Beauty Queens by Libba Bray
Pages : 406
Genre : YA, Fiction, Humor
My Rating :
From Goodreads : The fifty contestants in the Miss Teen Dream pageant thought this was going to be a fun trip to the beach, where they could parade in their state-appropriate costumes and compete in front of the cameras. But sadly, their airplane had another idea, crashing on a desert island and leaving the survivors stranded with little food, little water, and practically no eyeliner.
My Thoughts :
Before I comment, I feel I should really insist that you do not take my word on this one. If you have any interest in this book, try it – or read more reviews before taking your decision. The truth is, not everyone loves satire, and even when you do (I usually do), it’s no guarantee that you will love this particular one.
Looking at my reading notes on Beauty Queens, I can see there were two things that didn’t work for me. One : the numerous messages delivered with little subtlety made the book feel more like a lesson than like a fiction. I think the author successfully included a lesson on almost any issue you could think of, which is not bad in itself, but it did take away from my enjoyment. Two : the satire was just too over-the-top for me. I know what satire is, but at some point I felt like it took away from the story being told.
I really had to push myself to get through it, and that’s not something I want to do when reading anymore. Luckily, I did have some fun with the book. I liked some of the characters and scenes, some of the jokes gave me a giggle or a smile.
I really don’t believe it’s a case of bad writing, or bad plot, or bad characters, and that is why I can’t advise anyone to stay away from this book. In this case, I really, truly felt that Beauty Queens and I just weren’t made for each other. I’m sure I would have loved this book at fifteen; not because I was fifteen but because of who I was at that time of my life. I loved anything that had satire, irony, sarcasm, anything that was over-the-top but also had something to say. And Beauty Queens was certainly all of these things! 🙂
I read a lot more holiday-related books last year than I did this year, but by the time I was ready to review them, it was January and it felt a little late to post these reviews. So, I’m doing this all at once, reviewing my sole Christmas read of 2011 (which was a disappointment) and last year’s reading (much better!) If you’re looking for a last minute holiday read, maybe these books will inspire you; if not, you can take a look to holidays-related posts for plenty more reviews and suggestions!
* * *
The Christmas Wedding by James Patterson
Pages : 266
Genre : Fiction, Holiday
My Rating :
What it’s about : Gaby has a huge surprise for her kids : she is getting married on this Christmas, to one of the three men in her life – but they won’t know who until the big day! But for Gaby, this special day is also the occasion to celebrate with all of her family again, for the first time since her husband passed away five years ago.
My Thoughts : The Christmas Wedding was meant to be a cute story focused on family, and of course the mystery of Gaby’s wedding. And while I imagine it would make a good movie, the story felt a little rushed for me. There were many characters, each with their story lines, and in the end I felt like I never connected and only got a glimpse of their lives. I was also more interested by Gaby’s children than by the wedding mystery! It wasn’t bad, and for a holiday read, it was quick and had a little heart. So while I wouldn’t exactly recommend it as a must-read, I would say borrowing it is a safe bet if you’re not too sure about it either.
* * *
The Stupidest Angel by Christopher Moore
Pages : 306
Genre : Fiction, Fantasy, Holiday, Zombies!
My Rating :
From the book’s cover : ‘Twas the night (okay, more like the week) before Christmas, and all through the tiny community of Pine Cove, California, people are busy buying, wrapping, packing, and generally getting into the holiday spirit. But not everybody is feeling the joy. Little Joshua Barker is in desperate need of a holiday miracle. No, he’s not on his deathbed; no, his dog hasn’t run away from home. But Josh is sure that he saw Santa take a shovel to the head, and now the seven-year-old has only one prayer: Please, Santa, come back from the dead. But hold on! There’s an angel waiting in the wings. (Wings, get it?) It’s none other than the Archangel Raziel come to Earth seeking a small child with a wish that needs granting. Unfortunately, our angel’s not sporting the brightest halo in the bunch, and before you can say “Kris Kringle,” he’s botched his sacred mission and sent the residents of Pine Cove headlong into Christmas chaos, culminating in the most hilarious and horrifying holiday party the town has ever seen.
