four windows


Maybelline, called Maybe, is a reluctant resident of Kissimmee, Florida, and the daughter of former beauty queen Chessy Chestnut, who now owns the hottest charm school in town, churning out pageant winners left and right. Chessy has been married multiple times, and her current sleazy fiance is the last straw for Maybe. When Chessy takes his side over her daughter’s, Maybe convinced her friend Ted to come along when she hitches a ride with their other friend, Hollywood, to Los Angeles. Hollywood (only he prefers to be called Daniel now) will be going to film school at USC, hopefully on his way from filming Ted and Maybe every chance he gets to directing blockbusters. Tagging along seems perfect to Maybe, because the only thing she knows about her father is that he’s a Hollywood big shot, and she’s determined to find him in LA. Ted and Maybe don’t exactly know what they’re going to do to support themselves in California, though, and they’d better figure it out fast. LA will be a surprise for all of them, and absolutely transform Maybe in ways she can’t imagine. 

Absolutely Maybe is a charming novel full of quirky, endearing, complex, and completely believable characters. I particularly loved Ted, and Maybe is awesome in her own way, too. Lisa Yee manages to write a funny, lighthearted book, with some definite laugh-out-loud hilarious moments, while simultaneously managing to deal with some big issues. Maybe has to figure out her family, her friends, and most of all, herself. This is an intricately crafted portrait of the relationships between people that really rings true. Every page is enjoyable, and Lisa Yee’s first YA novel does not disappoint. It’s a very readable, sweet story that will leave you with fuzzy feelings and some new favorite characters. 

Edited to add something I only thought of later: This book is particularly awesome because it is a contemporary coming-of-age story that does not have a significant romance. There are plenty of close relationships between friends and family, but Maybe doesn’t feel like she needs to be with a guy to be happy. Unusually awesome, no?

Four out of six windows:

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I have been hooked on this series since book one! Lord of Misrule is everything I expected. In this installment in the series, Bishop, introduced in the previous book, is enemy #1, but with the fight against him comes a rebellion by some of the human factions in town. Basically, everything’s a chaotic mess and Claire and her friends are desperately trying to save the day. 

The Morganville Vampires series is most definitely a series, and I haven’t been really hooked on a series like this since I was about twelve. What I mean by that is, books that are a continuation of one long story without, necessarily, any significant complete stories within them, if that makes any sense. In sequels, I look for books that feel complete on their own, even if there is a larger story being told as well. In series, I don’t, and this is a series. 

I love it, though. I love the characters. I love the mythology of Morganville. I love how it reminds me of Sunnydale and Buffy! One thing that does bother me is that some of the characters (like Claire) don’t always have realistic flaws. Some do, some don’t. It’s minor, though, and not something I notice when I’m immersed in the book; just something that occurs to me once I’ve put the book down. 

This is my favorite series-series around today, and these are some of my favorite vampire books. I can’t really differentiate this book from the rest of the series; that’s the kind of series it is. They’re all pretty good, and they rock for spending a rainy afternoon curled up on the couch.

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Fragile Eternity is, as expected,  awesome. I guessed it would be, having loved Melissa Marr‘s first two books. It’s a continuation of the same story, this time focused yet again on Ash and Seth. In this installment in the series, Seth and Aislinn are trying to figure out where they fit in the world, since the world as both of them have always known it has changed so drastically, and with each other. This is happening among lots of court intrigue and faery drama, of course, as everyone tries to either prevent or provoke a devastating war on Earth, to make a long story short (it’s a long book, but the basics of the plot can be summed up quite shortly). 

This book (as well as Melissa Marr’s others) is, in a word, addictive. It’s addictive in the same way that books like Twilight are, but better because, well, it’s also actually good. Melissa Marr’s world is seductive, shadowy, and all-encompassing; honestly, until I finished this book, I couldn’t pull my mind out of it (and even when I was done, I found my mind wandering back to Seth and Aislinn while I was ringing up thousands of ugly half price Christmas ornaments at work).  I love the characters, the suspense, and the writing isn’t exactly something to scoff at, either. Melissa Marr’s characters are her strength, though; they’re really well-created. They feel like people.

It isn’t that these specific qualities stand out, though; literary merit isn’t why I love this book (it’s not bad, that’s just…not the reason this book rocks); I can’t even put my finger on it. It’s just so addicting, and it doesn’t even feel like it’s killing my brain! I found it impossible to stop reading (except when forced), and I can’t wait for the next book (impatient much? This one isn’t even out until April!).

The one flaw? It felt like a sequel. Yes, it is a sequel, but my favorite books in series are those that don’t feel like they’re part of a series (a good example of a series-yet-not-series book is actually Melissa Marr’s Ink Exchange). This is very obviously not a stand-alone. I think if the focus had been more on Seth in particular, I would have liked it better because it would have felt more like a complete story. The way it focused on an ensemble cast of characters made it feel more like a sequel. That said, however, I still loved Fragile Eternity and enjoyed every second I spent in Melissa Marr’s wonderfully created world.

