October 23, 2012

Saving June by Hannah Harrington

Title: Saving June
Author: Hannah Harrington
Ships launched: 644
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Year published: 2011
Genre: Coming of Age, Teen Fiction

Everyone's sorry. But no one can explain why.Harper Scott's older sister, June, took her own life a week before high school graduation, leaving Harper devastated. So when her divorcing parents decide to split up June's ashes, Harper steals the urn and takes off cross-country with her best friend, Laney, to the one place June always dreamed of going—California.
Enter Jake Tolan, a boy with a bad attitude, a classic-rock obsession…and an unknown connection to June. When he insists on joining them, Harper's just desperate enough to let him. With his alternately charming and infuriating demeanor and his belief that music can see you through anything, he might be exactly what Harper needs. Except…Jake's keeping a secret that has the power to turn her life upside down—again.

Saving June was a reflective read. In the book, Harper Scott struggles to overcome her grief over her sister's death by going on a road trip with Jake. Along the way, she meets interesting people and discovers who her sister really was.

  The first few pages of the book are a little slow but soon enough I couldn't stop turning the pages. The story is filled with grief and really shows the emotions of someone that has lost a loved one.  

The dynamic characters really stand out and are not who I expected them to be. Laney, Harper and Jake are all unique and are vital to the story. Jake comes off as mysterious because Harper does not know how he knew June. As she finds out more about him she learns more about her sister. 

Overall the book was an emotional roller-coaster that made me think about my life and the people in it. 

+50- The book has amazing  playlists in the back. The music brings you closer to Jake, Harper and Laney and you get to experience some of their emotions from the book.

- 16- Plot moved slowly at first. 

+10- An extremely touching novel that makes you think. 

October 9, 2012

Monument 14 by Emmy Laybourne

Title: Monument 14
Author: Emmy Laybourne
Ships launched: 738
Pages: 304
Publisher: Feiwel and Friends
Year published: 2012
Genre: Thriller, Drama, Apocalyptic
Synopsis: In Emmy Laybourne’s action-packed debut novel, six high school kids (some popular, some not), two eighth graders (one a tech genius), and six little kids trapped together in a chain superstore build a refuge for themselves inside. While outside, a series of escalating disasters, beginning with a monster hailstorm and ending with a chemical weapons spill, seems to be tearing the world—as they know it—apart.

When I first read the synopsis for Monument 14 on Goodreads a few months ago, I was intrigued. I've read dozens of stories about characters struggling to survive in the harsh brutality of fictional apocalypses, but a group of kids and teenagers who happen to find shelter and get to wait everything out? How would they handle it? Would all those poor little children stay safe and sound?

So, yes, the premise of this story intrigued me greatly. I was practically squealing when I found it at my library this morning, I was so excited to have found a copy. 

The story starts off quickly. There was no sign of the boring first few intro chapters that are way too common; Monument 14 was literally a page turner. Brutal buckets of hail pour down onto the streets, and many people are killed before the kids and their bus driver make it into a supermarket. Laybourne's writing seemed very fluid and descriptive to me; I could picture everything that was going on. 

Now for the characters. There were fourteen of them, as mentioned in the synopsis and hinted at in the title. 

  1. Dean - teen -  As the main character of this novel, you get to see inside Dean's head for the entire book. He seemed like a nice guy, but he wasn't perfect. He made bad decisions sometimes, and other times he stepped up to the plate and took care of everyone. I loved that he loved to read and write, and his attempts at cooking were admirable.
  2. Astrid - teen - Even though you see Astrid through Dean's eyes (let's just say he looks favorably upon her), she wasn't one of my favorite characters. I felt sorry for her, of course, but she seemed kind of weak to me. Agh! I know! She's living in an apocalypse, I'm sitting here in my comfortable home writing a book review. Who am I to judge? I just think that, compared to Josie, she didn't go through as much, and she didn't hold up as well. [mini spoiler, highlight with cursor to view:] I still don't understand why she was hiding from everyone else for such a long time. I don't get what triggered that, other than the Type O attack. Dean and Chloe went through that as well, and they came out okay. Let's just say Astrid is not my favorite character.
  3. Brayden - teen - He was a jerk. He never really stopped being a jerk, in my opinion. [another spoiler:] You could argue that he was caring and loving towards Josie, but I think he only paid attention to her because he knew Niko liked her, and Brayden didn't like Niko. Again, not one of my favorite characters.
  4. Jake - teen - At first, I had high hopes for Jake. I wanted him to be a strong, fearless leader that would keep the kids together, but he wasn't. Don't get me wrong, he had his good points, but he made some big mistakes. It didn't seem like he cared a lot of the time, either.
  5. Niko - teen - I love how socially awkward he was, and I love how much of a natural leader he was. Yes, he was flawed. Everyone's flawed. I can't stand perfect characters. 
  6. Josie - teen - She was a sixteen year old mother. Not literally, of course, but she took care of a lot of kids. She had such a natural maternal instinct, and when no one else knew what to do next she helped keep everything going. I love all of the homey touches she put on everything; those little things she did for everyone made her one of my favorite characters. 
  7. Alex - pre-teen - (sidenote: he's Dean's brother) I thought Alex was cute. He was smart and geeky and innovative and a genius, and wow, did he have good ideas. 
  8. Sashalia - pre-teen - I identified with her need to be treated as an adult (I've always looked horribly young), but I think she took things a bit too far. Of course, with everything that happens to her, I pity her tremendously. Even so, I'm not a big fan of hers. She annoyed me a bit.
  9. Ulysses - kid - This tiny little Hispanic child wormed his way into my heart. He was so lonely and scared and quiet at the beginning of the story, but when he opened up... I can just imagine his little brown eyes shining with excitement as he's gibbering on and on in Spanish. :)
  10. Batiste - kid -  I understand how he could be annoying, but I like Batiste. He seems really innocent and naive; I feel like I need to protect him. Plus, he's an eight year old that can cook. 
  11. Henry - kid - Henry was Charlotte's twin: they were both so sweet and shy and adorable and loving that I want to give them the biggest hugs imaginable and never let the poor babies go.
  12. Charlotte - kid - See Henry. ^
    They are literally exactly alike.
  13. Chloe - kid - Cute. Sweet. Adorable. I'm glad she has all of those big teenagers to take care of her and everyone else.
  14. Max - kid - Last, but definitely not least, is our dear friend Max. His bluntness and worldliness is astounding. As Dean was thinking, Max has certainly lived an interesting life.
Overall, Monument 14 was very entertaining. I really enjoyed reading it, and it was fascinating. There were some plot points that I just didn't get or like very much, and some of the characters weren't my favorite, but I did like this book. I would recommend it if you want an exciting, fast-paced read, but prepare yourself. [Questionable Scenes (spoiler-y material):] It's pretty gruesome, there's a bit of nudity, and there is an, um, attempted rape (for lack of a better word) involving a young-ish girl. 

