I'm so, so glad I decided to give King another try despite my mixed feelings over her Printz Honor, Please Ignore Vera Dietz. Everybody Sees the AntI'm so, so glad I decided to give King another try despite my mixed feelings over her Printz Honor, Please Ignore Vera Dietz. Everybody Sees the Ants is an astonishingly wonderful gift to young-adult literature, one that I feel extremely fortunate to have read.
Since the age of seven, Lucky Linderman has been having dreams in which he visits his grandfather in the prison camp where he's resided since being listed as MIA in the Vietnam War back in 1972. When his grandmother died, she asked Lucky to get her husband back, and the dreams started that very night. Coincidentally, this was also the same day Lucky began being bullied by Nader McMillan. So are these dreams really a way to get his grandfather back and hopefully heal the wound Lucky's father's always had from having never met his own father, or are they just a way to escape the harsh reality that is Lucky's life? Another escape comes in the form of a summer vacation with his mother in Tempe, Arizona. There, Lucky bonds with his Uncle Dave, dodges an unnecessary intervention orchestrated by his pill-popping Aunt Jodi, and meets a beautiful older girl who shows him another side of life. Everybody Sees the Ants is a masterpiece that should not be overlooked by anyone who enjoy its genre.
If every story I read and its characters were as original and appealing as Everybody Sees the Ants and its characters are, I dare I say I'd get nothing done save for reading. Although all of the characters are unique and serve their purpose to make the story what it is — an amazing, inspiring example of human life and its struggles — one character in particular stood out. I've not fallen nor cared for a character as much as Lucky in a long, long time. With each sentence, word, action — he stole my heart and made me root for him more and more with the turn of each page. He is a young, bullied kid who's not even had his first kiss yet. He's a boy with an impossible mission to save his grandfather. He's a little insecure, a proud mama's boy, and an awesome cook. He's an incredible character and all I wanted was to give him a big hug and smooch on the noggin, if such a thing were possible. I dare you not to fall for Lucky Linderman.
Upon finishing this little gem, I felt an overwhelming since of gratification and elation. It's hard to find a book that makes you feel like turning back to the first page and starting all over again, but I felt just that when I reached the end of Everybody Sees the Ants. I didn't feel ready to leave these characters, their story and lives. Although I wasn't completely sold after reading Please Ignore Vera Dietz, I could tell that King was capable of greatness and she proved my instinct right when she wrote this story. This just shows that you shouldn't judge an author by the first book of theirs you read.
This is a book I'll cherish and reread many times in future, always enjoying it more each time. Highly, highly recommended. 4.5 stars...more
Is it okay to hate a dead kid? Even if I loved him once? Even if he was my best friend? Is it okay to hate him for being dead?
Vera's conflicting feeIs it okay to hate a dead kid? Even if I loved him once? Even if he was my best friend? Is it okay to hate him for being dead?
Vera's conflicting feelings toward Charlie after his death mirror mine over her story. I don't think I've ever been this conflicted over a book in all my years of reading.
Vera Dietz has secrets: she has a crush on a boy five years her senior; she's drinking vodka coolers under the radar; and, perhaps her biggest secret of all, she knows a whole helluva lot more about her best friend's death than she's letting anyone in on. But she has her reasons: after you lose the boy you could've/should've been more than friends with, what else are you left with but to move on with someone else? And everyone knows alcohol is the perfect desensitizer when the pain is just too much. And besides, if she told anyone — her father, her classmates, the authorities — what might happen then?
Much like its main character, Please Ignore Vera Dietz was, for me, all of the following: baffling, annoying, infuriating, wondrous, a true eye-opener. On the one side I think, if a book can make me feel so many conflicting emotions, shouldn't it be worth five stars? You know, just because, unlike so many books, it made me feel? And on the other, shouldn't I have felt more for the characters and their heartache and tough situation before the near-end mark? Somehow I think this would be easier if I didn't have to rate this, because, no matter what I put in those line of stars, they won't truly represent my feelings towards this particular work. I feel like this book is worth five stars and about two and a half all at once.
