Review #88 (3-23-16)

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Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Melinda Sordino is entering her freshman year of high school with a horrible secret. Her friends think that she called the police just to crash their party, causing everyone to socially reject her. But little do they know that’s not all there is to it. Depressed and alone, Melinda’s only comfort is art class where she may finally face what happened to her and speak up for herself.


What I Thought of Speak

Laurie Halse Anderson is truly the master of realistic fiction. Speak is a thoughtful book that tackles real issues that usually aren’t covered in young adult novels. There’s great writing, a heroic female protagonist and a conflict that many can relate to and even more need to know about. Laurie Halse Anderson writes fluently and smoothly with structure and the perfect amount of drama. She knows her audience, and writes with purpose and voice, therefore enhancing the novel. The way she crafted Melinda is equally well-done as she is relatable but also becomes a role model later in the novel. Depression, social rejection, bullying and assault are all themes in Speak that reach out to those who are struggling and educate those who aren’t. It makes you realize how you can’t judge people because you haven’t been in their shoes, which is an important lesson for all teens and tweens. In conclusion, Speak is a worthwhile and timeless read that you are bound to enjoy.

The most memorable part of Speak is when we learn Melinda’s secret. It’s shocking, realistic and dramatic all rolled into one.

Overall Rating: 5 Stars

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Review #87 (3-14-16)

This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp

this-is-where-it-ends-315x472Nothing happens at Opportunity High. Not until the doors of the packed auditorium won’t open and someone starts shooting. Nothing happens at Opportunity High until the day its torn apart by bullets.


What I Thought of This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp

Although This Is Where It Ends is original and well written, it holds a very unfair and over-simplified view of an incredibly real and important topic: school shootings. Generally, I like sad books, especially ones that cover new and controversial subjects. However, this book falls short with its unrealistic plot.

To start with what This Is Where It Ends did right, the 4 perspective narration was pulled of rather well. It was interesting to see the varying opinions on the shooter named Tyler and to read the plot develop in four different situations. In addition, the writing was fairly good. For a mid-length book covering over less than an hour of time, it was a surprisingly quick and easy read. The constant action mixed with bittersweet flashbacks, so the story didn’t get too repetitive or boring like I expected. In fact, the flashbacks were probably the best part of this book. In all other respects, the plot and character development were awful.

With This Is Where It Ends, the author had an opportunity to address how such terrible events could be prevented. Instead, Tyler was painted as a textbook villain with no real motivation (of course, no motivation is valid for a crime like this, but still). This book could’ve focused on the factors that went into Tyler’s decision to commit such tragic actions, but it instead made him out to be an 18 year old “bad guy”. Even his sister Autumn was able to accept the fact that her only real family was pointing a gun at her peers and teachers in less than ten seconds. Additionally, it portrayed the police force as useless and incompetent. Somehow, they were okay with a couple seniors running the rescue of the entire student body. Apparently, throwing around the words “triage” and “emergency center” makes the author a police procedure specialist. Finally, the plot in general made very little sense. After the way the office, gym, and auditorium locations were described, Opportunity High School must’ve had the structural layout of a Pac Man maze, which made everything ten times more confusing. With all the plot holes and general unlikelihood of what happened, it is evident that the author really didn’t think much of this through.

Overall, This Is Where It Ends took a very promising premise and made it into a huge disappointment. Even though I loved the idea, I can only give the execution 2 stars due to the black and white “bad guy” and laughably unrealistic plot.

The most memorable part of this book is Tomás’s sacrifice. Although it made zero sense and was kind of dumb, it was unexpected and memorable as well.

Overall Rating: 2 Stars

Review #86 (3-9-16)

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Shades of Earth by Beth Revis

After centuries of being trapped in space, Godspeed has finally reached it’s destination. But this new “Earth” is nothing like what Amy or Elder was expecting. There’s danger lurking in every corner, with toxic flowers and savage animals ready to strike. But that’s not their biggest problem. Upon scouting out the land, the settlers have realized they aren’t the only humans on this new planet. Now, Amy and Elder must learn to survive in a world no one prepared them for and build a future for not only themselves, but future generations.


