Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Book 20 of '11 Ask Elizabeth by Elizabeth Berkley

Amazon Description:

"Ask Elizabeth is the complete guide to teen life; the last and only self-help book they'll ever need. Inspired by the many workshops Elizabeth Berkley has conducted with over 30,000 teen girls across the country, Ask Elizabeth brings the spirit of these conversations to life on the page.

Much like a private diary, the book will be a personal resource that girls can turn to when they seek answers to teen life's toughest questions.

The content contains real and practical advice, anecdotes and wisdom in answer to the most asked questions from girls who participate in Elizabeth's workshops such as: what do you do when you look in the mirror and don't like what you see? or How do you get over a broken heart? Elizabeth, along with a panel of experts, and teen girls themselves advise readers in matters of body image, personal relationships, dating, and much more.

Review: I'll come right out and say it: Ask Elizabeth is an absolutely gorgeous book...and that's the best thing this book has going for it. That's not to say that Berkley's advice is bad or unrealistic, but none of it is anything girls haven't heard before.

What may be unusual, however, is that Berkley's voice is conversational in an appealing way - she's like your best friend's older sister who has decided you're cool enough to hear all her best kept secrets. The book works well that way. Except, I found myself wishing that I heard more of Berkley's voice and less of the frequent and unnecessary quotes from teens. The letters from girls who had interesting stories were valuable, but I found the two page spread per chapter with quotes from teenage girls to be frivolous. When everyone's personal experience begins to sound the same, you know you may have too many stories on your hands.

The design of this book though, is absolutely stunning. I could rave on about it forever. The layout is logical, the images and design are all beautiful and they fit as a cohesive piece. The book is worth buying just to keep out on your coffee table to peruse through when you're bored and need someone to reiterate all the things you know about self esteem in a pretty, pretty voice. In fact, I'm contemplating doing that myself just so I can have a friend to accompany me along with the raw cookie dough in the dark days.

Overall: If you're female, need some nice moral support with a pretty cover on it, and you think you'll be able to respect anything written by the woman who played the main character of what's known as the worst movie of all time, pick this up! It's worth the perusal, I promise.

Book 19 of '11 Forgive My Fins by Tera Lynn Childs

Dust Jacket Description:

"Lily Sanderson has a secret, and it's not that she has a huge crush on gorgeous swimming god Brody Bennett, who makes her heart beat flipper-fast. Unrequited love is hard enough when you're a normal teenage girl, but when you're half human, half mermaid, like Lily, there's no such thing as a simple crush.

Lily's mermaid identity is a secret that can't get out, since she's not just any mermaid—she's a Thalassinian princess. When Lily found out three years ago that her mother was actually a human, she finally realized why she didn't feel quite at home in Thalassinia, and she's been living on land and going to Seaview High School ever since, hoping to find where she truly belongs. Sure, land has its problems—like her obnoxious biker-boy neighbor, Quince Fletcher—but it has that one major perk: Brody. The problem is, mermaids aren't really the casual dating type—the instant they "bond," it's for life.

When Lily's attempt to win Brody's love leads to a tsunami-sized case of mistaken identity, she is in for a tidal wave of relationship drama, and she finds out, quick as a tailfin flick, that happily ever after never sails quite as smoothly as you planned."

Characters: Lily is such a fun character. Sure, she's very oblivious, occasionally to the point of stupidity, but she has a fantastic attitude and she's just adorable. Usually with my YA romance, I tend to either despise the heroine or have a non opinion about her. It was relaxing actually liking a romance protagonist for once.

As for Quince, it's hard not to love this guy. He's loyal, witty, surprisingly sensitive, and has it really bad for Lily. He is excruciatingly annoying, but that's a part of his appeal. Seeing him evolve from a jackass to a compelling human being was enjoyable, especially when I could scream at Lily for not seeing how he obviously feels about her.

I wish Brody's character was delved into a little bit more, but he does his job in the story. Lily's proximity to him on a daily basis made her love for him seem more natural as well. Even if she still didn't fully understand his personality.

