Category Archives: Satire

Undead Girl Gang – Lily Anderson

Undead Girl Gang – Lily AndersonTitle: Undead Girl Gang by Lily Anderson
Publishing Info: May 8, 2018 by Penguin
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes
Genres: Young Adult, Paranormal, Zombies
Date Completed: April 24, 2018
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads

Mila Flores and her best friend Riley have always been inseparable. There's not much excitement in their small town of Cross Creek, so Mila and Riley make their own fun, devoting most of their time to Riley's favorite activity: amateur witchcraft.

So when Riley and two Fairmont Academy mean girls die under suspicious circumstances, Mila refuses to believe everyone's explanation that her BFF was involved in a suicide pact. Instead, armed with a tube of lip gloss and an ancient grimoire, Mila does the unthinkable to uncover the truth: she brings the girls back to life.

Unfortunately, Riley, June, and Dayton have no recollection of their murders, but they do have unfinished business to attend to. Now, with only seven days until the spell wears off and the girls return to their graves, Mila must wrangle the distracted group of undead teens and work fast to discover their murderer...before the killer strikes again.

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This book was a lot of fun! Ever since I finished UNDEAD GIRL GANG, I’ve been thinking about how much I enjoyed this book. This is exactly the kind of book I was looking for and always have a craving for! I really enjoy dark comedy and campy-type books and UNDEAD GIRL GANG had all that and more.

I really loved Mila as the main character in this book. She was just a real person, from not hiding her witchy ways to having a normal plus-sized body to her family interactions to her on-and-off interactions with the popular girls. Everything about her was enjoyable and relatable and I loved her as the book’s heroine. It was great to see a mystery added in the book too. It really carried the paranormal plot when the recently dead girls accidentally get brought back to life and gave them a purpose and a timeline.

I also really liked Mila’s friendship with Riley. It’s easy to idolize the good things about someone when they’re gone and on the flip side, it was great to see how much her friendship changed after Riley’s… change. I just really appreciated seeing all of the different sides of friendship and how it’s not always perfect.

I really enjoyed the story-telling style, looooved the sarcasm and humor, and it was an overall fun feel with the witchy/paranormal aspects. There was even a good twist that I didn’t see coming! Books like this are just so much fun to read and always something I enjoy — campy, funny, sarcastic, but still with great style, flare, and characters. I’d definitely recommend this one, for fans of KILL THE BOY BAND (but with a paranormal twist) and How to Hang a Witch (with even a bit more sass)!

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Kept Me Hooked On: Dark humor. Give me alllllll the dark humor books! Tell me more! I want more!!!
Left Me Wanting More: Pages! I just had so much fun reading this. There really wasn’t anything I was missing!

Addiction Rating
Read it!

If you love some good sarcasm, dark humor, paranormal elements, and a great book about friendship topped off with positivity towards being yourself, this is a great book to pick up!

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BOOKS LIKE UNDEAD GIRL GANG

              

Where Futures End – Parker Peevyhouse

Where Futures End – Parker PeevyhouseTitle: Where Futures End by Parker Peevyhouse
Publishing Info: February 9, 2016 by Penguin
Source: Borrowed from Hoopla
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Parallel Universe
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: December 6, 2016

Five teens.
Five futures.
Two worlds.
One ending.
One year from now, Dylan develops a sixth sense that allows him to glimpse another world.
Ten years from now, Brixney must get more hits on her social media feed or risk being stuck in a debtors' colony.
Thirty years from now, Epony scrubs her entire online profile from the web and goes “High Concept.”
Sixty years from now, Reef struggles to survive in a city turned virtual gameboard.
And more than a hundred years from now, Quinn uncovers the alarming secret that links them all.
Five people, divided by time, will determine the fate of us all. These are stories of a world bent on destroying itself, and of the alternate world that might be its savior--unless it's too late.

