Saturday, August 23, 2008

just a few and a little

Updates and explanation, that is.

To explain: The whole being AWOL thing isn't because we're giving up on this or reviewing. I've been asked that a few times and I'm just clearing things up. My reasoning for my lack of presence is partially--and ironically--because of summer reading. The books I have to read are tedious, boring, and demand most of my attention. Plus, I fear that if I pick up another book, I'll keep picking up books after that and never get around to giving in to the dark presence that is summer reading. The test(s) are in four days and I'm only half-way through my first book (of two). This is, to say the least, abnormal for me, usually I'm done at least 5 days before the tests. =)

So that's part of the reasoning. My absence is primarily do to that, but I have to give credit also to the fact that I'm slack, lazy, and always procrastinating. I've put off writing my review for How To Build a House by Dana Reinhardt (a fantastic book, btw) for months. Now I've almost forgotten the specifics and my review will probably be lame. Eh, what can you do? Oh, wait, I know. Review a book right after you read it. Alas, this probably will not happen in the near future with school starting and writing other things before certain dates in January and all other busy stuff that may involve getting a job. But I will try.

To update: I'm hoping to keep the contest bar updated better than I have, so please, please, please let me know if you're hosting a contest of any sort or you know about one that isn't already listed in the sidebar. The easiest way for me to recieve the information (prize, how to enter, link to the post about it, link to your blog--I occasionally forget the urls--the end date, and anything else you think I should add in) is through email ( You can send a message to me on myspace (link to our page in the blog roll), but I prefer email.

Also, the poll feature of our blog is hard to keep up if we don't have anything to ask. If you have a suggestion, please let us know in an email what it is. The last couple months have been late because we haven't been able to think up a question, but we want to keep it going. I think it's interesting to know what our readers think, what they like, and what they read. So please, if you have an idea, suggest it. We would be forevor indebted to you (okay, maybe not forever. There is an expiration date, I'm just not sure how long it'll last).

Thanks so much,


Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Elite by Jennifer Banash

When Casey McCloy steps into The Bramford, she's overwhelmed by the sophistication and elegance of it all. Fresh from the Midwest [a town called Normal, fittingly], she's moved to New York City to live with her grandmother and attend the prestigious Meadowlark Academy. Here, all that matters is who you know. The designer to know is Zac Posen. The girl to know is Madison Macallister: popular, pretty, and platinum blond. She's not just Casey's new classmate and neighbor; she's an icon. So Casey aims to get in with Madison and her gorgeous gal pals from the start. As the reigning queen of coolness, Madison is capable of destroying reputations with one well-timed whisper. Better to be on her good side.

After a haute makeover from her new frenemy Madison, Casey is wearing [some of] the right clothes, saying [on occasion] the right things, and meeting the right people. Including Drew, the boy-about-town Madison thinks belongs to her and her alone...

When I first picked up this book, I was expecting to be awed or disappointed. I wasn't anticipating an odd combination of the both. But, for reviewing purposes, I'll point out both bad and good.

I was disappointed that this was what I expected it to be. The Elite was yet another story of a poor girl from the Midwest in a rich neighborhood in the northeast, going to an elite school that her family had to pull strings for her to even get into, and trying to befriend the richest, most popular, and nastiest girl she can find. Casey was yet another girl who was smart back home, but isn't now that she's moved to a new state, with new classmates, and new rules. She had a crush on the rich frenemy's not-boyfriend, and he liked her back. He was different from all those other guys. She was different from all those other girls. It had all the elements needed to be yet another one of those books--the ones I typically try to avoid. I could have run off a checklist and it would have met if not all then 99% of the criteria to be one of them.

This, I think, was the error. Having such a well-known plot won't bring recognition. I'm sure in a few months or a year, I'd forget I even read this book if it wouldn't be sitting on the top shelf of my bookcase. Even then, it's packed so tightly between more memorable books with more original plot lines that it might slip through the cracks and be lost to my memory forever.

But then, it also had some of the criteria needed for a good book, or at least one with potential, and maybe, I will remember it months or years from now. Jennifer Banash's style of writing was slightly different from the a-typical YA novel, using phrases, even if rare, that brought out the light behind the pages. And the characters have more depth than usual, each of them with a story. You even start to feel something for the girl you want to hate, which is an element key to a good story. If you don't like the characters, you can't like the book. But telling the individual stories of Madison, Sophie, Pheobe, Drew, and Casey, Jennifer Banash made a good decision. I liked to hear about their families, and how they really felt about everything. It made them more real and less of the typical mold that they fit. The only character I didn't think deserved any feeling at all (whether it be hatred or sympathy or something in the middle) was Casey. She was annoyingly self-conscious, a kiss-up, too clueless for her own good, and easily manipulated. I felt like she got what she deserved in Madison's horrid treatment of her. She wasn't anything more than the mold.

The most annoying thing about The Elite, though, was not the plot, was not Casey, and had nothing to do with the actual story. When reading it, I thought it surely must be a well-edited ARC, since the only other option is a poorly-edited finished novel. There were many mistakes I noted, the most obvious of which is the confusion of the school's name. I assume the correct title is Meadowlark, as that is what it's called on the back of the book, Casey says it's Meadow...something, and I counted 17 of those spellings, but I also counted 8 misspellings that name the school Meadlowlark, with an l. That is just one of many errors that I came across. [If you're reading this, Ms. Banash, I would be happy to point out every error that I actually marked so that they can be fixed for the next printing. I feel I have a very successful career as an editor, as I'm a total grammar freak--I've been called a Super Rambo Grammar Nazi, in fact, but don't ask me what that means.]

While there were many aspects of The Elite I didn't enjoy, I still feel like the next book in the series, In Too Deep, is one to look forward to, as most series only get better with time. This novel has potential, I guarantee, and I definitely wouldn't tell someone not to read it. I wouldn't tell anyone to jump up an buy it this instant, either, though. I give the first book in what seems to be a possibly promising series, just a 3.5, nothing too harsh, nothing to kind.

(a positive review from me can be expected soon, which I'm sure some of you will be waiting for, as my last few reviews have been mostly negative)