I really dislike cancer books. To me, many of them are too dramatic and incredibly predictable – for instance, in some of the books, it seems incredib...moreI really dislike cancer books. To me, many of them are too dramatic and incredibly predictable – for instance, in some of the books, it seems incredibly obvious that one of the characters will die due to cancer. While I have liked a few books that deal with topics of cancer, such as Before I Die and Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, most books in this genre I tend to avoid.
However, I very much enjoyed reading Send Me a Sign. Why is this? At a glance, it seems like a typical story about a girl diagnosed with leukemia. But really the story is less about cancer than that it involves cancer . Cancer is never really the main point, and while the treatments and such are discussed, the story is more about how cancer affects people.
Mia is a golden girl. She's got a great group of friends – dubbed the "Calendar Girls" – and a boy who's interested in dating her. She gets great grades, has a great family who's proud of her, and is happy in her life. She has a great friend, Gyver, who she's known for years. All she cares about is having a perfect senior year. Until she starts getting bumps on her leg. Until her mother, worried, sends her to the doctor to have her checked. Until the doctor tells her that she has leukemia. Until Mia realizes that her perfect, golden life is slipping away from her.
See, Mia's less concerned about the cancer than she is concerned about her friends finding out about the cancer. She doesn't want the Calendar Girls to know. If they find out, surely they'll end their friendship with her. And then her perfect life will come apart. Mia's mother, wanting her daughter to have a perfect life, comes up with a plan: Mia will hide her secret from her friends and keep up her perfect façade and they'll never know. Except, as Mia starts treatment and starts feeling sicker, it gets harder and harder to hide her secret from her friends.
What I really loved about this book, like I mentioned before, was how it wasn't about cancer and more about how people are affected by cancer. The book shows how people are affected by the cancer, by the issues going on – for instance, Mia's mother becomes overprotective and Mia's father becomes engrossed in all of the facts about cancer. The book also shows how Mia herself deals with the issue, as she wrestles with the fact that she might die, and the fact that her life has truly changed. It also shows how she deals with the fact that she's lying and hiding from her friends.
While, at the same time, showing how people are affected, the author also shows the actual treatment, as Mia goes through chemotherapy. I really loved how superstitions and charms were woven in through the story. Mia is always searching for signs. A necklace on the ground, a piece of paper she finds – everything means something to her. She frequently reads the horoscopes with her friends and wears a good-luck-charm necklace. And when her world gets turned upside down, she is looking for a sign that everything will be alright, be okay. I really loved the aspect of the story.
And as regarding the plot, I liked how it ended up being more about friends and family than cancer. It was a will-she-or-won't-she scenario as Mia decided whether or not she would tell her friends. The book twisted and turned a few times and I didn't find the story to be predictable, and the ending was perfect, leaving open a few loose ends while wrapping the whole of the story together.
If there was anything I disliked about the book, it was mainly based around the characters and the romance. The Calendar Girls were hard to tell apart from one another, but that might have been done purposefully, since they were so close that they had almost all become cutouts of one another in their friendship. The romance – it was easy to figure out the one that Mia would end up with. However, it was a fun journey and the contrast between Ryan, the jock that Mia has wanted (and has been "dating") and Gyver, her old friend, was interesting.
Tiffany Schmidt has really beautiful writing. Her writing is beautiful, easy to read, and sounds like a teenage girl. She manages to keep in her lovely prose while interjecting a strong voice for Mia. I'm very interested to see where she will go next and I'm very excited to read her next book, Bright Before Sunrise
This book will have lots of appeal to teen girls, and people who liked stories like Jenny Han's The Summer I Turned Pretty and books like Before I Die and other books with fun stories and some serious elements. People who dislike cancer books will probably really enjoy this one as well, as it twists the tropes of the cancer genre. (less)
When I finish reading some books, I'm in awe. I'm in awe of the author's writing, of their characters, their plot, the entire book. And I close the bo...moreWhen I finish reading some books, I'm in awe. I'm in awe of the author's writing, of their characters, their plot, the entire book. And I close the book thinking This book was brilliant.
Gone, Gone, Gone is brilliant, too. But it shares its brilliance in a quiet way.
Throughout the entire novel, I was loving the book. I liked the characters and the plot and the setting and everything about it, and I knew for sure that I would give it at least four stars.
But then I got to the end. The ending is a hard hitter. It's beautiful and peaceful and so, so perfect. And it was at the ending that this book showed me its brilliance.