I suppose the only way to give some semblance of order to this review is to break my thoughts down in a positive/negative fashion:
Vera, Vera, Vera. What to say about this girl? Unlike any character (female or otherwise) I've ever read about, Vera Dietz made me, at some points, mad as hell; and at others, sad to the same degree. (view spoiler)[I couldn't figure out why she didn't just call the police and keep the pet store from burning in the first place. Would that have been so hard? (hide spoiler)] She is strange and quirky, and not exactly in a good way: she eats napkins just because Charlie did; she drinks and starts going out with a twenty-three-year-old guy, all while thinking of how much she doesn't want to end up like her father and mother, a recovered alcoholic and ex-stripper turned child-abandoner, respectively. I know people do stupid things when they're hurt, especially when they've recently lost someone they loved. They may even be entitled to do these things, but that doesn't make them interesting to read about or make a character endearing or worthy of my sympathy. Or at least it doesn't for me, anyway. It wasn't until certain things happened and certain things were revealed that I started to feel something for her character, started to connect with her in any way. This happened much later in the story and, by then, it was (almost) too little too late.
When I did finally start to get it, finally began to see what so many people are raving about, it really hit hard. One minute I was reading along, thinking how this book just isn't for me but I'll finish it anyway, and the next I'm grabbing tissues to blot my tears before they left crinkle stains on my library's copy. (view spoiler)[This, of course, happened when Vera relates the time Charlie threw dog shit on her in the forest. I couldn't believe that they were such close friends, to the point where they had fallen in love with each other, and yet he'd do something so humilating and disgusting to her. I felt for Vera in that moment. (hide spoiler)]
The best part of this story is Vera's reconnecting with her father and rebuilding a real relationship with him. If you've read any of my past reviews, you know I appreciate good parent/child relationships more than any romance. Romances are nice, but they aren't everything. People say that romantic relationships can die but friends last forever, and I disagree. I'm more of a blood-runs-thicker-than-water kind of gal. Friendships are wonderful, don't get me wrong. But let's face it: the right (wrong) thing happens, and that's it, no more BFF. I believe that familial relationships are the most important, the kind you can count on the most. And this is why they are, essentially, my favorite sort of relationship to read about. Vera and her father have many things to work out, including Vera's apparent use of alcohol to cope with the loss of Charlie and her father having never truly gotten over her mother when she left them. Their scenes together were some of my favorite.
King's writing is edgy, sparse and peppered with wry humor. It made the pages flip fast and kept me invested in the story, even when the characters couldn't.
As you can see, I'm very conflicted on this particular novel. I went into it thinking it would be an easy five stars, and ended up being disappointed on multiple accounts. Perhaps some day I'll return to this story, revisit its characters and maybe see them in the same light others have. Until then, Please Ignore Vera Dietz is a story that touched me at times, and frustrated me at others. But I feel better for having read it and I have no regrets. 3.5 stars...more
Honestly, for having a name like The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight and a synopsis promising a British boy named Oliver, this book isHonestly, for having a name like The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight and a synopsis promising a British boy named Oliver, this book is pretty damn disappointing. Although it does deliver on the British boy front (who, frankly, really isn't even that great), it doesn't deliver much else.
SPLFS starts off with Hadley Sullivan missing her flight to London at JFK. Granted, Hadley would rather see her dentist than attend her father's wedding to a woman she's never even met, but her father is counting on her to make it on time. Reluctantly, she gets a later flight --- one that leads to a whole lotta lurve.
It amazes me how such a short story can feel so slow and long-winded; at times it was like dredging through sludge. The characters and cluster of scenes that take place over the course of twenty-four hours are equally boring and uneventful. SPLFS can be summed up as follows: A missed flight, a "fated" flight, a wedding, (view spoiler)[a funeral, (hide spoiler)] and a wedding reception. The End. Not much else happens. It's really all about Hadley reconciling with her father and coming to terms with the fact that, despite how much she may want it, her parents are never getting back together. And, you know, "love" at first sight in a crowded airport.
