Thursday, August 30, 2012

Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut

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Kurt Vonnegut's absurdist classic Slaughterhouse-Five introduces us to Billy Pilgrim, a man who becomes unstuck in time after he is abducted by aliens from the planet Tralfamadore. In a plot-scrambling display of virtuosity, we follow Pilgrim simultaneously through all phases of his life, concentrating on his (and Vonnegut's) shattering experience as an American prisoner of war who witnesses the firebombing of Dresden.

I'm not quite sure why this is considered one of the best books ever written. It was good. I enjoyed reading it. But I can't say that it blew me away and my life is forever changed.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

A Monster Calls, by Patrick Ness

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At seven minutes past midnight, thirteen-year-old Conor wakes to find a monster outside his bedroom window. But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting — he’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the nightmare he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments.

The monster in his backyard is different. It’s ancient. And wild. And it wants something from Conor. Something terrible and dangerous. It wants the truth.

From the final idea of award-winning author Siobhan Dowd — whose premature death from cancer prevented her from writing it herself — Patrick Ness has spun a haunting and darkly funny novel of mischief, loss, and monsters both real and imagined.

I recommend this book for anyone who is dealing with loss.  Or grief of any kind. 

I am currently a blubbering mess and can't form enough coherent thoughts for a review. This is such an amazing, cathartic book. It's a surprisingly quick read; I finished it in one sitting.

The Winter Sea, by Susanna Kearsley

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In the spring of 1708, an invading Jacobite fleet of French and Scottish soldiers nearly succeeded in landing the exiled James Stewart in Scotland to reclaim his crown.

Now, Carrie McClelland hopes to turn that story into her next bestselling novel. Settling herself in the shadow of Slains Castle, she creates a heroine named for one of her own ancestors and starts to write.

But when she discovers her novel is more fact than fiction, Carrie wonders if she might be dealing with ancestral memory, making her the only living person who knows the truth-the ultimate betrayal-that happened all those years ago, and that knowledge comes very close to destroying her...

I love this book! I'm not normally into romantic historical fiction, but if there are more like this, I want to read them!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Between Shades of Gray, by Ruta Sepetys

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Lina is just like any other fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl in 1941. She paints, she draws, she gets crushes on boys. Until one night when Soviet officers barge into her home, tearing her family from the comfortable life they've known. Separated from her father, forced onto a crowded and dirty train car, Lina, her mother, and her young brother slowly make their way north, crossing the Arctic Circle, to a work camp in the coldest reaches of Siberia. Here they are forced, under Stalin's orders, to dig for beets and fight for their lives under the cruelest of conditions.

Lina finds solace in her art, meticulously - and at great risk - documenting events by drawing, hoping these messages will make their way to her father's prison camp to let him know they are still alive. It is a long and harrowing journey, spanning years and covering 6,500 miles, but it is through incredible strength, love, and hope that Lina ultimately survives.

I had no idea -- NONE -- that Stalin committed genocide on a larger scale than did Hitler. I'm amazed that anyone was able to survive under the conditions portrayed in this book.

Fantastic story, but very difficult to listen to. 

Friday, August 17, 2012

Tilt, by Ellen Hopkins

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Three teens, three stories—all interconnected through their parents’ family relationships. As the adults pull away, caught up in their own dilemmas, the lives of the teens begin to tilt….

Mikayla, almost eighteen, is over-the-top in love with Dylan, who loves her back jealously. But what happens to that love when Mikayla gets pregnant the summer before their senior year—and decides to keep the baby?

Shane turns sixteen that same summer and falls hard in love with his first boyfriend, Alex, who happens to be HIV positive. Shane has lived for four years with his little sister’s impending death. Can he accept Alex’s love, knowing that his life, too, will be shortened?

Harley is fourteen—a good girl searching for new experiences, especially love from an older boy. She never expects to hurdle toward self-destructive extremes in order to define who she is and who she wants to be.

Love, in all its forms, has crucial consequences in this standalone novel.

**I won this book from Goodreads as a First Reads giveaway**

I absolutely ADORE Ellen Hopkins and was so excited when I won this book, a companion piece to her adult novel, Triangles. Hopkins is as amazing as ever, and I was completely engrossed in this book. The way she weaves the characters' stories and lives together is simply beautiful.

I love how she writes in verse; studying the pages reveals new secrets. I savored this book and re-read passages, pages, and sections.

A wonderful addition to her collection of YA novels.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Sharp Objects, by Gillian Flynn

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WICKED above her hipbone, GIRL across her heart
Words are like a road map to reporter Camille Preaker’s troubled past. Fresh from a brief stay at a psych hospital, Camille’s first assignment from the second-rate daily paper where she works brings her reluctantly back to her hometown to cover the murders of two preteen girls.

NASTY on her kneecap, BABYDOLL on her leg
Since she left town eight years ago, Camille has hardly spoken to her neurotic, hypochondriac mother or to the half-sister she barely knows: a beautiful thirteen-year-old with an eerie grip on the town. Now, installed again in her family’s Victorian mansion, Camille is haunted by the childhood tragedy she has spent her whole life trying to cut from her memory.

