Have you ever looked at a couple you know and wonder how in God’s name did they get together? What on earth could have possessed two people so undenia...moreHave you ever looked at a couple you know and wonder how in God’s name did they get together? What on earth could have possessed two people so undeniably different and seemingly incompatible to come together? Well Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares more or less tells the tale as to how such an occurrence can happen. The book alternates perspectives each chapter, with David Levithan writing Dash, and Rachel Cohn writing Lily. The two styles and characters couldn’t be more different if they tried, and watching the two try to find an equal ground was an entertaining and fun read.
Dash, allegedly a 16 year old guy whose music, literature and sarcasm make him read more like a cynical 25 year old who has fallen head first into a vat of existentialism. Think stereotypical Manhattan graduate school elitist and then stick him in high school. It’s ridiculous and slightly grating, but he’s such a snobby book elitist it somehow makes you adore him. Dash is a loner by trade and spends most of his time in and out of a massive New York book store learning new words and reading avant garde books. In his quest to revisit J.D. Salinger books that aren’t Catcher in the Rye, he stumbles across a red notebook filled with clues that lead him on a scavenger hunt throughout the bookstore. It takes him to obscure titles to ones you wouldn’t want to be caught reading in public, and each time he gets a few more letters to answer his riddle. Ultimately upon solving it he realizes it’s a challenge- if he got this far he can leave his name and contact information and the owner of the notebook will be in touch. Dash, being more than slightly pompous, chose to send the notebook owner on her own quest, and so begins the series of dares.
Lily, the owner of the notebook, is about as different to Dash as two people can get. While he is all teenage broodiness she personifies happiness and cheer. He hates Christmas and she runs around wishing everyone, “Happy Eve of the Eve of Christmas Eve!” For the first time, she’s alone on Christmas, as her parents are in Fiji and her grandfather is in Florida, and her brother is far too wrapped up in his new boyfriend to pay her any attention. She’s therefore running around in this false five year old cheer trying to infuse the world with Christmas by starting up caroling groups, baking a billion cookies, and dressing like a Christmas sweater come to life. She’s childishly naïve and cannot handle things not working out, so much so that her childhood nickname was Shrilly because her voice would hit octaves only dogs could hear. Lily is difficult to like, at least for me; I’m hard pressed to believe you can live in Manhattan through the age of 16 and act like a five year old who has been isolated from society.
However, she is the perfect anecdote to Dash’s cynicism, and throughout the novel she sends him on multiple Christmas-themed escapades, and he forces her to come out of her shell. At some point they begin to resemble people their own age as they both are forced to interact with strangers in scenarios way out of their comfort zones. They also begin to trust the person on the other side of the notebook and realize that perhaps neither of them are quite the outcast they thought they were.
The book is a fun romp through Manhattan, and as it’s written by the same authors’ of Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist it has a similar feel and an intrinsic love of New York City. Seeing that the entire story takes place over Christmas break, it’s a perfect book to curl up with on a cold day over the holidays. The characters are unique, the dares and riddles are outlandish, and somehow through it all you can see how two people who are polar opposites somehow make perfect sense together.
Years ago I read Possession by A.S. Byatt. If you haven’t read it, it follows the discovery of an intense love affair between two Victorian writers an...moreYears ago I read Possession by A.S. Byatt. If you haven’t read it, it follows the discovery of an intense love affair between two Victorian writers and how two people journey to unearth the entire truth about what happened to the writers. Along the way, they become entangled in the lives of these writers and start their own love affair with each other. It was made into a movie about ten years ago with Gwyneth Paltrow and Aaron Eckhart, which was okay, in case you don’t want to read the book.
Anyway, all that to say, when I read the summary for Illuminated, I immediately thought of Possession.
Illuminated is a medieval literature crash course. I honestly didn’t know anything about medieval literature beyond what I was forced to learn in school, so thank goodness for Wikipedia. I now know much more about medieval monks, poetry and just how much books from that era go for at auctions. (And holy crap, it’s a lot.)
The story is focused on Callie Matthews as we follow her from the moment she starts researching the history behind the palimpsest she’s been given by her uncle, whom she is staying with for the summer, to a wrap up of what happens after they discover the mystery behind it. And when the devastatingly handsome August Sokolov is introduced in the first couple chapters, I decided to become very interested in medieval literature.
There is an intense case of insta-lust, which turns to insta-love for these two, but if you decide to go with it, then it’s not that bad. As a standalone book, (yay for the standalones!) it works. If it had been pulled out over the course of more than one book, it would have grown stale, so I’m glad Erica stuck to one.
Overall, the mystery part to the manuscript was interesting and the romance between the two kids was very cute, with a HEA , which is a nice change of pace. It’s also a rather fast read that I finished in one sitting. If you’re looking for a cute summer read, I’d recommend reading this.
In preparation for What Happened to Goodbye, which recently came out, I decided to try to catch up on my Sarah Dessen reading. And this book was class...moreIn preparation for What Happened to Goodbye, which recently came out, I decided to try to catch up on my Sarah Dessen reading. And this book was classic Dessen, which is the biggest compliment I can give a contemporary YA.
I have to admit to not liking Auden at the beginning. She was like a lemming when it came to her mom and so socially awkward that her decisions ranked up there in the “What were you thinking?” department. But she grew on me. In fact, all of the characters grew on me, even Auden’s deadbeat dad. Well… maybe not so much Auden’s dad. But everyone else, yes.
As the summary tells you, Auden’s an insomniac. Since I’ve gone through a bout of insomnia before, I could sort of relate to Auden in this. Finding things to do at 3AM beyond studying, reading or watching mindless bad television is hard to do, especially when you’re stuck in a small town.
From the beginning, Eli was a mystery. I had no idea what to expect from him because Auden didn’t know what to think of him. But toward the end, *sigh*. Eli is ranks up there with perfect boys Sarah Dessen has created.
As with every Dessen book, her characters are what makes the story. They’re both realistic and witty. I want to live in this world and be their friend.
There are several hints at places and things from other Dessen books. And every time I see one, I can’t help writing it down, along with which book it first showed up in. I love being an insider now and knowing almost all (as I’m sure I’m missing some) of the references.
So, overall, another great Dessen book. This makes me excited to read What Happened to Goodbye, although if I keep reading about these perfect guys, I might start being jealous of these fictional girls.
Oh, alright. I’m already jealous of the fictional girls. *sigh*
Dictionary.com defines satire as “a literary composition, in verse or prose, in which human folly and vice are held up to scorn, derision, or ridicule...moreDictionary.com defines satire as “a literary composition, in verse or prose, in which human folly and vice are held up to scorn, derision, or ridicule.” Beauty Queens most certainly falls into this category. Delicious, delicious satire, but with just the right amount of bite to be palatable to the YA genre.
The book opens with a plane crash. Fifty young-women from around the United States are flying to a tropical island to compete in the Miss Team Dream Pageant. Their plane crashes instead and not all of them survive. Throw together Lost, Lord of the Flies, Drop Dead Gorgeous, mix in a whole lotta whip-smart funny, shake and pour into a coconut shell cracked open with a stiletto heel, and you’ve got Beauty Queens.
This is a great summer read in that it has an ocean and a beach in it, and pirates, don’t forget about the pirates. There is also some evil masterminding going on. And explosions, and some kissing. It’s got everything, especially awesome little footnotes that had me snorting and “commercial breaks” for television shows I actually kinda wished existed. Patriot Daughters most of all. I seriously howled with laughter and scared my dog, it struck me so funny. Bray’s past work in the advertising industry is put too good use with some hilarious product tag lines for even funnier products. Also a tad bit scary as I can imagine some of these products hitting selves.
Bray wields her mighty satirical sword at the powers that be in this world, who’s life work it is to make these, and all, women feel like crap, i.e. the media and beauty industries. The mythical beast in Beauty Queens, ripe for slaying, is known only as “The Corporation.” The Corporation is involved in everything from how you remove hair to what you watch on television. The Corporation’s motto is “Because your life can always be better™.” It’s just that they are the ones defining what “better” means and, yeah… let’s just say their definition is a little wonky.