What I Thought of Shades of Earth

I came into Shades of Earth with high expectations and unfortunately, this book did not live up to what I was waiting for. Because of the exasperating love triangle, the overblown amount of character death and cheesy ending I can only give Shades of Earth two and a half stars. There was one thing I liked about Shades of Earth though, and that was the plot. Beth Revis masterfully created a fast-paced story that was taut with tension and full of adventure. Additionally, Beth Revis implements many of her outstanding ideas into Shades of Earth, adding even more to the story. Honestly, I could’ve loved this novel, if it weren’t for the characters and ending. What I disliked the most was the love triangle. Love triangles are worn out and at this point, just bothersome. Also, if you are going to do a love triangle don’t create the second love interest in the final novel! And don’t get me started on all the deaths. I won’t spoil who passes away, but it was a lot more people than necessary and it adds to the already cheesy ending. Again, won’t spoil, but I wish Beth Revis did something less clichéd. My final opinion is that Shades of Earth is a merely okay book that’s a disappointment compared to the rest of the series. I do not recommend it.

In Shades of Earth, the most memorable moment is when Godspeed lands on Centauri-Earth. I enjoyed this moment because it set up the rest of the novel and built tension and suspense.

Overall Rating: 2.5 Stars

Review #85 (2-29-16)

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

of mice and menSmall, quick-witted George and huge, mentally challenged Lennie are unlikely friends in the Depression era. The one very important thing they have in common is a nearly impossible dream to go from outsiders to landowners.


What I Thought of Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

When I first picked up this book for a school project, I was prepared for the worst: pretentious, archaic vocabulary, and sentences that take up entire pages. I was pleasantly surprised to find that Of Mice and Men is nothing like this. With its straightforward prose, vivid descriptions, and honest to life characters, it isn’t hard to see how this book became a classic.

To begin, Of Mice and Men offers an easy to read, no nonsense plot. Steinbeck tells it like it is, and in combination with the Western slang and dialogue, a refreshingly unmistakeable voice is formed. Without all the unnecessary adjectives and fancy nouns, Of Mice and Men is made a much more enjoyable read for simpletons like me. In fact, it can easily be finished in one sitting because of its fast paced storyline and short overall length.

My absolute favorite aspect of this book is the way Lennie, George, and the California setting are described. By the time I finished this book, I felt acutely familiar with lifestyle and speech of the Great Depression. Of course, this probably wasn’t too hard to do considering Of Mice and Men was published during this time, but the fact that the setting in this book has remained relevant and understandable over 80 years later is a great feat. Next, Lennie, George, Curley and his wife, and all the other characters quite simply stood out the most in Of Mice and Men. From the first few pages, I fell in love with George’s wit and outspoken nature and even more so with Lennie’s kind heart and misunderstood, child-like mind. Their friendship was brilliantly described and their fallible personalities were heartbreakingly realistic. It’s amazing how the writing served up some of my favorite literary characters in barely 100 pages.

Overall, Of Mice and Men has an uncomplicated prose, well described setting, and fantastic characters. Devoid of ancient words and insane length, this book is a timeless classic that is a thoroughly painless and enjoyable read, for which I give it 4.5 stars.

The most memorable part of this book is, of course, the ending. It’s shocking, short, and tragic, and leaves a lasting impression on everyone that reads it.

Overall Rating: 4.5 Stars

 

Review #84 (2-24-16)

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A Million Suns by Beth Revis

It’s been three months since Amy was unplugged, and so far, a lot has happened on Godspeed. Together, Amy and Elder have solved the murder mystery, uncovered Godspeed’s deepest and darkest secrets, and took control of the ship. With Elder being the new leader of Godspeed, he is determined to right all of Eldest’s misdeeds. This means no more drugs in the water and, most importantly, no more lies. But after learning shocking news about Godspeed, Elder and Amy must untangle the string of lies that has carried the weight of the entire ship for centuries. And with the ship on the verge of collapsing into total chaos, there’s only one solution: they have to get off Godspeed, and fast.


