Friday, September 20, 2013

Dork Diaries: Tales of a Not-So-Happy Heartbreaker by Rachel Renee Russell

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
354 pages

The sixth book of the Dork Diaries series, Tales from a Not-So-Happy Heartbreaker, continues the daily chronicles of eighth grade student Nikki Maxwell at her new private school. The book is about the big Sweetheart's Dance at school where girls have to ask guys to be their date.

Nikki is preparing to ask her long-time crush Brandon to the Valentine's Day Dance, but something or someone is preventing this from happening. While her friends Chloe and Zoey have already asked their dates to the dance, Brandon seems to be giving Nikki mixed messages.

Initially Nikki and Brandon set up times they can hang out, yet none of their plans are successful. Nikki uses advice from a magazine column to determine that Brandon is not interested in her unless he makes a change. Eventually Nikki gets the courage to ask Brandon to the dance, and he says yes. Nikki becomes distraught when she finds out he can't attend due to a sudden illness on the day of the dance. After Chloe and Zoey convince Nikki to go to the dance Nikki is shocked and furious to find out that Brandon is there. Brandon is confused about the whole situation and follows Nikki into the girls bathroom to figure out what is going on. When they talk face to face they find out that MacKenzie Hollister, Nikki's worst enemy, is responsible for the miscommunication between the couple by using Brandon's missing phone. Brandon and Nikki make up and dance together for the rest of the night along with Chloe and Zoey and their dates.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Dork Diaries: Tales from a Not-So-Smart Miss Know it All by Rachel Renee Russell

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
321 pages

Nikki Maxwell continues writing in her diary and chronicling every detail of her life in the sixth installment of the Dork Diaries series. This time around Nikki is in big trouble for attempting pull a prank on her arch nemesis Mackenzie Hollister. On New Year's Day Nikki and her best friends Chloe and Zoey play truth or dare. When Zoey dares Nikki to toilet paper Mackenzie's house, they decide to do it together as revenge for Mackenzie's antics against them. The girls throw toilet paper all over Mackenzie's front lawn, but they are caught red-handed by Mackenzie.

Over the next few days Mackenzie threatens and blackmails Nikki to either get her an invitation for Brandon's birthday party or risk being suspended from school when she publishes the incident in the school newspaper. Nikki panics and decides to join the school newspaper to prevent Mackenzie from printing the story. During the new staff members meeting Nikki is not given a position by the newspaper adviser Mr. Zimmerman. Nikki is in tears and is too scared to ask Mr. Zimmerman why she was not chosen to be the photo layout assistant when she sees the sign up sheet in the garbage with her name crossed off. Nikki realizes Mackenzie tried to sabotage her once again and has to work up a lot of courage to ask Mr. Zimmerman for a position. He tells her that there are no staff positions left, however he decides to make her the advice columnist on a whim.

Nikki's advice column alias is Miss Know-It-All and she begins  to receives tons of letters after a brief unresponsive period. Her column soon becomes very popular and increases the student newspaper readership by forty two percent. Nikki gets a letter that she believes Brandon wrote about her where he asks how he can tell her the truth about his feelings and his family background. Nikki understands how he feels because she hides her bug extermination scholarship from everyone. Mackenzie is suspicious that Nikki is Miss Know-It-All and still angry that Brandon did not invite her to his birthday party so she sets up a meeting with the principal to report the toilet papering incident. Chloe, Zoey, and Nikki are scared senseless when the meeting is about to begin, but a new student named Marcy comes in and has an exclusive breaking news interview for Mackenzie. Mackenzie believes Marcy is talking about the toilet papering situation, but she actually asks her questions about locking Chloe, Zoey and Nikki in a closet and stealing their costumes during the charity Ice Show last year. Mackenzie is flabbergasted and decides not to say anything at all about the toilet paper prank.

