four windows


In the second Heather Wells mystery, there has been another death in the dorm–excuse me, residence hall–where Heather works as assistant director. This time, a bubbly cheerleader’s head was found bubbling away in a pot on the stove in the cafeteria, with the rest of her nowhere to be found. Ew. And, of course, despite her promises not to get involved, Heather just can’t help it.

And then there’s her personal life. Her father has just gotten out of prison (which he refers to as “camp”) and he’s come to New York. Jordan, her ex-boyfriend, is causing all sorts of trouble for her. And she’s still in love with Cooper, who shows no signs of reciprocating her feelings.

Meg Cabot is amazing. One of the things I love about her books is the fact that, the vast majority of the time, the sequels are just as good as the original books! Just as smart and hilarious and completely fun to read. Size 14 Is Not Fat Either is no exception (and, no surprise, love the title sentiment, again). I love Heather, and I love these books. Sure, they’re pretty much fluffy chick-lit with some mystery thrown in, but they are that particular genre done perfectly. I can’t wait until the next book in the series is finally returned to the library so I can devour it, too! In six words: Fantastic installment in an addictive series.

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I love Meg Cabot. I really, really do. Not only do I wholeheartedly agree with the statement made in the title of this book, but I also love everything in between the covers. Heather Wells is one of my favorite Meg Cabot heroines (not that I don’t love them all), and I am so glad there are more books about her already out so there’s no agonizing wait (but, yes, I am also doing my Cybils reading! One Meg Cabot chapter, two Cybils chapters; it’s a good system).

Anyway, Heather Wells. She’s a former teen pop star who used to be stick thin and singing sickly sweet songs in malls across America and is now a size 12 (which is so not fat, no matter what anyone says) working at a college dorm–excuse me, residence hall–at New York College. Which seems to be the fake version of NYU, complete with pierced hipsters and a Washington Square Park location. Heather was recently dumped by her boy-band-member boyfriend, and moved into his brother’s house. Not actually with his brother–she has her own apartment, with its own set of locks and everything. She gets it rent-free for doing some work part-time for Cooper, who is a private investigator. Despite her former semi-star status, Heather can’t actually afford to pay rent because her mother took all her money and moved to Argentina. And as if Heather’s life isn’t crazy and complicated enough, did I mention she is totally head-over-heels in love with Cooper?

Heather’s had to deal with all sorts of things in her short stint at New York College, but nothing compares to what happens when a girl actually dies falling to the bottom of an elevator shaft. Her death is ruled accidental, and everyone seems to accept that, but Heather is certain of one thing: girls don’t elevator surf. This is murder. Even if everyone else seems to think she’s crazy, she’s determined to get to the bottom of this and make sure that no one else gets hurt.

Size 12 Is Not Fat is seriously addictive. It’s typically Meg Cabot in the most awesome ways–witty and smart and sometimes laugh-out-loud hilarious–as well as being a wonderful mystery. Meg Cabot is an amazing YA author, and even though this is an adult mystery, it will definitely appeal to her teen fans. It’s got that same awesomely funny narration, and a smart, real, relatable heroine who, despite being 28 and kind of famous, is at a transition point in her life, something that teens can definitely understand. In six words: Completely fun murder mystery with attitude.

Jenny Green doesn’t seem like a killer. She’s a spoiled JAP from Long Island, and not exactly someone I’d love to be best friends with, but she seems like a pretty typical teenage girl. A completely boy-crazy teenage girl. When things aren’t totally fabulous in the boy department at home on Long Island, Jenny convinces her parents to let her switch to Molson Academy, a boarding school in Montreal where she knows for a fact there’s at least one totally hot guy (he used to go to school with her in Long Island). Plus, there’s a TCBY on campus, which is settles it entirely for Jenny. And, of course, she’s got her parents wrapped around her pinky finger, so it’s off to Montreal she goes!

At first, things seem to be going wonderfully. Although she has to move into the gross hippie art dorm, she finds another great friend who’s only there because the other housing was full, too. And the guy she came to Montreal for seems to actually be interested. But then she realizes what jerks guys can be, and, well, apparently this spoiled princess has an inner psycho killer because before you know it, she’s a murderer.