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Wow, that was so incredibly disappointing. Even after finishing, I’m not sure what the point of this book was. I was excited because it featured four different points in time, all tying back to one specific concept but the different time periods were truly pointless. I’m even more disappointed because I actually liked the very first POV of Dylan and his discovery of The Other Place. I would have read a whole book about that in itself and I think that’s how this book really should have gone because the switches to different times left literally everything undeveloped. It wasn’t enough time to get to know new characters, it wasn’t enough time to get to know new times, and it wasn’t nearly enough time to understand how The Other Place connected to these time periods other than brief encounters that some of the characters had. There was absolutely no point to the 10 years from now and 30 years from now time periods. The 60 didn’t really have much more substance either, I guess, but it had a virtual reality concept that I enjoyed given my experience with books like READY PLAYER ONE and a Sanderson novella, Perfect State. 100 years from now tied back into The Other Place but this was something that could have been developed in an entire story with just Dylan’s POV, all set in today’s time, and it all could have actually been developed. That was truly the only enjoyable part of this story. There’s so much switching around and the new time periods don’t even tell you much about The Other Place, why it’s so important, and what its actual connection is with our world.

I would have actually read Dylan’s whole story and I think that WOULD have been a great book. It had a Neverending Story kind of feel (I’m sure I was influenced by their mention of it but it really did have that feel for me) and his story was clearly the most important. There was a lot to explore and set up and build there and the author chose instead to push the meat and potatoes of the book aside and start exploring new worlds. I think maybe those future worlds would have made good novellas to supplement Dylan’s story, or even a series with these being sequels or companions… But for the love of all that is good, don’t abandon something so important like that. The other time periods weren’t even interesting. They were surface stories that didn’t go anywhere, setting up romances to watch them fall, celebrity fame, egos… I mean, it didn’t even connect to the Other Place other than some interactions with the people and mentions of people going back and forth. There was little to no reason for these characters to be main characters in the story and they barely interacted with the important parts of the plot. They were shallow characters, shallow stories, and really not for me.

This book was kind of fanta-sci (a fantasy and sci-fi mix) but I don’t feel like that concept was structured well. It was fantasy in the sense that the Other Place was made to feel like a fantasy world — magic, forests, mages, water nymphs, creatures, etc — and yet it was also described as an alternate universe. So is it a magical world made real or is it a real world that we create into fantasies? It was all a little fuzzy. I wouldn’t say this alternate world has to be like ours, because you can’t expect all universes to be like ours, but the author didn’t seem to really distinguish exactly what it really was and kind of waffled back and forth, especially with the mix of calling the people from the other world “aliens”. I can see why aliens would be an appropriate term but it also didn’t quite feel right. The different futures also added to the sci-fi feel but then it even extended into dystopian as the futures progress and the readers see such a decline of our own world. And Dylan’s portion in the beginning was sort of magical realism meets sci-fi… so it was just all very muddy.

When it comes down to it, I’m mostly just so disappointed in how everything was so underdeveloped. When a seasoned reader can’t even tell you the point of the story when the book is over, that’s not a good thing. I needed to spend so much more time with the Other Place to really understand it and even just understand why this story about it was important. Sure, okay, it was important because in the end, it severely impacts our world but why? How? It was just kind of told that this is what it is and this is what happens but there was no detail how things worked, why our world was connected, or even why the Other Place affected our world so much.

Mostly, I just didn’t enjoy the writing. I can sometimes overlook plot holes or lack of details if I’m enjoying a book but pretty much everything except the beginning and end was pointless. Every character except for Dylan was annoying (Reed was okay but his world was still meh). This book was just one giant disappointment when it could have been so good. So much potential and not put to good use.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Fantasci. This book was kind of a mash-up of fantasy and sci-fi… with some magical realism feels? It was interesting but I did wish for more clarification.
Left Me Wanting More: Of one story. Just when things got going in one character’s story, the story switched to a new one. It was really frustrating, felt under developed, and didn’t allow me to connect with anyone or anything.

Addiction Rating
Skip it

This book was too all over the place and didn’t come together in the end. I’d say just skip it!

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BOOKS LIKE WHERE FUTURES END

(Click the cover to see my review!)

