Saturday, 5 February 2011

Mini reviews: Beautiful Dead - Arizona, Screw Loose, Lottie Biggs is Not Desperate and Scat

So I like to try and stay up to date with the books I’m sent for review so I’ve decided to write a collection of mini reviews to be posted each week to help me keep up to date. This week I’m featuring mini reviews of Beautiful Dead: Arizona, Screw Loose, Lottie Biggs is Not Desperate and Scat.

Beautiful Dead: Arizona - Eden Maguire

Published: October 15th 2009
Acquired: Sent for review by Sourcebooks

Summary (from Goodreads): There's been no sign of the Beautiful Dead for weeks. Darina achingly misses Phoenix all over again. But surely he will return with the rest of the Beautiful Dead as so much still remains unresolved. It's been ten months since Arizona drowned in Hartmann Lake. Suicide, it would seem. But something doesn't add up.

Drowning herself in a hidden - away lake does not sound like strong, confident, Arizona: Ellerton High School's high-maintenance drama queen. Darina needs to help Arizona the way she helped Jonas. But time is running out..

My review: There's just something about this series that draws me in, even though I'm still not sure I'm a fan. I reviewed the first book in the series last year and I didn't love it but I was still curious to see how the rest of the books panned out.

Arizona is the next in the series and I have to start by saying how beautiful the cover art is, for all of the Beautiful Dead books actually. Gorgeous. In this installment we learn about the mysterious circumstances around Arizona's death. Darina knows that something doesn't quite match up but she has no idea how to start piecing together the puzzle.

We saw some of Darina's isolation in the first book, Jonas, but we really see more of it here. Cut off from those around her, Darina is obsessed with solving the mystery and learning more about the Beautiful Dead so she can get a glimpse of her beloved Phoenix one more time.

Arizona is definitely an improvement on Jonas, which did feel a little like the writer was warming up for the series to really start. Arizona's situation is much more intriguing and really drew me in. Plus, I loved finding out more about Phoenix and Darina's relationship.

So, I'm not fully converted yet but a copy of the third installment is on its way to me as we speak so maybe that will be the one that makes me really fall in love with this series. We'll see!

Raing: 3/5

Screw Loose - Chris Wheat

Published: July 1st 2008
Acquired: Sent for review by Allen & Unwin

Summary (from Goodreads): A brilliant black comedy, Screw Loose casts a humorous absurdist lens on a group of ordinary 16-year-olds with ordinary problems—kind of As a motley group of teenagers try to navigate the school year, it becomes clear that everyone has problems and no one knows quite how to solve them. Chelsea talks to Barbies and fantasizes about ruling the world. Angelo can’t choose between his control-freak soccer club and his clean-freak girlfriend. Zeynep gets sent to live with the goats, Craig likes Matilda but Matilda prefers his dog, Joshua learns to love guinea pigs—and on it goes.

This quirky, chaotic, laugh-out-loud novel is about first love and new love, and dolls and dogs and soccer and baklava, and a fantastic big, fun, crazy party at the end. It's the perfect book for people who never quite go about things the right way.

My review
: Screw Loose is pure fun and if you're looking for some easy reading that will make you laugh out loud and nod your head in agreement then I'd definitely point you in its direction. I knew I would enjoy Screw Loose before I even cracked the spine and it didn't disappoint. It's full of a cast of larger than life characters who are trying desperately to get through a school year without too much drama. Of course, we have drama aplenty.

I have to mention how much I love the back cover of this book - generally it's the front covers that grab the attention but if you're going to read Screw Loose then definitely check out the back, it's a little bit awesome.

In a way Screw Loose reminded me a little of a comedy version of Outside In by Chrissie Keighery. Both portray a realistic school life with instantly memorable characters but where we had intensity and emotion in Outside In we have insane situations and a fast paced race of a story.

Rating: 4/5

Lottie Biggs is Not Desperate - Hayley Long

Published: May 7th 2010
Acquired: Sent for review by Macmillan Children's Books

Summary: Why am I edgy as an eggshall? Am I doomed to be a tragic desperado my whole life? Am I normal? Or am I mad - if I'm not, why am I being kept awake at night by a hyperactive geriatric chinchilla and indecent visions of Gareth Stingecombe wearing his dad's Britney Spears boxer shorts? What it all comes down to is this: will I ever actually do It?

My review: I should start by saying that this is the second book in the series so, as I haven't read the first, I did read Lottie Biggs is Not Desperate as a standalone.

I'm a sucker for a book filled with pop culture references so I was sold on this one from the outset. Lottie and her friends are brilliant and Long got the teenage voice spot on. Reminiscent of both Louise Rennison's and Liz Rettig's teenage diary series, any fans of the genre are sure to love Lottie Biggs.

The diary format suits this book perfectly and the illustrations (especially the Neil Adam/David Bowie hybrid that springs up in the middle of the book) add a brilliant extra dimension. There's not much I can say that isn't said in the summary, to be honest, as I think this is one of the best summaries that's cropped up in a quite a while. It's short, it's funny and it matches the voice inside the book perfectly.

Lovely, light hearted stuff for you to enjoy with a cupcake and a glass of booze. At least, that's how I enjoyed it, anyway.

Rating: 3.5/5

Scat - Carl Hiaasen

Published: January 27th 2009
Acquired: Sent for review by Orion

Summary: Bunny Starch, the most feared biology teacher ever, is missing. She disappeared after a school field trip to Black Vine Swamp. And, to be honest, the kids in her class are relieved.

But when the principal tries to tell the students that Mrs. Starch has been called away on a "family emergency," Nick and Marta just don't buy it. No, they figure the class delinquent, Smoke, has something to do with her disappearance.

And he does! But not in the way they think. There's a lot more going on in Black Vine Swamp than any one player in this twisted tale can see. And Nick and Marta will have to reckon with an eccentric eco-avenger, a stuffed rat named Chelsea, a wannabe Texas oilman, a singing substitute teacher, and a ticked-off Florida panther before they really begin to see the big picture.

That's life in the swamp, kids.

My review: This is the first book I've read by Hiaasen and I'm really not sure what took me so long. I've always heard wonderful things about his writing and now I can definitely stand up and agree with that.

The New York Times are quoted on the front of the book, stating 'ingenious plotting' and that's definitely what I thought was the novel's main strength. It's brilliant. At first I have to admit I didn't have a clue what was going on and I wasn't sure whether Hiaasen would be able to pull it together but boy, did he!

I'm a bit of a sucker for any books set in Florida so that was another (if a little superficial) plus point for me. If you fancy a read that's a little different from your usual tome then I urge you to give Scat a go. I went in blind, had no idea what to expect and enjoyed it all the more for that.

After reading and loving Scat I'm desperate to read more of Hiaasen's work - has anyone read anything by him? If so, what do you recommend?

Rating: 4/5

So have you guys read any of these? If so, what did you think?

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