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Love Is Hell is a collection of five short supernatural love stories (around 50 pages each, so on the long side of short) by five wonderful authors. I’ve loved the work of all of these authors individually, so I was excited about this book!

The first story, Sleeping With The Spirit, by Laurie Faria Stolarz, is about a girl who falls in love with a ghost, and it’s  an enjoyable read, if not particularly compelling. 

The second, Stupid Perfect World, by Scott Westerfeld, is set in a futuristic world where students take a class called Scarcity, about the hard parts of history before all the technology they have now that keeps their world “perfect.” The class involves a project in which students suffer one of the ills of the ancient world (our world) for two weeks. When two students choose hormones and sleep (things eliminated by their technology), there are unexpected consequences as they realize that imperfections can be beautiful things. I really loved this story. I loved the spirit of it, and of course I love Scott Westerfeld’s writing. He is able to create a completely captivating world and story in only 55 pages. 

The third story is Justine Larbalestier’s. Thinner Than Water is about a girl in an odd sort of historical tourist village, only the people in the village actually live in old-timey ways, with varying degrees of belief and loyalty to their lifestyle and the odd ideas (like believing in fairies) that come with it. The heroine’s family is very strict in their ways, which include things like schooling only to age fifteen, keeping modern things out of the house, and marrying off their daughter at sixteen. She wants to go to school and be a doctor, which means running away to the city. Meeting a boy who’s not quite like the rest of the village (in more ways than one) will change her, though. I enjoyed this story. It was a little creepy and sad and different, and I really liked it. The setting is intriguing. The story and characters  begged me to keep reading! 

The fourth story is Gabrielle Zevin’s Fan Fictions. It’s about an ordinary girl who meets a boy and reads a book and meets a boy, and, well, it’s really difficult to say anything without giving away the story, but, my god, it is creepy. Eerie and kind of disturbing and shuddery. I wasn’t captivated by the main character, and I couldn’t get past the story’s creepiness. It also doesn’t tie together in a nice sense-making package at the end, and I feel like this is a story not entirely told, and I don’t like it. This was the low point of the book for me, which is sad because I’ve loved Gabrielle Zevin’s books. It wasn’t terrible, but it certainly wasn’t my cup of tea, either. I can’t really speak for its quality because it was so solidly not something that I enjoyed, but not because of anything that made it bad, just because it wasn’t for me. At all.

The fifth and last story, by Melissa Marr, is called Love Struck. In it, Alana is trapped by a selchie (rather than the other way around, which is how the stories she’s heard tell it). She has to untangle fact from fiction and decipher the motives and thoughts of those around her, as well as deciding what part of what she feels is magic and enchantment and what is real. Melissa Marr is amazing. In this story, she’s able to create a character and a story that I could have read entire books about. Alana, more than any of the others in this collection, really feels like a person at the end of the 44 pages (although this may have something to do with the fact that she reminds me a lot of Ash, another of Marr’s characters in her novels). And she is an awesome person at that! The story itself is interesting, too. I would have loved to read more. Melissa Marr rocks. 

Overall, this collection is definitely worth reading. Though one wasn’t really my style (you may think it’s fantastic), I loved three of the stories and liked a fourth. Three of the stories would have been mind-blowing standouts in any other company, but when you put great writers together, it’s hard to pick a favorite! This is definitely worth reading.

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Sixteen-year-old Erin Misrahe is diagnosed with schizophrenia and dissociative identity disorder (multiple personalities), and has spent most of her life institutionalized. Sometimes, she blacks out, can’t remember anything, and her violent other personality (referred to in this book as her alter ego), Shevaun, takes over. Now, she’s been symptom-free for eighteen months and she’s trying to become a part of normal society, living at home and transitioning gradually to a public school. 

She thinks her life is headed for normalcy–until it gets weirder than ever. She wakes up looking through someone else’s eyes, and it’s all crazy from there. She reconnects with an old friend, finds out a secret about a new one, and discovers that there’s a lot more to the world than what meets the eye. Shevaun isn’t part of Erin; she’s centuries old vampire who exists separately from Erin, but they have a connection no one understands. 

Persistence of Memory is yet another unsatisfying peek into Amelia Atwater-Rhodes‘ world. Why unsatistfying? Only for the best reasons–when you’re reading, you can feel that there’s a whole world behind these stories. The characters are people in it, and their roles in the stories that make it to publication are not their lives. I feel like Amelia Atwater-Rhodes knows their whole lives. She knows a lot more about this complete other world than makes it into her books. It’s pretty awesome, especially to know that there are so many other stories just waiting to be written or published! It’s frustrating, too, though, to see glimpses of fascinating places and people, but not to know the whole story. But, as I said, frustrating in a totally awesome way. 