+35 - Adorable children :')
+48 - Homey Touches - I loved how creative everyone was to make the supermarket feel cozy and comfortable!

October 2, 2012

Mothership by Martin Leicht and Isla Neal

Title: Mothership (Book One of the Ever-Expanding Universe)
Author: Martin Leicht and Isla Neal
Ships launched: 945
Pages: 320
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Year published: 2012
Genre: Science fiction, fantasy, romance
Synopsis: Teen pregnancy is never easy—especially not when extraterrestrials are involved. The first in a new trilogy.Elvie Nara was doing just fine in the year 2074. She had a great best friend, a dad she adored, and bright future working on the Ares Project on Mars. But then she had to get involved with sweet, gorgeous, dumb-as-a-brick Cole—and now she’s pregnant.Getting shipped off to the Hanover School for Expecting Teen Mothers was not how Elvie imagined spending her junior year, but she can go with the flow. That is, until a team of hot commandos hijacks the ship—and one of them turns out to be Cole. She hasn’t seen him since she told him she’s pregnant, and now he’s bursting into her new home to tell her that her teachers are aliens and want to use her unborn baby to repopulate their species? Nice try, buddy. You could have just called. So fine, finding a way off this ship is priority number one, but first Elvie has to figure out how Cole ended up as a commando, work together with her arch-nemesis, and figure out if she even wants to be a mother—assuming they get back to Earth in one piece.
    Normally, I wouldn't even read a teen pregnancy book but this one caught my eye. Elvie's life seems normal until she gets pregnant and is shipped of to a school in space. As she races against time to save herself from evil alien teachers, Elvie discovers more about herself.
     Mothership is easily the weirdest book I have ever read. Where do people come up with this stuff? The idea is completely unique and hilarious.The characters are well described and Elvie is very likeable. Cole seems like a great alien guy and albeit unconventional, his and Elvie's relationship is cute. The book is filled with humor that made me laugh yet, it can also be serious about a few issues. 

     Overall, the book is a quirky, fast read packed with action and a little romance. It does deal with sensitive topics (teen pregnancy) but comes of as a fluffy read. Filled with many twists and turns, the ending will surprise many readers.

  + 30- great original plot.
   +7- likeable characters
   +8- Weirdness. The good kind.


September 25, 2012

Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley

Title: Where Things Come Back
Author: John Corey Whaley
Ships launched: 909
Pages: 228
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers (part of Simon & Schuster)
Year published: 2011
Genre: Contemporary Fiction/Mystery
Synopsis: Just when seventeen-year-old Cullen Witter thinks he understands everything about his small and painfully dull Arkansas town, it all disappears. . . . 
In the summer before Cullen's senior year, a nominally-depressed birdwatcher named John Barling thinks he spots a species of woodpecker thought to be extinct since the 1940s in Lily, Arkansas. His rediscovery of the so-called Lazarus Woodpecker sparks a flurry of press and woodpecker-mania. Soon all the kids are getting woodpecker haircuts and everyone's eating "Lazarus burgers." But as absurd as the town's carnival atmosphere has become, nothing is more startling than the realization that Cullen’s sensitive, gifted fifteen-year-old brother Gabriel has suddenly and inexplicably disappeared.

I must say, John Corey Whaley crafted an absolutely amazing debut YA novel here, and I'm not the only one who thinks so. Where Things Come Back has already won the William C. Morris Debut Award and the Michael L. Printz Award. (Pretty impressive, right?)

Bad things: The plot was a little slow; it wasn't exactly a page-turner.

That's it. That's my list of bad things.