This book is…Well, the first adjective that comes to mind is “psychotic.” And bizarre. And kind of creepy. Jenny is an annoying, materialistic, boy-crazy, completely superficial teenage girl who is completely despicable, and then she’s no less despicable but certainly a better candidate for being institutionalized. I found it really strange how quickly Jenny changed. I am not sure how much it made sense in the context of the book. But, then, people always say that the serial killer next door seemed normal.

It’s not like she just goes around offing people, though. There are reasons, and she really believes they are good ones, even if, to me, there is no good reason to kill anyone. Jenny is smart, though, and she never really seemed completely crazy because she was the narrator, and, obviously, she didn’t think she was a psychopath. And sometimes, she even felt bad about being a murderer. Sometimes. It was scary, though, how she was often able to rationalize what she did. I didn’t know quite what to think of her character by the end of the book.

Jenny Green’s Killer Junior Year is certainly unique. It’s smart, darkly funny, and well-written. Jenny’s narration is spot-on, fantastically psychopathic and always superficial. I didn’t think that the secondary characters were all particularly well-developed, but Jenny was very, very interesting. I wish there had been more about the book’s setting in Montreal; Jenny thinks it’s a great city, and I’ve heard it’s wonderful, too, but I would have liked to have seen more of it, rather than Jenny just talking about how she liked it. However, that’s more of a personal preference than anything. In six words: Bizarre, psychotically awesome superficial serial-killing.

Nina Beck’s novel and I had a rocky start to our relationship. Riley, the main character, is described on the back of the book as “plus-sized.” And the main plot point is, she goes to fat camp. However, she is also a size 10-12. That is in no way fat. This upset me, but as the book went on, I came to see that it didn’t look like anyone actually thought of Riley as fat except maybe her stepmother. I don’t like where the word plus-sized was used, but Riley, her friends, her family, and the guys she hooked up with all seemed to think she was pretty attractive. So I’m pretty glad I continued past that point.

Note: this post is slightly spoiler-y, so if you’re really uptight about spoilers, don’t read any further. But I don’t think it’s spoiler-y in a bad way. It just shows that this book is made of awesome.

This Book Isn’t Fat, It’s Fabulous is about a rather shallow girl in Manhattan who is sent away to a fat camp called New Horizons in upstate New York. She leaves all sorts of unresolved issues with her friends (including her best friend, a guy who she thinks she’s in love with and kissed before she left) and family, goes away to fat camp, finds a great guy and some great friends, and some new perspective (ie she becomes less shallow). This is all pretty predictable. But you know what the curve ball is? She never loses weight, and she has remarkably few body issues for a teenage girl of any size! That is why this book is so absolutely fantastic. That is the best message ever! I love that message! But it’s not preachy, and this book isn’t really about fat. This book is about a pretty typical girl (though she spends way too much of daddy’s money) who has relatively normal issues and confused feelings about her guy best friend.

This is a happy book that totally made me smile. I loved the romance, I loved her friends at fat camp (I totally want to know more about Samantha), I was intrigued by her confused feelings about her best friend, and I liked the (admittedly predictable) way her thinking changed while she was at New Horizons. Okay, so the book itself isn’t exactly remarkably deep, but you know what, I’m on vacation and I don’t care. There’s bunches of shallower things in the world, countless terrible books out there that I’m glad I wasn’t reading instead. Nina Beck’s writing style is unremarkable, but in a good way–it doesn’t interfere with the totally fabulous story being told. I love Riley’s attitude. This book has serious attitude. It’s fabulous and empowering and fun and entertaining and an easy summer read. You probably know that I like good body image message books, and this is one of the best I’ve read. Riley’s attitude about her body is wonderful, and by the end she had really grown on me as a character. I only wish this book was longer! My biggest complaint here is that all of this remarkable character development and awesome romance happened in a very short period of time. It would have been a tad bit more realistic, I think, to stretch out the timeline a bit. In conclusion: this book is fabulous, Riley is fabulous, everything is just fabulous. Go, read it!

