Blood Red Road delivered exactly what I'd hoped it would: a richly atmospheric YA dystopian thriller with a non-stop pace, action sequences executed...moreBlood Red Road delivered exactly what I'd hoped it would: a richly atmospheric YA dystopian thriller with a non-stop pace, action sequences executed by kick-ass chicks, and a light, slow-building romance that is sexy and promising.
Saba has just had the one person whom she's been closest to since birth — quite literally, in fact, for he is her twin brother — snatched from her life in what seemed like the blink of an eye. One moment they're skipping stones in what little water remains of the lakebed near the small shanty they live in, and the next her twin brother Lugh is gone. Determined to get him back from the Tonton, fierce and lethal men garbed in black, she sets off into the unknown with little but the clothes on her back. But what she finds is much more than what she set off for.
This series isn't titled "Dustlands" for nothing: while immersed in the story, it is as if the reader is walking right along with Saba on her journey to reclaim her idol, her twin, and her best friend. I positively love books that make you feel as if you're breathing the same air the main character is, and Blood Red Road does just that.
One of the things you'll notice right away with Blood Red Road is the language. Because the majority of the people in Young's dystopian world haven't received a proper education, they speak quite differently. Bitten-off, miss-spelt, and miss-placed words make up the language. This may make it a bit harder to read for some people, but I didn't have any problems adapting to it. I actually felt that it added an extra-special something to the story, that it added to the originality and even made it more enjoyable.
I mustn't forget to mention the author's inclusion of familial love and relationships. You see, in lieu of focusing the better part of her story on a romance, Young chooses to showcase the depths of devotion and love that can be between siblings. That, my dear reader, is the story at the heart of Blood Red Road; everything else comes second. In fact, the lead character, Saba, doesn't even run across her potential beau until midway through the story; the first half is focused on Saba trying to get her brother back from the clutches of the bunch of crazies who took him from her, as is much of the latter half. Honestly, I couldn't be more pleased with the progression that this novel takes. The balance between Saba rescuing her brother, Saba finding herself and realizing her true capabilities, and Saba slowly and somewhat reluctantly falling for Jack is executed to perfection.
Lugh got born first. On Midwinter Day when the sun hangs low in the sky. Then me. Two hours later. That pretty much says it all. Lugh goes first, always first, an I follow on behind. An that's fine. That's right. That's how it's meant to be.
This particular quote, which is the opening to the story, struck me in the gut immediately. I felt that it conveyed a level of low self-esteem that I could, at one point in my life, sympathize with. Saba puts herself in her brother's shadow, and is happy with being there. But of course, this isn't right. And I think that Saba gradually learning to put herself first was one of my favorite aspects of the story.
Blood Red Road is the first of a trilogy, and its sequel is already out, Rebel Heart. I will be reading it very soon.(less)
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 clich...moreMy 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.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
"The accident was over a year ago. I've been awake for two weeks. Over a year has vanished. I've gone from sixteen to seventeen. A second woman has b...more"The accident was over a year ago. I've been awake for two weeks. Over a year has vanished. I've gone from sixteen to seventeen. A second woman has been elected president. A twelfth planet has been named in the solar system. The last wild polar bear has died. Headline news that couldn't stir me. I slept through it all."
Seventeen-year-old Jenna Fox can't remember who she is. For the last year and a half she's been in a perpetual state of vegetation, and upon waking she can remember nothing from her former life. The memory of her family, friends, and even simple words like "curious" has vanished. But even as bits and pieces of her memory begin to resurface, with the help of home videos and much encouragement from her parents, Jenna can't keep from feeling like something is wrong; with her, what her parents are telling her, and with this life she's being told is her own. Set in the not-so-distant future, The Adoration of Jenna Fox will entertain and shock its readers with suspense, romance, and evolutionary science.
This is one of those books that is very hard to discuss without being spoilery, but I will endeavor to do so.
For Jenna Fox, there a lot of things that don't add up. Like how a video of her from seven years ago showing a scar on her chin doesn't compute with the unmarred flesh there now, how her parents keep evading her questions, and how she can't remember anything about the accident that lead to her coma. And her parents' irrational limitations are suffocating. Even when Jenna starts to get her footing, she's not allowed to leave the house, not allowed to go to school. . . . How is Jenna supposed to get back her life when her parents won't let her? They keep telling her it's for the best, but Jenna knows something off.