    INSIGNIA

You (You #1) – Caroline Kepnes

You (You #1) – Caroline KepnesTitle: You (You #1) by Caroline Kepnes
Publishing Info: September 30, 2014 by Simon & Schuster
Source: Audible
Genres: Adult, Mystery/Thriller
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: December 1, 2016
Related Posts: Hidden Bodies (You #2)

When a beautiful, aspiring writer strides into the East Village bookstore where Joe Goldberg works, he does what anyone would do: he Googles the name on her credit card.
There is only one Guinevere Beck in New York City. She has a public Facebook account and Tweets incessantly, telling Joe everything he needs to know: she is simply Beck to her friends, she went to Brown University, she lives on Bank Street, and she’ll be at a bar in Brooklyn tonight—the perfect place for a “chance” meeting.
As Joe invisibly and obsessively takes control of Beck’s life, he orchestrates a series of events to ensure Beck finds herself in his waiting arms. Moving from stalker to boyfriend, Joe transforms himself into Beck’s perfect man, all while quietly removing the obstacles that stand in their way—even if it means murder.

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Well, for all of the hype for this book, it didn’t really leave me feeling shocked or awed or super impressed, but I did find that it left a lasting impression and that I wanted to read the next book right away! I did like the things that were different about it. I really enjoyed the different narration in the second person, hence the title “You”. Main character (and super psychopath) Joe narrates the book to and about his newest obsession, Guinevere Beck. It was an interesting choice of narration and it really gets you in the head of the narrator. I did have a hard time with the book — not in a bad way, but in a way that confused me because this guy is totally nuts. He’s actually crazy and creepy and scary and does some very, very bad things… And yet I felt sympathetic at times! The form of narration really had me feeling for him even though I knew he was totally wrong and deranged. I also really enjoyed Joe’s voice in the sense that it felt more personal. It wasn’t just recounting. He often interrupted himself or interjected with more things that brought one more level to the account.

For all of the hype, I felt like there was supposed to be a twist coming and while that really wasn’t this kind of book. I think I got myself all hyped because of other people’s reactions and it didn’t really shock me like I thought it would, but instead, it was shocking in a very different way. I was so appalled at Joe’s actions and yet it was also a train wreck that I couldn’t stop watching. I really did get myself all psyched for a big twist moment, so I was a bit sad that that didn’t happen, but I also am coming to appreciate those thrillers that can wrap up without a twist because if every book had a twist, they’d all be predictable!

The book was very sexual, and I don’t have issues with sexuality in books, but it did feel overdone at times. I guess that is kind of the point of the book in a way, since Joe’s obsession is romantic on all levels. He’s obsessed with Beck emotionally, physically, and mentally. Clearly he has several psychoses so the obsession is overboard on so many levels. I am used to reading YA which really doesn’t get explicit of course, but there were points that felt like a little much for me.

YOU was interesting and engaging from start to finish and I did enjoy reading it but I think I was just let down by the hype. I kept waiting for a huge moment that didn’t really happen and I thought that’s how the book would end but was also kind of hoping it wouldn’t. Looking back on it as I’m reviewing, I really was totally engaged so that really did leave a good lasting impression! Somehow Joe came off as charismatic in a way and I wanted to pick up HIDDEN BODIES shortly thereafter!

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Kept Me Hooked On: Crazy, messed-up thrillers. I don’t know why but every once in a while, I like a good, messed up book.
Left Me Wanting More: Twists. I guess I did appreciate the lack of a big twist but I was also really expecting it so it was kind of a bummer!

Addiction Rating
Read it!

If you like some crazy thrillers that put you into the mind of a literal psychopath, definitely check out YOU!

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BOOKS LIKE YOU

(Click the cover to see my review!)

    THE GOOD GIRL

Kill the Boy Band – Goldy Moldavsky

Kill the Boy Band – Goldy MoldavskyTitle: Kill the Boy Band by Goldy Moldavsky
Publishing Info: February 23, 2016 by Scholastic Inc.
Source: Audible, ALAMW16
Genres: Young Adult, Satire
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: November 19, 2016

Just know from the start that it wasn’t supposed to go like this. All we wanted was to get near them. That’s why we got a room in the hotel where they were staying.
We were not planning to kidnap one of them. Especially not the most useless one. But we had him—his room key, his cell phone, and his secrets.
We were not planning on what happened next.
We swear.
From thrilling new talent Goldy Moldavsky comes a pitch-black, hilarious take on fandom and the badass girls who have the power to make—or break—the people we call “celebrities.”