Nikki attends Brandon's party and has a great time, but she is extremely embarrassed that her dad is picking her up in his custom work van that has a giant roach on top of it. She lies to her dad about the address so that he can park a few blocks from the party. After nearly getting caught when her dad arrives at the party, Nikki manages to sneak away without being seen. As her dad drives her home she receives a text from Brandon and its revealed that he knows about her dad's bug extermination van. Nikki laughs hysterically and reflects that maybe she can be honest about who she is like Brandon wants to do with her. Nikki's diary shines when she responds to the distressed students at her private school for the advice column and when she calms down and sees that her life isn't as horrible as she thinks it is.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Dork Diaries: Tales from a Not-So-Graceful Ice Princess by Rachel Renee Russell

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
346 pages

Dork Diaries: Tales from a Not-So-Grateful Ice Princess is notable for Nikki Maxwell's maturation and her moments of selflessness despite the humiliation she'd potentially have to endure. In the fourth book in the Dork Diaries series Nikki panics over an upcoming charity show called Holiday on Ice. The show donates $3,000 to any charity of the participant's choice. Nikki is in a group with Chloe and Zoey who are excellent skaters, but she can barely move without falling flat on her butt. The charity show is very important to Nikki because she accidently finds out that her the animal shelter that her crush Brandon volunteers at will have to close down if they do not receive financial support. Nikki and her friends sign up to skate for Fuzzy Friends in order to keep it open.

Nikki volunteers to help Brandon at Fuzzy Friends afterschool one day and she is absolutely smitten by Brandon's dedication and care for the animals. When Nikki discovers that Brandon's grandmother is the owner of the animal shelter and that they would have to move because his grandfather wouldn't be able to operate the shelter due to an injury, she decides to skate for her friend and for the shelter. Nikki feels overwhelmed by this decision after several disastrous practice skating sessions nearly convince her to give up. But she perseveres after Brandon's grandmother gives her a thank you gift for skating  in the charity show for Fuzzy Friends. Before the big show Nikki has to deal with her parents and her little sister Brianna's shenanigans over winter break.

When Nikki and her family attend The Nutcracker Prince play wearing matching tacky homemade outfits Brianna nearly ruins the whole performance by getting onstage to see if any of the desserts in the play are real. However the audience sees the whole thing as a comedy and laughs at the disaster Brianna causes. After all her frustration over the holidays Nikki starts to see the humor in her family life too, revealing "I have to admit... Once you get used to them, having a family to hang out with can be kind of nice." She even gives Brianna her expensive chocolate cupcake to make up for her disappointment with the desserts on stage and wisely reflects "But most important, I discovered that giving away something you cherish to someone you love can actually make you happier than keeping it." Nikki's growth over the winter break prepare her for the turmoil that ensues before the charity show.

The Holiday on Ice Show is directed by world famous skater Victoria Steel who threatens to kick terrible skaters out of the show. Nikki is spared from this treatment by clever distractions from Brandon and Brianna during each of her practice attempts to perform with her group. On the day of the big show, Chloe, Zoey and Nikki are ecstatic when they get beautiful fairy costumes for their skating performance. After the girls return from their manicure and pedicure trip they are heartbroken when they see that their outfits are replaced with clown costumes. Somehow their fairy costumes were shipped back to New York with the extras. Nikki suspects her arch nemesis Mackenzie is behind it, but she has no proof. They decide to wear the clown costumes and put on a great performance for Fuzzy Friends. When they go to their dressing room to get their skates they see a note from the wardrobe manager telling them that their fairy costumes are in Locker 17 at Storage Area C. When they go in Locker 17 someone shuts the door behind them and locks them in. They use Chloe's dying cell phone to call their parents, but no one picks up. Nikki tells Chloe to call her number because she suspects Brianna is using it to play games on it without permission. Brianna answers Nikki's phone and they quickly tell her where to find them. Brianna and Brandon rescue them from the locker.

During the show, Chloe, Zoey, and Nikki wear the clown costumes. Nikki falls on her butt and slides across the ice. She thinks she's ruined everything, but it turns out the audience is laughing and cheering because they think it's part of their clown act. After that, Nikki skates perfectly and only falls on purpose to make the crowd laugh. After the show ended the director awarded Fuzzy Friends with an additional $10,000 prize money because Nikki, Chloe, and Zoey were chosen as crowd favorites. Nikki is elated that she was able to contribute to keeping Fuzzy Friends open and helping Brandon out. Brandon gives Nikki flowers and tells her thank you. When he gives her a big hug she wonders what the hug meant--if it was a friendly hug or something more. Then she thinks that she wouldn't want Brandon to know why she was thinking that and happily calls herself a dork.