I kept trying to guess at what direction Pearson was taking this story, and how science would fit into it all. I didn't even come close. The eventual revelation of why Jenna can't remember her life before the coma and why she feels so misplaced is as shocking as it is intriguing. The romance element is light, but very effective. It takes back burner to the main plot (as it should IMO), but it plays an essential role in the story. Jenna feels lost and confused, and Ethan helps her feel centered and less afraid.
If you think you don't like science fiction, you should try this book. Sci-fi is not even my third choice when browsing genres at the library, but I can honestly say that this book has awakened a strong interest in the genre for me. And on that note, if you read this review and happen to have any sci-fi recommendations, or you know of any books similar to this, be they YA or adult, please send them my way.
Note: Although my opinion on this book still stands, I have changed my rating for it, because the two sequels to this book aren't to my liking. Originally rated 4 stars, now is 3.5 with a round down of 3.(less)
Verily, Ward, you hath redeemed thyself in mine eyes.
Lover Unleashed was disappointing for me on several levels. But I knew that, if Ward did it right...moreVerily, Ward, you hath redeemed thyself in mine eyes.
Lover Unleashed was disappointing for me on several levels. But I knew that, if Ward did it right, Tohrment's book had the potential to be the best installment to the series in a long time. I've wanted him to find peace and healing ever since that fateful scene at the end of Lover Awakened, but I knew it would take time. And now that his time has finally come, I'm pleased to say that Ward doesn't disappoint.
Tohrment & No'One: I know a lot of people aren't happy that Tohrment doesn't get Wellsie back. I'm not happy about it, either. But save for getting Wellsie back, I believe Tohr was dealt the best hand possible in Lover Reborn. Let me be frank: I had very little faith that Ward could pull a romance like this off. Seriously, Tohrment and Wellsie? Probably one of the most romantic couples I've ever come across in the PNR/UF genre. Their back story, the glimpses we see of their relationship in the first three books . . . how can you possibly follow an act like that? Some of the sentences in this are like an assault to the solar plexus. There were scenes where I felt like I was chopping onions. Suffice it to say I cried a lot while reading Tohr's story. Man, Tohrment . . . he just . . . tears me apart. Truly.
As Tohr says himself, No'One could never replace Wellsie; but the emotional — and physical — connection between Tohr and No'One is undeniable. Tohr and No'One have a lot in common (each has been through a tremendous ordeal in their lifetime), they've meant in the past and spent an entire year in each other's company, and No'One is incredibly understanding and supportive of Tohr and his situation. I don't think any other female could've brought him back from the brink the way No'One did. I didn't expect to like No'One as much as I did — I've never really liked the Chosen women, and although No'One isn't a Chosen, she's very similar to them. But she is humble, kind, and, underneath the shield she's erected to protect herself, passionate. Ward has surprised me before, and she definitely did in the case of No'One's character.
The best part about the romance in this is how slow it builds. One year passes from beginning to end of this installment, and Tohr doesn't give himself over to the possibility of loving another easily. It isn't until near the end that he truly opens his heart to No'One. (view spoiler)[But did you notice? No bonding scent. Save for a little show of possessiveness (which I think could just be chalked up to the nature of a male vampire), Tohr didn't bond with No'One. I have to say that I liked this fact very much. For me, that would've discredited Tohr's love for his previous shellan as well as the bonds the other Brothers have with their shellans. I don't think that the bonding thing should be taken lightly. Don't get me wrong; I'm glad he's in love with her and all, but I think him bonding with her would've been too much. I hope it doesn't come into play in future books. (hide spoiler)]
Lassiter: Can somebody get me a bib? Seriously, you can have all of the Brothers (except Z, of course; I got dibs on him a long time ago), just give me Lassiter! God, he just gets more interesting — and sexy — with each book. And when his own book is finally released, I'll be one of the first ones at the bookstore ready to trample over the other shoppers to get my copy. And something tells me his book is going to be very similar to Tohr's and maybe even equally sad. If you're observant and you've read Hello, Old Friend and Book Order in the Brothers on the Board section of the insider's guide, then you know that Lassiter had a woman he loved who is now either missing or dead. There is also some hinting of that in this book. I don't know if Ward will have him get her back, or have him end up with someone else. Since Ward seems to enjoy torturing her fans, it'll probably be the latter.