The Goose Girl is a charming fairy tale retelling. Princess Anidori, crown princess of Kildenree, has her own talents, but they are not talents that her mother believes will make Ani a proper ruler someday. Because of this, in a treaty with a neighboring nation, Ani is promised in marriage to a prince she has never met, and sent off on a long trek into the forest with her closest lady-in-waiting and numerous guards.

Before they reach the end of their journey, however, Ani’s lady-in-waiting proves treacherous, and she is overthrown. Her beloved horse is lost to her, and she finds herself alone in the forest as the girl she once considered a friend takes on Ani’s identity so as to marry the prince herself.

While trying to regain her rightful role in this new country, Ani becomes a servant tending to geese. She also meets many wonderful people, and, as you probably know since this is a fairy tale (and so I do not consider this a spoiler), gets her happily-ever-after.

The Goose Girl is sweet and enchanting, with characters who will steal your heart. Shannon Hale’s prose sparkles, and the world of this book, vividly imagined by its talented creator, is easy to get lost in. This novel is beautiful and magical and poetic, captivating enough that I can’t wait to read its two sequels. I thought it was a lovely book, as you can tell, but I have to say that I expected to think it was the best book ever, based on the devotion of some fans, and, well, I didn’t. I thought it was wonderful, but perhaps not as remarkable or unique as I hoped to find it, so that was a bit of a disappointment, perhaps caused by my unnaturally high expectations. Although perhaps I need to read it again, as Miss Erin, whose opinion I trust (she’s one of the reasons I read this book) counts it as a book that she fell “head-over-heels in love with upon rereading,” but “merely liked…the first time around.” I still enjoyed every minute of it, and believe that Shannon Hale is a master of the genre she writes. So, particularly if you enjoy fairy tale retellings, pick this one up–you won’t regret it.

Veronica is an outgoing, ambitious actress who leaves her small town theater for the big time world of Hollywood, where she’s in for a big shock. She’s gorgeous and talented, but she’s also overweight. In her hometown, she was well-known and well-loved, but in LA, looks count for everything, and Veronica’s weight is enough to keep her from getting jobs that she wants. She’s left behind great friends to follow in her late mother’s footsteps, pursue her dreams, and escape the wedding date set by her father and his long-time girlfriend, as well as her recent unemployment and the absence of any female roles in the upcoming play at her local theater.

Veronica goes to stay with an old friend in Hollywood, hoping for some support, but neither her friend Reed nor Hollywood is what Veronica optimistically expects them to be. Vee deals with some tough situations, but she’s not the sort of girl to give up easily or to let her self-esteem be permanently bashed by the starve-yourself culture of Hollywood. Veronica is a fantastic character, and I loved reading her story.

C. Leigh Purtill does an awesome job of tackling the tough issue of body image and our culture’s idea of beautiful as unhealthily thin. Veronica is an awesome girl, someone I’d really like to know! The story in All About Vee is engaging, and the book is a pleasure to read, if not particularly remarkable in its writing style or anything more literary. It’s fun, it covers important issues, and you will never be disappointed that you read it.

Justine Larbalestier‘s latest novel, How to Ditch Your Fairy, takes place in a world where almost everyone has their own personal fairy. These invisible creatures help/hinder humans in various ways: there are loose change finding fairies, good hair fairies, clothes shopping fairies, all boys like you fairies, and parking fairies. Charlie, a student at New Avalon Sports High, is the not-so-happy owner of a parking fairy. Not only is it useless for someone who can’t even drive, it’s a major annoyance because of all the people wanting her to ride in their cars and get them a good parking spot.

How to Ditch Your Fairy is the story of Charlie’s quest to ditch her fairy, get the guy, keep her demerit total as low as possible, find great clothes with help from her best friend’s clothes shopping fairy, and keep her sanity throughout all of these crazy adventures! It’s a pretty fantastic, really funny book, overall pretty great, although I did have a few unanswered questions at the end. I’m hoping that means there’s a sequel in the works! I sat down and started reading this book as soon as it arrived in the mail, and I didn’t put it down until I was finished; I didn’t even notice the time passing, that’s how caught up I was in the story. It’s fun and interesting and has a main character I absolutely couldn’t get enough of! Charlie is seriously awesome, as is this book, and you should all read it as soon as possible (which is October for most of you).

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