My Thoughts : There’s no way I could have summarized this book in my words in such a perfect way! Because the book’s summary not only tells you what this fantastic novel is about, it also gives you a great idea of Moore’s voice and humor. The author definitely has a special brand or writing and humor, and I can see now why his books are so popular. The Stupidest Angel is not a cute Christmas tale, nor is it all fluffy and sentimental. It takes the magic of Christmas and turns it on its head, replacing it with silliness and zombies. It’s different, and funny, and while not something everyone would enjoy, it is something that those looking for a different kind of holiday reading will appreciate. The tagline, A Heartwarming Tale of Christmas Terror, really says it all!
* * *
Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris
Pages : 166
Genre : Non-Fiction, Short Stories
My Rating :
What it’s about : A collection of short non-fiction stories, of the author’s personal experiences with the holidays.
My Thoughts : Without a doubt, the star of this too short book is the first essay, SantaLand Diaries, describing with great humor Sedaris’ life as an elf for Macy’s Santa. It was entertaining and memorable and sometimes heartbreaking – which I cannot say of the following stories, I have to sadly say. There are other interesting stories, but the first one is by far the best. Reading this book made me realize one thing though; I’m not sure I’m a Sedaris fan. I remember reading him a while ago and I thought I enjoyed it, but reading Holidays on Ice was a roller-coaster; I sometimes couldn’t let go of the book, and sometimes just couldn’t bother picking it up again. So overall, not great, but really not bad either; certainly worth a try!
* * *
Home in Time for Christmas by Heather Graham
Pages : 285
Genre : Romance, Time-Travel, Historical Fiction
My Rating :
What it’s about : Melody is driving home for Christmas when a man suddenly appears in front of her car, all dressed in what looks like a Revolutionary War-era costume. It’s too late to avoid him, and Melody hits him. When Jakes insists he’s from another time, Melody is sure she hit him a little too hard on the head. Feeling guilty, she brings him home to her parents as a friend, just in time for a very unique Christmas.
My Thoughts : At some point in my blogging life, I’ll have to actually come out of my denial and admit that I do, sometimes, enjoy the occasional romance. I certainly enjoyed this one!
It had the Christmas magic mixed in with the additional time-travel magic. Melody was actually likable and, for a book that was mostly light fun, I was surprised by the fact that she wasn’t too cardboard-like. I like the other characters, too, and the story would make an excellent Christmas movie! It’s sweet, but not excessively sweet, more on the side of romantic-comedy than comedy-comedy, which is probably why I liked it so. I also appreciated the historical aspect.
Married with Zombies by Jesse Petersen
Pages : 241
Genre : Horror, Humor
Series : Living with the Dead, Book 1
My Rating :
What it’s about :
David and Sarah’s relationship has had more downs than ups recently. As they head to their marriage counseling session, the couple face what could be the biggest “down” of their marriage : they find their counselor eating the previous client with determination. It’s the zombie apocalypse, and David and Sarah only have each other to count on. Can they salvage their relationship enough to survive?
My Thoughts :
Think of this as your classic zombie movie, on paper : there are gory scenes of zombie killing, running, fear, empty streets, and a touch of humor to balance the horror.
While the book brings little originality to the zombie archetype, it offers an interesting dynamic with David and Sarah’s relationship. Those two are bickering like you would expect a dysfunctional old couple to, even about the littlest things. The relationship is written with humor, which makes it enjoyable to follow through the story. It’s pretty clear early in the story that they’ll have to be a united front to survive the zombies, and watching them reconcile was a pleasant ride anyway. I love that they talked about their relationship without going too far in the romance type.
Their adventure is filled with action. The book doesn’t stay in one place long, and while I found most “twists” to be predictable, it kind of went in the same direction as a zombie movie would. You know, the moment in a movie when you just know a zombie is about to appear, and yet you still jump on your seat when it does? That’s what I mean. I also enjoyed that they encounter other survivors, who take different approaches to their new apocalyptic life. The story was constantly holding my interest because there was always something, or someone, happening.
As for the humor, I did have a couple of laughs. I enjoy simple things in life, and so the fact that each chapter is titled with an advice that could be quoted from “Fighting Zombies for the Married Dummies” cracked me up. Here are a couple of examples :
Chapter 3 : Put the small stuff into perspective. It’s better to be wrong and alive than right but eating brains.
Chapter 6 : You and your partner are on the same side. It’s the side of the living.
Without spoiling anything, I will say two things about the story : I enjoyed the cult plot and wished it could have lasted a little longer, because I could imagine so many story lines coming out of this. Also, the ending was a good mix of everything the characters went through in the book, but I loved to see how far David and Sarah had come.