John & Xhex: Just as there was a lot of Vishous in Payne's book (for obvious reasons), there is a lot of John and, naturally, Xhex in Tohr's book. Their relationship gets tested and, similarly to Vishous and Jane in Lover Unleashed, they go through a real rough patch. One of the things I like most about Ward's couples is that, when their book is over, their story isn't. There'll always be new trials and new developments in her characters' lives. There are some really emotional — and erotic (seriously, they get twice as many sex scenes as the main couple) — scenes with John and Xhex in this. Fans of theirs should be very happy. And for John and Xhex, I'm sure the trials aren't over. When Murhder finally gets into the series full-time, I'm sure he'll shake things up quite a bit for them, as he is Xhex's former lover. Can you say cohntehst?
Qhuinn & Blay a.k.a. Qhuay (& Saxton and Layla, or as I like to think of them, The Third & Fourth Wheels): There isn't much Qhuinn and Blay in this. :( Neither of them get much page time, because John and Xhex and the Bastards hog it all take up the majority of the side story's time. Still, there are some good scenes with them — both together and individually --- and they do say absence makes the heart grow fonder. (Although I don't see how I could get any more fond of those two . . .) On the plus side, there aren't any lesser POVs! Given the way chapter seventy-six ends . . . Qhuay's story must be soon. Very soon. Whether it will be a novella or a full installment remains to be seen. All I can say is, if it turns out to be the former, it sure as hell better be tome-ish, anyway. (view spoiler)[So Qhuinn and Layla are going to have a child together, huh? I know it will infuriate many readers (I know it did me — at first), but at the same time I can see the beauty of it and the reason behind it. That little girl will be one of the most loved children you can imagine. She'll have three parents — two fathers and a mother — and she'll have the whole Brotherhood and their shellans to care and love for her as well. It may not be ideal, and it may not be what a lot of readers had in mind for Qhuinn and Blay, but I can see the potential and beauty that this prospect holds. And I see why she wrote it this way. After Qhuinn was shunned by his family and the aristocracy, I think he deserves a full family. And this way, he'll get to spend the rest of his life not only with the love of his life (Blay, naturally) and the Brotherhood, but a beautiful baby girl. (hide spoiler)] Oh, Saxton . . . Ward has hinted as to what will become of him in a future installment, and I'm pretty sure I know what it is and that all of his fans (including myself) will not like it. Especially since in Lover Reborn it becomes pretty clear that Saxton has fallen for Blay. As for Layla . . . well, I won't give it away, but it is now very clear who Layla's HEA is. And despite the fact that I've never been a big fan of Layla . . . I'm very much looking forward to her story. (This is really because of the male she ends up with. He is all kinds of hot.) (view spoiler)[Xcor! Xcor! Xcor! He may just end up being my favorite male character — next to Zsadist, of course.
Which reminds me . . . The situation between Throe, Xcor, and Layla reminds me a bit of the one featured earlier in the series between Phury, Zsadist, and Bella. Phury had been attracted to Bella, had yearned for her, even; but in the end, his interest in her didn't compare to the powerful, once-in-a-lifetime (especially for someone like Z) connection that Zsadist had with Bella. I believe it will be much the same for Layla and the two males who seek her out. And I'm sure Throe will eventually end up with someone else special. (Another Chosen, perhaps?) (hide spoiler)]
Band of Bastards: I predicted in my review of Lover Unleashed that the B.o.B. (Band of Bastards) would most likely end up becoming good and each member would get their own book. Now . . . I still say that will happen, but I think it's going to take a while. I think it would be a good idea, because without them Ward doesn't have very many possibilities for future books. I think if it were ever to go in that direction, it would be a long time from now and a lot would have to happen in order for any of them to be ready for their own book. Ward actually talks about the B.o.B. in a YouTube video (specifically Xcor), which you can watch here. (Turn up the volume if you wanna hear what she says) (view spoiler)[Oh please, please, please just leave him a little bit naughty . . . ! (hide spoiler)]
"The quick and the dead are all the same. Everyone's just looking for home."
"She wished for Qhuinn this soldier. She truly did."
"Then again, he supposed the healing process, in contrast to trauma, was gentle and slow . . . The soft closing of a door, rather than a slam."
"Our future has come."
In short, I enjoyed this installment very much and I'm happy that Tohr is finally happy.
Note: After I wrote my review, Ward announced who the next book will be about. If you want to know, click the spoiler.