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KILL THE BOY BAND was actually really, really enjoyable. I’ve seen a lot of mixed reviews for this book and I think a lot of it was that people didn’t know quite what to expect but this totally met my expectations and I had so much fun reading it! To set the scene for you, picture this book like Teaching Mrs. Tingle meets 2gether meets Drop Dead Gorgeous — satirical, laugh-out-loud funny, and some delightfully dark humor.

This is one of those books where the more I think about it, the more I realize how much I enjoyed it. It’s a book unlike anything I’ve recently been reading and I love books that do a little something different than the rest of the community! The voice felt true and I just loved the dark humor. The satire and poking fun at boy bands was so much fun because it was silly with some hilarious exaggerations (that’s where that 2gether feel comes in) and yet serious in showing how intense being a fangirl can be and how some things get taken way too far. I really enjoyed the mix of silly and serious and how well that shaped the overall story!

I personally think the author did a great job with this book but it also definitely has a specific audience and it will probably bit a big hit or a big miss with a lot of people. I personally was on the hit side and surprisingly, the more time that passes, the more I think about how much I enjoyed it. I just had so much fun listening to this (I bought the audio in an Audible sale) and I ended up being the perfect audience! I was a bit unsure at first and there were some points where it got to be a bit much but I still really enjoyed it overall!

The characters were shallow and for once in a book, I actually kind of liked it? It was part of the point that the book was making. The guys in the band were mostly shallow because not all boy bands were formed with love and happiness and some are just the product of marketing. (Girl bands too.) The fangirls are shallow because the extents to which these fangirls were portrayed is totally shallow, so it made total sense to me! I’m not saying fangirls are shallow, so please don’t take that the wrong way! I simply mean that the book took the more surface level of being a fangirl and magnified it. As an avid reader and big fan of many authors/fandoms/series, I am totally on board with the flailing and following of an artist! The point that this book makes is how far it can be taken and when it gets taken too far how it can become dangerous or make the artist feel uncomfortable. The fan/artist relationship is really interesting and mutually beneficial in so many ways. It also can be a very rocky road if the mutual respect isn’t there and this book crossed that line on both sides. KILL THE BOY BAND took that darker side of fangirling, amped it up a notch, and created a bit of satire out of it. This was also amplified on the boy band side of things too. The Ruperts (the fictional band in the book) are reminiscent of One Direction (who I literally know nothing about except a few of the band members’ names) and also pieces of 90s boy bands like *NSYNC and O-Town, which I’m using a my references here because my older sister was an *NSYNC fangirl and because she was, I was in a way too, so I ended up with a lot of boy band knowledge. I won’t give you a boy band history lesson but I saw a lot of similar things in KILL THE BOY BAND that has happened in real boy bands as far as band drama, members not getting along, some members getting more attention than others, and how each member treats fans, managers, and everyone in between. Everything was exaggerated and satirized but very interesting, especially if you have some previous knowledge or experience as a boy band fangirl!

Long story short, I think I was just the ideal audience for KILL THE BOY BAND! It was dark, funny, and just really enjoyable. I’ve been dealing with a lot of serious things in my personal life and KILL THE BOY BAND was a refreshing and funny read when I needed something a little less serious and a little more removed from reality without being a heavy fantasy book. I think you may need know exactly what you like before reading this one because it may be a hit or miss concept for many people, but if you enjoy dark satire, this could be a really enjoyable read for you!

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Kept Me Hooked On: Satire. There isn’t a lot of satire in YA and this was refreshing and enjoyable! I thought it was a lot of fun!
Left Me Wanting More: Reality. Things were quite exaggerated so at times I did wish for more reality but I really did enjoy the dramatization of things as well!

Addiction Rating
Read it!

I think you need to be the right audience for this book, but if it sounds like your cup of tea, I highly recommend it! I actually had a lot of fun reading it!!

book_recommendations1

BOOKS LIKE KILL THE BOY BAND

(Click the cover to see my review!)

    MY LADY JANE

Beauty Queens – Libba Bray

Beauty Queens – Libba BrayTitle: Beauty Queens by Libba Bray
Publishing Info: May 24, 2011 by Scholastic Inc.
Source: Audiobook borrowed from library
Genres: Contemporary, Satire, Young Adult
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: July 17, 2013

    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.

