Sunday, 26 June 2011

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Families are really the most amazing things in the the four March sisters, Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy and their friend Laurie grow up, they encounter struggles, triumphs and griefs, and learn lessons in love, sadness and life.

I'd read this book in the children's form when I was eight or nine and bought the second part [entitled Good Wives] at the age of ten. Back then, I'd appreciated the story and enjoyed it a lot, but hadn't fully understood it. I'm glad to have read the full story in its original form- I now see lessons and morals I hadn't seen the first time and, having grown up some myself, I can empathise and connect with the characters and their wants and troubles- particularly with Jo.

What characters they are too! Meg is sure of herself and sensible, reaching for things that she shouldn't have to strain for and getting what she can safely expect. She is the pinnacle of old-fashioned womanliness and a usual first child. Jo is a great contrast to her elder sister- she represents young women of today! She is wilful and wild and ambitious. She likes her freedom and is eager for independence. Beth is the perfect child- sweet, helpful and selfless, she never thinks of herself and is brave and the strongest of the four girls. Her fate is saddening in its unfairness. Amy is a good, fashionable lady. Fond of socialising and dreaming of a life of luxury and bliss, Amy is the girl that most of us are deep down- eager to look nice, to please people and to receive wanted male attention. Laurie is a funny boy who grows up through the book in a way similar to that of Romeo. An unrequited love brings him into a mood and he is revived by a more willing recipient of his affections. He's good fun and his brotherly spirit keeps the story from being all girl.

As for the actual story- it is an outdated outlook on life, but one which can be applied to our lives all the same. Though ideas of wives being for housekeeping and things like that are expressed, it's easy to see how the story would go if it were to happen in our time. It is very sentimental and very much about how to grow up without losing your childhood. The end was near tear-inducing with its charm, simplicity and age-old beauty.

If you're a woman or girl looking for a wake-up call, some good classic novel or simply a sweet read, or even a boy who feels he might appreciate the story, I'd say "full speed ahead!" and dive into it!

My Rating: 4/5

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

The Van Alen Legacy by Melissa de la Cruz

The world of the Blue Bloods is falling apart as we begin to spiral towards a conclusion of a great series and a dramatic struggle for survival...

This is the fourth book in the Blue Bloods series and it doesn't disappoint. There is a good balance of action and slow-paced stuff. With revelations, tours of the world, more flashbacks and a great surprise at the end, the plot was rich and interesting.

Romance has taken a back seat now. There is less of it in every book, though I suspect that the Schuyler-Jack ending in this book suggests that the flame will be rekindled in the next instalment. This was very much a book of secrets and confrontations, with plot twists and turns that can be a little confusing if you don't concentrate. The split perspective between Schuyler, Bliss and Mimi keeps you on your toes and the contrast between their personal stories at this point is heavy.

Schuyler is very much an unchanging character, but a strong one. She is motivated and very prepared to do anything to stop the Silver Bloods. Her romance with Jack doesn't impact on the story much, but a twist at the end leaves us confused as to what has changed between the two...

Bliss is my favourite of the three main characters- she is a lovely person with a dark secret. I think that this book is really about facing your demons and holding on to normality for her. She's under a lot of stress from the events of the previous books and she's not herself, but she is still a sweet, darling girl to everyone. She's consistent and a rock and she may be the only one of the three main girls who has her head screwed on straight.

We're starting to see Mimi grow up. While there is no drastic change, her relationship with Kingsley and the work she does in this book show us that she's got her priorities in a slightly more sensible order- survival of the coven, survival of herself, Kingsley, safety of small children in Rio. She seems to care less for Jack in this book and the feeling is mutual.

As a note- these characters are sixteen, seventeen years old. They don't really feel like sixteen-seventeen year olds. Their behaviour, thoughts and actions- especially where Mimi is concerned- are all those of young women in their twenties- or at least that's how it seemed to me. I was unable to relate much to them.

The pivotal point of the series, The Van Alen Legacy is a compelling read that paves the road to Misguided Angel with anticipation and expectation. If you've read the previous Blue Bloods books, it's definitely worth reading on- randomly reading Van Alen Legacy without reading the others first could cause confusion and a lack of interest.

My Rating: 3.5/5

Friday, 17 June 2011

Sixsational by Meg Cabot

Princess Mia's had a lot on her plate lately...just like always!

This was a well-written sixth instalment to The Princess Diaries, where Mia's life is still as chaotic as ever, but without being so chaotic it's no longer something girls can relate to.

This was the instalment where I really connected with Mia. I suppose it was her birthday that clicked me on in the previous instalment- mine was happening a couple of days after I read it- but as I was reading Sixsational, I picked up on some stuff:

1. We share a love of writing
2. We're both seeming to do better at maths than english, when we would much rather be better at the latter
3. We both have our limits in the love-life department
4. We're both on the nerdy side without nerdiness taking over our lives
5. We're both opposed to the generically popular crowd

That being said, I'm sure there's a side of Mia that any young girl could relate to. It's as though Meg Cabot has designed her like this- like a leader for the girls who are thrust to the pits of school society, to show them that they are just as good- if not better- than the crowds who thrive on popularity for ridiculous reasons.

Mia is something of a Princess of Misfits.

The plot was, as usual, entertaining and original. I've never read anything quite on the level of this series, except, perhaps, the Confessions of Georgia Nicolson series, which was more focused on the humour of being a teenager and romantic  developments in this time.

This is a great read which WILL make you want to read on. Prepare to be hooked on a series.

I think any girl over 13 should have access to this series.

My rating: 4/5

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Shiver by Maggie Steifvater

The town of Mercy Falls is small, quiet and uneventful- until a boy is supposedly killed by the wolves of the forest. Grace feels a connection to these wolves and needs to find out more about what's happening, to help save them. She would risk anything to keep HER wolf out of harm's way...

This was an amazing read! Just like the town where the story takes place, the pace is slow and mostly uneventful, but what does happen in between combines teenage romance with paranormal mystery in a beautiful way.

Grace and Sam are both well-written, unique characters who really do have an air of true love about them. Grace is strong and independent, with an apathy towards her parents and Sam is poetic and decent, wanting to find his way in the normal world without leaving his own behind.

The quality of Maggie Stiefvater's writing is magical- it is slow and descriptive, not leaving any details behind while still just keeping it simple. It doesn't bore at all- it moves you and you will put the book down at the end feeling hungry for more.

My Rating: 5/5

The Second Summer of the Sisterhood

The Septembers are back for another summer, still bearing the wounds and lessons of the one before and ready to make more memories worthy of the Travelling Pants...

This was one sequel that didn't disappoint. The story continued with the same themes of friendship and with more life-lessons learned. It follows a similar pattern to that of The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants, the first book in the series. Tibby, Lena, Bridget and Carmen encounter problems with love, life and family. It's a great story about finding yourself (again), learning the weight of your actions, the proper place that romance has in young lives and about remembering those that inspired us in the first summer of the Pants.

I enjoyed this book pretty well and think that it's got a lot of great lessons and morals. It had a slow pace that didn't leave you bored and every story was one that you were interested in. It was realistic and an accurate portrayal of the lives of teenagers. I can't wait to read The Third Summer of the Sisterhood!

my rating: 4/5