"The story I am about to share with you takes place in 1931, under the roofs of Paris. Here you will meet a boy named Hugo Cabret, who once, long ago...more"The story I am about to share with you takes place in 1931, under the roofs of Paris. Here you will meet a boy named Hugo Cabret, who once, long ago, discovered a mysterious drawing that changed his life forever." So begins the introduction of The Invention of Hugo Cabret.
Shortly after the start of the story we learn that twelve-year-old Hugo has recently lost his father to a tragic fire. A horologist working for the city's museum, Hugo's father finds an old automaton in the museum's attic one day. Being a clock maker, his father is innately fasinated by the little man that appears to be able to write out a message if he were only restored to his former glory. Having little time on his hands, Hugo's father decides to leave it be. That is until young Hugo begs his father to fix the machine. But one fateful night when Hugo's father is trapped inside the attic a fire breaks out, thus leading to the death of Hugo's father and much regret on Hugo's part for having been the one to convince his father to fix the automaton in the first place. Determined to continue where his father left off, Hugo begins working on the automaton by night while taking care of the city's clocks by day. But in order to get the pieces he needs to properly restore the automaton, he must steal from the town's toy vendor. This leads to discoveries Hugo never could've imagined, new friendships, and a promising future for our young hero.
Although he has previously illustrated other authors' works, The Invention of Hugo Cabret is Brian Selznick's first full children's novel. It contains over 280 drawings, film stills, and what Selznick is best known for, stunning illustrations such as these:
Huge reminded me of Harry Potter a bit. Not in the wizardry kind of way, of course, but in the fact that they're both young, they've both lost their parents, and they're both very endearing and seem to call forth the reader's sympathy with great aptitude. They're the kind of boy you'd want to adopt and give a better life to; in other words, my favorite sort of character to read about. Hugo's story is an enchanting journey that will have readers of all ages cheering for its characters and wanting more from Selznick.
If you're looking to follow up this book, the movie adaptation, simply titled Hugo, is directed by Martin Scorsese and will be released on DVD and Blu-Ray February 28, 2012.(less)
Here's what I'd like to know: What made Elizabeth Scott go from Sarah Dessen to Ellen Hopkins and back again? Scott's fourth YA offering, Living Dead...moreHere's what I'd like to know: What made Elizabeth Scott go from Sarah Dessen to Ellen Hopkins and back again? Scott's fourth YA offering, Living Dead Girl, is so far removed from her other works that I'm finding it hard to believe they're even written by the same author. Living Dead Girl is raw and repulsive, whereas all of Scott's other stories are sunshine and butterflies swirling over romantic heads. When an author begins writing, they usually decide what sort of stories they will write most often, what genre they'd like to be best known for. Create a brand for themselves, if you will. I just don't know how Scott could go from this to the fluffy chick-lit stories she writes nowadays.
It is as if Scott just sat down and started typing the most abhorrent story she could think of. Although the discriptions aren't graphic, the reader knows all too well what is happening to Alice, again and again and again. She is starved in order to be kept small, because when Ray took her she was only ten and is now fifteen. She's allowed to weigh no more than 100 pounds and lives off of mostly yogurt and scraps that he occasionally allows her to have. If it weren't for her sneaking and eating food left by people in their apartment's laundry room and other sorts of hideouts, she'd be dead by now. She is raped — both vaginally and orally — multiple times each day. She lives to serve Ray, is seldom allowed to speak and her education ended when she fell into Ray's clutches. That is, her normal education. With Ray she has been taught all sorts of nasty things. As he would have it, they live under the pretense that he is her father, but of course her real parents are long gone. They live at 623 Daisy Lane, and should Alice ever try to escape from her hell on earth, Ray will go to her parents' house and burn it to the ground. The girl whom Ray had before her, Alice (he names all of his children this; the current Alice's real name isn't revealed until the very end), was killed at fifteen and found floating in the river. The Alice of today figures that he'll surely soon tire of her and pick a new little girl, but every time he threatens her life survival instincts kick in and she begs to be allowed to live. Even though she isn't really living, merely existing.
