Friday, February 25, 2005

Bound ****

Napoli, Donna Jo. Bound. New York: Antheneum, 2004.

The fairy tale Cinderella has been told all over the world. Most countries and cultures have a version of the tale of their own that is hundreds or thousands of years old. The Chinese version is similar to the Cinderella story we know. She lives with her step mother and step sister, who treat her like a slave. When the Springtime comes, there is a festival and the step mother wants to marry off her own daughter while not worrying about her step daughter. Like the story we know, she goes anyway, and loses a shoe. The prince goes around trying to find the girl whose foot fits the shoe. In this novel, the story is expanded to include more detail and inside thoughts. Xing Xing is "Cinderella". In the end, she gets her happy ending by marrying the Prince, and leaving her pathetic step mother and step sister in the dust.

I have taken a class that examined fairy tales and its versions, so I enjoy books like this one. I believe others would enjoy reading the story not just for the plot, but to see the parallels betweem this story and the traditional Cinderella story we all know.

As an aside, anyone interested in also reading a picture book version of the Chinese Cinderella version should read Yeh-Shen by Ai-Ling Louie. It should be available at all public libraries.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

One of Those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies ****

Sones, Sonya. One of Those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2004.

After Ruby's mother dies, she has to leave Boston to move to LA to be with her father, whom she has never met. Her father left her mother before she was even born, but she has always known who he was-- Whip Logan, a famous Hollywood actor. She has no interest in living with him, but her younger Aunt can't take her in, so she is stuck moving in with her father. Her father immediately tries to be nice to her, but she isn't interested in it, and is rude to him as best as she can. Also complicating matters is the fact that she has to leave her boyfriend Ray, while there is another girl who is after him.

The book is mainly told in poetry. People who aren't fans of poetry shouldn't be deterred from reading novels written in poems. Once the reader gets used to the format, one forgets that it isn't written in regular book form. Also, in betweem the poems, there are occassional emails to and from her boyfriend and best friend. The emails themselves are a little annoying, since they use annoying nicknames for each other that change in each email. It is a little too cutesy for me.

There was some predictible moments in the book, but knowing a lot of what was going to happen didn't detract from the great writing. I recommend this book to most readers, even the ones who don't like poetry. I have also enjoyed Sones' other novels in poetry such as What My Mother Doesn't Know.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

The Au Pairs ****

De la Cruz, Melissa. The Au Pairs. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2004.

This is yet another novel that revolves around the lives of the rich and spoiled. The action takes place in the Hamptons. Three older teens take jobs as an au pair for the summer. Eliza once owned a house in the Hamptons until her father was arrested. They escaped NYC and moved to Buffalo. She takes the job as au pair with her father's defense attorney because it pays $10,000 and she can be around her friends again. She has to keep up the facade that she is away at boarding school and that she is really living with an uncle. She has a hard time adjusting from being the It girl to being the hired help.

Mara is a regular girl from Massachusettes that had never been anywhere. She has never been around rich people, but she needs the money for college. She leaves behind her boyfriend Jim who is a bit of a control freak and doesn't like her abandoning him. She is basically a fish out of water and has no idea how to behave around these people. In the meantime, her boss' older son is cute and seems to like her, but she is always thinking about Jim.

Jacqui is from Brazil. She met Luka, an American, and fell in love with him over the 2 weeks time he was in Brazil. After he left, he never called like he said he would. Since he said he summers in a place called "The Hamptons", she looked for a job like this so she can hunt him down and be with him. She is a real party girl and she is extremely attractive. She is always skipping out on work and can't even remember the kids' names.

All three girls have different experiences which really all amount to one big soap opera-like novel. It was quite enjoyable. Girls who have enjoyed Gossip Girl or any other similar novels will enjoy this one, too. There is a lot of fashion talk and name-dropping amidst all the drama and intrigue. There is also an opening at the end that leads me to believe there is a sequel in the making. This may turn into another popular series. Even without a follow-up, this one stands alone and comes to a satisfying conclusion.

*Update: A sequel is to be published in the next few months! Stay tuned!*

Update 8/3/05: The Au Pairs, Volume 2: Skinny-Dipping. I just finished the sequel. Any fans of the first book in the series will definitely enjoy this follow-up. The same characters are back! Jacqui and Mara are back as AuPairs and Eliza has taken a job at a hot new club as a hostess. A new male au pair is on the scene, Pierre, but he flakes and is never around, evne tough he is getting paid. There is a l0t of drinking and partying here, and a lot of romantic tribulations, but everything turns out well in the end.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

The V Club ****

Brian, Kate. The V Club. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2004.

This was a great book. In it, a local woman dies, leaving a sizable bit of money to the local high school for a scholarship. This scholarship would pay for 4 years of college. The winner not only needs good grades, but also community service and to be a virgin.

This scholarship is much needed by some of the students, four of whom are friends. Eva, who is shy, appears to be a shoe-in as she is a good student and has never even been on a date. Her friend Debbie wants to be a fashion designer, but her parents disapprove; she needs the scholarship to go to FIT. Kai also needs the scholarship. Mandy, who has money, also decides to throw her hat into the ring and forms a Virginity Club. As the novel progresses, we get to know each girl and her family. They each have things going on in their lives and the stresses start to pull their friendships apart, especially as they start to fight over the same guy, and over who should get the scholarship.

At first glance this book seems a bit shallow and frivolous. As I read it, however, I realized that each character was drawn really well and I got to understand each of them and what they were going through on the inside. We know that things are going to end on a happy note for all of the characters, because that is the type of book that it is. The happy ending doesn't feel forced or like the author just wanted to make a happy ending for the sake of it. I recommend this book for anyone who is applying to college, or anyone that wants to read a book about true friendship.