Gone, Gone, Gone takes place in 2002, in Washington D.C, around the time of the Beltway Sniper shootings. Craig and Lio are two high school boys living in the same town. They've formed sort of a strange, uneasy friendship, but their friendship becomes even more conflicted when Lio kisses Craig. As the sniper shootings continue and more and more people are killed and the atmosphere of panic continues, the boys must understand their uneasy romance.
I think Moskowitz best explained the plot when she said this: "[The book] is a love story. It is so f*ucking a love story." There isn't much plot to the story. This another one of those books that is all about the characters. But there is a plot. It's one of those quietly brilliant plots, and it's an amazing love story. The entire time I wanted Craig and Lio to fall in love with each other, to get together. The plot quietly takes them through romance, through twists and turns that are amazingly realistic. It's a brilliant love story. And really, that's all I can say about the plot of this book. It was a brilliant love story.
I do have one side note on the plot: I liked how Moskowitz explained enough information about the sniper shootings. It was enough for people who had no idea about the shootings and a good refresher for people who already knew about the shootings or lived through them themselves.
The characters....this book is all about the characters. Craig and Lio were both fully formed characters with their own flaws and problems, but with their own personalities and strengths. They were both very funny, too. Their voices were distinct and sounded like boys (Moskowitz certainly can write boys) and they were just....amazing. That's all I can say about them. They were perfect for the story and lovely and amazing. All of the characters, not just Craig and Lio, were amazing and impressive and very well rounded. While the plot may not have been heavy, the characters were packed with enough heaviness and strengths and beauty to completely make up for it -- and enhance the lovely love story.
Moskowitz's writing is stripped down. She writes what needs to be said, no extra words, no frills. It's realistic and easy to read. The writing is beautiful in its own way too; not obvious from the beginning but it, too, shows its quiet beauty eventually.
I recieved this book as an advanced readers' copy, thanks to Galley Grab, but I sure as heck will be buying myself a copy. I'll stick it on my bookshelf right in the center. And every time I see it I know I'll smile. I'm smiling wide just writing this review.
Gone, Gone, Gone is a must-read for anyone who loves romance and contemporary fiction. It's really a must read for everyone, really.
This review has to start with, erm, a bit of a warning.
My name is Paige.
This seems irrelevant at first — it’s simply my name, what my parents decided...moreThis review has to start with, erm, a bit of a warning.
My name is Paige.
This seems irrelevant at first — it’s simply my name, what my parents decided to call me — until you read the book blurb. The main character’s name is…..Paige. Now, first, I have to say I like this — there are hardly ever any main characters named Paige and Paiges in books (when they show up, which is rare) are usually mean, nasty girls.
But this Paige is not!
But she starts out a mean girl.
So right away, I had my assumptions on this book, because obviously SHE HAS MY NAME, and that is COOL and so obviously I should like her, because you know, Paiges gotta stick together!
But even past that first assumption, I really, really enjoyed this book.
At a first, cursory glance, it seems to be a simple, stereotypical “mean girls” story, one that is constantly in the media, something that I’ve remarked on before. But in reality, it is so much more, deeper and richer. Paige knows that what she did was wrong. She’s ashamed of herself. She wishes that she could turn the clock back. And as people point out her brattiness — like, who doesn’t want to go to Paris — she starts to change.
And then there’s the other person, the boy. Ethan, the cute boy who looks like a freshman. He’s really a senior, though, and he really has an attraction for Paige. They have similar characteristics, and he knows he can’t have her. Paige has a boyfriend. But he doesn’t chase her, try to find her or make her love him. And when it comes time for his confession of love, he’s afraid.
And there are the other characters — Miranda, who’s a “rebel teen” but really just wants to get away from her mother; Shanti, who is Indian but has a boyfriend while being studious; Nikki, who is more than she seems — and many more.
I really liked how the characters were different; based on cliches, formed around them, but then changed into something different, something more.
I really love all the things explored through the story. A lot of topics get covered, and it never seems like too much or overbearing.
One of these topics is homosexuality. The characters remark on it many times — they call their friends “gay” and “homo” and the assortment of other crude names given to GLBTQ people. But as the story continues, it starts to become an issue, a problem, and the characters remark on their real standings — do they want gays to be allowed to marry? How do they feel about it? I loved this because it is so in the “right now” — homosexuality and GLBTQ rights are all over the news. But I also love that the author wasn’t afraid to let her characters have stances. Some of them are against gay marriage, and they make their points for why they are against it. Some of the characters are for it, and they too explain their reasons. And then there are the ones in the gray area, neutral and confused. In their hometown, homosexuality isn’t really discussed. I loved this because the author didn’t simply say “gays and lesbians deserve rights” (though there is a positive GLBTQ standing throughout the book, and gay and lesbian people are regarded as deserving rights). It was a really interesting arc to explore.