The story is told from a third person omniscient point of view, a refreshing change from all of the first-person narrative I’ve been reading lately. The cast of Beauty Queens is a large one, and the girls all start out with very stereotypical “beauty queen” personalities, but Bray does a stellar job of exfoliating each of the girls as the book goes along. They are all there, the uber-pageant queen, the dumb blonde(s), the “disabilities haven’t stopped me” girl, the “brown” one, but there are two (Uh, oh! Can’t have too much color up there in the final five! What will they do?), the angry feminist, and a few others. I don’t want to be completely biased here, there is something to love about all the girls, but Petra, Miss Rhode Island, she’s my girl. You gotta love Petra. Each girl gets a chance to examine their life and discover who they are truly meant to be. It’s sometimes funny, sometimes heart-breaking, but always thought-provoking.
There are a few other characters that are the stereotypical “bad guys” too, but like the girls, there is more motivating them than it first appears. Those pirates I mentioned above? There is your beefcake. Beefcake is good! There are a lot of ways this book could have gone wrong for me, but it didn’t. I found myself laughing at the absurd comedy one minute and then tipping my hat to Bray’s poignancy the next. This isn’t a serious read, but it’s a serious book. It deals with our beliefs of what we as women (and men) see and think of ourselves. What we are willing to buy and be sold, not just economically, but spiritually and fundamentally, but “packed” in a very pretty box. With extra aloe.
I really, really, really liked Anna and the French Kiss. Despite the fact that I still like to blame it for the fire in my house. And I was afraid I w...moreI really, really, really liked Anna and the French Kiss. Despite the fact that I still like to blame it for the fire in my house. And I was afraid I wouldn’t like Lola and the Boy Next Door nearly as much. I was afraid it follow the same sort of template, just with different characters. That Stephanie Perkins would have a “style.” The way all Nora Roberts books follow the same template. Though it should be noted that Nora Roberts has done very well for herself.
But I have to say, I liked Lola better than Anna. And that sentences pretty much sums up why. I just loved, loved, loved all the characters in Lola in a way I didn’t with Anna.
Now don’t get me wrong, I liked the characters in Anna, a lot. But I didn’t find them very easy to relate to. I do not have this problem at all with the characters in Lola.
Lola herself is so quirky and determined and fun. And more than anything she loves her family. Even the parts of the family that she’d sometimes rather be swept under the rug. Over the course of the story her value for family is tested and there’s this small, quiet, almost nothing scene near the end that made me so proud of Lola. And so happy to have gotten to share her journey.
And then there’s Cricket. Who has my absolutely most favourite line in the entire book. As it’s near the beginning, I don’t think it’s too much of a spoiler to share.
“Go out with me tonight. Tomorrow night, every ni-” He gets cut off but it doesn’t matter. The words that follow and everything that happens in this scene…I just..I can feel how much he likes Lola, and how desperate and sad this scene is. My heartstrings ached for him.
There’s so much about this book I could talk about. So much that I loved. Lola’s two dads, and how being gay is just what they are, and it wasn’t an ISSUE. Cricket’s big complicated family that revolves around his sister and has trouble expressing itself. Lola’s best friend, Lindsey who is just the right amount of support-best-friend versus, long-suffering-best-friend. But what the book really comes down to, why I loved it as much as I did, is because of Cricket and Lola, and their long journey to find each other. Oh, and because of the fabulousness of a really big dress.
It is absolutely clear through every single word that Cricket says, every move he makes, every step he takes, (heh) that he is head over heels about Lola. Lola who is mad at him for something that happened years ago. Lola who has a boyfriend.
The way they come together was perfect and I have not one complaint about it. I loved their beginning, when, as children Cricket built Lola a doll house that had a working elevator and Lola kissed him in thanks. And I loved their ending. Which I”m not going to detail here, but it was perfect.
The only thing I didn’t really like about this book was Max. Lola’s boyfriend. Obviously, with the way these stories work, he isn’t going to be the one riding off into the sunset at the end. But then he sticks around for so long and I just didn’t care about him at all. I wish he had been gotten rid of earlier. Lola and Cricket still had plenty of issues to work out.
But, oh well. Still loved the book and the journey the characters went on together.
Before you read anything in this review, I must say that summarizing this book completely spoils the end of If I Stay. And If I Stay was as fantastic...moreBefore you read anything in this review, I must say that summarizing this book completely spoils the end of If I Stay. And If I Stay was as fantastic as it was because you didn’t know what Mia was going to choose. Know anything about this book, ruins that. So, if you haven’t read If I Stay, please do not read this, or any other, review of Where She Went. Don’t even look at the book in fact. Please. You’ll enjoy it more.
That being said, Where She Went was very similar to If I Stay, for me, in that I went into the book with an ultimatum. If it ended a certain way, I was going to LOVE it. But if it didn’t end that way, Gayle and I were not going to be friends. Ever. I probably wouldn’t have ever read another book by her.
This book is told from Adam’s point of view. Which was amazing. I’d completely fallen in love with Adam in If I Stay and getting to hear his voice, his thoughts and doubts and feelings, was amazing. When books switch point of view, I generally worry that we’re going to get too much. I like some characters, especially leading males, to have some mystery to them. But Forman does an amazing job of keeping a lot of Adam’s story a mystery from the reader, and also having a role reversal in the narrative.
Like If I Stay, Where She Went is told in a series of flashbacks intermingled with present day. And the reader learns very quickly that despite her miraculous recovery, Mia and Adam are no longer together. In fact that haven’t even spoken in years. And something is wrong with Adam. He has the life he’s always wanted, but he hates it. He has the girlfriend everyone wants but he just doesn’t care that much about her.
What I really loved about Adam in this is how is just teetering on the brink. And he knows it. He sees how he could continue on in the life he’s living, become the stereotypical burned out rock star, addicted to prescription drugs. But, throughout the beginning chapters, he just doesn’t see any other option.
The bulk of the book is taken up by a night long tour of New York City, visiting the characters favourite places, interspersed with flashbacks to see how the characters got to be where they are now. Even though it isn’t quite as heartbreaking as If I Stay, it certainly doesn’t make you fall in love with characters you already know are dead, it is sad and emotionally draining. In a good way. The scene on the bridge is heartbreaking in the best of ways. Does that make sense? It’s like everything up until that moment just had emotion pile on top of emotion, and frustration on top of frustration, and silence on top of silence. And then they break the silence, and have a sort of freedom. A freedom to heal.
And then the story ends in the same vein as If I Stay. With hope.
Occasionally, I get a tad obsessed with reading a certain book. A few months ago I needed to read Divergent. I got ever so slightly testy with Leiah b...moreOccasionally, I get a tad obsessed with reading a certain book. A few months ago I needed to read Divergent. I got ever so slightly testy with Leiah because she read it so much earlier than I did. For a little while there I was afraid The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer was going to be my next angry-that-everyone-other-than-me-has-read-this book. But, thanks to Christine and ALA, this did not become an issue.
However, if you are reading Darkness Falls by Cate Tiernan or Incarnate by Jodi Meadows, I’m afraid we can’t be friends right now. But back to the book at hand.
Now that I’ve read the book, I don’t really like the blurb. But, that’s not important. What’s important was how fantastically awesome this book was.
What was so awesome, you ask? Well. First off, I went into this book not knowing a thing about the plot, not having any idea where it was going. Which was perfect for this book. If you can avoid any and everything about this book before you read it, please do. It will make the experience that much better.
The whole thing had a kind of Momento/The Matrix feel to it, in that at times it could be difficult to work out what had actually happened versus what was happening in Mara’s head. For both Mara and the reader. I don’t even know what to say about the plot because I don’t want to ruin a single thing of it for you. I had to keep guessing and changing my mind until…well, until things started coming together.
I loved the family dynamic in this book. It was real and complicated, and everyone wanted to help Mara but no one was quite sure how. I especially felt for her mother, teetering between hoping that if they treat Mara in a normal, things will go back to normal and insisting she get real, medical help. Mara’s two brothers were great too. I loved Jaime, Mara’s younger brother, he was so insistent and logical but still young so sometimes his logic just didn’t quite add up.