The fact is, with the blunt news stories and knowledge that most people have, it doesn't take a very active imagination to guess at some of the sick things that happen in this world. Therefore I see no point to this story. And it's supposed to be for a teen audience? I'm sorry but, WTF? And I understand that bittersweet absolution is the only form of a happy ending that could work here (view spoiler)[Alice has already begun to show sadistic and masochistic tendencies, and she'd really never be able to live like a normal human and function properly. Still, even though I know it was for the best, I cried knowing that her life had to end after everything she'd been through. (hide spoiler)], but if there could be something to learn, to take, from this story — other than that paranoia isn't a bad thing when it comes to your children and that the word overprotective should never be applied to a careful parent — I'd be more inclinded to see the reasoning behind the creation of a story such as this. But as it stands, other than scarring the reader for life, I don't see the relevance of this story. And I cannot, in good conscience, say that I actually liked this book and its contents. For that reason, I can give it no more than 2.5 stars rounded down to 2.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
". . . I think about all my friends, what they done for me. What they do ever day for the white women they waiting on. That pain in Minny's voice. Tr...more". . . I think about all my friends, what they done for me. What they do ever day for the white women they waiting on. That pain in Minny's voice. Treelore dead in the ground. I look down at Baby Girl, who I know, deep down, I can't keep from turning out like her mama. And all of it together roll on top a me. I close my eyes, say the Lord's prayer to myself. But it don't make me feel any better. Law help me but something's gone have to be done."
Note: My opinion on this is very much colored by the fact that I listened to the audio and it is like chocolate for the ears.
The Help is a story told from three woman's perspectives: Aibileen, Minny, and Eugenia "Skeeter" Phelan. It is the story of their lives, their struggles, and their attempt to right some of the wrongs that are happening all around them; the ones most people choose to ignore and even partake in. It is about the African-American race and the egregiously awful way they were treated by their employers and the authorites back in the early '60s. It is about one young woman's courageous plan to write a book that could change many lives for the better, or possibly destroy them. It is about speaking out when you are told to shut up; standing up for what you believe in; and, most of all, not being afraid to break out of the mold people see fit for you. It is about life: the good, the bad, the ugly, and the beautiful.
We all know that The Help is outrageously popular, that it is one of those break-out debuts that are highly acclaimed and usually made into a movie (check, check). With this kind of popularity comes both negative and positive reviews; all of which are very vocal, often more so on the negative side. This along with the fact that the audio is over eighteen hours long and that it is commercial fiction made me just a wee bit hesitant to try it. But I'm glad I did. The Help made me feel joy, sadness, hatred, and hope — sometimes all at once. It is the sort of story that takes patience and a liberal mind to stick with it to the end, but it is well worth it in my opinion. I feel better for having read this story and, love it or hate it, The Help is a story you'll be hearing about for many years to come. 3.5 stars
P.S. Thanks a lot for the recommendation, Flannery. Sorry it took me so long to get to it.(less)
When I was younger, my mother and I would watch reruns of Dennis the Menace. Truth be told, the only enjoyment I got out of these sessions was spendin...moreWhen I was younger, my mother and I would watch reruns of Dennis the Menace. Truth be told, the only enjoyment I got out of these sessions was spending time with my mother. You see, Dennis was, to me, exactly what the title proclaims him to be: a menace. Since I was very young I've had a strong aversion to any one who causes trouble for others or keeps getting into scrapes, be they intentional or not. As anyone who's read Anne's first installment can imagine, this made it a bit difficult for me to take to her character. In Anne of Green Gables, Anne is rather rash and even careless in her decision making. But boy has she grown up now! I didn't think Montgomery would make young Anne grow so fast, rather I thought her character would take several installments just to reach age sixteen. Gladly, this isn't the case.
In Anne of Avonlea, Anne starts off at the age of half-past sixteen; and the book ends two years later. I must admit she's won my admiration from here on out. Anne is the sort of girl who makes you think they invented the word "spitfire" as a means to describe her alone, and coupled with her copious amount of enthusiasm and optimism, I dare say it is nearly impossible for one to not fall for her eventually! And in the second part of her story, we see Anne strungle with her new position as schoolma'am at the Avonlea school. To top this off, she must aid Marilla in the caring of two children whom Marilla has chosen to adopt: the naughty but adorable Davy, and the prim and and slightly-dull Dora. Sprinkle on mulitple new acquaintances, several furnerals, two engagements, a wedding . . . and you've got an awfully busy two years for our dear Anne.
This series is clearly something I'd have missed out on had Jo not spoken so highly of it through her lovely reviews, so thank you, Jo. I find myself slowly but surely warming to the characters and their world more with each chapter. And of course, as with all classics, the writing is stunning.
