Review: Like Mandarin

Like Mandarin

Product Details

  • Pub. Date: March 2011
  • Publisher: Random House Children’s Books
  • Format: Hardcover , 320pp
  • Sales Rank: 181,974
  • Age Range: Young Adult


It’s hard finding beauty in the badlands of Washokey, Wyoming, but 14-year-old Grace Carpenter knows it’s not her mother’s pageant obsessions, or the cowboy dances adored by her small-town classmates. True beauty is wild-girl Mandarin Ramey: 17, shameless and utterly carefree. Grace would give anything to be like Mandarin. When they’re united for a project, they form an unlikely, explosive friendship, packed with nights spent skinny-dipping in the canal, liberating the town’s animal-head trophies, and searching for someplace magic. Grace plays along when Mandarin suggests they run away together. Blame it on the crazy-making wildwinds plaguing their Badlands town. Because all too soon, Grace discovers Mandarin’s unique beauty hides a girl who’s troubled, broken, and even dangerous. And no matter how hard Grace fights to keep the magic, no friendship can withstand betrayal.

My Thoughts

Right away I was able to connect with the main character, Grace.  She is the socially awkward smart girl who just wants to be like the popular girls, in this case Mandarin, that everyone wants to be or looks to as the bad girl – wild and free.  Grace has disappointed her mother early in life by throwing her final big beauty pageant chances out the window on a whim of disobedience.  Grace is paired with Mandarin by a teacher that is hoping that Grace will be able to help Mandarin pass her classes and graduate.  Little does this teacher know that this is going to prove to be an interesting lesson for Grace to live though and that she is going to get hurt along the way.

My favorite part of this book is when Grace and Mandarin liberate the stuffed mounts in town.  It is just odd to see these two high school girls break into grocery story and restaurant in town and then set these heads free down the river.  This scene made a lasting impression on me.  Maybe in part that this was Grace’s way of trying to keep Mandarin as a friend after they got into a disagreement.  There are very little distances that teenagers will go to keep those they want close to them close. 

There are multiple layers to this book, as well.  I like that there was not just one story line but there are at least two.  The second is that of Grace and her mother and their relationship.  Grace has a little sister named Taffeta and their mother is putting her through the pageants that Grace never finished.  Grace feels as though she was never wanted and Taffeta was perfectly planned and is everything her mother wants.  It was interesting to see how these views grow throughout the book.

I also enjoyed the little science lesson that were mixed in the book here and there.  Things like a river flowing north instead of south and information about the rocks and winds.

Overall, this was a pretty good read.  While not the best book I have read, it was worth reading and would be great for a teenage girl who just doesn’t feel like she fits in her world.

My Rating

3.5 of 5 stars.  Worth the read.

Review: Sisterchicks in Wooden Shoes

Sisterchicks in Wooden Shoes (Sisterchicks Series #8)

Product Details

  • Pub. Date: May 2009
  • Publisher: The Doubleday Religious Publishing Group
  • Format: Paperback , 288pp
  • Sales Rank: 250,782


A multi-tasking mama, Summer Finley has found ways to handle whatever life throws at her with grace and a grin. Until now, that is. An “abnormal” medical test result sends Summer into an emotional tailspin and prompts her to fulfill a life-long dream of “meeting” her best friend and pen pal since fourth grade, Noelle Van Zandt, face-to-face.
Their blissful week together in the Netherlands finds Summer and Noelle floating down a canal in Amsterdam, visiting Corrie Ten Boom’s Hiding Place, sipping decadent Dutch cocoa in Delft, and bobbing merrily along through a sea of brilliant, spring-fresh tulips. Each day takes them further from midlife anxiety and closer to trusting God in deeper ways.
When Summer finally confides in Noelle about the abnormal test results, Summer’s honesty prompts Noelle to share a long-held heartache. The two friends find they both needed to be together more than either of them realized. Could it be this adventure was tucked away in God’s imagination long before Summer bought her ticket to fly to the land of merry tulips and kalomping wooden shoes?