OH! And I LOVED LOVED LOVED all the pop-culture references. It was just the right amount of nerdy. And none of them felt forced or inserted. Same with the sexual innuendos. I’ve read a couple of reviews that were negative about the amount of innuendos but..come on…they’re teenagers. I don’t about you guys but based on my teenage experience that was about accurate. Possibly a little on the tame side. (Seriously, in grade 8 I had a classmate named Idil, female. Another classmate, Michael, forever and always called her A-dildo. Grade 8.) But yeah, the pop-culture references were fantastic!
And there’s Noah. I will say, I didn’t think there was much in the way of romance, per se, between Noah and Mara in this book. There was a lot of sexual tension however. I’m not even entirely sure if they ever kissed. The whole, was it real/was it just in her head thing…I can’t be sure. They had really good chemistry and I loved the little role reversal they had. I can’t explain that one at all but let’s just say Noah has a little, “But I’m the boy,” speech.
The ending was perfect for this type of book. It’s the first in a series, mystery/suspense/thriller with just the right amount of supernatural in it. I wasn’t expecting everything to be all wrapped up in the end. But a portion of the plot was wrapped up, Mara had to make an intense choice than live with the consequences. And everything was settling down when..BOOM! Cliffhanger. That’s the way cliffhangers should be. Not this…stopping in the middle of the action non-sense that seems so prevalent these days.
So, if you like pop-culture, supernatural, mystery, thriller with oodles of sexual tension and enough dead alligators to make soup for ten years, then this book is the one for you. It was fantastic!
From the synopsis, I was intrigued about this book. If you allowed a group of strangers to decide what you should do, would they do a better job of ru...moreFrom the synopsis, I was intrigued about this book. If you allowed a group of strangers to decide what you should do, would they do a better job of running your life?
I think we as a society do allow some people influence over our decisions, like parents or close friends, but rarely do strangers weigh in on the choices in our lives, besides things like ‘how do these shoes look?’ or ‘did you like that entree?’.
So did they make better decisions for Brooklyn? Well, you’ll have to read the book to find out, but I will say I wouldn’t be surprised if some people take inspiration from this book and make their own ‘Decide For Me’ blogs.
I found Brooklyn to be a typical teen. She was more a follower than a leader in her circle of friends, which happens to the best of us sometimes. It was when she went her own path that the book started getting interesting. Because she does make horrible choices, especially for being only fifteen. There were multiple occasions that I wanted to scream at her, “What are you doing?! You’re FIFTEEN!” I ranted a bit in my notes about how she’s going to end up in a juvenile detention center at the rate she’s going, but alas, it’s a book, so she didn’t hear me.
The boys in this book were interesting. One seemed atypical of most high school boys and the other I wanted to snuggle with. (Rather, my past teenage self wanted to snuggle with him, since that would be weird now with our ten year age difference.) You’ll know what I’m talking about if you read it.
Just to warn y’all, there is mention of underage drinking, smoking and sex. I told you, Brooklyn doesn’t make good decisions.
I found this to be a cute, light read that went by rather quickly. Since it was the first of Jessica Brody’s books I’ve read, I’m making it a point to check out her future books, starting with the sci-fi trilogy series opener called Unremembered (coming out sometime in 2012).
The first thing I thought after I read that summary was “It’s the high school version of FELICITY.” I know I’m not the only one. Moving to NYC for a g...moreThe first thing I thought after I read that summary was “It’s the high school version of FELICITY.” I know I’m not the only one. Moving to NYC for a guy? Come on, that screams Felicity. (Let’s take a second here to remember the awesomeness that was Felicity and Noel *sigh* and Ben. Good times.)
So Much Closer is much more than a girl moving to NYC for a guy, though. After about fifty pages, that set-up doesn’t apply anymore because it becomes more about Brooke and her self-discovery. Brooke finds herself in a huge and strange town, living with her father, whom she doesn’t know very well anymore. She kind of has to grow-up and figure out how to handle starting over in a new place.
Brooke and the people she meets in NYC are great characters. I especially love Sadie and her “warm fuzzies”. (You’ll have to read the book to find out what those are. I’m not spoiling it.) And the way Brooke interacts with the person she tutors… oh, it makes me want to be their friend so I can hang out with them and go hear Beatles’ covers and talk about the tops of buildings.
Besides the characters, NYC played a large part in the story. Honestly, I felt like this book was a love letter to NYC. I’ve only been there once, but after reading So Much Closer, I want to visit again and stay longer than a couple days. I also want to find some of the places Susane describes because I definitely feel like I’m missing out.
Susane Colasanti has a tendency to reference pop culture things I love in her books and this one was no exception. For example, both The Office and Office Space were referenced and quoted from. I loved it. If there was an award for favorite pop culture author, I would give it to Susane.
Overall, this is a good contemporary YA read for people of all ages. It’s good, clean fun all around and I look forward to more of Susane in the future.
It’s been almost a year since I first heard about Forbidden. It was released in the United Kingdom last year and a couple copies of the book made its...moreIt’s been almost a year since I first heard about Forbidden. It was released in the United Kingdom last year and a couple copies of the book made its way over here, but the official US release date wasn’t set until June 28th. I was lucky enough to win an ARC from Goodreads (I love Goodreads), which was the best news EVER because I desperately wanted to read this book.
The first thing you need to know about Forbidden is that it covers a very touchy subject. It’s going to be controversial and when people hear what it’s about, they’re going to argue about their kids reading it, especially since Simon & Schuster is aiming it at teens age 14 and up.
At first, 14 seemed a little young to me to read this book, but then I thought about what I was reading at 14, blushed, and said, ‘To each, his/her own.’ If you think you or your child can handle the material, then go for it. Because honestly, this book was one of the best I’ve read this year. It flew to the top of the charts after I finished it.
So, let’s talk about it, now that I’ve set it up.
Forbidden focuses on 17-year-old Lochan and his sister, 16-year-old Maya. They’ve always felt like partners, rather than siblings, having to raise three younger children while their dead-beat, alcoholic mom neglects them in favor of booze and men. Having that level of stress in their lives brings them close, much closer than normal siblings, to the point where they fall in love. They know their love is wrong and impossible, but they can’t stop.
Do you see now why this book will be controversial? Incest isn’t something brought up very often in YA lit. In fact, the only other books I can think of were between cousins, never brother and sister.
The way Tabitha Suzuma wrote about Lochan and Maya’s feelings for each other, switching between their point of views every couple chapters, was subtle at first. They know it’s wrong, but they love each other too much and they’ve never felt like brother and sister toward each other. They’re best friends and partners in the fight to keep their family together.
I thought the whole thing was done very well. Tabitha draws you into their world and lives, makes you care about them as people and then hits you with their feelings. At no time was I disgusted with Lochan or Maya. I felt frustrated at times because of how hard they fought it, but I understood why they did.
I loved Lochan. Honestly, the entire book could have been written in his point of view and I would not have minded in the least. His struggle was more potent than Maya’s when it came to making me care about their situation. He made this book for me.
I loved this book. I cannot stress how much I loved this book. There isn’t a word yet to describe how much I love this book. By the end, I was sobbing so hard I couldn’t read the words. I had to cry myself out before I could finish and then that just set me back to crying again. Needless to say, it was a very long and emotional night.
I urge you to read it before drawing your own conclusion about the subject matter.
And should Tabitha ever make it over to the US for a book signing, you can bet I’ll be there with multiple copies of Forbidden for her to sign.
Seventeen-year-old Abby just wants two things: for her sister to wake up, and to get out of Ferrisville. Unfortunately, they’re connected, for as long...moreSeventeen-year-old Abby just wants two things: for her sister to wake up, and to get out of Ferrisville. Unfortunately, they’re connected, for as long as her sister, Tess, is in a coma, Abby feels like she can’t leave.