The originality in this novel is a breath of fresh air with all of the copycat YA books out there. The synopsis doesn't seem like much, but it is. Trust me.  
If you had to summarize the entire book in one sentence, it would be this: Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley tells the story of a young boy's disappearance from a small town in Arkansas.
Now, if you've read the book, you would know that that does not even begin to describe it. This story is about so many other things, like sadness and life and the world. So much ground is covered in this tiny, 200 page book. 

When I first started it, some things seemed kind of random. What? Why are we talking about a missionary in Africa when we were just talking about this dude's brother? It seems like there are two completely different story lines, but Whaley weaves them together so intricately, but so simply at the same time. There is that one a-ha! moment where everything clicks into place, and then you just read and read and turn the pages as fast as you can; you have to find out what happens. 

Cullen Witter was the main character of Where Things Come Back. He is full of thoughts and curiosity. I don't really know how to describe him. He is not perfect. Of course not. But he is kind and sad and naive and foolish. He likes to make up book titles. He is immature and mature at the same time. He is Cullen Witter.

I wish Gabriel was real. I want to meet him. He is so innocent and he seems so wise and kind; his music and his t-shirts and everything about him is, like his brother, full of thoughts. 

All of the characters were fleshed out and real (except maybe the Quit Man). You could see who they really were and how they got to be that way. 

As I mentioned before, Whaley's writing was a little slow, but it worked really well with the plot and the characters. The story intrigued me.

I would highly, highly recommend Where Things Come Back. Trust me, you'll like it. 

+18 - Isn't the cover just gorgeous?

+16 - Cullen's book titles. I loved every single one of them. Can I see his whole list, John Corey Whaley? Pretty please?

+13 - All of the interesting stare/look phrases. Ex: "He had that waiting-for-me-to-give-in-to-his-odd-request-and-just-go-with-the-flow sort of look on his face." (173) Whaley put quite a lot of those into this book, no matter whose point of view he was writing from. I've never seen so many used so often in a book before, and they kind of defined Whaley's writing style.

September 18, 2012

Evil Genius by Catherine Jinks

Title: Evil Genius
Author: Catherine Jinks
Ships launched: 714
Pages: 552
Publisher: Harcourt books
Year published: 2005
Genre: YA fiction, adventure, mystery
Synopsis: Cadel Piggott has a genius IQ and a fascination with systems of all kinds. At seven, he was illegally hacking into computers. Now he’s fourteen and studying for his World Domination degree, taking classes like embezzlement, misinformation, forgery, and infiltration at the institute founded by criminal mastermind Dr. Phineas Darkkon. Although Cadel may be advanced beyond his years, at heart he’s a lonely kid. When he falls for the mysterious and brilliant Kay-Lee, he begins to question the moral implications of his studies for the first time. But is it too late to stop Dr. Darkkon from carrying out his evil plot?
  Cadel is in training to be an evil mastermind. He enjoys wrecking havoc on people by using his extraordinary genius type skills and has no heart. All begins to change however, when he starts to develop feelings...for a girl! As Cadel struggles to find his true self, he undergoes a wild adventure that makes him question everything he knows.
   The book described things with amazing detail. Places like the Axis Institute were unique and quite comical. Cadel is an odd lonely boy that readers will root for (even when he is being "evil"). Though the story has a serious undertone, the variety of characters create a humorous effect.

 "Bad guys" like Dr. Drakkon and Thaddeus Roth are funny and likeable.The plot also shocked me with it's surprising turn.  Sometimes the book dragged along but the story was worth the time.

+10- Funny characters.
-3- dragged on sometimes.
+7-Surprising end in plot.



September 11, 2012

Paper Towns by John Green

Title: Paper Towns
Author: John Green
Ships launched: 791
Pages: 305
Publisher: Dutton Books
Year published: 2008
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Synopsis: Quentin Jacobsen has spent a lifetime loving the magnificently adventurous Margo Roth Spiegelman from afar. So when she cracks open a window and climbs back into his life - dressed like a ninja and summoning him for an ingenious campaign of revenge - he follows. After their all-nighter ends and a new day breaks, Q arrives at school to discover that Margo, always an enigma, has now become a mystery. But Q soon learns that there are clues - and they're for him. Urged down a disconnected path, the closer Q gets, the less Q sees the girl he thought he knew.