I also loved the element of writing, the wonder of being unsure if you should write, what the heck you should actually write, if you want to be a writer or a poet or someone who works with writing. This was a great way to see Paige’s true colors, her love for writing and quiet spots.
Backes’ writing is strong too. The voice is marvelous; it seems like Paige’s voice is dripping off the page. She acts and sounds like a real teenager, and she’s a normal kid, with insecurities. The voice really just ads another element to this already impressive book.
I read this book on Netgalley, thanks to the generosity of Candelwick Press, but I will most certainly be buying a copy for my own bookshelf.
Above all, I loved this book.
I received this book as an advanced readers’ copy from Candlewick Press. Under the FTC guidelines I did not receive any monetary amount or other bribe in return for a copy of this book.(less)
I am something of a contemporary nerd. A total contemporary nerd. There, I said it, I have outed myself -- contemporary YA is my favorite genre and I...moreI am something of a contemporary nerd. A total contemporary nerd. There, I said it, I have outed myself -- contemporary YA is my favorite genre and I love contemp books. So I had wanted to read Cracked for a long time, since the cover and synopsis were released.
My issues with the book were larger than I'd hoped they would be but I still enjoyed the novel.
Bull and Victor hate each other. This is not some kind of low hate, like hating pepperoni or sausage on your pizza or hating a particular band or TV show, but true hate . Bull has bullied Victor all throughout school, and Victor fantasizes about hurting and killing him in his head, while Bull simply thinks Victor is annoying -- and takes the pain out on him. They both have troubling home lives, with Victor living with parents who ignore him in pursuit of their own happiness and Bull living with an abusive mother and grandfather. After two incidents in which Victor attempts to kill himself and Bull attempts to kill his grandfather, the two are sent to the same psych ward and end up in the same room together, and need to work out their problems with each other.
The plot was fairly good, though more romance heavy than I'd expected. The plot moves at a fairly quick pace and events happen quickly. The pace is a bit overwhelming with how fast the events move, since Bull and Victor are only in the psych ward for five days. Though the pacing was fast, the events were interesting, flowed well, and made sense, and for a while the plot seemed very interesting and unique. But as I reached the end, the plot started to unravel. The book became a lot more romance based as the story went on, and while this isn't a bad thing it seemed to come out of nowhere, and all of a sudden the romance was becoming a lot bigger. Both Bull and Victor fall in love and start romantic relationships by the end of the novel. The romance was sweet but could be verging on the edges of insta-love, as the characters had known each other for very few days in the psych ward before falling in love. However, I understand that in situations like the ones the characters were in people tend to grow together faster, so that's fine. The other issue I had with the plot was that it ended up way too neatly. I was glad that the characters ended up in a happy place and were able to recover from their issues, but it seemed unlikely to have everything suddenly become sunshine and rainbows. (This part is a spoiler for the book.) Victor's nana moves in with him to stand up for him, he starts a relationship with Patty and is happy; Bull gets to live with Frank the cemetary guy and his grandfather dies and everything is perfect. It seemed very unlikely for everything to just end up being absolutely perfect, with no issues at all. The plot was good but seemed to end up too perfect and the focus on the romance seemed a bit much.
The characters seemed to be the strongest point of the book. Bull and Victor were both very relatable and good characters. It did seem a bit cliche for them to both have such serious problems; that seemed almost like a setup for the book. However, Walton made both her characters very sympathethic and interesting. I cared for both Bull and Victor, understanding their issues and problems. One issue I had with the characters was their relationships. I didn't really understand Victor's relationship with Nikole. They shared a close friendship and maybe love, but grew apart from each other and distanced by the end of the book. Bull and Victor's relationship with each other at the end was also confusing; they had grown closer but at the same time drifted apart, and didn't seem to have strengthened as much as I thought they would.
Walton is a strong writer, and she writes male perspectives very well. Both Bull and Victor had strong voices that were different from each other and sounded like teenage boys. Her writing was very fluid and fresh and she handled teen dialogue and expressions very well. She's a strong writer and someone to watch.
Cracked was a strong novel but didn't quite make it up to my expectations. If you like contemporary YA or "edgier" books, as well as books set in mental instuitions and dealing with mental issues, this would be a good book to try.