Abby isn’t a complicated girl. She’s very blunt and very persistent when it comes to things she wants. But she feels she falls short when compared to Tess, and everyone compares them, even if they don’t mean to. There might be some issues she needs to work out about herself and her sister, but for the most part, what you see is what you get. She’s refreshing in a world where a lot of authors write girls as backstabbing, hypocritical players. I’m not saying Abby’s perfect because she’s not, but she does have an unique ability to cut right through the crap and say what she wants to.
And Eli. *sigh* Gorgeous Eli. He’s a puzzle. For someone who is so pretty, he’s not vain about it. He doesn’t act like one of the “beautiful people”. There’s something about him that I don’t want to reveal because it’ll ruin the guessing fun when reading this book, but it’s not hard to figure out if you know the signs. The way Elizabeth portrays Eli, especially his backstory, pulls on the heartstrings. He made me sigh on several occasions because guys like him do not exist in the real world. They just don’t. But I desperately want one.
I want an Eli.
The story itself seems to revolve around Tess, even though she’s unconscious the entire time. Abby’s flashbacks to growing up in Tess’ shadow are the only times we see the person that she was before the accident. And the thing Abby figures out about Tess is somewhat apparent, if you’re looking in the right places. I guessed it around chapter ten, and while I wasn’t right on, it was pretty close to the truth.
Random trivia: I didn’t know this at the time, but Tess and Abby’s parents are featured in Bloom, a book Elizabeth Scott wrote a couple years ago. I don’t remember much about that book, so it probably wouldn’t have done anything for me, but if you haven’t read either, then read Bloom first. It’ll give some background to Abby’s parents and you might see them in a different light.
I would recommend this book to people who have liked an Elizabeth Scott book before, or want a good contemporary young adult read that doesn’t take place in a high school or on the beach (most of the book happens either at the hospital where Tess is or at Abby’s house).
I would like to thank Simon and Schuster for allowing me to read this book early. Between Here and Forever comes out May 24th.
What’s in a name? Do our names shape who we are, or are we able to overcome the stigmas associated with what we’re called?
The patriarch of the Andreas...moreWhat’s in a name? Do our names shape who we are, or are we able to overcome the stigmas associated with what we’re called?
The patriarch of the Andreas family is a well-known expert in Shakespeare among scholars and the matriarch allowed him to name their three daughters after women in Shakespeare. There’s Rosalind (Rose) from As You Like It, Bianca (Bean) from Taming of the Shrew, and Cordelia (Cordy) from King Lear. From Shakespeare, Rosalind is one constantly looking for her happily ever after, Bianca wants male attention and is a bit flighty, and Cordelia is her father’s favorite but mistreated by her sisters.
But those are the Shakespearan counterparts. Does that actually describe the sisters?
They don’t really recognize it in themselves, but the narrator certainly does.
Speaking of the narrator, it was written in a collective third-person voice, like all three sisters with one voice telling the story. It was very strange at the beginning, but I got used to it once I figured who was speaking.
Back to the plot. Rose, Bean and Cordy all converge on their childhood home when they find out their mom is sick. Really though, Rose never left, Bean has to leave where she was previously in a hurry and Cordy has no place else to go. Their decision to move back home has very little to do with their mother.
Over the course of the book, the focus switches between the sisters, giving us their backstories, thoughts and feelings. And as they figure out what they want from life, you are drawn into their story. It’s a common theme: What am I doing? What should I do now? Where am I going to end up? Everyone feels that at some point, so it’s easy to connect with each sister in this regard.
They’re not without their faults. Eleanor Brown does not gloss over the ugly parts of life or how they’ve messed up in the past, which makes this book very realistic, which I tend to like when reading a contemporary story.
Overall, I liked this book. I was fully expecting something else entirely when I read the title – like it might turn out to be supernatural – but regardless of my misconception, I enjoyed it. I’d recommend this to people who want a good sisters/friendship read.
To celebrate Froi of the Exiles coming out in the US, we had Melina Marchetta Week at the site and reviewed all of her books in short blurbs. This is...moreTo celebrate Froi of the Exiles coming out in the US, we had Melina Marchetta Week at the site and reviewed all of her books in short blurbs. This is what was said about Jellicoe Road.
Jellicoe Road is, at least here in North America, Melina Marchetta’s most beloved book. Well, among people I know anyway. It’s won a Printz award. If someone looks at me and says the words “Jonah Griggs” I know we are going to get along fabulously. And yes, this has happened to me…recently. Sometimes, just saying two words from a book encompasses the whole book and one’s entire feelings on it and saying any more would lessen the impact. When I say “Jonah Griggs,” to someone, I’m not just talking about the fact of his hotness. I’m talking about how Melina Marchetta can introduce us to a character that’s kind of a jerk at the beginning, tell us he killed his own father, and then make us fall so irresolutely in love him that you would defend him to your last breath.
And he isn’t even the main character.
Leiah: I could write a book about this book. There are so many things I want to tell you, but the magic of Jellicoe Road is finding them out for yourself. I will say that when I started the book, it took me awhile to figure out what was going on. The reader is thrown in with very little setup. It’s an intriguing kind of confused though. After finishing it, I can see that what Ms. Marchetta did was brilliant. She starts out with a very wide lens, so to speak, at the start of Jellicoe and as you read, she slowly begins to narrow the focus. Things become sharper, words and images. The depth of feeling you have for all the characters grows at this very controlled pace until you are completely out of control and falling headlong into the lives of these rich and vibrant people. I love this book. I love it. It really is one of my “litmus test” books. I will judge you.
Two other things I will tell you, first, the epilogue GUTTED me. I know people say, “I totally bawled my eyes out,” when they talk about reading something. There is no hyperbole here, folks, I snot-sobbed for twenty minutes after I finished. It was just so f*%king poignant. Okay, second, pay attention to the people. Ms. Marchetta is a tricksy one and likes to make use of them again.
Christine: I read On the Jellicoe Road after I finished Finnikin due largely to Caitlin’s fangirling and her unspoken (but heavily hinted at) requirement of my reading it if I wanted our friendship to continue. At first I was skeptical of her raving and confused about the plot, or if there even was a plot (I had not just realized Melina’s subtlety) as I learned about Taylor and her life. This is a hard book to summarize because thinking back on it, I honestly have no idea what the major plot points were or even how Melina managed to intertwine everything and everyone in a way to make me tear up as much as I did at the end. I remember Jonah and his perfection. I remember Taylor and her way of floating along with whatever was happening around her, until she finally came out of it and started taking notice of the world. I also remember coming out of this book, which I read almost entirely in one sitting, with Melina Marchetta firmly implanted in my mind as a goddess among authors. Her writing impacts you on an almost subconscious level and then when you least expect it, you’re crying. Even if you’re not interested in this book from its summary, I’d recommend giving it a chance just purely for the writing style. And who knows, maybe you’ll like it, too.
Caitlin: The first time I picked this book up was in a library. I quickly put it back down and didn’t think of it again for a few weeks. The next time I saw it was in a bookstore and I bought it without thinking twice and read it very quickly afterward. I don’t think words can quite desrcribe what this made me feel or what it’s meant for my life. Taylor’s need for, and utter fear of, family is so heart breaking to watch unfold. And (this is true of all of Melina’s books) she can make the most mundane moment the most romantic. The most boring little detail can come to mean the world to the plot and the characters, and to you. I listened to the audiobook recently and I have to say that rereading this book is such a joy. Once you know who all the characters are in relation to everyone else (and the events of this book cover two different time lines with a lot of events that happened on a third timeline so it can get a little confusing in the first half) and you understand everyone from the beginning, it is such a different perspective.
There really is no way for me to tell how much I love this book. It is the pinnacle of what contemporary young adult fiction can be.
The cover is what grabbed my attention; the title is what kept it.
Gamer Girl is centered around Maddy, a 16 year old girl whose world has crashed down...moreThe cover is what grabbed my attention; the title is what kept it.
Gamer Girl is centered around Maddy, a 16 year old girl whose world has crashed down on her. Her parents are newly divorced, her mother moved her and her sister to a new town to live with her unicorn-obsessed grandmother, and (the mother load) the first day at her new school, the “popular” crowd dubbed her ‘Freak Girl’. Maddy escapes her RL1 with two things: drawing (manga is her favorite past time) and Fields of Fantasy, a MMORPG2 her father gave her so they could “spend more time together.” (He’s an addict, which I know a little something about.)