My thoughts

A well written book about trust in God and Friendships!  I enjoyed this books and seeing how Summer is going to cope with the possibility of cancer by booking a trip to the Netherlands to visit her long time pen pal.  I loved the descriptions of the Netherlands, the author does a wonderful job of describing every detail making it feel as though you are right there.  I enjoyed learning about some of the customs and fun and better yet interesting places to visit in the Netherlands.  This was a quick easy read but very touching on so  many levels it is difficult to cover them all.  The long distance friendship and just how these women interact with each other and the world around them touches me.

My Rating

3.5 stars of 5.  A good light read (despite the lurking cancer)

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.  All opinion are my own.

Review: The Secret Lives of Dresses

The Secret Lives of Dresses

Product Details

  • Pub. Date: February 2011
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
  • Format: Paperback , 292pp
  • Sales Rank: 107,002


Dora has always taken the path of least resistance. She went to the college that offered her a scholarship, is majoring in “vagueness studies,” and wears whatever shows the least dirt. She falls into a job at the college coffee shop, and a crush on her flirty boss, Gary.
Just when she’s about to test Gary’s feelings, Mimi, the grandmother who raised her, suffers a stroke. Dora rushes back home to Forsyth, NC, and finds herself running her grandmother’s vintage clothing store. The store has always been a fixture in Dora’s life; though she grew up more of a jeans-and-sweatshirt kind of girl, before she even knew how to write, Mimi taught her that a vintage 1920s dress could lift a woman’s spirit.
While working there, Dora befriends Mimi’s adorable contractor, Conrad. Is he after Dora, or is working from a different blueprint? And why did Mimi start writing down—and giving away—stories of the dresses in her shop?
When Mimi dies, Dora can’t get out of town fast enough and cedes control of the store to her money-hungry aunt who wants to turn it into a t-shirt shop for tourists. But ultimately, she returns to Forsyth, willing to battle whatever may stand in the way of her staying there. Dora can trade her boring clothes for vintage glamour, but can she trade her boring life for one she actually wants?

My Thoughts

I love the cover of this book, it drew me in, and I think that even if the blip from the back of the book didn’t draw me in I would have had to have read it just because of the cover.  Kudos to whom ever chose this design!

Okay, on to the book.  I enjoyed the story of Dora but also found a couple of things just a little confusing.  I feel like I may have missed something or that it is just missing in the story. 

Things I enjoyed about this story.  Erin McKean did a great job of telling the reader exactly who Dora was and how she got to where she was in life.  Dora grew up in her grandmother’s care after her parents died when she was very young and she knows very little about them.  She is a college student who has taken the “vagueness of studies” and is working at a coffee shop where she has a crush on her boss, Gary, who only dates graduate students and flirts with everyone, much to Dora’s dismay.  I felt that I could connect with Dora right away as she is racing home when she finds out her grandmother has suffered a stroke.  Needless to say, her life is about to change.  While she is home, she starts to wear that clothes that her grandmother has been putting aside for her for years and working in the vintage clothing store her grandmother owns, where she discovers the secret stories her grandmother has written and begun to give out about certain outfits.  I love these stories, they are wonderful and painful all at the same time.  I love “watching” Dora grow up in this short amount of time while her grandmother is deathly ill.

This is where I get confused.  As Dora is working in the shop one day, in come an attractive man named Con, who is a contractor working on the apartment above the store and friends with Dora’s grandmother, Mimi.  What I cannot figure out is the age of this man.  Is he an older man perusing Dora or is he closer in age and was just friendly with Mimi.  It is just odd and I could never really figure it out.  Anyhow, Con and Dora begin to spend time together and Con helps Dora to deal with the stress of her sick grandmother. 

What happens from here has great flow but if I was to say any more it would spoil the book and that would be no fun.  I will say that my favorite part of this story was reading the stories that have been written for the different dresses.  They are amazing and written from the perspective of the dress itself and what it “sees” and “experiences”.  I think that this was a great idea it really makes this book unique, which I love!

My Rating

3.5 of 5 stars. I would recommend this book, but I do not think it is one that I would reread.