So this was an ARC I recieved from Random House (who, yes, I am actually on auto-approve because of how many books I requested xD). I had read Cr...moreOkay.
So this was an ARC I recieved from Random House (who, yes, I am actually on auto-approve because of how many books I requested xD). I had read Crowley's other novel A Little Wanting Song and thought it was pretty good. So when Crowley's next novel, and her most highly acclaimed novel, came into the US I figured, hey why not?
I guess I have different expectations for every book I read. Some times I have low expectations, medium, high.
I had medium here. The plot sounded fantastic, and I had heard good things about Crowley, but I had been unsure about Wanting Song .
Were my expectations met?
Graffiti Moon is the story of Lucy. She has recently graduated from high school and has a plan. All across her town are drawings. The drawings were done by Shadow, a mysterious figure who paints goregous birds, moons, and dancing abstract figures across walls. His partner in crime, Poet, assists him as they dance across the night. Lucy, case in point, is obsessed witth Shadow and his drawings.
So on the night Lucy graduates, she and her best friend Jazz (there are some really interesting names in this story) and their friend Daisy go to hunt Shadow. Lucy is in constant pursuit of him, always looking and asking people if they've seen him. She's gotten close before -- seeing him almost at the art store where she works and almost seeing him at a party -- but never seen him.
Well, everything, as you would expect, gets screwed up.
Lucy ends up with Ed, this guy she dated once and broke his nose, and his friend Leo. Ed says that he knows where to find Shadow and....
You might have already figured out who Shadow is. If you didn't, fine spoiler text: [spoilers removed]
It's not that hard to figure out who Shadow is; even if you're confused it doesn't take long. And that leads me to the biggest flaw of the novel: it's predictability.
We know that Ed (read the spoiler text) is going to tell Lucy at some point that he's Shadow. We just don't know when. So for about half of the novel, Lucy's running around in pursuit of Ed. It starts to get tiresome, though, and by about chapter eleven I wanted to say GOSH GET IT ALREADY. I was waiting for him to tell her.
We're all waiting.
It ruins the suspense, since Crowley tells us right away that Ed is Shadow. So instead we run through pages, flipping through them just so we can get to the part where all is revealed.
If it hadn't been so obvious, I think it would be a lot less predictable. Crowley redeems herself with a great plot twist in the end, though.
And that brings me to my next point: just because the book is kind of predictable doesn't mean it's not a good read. I liked it.
There was lots of humor. The characters were well-developed with passion and flaws. The "best friends" were hilarious and charming. The exploration of graffiti fascinating. As an American reader, the Australian refrences interesting.
So yes. It's predictable. But it's cute. Funny. Charming. And that, my friends, made me ignore the predictabilness of it all.
And so for that, I commend Crowley for writing a sweet novel and commend Random House.
Pretty Crooked was the second ARC I recieved. I love mysteries and retellings, but was less eager to read this one. I'm not quite sure why, and I thin...morePretty Crooked was the second ARC I recieved. I love mysteries and retellings, but was less eager to read this one. I'm not quite sure why, and I think after reading that there was one reason. I don't really like romance, and the paragraph about Aidan threw me off. The romance aspect wasn't the greatest, and I had some nitpicks, but Pretty Crooked was pretty cute (haha, bad pun).
The basic story reads like a Cinderella story: Willa's struggling artist mother's paintings sell for a large sum of money, and Willa and her mother move to Paradise Valley, Ariz. so that Willa can attend the posh Valley Prep (nicknamed VP) high school. Right away, Willa attracts the attention of the Glitterati, the most popular girls in school. Aidan Murphy, Mr. Hottie Pants, also finds some interest in her.
So yes. The story is cliche in some aspects. And to be truthful, I'd regard this more as MG than YA. It's marketed as YA, but I think a lot of the aspects would work better with younger readers. The only true YA aspect is the high school; everything else seems like it would be more MG, and some of the aspects (BFFs who shop a lot, fancy school) are used more in MG to me.
Onto the characters. Willa's character is bubbly, cute, funny, and smart. She's nice, but a little naive. (Her mom specifically mentions that Willa is attending VP to get into a good college, a fact that Willa doesn't realize until later.) Willa is a sweet character, with enough development and backstory to be realistic. She could be annoying sometimes -- hello? Dump your popular girl friends? Duh. But overall she was sweet, but a tad naive.