Even though the beginning read like a ‘Why does everything bad happen to me?!’ set-up, I kept in mind this was a teenage girl and that’s how the world is to them. (At least, that’s what I was like at that age.) However, things quickly pick up when Maddy starts playing Fields of Fantasy and meets Sir Leo. The flirting between Maddy’s online character Allora (love the name) and Sir Leo is cute and very reminiscent of my online flirting days. (Sigh. I miss those days.)
I liked Maddy. Between the manga (Fullmetal Alchemist FTW3), the game, and repeated references to My Chemical Romance (their music feeds my soul), I recognized a kindred spirit in her that I rarely find in other books. Some people won’t connect to her like I did, and that’s okay. Everybody’s different. All I’m saying is, if I was a teenager, I would want to be Maddy’s friend.
It was a light read, clocking in at just under two hours, and I finished it in one sitting. And while the ending was a bit cheesy (think of any teen underdog movie and you’ll know what I mean), it didn’t faze me. I still grinned stupidly at how everything turned out and wanted to hug the book tightly to my chest when I finished.
So, if you’re a lover of online flirting, manga, or a fellow gamer girl, I think you’ll like this book.
And now I really, really, really want to play WoW4 again.
1 RL = Real Life 2 MMORPG = Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game 3 Fullmetal Alchemist is a manga series that became an animated television series with a film sequel. FTW = For The Win 4 WoW = World of Warcraft, a MMORPG that I was addicted to in college.
I really like starting entries announcing winners. I mostly just like getting to do it because using the randomizer is fun! And because I know you guy...moreI really like starting entries announcing winners. I mostly just like getting to do it because using the randomizer is fun! And because I know you guys want me to quit blathering and just tell you already, the winner of the entire Gallagher Girls set is…Jessi! I hope you (and your niece) want to cuddle them as much as I do. Send us your contact information and we’ll send you your books.
In honor of announcing the winner of an Ally Carter giveaway, I’ve decided to reach back a little bit and review Heist Society. I must state again – Ally Carter has the best titles in the universe. And look at the cover. I dare you not to love it!
Heist Society centers on high schooler Katarnia Bishop. Kat’s family is royalty. Not the kind with crowns and paintings by ancient masters and oodles of cash, oh no. But they’ve probably stolen at least two of those things. Katarina comes from a family of thieves. The family of thieves. And not just petty crooks – criminal masterminds of an Ocean’s Eleven type, engaging in high risk, high reward capers.
I have to start off by saying that my favorite thing about this book was Katarina. Kat doesn’t want to be a thief, high-class or otherwise. She just wants to go to school and be normal, and she’s arranged for herself to do just that. It’s not until her best friend Hale, who is rich and does have oodles of money, busts her out that she’s pulled back in to the life she tried to run from.
When reading a novel about criminals, it can be hard to get behind the characters if you don’t love them (think Ocean’s Eleven – you root for Danny Ocean because you like him, even though he doesn’t really have a good reason for stealing $150 million from Terry Benedict).Kat is someone you can (and will) love. She’s smart – she’s the criminal mastermind in this novel. And it’s not just about being clever either. She recognizes and utilizes the talents of her crew and is willing to admit when someone is more capable. She’s loyal – she risks her own life to save her father’s, even though the method for doing so isn’t something she wanted to go back to. And, as I said above, she’s reluctant. Kat has a good reason. And that reason just gets better as the novel goes forward.
Kat’s crew is well drawn. Ally Carter seems to specialize in background characters, which keeps her books from being one-dimensional (not that they were in any danger of that). Kat’s cousin, tall blonde and willowy, is more than meets the eye. And it’s nice to see the rest of the teens in the group being smart/capable as well, even if they’re using their powers for thievery. Nick was a lot of fun to read about. He was the most open member of the crew in a lot of ways, but was also the one with the most secrets to hide. Nick is one of the big reasons I’m looking forward to the next book, because his interactions with Kat were, for me, the big mystery of the novel. And…I want to say more but can’t for fear of spoiling things. Dang. I saw hints of a love triangle in this book, and I like Nick, but my one true love in this book was Hale.
Hale was interesting – he certainly didn’t need to steal, as he could easily afford any of the things he was taking. At first, I didn’t want to like him for that very reason (taking things for him is a rush, and I kind of wrinkled my nose). But oh as the book went on…sigh. Hale is great. He’s strong and capable and smart on his own, but he lets Kat take care of herself. It’s unique in a YA book to see the boy let the girl handle things, to not take over or to swaddle her up like an infant to protect her. Hale doesn’t always like it, but he lets Kat handle herself and he lets her be in charge. He helps, sure, and he’s always there for her, but he’s not controlling.
But more than that, I can see why Hale likes Kat. And it isn’t just because she’s beautiful or they’re fated. They’ve been through a lot together. He admires her strength and her smarts. And he’s happy just being near her. He doesn’t push, but he doesn’t let her walk all over him either. I said in my Gallagher Girls review than Cammie Morgan was possibly one of my favorite YA leads ever. I think Hale may be one of my favorite male supports ever. I’ve seen Hale described as enigmatic, and I suppose to an outsider he certainly would be. But in this book, seeing him through Kat’s eyes, he doesn’t seem like such a mystery because he doesn’t want to be a mystery to her. I love that.
I would be remiss not to mention the plot, because while characters make books for me, without at least some kind of plot for them to live in a book will be miserable. This is not an issue in Heist Society (or any of Ally Carter’s books). The plot is exciting but subtle and will keep you flipping pages faster than you knew possible. Though the premise at first seems implausible – teens who re master thieves? – the plot and the strength of the characters is what makes it believable. There are, as I said above, whiffs of a love triangle, but that is not at all a focus. It’s something that lives in the background, strengthening the main plot but not defining it. And the book has a definite beginning middle and end. Even though there is going to be a sequel , even though I’m ecstatic that Kat, Hale and the rest’s story isn’t over, the plot of Heist Society finishes. It’s a series that doesn’t need cliffhangers, and, considering the amount of series I’m having to wait (very impatiently) for, I like that.
When I picked this book up, it was love at first page. Heist Society is one of my most highly recommended YA novels. It’s fast paced, intelligently written, and has characters who will make you fall in love with them. This was the book that made me want to read Gallagher Girls. And it made me want to read about a million more books about Kat. I can’t wait for more.
When I first saw the covers for Ally Carter’s Gallagher Girls series, I almost didn’t buy them. The covers seem,...moreThis review is for books 1 through 4.
When I first saw the covers for Ally Carter’s Gallagher Girls series, I almost didn’t buy them. The covers seem, at first glance, maybe a little young. But then I kept thinking about how clever all of the titles to the books were and I changed my mind. Boy am I glad I did.
The Gallagher Girls books tell the story of Cammie “The Chameleon” Morgan. Cammie is one of those girls who can blend in anywhere – can slip into the background of crowd without anyone ever even remembering she was there. This is excellent news for Cammie because Cammie…is a spy. A super awesome, super capable spy-in-training at the Gallagher Academy, a school for exceptional young women. The four books in the series, I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You, Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy, Don’t Judge a Girl by her Cover, and Only The Good Spy Young, follow Cammie as she learns that balancing the life of a spy and that of a sixteen (then seventeen) year old girl is tougher than she could have imagined.
My favorite thing about these books – and Ally Carter’s books in general – is that she creates strong, capable female leads to her novels who still have personality and who still seem like real teenagers. Cammie and her best friends, Bex , Liz, and Macey, could all take down a grown criminal with their own bare hands. But that’s balanced with the late night girl talk and boy trouble that most girls have. Sure, Cammie and her friends approach the problem differently – repel wires and computer hacking, anyone? – but the problem is there just the same.