What I Thought of A Million Suns

In many ways, I enjoyed A Million Suns more than it’s successor, Across the Universe. There was evident growth in Elder’s character, a host of nail-biting action and drama, along with more of the same great world building. In A Million Suns, Elder has transformed from an shallow follower to a smart, confident leader with a complex personality and opinions. This really emphasized how Amy affected Elder to follow his heart and come into his own, instead of shadowing Eldest. It also highlighted Elder’s strengths and weaknesses and how they compared to Eldest, or other characters such as Amy. Another component I liked about A Million Suns was how Beth Revis hooked readers with anticipation and exciting scenes. My middle school english teachers have always taught me to use the topic sentence to hook your audience, but in A Million Suns Beth Revis treats every sentence this way. If you aren’t riveted by the suspensful discoveries or tense fighting, you are preparing for it. That, unless you are witnessing Beth Revis’s fantastic world building! To paint a picture of being aboard Godspeed, Beth Revis utilizes realistic social structure, politics and psychology which will please anyone who fancies his/her novels to be reasonable, like me. 🙂 With all this, I will surely be reading the sequel soon!

The best and most memorable part of A Million Suns is the ending. If you thought the first plot-twist was jaw-dropping, just wait until you read this one!

Overall Rating: 5 Stars

Review #83 (2-15-16)

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

curious incidentChristopher John Francis Boone knows every prime number up to 7,057, is in the highest maths course possible for his age, and counts to 50 while calculating their cubes in his head when he gets frustrated. On the other hand, looking at the color yellow gives him a headache, he can’t stand people touching him, and too much noise makes him groan. When his neighbor’s dog is murdered, there is only one thing he can think of to do: become a detective.


What I Thought of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

I knew from the first few pages of this book that it wasn’t going to be for everyone. Christopher’s narration was simultaneously quick, rambling, and going off into tangents about mathematics, the human mind, and the universe. Although these tangents were usually well beyond my knowledge and forced me to reread multiple times, I ultimately found them to be quite fascinating. However, I can see why some readers wouldn’t like them. The narration felt confusing and random at times, but I think that was a brilliant and realistic way of portraying Christopher’s unique way of thinking.

It’s very difficult to explain the plot of this book. It included so many sub-plots that the main mystery story seemed to become somewhat lost, which was disappointing because a dog murder seemed very original and intriguing to me. Similar to the narration, the plot was rarely going one way, which made it clear that The Curious Incident was definitely not a plot-driven novel. Instead, it focused more on Christopher’s opinions on everyday things, the logical approach he took to life, and the reasons for his sometimes erratic behavior, which were all interesting, but certainly not mysterious or suspenseful like I was expecting.

The absolute best part of this book were the plot detours taken to delve into topics like outer space, the meaning of life, and what it means to die. Despite the fact that my understanding of what Christopher expressed is still very shaky, I was captivated by how he viewed things. One thing I will say is that these tangents were very mentally draining, as was The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time in general. Readers who like constant action or have no interest in these subjects would find this book very difficult to get through, but I loved these parts best of all.

Overall, this book had an unexpected plot, a narration that wasn’t afraid to include many different focuses, and in-depth discussions of science. Once again, this book is definitely not going to please everyone, as I enjoyed it for the most part, but could completely see action readers wanting to toss it in a fire. Overall, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time offers an authentic depiction of a main character on the autistic spectrum, too many plots to count, and several spectacular scientific elaborations that earned 3.5 stars from me.

The most memorable part of this book is when the murder is suddenly solved. Even though the answer was completely obvious, I was so wrapped up in the sub-plots that it caught me off guard, which is why it became my favorite moment of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time.

Overall Rating: 3.5 Stars

Review #82 (2-10-16)

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The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson

Hayley’s father has been attempting for five years to escape his memories of Iraq. He’s been on the road with Hayley, traveling from town to town, struggling to block out his inner demons. After coming up fruitless time and time again, finally the father-daughter duo is settling down in Hayley’s father’s hometown. Haley finally has the chance to live an ordinary life; go to school, make new friends maybe even have a boyfriend! But with Hayley’s own painful memories and her father’s PTSD pushing him to the edge, being normal seems impossible.