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BEAUTY QUEENS is a hilarious jab at — well, I guess American society in general. Beauty pageants, yes, but also commercialism, stereotypical ideas of beauty, government, and so much more. Satirical is really the best way to describe it and there were plenty of laugh out loud moments, though at times (as satire tends to do), I felt like things went a bit over the top and I do have a tendency to reach a point where I feel like it’s overkill and then I end up rolling my eyes, and I won’t lie — BEAUTY QUEENS had several moments like that as well.

Let’s start with the characters — at first I though that Adina was our main character because the story started with her vantage point, but really the book covers the POVs of several (and I mean several) of the key beauty queens along with some members of the Corporation. At first I thought I would be confused with so many different perspectives, but the girls’ personalities really stood out on their own, especially having read this book on audio (which I’ll get into later). The girls are so much more than beauty queens and we really get to know each one of them individually. I actually came to appreciate and care about many of their stories, but there did come a point where I felt like the book should have focused on a few less to not spread the readers so thin.

I actually really enjoyed the storyline with these pampered and over-the-top girly girls having to figure out how to survive on this (seemingly) deserted island. Some flounder and some let their leadership take control and after many trials and tribulations, the girls finally figure out how to not only survive but to get along and make true friendships. There is a lot of social commentary and insinuations about how girls are expected to act and how some of those expectations are completely unrealistic and demeaning. I’m not a feminist by any stretch, but I think there’s something to be appreciated from what these girls learn — not only in the way of how they’re perceived as “respectable women” but just allowing themselves to be who they are and act how they really want.  The girls just learn a lot about themselves as individuals and they really learn to be comfortable with who they are and what they really want out of life.

What I wasn’t quite a fan of in the book was basically everything to do with MoMo B. ChaCha (which I had to look up how to spell since I read the audio haha). I just found his whole character and everything to do with it entirely too ridiculous, past the point of satire and social commentary and hilarity. I was just annoyed and those parts of the audio definitely dragged because I was also tired of listening to him. Some of the ways the plot resolved were just a bit too contrived for me and things got too silly for my tastes. Things all wrapped up well in the end, but I felt like there was a lot of unnecessary moments and dialogue and backstories that really just made the book feel a bit too long. Especially listening to the audio… I was enjoying the book but it felt LONG. I was about 75% of the way through and I felt like it had just been dragging.

I think BEAUTY QUEENS is a different type of humor that I haven’t seen a lot of in YA. It was definitely enjoyable, but I think for my tastes it was maybe a bit too much to spend a whole 14 and a half hours with (400 pages if you’re reading it). I really think that’s a personal taste though, as I know many people really appreciated and loved the book! I’m interested in reading more of Libba Bray because she definitely knows how to write her stuff and I’d really be interested in reading something more serious from her.

AUDIOBOOK IMPRESSIONS

Libba Bray narrated BEAUTY QUEENS herself and she is a damn good narrator! She had so many different voices which really was necessary considering how many characters she had to portray differently. Her different accents for all of the beauty queens were great (although Miss Nebraska sounded a little too Northern MN/WI/Canadian… does Nebraska really sound like that? I assumed they’d sound midwestern). Her non-American accents… Not as convincing to be realistic, but still better than I could do! The “commercial breaks” had music and everything so that was really entertaining! It was almost like listening to a real radio commercial so that was pretty neat. Overall, the book was just LONG on audio — I’m not sure how it comes off actually reading it — but I hadn’t listened to a long audiobook before so it just felt like it kind of dragged on!