Cherise was the best of the mean girls. She actually seemed realistic, annoyed with her friends often and disliking the gossip blog that they ran. She constantly was trying to get the girls to stop their petty ways, and had a great background, dreaming of becoming a doctor like her parents. Sometimes she was more interesting/realistic than Willa, and more likable. Sometimes I also wished the story was in her POV; she seemed more likely to do the "Robin Hood" thing than Willa. Willa had known the girls for such a short time before BAM! the idea appeared; Cherise had known them longer and I think that it would have been more realistic for her to go Robin Hood on them (especially with her constant frusturation over Kelly and Nikki's antics).
Kelly and Nikki....ugh. They were basically every element of popular mean girls mixed together. Rich, loved by everyone, cruel, taunting everyone they meet, and (unsurprisingly) doing cruel things to scholarship girls. They had almost no dimension, just the classic rich and mean girls, and no backstory. The story ends on a cliffhanger, so I assume they'll be more developed in the sequel....I hope. They were my least favorite characters, and their big surprise (the fact that they taunted the scholarship girls online) was predictable and lame. They had almost no difference as characters, not distinguishable as characters in any way. They were just the same walking cliches.
The scholarship girls I liked. Mary, Alicia, and Savannah were good. They broke down usual "scholarship" girl cliches, and had understandable pasts. (Savannah's father was out of a job; Alicia's mother was pregnant and searching for a job; and Mary's father couldn't make enough money to support his family.) They also had understandable emotions, surprised but not greedy when they recieved their items, and angry sometimes over their disappointing lives. They also responded well to their teasing, after being called "Busteds" and racist names, responding nicely but still with anger.
The online bullying was a huge aspect. I appluad Ludwig for bringing that in -- it was a very interesting examination of that, which is huge now. The blog was realistic: a gossip blog where people posted awful pictures and posts anyonomusly, just like anyone can do now on popular gossip blogs or trash websites. But there was another issue I had: the name-dropping. Gosh, they name dropped everywhere. It would be fine if it was just clothes, but nope it was everywhere. Look at that Wii and that Pizza John's pizza, that show about Martha Stewart and the Barefoot Contessa is amazing, and this schoool is for the future Steve Jobs and I want the new iPhone and god, why can't I have that new iPad?
It. Was. Annoying. Ludwig, I think was trying to make her story "current", but it was ridicolous how much name dropping there was. Like, every three pages some character would remark on something current.
And now onto the plot. The Robin Hood aspect could have been developed more, I think. It could have been really interesting, seeing the parallels between Willa and Robin Hood. But it was hardly developed, with Willa absentmindely remarking once that "[I] was kind of like Robin Hood, just better dressed".
And Aidan. Okay, Ludwig pulled out every stop on the "cute hot guy" here. He's mega rich, snobby, dashing, and everyone adores him. Willa thinks he's HOTTTT the second she sees him, but hates him (of course) since he's so snobby (of course). But wait! Now I understand his true emotions and we're in love and kissing in Porsches. :P He was just annoying at the beginning, but I grew to like him more as the story continued. He still kind of fit the hot rich boy, even though he was nicer (big shocker) but still portrayed well (there are too many parentheses in this paragraph).
The ending isn't a big surprise, but it was cute and fun to read. The book is set up for a sequel, with a cliffhanger at the end. I found out that Pretty Crooked was first in a trilogy as well.
And the truth is, even with all of my nitpicks, I liked it. It was a fun, cute romp with quite a few problems but still a fun read. The book was far from perfect but a good escape from reality. I might read it again, but it wasn't one of my favorites. It was cute, fun, and charming, and a good way to spend my time.
It wasn't brilliant or awe-inspiring, but it was cute and that's all that matters. So if you're looking for a fun, cute mystery, this is for you.
My reasons for reading this book were very skewed. Almost like the book itself. I had zero plans to read this novel; most of my friends disliked the b...moreMy reasons for reading this book were very skewed. Almost like the book itself. I had zero plans to read this novel; most of my friends disliked the book and I don't enjoy reading romance, which the book is centered around. Then a librarian friend of mine asked me if I would read and review the book for our public library. I agreed, because she's my friend and I love reviewing books. But from the beginning I had a feeling this book just would....suck. And I'm sad to say that my prediction -- which I wholeheartedly hoped was wrong -- came true.
The book is essentially a "pretty rich girl" story. We've all seen those, whether it be in a novel, on TV, a movie, or elsewhere in the media. The stories are similar: pretty rich girl is super rich and super super selfish, everyone hates her but she thinks she's all that. Then something comes along, whether it be a *hot* guy or some major life-changing event like losing all her money or having both of her rich mogul parents die. With the help of said *hot guy* or some other person who helps her get over the major event in her life, pretty rich girl learns that she doesn't need to be so selfish, that she really can just be normal and not have to follow the rules of society, and she changes into a better, more interesting person.