In this book, the different parts of this world come together in a way they don’t in the other books. Witches, vampires, shape-shifters–it’s all here. We see glimpses of characters from other books, as always, and I love it. Amelia’s world-building is fascinating. Her storytelling is wonderful and imaginative. Her writing is fluid. Her characters (for the most part) are real people. It’s captivating reading. 

However, as much as I love this book (and all the others by this author), I do have some issues with its accuracy, mainly Erin’s mental health diagnosis. I know these aren’t issues that people not taking AP Psychology would have, but they bothered me. Erin, as far as I can tell, doesn’t actually show the signs of schizophrenia, just dissociative identity disorder, so I’m not sure why she was diagnosed with it–especially because she’s under 18. Children can’t be diagnosed with schizophrenia; according to DSM-IV, which is a diagnostic manual of mental illnesses, sufferers must be 18, and Erin was diagnosed as a small child. 

My other problem with this book was Shevaun. I didn’t feel like we got to know Shevaun very well, or like her personality, from the glimpses we saw of it, made total sense. For example, it was mentioned that she didn’t kill unthinkingly, and she even felt guilt for some of her killing, but at other times, it seems like she was a cold-blooded, reckless killer. Shevaun didn’t make sense. Perhaps that’s just because of the limited viewpoint that the reader has, and I’m sure she makes sense to the author–but that didn’t translate 100% in the book. Amelia Atwater-Rhodes has said that she tends to overshare in her books before her editor steps in, but there needs to be a balance between oversharing and not revealing enough.

Overall, though, I really enjoyed Persistence of Memory. It was compelling and well-written and just fun to read as well. Addicting, even. Fans should not be disappointed.

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Leftovers chronicles the transformation of two best friends from kids to people who have done something. Something unforgivable, but, they believe, not for unforgivable reasons. We don’t know what when the book starts. All we know is that they are taking turns confessing on tape. They start with the backstory. They start with how they got to where they are, how they became people who could do what they did. 

Blair’s mother is all about image. She doesn’t care about Blair, and when they do see each other, it’s mostly in the company of other people who need to believe that their family is close. Blair’s father is having an affair. They are not the family they once were.

Ardith’s family is what it’s always been. Ardith’s house is the party house, full of drinking and sex and all sorts of things that wouldn’t go on in a place with normal parents. Ardith keeps padlocks on her door to keep out what goes on in the rest of her house. 

Blair and Ardith are best friends. They turn to each other when everyone else in their world fails them. The unfortunate circumstances and cruel people in their lives try to rip them apart, but their bond can’t be broken that easily; just changed, as they change, as does everything around them.

Leftovers is a very intense story. Horrible things happen to Blair and Ardith, and in the end, it’s simultaneously unsurprising and horrifying. Blair and Ardith are very real characters, and their story is disturbingly believable. Blair and Ardith are interesting to the reader, because, to me at least, they still managed to be sympathetic characters. They did something unforgivable, but they were also the victims in this story, in another way. As I read, I could not turn the pages fast enough (and thus have no idea what’s been going on in Chemistry for the past two days). It’s well-written, suspenseful, and kind of like watching two cars go toward each other, toward a head-on collision; you know something horrible is going to happen, but you can’t look away. The format of this novel is interesting, as Blair and Ardith alternate talking, sometimes talking in the present tense to the person they’re confessing to, and sometimes telling the story of what happened. Sometimes it’s in second person, too, which is an interesting effect with disastrous potential, but Laura Wiess pulls it off nicely. This is a powerful book that certainly lives up to the high standards set by Laura Wiess’s first novel, Such A Pretty Girl

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Kat is not afraid of being herself. She’s an artist, an athlete, a receptionist at her mom Abra’s midwifery, and does yoga in the hallways at school to center herself. Kat’s not “original” in that cliche, unoriginal way; she’s just herself, and that’s a little different from most people. Sure, she might have self-esteem issues sometimes (don’t we all?), and she pays a little too much attention to the popular crowd at school, but she’s still Kat, and that’s why I love her. 

Kat’s life is imperfect, just like anyone’s. She’s crushing on popular Manny Cruz(who seemed sleazy, but…wasn’t? I didn’t feel like his character made complete sense). She has some problems with her best friend, Christy. Her relationship with her mother isn’t great; Abra pays more attention to her clients than her children. Fact of Life #31 is about all aspects of Kat’s life (friends, school, guys, family–just life), but her relationship with her mother is the big one. 

In Fact of Life #31, Denise Vega takes on a lot. A lot of characters, a lot of issues, a lot of stuff happening in Kat’s life, just like the crazy-hectic lives of most teenagers (not in content but in volume of stuff we have to deal with). And she does it really well. I absolutely loved Kat, and most of the other characters. This was a funny, honest, well-written book that I really enjoyed reading. Kat’s quirky without being a stereotype, and while she has the same issues as a lot of teenagers, she’s unique enough to make reading about it through her eyes interesting. This is a solidly good book. 

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