The side characters do provide great support for the main characters. They were fleshed out enough for me to not feel like there were needless characters, but not enough that all was revealed in the first novel. Mainly though, this story is about Quince and Lily, and boy is their relationship honest, realistic - albeit a little too sappy in parts for me personally - and romantic. Four and a half flowers.

Writing: Childs has a strong voice in Lily's character. I was surprised that the mermaid lingo enhanced the strength of Lily's narrative instead of just annoying me. The book is fun and difficult to put down. I finished Forgive My Fins in two days. 4 and a half flowers.

Plot: I love the premise of this book! The pacing was strange to me though. It felt too choppy at times. There is a lot of high stake bumps in the road with slower transition times, so it often took me a few dozen pages to truly settle into the scenery. When I did, however, it was a grand ride with a lot of adventure and tension.

My only serious qualm with the plot was the big turn of event scene. The believability just didn't make sense and the character was too quick at believing Lily was a mermaid for me to find the tension realistic. Besides that, the plot and humor that came with it was charming. 4 flowers.

End: It made my heart melt a little. I have to read the sequel. 4 and a half flowers.

Dust Jacket Description: I really like how the voice in this description fits the tone of the novel. 5 flowers.

Cover: It's too similar to every other YA cover on the shelf. I wish I saw more mermaid-style elements. 3 flowers.

Overall: If you need a break from the daily stresses of life and want some strong, funny, emotionally wrought romance, PLEASE pick this up. It's exceptionally well crafted. 4 flowers.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Book 18 of '11 Normal Gets You Nowhere by Kelly Cutrone

Dust Jacket Description:

"When Kelly Cutrone’s first book, If You Have to Cry, Go Outside, was first published, young people flocked to this new voice—finally, someone was telling it like it is, in language they spoke. It quickly became a New York Times bestseller, and fashion publicist Kelly Cutrone became more than a personality, she became a beloved guru, mentor, and fairy godmother.

Now she’s back with another no-holds-barred book to awaken our souls and kick our asses into gear. With Normal Gets You Nowhere, she invites us to get our freak on. History is full of successful, world-changing people who did not fit in. Think Nelson Mandela, Joan of Arc, Eleanor Roosevelt, Amelia Earhart, John Lennon, and Rosa Parks. Instead of changing themselves to accommodate the status quo or what others thought they should be, these people hung a light on their differences—and changed humanity in the process.

“I know you don’t feel normal, so why are you trying to act it and prove to everyone you are?” Cutrone says. So much of what we say or don’t say, and what we do or don’t do, is dictated by what others have told us, or what people may think of us. This is not how we should be living, by measuring ourselves against the mundane. 
An invitation to rethink who you are, what you value, and what you want from life, Normal Gets You Nowhere goes beyond how to reinvent yourself and create your own brand, and investigates what it means to live in this world as a tuned-in, caring individual with a passion for making a difference. There’s already an army of super talented uberfreaks changing the world–isn’t it time you joined it time you joined them?"

     My Opinion:  If Kelly Cutrone has anything, it's personality. Her writing voice is very strong, very abrasive, and hard to ignore. She has plenty to say and a lot of it is worthy advice. She makes a great case for being the odd individuals we're all meant to be - even if her narrative of white, female, working, upper middle class NYC resident is hilarious at times. The parts about spiritual awareness and mentors had me laughing, and this is coming from a girl who's been taking yoga since she was eight.

     Nevertheless, Cutrone's main message - that individualism is key and everyone has the right to discover themselves - is one of importance. The tidbits of her life that we get to read about are genuinely intriguing and Cutrone just seems like the kind of powerhouse I'd love to meet.

     The book is disappointingly short though. I suppose with the success of Cutrone's first book, a sequel had to be produced quickly. It needs a few more chapters to reach its full potential. I was just beginning to get comfortable with the tone and content.

Overall: Fun and useful, despite how many times I rolled my eyes at Cutrone's spiritual enlightenment. If you like strong personality with your self help, this is the book for you.  Four flowers.

This is usually where I would put my flower rating, but since my memory stick isn't fitting in my new computer's port, I'll have to postpone the fancy graphics until next week.