Wow. John Green. Wow.
I'm sitting here, staring at his author picture on the back of this book, and thinking. What goes on in that man's head? How does he imagine these fantastical and wondrous stories and characters and...
Excuse my rambling. How about this: John Green rules. End of story.
The first story I ever tried to read of his was An Abundance of Katherines. Notice how I said "tried"? When I picked it up, I was tired. I was moody. I was upset. And I was not used to the awesomeness that is John Green. So I read about a chapter before setting it down and picking up a dependable, soothing, cliché chick lit book.
But I severely misjudged our dear friend Mr. Green. I did not realize that until recently, when I picked up The Fault in Our Stars and took it with me to the beach. It was amazing, to say the least.
Coincidentally, I read Paper Towns at the beach, earlier today. 
I have to say my favorite part was the gas station stop. I am not usually a giggle-out-louder, so I received some strange looks from my sister as I was reading that section.
I love how Quentin develops as a character. He seemed kind of young and ignorant at the beginning of the story, and he really grew into a more understanding human being. He understood, at the end, that Margo was just a person with thoughts and feelings, not some amazingly perfect thing that could never do anything wrong. Plus, he was a sweetheart. 
I loved how thoughtful Quentin was. He wasn't the kind of thoughtful where you remember someone's favorite candy and buy them some, or anything. He was the kind of thoughtful where he processes everything around him and tries to see the world differently. He thought all the time, about little things and big things. I loved his comparison of the minivan to a house, where he described all the little "rooms" inside it. I loved how much he understood about everything: the way he sat in the minimall and thought, the way he read Walt Whitman so thoroughly and thought. He was the true meaning of thoughtful: full of thoughts. 
I'm still not sure how I feel about Margo. I respect her, but I'm not sure if I actually like her. Her little games and plans and things just seem a little, well, mean. I don't know. It also seems like running away is her go to thing when times get hard.
Ben and Radar are awesome. I mean, they are pretty disgusting quite often. They're guys. But they are quite awesome. 
At first, I didn't like Lacey at all, but she grew to become one of my favorite characters. She was sweet and honest and caring and just plain cool. 
When I look back on the novel as a whole, it doesn't seem that special. But when you examine it closely, you see all the beautiful little things about it that make it special. 
I didn't much like the ending, but I can't really see how it could have possibly ended any other way and still have been a good story. 
Overrall, though, it was awesome. I kind of want a minivan now. ;) (GASP! I did not just type that... Haha)

This quote from the book really made me stop and think:
"'I'm not saying that everything is survivable. Just that everything except the last thing is.'" (pg. 301)

+20 - the hilarious bits
+ 9 - margo's Awesomely random Capitalization, because It Isn't fair to The words in the Middle, is It?

September 4, 2012

The Stalker Chronicles by Carley Moore

Title: The Stalker Chronicles
Author: Carley Moore
Ships launched: 615
Pages: 240
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Year Published: 2012
Genre: YA Fiction
   Sophomore Cammie Bliss has long been labeled a stalker by her peers, but when a cute new boy named Toby arrives at her small town high school, Cammie has a chance to be "normal." Trouble is, she can't really help herself and she's up to her old tricks of "intense observation and following" pretty quick. Making things worse, her younger brother is dating one of the most popular girls in the school, her parents have separated, and her dad has begun to watch their house most nights. Cammie has simply got to figure out why she behaves the way she does, and end it once and for all.

  Cammie is a typical teenage girl with a big problem. She can't seem to stop stalking people. Everyone stalks from time to time, whether it's casual facebook stalking or just searching for people's information online. Cammie, however, sometimes goes above and beyond in the realm of stalking. 
    Cammie is an unusual character. In the beginning of the novel, she comes off as a little crazy but readers will soon realize that she has good intentions and is only curious. Luckily, Cammie has understanding friends to warn her when she oversteps her bounds. One thing that influences Cammie is her highly dysfunctional family. When her parents separate, she notices her dad spying on the family which motivates her to stop stalking. Her brother is embarrassed by her, and she is targeted by the popular girls but she doesn't let them get her down. Her crush, Toby, also struggles with his own problems which makes him perfect for Cammie.

   One thing I like about the book is how Cammie crosses the line, but notices she has a problem and attempts to stop.The plot is bizarre yet strangely captivating . I couldn't put the book down even when things got really weird. 
-5- Sometimes Cammie's stalking tactics creeped me out.
+20- Overall, Cammie is an enjoyable main character that experience's many awkward situations. 


August 28, 2012

Being Friends With Boys by Terra Elan McVoy

Title: Being Friends With Boys
Author: Terra Elan McVoy
Ships launched: 565
Pages: 361
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Year published: 2012
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Synopsis: Charlotte and Oliver have been friends forever. She knows that he, Abe, and Trip consider her to be one of the guys, and she likes it that way. She likes being the friend who keeps them all together. Likes offering a girl's perspective on their love lives. Likes being the behind-the-scenes wordsmith who writes all the lyrics for the boys' band. Char has a house full of stepsisters and a past full of backstabbing (female) ex-best friends, so for her, being friends with boys is refreshingly drama-free...until it isn't any more. When a new boy enters the scene and makes Char feel like, well, a total girl...and two of her other friends have a falling out that may or may not be related to one of them deciding he possibly wants to be more than friends with Char...being friends with all these boys suddenly becomes a lot more complicated.

Being Friends With Boys was kind of a cute story, but it wasn't great. Most of the time, the drama felt overdone and pointless. The story also seemed a tad slow, yet somehow rushed, if that makes any sense.
The characters. Hm.
Trip and Oliver were just plain weird. What's up with the moodiness, guys? That was never really explained too well.
And Fabian! Oh, you were gorgeously amazing. I couldn't believe (spoiler, highlight the following with cursor to see:) you were gay! Well, I could. But it was disappointing. You would have been good for Charlotte. :) 
Fabian, you helped Charlotte tremendously. You were a good friend, my sweet little nerd boy. :) You were undoubtedly my favorite character.
For some reason, I was always, throughout the entire book, suspicious of Benji. He just seemed off.
Lish. Is it just me, or is that a weird name? Well, a weird name for a weird person, I guess. I read about them all the time, but I've never met people who are actually mean and manipulative.
A lot of times, in books, stepsisters are portrayed as cruel, heartless little evil things. Charlotte's stepsisters were so sisterly that it was easy to love them. :)

Why. WHY? WHY ALL THE DRAMA? I mean, I understand how a story is boring without some conflict, but really? The characters were like toddlers in a play pretending to be angry. Stomping around, being all huffy, while trying not to laugh. Without all the cuteness.
Maybe I'm being a bit harsh, but I didn't really like this book.
                      +15 - Fabian - He rocks. End of story. And his name? Isn't it the coolest thing ever???