All in all, a good read for these moments when you want a brainless (ha!) read with not too many surprises, but still entertaining.
Series reading order :
- Married with Zombies
- Flip this Zombie
- Eat, Slay, Love (coming August 2011)
The Guinea Pig Diaries by A. J. Jacobs
Pages : 230
Genre : Non Fiction, Humor
My Rating :
What it’s about :
You may have heard of Jacobs previous books, The Know-It-All and The Year of Living Biblically, where he respectively read the Encyclopedia Britannica from A to Z and followed the Bible’s rules for exactly a year.
With his third book, Jacobs shares a new collection of shorter experiments. Outsourcing everything in his life (from email to the Sunday call to his parents), trying Radical Honesty for a month or even obeying his wife for an entire month, Jacobs tries a little of everything and narrates it all with humor.
Even though I hadn’t read Jacobs two previous books, I had read some articles of his on the internet – among others, the one on his “Radical Honesty” experiment. I enjoyed his writing and really was looking forward to reading one of his books.
Luckily, I wasn’t disappointed! It was pretty much what I was expecting. Jacobs write with humor and authenticity without loosing focus from his goals. Obviously, his experiments are not hard science, but his style is extremely readable and I had some good laughs. Plus, there is something very entertaining about reading from the guinea pig’s point of view rather than from someone exterior to the experiment. He also points out various articles and books that have maybe more scientific credibility, if I may say so, and I took note of some titles I might want to read in the future.
Some of my favorite chapters were the one on outsourcing and the one about Radical Honesty. Like I said, I had already read this one previously, but I enjoyed reading it a second time. It was funny, yes, but it also give us something to think about : how much honesty do we really need in our lives? And how should this honesty be applied? In other words, nice food for thoughts. There were a few chapters that felt a little more flat for me. “What would George Washington do?” was one of those; it had some good moments, but it felt too long for what it was.
If you’re looking for some entertaining non-fiction that won’t require too much of your brain, The Guinea Pig Diaries could be a book you’ll enjoy. It’s also perfect if you don’t want something that you will have to read in one block : since each chapter is a different experiment, you can pick it up and read a small slice at a time.
Nice Girls don’t Date Dead Men by Molly Harper
Pages : 376
Genre : Paranormal Romance, Humor, Vampires
My Rating :
With her job at an occult bookstore and her “vampire coming out” a few months in the past, you would thing that Jane’s life is now somewhat more stable. Except, it isn’t.
She still isn’t sure where she stands with Gabriel, her sexy sire who keeps disappearing for work – or so he says. As if her own love life wasn’t puzzle enough, she also has to deal with her grandma’s new fiancé, who seems to be hiding a deadly past, and her best friend’s Titanic themed wedding. Who said eternal life was all fun?
So Molly Harper did it again : what a fun vampire novel! Yes, this one had a lot more of the promised romance, but Jane’s humorous voice is still as clever and entertaining. I was glad to see that the author could add a little of the first without compromising Jane’s voice.
So, this book had a little less action and danger than the first one. As a story, I liked it a tiny little bit less than the previous book, Nice Girls don’t Have Fangs. But, what I really loved in this novel is how the relationships developed – and I’m talking about all kinds of relationships : love, family, friends, ghosty, etc. If this gives you any indication, I would say this novel reads more like a chick lit than like an urban fantasy novel. I wasn’t bored one second with it!
A huge part of the story centers around Zeb and Jolene’s upcoming Titanic themed wedding, and as usual the preparation for the Big Day is cause for lots of emotional situations. Add to the usual setting Jolene’s protective werewolf family and Zeb’s crazy controlling mother, and you are good for an unsettling adventure!
The characters in this series are so different one from the other and so entertaining, I would have a hard time picking a favorite. Jane’s interaction with them is in turns funny and touching, but the tone is generally light – even with her family, who mostly hasn’t come to terms with her new vampire status yet. Which reminds me that Jenni, Jane’s sister, is highly unlikable!
So, I really enjoyed this novel. Reading Molly Harper is like stuffing yourself with candy – without the guilt trip. And I really can’t wait to read the next book in the series, Nice Girls don’t Live Forever, coming December 2009!
Series Reading Order
- Nice Girls don’t Have Fangs
- Nice Girls don’t Date Dead Men
- Nice Girls don’t live Forever