Kiss Crush Collide follows this stock formula almost perfectly. There's a hot guy, Porter; an overprotective mother; "perfect" sisters; and a mean girl turned friend.
But it strays away from the stock plot designed by Hollywood in one aspect: the main character never changes. Leah begins the novel as a spoiled, rich girl and ends the story barely changed. She still thinks of herself as goregous; she still thinks that she's better than her sisters. I can understand if the author wanted to show that she never changed, that she was so selfish that she was unchangable; but with the many events that happen to her throughout the story, it seems ridicolous for Leah to not change. Shouldn't every character have an arc? Does it need to be a good arc, or even a positive arc? No. But a character should change in some way, whether it's for the better or for the worse.
It makes it hard to relate to Leah, as she's so superficial. She goes to the pool and comments on "how hard" it is to have everyone staring at her, how she'll "never get used to it" and how some people are "lesser than I am, and they'll never get better". The entire book is populated with selfish quotes. And those selfish quotes last from the first to the last page. It makes it extremely hard to read and enjoy this book. I didn't care for Leah. She was stupid and vapid and lame, and frankly, someone I'd stay far far away from.
And Porter/John Duffy/JD/Duffy-- what the heck was up with him? First, I could never keep his name straight. He introduces himself to Leah as "Porter", but then tells her about a hundred pages later that that's not his real name; no, he's lied to her, it only says "Porter" on the back because that's his job: porting cars at a fancy club that Leah's family belongs to. He tells her she can call him John Duffy, JD, Duffy, the works -- and Leah chooses Duffy. Then, at the end of the novel, he buys a coat that says "Porter" on it and Leah remarks how AMAZING! and WONDERFUL! it is that he has that coat. He was essentially a stock character, with the programmed "guy from the wrong side of the tracks" and the sweet, smoldering looks and beautifulness.
So Porter and Leah kiss in a country club and BAM sparks I never really felt their romance; Porter seemed like a nice guy but I never really connected with their love. I never really felt that passion, those sparks Leah kept commenting on. I wanted to see the love and the passion. I wanted to grin and smirk when they had cute moments. But I never felt the passion. It seemed so flat and boring to me. The steamy cover seemed to suggest a steamy romance; instead the romance fell flat.
The rest of the characters -- hmm. They, too, fell for the same stock characters as Leah and Porter-whatshisface. The mother was a stock character, a strong woman who never changed but only was uber harsh and mean. The sisters were almost identical; they never seemed to have any differing personality traits that made me seperate them from each other. Valerie the mean girl's plot was predictable, Shane's plot didn't surprise me either.
Also speaking on the plot, it was....strange. Porter leaves halfway through the book due to a misunderstanding, and then just disappears. So much for the love interest. Yorke (I had to go look up her name, seriously), one of the sisters, was mentioned being pregnant at the end of chapter sixteen. No one mentions the pregnancy again until chapter thirty. Yes, that's fourteen chapters. The plot seemed to meander and just be boring the entire time.
Now, it might seem like I hated this entire book. I didn't. There were two redeeming factors for me, personally: the writing and the strength of the family dynamics that made me up this from one star to one point five stars.
I thought the author handled the family dynamics well. I don't mean that she portrayed the family in a caring way; this family is essentially dysfunctional. She didn't necessarily portray them in a unique way, either; like I mentioned before the family characters seemed stock and boring. But she really portrayed the dysfunctionality well, with Leah's mother's expectations and her sister's relationships and her father's misunderstanding. I really felt trapped, as her mother made horrible decisions (yelling at her daughters, ignoring them, threatening to disown them) and her father made a blind eye. These situations were hard to read at times but they really seemed realistic to the kind of dystfunctional nature Leah lived in. And the truth? At the end, the dysfunctionality hasn't changed. But that's realistic; situations won't change that fast.
The other thing I liked was the author's writing. I mentioned this recently in my review of If I Die : the writing was very fluid and easy to read. It makes for a quick read, if a hard and difficult one to plod through.
I would really only recommend this to people who really enjoy romance or *hot guys*. Otherwise I'd recommend skipping this and picking up other, better romance novels. Also, in case anyone is wondering: I won't be recommending this to my librarian. :) (I am recommending a couple of the other ARCs she got me though -- no worries :D).