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Adina Greenburg // Character Obsessions: Journalism, getting the story, standing up for herself.
Adina always felt like the main character for me since hers was the first POV we got, but really she was one of the many main characters. I really liked her attitude because she didn’t take any crap from anyone… Mostly because she didn’t care! I think she was the easiest character for me to like because she was all sass in a group of girls that were supposed to be all manners.
Mary Lou Novak // Character Obsessions: Her inner “wild girl”, vegetarianism, Tane.
Mary Lou was another of my favorite characters. I just liked how genuine she was and her respect for each and every girl. She was one of the most guarded of of the girls and she really learned how to be comfortable with who she was by the end of the book.
MoMo B. ChaCha // Character Obsessions: Elvis, Ladybird Hope, General Goodtimes.
No. Just no. He bothered the crap out of me. Granted, I think he’s supposed to… But still. Ew.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Satire. There were so many good things about the humor and the social commentary of this book! I definitely laughed out loud several times while listening to this audio!
Left Me Wanting More: Legitimacy. I get that this is a humorous book, but there were times when it just got TOO silly for me and it really took away from how much I was liking the book and the situations the characters found themselves in. This could have easily been a bit more legit and a little less “out there” and I would have appreciated it a lot more.

Addiction Rating
BORROW IT.

I went back and forth between really enjoying this book and just… liking it. In the end, I don’t think I would end up buying it to keep for my personal book collection. This would be a good one to borrow from a friend or the library to see how you feel about it and then purchase if you end up loving it!

book_recommendations1BOOKS LIKE BEAUTY QUEENS

        Torched      An Abundance of Katherines

30 Days of Books: Day 16 & 17

Okay, bloggers. I was just going to do three days in one tomorrow, but let’s face it… I can’t NOT blog all weekend! So I’m smacking days 16 and 17 together tonight and more goodies to follow tomorrow.

30 Days of Books: Day #16

Your “comfort” book.

I guess I’d consider a comfort book a book that I can go back to and read over and over again, still getting all those warm fuzzies and getting a nice feeling of contentment during and after reading. So in that case, the only things I can come up with are the usual suspects: Good old Harry Potter and Stephanie Plum.

I’d actually say HP even more so because I’ve actually lost track of how many times I read the series and now that there are movies, it’s even easier to enjoy. In fact, for part of Father’s Day today, we watched HP & the Chamber of Secrets from the HP box set that we bought my dad for this past Christmas. How much more comforting can you get!?

30 Days of Books: Day #17

The most hilarious book you’ve read.

Oooh that’s a tricky one. Of course we’ve got good old stand-by Stephanie Plum for this one too, but I’ll throw two more out there that I literally laughed out loud for:

1. The Spellman Series by Lisa Lutz: First book being The Spellman Files – A family business of private investigators that can’t even quit the habit long enough to stop spying on each other. Throw in a sarcastic and former-delinquent (well, mostly former) narrator and an usual style of writing and I was laughing the whole way.

2. The Princess Bride by William Goldman – This really was every bit as good as the movie, and maybe even better. When I finished my review for this book not too long ago, I mentioned how I was so glad that Goldman is actually credited for the screen play on IMDb.com, so I can only assume that meant he actually wrote it. There were direct lines from the book into the movie which are actually some of my favorite quotes so I was glad they were so similar! I loved all the humor from both.


30 Days of Books: Day 15

30 Days of Books: Day #15

A book that changed your opinion on something…

Okay, so I really like this topic today! Ready… start tangent!

I’m choosing a couple books that changed my opinion on school-assigned books and/or classic-type novels.

All thoughout my academic reading career, I never liked the books they chose for us to read. Summer reading was particularly DULL. I chose to take Honors English my freshman and sophomore year of high school and the books I got to choose from just weren’t my cup of tea…. Lord of the Flies, Frankenstein, The Scarlet Letter… All great classics with great messages – But for some reason, I just wasn’t getting it. I always loved reading so it wasn’t like I’d rather be outside playing or something. I just couldn’t comprehend with the writing style most of the time. It was old. It was dull. But most of all, it just wasn’t for me.

I know I may get criticized for “hating” on classic books, but I’ve just always felt like a contemporary kind of person. The only classics I’ve really found I’ve liked so far were Sherlock Holmes (and I think that’s because they’re mysteries!), so I did what I had to do in school to get by, but I rarely enjoyed our reading assignments.

That was, until my senior year (go figure, the last year of school I finally found something I liked!), my sister suggested I take 20th Century British Writers as my English elective course in hopes that I got her favorite teacher in all of high school. Well, I didn’t. I got one of the hardest and (rumored) kind of meanest teachers there was.