"A September day on Prince Edward Island hills; a crisp wind blowing up over the sand dunes from the sea; a long red road, winding through fields and woods, now looping itself about a corner of thick-set spruces, now threading a plantation of young maples with great feathery sheets of ferns beneath them, now dipping down into a hollow where a brook flashed out of the woods and into them again, now basking in open sunshine between ribbons of goldenrod and smoke-blue asters; air athrill with the pipings of myriads of crickets, those glad little pensioners of the summer hills; a plump brown pony ambling along the road; two girls behind him, full to the lips with the simple, priceless joy of youth and life."
Naturally, this sort of passage always stirs up some envy in my blood; I can't help but wish I could write like that. Although I suppose there is some comfort --- and, for other reasons, sadness --- in knowing that practically no one writes this way anymore.
Although I still can't bring myself to give this a higher rating than the one you'll read momentarily, I assure all who read this that I'm enjoying myself very much while following Anne through her journeys in life. I'll be sure to read Anne of the Island soon. 3.5 stars(less)
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 Ants...moreI'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(less)
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 feel...moreIs 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["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
There are these certain books that are written only to fall in the cracks, to be trampled on and overshadowed by more hyped, outrageously popular book...moreThere are these certain books that are written only to fall in the cracks, to be trampled on and overshadowed by more hyped, outrageously popular books which oftentimes end up being a huge let down. It is my hope that Winter Town doesn't end up falling into this category.
Winter Town is Stephen Emond's sophomore novel, and it centers around the friendship of two teenagers named Evan and Lucy. They grew up together, did everything together: drew comic slides; read fantasy tombs until their eyes hurt; made up life stories for the graves' occupants in the neighborhood cemetery; and walked the streets endlessly, just talking of anything and everything. As youngsters, they were inseparable. That is until Lucy's parents split up and Lucy had to move from New England to Atlanta with her mother. Now Evan and Lucy only see each other during winter break. And this year, when Lucy arrives back in town, she's doesn't look — nor act — anything like Evan remembers. At first, Evan and Lucy get off to a bad start; but soon after they're right back to their old banter and games. Except for those few moments when Lucy seems to fold in on herself, hide under her new exterier and act like New Lucy™. So what, exactly, is Lucy hiding? What happened to her over the last year that could potentially break her and Evan apart?
I can't even begin to express the utter joy, devotion, and love I have for this little gem. I feel like when I was twelve and snuck into my kitchen and poured myself three cups of coffee in a row from my parents new coffee marker. In other words, seriously, seriously hyperactive. I've been on a strange yet unsettlingly pleasant cloud since finishing Winter Town. Although I sometimes betray myself and think that perhaps another genre is where I'm happiest, most of my brain knows that the realistic genre is my favorite. It (almost) always has the most engaging and authentic characters in young adult literature.
Winter Town is realistic fiction at its best: it's not fluffy, candy-cane-coated chick lit nor is it angsty, melodramatic soap; it the the perfect balance. The characters have their issues, their family drama, their secrets — they are teenagers. But there's never a gorge of anything sugary or depressing. Emond knows how to showcase a teenager's life without making it overly done on either side of the spectrum.
Emond's characters are at once endearing and exhausting, fun and frustrating. On the surface, Evan seems simple and and almost mundane — but if you look closely he comes to life and you see a whole other side to his character. He flourishes with the turn of each page. And Lucy! What a wonderfully infuriating character! She takes a little getting used to, but I ended up truly appreciating her originality and quirkiness. She is as different from Evan as spaghetti is from hydrogen, but they balance each other out. Their friendship is startlingly real and whimsical. I loved it. On that note, I'm sure most people who are thinking of reading this are wondering whether Evan and Lucy end up becoming . . . more than friends. I'll never tell . . . You'll just have to read it to find out.
Stephen Emond isn't just a fantastic writer; he also does the illustrations for Winter Town, and they really add flare to the story.
(This photo has been borrowed from the author's website. No copyright infringement is intended.)