I am a bit of a fan girl for Francisco X. Stork's books. His first novel, Marcelo in the Real World is one of my all time favorite books, and I real...moreI am a bit of a fan girl for Francisco X. Stork's books. His first novel, Marcelo in the Real World is one of my all time favorite books, and I really enjoyed his second book, Summer of the Death Warriors . I found out about this book from Scholastic's Librarian Preview (http://www.scholastic.com/librarianpr...) and I was beyond excited to read it.
And it met my expectations -- and exceeded them.
Kate and Mary are two sisters living in El Paso. Since their mother was in an accident, they have grown apart, focused on caring for their mother, who is in a permanent vegetative state. When their father dies, leaving them alone to care for their mother and fend for themselves, the girls find themselves having to make tough decisions. Mary loves painting, but she feels that since Mother died she has lost the "light" that allows her to paint. Kate dreams of being a doctor and attending Stanford University, but she worries that she won't be able to go. As the girls contemplate these decisions, they are helped by a group of three young men. But the final, most important choice is hanging over their heads: what should they do about their mother? Should they let her go?
The first thing I want to note about the plot is the use of the mother being in a vegetative state. I have read several books about mothers being in very serious comas, ie it is not believed they will ever wake up, but none about people being in vegetative states. I thought that was an interesting perspective to bring, and I liked how Stork interwove questions about the girls' choices about their mother, and whether or not they should let her go and detach her from her feeding tube, or continue to care for her.
Also regarding the plot, for a while I was confused about the three romantic interests in the story: Marcos, Simon, and Andy. Marcos and Mary's relationship really was quite sweet, and they seemed to be a good couple. I was less sure about Simon and Andy, Kate's love interests. I didn't really understand what happened with Kate and the two boys at the end, since their relationships seemed to be really up in the air, but they did help move the plot along and force Kate to make hard -- albeit interesting -- choices.
A thing to note: the faith element in the story is very strong (the girls' father works at a church and one of Kate's love interests is her father's replacement after his death) so if you aren't interested in faith-based stories this probably isn't one for you.
The plot was interesting and very sweet, with enough twists and turns to keep me interested. I also very much enjoyed the girls' final choice about their mother and how they ended the novel.
The characters were interesting. Kate and Mary were both very unique and well rounded characters, with their own personalities, hopes, dreams, and questions about life and faith. I sympathized with both of them and understood their choices and longing, as well as their feelings towards both of their parents. The other characters were just as well rounded, including all three of the love interests. When Marcos was entered in to the story as "a bad boy" I was a little worried that the story would take a stereotypical route. But he turned out to be just as well rounded and interesting as the rest, with good dreams and initiative.
The writing is the one part where I struggled a bit and redacted half a star, and I think some others will do the same. Stork's writing is very easy to read and clear, but it's a bit stiff. Sometimes it was hard to read the sentences because they seemed to stiff and fake. It doesn't make for an easy reading experience. I understand the stylistic choice, since the girls talk like this (and, cleverly, Marcos talks to Mary about this) but it was hard to read. I think maybe the story could have been written in a less stiff way. Instead the book could have been written with the characters speaking in a stiff way and not the narrative itself. I know that I can't change the book, obviously, but I disliked that stylistic choice.
Overall, Irises is a great read for fans of Francisco X. Stork, fans of contemporary fiction, and fans of faith-based stories.
Everything You Need to Survive the Apocalypse , I think, is one of those books that you really either love or hate. If you're interested in more rel...more Everything You Need to Survive the Apocalypse , I think, is one of those books that you really either love or hate. If you're interested in more religious themes, like questions of religious identity and faith, this book will be a good read for you. If you aren't interested in such themes and shy away from faith, this book probably won't be a good fit for you. I think what will mostly determine the book's popularity is how many people are interested in such a faith-focused narrative. Just something to keep in mind, if you're deciding whether to read the book or not.
I will say, first, that I am interested in such religious themes and contexts. And I will say that I did enjoy this book.
Phillip is attempting to get through the school year. He runs cross country with his friends, but his tough relationship with the coach (who he has nicknamed Ferret) and the fact that he and his friends are growing apart makes running tough. He is obsessed with the apocalypse and his family is attempting to recover from his mother's death. Phillip meets a girl named Rebecca and they start a relationship. Rebecca is extremely religious and asks Phillip to join her youth group and participate in other church activities. As he gets more and more engrossed in the religious community, hoping to cultivate his relationship with Rebecca, Phillip must decide if he wants to turn into the person she wants him to be.