This balance makes Cammie one of the most infinitely likable and relatable characters I’ve read in a long time. And the best thing is, she gets better with every book. She doesn’t stagnate or regress. With each new book in the series, Cammie grows a little bit and gets a little stronger and learns a little more about herself. There are no big, after-school-special cheesy revelations, just the kinds of everyday life lessons we all take with us just by going through the day. The closest thing I can compare this to is the kind of growth Harry had through all of the Harry Potter books. There aren’t easy answers and sometimes things are hard and sometimes you don’t always react the best way, but it’s natural and real and makes Cammie someone you can root for.
The background characters in this series are also a real strength. Bex and Liz and Macey are all very different characters, but you see the same stubborn, capable, sympathetic streak in all of them. It’s easy to imagine why these three girls are friends with Cammie, and easy to imagine how they all ended up friends. The loyalty and sisterhood among these girls is inspiring, and it’s nice to see female relationships that are bout supporting each other rather than backstabbing. I especially love Liz. Liz is the least physically capable of the three – though I imagine she could still kick my butt – and “field missions” freak her out, but she always sucks it up and goes along because she’s a part of their team. And she always recognizes her strengths along with her weaknesses, and she’s proud of the former and refuses to be ashamed of the latter.
Then there are Cammie’s love interests. Well, love interest. The one problem I’ve had with these books is that the first book doesn’t necessarily go with the other three. Yes, Cammie takes the lessons from book one and applies them throughout the series, but the ending of the book seems kind of glossed over in the subsequent novels. And the first boy to notice Cammie is kind of forgotten. Which…when you get to know Zach, he kind of makes you forget about poor other guy anyway.
The plot of each novel is fast paced and engaging and will leave you on the edge of your seat. Aside from my (minor) quibble with the first book, each book builds on the other. There is a main mystery running throughout each novel, but each book is self-contained enough that not only could you read it alone (which I think is the test for a good sequel), but it makes the individual installments more exciting and fun because there’s a beginning and an end to each segment of the main plot. And each of those segments packs a punch. I’m pretty desperate for these books to be movies because they’d just be so action packed and exciting and it would be a bunch of girls kicking butt and taking names.
I can’t recommend The Gallagher Girls series enough. It’s smart without being smug, fun while still having some meat, and addictive like Pringles – I defy you to read one without wanting the rest of the books RIGHT NOW OMG.
I was recommended Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver on twitter well before it was released. I immediately trotted off to Amazon to check it out and fell...moreI was recommended Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver on twitter well before it was released. I immediately trotted off to Amazon to check it out and fell in love with 1) the cover (obviously) and 2) the premise. I was fortunate enough to find it at my local Barnes & Noble last Thursday (since it technically comes out today) and couldn’t put it down.
Before I Fall tells the story of Samantha Kingston, whose life couldn’t be more amazing – she’s popular, has great friends, is dating a hot guy, and is about to have sex for the first time ever – until one night, one party changes everything for her. An accident – tragic and poignantly written – takes Sam’s life. Or so she thinks. When she wakes up the next morning, it’s like the day has never happened. The rest of the book is a heartbreaking version of Groundhog Day that will stick with you long after you’re done reading.
When I first started reading, I wasn’t sold right away. Sam is one of “those” girls – popular, self-centered, and pretty much a sheep. She and her friends are callous, pick on kids less popular than they are, think they’re better than everyone else, and generally do things because everyone else is doing them, not because they want to. Sam is willing to sleep with her boyfriend, not because she loves him but because she doesn’t want to be the last to do it.
It was this original dislike that ultimately drew me in to the novel. The characters are written pitch perfect for high school girls (and guys). Oliver’s characters don’t seem like they should be graduating college instead of high school, and they don’t seem like freshman either. It was a good balance between smart kids from good families at a god school and typical high school lack of experience.
The thing that makes Before I Fall so amazing though, is that Sam grows and changes without becoming perfect. You watch her try on all of these different versions of herself. She becomes a better person and sometimes a worse person, always mirroring how much hope she clings to when she wakes up for that particular version of her last day. She realizes these mistakes she’s mad and her friends have made, but she doesn’t turn her back on the people she cares about. My favorite thing about Sam is that she doesn’t abandon her friends for being “bad” people; instead, she starts to realize and recognize things in them that their former friend code had demanded she ignore and never bring up.
It’s hard for me to review this novel without spoiling it, particularly because several of the things that I am still a little unsure about rotate around the ending. In the end, though, I loved it because of the fact that I was left unsure. Before I Fall makes you think, it makes you contemplate the very nature of the life you’re living and the tiny details you think are so meaningless but can mean so much to someone else. It’s a beautiful novel and I highly recommend it.
Hate List by Jennifer Brown is yet another book I bought because I loved the cover. I almost didn’t, because I don’t like books about school shootings...moreHate List by Jennifer Brown is yet another book I bought because I loved the cover. I almost didn’t, because I don’t like books about school shootings. So often they’re written from the point of view of the shooter or with excerpts from the shooters, and I just…I can’t get behind that for any reason. A personal flaw, I know.
What makes Hate List so interesting is that it isn’t about a shooter, but it’s also not about a “victim.” Yes, Valerie Leftman is a victim in the traditional sense. She was one of the students in the school when a senior named Nick opened fire; in fact, she took a bullet to her leg. But Valerie Leftman isn’t just any student at the high school – she’s the shooter’s girlfriend. More importantly, she is the co-author of the Hate List, a notebook she shared with Nick.
The Hate List is exactly what it sounds like: a list of all the things and people Nick and Valerie hate and why. Teachers, students, classes, everyday people. Everything they hate they write down in this notebook. Unfortunately for Valerie, that notebook is a huge part of the police investigation into the shooting because it ended up being a sort of kill-list for Nick. But Valeria had no idea he was going to do it. Sometimes she still can’t believe he actually did.
What I loved about Hate List was the way Valerie’s grief was illustrated. I could see it in everything she did and every place she was. The way she sat, the clothes she wore, the things she said, the way she kept her room…all of it added up to a very confused, very scared, and very depressed protagonist. I could feel her suffering, and I could feel her guilt about that suffering.
Because of this grief, Valerie isn’t always likable. I found myself getting annoyed at her selfishness and her moping, and that really worked. Too often, novels about grief are saccharine and Nicholas Sparks levels of beautiful sadness. But grief doesn’t always work that way. Sometimes it’s ugly and sucks people down into that ugliness.
Valerie’s story is so interesting because she knows that the boy who shot everyone in their school isn’t just that. He’s something else too, someone she loved. The point isn’t that Nick was just misunderstood and he was mistreated and teased and that’s why he shot a bunch of his classmates. The book isn’t a lesson in the idea that school shooters should be pitied and that kids should all try to get along and be nice to everyone. The book is about one girl’s grief and her realization that sometimes you don’t know someone as well as you think, and that sometimes people can do things you could never have imagined them doing. It’s about how you can see someone in a way no one else can. It’s about…it’s about so much I just can’t list it all.
Hate List was powerful. It stayed with me for a few days. Hell, it stayed with me for a few months since I’m just now writing this review. Don’t let the school shooting plot distract you from this novel’s powerful message of grief and hope and growth. This book goes down as one of my favorite YA books, and one that I highly recommend.
13 Little Blue Envelopes is the story of american teenager Ginny who has recently learned that her slightly wacky, artist aunt has died of cancer. The...more13 Little Blue Envelopes is the story of american teenager Ginny who has recently learned that her slightly wacky, artist aunt has died of cancer. The begins when Ginny receives an envelope from her aunt containing a letter with rules and instructions and $1000 cash. Shy, quiet Ginny, who prefers to go unnoticed is being sent on a quest through Europe, she is not allowed to bring any of her own money, or any electrical devices.
No computer, no phone, no camera, no money. Just herself, a backpack, and 13 little blue envelopes full of instructions.
What I really loved about this book is that it is clear from the beginning that Aunt Peg wants Ginny to go on this adventure to help her break out of her shell, to help her discover herself. Ginny wants to go on the adventure simply to feel close to her aunt. These two motivations, not that they’re the only ones, shape the whole book and I think without them, its very easy to get annoyed with the characters.
