Friday, August 19, 2011

Princess for Hire by Lindsey Leavitt

Princess for Hire
by Lindsey Leavitt
March 2010
Hyperion Book CH

I was vapor.  Can you get any more invisible than that?  It floats around, dispersing everywhere and nowhere.  It's not a solid.  It makes no impact.

Desi Bascomb feels like she's stagnating in her small town, Idaho life.  The boy she likes is hanging out with her ex-best friend, her parents are obsessed with turning her little sister into a beauty queen and her job consists of donning a groundhog costume and handing out coupons at the mall pet store.  Basically, life sucks until the day her agent steps out of an iridescent bubble, tells Desi that she has the ability to use magic and asks if she'd like to act as a substitute for princesses who need a vacation.  With an emphatic yes, Desi begins her glamorous new lifestyle only to find that life as a princess isn't all the magazines chalked it up to be.  Instead of dreaming about Prince Charming, Desi soon finds herself trying her hardest to help these princesses improve their lives and make an impact.

I honestly have no idea why I read this book.  It's very nearly 100% not my style, and yet once I'd started reading it, I couldn't put it down.  There were some complexities in the book that kept my adult brain entertained even among the silly, thirteen year old drama.  Little girls (or boys) who loved The Princess Diaries will enjoy Lindsey Leavitt's winning debut about one girl's transformation from vapor to solid.

Princess for Hire Novels
Princess for Hire
The Royal Treatment
Book Three (TBA)

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin ★

The Westing Game
by Ellen Raskin
June 1978
E.P. Dutton

I, Samuel W. Westing, hereby swear that I did not die of natural causes.  My life was taken from me - by one of you! 

You don't say no when someone who hates reading tells you that this is the only book that ever brought them any pleasure in life.  Which is how I found myself reading this 1979 Newbery Medal winner by Ellen Raskin.  And while I'm not quite ready to proclaim this the best book I've ever read, it definitely kept me entertained and left me wondering how anyone can enjoy a literary classic such as this and yet find the majority of reading to be pointless.  But I digress . . .

When Sam Westing dies, he gathers his sixteen potential (and somewhat eccentric) heirs together to play a game; a game to determine who murdered him.  The heirs are all quite comical as they are paired off to play the game, each wondering if their partner is the killer.  The actual mystery in the book is interesting in that it is in places almost overly simple but in others extremely complex, making this a good read for all ages.  The "great reveal" at the end certainly surprised me!

Even more than the mystery, however, I very much enjoyed the human aspect of this book.  I had expected to dislike some of the characters at the beginning, but by the end I was rooting for all of them as each person had endeared themselves to me in some way.  This book should have enough intrigue, character and humor to keep most reluctant readers occupied; however, I'm not sure it's a cure-all (Diary of a Wimpy Kid, anyone?).  For those of you who have read this book, however, and declared that never shall you read again I say this:

If you liked The Westing Game, try these (somewhat) similar books:
Gilda Joyce, Psychic Investigator by Jennifer Allison (A brilliant young girl who investigates mysteries.)
Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett (For the intrigue and intelligent clues.)
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg (Another Newbery winning mystery with young protagonists.)
Holes by Louis Sachar (For the eccentric characters and unusual mystery.)

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Smile by Raina Telgemeier

by Raina Telgemeier
February 2010
I'm beginning to notice an inverse correlation between the number of books I read in a month and how badly school is stressing me out.  Considering the only book I've finished so far this month was a graphic novel, I can only assume that school has been slaughtering me.  Regardless, this book was not only a fun distraction, but also a good reminder that I need to wear my retainer more often as I absolutely never ever want to go through the experience of having braces again.  And I especially don't ever want to go through middle school ever again.  Which is what poor Raina is going through when we meet her in Smile.

After a bout of clumsiness knocks out her two front teeth, Raina goes not only through the worst kind of periodontal hell (from surgeries to dentures to headgear), but she does it all during the very awkward, often traumatizing middle school years.  As she goes through these experiences, however, she not only learns who her true friends are (how about the ones that don't call you metal mouth?), but she also discovers who she is and comes to the amazing realization that she actually likes herself, just the way she is.  In many ways Raina's road to self discovery mirrors my own.  A well-written memoir, I recommend Smile for kids of all ages who find themselves trapped in middle school.