The plot was pretty good. It curved and twisted, and the revealing of Phillip's mother's story was carefully layered and made sense. The story was poignant and interesting and it seemed to be going well for a while. But it reached almost a spot of predictability, where everything suddenly seemed to be turning predictable. I guessed the ending about fifty pages before the end, and I wasn't surprised at all by the overall conflict resolution. The religion aspect, the part of the book people always seem to want to know more about, was handled well. Klauss does mention some of the negatives of being an evangelical Christian and following their beliefs (several topics are discussed, including gay marriage and whether someone should go to hell if they don't believe in Christ) but he showed respect to the religion and its followers. So the plot was really going fine for a while, but it became predictable towards the end. The ending was sweet, though, and left open a brighter future, in a happy, open ending.
The thing that I felt really redeemed the book, and made me push up the rating a few stars, was the characters. Klauss' biggest strength seems to be in his characters. Phillip really developed, turning from an insecure teenager to someone much stronger; Rebecca's relationships (with her father, etc) really improved; Phillip and Ferret's relationship changed; his relationship with his friends changed. This book is really developed around relationships, and how they change and grow. The characters interacted very well and the dialogue sounded like how teenagers speak, which is a pretty good accomplishment. Some of the characters' relationships did end on an unsurprising note, but they had been so well developed I didn't mind; I wanted for them to have their happy endings. I applaud Klauss for writing relationships well; it seems to be one of his strengths as a writer.
Now, onto the writing. I was thinking hard about the writing as I read. In a lot of the critical reviews (think Kirkus et al), they mentioned that the writing was clipped and hard to read. I kept an extra eye out on the writing, looking for any issues. I didn't really find much of any. Sometimes the writing was clipped, but the majority of the time the writing sounded good. The writing sounded like a teenage boy would, and do teenage boys sometimes think and speak in clipped and fragmented sentences? Yes. So I applaud Klauss for once, again, writing a good story that sounded like a real teenage boy.
This definitly was a strong debut, though if you are disenterested in religious themes it probably is not for you. If you don't mind religious themes and are interested in contemporary, I would add this to your reading lists.I'll look for Klauss' next book. A strong, smart, and fresh debut. (less)
I'm not much of an artist myself. I like art, and the yearly trips to the musems in elementary school didn't bother me much, but I haven't been much o...moreI'm not much of an artist myself. I like art, and the yearly trips to the musems in elementary school didn't bother me much, but I haven't been much of an artiste. I left that to my sister.
So I found this ARC on NetGalley. I had read Tom Leeven's first book Party about a year ago. Both books dealt with the artisty, gritty scene of Los Angeles and the surrounding area. And what did I think?
I'm still unsure, and I finished this book three days ago. But I guess if I had to rate it, say how I felt in more cohesive terms, well, I'd say it was okay.
Party is the story of Amanda. She just graduated from high school, and plans to go into a career as an artist. She's got everything down pat, is ready to go to SAIC, the art college of her dreams. And then her scholarship money -- the only thing getting her to the expensive college -- falls through, and she falls into a whirlwind.
Her parents are fighting constantly and on the rocks of divorce; she has a horrible relationship with her best friend; and she has no idea what to do in the fall. To keep her busy, Amanda's parents make her enroll in community college to take a few art courses and she decides to attend some late-night concerts to feel connected to the "art scene".
I never really connected with Amanda. She has a strong voice which I'll mention later, and sounds like a teenage girl, but she seems disconnected. I symapthized with her, but it was hard at times to read the narrative since it was disconnected. She was so disconnected from the reader, in both grief and anger, that it was hard to read.
I did like her voice, though. She sounded like a raw, gritty teenage girl living, essentially, on the edge of her world.
I do think that Leeven populated his story with some cliches. The angry, on-the-brink parents; the girl seperated from her best friend due to a secret that I found easy to guess; and the girl redempted by love. It didn't affect the story a ton, but at times it seemed painfully obvious like he was running through a checklist:
1. Artsy girl with a secret. 2. Meets boy, fall in love. 3. She discovers big secret that shatters her world...
The climax was...okay. The major secret was revealed, a few "ohmygod" scenes occured where Amanda freaked out, but the majority of the climax was a chapter in a half. By the next chapter Amanda had realized oh, everything's going to be okay, without any reason why she had changed so quickly. She simply woke up, saw the self-portrait she had done, and then realized that everything was fine.
It was an interesting look into the art scene, how everything is so free. I learned some, I guess, considering I'm not in that crowd at all.
I would recommend it more to "artsy" people and those who might be interested in a more "angsty" narrative. A solid read.(less)