And let's talk about this love interest, shall we? He's tall, lanky, and floppy haired; you know, the standard by which all boys are messured nowadays. But even he can't seem to breathe any life into a story this boring. Seriously, my jaw still hurts from all the yawning I did while reading this. I know I must seem a little bitter, but can you really blame me for hoping that maybe, just maybe, this could turn out to be as cute and pleasantly fluffy as Anna and the French Kiss? Perhaps my expectations were too high; nevertheless, I'm sure that with better written characters, a more intriguing plot, and a more believable romance, this could've been something great.
But in the end, The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight is nothing to write home about....more
"Some people think that a place can save them," I say. "Like if they could just be somewhere else, their lives would be totally different. They could"Some people think that a place can save them," I say. "Like if they could just be somewhere else, their lives would be totally different. They could finally be the people they always wanted to be. But to me, a place is just a place. If you really want things to change, you can make them change no matter where you are."
Hannah Harrington's debut, Saving June, begins with Harper Scott stacking casseroles and meringue pies into her refrigerator. Her older sister, June, has just died from a self-inflicted drug overdose. And as with all deaths, people think that food offerings will make it better. But Harper knows that nothing can take away the pain of losing someone you hold so dear, especially someone whose life ended way too soon and for reasons unknown. Harper believes that nothing can make June's death any less painful — until she finds a postcard that reads California, I'm coming home in June's handwriting. She's left with nothing to think but that California is the place where June truly longed to be. And so, after reluctantly teaming up with Jake Tolan, a boy who not only was close to June but who insists on coming along for the trip with Harper and her BFF Laney, Harper packs up her things along with the urn containing June's remains and heads for California.
Harper's grief is truly gut-wrenching. She's in so much pain from this unforeseeable loss, but she's strong-willed and highly motivated nonetheless. Each time she gets close to cracking from the unbearable sadness that threatens to overwhelm her, she reigns it in and instead chooses to focus on the journey ahead. And what a journey it is! An antiwar protest in Chicago that leads to a girl-on-girl liplock, a rock concert for a band called Robot Suicide Squad, and a black van named Joplin are just some of the crazy/fun aspects of their road trip. Even though the reason behind the trip is sad, Harrington does a wonderful job of making the trip fun and exciting for both the characters and readers alike.
With his trademark black pants, his messy yet oh-so-sexy hair, and his inherent love for all things musical, Jake Tolan makes for an interesting and authentic character who is the perfect yang to Harper's yin. Although only eighteen, Jake's life hasn't been easy, and in snippets we find out just how rough it's been. But Jake isn't about to let his bad upbringing define him.
Harper and Jake's slow-building romance is perfectly written; like a seven-tier wedding cake, it is carefully handled and delicately crafted. Their natural chemistry and casual banter make for some of the best scenes in the book:
"Wow," I say. "You are truly obsessed." "Yeah, I kinda am," he agrees, grinning. "Without music, life would be a mistake." "Did you coin that one yourself?" "Nietzsche did, actually. But it's a common mix-up."
They share secrets, dreams, cigarettes, and the pain of losing June. The sexual tension between them is palpable in some scenes, but it doesn't overshadow the main focal point of the story. In fact, I'd say the romance takes a backseat (no pun intended) to the adventurous and cathartic road trip Harper, Jake, and Laney take.
Music vibrates through every page of Saving June. It is its own life force as you read through these pages, and I found myself using YouTube to keep up with Jake's playlist.
Ultimately, Saving June is about learning to find peace after facing a tragedy, and the maelstrom of conflicting emotions that bombard one's mind after the death of a beloved. And it sends a wonderful message: that you can find love, joy, and happiness — even after devastation.
I look forward to reading more works from Harrington in future....more
My Life Next Door is the kind of story that you expect to be light and fluffy . . . but then it surprises you. I thought this book would be very clicMy Life Next Door is the kind of story that you expect to be light and fluffy . . . but then it surprises you. I thought this book would be very cliché: little rich girl falls for the boy next door; gets a whole new perspective on life through the eyes of a financially-strained, but very happy — unlike her own — family; and learns something big about herself over the course of one short summer. In a lot of ways, that is what this book is about. But, in truth, it is about so much more.