August 21, 2012

Avalon High

Title: Avalon High
Author: Meg Cabot
Ships launched: 822
Pages: 304
Publisher: HarperTeen
Year Published: 2005
Genre: YA romance, Fantasy
Synopsis: To newcomer Ellie, Avalon High seems like a typical American high school, complete with jocks, nerds, cheerleaders, and even the obligatory senior class president, quarterback, and all-around good guy. But it doesn't take Ellie long to suspect that something weird is going on beneath the glossy surface of this tranquil hall of learning. As she pieces together the meaning of this unfolding drama, she begins to recognize some haunting Arthurian echoes, causing her to worry that she has become just a pawn in mythic history.
       The legend of King Arthur is well known throughout the world. Avalon High takes the classic tale and turns it into a fascinating story of love and adventure for teens. Ellie is just your normal everyday girl. She loves to swim, run, and do other normal things. Soon she moves to a new school in a new state where she undertakes the adventure of a lifetime with the legendary characters from camelot. At her new school Ellie catches the eye of senior class president/national merit finalist/quarterback Will. Unfortunately he seems to play a part in the reincarnation of King Arthur's court.  

   This book is of my favorite Meg Cabot books. Ellie is extremely likeable. She's quirky and a tall geek girl. Will seems perfect, except for when he's not. Even Lance and Jennifer are likeable although they... well you'll see. The characters are well crafted for teens yet still show a hint of their Arthurian legacy. 
   The plot is engaging and there is never a dull moment. Cabot doesn't skimp on the small things, Excalibur and other elements of Camelot are included in the plot. The story is packed with excitement, adventure, and romance which mix together to make the story an unique work. 

+10- Great relatable main character.
+12- Remains (somewhat) true to the legend of Camelot.



August 14, 2012

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

Title: The Grapes of Wrath
Author: John Steinbeck
Ships Launched: 669
Pages: 406
Publisher: Bantam Books
Year Published: 1939
Genre: Classic
Synopsis: John Steinbeck's Pulitzer Prize-winning epic of the Great Depression follows the western movement of one family and a nation in search of work and human dignity. Perhaps the most American of American classics. The novel focuses on the Joads, a poor family of sharecroppers driven from their Oklahoma home by drought, economic hardship, and changes in financial and agricultural industries. Due to their nearly hopeless situation, and in part because they were trapped in the Dust Bowl, the Joads set out for California. Along with thousands of other "Okies", they sought jobs, land, dignity and a future. When preparing to write the novel, Steinbeck wrote: "I want to put a tag of shame on the greedy bastards who are responsible for this [the Great Depression and its effects]." The book won Steinbeck a large following among the working class, perhaps due to the book's sympathy to the workers' movement and its accessible prose style.

Hm. The Grapes of Wrath. Let me just say that I did not read this book for pleasure. I’m a little ashamed to admit it, but I’m not so intellectual as to pick up a, dare I say, boring classic and call it light reading (that’s Gemma). No, The Grapes of Wrath was our summer reading assignment. And usually, I don’t like summer reading assignments. I just hate when someone tells you to read. No matter how good the book is, I always feel a bit disgruntled that I have to follow orders and obediently turn page after page…
But, surprisingly, I liked The Grapes of Wrath. I don’t know what I expected, but I wasn’t expecting how deep and moving the book was.
The story begins with a chapter on dust.
Don’t let that scare you away! It’s interesting dust. It’s sad dust. The dusty things the dust does hurts people, but I don’t think the dust can help it.
Then Tom Joad comes along. Now, poor Tom Joad has just gotten out of prison on parole for killing a man, but he isn’t vicious. In fact, just the opposite. I like to think of Tom as a gentle giant. He has the power, but he wouldn’t hurt anyone unless he had to. Tom picks up a ride with a trucker on his way home to his family. He meets up with his old preacher who isn’t a preacher anymore, Jim Casy. They head together up to the house where Tom’s family lived.
Now, for those of you readers who haven’t yet read The Grapes of Wrath, I’ll stop there. If you haven’t noticed, we try not to be spoiler-y…
The Joad family wasn’t perfect, by any means. The children, Ruthie and Winfield, liked to beat other kids up a bit too much. The dad kept grumbling about wanting to beat his wife. Al, Tom’s younger brother, had an amazingly one-track mind; he pursued girls with abandon. And Noah, bless his little soul, just seemed quiet, lonely, and sad. The whole time.
But the Joads were good people. They looked out for their own. If someone needed help, they always tried to help, even if they weren’t in the position to be helping others.
Ma Joad held everyone together. She did every single thing she could to keep her family together. She had a sort of fiery determination in her that never ceased, even when she was bone tired and nothing seemed okay. The Joad family would never have made it anywhere without her.
Grampa and Granma Joad were good and ornery, just like a lot of other old people. They may have been ornery, but they were still good people.
Rosasharn seemed pitiful, most of the time. I mean, she was pregnant throughout the entire book. But, I don’t know. Sometimes she seemed a bit whiny and selfish, but that could have been the pregnancy hormones talking. I couldn’t really, erm, relate to that, so I don’t know. But her name? Which is it, Rosasharn or Rose of Sharon?
Connie. Connie, Connie, Connie. I think Connie was a good guy. He wanted to create a life for Rosasharn and him, but he just couldn’t figure it out. He got scared.
Al was also a good person. What am I saying? They’re all good people, they just have flaws here and there. Like real life. Al was kind of the guts and glory kind of dude. He wanted the girls, and he wanted the girls. He tried to be as much of a ladies’ man as possible, when he wasn’t working hard. He also seemed a tad arrogant, to me.
The story in The Grapes of Wrath made me sad. All of those poor people, uprooted from their homes, deceived into going to Caifornia, and treated like dirt there. I don’t know how they could have handled it. I certainly wouldn’t have been able to stand all of the uncertainty, the hard labor, the frustration, all of it. They were strong, these people. But sometimes, they just weren’t strong enough.
Pretty soon into the book, I figured out that Steinbeck wrote with a sort of pattern. He’d have one long chapter about the plot and one short chapter with philosophical thinking and beautiful descriptions after it. This continued for the whole book.
My favorite part of the book was the short, philosophical chapters. I actually started tearing up during one passage because, well, it was just so beautiful and sad.
Even though I did not find The Grapes of Wrath very exciting, I’m glad I read it. If you have the time to pick up this four hundred page novel, then I suggest you do so. It is well worth the read.