How can you not be mean – Look at the place! It doesn’t even have windows…

And then I started his class – Mr. Waddington was not mean. He just wanted his students to try hard, focus, and do their best to really get into the books. He was actually pretty fun! He chose some really nice books for the curriculum which actually enlightened me that 1) Not all the books Glenbard South chooses for their students to read are boring and 2) Hey, classic books can be fun too! So here are my top 3 choices (and yes, I picked three, because it was the combination that really opened my eyes to what kind of literature is out there):

1. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad: This is definitely the book that stands out the most to me. It’s historical fiction, it’s creepy, it’s mysterious, and for the first time, I found myself readingaheadof the assigned chapters instead of just what I had to read. I was finally interested in something! I also think having my teacher as a guide definitely helped us all get through the book – We got further explanations and breakdowns, but for once, it kept my interest and I was actually looking forward to reading more.

2. Whose Body? by Dorothy L. Sayers: Now, I can’t actually remember if this was from my class or if I read it because we had it on our shelves still from my sister’s class, but this is what actually spurred my love for mysteries. Of course I’d read some here and there, but it wasn’t until high school and college that I actually started going to the library in search of a mystery series to latch onto, so I give this book partial credit for that!

3. Decline and Fall by Evelyn Waugh: This is a satire that actually got me laughing out loud. What? They never give you funny books in school! It was nice to have something to break up all the seriousness (maybe that’s why I love cozy mysteries so much…) and it was nice to see that some great classic books don’t always have to have such a serious tone!

The Princess Bride – William Goldman

The Princess Bride – William GoldmanTitle: The Princess Bride by William Goldman
Publishing Info: January 12, 1974 by Random House Publishing Group
Genres: Adult, Comedy/Satire, Fantasy
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: June 5, 2012

    What happens when the most beautiful girl in the world marries the handsomest prince of all time and he turns out to be...well...a lot less than the man of her dreams?
As a boy, William Goldman claims, he loved to hear his father read the S. Morgenstern classic, The Princess Bride. But as a grown-up he discovered that the boring parts were left out of good old Dad's recitation, and only the "good parts" reached his ears.
Now Goldman does Dad one better. He's reconstructed the "Good Parts Version" to delight wise kids and wide-eyed grownups everywhere.
What's it about? Fencing. Fighting. True Love. Strong Hate. Harsh Revenge. A Few Giants. Lots of Bad Men. Lots of Good Men. Five or Six Beautiful Women. Beasties Monstrous and Gentle. Some Swell Escapes and Captures. Death, Lies, Truth, Miracles, and a Little Sex.
In short, it's about everything.
 

Breaking It Down Further: William Goldberg retells the abridged version of his favorite book THE PRINCESS BRIDE, cutting out unnecessary parts and adding in a little commentary here and there. It tells the story of former milkmaid Buttercup who has been chosen by Prince Humperdink to be his new bride as she is rightfully the most beautiful woman in the world. She agrees because she thinks her one true love from back on the farm — her farm boy — Westley has died as a prison of the Dread Pirate Roberts’ ship Revenge. Along the way, she is kidnapped by a gang of thieves and then reclaimed by “the man in black” while Humperdink tries to recapture the Princess in order to marry her. Trickery, fencing, fighting, true love, chaos, death, and of course pure satire and comedy round out the book’s charm.

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Well, seeing as The Princess Bride is one of my favorite movies of all time, I had a lot of expectations for the book. And you know what? I was pleasantly surprised!

I felt like the movie followed the book remarkably well. The only differences between the movie and the book were very minor and didn’t really affect the story line. We just got a little more background on some of the characters and obviously some scenes were truncated to shorten movie time. Good news for me since I loved the movie!

I wasn’t really a fan of the first section of the book which I felt was a little bit of unnecessary details about Goldman’s life at the time. It mainly dealt with his family and a trip out to California, but had no relevance to the story or the anecdotes interspersed in the book.

Overall, I loved it! I was actually really surprised at how closely the movie script followed the book. I figured since it was a Rob Reiner movie, most of the satire, quick-witted jabs and silly scenes were a product of the movie. Nope, that all came from the book. I spotted several of my favorite quotes almost word for word and it really made me like the movie that much more as well. Definitely stayed true to the whole tone and plot of the book.