Ginny is basically on an all expense paid trip through Europe but she doesn’t really care. She doesn’t go out of her way to see or do things, she just does what each letter tells her to so that she can get to the next one, in the desperate and ultimately useless hope, that at the end her beloved, crazy aunt will be waiting for her.
Peg doesn’t want Ginny to make the same mistakes she has. And although they are both very different people, outwardly, it is clear that they have both been running from things all their lives.
Another thing I loved about the book, and that I think is a terrific example of Maureen’s ability to write great characters, is how alive Aunt Peg was. Despite being a fictional character that had died before the beginning of the story, the letters, and Ginny’s memories of her make her a real person. And we see her go through a journey, a self-discovery along with Ginny.
Now, I don’t want to ruin too much, but, well, you never get to see the 13th envelope. Ginny never gets to see it. And I really like that. It leaves Ginny to discover her own finish, her own ending. Maureen has said that we will get to see the 13th envelope in the sequel and I’m unsure how I feel about this. I like that it’s a mystery. That Ginny can make it whatever she wants it to be.
I haven’t said anything about the males in this story, and be assured there is a little romance for both of our female leads, but it happens to the side. It isn’t the main focus. In fact I think the only thing I disliked about this book was that we didn’t get to see more of Keith, the kilt-wearing playwrite who stared in Starbucks: The Musical.
This review is for all three books in the Millennium Trilogy.
If you haven’t read these books yet, you may have seen them at your local bookstore, or e...moreThis review is for all three books in the Millennium Trilogy.
If you haven’t read these books yet, you may have seen them at your local bookstore, or even heard people talking about them (especially since they just cast the US version movies, but that’s a discussion for another time). The success of these books is unfathomable when you learn that the author, Stieg Larsson, was a virtual unknown in the crime/mystery genre and unexpectedly died before the books were published. He was thus unable to promote his books in the usual book tour/morning show route that many authors use. And his books were translated to English from Swedish. (Historically translated books do not make bestseller lists.)
So how did they become so popular?
The answer lies in the great word of mouth (i.e, what I’m doing right now) spawned by the books themselves, which bring mystery and murder to the 21st century. They have a gritty look at Sweden’s underbelly and introduce us to one of the most unique and fascinating characters in literature today: Lisbeth Salander.
In The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, we meet the primary characters of the trilogy, Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander. Mikael is an investigative reporter who co-owns an independent monthly publication named Millenium. He’s also relatively famous within the reporter world for his published works. He’s also an unapologetic divorcee in his 40s who doesn’t like labels applied to himself or his liaisons.
Lisbeth is another creature altogether. She’s a mysterious and secretive woman in her early 20s who has the unfortunate physique of a young teenager, which makes people around her perceive her to be weak. She works for a security company as a consultant researcher (What that really means is she digs into people’s backgrounds to find the dirt and skeletons in their closets). Because of her past she’s very distrusting of people, men especially, and has zero social aptitude. She’s an enigma that I needed to know more about. Thankfully the majority of the questions I had about her were answered at some point during the three books. Otherwise, I would be attempting to call upon Mr. Larsson’s spirit through every medium I could find.
While reading the first book, Mikael Blomkvist was a difficult character for me to connect to, mainly because of how he conducts his private life. His is the story we follow for the most part in the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. At the start of it, he is convicted of slander of a very prominent businessman in Sweden, charged with a hefty fine and sentenced to serve three months in jail. Very soon after his conviction he’s contacted for a job, to look into a fifty year old mystery for an obsessed man who has little time left on this world. It took me a while to get into the plot and mystery Mikael is focused on solving.
The flashes of Lisbeth’s life is interjected sporadically throughout the build-up of the plot and I wasn’t sure how they went together until… they magically did.
Now, for all the hype surrounding these books, there are a few things you need to know if you haven’t read them:
1. The lead-in of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo about Blomkvist and his slander lawsuit… you can safely skip that without losing any understanding of the rest of the book (I skipped it, so now you know my dirty secret.) 2. Stieg Larsson writes very detailed accounts of a character’s day-to-day life, which I thought would become annoying, but somehow, once I was involved in the book, I didn’t even notice. 3. The names can be confusing. One, because they’re Swedish names. Two, because Larsson has the habit of referring to a character sometimes by his/her first name and other times by his/her last name. While reading each book, I had the Wikipedia page with the list of characters up on my computer screen for reference. If you’re forgetful of names (like I am), you’ll need it. 4. These are pretty dark books and have a few graphic scenes that were hard to read, especially if you’re a woman. It’s about the equivalent of watching several in-depth news programs. I suggest counteracting the dark and gritty with something light and fluffy between each book. I think it helped me appreciate them more since it distanced me from the ugliness and allowed me to focus on the mystery.
Hopefully you’re still with me because, honestly, these are great crime books. I don’t usually read crime or mystery, but I’m glad I made an exception for these. Lisbeth’s back story alone is worth it. Each book is so thought out and plotted, you feel as if you’re actually living it. If you can make it through The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo until Lisbeth and Mikael meet, I have complete faith that you’ll become just as hooked as I was.
The first time I read The Great Gatsby I was neither a grownup nor was it during the summer. It was the final semester of Eighth Grade and it was the...moreThe first time I read The Great Gatsby I was neither a grownup nor was it during the summer. It was the final semester of Eighth Grade and it was the first classic novel that I read without it being on a school reading list. For that reason, I was able to love it. I didn’t have to discuss it to death or look for symbolism or look for its deeper commentary on the times. I could sit on the blacktop during recess, ignore my plebeian peers and escape into the decadence and decline of the Roaring 20s.
Therefore twelve summers later, while searching for a fun but good summer read for the beach, seeing a novel entitled, The Summer We Read Gatsby by Danielle Ganek seemed like a perfect way to recapture that feeling of my initial Gatsby discovery. Moreover it was about two sisters on vacation together, and I was preparing to travel with my own sister. As I’ve said before, sometimes you’re just meant to be reading certain books at certain times.
Upon reading the first page (which ultimately decides if I will even buy a book) I could tell that the author had worked excruciatingly hard to set a similar tone to the classic novel in the title. The glamour, conceit, and ridiculousness of the Hampton backdrop was captured immaculately. Pecksland (Peck) a curvy and vivacious New Yorker who plays at being an actress but aspires more to be in Vogue for her bizarrely glamorous fashion sense, is the half-sister of Stella, her polar opposite. For all of Peck’s curves and bubbly personality, Stella is tall, thin and cynical with a finely honed sense of pragmatism. The two have rendezvoused in the Hamptons upon inheriting their Aunt Lydia’s artist retreat home, “The Fool’s House.” Stella plans to sell the house they cannot afford while Peck’s sense of whimsy longs to keep it, and staunchly refuses to accept any alternative.
On Stella’s first night there, Peck drags her to a Gatsby party- all must wear white and hats, and it’s at the most lavish house in the Hamptons that also happens to be the home of her ex-lover. To Peck this is a grand adventure, and by throwing this themed party her ex is clearly sending her the message that he wants her back after all these years, after all they fell in love over their mutual obsession of The Great Gatsby. It’s a classic superficial affair- both the over the top soiree and the relationship between Peck and Miles (the now paunch-bellied former Jim Morrison look-a-like richie-rich). Everything is over dramatic, overly indulgent, and completely devoid of the real world- much the same as the world Nick found himself in the The Great Gatsby.
Stella grew up and lives in Switzerland and is incapable of understanding the Hampton lifestyle. How there’s a party every night that doesn’t even require invitations- everyone who is anyone knows when and where they will be held because things have always been done this way. Money equally doesn’t matter and yet it’s the only thing that does- you simply have it or you do everything you can to make people think that you do. It’s difficult for Stella, reserved and recovering at 28 from her divorce from that “No-Good- Jean Paul” to embrace the lifestyle, and even more so, her half-sister.