            “Two hundred and fifty thousand people over the road. Fifty thousand cars – wounded, steaming. Wrecks along the road, abandoned. Well, what happened to them? What happened to the folks in that car? Did they walk? Where are they? Where does that courage come from? Where does the terrible faith come from? And here’s a story you can hardly believe, but it’s true, and it’s funny and it’s beautiful. There was a family of twelve and they were forced off the land. They had no car. They built a trailer out of junk and loaded it with their possessions. They pulled it to the side of the 66 and waited. And pretty soon a sedan picked them up. Five of them rode in the sedan and seven on the trailer, and a dog on the trailer, and they got to California in two jumps. The man who pulled them fed them. And that’s true. But how can such courage be, and such faith in their own species? Very few things would teach such faith.
            “The people in flight from the terror behind – strange things happen to them, some bitterly cruel and some so beautiful that the faith is refired forever.”
                                                            (Chapter 12, page 106)

Also, everything in chapter 14 is absolutely amazing.
There’s a lot more stuff I could put up here, but I don’t want to make this post too long.
                        + 30 – The beauty of Steinbeck’s writing. He makes a turtle crossing the road seem utterly fascinating.
                        -  11 – As Gemma puts it, the preacher is kind of a pervert. It’s a tad disturbing.

August 7, 2012

The Princess Plot by Kristen Boie

Title: The Princess Plot
Author: Kristen Boie
Ships Launched:773
Pages: 378
Publisher: Scholastic
Year Published: 2010
Genre: Contemporary, Fantasy, Adventure
Synopsis: Jenna has just won the starring role in a film about a princess--sweet! In the wink of an eye, she's whisked off to a remote, romantic kingdom for the "shoot." But something's amiss: First, she finds out she bears an uncanny resemblance to the real princess, who has run away following the death of her father, the king. Then she learns that the conniving regent plans to use her to take control of the country, now being fought over by rebels. As the plot twists and turns, Jenna discovers just what she's made of--and just why she resembles the missing princess so much!

When I first read this book, I had no idea that it was originally a German bestseller. Yes, I'm a tad ignorant.
In The Princess Plot, a young girl named Jenna wins a starring role in a princess movie against all odds, but mysterious things begin to happen when she arrives at the filming location in the foreign country of Scandia. 
Boie did a great job with creating the country of Scandia. Every country has its problems, and Scandia certainly has its fair share of them. Made up of two islands, the South has always been rich and successful, but the North has been taken advantage of for years. They are one step away from a civil war.
Jenna seems like a normal teenage girl. She is insecure at times, and in difficult situations she tries to be brave and do the right thing, but a lot of the time she cannot help but panic.  
We don't really get much information on Malena, just that she is sad that her father is dead and that her people love her. Her character doesn't really have much depth.
Jonas, however, we know a little more about. We know that he misses his mother and that he has a strong friendship with Malena. He seems rude and sullen a lot of the time, but when you get to know him better you find that he is not like that at all. 
Norlin is a bad guy, yes, but you cannot help but feel a little sympathy for him at times. That is not the case with Bolstrom. He is rotten through and through.
The plot of The Princess Plot (ha ha) is interesting, if not a bit fantastical. It's easy to get swept up in all of the action and drama. 
The one thing that annoys me with this book is the writing. I understand that it is first and foremost a German book, and the English is translated from that, but I must say that the writing seems halting and, well, fake at some points. I find myself snorting at certain phrases and thinking, "Real teenagers would never say that." 
The translator, David Henry Wilson, is obviously not a teenage girl and never was a teenage girl, so of course he does not know the things that teenage girls know.
Take, for example, this description:
      "The young man smiled. He was good-looking, film-star good-looking. He was supercute." (pg. 21)
Um... supercute? Since when is that one word? Since when do teenagers use that to describe guys? 
Please excuse my nitpicking. It just annoys me.
Other than those kind of things, The Princess Plot is a pretty entertaining book. Read it! 
         +15 - Scandia - I know an amusement park named Scandia! I've never been there, but I drive past it every time we go to the mountains! (And no, that doesn't really have to do with the book, but...)