Samantha Reed's character is, I think, one of the best — probably in the top ten, actually — YA heroines I've ever come across since I began reading YA fiction back in 2008. She stands up for herself and the people she cares about when it counts most, she thinks independently from her main influence in life — in this case, her mother — in a way that is smart and not just teenage rebellion. She is smart about sex choices, doesn't just jump into bed with the first boyfriend she gets — or even the third without some smart-shopping for Trojans (loved that scene!) — and is a generally well-rounded, intelligent young woman. I found being in Sam's head a very pleasant, refreshing, and, often times, spontaneously hilarious experience when compared to many of the female narrators of her genre. If Fitzpatrick's future heroines turn out to be even a tenth as good as Sam was, I'm in for a real treat. And Jase . . . he is the kind of boy you'd want your daughter to marry. Truly. He's down to earth, loves his family, loves his animals (he's something of a zoo-keeper), and treats his girlfriend like gold. What's not to love? I think YA paranormal authors should take notes from Huntley Fitzpatrick on how to write a good male protagonist. And Tim . . . I can't believe a debut author made me fall for a drug addict. Seriously. If the author decided to write a companion novel about Tim (maybe like Marchetta did with Thomas after Saving Francesca) and, hopefully, Alice, I'd be forever grateful to the Powers That Be.
The bulk of this novel is about Samantha getting to know — and fall for — both Jase and his family. But towards the end, as the publisher-provided synopsis says, there is a big obstacle that is dropped on Sam's and the Garrett's heads, an obstacle that is not overcome easily. I wish there could have been a bit more resolution at the end with it (view spoiler)[Last we hear of Mr. Garrett is that he's out of ICU, and Sam's mom is still checking to see how he's doing; I would have liked for there to have been a coming-home-from-the-hospital scene, or at least a mention of a full recovery (hide spoiler)], but as a whole I think the climax was handled well. And, on a side note, can I just say how utterly sexy some of this book is? I wasn't expecting that, either, but I love surprises.
Truly, I don't feel that my words can properly describe how much I loved this book, or how much I got out of it, or how much I wish more people would discover it and feel for it what I did. Does that mean this book was perfect? No, because no book is. But honestly, it was perfect for me. I'm extraordinarily pleased with it — so much so that I plan to reread it this summer — and will certainly be back for more from Fitzpatrick in future....more
I literally feel more disappointment with myself for not liking this than I do with this book for letting me down. I never begin reading a book thinkiI literally feel more disappointment with myself for not liking this than I do with this book for letting me down. I never begin reading a book thinking that I'll dislike it; I read for enjoyment, not self-torture. And since this is realistic fiction, a genre which has quickly risen to top position on my favorites list, and since it is written by an Australian author, and since the opinions of some of the people I'm closest to here on this website are so high and positive, I believed that Beatle Meets Destiny would be a shoo-in for me. An instant five star book. I hate being wrong, but I especially hated it this time.
Although it would be fair to say that high expectations played a role in my ultimate disappointment, I know I still would've been just as disappointed had my expectations been low going in. I can't believe I'm saying this about an Aussie book, but I did not like this. It started out great, but then it started to wane for me, and it went down hill fast.
One of my biggest problems with cheaters is how utterly selfish they are. They want the best of both worlds: they want to have the nice, perfect girlfriend/boyfriend to show off to family and friends; but they also want another person on the side with whom they can indulge in all of their lusty whims. Somehow they seem to find it more exciting to be with someone who is forbidden. But if they left the person they're already with, the forbidden-fruit factor would be gone. This populous world would go back to being a free market, and the fun would be over. And they never stop to think about the people who spend their whole lives alone, not even while they have multiple lovers. I could never be that way, but my biological father was, among many other wretched things, a cheater. That being said, there are still situations in which I can understand cheating and be fine with it. Very few, but some nonetheless. For this reason and others, I believed that in the case of Beatle Meets Destiny, it would be one of the few I could stand. Unfortunately, not so much. For me, Beatle and Destiny's "relationship" is blackened by the fact that he's with someone else and refuses to let that someone go before beginning another relationship. I can understand that he doesn't want to hurt Cilla by breaking up with her, but like all cheaters, doesn't he realize that finding out he's with another girl will hurt more than anything?