What I Thought of The Impossible Knife of Memory

The Impossible Knife of Memory contains some great qualities, but one characteristic of this novel takes my review from five stars to four. In this book, Laurie Halse Anderson creates a gripping, relatable novel about trauma and recovery but unlike her other books, such as Speak, The Impossible Knife of Memory lacked my emotional connection. Before delving in to why I was so unemotional about this novel, I’ll explain what I enjoyed first. Most of all, I liked how this book focused mainly on PTSD but not solely. Almost every character had their own dilemmas, each distinctive and each tied in well. For instance, Hayley’s best friend’s family was falling apart as her parents divorced, and Finn had problems that aren’t revealed until the end. This makes The Impossible Knife of Memory relatable on three fields rather than one. Finn’s secrets are another component I enjoyed about this book, that and Hayley’s father unpredictability kept me intrigued throughout the novel. Additionally, even with this heavy topic, there’s plenty of entertaining humor! So what didn’t I like? As I said earlier, in books like Speak I felt like the book was pulling on my heart’s strings, but this was not the case for The Impossible Knife of Memory. We never learned enough about Hayley’s dad for us readers to be able to really grow attached to his character, especially since his backstory about his time in Iraq/Afghanistan is somewhat of a mystery. On the other hand, I did enjoy The Impossible Knife of Memory and recommend it to any fan of Laurie Halse Anderson or contemporary fiction. But if you are looking for a heart-wrenching novel about PTSD this may not be the book for you.

A memorable part in The Impossible Knife of Memory is when Hayley is describing other people as either “freaks” or “zombies”. I thought this described Hayley’s unique voice and character very well in only a few sentences.

Overall Rating: 4 Stars

Review #81 (02-01-16)

Love, Lucas by Chantele Sedgwick

When, her older brother loses his battle to cancer, her parents can’t stop arguing, love, lucasand she can’t feel anything but emptiness, Oakley thinks there is no hope for her. Then, she and her mom move temporarily to California and Oakley is forced into a confusing new world where she must deal with loss, love, and forgiveness. Will the letters her brother Lucas wrote to her be enough to get her through?


What I Thought of Love, Lucas by Chantele Sedgwick

I thought the premise of this book was very good, but the actual content was pretty disappointing. To start, I was intrigued from page one because it’s rare to read a book where the only death has already happened. I thought it would be interesting to read a book completely devoted to grief and loss, but boy was I wrong. It turns out, Oakley’s struggle to cope with the death of Lucas basically became an afterthought to her romance with Carson. Even though there were letters from Lucas every chapter, she would just read them, spend two seconds thinking about them, then go find Carson. Their relationship was actually not horrible, but I didn’t want or expect it to be the most important topic in this book.

In addition to this, the writing style in general was kind of awful. The sentences were short, boring, and repetitive. When the author tried to get deep in Oakley’s sadder moments, the best she could come up with was “The world sucks.” and “It sucks. A lot.” By trying too hard to write from a younger perspective, the author actually just made Oakley sound like a shallow idiot with a worryingly poor vocabulary. Also, the author threw around words like “depressing” and “depression” like one would use the words “the” or “I”,  but never actually went into specifics like the blurb suggested. In my opinion, it’s kind of irresponsible to mention a mental illness several times but not elaborate on it at all.

Finally, the letters also fell short in my opinion. At first, they were sort of sweet, but later they got too convenient. There is obviously no way dead Lucas could have known that Oakley would read his letter about not running away from problems while she was on a plane, running away from her problems. Like just about everything else in this book, they also got pretty repetitive and predictable after a while.

Overall, Love, Lucas had a mediocre plot, frustratingly dumb characters, and a disappointing writing style. However, the romance part was surprisingly well done, so I can see how some people could like it. Despite its flaws, Love, Lucas is a short and sweet read with good intentions that earns a 3 stars rating from me.