July 31, 2012

The Wednesday Letters by Jason F. Wright

Title: The Wednesday Letters
Author: Jason F. Wright
Ships Launched: 637
Pages: 282
Publisher: Berkley Publishing Group
Year Published: 2007
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Tragedy, Christian
Synopsis: Their story begins with one letter on their wedding night, a letter from the groom, promising to write his bride every week—for as long they both shall live. Thirty-nine years later, Jack and Laurel Cooper die in each other's arms. And when their grown children return to the family B&B to arrange the funeral, they discover thousands of letters. The letters they read tell of surprising joys and sorrows. They also hint at a shocking family secret—and ultimately force the children to confront a life-changing moment of truth . . .

Even though this book is not really YA, I thought it looked cute and decided to pick it up.
It wasn’t really my type, but it was an entertaining read. It kind of reminded me of a Nicholas Sparks book, but not as dramatic or romantic.
The Wednesday Letters is about an adorable and sweet old couple who peacefully pass away one night at their bed and breakfast. Their children come together and discover the letters that Jack, the husband, had written his wife every Wednesday since their wedding day. As they read the letters, they happen upon an old family secret that could change their lives.
Jack and Laurel, the old couple, were the kindest, sweetest people. The stories of their marriage were so hilarious and heartbreaking; I wanted to meet them in real life.
A&P was so generous. She spent all of her time at Jack and Laurel’s bed and breakfast, and she tipped outrageously for every little thing they did. Little did she know that the couple was sending all of her money to a children’s shelter in Washington D.C.
Jack and Laurel’s children were all so flawed, but yet so charming. Each of them - Samantha, Malcolm, Matthew – they all had their redeeming qualities. Malcolm’s unfailing sense of humor, Sam’s spunk, Matthew’s intelligence. Even with all their mistakes, they were good people.
Rain was such a sweetheart. Nathan never deserved her, that jerkface.
I liked the story, but it wasn’t all that exciting. It wasn’t supposed to be, of course, but it kind of seemed boring.
The Wednesday Letters was a decent book, but unless you like slow drama and tragedy, I wouldn’t necessarily read it.

            +25 – Cameron – Such a sweet boy. To me, his story was the saddest part of the book.
            +63 – A&P – Can’t there be people as generous, steadfast, and kind as her in real life?

The Nanny Diaries by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus

Title: The Nanny Diaries
Author: Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus
Ships Launched: 811
Pages: 306
Publisher: St. Martin’s
Year Published: 2002
Genre: Comedy, Contemporary
Synopsis: Wanted: One young woman to take care of four-year-old boy. Must be cheerful, enthusiastic and selfless—bordering on masochistic. Must relish sixteen-hour shifts with a deliberately nap-deprived preschooler. Must love getting thrown up on, literally and figuratively, by everyone in his family. Must enjoy the delicious anticipation of ridiculously erratic pay. Mostly, must love being treated like fungus found growing out of employers Hermès bag. Those who take it personally need not apply.
Who wouldn’t want this job? Struggling to graduate from NYU and afford her microscopic studio apartment, Nanny takes a position caring for the only son of the wealthy X family. She rapidly learns the insane amount of juggling involved to ensure that a Park Avenue wife who doesn’t work, cook, clean, or raise her own child has a smooth day. When the Xs marriage begins to disintegrate, Nanny ends up involved way beyond the bounds of human decency or good taste. Her tenure with the X family becomes a nearly impossible mission to maintain the mental health of their four-year-old, her own integrity and, most importantly, her sense of humor. Over nine tense months, Mrs. X and Nanny perform the age-old dance of decorum and power as they test the limits of modern-day servitude.