Now, I don't want people who read this to think that my prejudice against cheaters is the sole reason why this book didn't work for me, because it's not. In all truth, had there been no cheating of any sort, I'd still have given this two stars. Because a) I didn't see any chemistry between Beatle and Destiny. For me, it was like they only started going out because of the coincidence of their names and the fact that Destiny has big lips; b) I wasn't able to connect or empathize with any of the characters; and c) The characters were, IMO, boring and didn't possess enough personality for me to invest any interest in their story and outcome. So in the end, this was really just OK for me.
If you've read this review and you're still interested in this book (which you should be! opinions are subjective), maybe you'd like to read some positive opinions here, here, and here. And I truly hope you enjoy this more than I did....more
Before beginning, I just want to apologize to anyone who reads this review. It won't really help you decide whether to read this book or not. DespiteBefore beginning, I just want to apologize to anyone who reads this review. It won't really help you decide whether to read this book or not. Despite the fact that I've taken a fair amount of time to collect my thoughts and calm down, my head is still laden with what I've read and I'm unable to express my feelings in the way I'd normally have it. This review is somewhat vague and most of it probably won't mean anything unless you've read this book. So for that, I apologize.
Going in, I'm not sure what I was expecting from this book. Certainly not what I received. Leverage is a simultaneously devastating and uplifting mix of raw realism and gut-wrenching truth. This is a story about fear, abuse, and tragedy. But it is also a story about hope in the midst of the blackest situations, finding camaraderie in unlikely places, and winning back your life even after facing evil. The characters in this story are, at times, weak, scared, and torn. But ultimately they're strong, courageous, and, in the end, healed.
I've heard of the things that happen in this book on the news, I'm sure a lot of people have. But it is one thing to hear of something on the news and an entirely different thing to read about it; especially when it is being related by an author who doesn't go easy on the reader, doesn't sugarcoat reality. It astonishes me how something can be so revolting and yet also make me want to stand up and change. Change myself, change others, change something in this world to make it a better place for people to live in; and, most of all, to help prevent these atrocities from happening. I wouldn't expect a debut author to be able to invoke such conflicting emotions in me, but the fact that Cohen was able to do just that only testifies that he was born to write. This book made me feel a red-hot rage. I found myself wishing that someone, anyone, would step outside of their own fear and self-preservation, their own painful past, their own mental anguish, and see someone else's before it was too late. And then somewhere around the halfway mark I began crying so hard that I could no longer see the pages. My library's copy now has little crinkled water marks from where my tears dropped on the pages. I felt like my gut had been punched by the fist on the cover. It knocked the air out of me.
I don't know. I don't know what else to say, what else can be said about a book like this. The only thing that I'm sure of at the moment is that this story needed to be told. These characters, somewhere in the world, at some point in time, their story is real. Despite the fact that this story tore me apart, or perhaps because it did, from now on, I'll read anything Cohen puts on paper....more
A note to anyone who chooses to read the following: I am critiquing this book solely based on the first 80 pages or so as I simply didn't have the wilA note to anyone who chooses to read the following: I am critiquing this book solely based on the first 80 pages or so as I simply didn't have the will to continue any further.
There are some spoilers, but only for the first 80 pages.