HARMFUL on her wrist, WHORE on her ankle
As Camille works to uncover the truth about these violent crimes, she finds herself identifying with the young victims—a bit too strongly. Clues keep leading to dead ends, forcing Camille to unravel the psychological puzzle of her own past to get at the story. Dogged by her own demons, Camille will have to confront what happened to her years before if she wants to survive this homecoming.

I saw this book at the library and snatched it up immediately. I had just finished reading Gone Girl, and I was excited to add another of Flynn's works to my list.

This is a dark, disturbing story and is certainly not for everyone. I really liked it: life isn't always full of rainbows and unicorns. Flynn is a talented writer and is able to set the scene with characters that are real. And really screwed up. I'm looking forward to reading Dark Places, though I think I need something light and fluffy beforehand.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, by Jennifer E. Smith

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Who would have guessed that four minutes could change everything?

Today should be one of the worst days of seventeen-year-old Hadley Sullivan's life. Having missed her flight, she's stuck at JFK airport and late to her father's second wedding, which is taking place in London and involves a soon-to-be stepmother Hadley's never even met. Then she meets the perfect boy in the airport's cramped waiting area. His name is Oliver, he's British, and he's sitting in her row.

A long night on the plane passes in the blink of an eye, and Hadley and Oliver lose track of each other in the airport chaos upon arrival. Can fate intervene to bring them together once more?

Quirks of timing play out in this romantic and cinematic novel about family connections, second chances, and first loves. Set over a twenty-four-hour-period, Hadley and Oliver's story will make you believe that true love finds you when you're least expecting it. 

Love love love love love this book! It is definitely one of my new favorites and I'm adding all of Smith's other works to my To Read list.

Smith's writing is evocative and poignant, something you don't see too often in the Young Adult genre. I liken it to The Fault in Our Stars: the subject matter is different, but the writing makes you feel like you are right there and experiencing everything first-hand.

I need to have this book in my personal collection so I can read it again and again and again.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Sweethearts, by Sara Zarr

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I really wanted to like this book. I enjoyed Story of a Girl and I love teen angst, so this was a perfect book for me. Unfortunately, I hated all of the characters, with the exception of Jenna's step-father. It felt like the book was trying too hard to be this deep, existential story. Instead, Jenna comes off looking like a selfish brat; Cameron as overly emo; and Jenna's friends as caricatures.

I think that Zarr was trying to show how even the "popular" kids have issues, but it was forced down our throats: look at how bad Jenna has it!

What really annoyed me?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Replacement, by Brenna Yovanoff

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Mackie Doyle is not one of us. Though he lives in the small town of Gentry, he comes from a world of tunnels and black murky water, a world of living dead girls ruled by a little tattooed princess. He is a Replacement, left in the crib of a human baby sixteen years ago. Now, because of fatal allergies to iron, blood, and consecrated ground, Mackie is fighting to survive in the human world.

Mackie would give anything to live among us, to practice on his bass or spend time with his crush, Tate. But when Tate's baby sister goes missing, Mackie is drawn irrevocably into the underworld of Gentry, known as Mayhem. He must face the dark creatures of the Slag Heaps and find his rightful place, in our world, or theirs.

Well, this was a disappointment. This book has been high on my TBR list for the past several months. I mean, how can you (read: me) not love the cover and the description?

Sadly, the book falls flat. Much like the characters. I felt no emotional attachment to any of them, nor could I understand their motivations for certain actions. There were continuity issues, making me wonder if the editors spent enough time reviewing the book before publication. And some of the descriptions were just weird. Does anyone know what "bright ozone" smells like? Please educate me!

Most importantly, I'm just not a fan of books where you're told what the characters are doing, thinking, and feeling, rather than being shown. If this hadn't been an easy read, I would have given up halfway through. Since I didn't dislike it enough to stop reading, I'm giving it two stars.

I will keep Yovanoff on my list of authors to read in the future, though. This was a great premise, and description of her forthcoming book, Paper Valentine, makes me want to read it as soon as it's published.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

The List, by Siobhan Vivian

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An intense look at the rules of high school attraction -- and the price that's paid for them.

It happens every year. A list is posted, and one girl from each grade is chosen as the prettiest, and another is chosen as the ugliest. Nobody knows who makes the list. It almost doesn't matter. The damage is done the minute it goes up.

This is the story of eight girls, freshman to senior, "pretty" and "ugly." And it's also the story of how we see ourselves, and how other people see us, and the tangled connection of the two.

Dear teenage girls,

I am SO glad that I'm not in high school any more. Girls like nothing better than to tear each other down.  I'm pretty sure that we should all get medals for surviving the teenage years.  

It gets better, I swear.

Friday, August 3, 2012

A Separate Peace, by John Knowles

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Set at a boys’ boarding school in New England during the early years of World War II, A Separate Peace is a harrowing and luminous parable of the dark side of adolescence. Gene is a lonely, introverted intellectual. Phineas is a handsome, taunting, daredevil athlete. What happens between the two friends one summer, like the war itself, banishes the innocence of these boys and their world.A bestseller for more than thirty years, A Separate Peace is John Knowles’s crowning achievement and an undisputed American classic.

The main character, Gene, was whiny and annoying. I'm not sure why this is a classic.

The narrator of the audiobook was very breathy, which was quite distracting. I kept waiting for him to take his next breath.