The Nanny Diaries has never failed to make me smile, no matter how many times I re-read it. The absurdities of the X family and the acts that Nanny goes to to please them are so hilarious and outrageous, one cannot help but chuckle.
And while the book is quite amusing, there is sweet little Grayer. He is so adorable, whether he’s locking Nanny out of the apartment or sitting on her lap, helping her turn pages of a book.
And yes, the book is funny and adorable, but it is also a bit disturbing. I know it is fiction, but I couldn’t help but wonder if people really lived like that. Do people really leave their children in the care of a nanny, go to the spa all day, and call it being a stay-at-home mom? Can husbands really care that little about their family? And how in the world can you treat someone the way that Mrs. X treats Nanny?
Of course, I know all these things are true in one way another. These things do happen. But that doesn’t mean I have to like it.
Oh, sorry. Excuse my mini rant.
Aside from all of those disturbing bits, The Nanny Diaries really is an entertaining book. It’s not the most meaningful thing I’ve ever read, but not everything has to be meaningful! Everyone needs to be able to pick up good chick lit once in a while and have a good laugh.
Nanny’s grandmother was absolutely fantastic. Her wildness was admirable, and she didn’t let her age stop her from being young, if you know what I mean. She was very funny, but she was still kind. I would love to have her as a friend, even!
I love that not that many people have real names in this book. Or maybe they do. Maybe Mr. and Mrs. X are actually Mr. and Mrs. X, and maybe Nanny’s name is Nanny.
And let’s not forget Harvard Hottie. Oh my, he is wonderful. How does someone like him have such horrible friends?
If you want a light, humorous read that will make you smile (not to sound clichéd, or anything), I highly recommend The Nanny Diaries. The movie isn’t half bad, but Scarlett Johannson never was my favorite actress. And. The. Movie. Is. Different!
“But, Ahlorha,” you might say. “All movies are different from the book!”
“But, Readers. It was really different!” I would reply. “Really, really different!”
 Oh my, am I talking to our imaginary readers again?
            +36 – Grayer the Adorable – How can he be so cute and adorable with parents like that?
            +15 – Nanny’s Grandmother – So understanding… Even about the earmuffs! Kind of… (You’ll see, dear readers, you’ll see.)

July 28, 2012

Hey there, Ahlorha here. :)

Hey guys,
You may have noticed that I haven't posted a review for a month, and poor Gemma has been doing everything. I just wanted to let you all know why.
I've been on a road trip with my family for past two or three weeks, and it has been, well, interesting. Aside from our trailer nearly burning down and being in the middle of a lake in a thunderstorm, everything is great!
I haven't had any Wi-Fi, which is why I haven't posted. I have Wi-Fi now, though!
For about the next month, it will just be my reviews to make up for the whole month of Gemma reviews. I know you're sad that you won't be able to read her wonderful reviews for a while, but she'll be back sooner than you think. :)
I just wanted to say sorry for disappearing for a while there. Thanks to Gemma for covering for me! 
See you guys this Tuesday :)

July 24, 2012

TMI by Sarah Quigly

Title: TMI
Author: Sarah Quigley
Ships launched: 635
Pages: 288
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Year published: 2009
Genre: Teen 
     Friends call Becca the Overshare Queen, but her tendency for TMI never seemed like a problem to her until she blabs about her sweet band-geek boyfriend's sloppy kisses - and gets dumped! Realizing it may be better to resist the temptation to overshare face-to-face, Becca decides to blog anonymously about everything instead. On her blog, Too Much Information, Becca unleashes her alter ego, Bella. Bella tells it like it is . . . though perhaps with a bit more drama. After all, no one's going to read it, right??
        Becca is known for one thing, sharing too much information. She blabs about everything to everyone and can't seem to stop. Her mouth gets her into big trouble when it results in her being dumped. As a way to vent her "tmi" thoughts she starts a blog that no one will ever read.

       Becca is hilarious, her narration is bubbly and makes me smile. There are moments were I want to cringe for her sake but she is a likeable character. Her friends are likeable too. Kate and Jai have awesome personalities and  are good friends that accept Becca even with her overshare tendencies. 
   I like the way the story is written. Becca's upbeat voice makes everything funnier and the story more enjoyable. The plot is cute but some events are predictable. TMI made me laugh and was a good book.
      +20- narration
      +16- relatable characters 
      -1- predicatble

July 17, 2012

Waiting for You by Susane Colasanti

Title: Waiting for You
Author: Susane Colasanti
Ships launched: 504
Pages: 320
Publisher: Speak
Year published: 2009
Genre: coming of age, romance
At the beginning of her sophomore year, Marisa is ready for a fresh start and, more importantly, a boyfriend. So when the handsome and popular Derek asks her out, Marisa thinks her long wait for happiness is over. But several bumps in the road—including her parents’ unexpected separation, a fight with her best friend, and a shocking disappointment in her relationship with Derek—test Marisa’s ability to maintain her new outlook. Only the anonymous DJ, whose underground podcasts have the school’s ear, seems to understand what Marisa is going through. But she has no idea who he is—or does she?

       At the first glance, Waiting for You seems to be like the average teenage romance novel and in some ways it is. Readers will have no trouble identifying the "mysterious" DJ or figuring out who Marisa ends up with. However, the journey to the end of the story is surprising and satifsying.
    Marisa is a normal teenage girl who wants to reinvent herself for her sophomore year but many obstacles stand in her way. A) Her depression/anxiety B) Her parents separation and C) The fight with her BFF Sterling. Marisa finally gets the guy of her dreams but (no surprise) he turns out to be not as great as she thought.  Then there is her friend Nash. Nash is the ultimate geek but sweet and witty. He helps Marisa through her problems it's obvious that he likes her. As the DJ begins his podcast, Marisa identifies with what he says and wonders who he is even though the answer is right in front of her.

    The book was a cute read but some things annoyed me. Some of the language is cliched and most teenage girls don't speak like stupid airheads. Also the plot took awhile to capture my interest. Waiting for You was a sweet, quick read.

+12- Nash is an awesome character and a cute nerd.
- 6- Cliched language was off putting.
- 2- Plot was boring in the beginning.