Saturday, August 13, 2011

Beauty Queens

I started this book and got stuck moving to a new city in the middle of it, but I finally finished just the other day.  This book is just hilarious and I loved every moment.  Bray pokes fun at everything under the sun related to reality television, beauty products, girls' self-image, Victoria's Secret catalogs; you name it, she's got a witty remark about it.

If you haven't heard about the book yet, basically the contestants for Miss Teen Dream are on a plane and it crashes on a "deserted" island.  The girls hold out hope for a while, but realize eventually that no one is going to come save them.  Taylor Renee Krystal Hawkins, Miss Texas, takes over and insists that the girls continue practicing their pageant routines, but other girls aren't quite agreeable to that.  They make huts and figure out how to get fresh drinking water and learn about who they really all are.  What they don't know is that the island isn't deserted and just down the shore in an underground volcano lair, the Corporation has some business happening.

Part Lord of the Flies, part Miss Congeniality, part Austin Powers, this book is extreme fun.  I loved the unique personality of each girl.  Each young woman had her own "issues" she was working through, and what young woman doesn't?  These girls were smart, fit, and tough, but they weren't perfect.

What I do appreciate in the end, though, is that for all the silliness and obvious hits that Bray makes at the issues and messages bombarding young women today, what's underneath is a good message.  No these girls aren't perfect, but they are who they are.  They embrace themselves the good and the bad.  I really loved  every page and I think most girls will get a kick out of this book, but really appreciate that they can be who they want and take control of their own lives and self images.  Tons of fun, this one!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

State of Wonder

So I won't be teaching freshmen this upcoming school year.  What this means for me right now is that the "direction" of my reading will be shifting a bit.  I still will keep up with all the great YA books, but I will also be reading and posting about more literature and some adult reads as well.  Most of the adult book I will read/review will be related to the literature that I will be teaching in my senior English classes or just stuff that is on many "great books you must read now or before you die..."  You get the picture.

With that said, I just finished (finally....I've said it before, my reading has slowed significantly since my little girl was born, but it's ok :) Ann Patchett's State of Wonder.  I am a big fan of Heart of Darkness, so I was really interested to read this book.  I heard a review on NPR and picked it up.  I was immediately drawn in to the story.  Dr. Marina Singh works for a pharmaceutical company in Minnesota.  Her company funds the work of Dr. Annick Swenson who is in the Amazon researching a tribe and creating a drug, but no one has heard from her in years.  She's there but not really in communication with anyone.  The company sends Marina's coworker, Anders Eckman, there to find Dr. Swenson and check on the progress of the research and the drug that is in development.  Anders, an avid bird-watcher, is excited about the opportunity to see new life and experience all the forest has.  However, Marina finds out that Anders has died - in the Amazon and is buried there.  Burdened with the job of telling Anders' wife, Marina doesn't know what to think about her friend's death, her mentor's (Dr. Swenson's) work, her company's goals, or anything.  Encouraged by Anders' wife, Marina goes to the heart of the Amazon to finish what Anders started and find out about his death for his family.

The books starts off with "Anders is dead," and I really appreciated that.  While some background is given about Marina and Mr. Fox, her boss, this information unfolds throughout the novel in good time.  I liked that you got pieces along the way but were given the main conflict right upfront.  I felt compelled at each stage of the novel to know what would be happening next.  I felt that the overall flow of the book was great.

A fan of Heart of Darkness, as I said earlier, I enjoyed seeing the setting here.  The Amazon was rendered alive and breathing by Patchett.  There were bugs and snakes and fishes galore and you felt every single one of them.  The river's opaqueness is mystifying and terrifying and enchanting all at once.  I felt like I got to be on this "vacation" of sorts along with Marina.  I loved seeing how the Lakashi lived and seeing how the doctors at the research station lived in these new conditions.  I enjoyed all the characters.  I liked learning a lot about Dr. Swenson.  She's no Kurtz by any means, but it was interesting piecing together bits of her from Marina' memory and from the interesting things she shows readers about herself.  The medical part of this book was great and the mystery part was good too.  I would definitely recommend this read for anyone.  I didn't have a huge reaction to the end.  This wasn't one that I held to my heart and sighed with when it was over, but I was glad to have read it and experienced a new, wild place and way of life.