Have you ever been sitting with a group of friends and one of them tells a joke and immediately everyone but you starts laughing? And then you sit there looking like the stupefied idiot who's just not getting it? That's how I felt while reading The DUFF. So many of my GR friends have liked this, and I've read many reviews proclaiming how awesome it is . . . but I just didn't get it. The DUFF has been blurbed by Elizabeth Scott and Simone Elkeles, both of whom are authors that I trust the opinions of. Or rather, did trust. While I'd like to say that The DUFF starts off good but wanes, it doesn't. The DUFF starts off with Bianca sitting in a club, watching her friends dance while she drinks pop at the bar. Not long after, Wesley Rush comes up and starts telling her how he's interested in her friends, and how she's going to help him make them be the next notches on his belt. (That isn't a direct phrase from the book, just to be clear.) And, to add to the insanity, he also so graciously informs her that she is the DUFF: Designated Ugly Fat Friend. And so, naturally, Bianca is disgusted with him for this fact and because he's basically her school's male slut. But what happens next is what really had my head hitting the wall: She decides to use him as a distraction (where have I heard this plot line before? Hmm . . . could it be a dime store romance novel? Why yes, that's it!) and kisses him on the spot. The guy's a brazen asshole who's trying to use you to get into your friends pants—all while telling you that you're a statistically ugly fat chick—and so you decide to make out with him? WTF? No wonder he has no respect for you!
Skip ahead a little ways and you'll find Bianca and her friends discussing Wesley's character and kissing capabilities (you know, since Bianca is an expert in that department now): her friends think that he'd be great in bed, but Bianca thinks that any one that sleeps with him is liable to get an STD shortly thereafter. Good observation, Bianca—except—it is only around 30 or so pages later that Bianca sleeps with him herself! WTF? And am I the only one who thinks that the first time Wesley and Bianca are together is maybe even a bit wrongly handled? When Bianca was beginning to think to herself that maybe she doesn't want to have full-blown intercourse with him, and then immediately following that thought she thinks that they are now, in fact, having sex? Again, WTF? I'm not saying that it was rape—since there was no outowards discouragement from her—but, doesn't that seem ridiculous for Bianca to allow him to continue, what with her having those doubts in her head at that very moment? Does she honestly have that little of self-control? self-worth?
And as for Wesley, let me just say this: I love arrogance in a guy (I ♥ Barrons, BTW), but only a certain brand. Wesley's brand of arrogance is obnoxious and deplorable; it's not charming or redeemable in any way to me.
I don't know—perhaps trying to read something like this after having just finished a respectable, well-written novel like Emma was a bad idea, but there you have it.
(And, because I don't like to count DNFs towards my challenge, I'll just say Attempted reading on 6/28/11.)...more
Kimberly Marcus' debut, Exposed, focuses on Liz Grayson, a girl with a real talent for photography and an even more real and lActual rating: 2.5 stars
Kimberly Marcus' debut, Exposed, focuses on Liz Grayson, a girl with a real talent for photography and an even more real and long-standing friendship with Kate Morgan. Liz and Kate are the type of friends who spend copious amounts of time together - and any one can tell from the right angle that they are as close as sisters. Until the one night that changes everything. Until a spat leads to Liz's biggest regret, Kate's life altering tragedy, and someone else equally close to Liz - possibly - committing the unthinkable.
Exposed is told in verse, and, although Marcus does a fine job of breathing life into the characters - whereas some authors fail with verse - it was still missing that certain something that makes a novel POP and stand out, makes the reader remember it after they've turned the final page. Why do I bother with verse novels, then? Well, not only are they a quick read, but, if handled properly, they can pack a huge punch even with their small amount of writing. I'm not trying to say that Exposed doesn't hit hard; the subject matter, (view spoiler)[rape (hide spoiler)], will most likely hit hard for many readers. But for me personally, it was just one of those books that you can take or leave and you don't really get much from. I think that the writing should've been edgier. The subject is plenty edgy, but the writing seemed a little too mild for the subject and I wish it would've been more full-bodied and in-your-face to match the novel's weighty topic. It's akin to asking for a cup of coffee, black, and getting a latte. Too much cream softens the otherwise harsh flavor the consumer was craving.
FAVORITE QUOTE: "I'm floating up flying high swirling around soaring out of my mind with glee. Until it hits me, midair, that the person I most want to tell has flown away."
And with all of this said, I still think that Marcus did a good job for a verse debut, and I hope that she'll endeavor to write something in regular format someday - something with a similarly edgy theme and more substance that this particular reader is looking for....more