Lastly, I'm unsure as to how many people will enjoy Winter Town to the degree that I did. But if I can help even one person choose to read this book and have it turn out much the same for them as it did for me, I've done my job. As for me, I'm sure Winter Town will stay with me for a very long time. 4.5 stars(less)
It's probably fair to say that in all the years of Hitler's reign, no person was able to serve the Führer as loyally as me. A human doesn't have a hea...moreIt's probably fair to say that in all the years of Hitler's reign, no person was able to serve the Führer as loyally as me. A human doesn't have a heart like mine. The human heart is a line, whereas my own is a circle, and I have the endless ability to be in the right place at the right time. The consequence of this is that I'm always finding humans at their best and worst. I see their ugly and their beauty, and I wonder how the same thing can be both. Still, they have one thing I envy. Humans, if nothing else, have the good sense to die.
When you decide to write a book, you can never be sure how it will be received. Will people instantly be entraptured by the story your mind has conjured, or will they spit on the cover and rue the day they bought your work? Will any of your books make it on a bestseller list, say, the coveted New York Times? Or, will they end up on a dime store's shelf collecting dust for decades? And, perhaps most importantly, will the words you write touch someone's life at the moment they need it most? Will your story be the balm on a heart that has just been broken? Will a specific sentence from your conscious be the encouragement someone needs to make the toughest decision they've ever had to make? All dedicated readers know that books - stories - are a powerful thing. They're a relatable friend who'll always be there for you: to comfort, to encourage, to strengthen. This line of thought got me wondering if Markus Zusak had any idea of what a colossal impact his words would have on countless lives.
The Book Thief is the story of Liesel Meminger, a nine-year-old girl whom we shortly see earn her apt epithet. When her adoptive father, Hans Hubermann, begins teaching her how to read, she soon becomes entranced by words and their power. Over the course of several years, Liesel steals many books from the mayor's library as well as other daring locales. Although Liesel now spends her days trying to discourage Rudy Steiner's interest in kissing her and her nights reading with her papa and listening to him play the accordion, her life before Himmel St. wasn't an easy one. And soon The Book Thief's narrator, Death, lets the reader now that this isn't a story with a happy ending. But The Book Thief truly is a story of survival in a corrupt world, finding friends and family in unlikely places, and the eventual peace we all hope to find.
I can't imagine a better book to recommend, to give, to receive - than The Book Thief. Liesel's bravery and Hans' dedication to his daughter and Rudy's longing for just one kiss and Death's inner turmoil over the lives he's compelled to take. . . . I'l always remember these characters and their story. I laughed, I cried, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. And I even learned a little German! Mostly curse words, but still.
Equally devastating and unforgettable, The Book Thief is rightfully beloved by many and will be remembered long after my lifetime.(less)
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 is...moreHonestly, 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.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Anne of Green Gables is the story of a young orphaned girl named, you guessed it, Anne. Born in Nova Scotia only to lose both of her parents from the...moreAnne of Green Gables is the story of a young orphaned girl named, you guessed it, Anne. Born in Nova Scotia only to lose both of her parents from the fever at the age of three months, Anne has grown up in many households, never being able to stay in one place for long. As you can imagine, this has left young Anne feeling needy and unwanted. And when siblings Marilla and Matthew decide to adopt a boy to help work on their farm, they never expect to get a girl instead. Naturally, their first instinct is to give her to someone else; but soon after, under the influence of Anne's pleading, they decide that with them is where she shall stay. Read along in this classic as Anne performs in the Christmas concert, shuns the semi-romantic advances of Gilbert Blythe, and accidently gets her one true bosom friend drunk.
I won't lie — it took me a while to get into Anne's story. After all, this is children's literature and, for me, there is very few middle grade and/or children's books worthwhile. But because of some very trusted friends' opinions, I chose to persevere — and I'm so glad I did! Despite the rather slow start, Anne of Green Gables was a very pleasant and enchanting story to behold.
I believe my favorite aspect of this story is Anne's relationship with her stepparent, Matthew. Almost instantaneously, Matthew takes to Anne as if she were his biological daughter; to use Anne's own words, she and Matthew are kindred spirits. I only wish that parent/child relationships were written that way more often in juvenile literature today.
Thin, freckled, and with hair the color of carrots, Anne is ridiculed for her queer looks — but with a bright imagination and fierce determination to be loved and cared for, Anne soon makes many friends. Like most girls her age, Anne is impulsive and high-strung. But she's also high-spirited and enthusiastic for what life has to offer. Even if you're not sold on Anne's character at first, most readers will fall for her by the end, just as I did.
RATING: First half - 2.5 stars; Second half - 4.5 stars. FINAL RATING: 3.5 stars(less)
"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...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 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.(less)