And was there ever a real version by S. Morgenstern? I’m not quite sure, but I think that was all made up for the book. I think… Pretty sure this is just Goldman’s story and that was all part of the plot, but they’re so convincing! What do I know.

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Read it!

If you’re a fan of the movie (or haven’t read/watched either yet), you should definitely read the book!

Chain Gang Elementary – Jonathan Grant

Chain Gang Elementary – Jonathan GrantTitle: Chain Gang Elementary by Jonathan Grant
Publishing Info: July 14, 2011 by Independent
Genres: Adult, Comedy/Satire
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: June 3, 2012

    "In the first place, God created idiots. This was for practice. Then he created School Boards." -Mark Twain
After a murder at Bonaire Elementary, Richard and Anna Lee Gray seek a good school for their son Nick in a safe neighborhood. Their search leads them to Malliford, a "school of excellence." When redistricting sends scores of minority students to Malliford, iron-willed Principal Estelle Rutherford declares war on kids to raise test scores and save her reputation. Dissident parents revolt, electing Richard to head the Parent-Teacher Organization, and tensions explode. Welcome to Chain Gang Elementary, home to vast right-wing conspiracies, 3rd-grade gangsters, and bake sale embezzlers-where toxic childhood secrets boil over, reformers go stark raving mad, and culture wars escalate into armed conflict. A tale of war that is poignant, timely, and brutally funny, Chain Gang Elementary is a One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest for the K-6 world. First Sentence: In the twelfth year of his marriage, sixteen months before the shooting, twenty-one shopping days until Christmas, and eight hours before he reckoned for the tenth time that his wife didn't love him, Richard Gray met a woman who would have roughly the same effect on his life a tornado has on a trailer park.  

Breaking It Down Further: Newly  established PTO president Richard Grey has big shoes to fill and big wars to win. Convinced to commit to the position, he begins the biggest battle — taking down the tyrannical principal, Miz Rutherford. The principal has only her own agenda, which is her personal gain, maintaining her status of power, and maintaining the picture-perfect status of the school. When the school’s district is rezoned to incorporate a *gasp* apartment complex with primarily African-American and Latino families, things at the school begin to go haywire. Under the administration’s direction, these new students — which should have added to the diversity of the school — are clearly treated differently, such as being forced to do manual labor (or the working’ on the “chain gang”) as a punishment or being put into the classroom with the only black teacher. While most parents look the other way, Richard begins to actively campaign for the removal of Principal Rutherford while also trying to keep his family from crumbling.

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There were so many things I enjoyed about this book. Jonathan Grant has an excellent way with words and it’s apparently throughout the whole novel. He has a fantastic vocabulary and an extremely creative way in manipulating them. He has such a great way in which he creates a play on words or a play on names. There was such creativity in double meanings of a word or phrase and he was just downright clever.

I also really enjoyed how dynamic the characters became. You can see the growth of Richard’s son Nick and how he changes throughout the school years featured in the book. Richard himself goes through several changes during the course of the book.

The story itself of such school corruption, the sensitivity of the racism issue that sadly still exists in many places today — It was a very bittersweet story and there are so many thought-provoking elements of the plot.

BUT — The book was just entirely too long. There were quite a few times where I did want to give up. I really enjoyed so many aspects of the book! Why was it so hard for me to keep reading? The plot just didn’t really pick up until closer to the end when Richard got some real progress as far as his stand against the principal and he finally figures out how he wants to sort out his family life. From the beginning through the middle, I felt like the story just dragged on. It was filled with clever dialogue and witty banter which I couldn’t get enough of! But it was just an extremely slow pace in which not much happened in what should have been the meaty parts of the book. I really wanted to power through and finish so I could really get a full grip of the story.

Another problem I feel here is that since I received the copy as a courtesy from the author in exchange for a review, I really wanted to give it a good review. This is always my problem when I am given a book from an author or publisher — I really want to give a good review because they were so kind as to give me a copy of their book. No one wants to see a bad review, but the whole point of reviewing is to be honest. That is also why I felt like it was so important to point out how many good things I liked about the book!

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Skip it

It was just the slow plot that really dragged me down. I considered stopping a couple of times, but since this was so generously given to me to review, I really did need to finish and given a true review.