Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Lonely Hearts Club by Elizabeth Eulberg

Penny is sick of boys and sick of dating, so she vows: No more. She's had one too many bad dates, and has been hurt by one too many bad boys. 
It's a personal choice... and soon everybody wants to know about it. It seems that Penny's not the only girl who's tired of the way girls change themselves (most of the time for the worse) in order to get their guys... or the way their guys don't really care. 
Girls are soon thronging to The Lonely Hearts Club, and Penny finds herself near legendary for her nondating ways - which is too bad, since the leader of The Lonely Hearts club has a certain boy she can't help but like.... 

I read The Lonely Hearts Club in nearly one sitting. It is a perfect, fast paced, beach read. It is light and made me laugh at times and is very relatable to most any teen girl.
Penny Lane Bloom was named  her for parents passion for The Beatles. Elizabeth Eulberg cleverly weaves song titles and lyrics showing how Penny has grown up and embraces her parents love for The Beatles and how they are a part of her personality in a way. The Beatles being threaded into the novel is just one of the subtleties that make Eulberg's writing imaginative and creative
Penny is kind and inclusive, which sparks the interest in The Lonely Hearts Club with her peers at school and leads to a much bigger group of girls than she ever could have anticipated. I found while reading that all of the girls in The Club are so kind and supportive of each other and never catty or mean. They are the type of girls I would want as my friends because they look out for each other and have fun together. The Lonely Hearts Club grows to become a support system for high school girls just as Penny grows up and matures as a person. Eulberg creates characters in The Lonely Hearts Club that are very relatable and friendly I felt like I was a part of The Lonely Hearts Club at McKinley High School following Penny, the fearless leader! 4 Cupcakes!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Devilish by Maureen Johnson

Jane Jarvis and Allison Concord, seniors at Saint Teresa's Preparatory School for Girls, have always been too quirky to be popular, but at least they'll always have each other, right? Not so much. After a hideously embarrassing disaster, Allison comes to school transformed. Suddenly she has cute hair and clothes, speaks fluent Latin, and won't even look at Jane. With the help of a strangely wise freshman boy, Jane discovers the incredible truth: Allison has sold her soul to the devil. Now Jane will have to save Allison before the bizarrely exclusive Poodle Prom, a party of biblical proportions that just might blow apart the world as Jane knows it. 

I realize this is the second post in a row that is about a novel by Maureen Johnson, so I apologize but be sure that Suite Scarlett and Devilish are nothing alike.
Devilish by Maureen Johnson is an exciting and thrilling read and was not at all the girly teen read I had expected. At the start of Devilish Jane appears to be a one note character that is boring and in need of a serious attitude adjustment, but as the novel progresses Jane proves that she isn't quite as cold and cynical as she might like for you to believe. Jane is incredibly smart and gifted as a student and never has had to work hard for anything especially in the academic world; this all changes when she finds herself trying desperately to save Allison.
I enjoyed reading from Jane's perspective because she is engaging and interesting, but for the most part the novel's plot fell through. Although Devilish is exciting it became a bit too creepy and intense at times. Maureen Johnson creates a setting in Portsmouth, Rhode Island at a Catholic girls school where Jane's rebellious ways are barely tolerated.  Jane never fails to find countless funny and mischievous  tricks to play and she shows a sassy and brazen attitude towards teachers, which is quite humorous.
 I am very conflicted by this book because I really enjoyed most of the characters and the plot was different from my usual taste (or any other books), but the ending did not match the quality of rest of the novel. 3.5 Cupcakes! 

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson

Scarlett Martin has grown up in a most unusual way. Her family owns the Hopewell, a small hotel in the heart of New York City. Her nineteen-year-old brother, Spencer, is an out of work actor facing a family deadline to get his career in order. Eighteen-year-old Lola has the delicate looks of a model, the practical nature of a nurse, and a wealthy society boyfriend. Eleven-year-old Marlene is the family terror with a tragic past. 
When the Martins turn fifteen, they are each expected to take over the care of a suite in the once elegant, now shabby Art Deco hotel. For Scarlett's fifteenth birthday, she gets both a room called the Empire Suite, and a permanent guest named Mrs. Amberson. Scarlett doesn't quite know what to make of this C-list starlet, world traveler, and aspiring autobiographer who wants to take over her life. And when she meets Eric, an astonishingly gorgeous actor who has just moved to the city, her summer takes a second unexpected turn. 
With Mrs. Amberson calling the shots, Spencer's career to save, Lola's love life to navigate around, and Marlene's prying eyes everywhere, things won't be easy. Before the summer is over, Scarlett will have to survive a whirlwind of thievery, Broadway glamour, romantic missteps, and theatrical deception.
The show, as they say, must always go on...

Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson is a compelling and amusing read. The plot is creative and unique and I love the fact that it is set in New York City (one of my personal favorite places). Suite Scarlett is not just about Scarlett herself it also is about her family and the hardships that they face. The novel illustrates the relationships within her family beautifully and perfectly portrays the interactions between her siblings. The Martins remain a typical and believable family that lives at and runs the Hopewell Hotel, which brings them closer and makes for a humorous setting. I love the idea because the Hopewell Hotel is a true family business and not corporation so the whole family is really hands-on while running it.
Scarlett meets Mrs. Amberson on her fifteenth birthday when she moves into the Hopewell for the summer. Mrs. Amberson is flamboyant fun, but also full of mystery in a way that is very intriguing. I love Mrs. Amberson as a character she's a strong and independent woman who knows exactly what she wants and is also devious and clever because she knows how to get it. When Mrs. Amberson checks in at the Hopewell she is a nuisance for Scarlett to care for. Mrs. Amberson although incredibly high maintenance she puts her own needs aside to help Scarlett sort out her problems and help Spencer kick off his acting career. 
Scarlett Martin, the center of it all,  is a well realized character that ties together the novel. Scarlett is a typical 15-year-old girl, but she is forced to become much more mature than many girls her age. Scarlett's maturity comes from having to work at the hotel from a young age and care for her younger sister Marlene. I found Scarlett to be incredibly endearing and sweet and also very relevant to many youth her age because she faces may of the same issues. My only issue with the novel is that I would have loved it even more had it been narrated from Scarlett's view instead of third person. I think this would have made it a little more personal and I prefer (usually) a first person narrative. That being said I don't think I could find anything else to dislike if I tried!
 I finished Suite Scarlett quickly knowing that I could not wait to read the sequel Scarlett Fever!
5 Cupcakes!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan

It's not that far from Evanston to Naperville, but Chicago suburbanites Will Grayson and Will Grayson might as well live on different planets. When fate delivers them both to the same surprising crossroads, the Will Graysons find their lives overlapping and hurtling in new and unexpected directions. With a push from friends new and old- including the massive, and massively fabulous, Tiny Cooper, offensive lineman and musical theater auteur extraordinaire- Will and Will begin building toward romantic turns-of-heart and the epic production of history's most awesome high school musical
Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan is not what I had expected and I was delightfully surprised by how clever and different from many young adult novels it is. The story follows two different people both named Will Grayson and shows how their lives intertwine and overlap. The novel is narrated from the perspective of both boys alternating chapters and this shows the individual personalities and outlooks separately, which I found fun and insightful. The two boys meet in an unlikely and comical situation, which marks the start of their friendship. At first it seems that the only thing that the two Wills share is their name, but as the story progresses it becomes clear that this is not the case. I really enjoyed this novel, but compared to John Green's other works the story was not nearly as engaging. Perhaps after reading Looking for Alaska and Papertowns it is difficult to meet my high expectations from John Green as those are two of my favorite novels. Will Grayson, Will Grayson's storyline may not have been my favorite, but it still left me wanting to hear more from the characters when I finished. This novel's fresh take on high school is original and the portrayal friendship is in a new and contemporary way. I recommend Will Grayson, Will Graysonand and I think after reading this you will be looking to read John Greens other works as each is better than the next. 2.5 Cupcakes!

Chocolate Cupcakes with Swiss Meringue Buttercream

I made chocolate cupcakes with swiss meringue buttercream. The swiss meringue is tricky but worth it because it looks cute and is nice and stiff for different frosting piping designs. I have some pictures of these absolutely amazing chocolate cupcakes with vanilla swiss meringue buttercream and decorated and piped in peaks. These chocolate cupcakes are definitely a must try, so light and fluffy and tasty!
Recipe for the cake:
Ingredients: 2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, 1 cup granulated sugar, 1 cup light brown sugar, 4 large eggs, 6 oz. unsweetened chocolate, 1 cup buttermilk( 1 tablespoon lemon and a cup milk will make the buttermilk just allow it to set for at least 15 minutes before use), 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift flour and baking soda in a bowl and set aside. In an electric mixer cream butter and then add sugars and mix for about 3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time beating after each addition. Add the chocolate (I find using a double boiler the best way to melt the chocolate. Melt for about 5-10 minutes until completely melted and hen allow to cool for 5 minutes). Add the dry ingredients in three parts alternating with the buttermilk and vanilla. Put into lined cupcake tins makes about 2 dozen. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Recipe from More from Magnolia by Allysa Torey.

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

It is the summer of 1950- and at the once-grand mansion of Buckshaw, young Flavia de Luce, an aspiring chemist with a passion for poison, is intrigued by a series of inexplicable events: A dead bird is found on the doorstep, a postage stamp is bizarrely pinned to its beak. Then, hours later, Flavia finds a man lying in the cucumber patch and watches him as he takes his dying breath. 

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie is Alan Bradley's first of hopefully many Flavia de Luce Mysteries. I loved it! This mystery novel is an absolute must read. This novel takes place in 1950 England on the Buckshaw estate and is about an 11 year old girl, Flavia de Luce. My first instinct was to believe that an 11 year old character was going to be immature; I felt too old to be reading this novel but I quickly found that Alan Bradley's brilliant writing is applicable to all ages. Flavia is a curious and precocious character, who loves chemistry and uses it to torture her two older sisters. Flavia is such an incredible heroine that I can't wait to start reading The Weed that Strings the Hangman's Bag, the sequel to The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. Through out the novel Flavia proves to be incredibly clever as she works to uncover the mystery on a quest through the quaint town of Bishop's Lacey. Alan Bradley brings this story alive with witty and entertaining writing that kept me engaged until the end. This is a great summer read and a book you'll be sure to share with your friends! 4.5 Cupcakes!