this book from Kids Can Press, on NetGalley.  No favors or money were exchanged for this review.  This book was published April 1st, 2014.*

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?

Published:  September 30th, 2010
Dust City
By: Robert Paul Weston
ISBN-13:  9781595142962

When your dad is the wolf who killed Little Red Riding Hood, life is no fairy tale.

Henry Whelp is a Big Bad Wolf.  Or will be, someday.  His dad is doing time for the double murder of Little Red Riding Hood and her grandmother so everyone assumes crime is in Henry's blood.  For years, he's kept a low profile in a Home for Wayward Wolves on the outskirts of Dust City -- a gritty metropolis known for its black market, mind-altering dust.  And the entire population of foxes, ravens, and hominids are hooked.  But it's not just any dust the creatures of this grim underground are slinging and sniffing.  It's fairydust.

When a murder at the Home forces Henry to escape, he begins to suspect his Dad may have been framed.  With a daring she wolf named Fiona by his side, Henry travels into the dark alleyways and cavernous tunnels of Dust City.  There, he'll come face to snout with legendary mobster Skinner and his Water Nixie henchmen to discover what really happened to his father in the woods that infamous night...and the shocking truth about fairy dust.


     In case you didn't get it by the bunches of other reviews on fairy tale infused books on this blog, I'm a bit of a nut for anything involving fairy tales or magic.   So when I saw this book on the shelf at my library, I was intrigued.  The concept of a retelling (in an urban setting, with humans "hominids" and animalia [ravens, foxes, wolves, etc.] as each others' antagonists, mind you) was interesting to say the least.  And Weston does manage to establish a world that is fairly easy for the reader to picture.  He has a great descriptive turn-of-phrase, that really brought things to life for me as a reader.  But there was some slightly annoying repetition of language, and overall stupid decisions, especially on the part of Henry Whelp.  I liked the integration of characters like Jack, the one friend Henry has at the reform school.  Jack is a mischief maker, and obviously some form of the kid from the "Jack and the Beanstalk" story.  The Detective who is always waiting for Henry to slip up (she also put away his Dad) is Detective White, aka Snow White.
      The main story of this book is a mystery of what happened to all the fairies in the land.  They disappeared years ago, and with them went the magic that kept people's lives on track - and their hopes up.  Another mystery interconnected with it is what really happened that night with Red Riding Hood and her Grandma.  Is Henry's father innocent?  Was he coerced by an influence he had no prayer of ever controlling or subverting?  Just what sinister plan do Skinner and his Water Nixies, not to mention the manufacturers of the new, improved "fairydust" have for the city's animalia?  Overall, it was an enjoyable read if you like noir and fairy tales, and don't mind the two being mixed together.  As I saw another reviewer point out, it was far more of a children's book than I'd have liked, in its overall simplicity and slightly too easy character arcs.  The ending is also somewhat loose and left me unsatisfied.  I did enjoy the idea presented, I just wish it would have been better executed.

VERDICT:  3/5  Stars

**No money or favors were exchanged for this review.  This book is now available in stores, online, or maybe even at your local library.**

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday #19 - Beach Bag Reads!

     Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly event hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, which allows bloggers to share lists of some of our favorite (and not-so-favorite) things.  This week we'll be highlighting the top ten books that will be in our beach bags this summer!
     I am ashamed to admit that this is my first TTT since February!  But I will say that my personal life has been kind of crazy.  My Mom was in the hosptial for the entire month of February, and I was basically running the household with my Dad during that time.  Then she spent most of March recovering, and in April and May I was working 70-80 hour work weeks at two different jobs, one of them very physically demanding.  I am still kind of exhausted and mentally drained, but I am making a comeback! :D  So, here are the ten books that I want in my beach bag this summer!

Top Ten Books In Anna's Beach (and Park) Bag this Summer

One Good Knight (The 500 Kingdoms #2) by Mercedes Lackey:  This is the last book in the series that I haven't read yet!  Desperately want to finish it, and it's light (and humorous) enough for a beach read.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart:  I keep hearing everyone talk about how great this book is!  Is it good enough to be my intro to E. Lockhart?  It's definitely small enough to take to the beach.

My Faire Lady by Laura Wettersten:  This sounds so cute, and like the perfect summer book!  The main character works at a Ren Faire!  What's more summery than that? :)

The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place by Julie Berry:   It sounds like a historical kid's book version of Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead - it's bound to be hilarious and kick-ass in other words!

Nantucket Red (Nantucket #2) by Leila Howland:  Nantucket Blue, the first in the series, was one of my favorite reads last summer.  I'm excited to read what happens next with Cricket!

Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt:  I read this book every summer, because it's a classic that I love.  It's about life, death and the consequences of both.

Making Money (Discworld #36) by Terry Pratchett:  I need to get on this already!  I loved Going Postal, so I don't know why I haven't read this one yet.  And I think there's a third one coming out with Moist, Adora, et all coming out soon.  I'm behind!

*Edit: It's called Raising Steam and has been out since November 2013!  I am officially pathetic!

Fortunately, The Milk by Neil Gaiman:  Because I need more Neil Gaiman in my life, and I seem to gravitate more to his kid's books (they are wonderful).  This sounds like fun!

Landline by Rainbow Rowell:  If you have not read anything by this lady, do yourself a favor and pick up her stuff!  If you have, you get why I'm dying for July to get here already!

Llanview in the Afternoon: An Oral History of One Life To Live by Jeff Giles:  What's more perfect to read about at the beach than the history of a soap opera?  I watched this on and off from 1998-ish till it went off network TV in 2012.  I would love to get my hands on a copy of this book!

That's my list for the week, I hope you find something interesting on it!  I can't wait to see everyone else's beach read hopefuls, and I would love to have a conversation in the comments.  I'll see you all again next week! :D