The most memorable part of this book is when Oakley finally opens up to her mother. For the first time, she actually spoke about her feelings without making no sense, which had been a ridiculously annoying problem for her throughout the whole book, which is why this moment stood out to me.

Overall Rating: 3 Stars

Review #80 (1-27-16)

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The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

The first wave destroys all electronics. In the second wave, coastlines are destroyed. The third wave is a plaque that kills billions of people. During the fourth wave, aliens use humans as hosts. Now, the 5th wave is approaching and Cassie and Ben are on separate missions to save and avenge their loved ones. Cassie promised herself that she would rescue her brother from the soldiers that killed her father. Ben has recovered from the plaque that killed his sister and is ready to fight against the aliens. In a world where no one can be trusted and survival is a game of chance, will Cassie and Ben survive to the 5th wave?


What I Thought of The 5th Wave

This novel is a great read for both boys and girls alike. The 5th Wave contains not one, but two thrilling stories, includes nonstop action and is strikingly quotable. The only part of The 5th Wave that I didn’t enjoy was the confusing switch of POVs. Rick Yancey wouldn’t state when he was switching to Ben’s, Evan’s or Cassie’s point of view so for the first few chapters it was hard to get a handle on what was going on. However, that being said, this shouldn’t be enough to offset you from reading The 5th Wave. Rick Yancey combines numerous great sci-fi elements to tell both of his storylines. Ben’s narrative coincides with that of Ender’s Game and Cassie’s is similar to The Passage, then when you throw in robot-like aliens, some Call of Duty-like warfare and plenty of dystopian survival you get a superb modern science fiction novel. And with the mystery of the 5th Wave, persistent fighting for survival and many plot-twists/cliffhangers the action never ends. Not to mention the great quotes like this, “I may be the last one, but I am the one still standing. I am the one turning to face the faceless hunter in the woods on an abandoned highway. I am the one not running but facing. Because if I am the last one, then I am humanity. And if this is humanity’s last war, then I am the battlefield.” For this and more awesome quotes and plot, read the 5th Wave. Believe me, once you start you won’t be able to put the book down!

The end is the most memorable part of the 5th Wave. It’s unexpected, action-packed and suspenseful with a cliff-hanger that entices you to read the next book.

Overall Rating: 4 Stars

Review #79 (1-18-16)

The Fixer by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

the fixerWhen her older, very well-connected sister moves her to D.C., Tess has no idea what she’s in for. Soon, she learns that her sister Ivy once filled the role of “Fixer” at Tess’ new and prestigious high school called Hardwicke. When students had problems, Ivy would fix them. It isn’t long before they both are wrapped up in a scandal much bigger than high school.


What I Thought of The Fixer by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

The Fixer managed to fit an uncountable amount of plot twists, several murders, complicated relationships for all to enjoy, and an accurate description of high school life into one 300 something page book, and that is why it is so good. For starters, there was not a single moment that I was even close to bored while reading. Even in the rare chapters when not much was happening, the word choice and writing style kept me tearing through the book. In the chapters with more action, I was on the edge of my seat with all the secrets, mystery, and scandals. The best part was that although a lot was going on, it never got confusing or hectic.

Next, the characters were brilliant. Tess was witty, stubborn, and spoke fluently in sarcasm. She was the epitome of a good YA heroine, but without becoming predictable. The hilariously reckless Asher, innocently sweet Vivvie, and stoically headstrong Henry all counter-acted Tess’ personality perfectly and led to very interesting friendships. Even Ivy, who completely messed up her role as Tess’ sister, managed to become a lovable and strong character.

Finally, The Fixer was so unforgettable because of how refreshingly different it was. It didn’t feel the need to include the trademark romance or uniform friendships these types of books usually do, but also didn’t let me down as a young adult novel at all. So if you are looking for a fast-paced book with amazing characters and secrets aplenty, look no further than 5 star rated The Fixer.

The most memorable part of this book is when Tess finally learns the truth of why her and Ivy’s relationship is the way it is. It is probably the biggest and most surprising reveal of The Fixer, but to not spoil anything I will just say that I did not see it coming at all, making it my favorite part of this book.

Overall Rating: 5 Stars