The relationship, between Peck and Stella, is perhaps the greatest strength of the novel. More than the stylistic parallels to Fitzgerald, the commentary on pre-recession America, or the ridiculous pseudo-mystery running through the background- The Summer We Read Gatsby is about two sisters finding each other. Stella learns to let go, to love others and not look and expect the worst in everyone. Peck’s bubbly nature and benefits from the reality dose that Stella provides, and throughout the summer she learns that sometimes you have to settle for less than the idealized perfection, but that doesn’t make it any less perfect for you. The two, in a nutshell, become sisters, they learn who their beloved Aunt Lydia was by living in her house, and they learn who they can be when they have the right people standing behind them.
Ganek paid a wonderful tribute to what has to be one of her favorite books, both in style and its constant discussion/reference throughout. Peck and Stella’s love of Gatsby reminded me of my own, and has made me want to revisit the old favorite. It was a great meld of a quick summer read without being brain fluff- it has its own literary merits, and if you read it for either or both, you won’t be disappointed.
Now that we’ve passed into the official start of Fall, the leaves begin to change and the nights turn chilly, pick up this book. It will take you away from work and school and transplant you into the summer you’re already missing.
John Green’s Looking for Alaska is a gateway drug. It’s no wonder that ,a href="http://www.safelibraries.org/pushers.... fears that it will change the...moreJohn Green’s Looking for Alaska is a gateway drug. It’s no wonder that ,a href="http://www.safelibraries.org/pushers.... fears that it will change the way teenagers think. However it’s not the 281 occurrences of swearing, the three frankly awkward sexual scenes portraying the differences between physicality and emotional connections, or the teen drinking and smoking that they should fear.
No the real fear for John Green’s debut novel is that it is a filter through which teens can examine their lives- who they are, what they stand for, and how they relate to this universe in all its vastness. It shows them how to look at their actions and see the meaning behind them- how one proverbial ripple can cause a tsunami in someone else’s life. It is a book about consequences and coping, about possibilities, and that change is not a solitary event- it is the demarcation line in an ongoing progression of life.
The story of Looking for Alaska is deceptive. From the outset it appears to be about Miles “Pudge” Halter, a non-descript teenage boy who chooses to go to Culver Creek boarding school in his junior year. His obsession with biographies and last words has set him on a life’s quest to discover his “Great Perhaps”- a world in which there are infinite possibilities for greatness. What he finds is a school somewhere crossed between John Knowles’ A Separate Peace and J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye (incidentally they’re both banned books as well). There’s a code of honor, mischief, extreme nerdiness and a deep seated loyalty even to the dreaded rich kid “Weekday Warriors.” Pranks are king, paybacks are hell, and ratting isn’t tolerated. Pudge, the skinniest white boy around, becomes an integral part of a tight-knit group of friends- his roommate the wildly tenacious Colonel, Takumi the “mother !%$#@!^ fox”, Romanian Lara who teaches Pudge how to kiss and gives him his first physical experience with a girl, and finally there is Alaska.
Alaska Young is Pudge’s Great Perhaps. His life, and the book, is divided into the demarcation line between her before and his after. She is vivacious and witty, flirty and petulant, moody and hysterical, curvy and ridiculous. She lives in the realm of excess- she smokes, drinks, and freaks out to the extreme. Everything is at the highest level of drama and done to the nth degree of contradiction, from the way she loves her boyfriend to how she cheats on him. Her melodrama and mood swings are monumental in scope and yet the impulsive way that she takes life by the balls makes her the center of her friends’ orbits. It is as inevitable for Pudge to love her as it is for him to hate her for it too. While she rants about subverting the patriarchal paradigms and the objectification of women, she plays and flirts with the feelings of all the boys around her. She draws Pudge in while simultaneously pushing him away; further begetting the mystery and enigma that is the before and after of Alaska.
Alaska acts as a whirlwind in Pudge’s life- she shakes up and changes everything he knows, and then is “POOF! Gone,” and dealing with that is the heart of the book. It’s not the controversial side-events of a teen’s life (smoking, drinking, cursing, having “sexual relations”) that define a person or this book. It is the lesson of the mercurial nature of life (as evidenced by Alaska) and that change is an active verb not a static noun. High school is a time of life in which everything is in flux, your body, your moods, your relationships and your future all while you’re trapped in the “labyrinth of suffering,”(which is arguably Alaska’s Great Perhaps). We misinterpret what change means- it is not “The Change”- that one-off event in life from which nothing will ever be the same. To live is to change- it is life’s greatest constant that each moment something will be slightly different, and it is only at life’s end that it ceases and we become static. Alaska the most vibrantly alive person Pudge had ever known raced straight and fast through the labyrinth, desperately trying to outrun a change that started when she was eight years old. Instead she became trapped in the now, never looking backward or forward, never thinking to swerve and leaving everything “to be continued.”
Last year I found Looking for Alaska sitting on the end of a bookshelf under a sign reading “Must Reads for All Ages” at my local bookstore. I was 23 and my life was simultaneously rapidly shifting and standing still, and reading this book got me through that. Fearing change is fearing life, and life is the greatest of the “Great Perhaps’.” This novel helped me to move through the labyrinth of suffering at my own pace, forgiving myself and others for not knowing the unknowable, and living each day loving my crooked neighbor with all my crooked heart.
For that reason I can understand why people want to ban this book. If it can become an integral part of someone who is 23, what could it do to an impressionable 17 year old? What if it helped them get through their lives and know that they must keep moving? What if it gave them hope? What if it taught them at the deepest of their despair that life is worth living? What if it taught them that no one has all the answers and sometimes there is none? What would adults do with self-aware teenagers?
They would fear them. As they fear this book and the change it can bring in the hearts of those they seek to keep it from. They want them as trapped in the mire of the labyrinth as they are.
So, I’ve been playing catch-up these past few months, trying to cram as much YA lit as possible into my reading schedule since I sort of drifted away...moreSo, I’ve been playing catch-up these past few months, trying to cram as much YA lit as possible into my reading schedule since I sort of drifted away from it during high school and suddenly felt behind on… everything.
One bright spot since undergoing this project is finding Sarah Dessen. Her books aren’t the usual teen romance, though that’s typically how they’re categorized. At the heart of them, they’re about a girl who needs to work through an issue, be that figuring out how to tell a secret, discovering love in the unlikeliest of places after deciding it doesn’t exist, or dealing with the grief that comes from losing a beloved parent, as is the case in The Truth About Forever.
With every Dessen book I’ve read so far (I’m up to three!), I can’t get over the amount of details she puts in them. The characters are flesh and blood. They have distinct personalities and quirks. Everyone, down to the secondary fringe characters, are realistic and different. And it seems that with every book of hers I read, she only gets better.
The most extraordinary thing I’ve found is that I actually like the heroines. Macy is just trying to do the right thing, be it enduring long hours at a job she hates with two of the snobbiest girls in the world just to appease her boyfriend, or never bringing up her father because she’s not sure if her mother can handle it. She never had the opportunity to properly grieve for him since she went straight from shocked to ‘fine’. She’s been ‘fine’ for so long, she doesn’t realize there’s more to life than that, until she starts hanging out with the people at Wish.
Pregnant Delia runs the show, somehow handling a business, preparing the food, dealing with crisis after crisis, taking care of her toddler daughter, and keeping an eye on her deceased friend’s children – Wes & Bert. Her operation is a close-knit one with everyone who works there living next to each other – Delia excluded. Kristy quickly becomes friends with Delia on her first night. She’s wild, loves clothes, and puts them together in outfits that I envy. Monica, Kristy’s sister, is nicknamed ‘Monotone’ and moves slow enough to make a sloth seem like The Flash. Bert is a fashion disaster and wholeheartedly believes that Armageddon is imminent. Then there’s Wes. He’s gorgeous, artistic to the point it’s considered genius, and might have served some time in reform school. …But everyone makes mistakes. This electric group of people were crazy and hilarious, and I found myself wishing I could work with them on more than one occasion.
Macy’s growth as a person and acceptance of her father’s death is captivating. I hated putting the book down, much to my boyfriend’s annoyance. But in between the serious moments are funny ones as well. Ones that made me laugh aloud – a feat few books can claim.
There’s so much more going on in this book, but I don’t want to give away everything. It was heartwarming in the truest sense, and I hope you read it, if you haven’t already.