Monday, December 31, 2012

Book Review: Collateral

Title Collateral

Author Ellen Hopkins

Release Date November 6, 2012

From the New York Times bestselling author of Triangles comes an exquisitely told story about a young woman torn between passionate first love and the gripping realities of war.

Meet Ashley, a graduate student at San Diego State University. She was raised in northern California reading poetry and singing backup in her best friend’s band. The last thing she ever expected was to end up a military wife. But one night, she meets a handsome Marine named Cole. He doesn’t match the stereotype of the aggressive military man she’d always presumed to be true; he’s passionate and romantic, and he even writes poetry. Their relationship evolves into a deeply felt, sexually charged love affair that goes on for five years and survives four deployments. Cole desperately wants Ashley to marry him, but when she meets another man, a college professor, with similar professional pursuits and values, she begins to see what life might be like outside the shadow of war.

Written in Ellen Hopkins’s stunning poetic verse style, Collateral captures the hearts of the soldiers on the battlefield and the minds of the friends, family, and lovers they leave behind. While those at home may be far from the relentless, sand-choked skies of the Middle East and the crosshairs of a sniper rifle, they, too, sacrifice their lives and happiness for their country at war. And all must eventually ask themselves if the collateral damage it causes is worth the fight.

Ellen Hopkins is one of my favorite authors. To date, this has been the only novel of hers that disappointed me.

One of the things I've enjoyed most about Ellen Hopkins's books has always been her ability to pull off stories done in verse. It didn't happen here. While I want the story to be a complete story (and it was), it didn't read like poetry to me. It read like a story that was cut up and formatted to look like poetry instead of being actual poetry. This was probably the biggest disappointment for me.

The story was frustrating. There were so many times when I wish Ashley would just get fed up with Cole's BS and leave him. Ashley is supposed to be smart, but her actions prove otherwise. As someone that's been in a relationship and refused to leave (even when I knew I should) because of love, I could understand to a certain extent. By the end of the book, though, I was irritated and fed up with Ashley. Instead of seeing a smart woman, I saw a weak, selfish, and naive girl. After everything she had been through with Cole, it was disappointing to see that she had grown little as a character. Cole's character is hard to flesh out in the story as we don't see very much from his point-of-view. We're presented with certain facts about him and left to fill in the rest of it ourselves. Unfortunately, I feel like this paints Cole into a negative light that doesn't necessarily do justice to who he really is. [Note, I'm not defending him or his actions.]

Overall, I didn't care for Collateral very much. I was really looking forward to this book and I'm saddened that it didn't live up to my expectations. That being said, I'm sure many people will love Collateral.


2.5/5 stars

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Book Review: Dirty Little Secrets

Title Dirty Little Secrets

Author C. J. Omololu

Release Date February 2, 2010

Everyone has a secret. But Lucy's is bigger and dirtier than most. It's one she's been hiding for years-that her mom's out-of-control hoarding has turned their lives into a world of garbage and shame. She's managed to keep her home life hidden from her best friend and her crush, knowing they'd be disgusted by the truth. So, when her mom dies suddenly in their home, Lucy hesitates to call 911 because revealing their way of life would make her future unbearable-and she begins her two-day plan to set her life right.With details that are as fascinating as they are disturbing, C. J. Omololu weaves an hour-by-hour account of Lucy's desperate attempt at normalcy. Her fear and isolation are palpable as readers are pulled down a path from which there is no return, and the impact of hoarding on one teen's life will have readers completely hooked.

Most of us have seen those episodes of Hoarders, but even seeing it doesn't seem to make it any more real for those of us that have never been around it. Omololu paints a picture of hoarding that comes to life.

Dirty Little Secrets is one of the best books I've read recently. It captured my attention immediately and still hasn't let it go, even after finishing the book. It was a quick read, but please don't mistake that as meaning it wasn't a good book.

Lucy was a really great main character. She's smart, strong, determined, and flawed. It's her flaws, though, that make her into such a believable and likeable character. My heart broke for her and I was hoping the entire time she would come out okay in the end.

Omololu adds just enough romance to the book for a nice balance. I really like that the romance of the book didn't become the focus. The book wouldn't have impacted me the same way if the romance was more prominent than it was.


5 out of 5 stars

Friday, December 21, 2012

Book Review: How I Live Now

Title How I Live Now

Author Meg Rosoff

Release Date November 30, 2004

“Every war has turning points and every person too.”

Fifteen-year-old Daisy is sent from Manhattan to England to visit her aunt and cousins she’s never met: three boys near her age, and their little sister. Her aunt goes away on business soon after Daisy arrives. The next day bombs go off as London is attacked and occupied by an unnamed enemy.

As power fails, and systems fail, the farm becomes more isolated. Despite the war, it’s a kind of Eden, with no adults in charge and no rules, a place where Daisy’s uncanny bond with her cousins grows into something rare and extraordinary. But the war is everywhere, and Daisy and her cousins must lead each other into a world that is unknown in the scariest, most elemental way.

A riveting and astonishing story.

The number of things I disliked outweigh the number of things that I actually liked. I always hate writing negative reviews, but I know that sometimes it must be done.

The writing style irritated me more than anything else about the book. Between the run-on sentences and lack of punctuation, I thought I'd pull my hair out by the end of the book. Overall, I felt like I was reading a draft of a book rather than a finished book.

The whole storyline was just... lacking depth. It didn't seem like anything was fleshed out. The reader is left wondering about so many details
that it doesn't even seem like your reading a book rather than just random snippets of some girl's life. The vagueness of everything was so frustrating that I'm not sure why I bothered finishing the book.

The ending was abrupt and weird, but I guess that fits in with the rest of the book rather nicely. I'm not sure why I thought the ending should have been any different from the rest of the book.

There were a few scenes
that I did enjoy. It seemed like those scenes came from a completely different book, one that I'd actually want to read.


2 stars out of 5

Monday, December 17, 2012

Book Review: Beautiful Lies

Title Beautiful Lies

Author Jessica Warman

Release Date August 7, 2012

Rachel and Alice are an extremely rare kind of identical twins-so identical that even their aunt and uncle, whom they've lived with since their parents passed away, can't tell them apart. But the sisters are connected in a way that goes well beyond their surfaces: when one experiences pain, the other exhibits the exact same signs of distress. So when one twin mysteriously disappears, the other immediately knows something is wrong-especially when she starts experiencing serious physical traumas, despite the fact that nobody has touched her. As the search commences to find her sister, the twin left behind must rely on their intense bond to uncover the truth. But is there anyone around her she can trust, when everyone could be a suspect? And ultimately, can she even trust herself?

Master storyteller Jessica Warman will keep readers guessing when everything they see-and everything they are told-suddenly becomes unreliable in this page-turning literary thriller.

Whenever I've read and enjoyed a book by an author before, I develop expectations for any books of theirs that I may read in the future. Since I had read and enjoyed one of her other books, Between, I figured Beautiful Lies would be another book I'd enjoy. Unfortunately, that's not exactly what happened.

Beautiful Lies started out strong. After the big twist is revealed, a few chapters in, it's downhill from there. I feel like there should have been a change in the narrator's tone once the twist was revealed. Since there wasn't, it was confusing and I found myself rereading parts of the book to understand what was going on. The book ended up being more complicated than it could have been.

The ending was a big disappointment. It felt like such a letdown compared to the rest of the book. While I was reading, I kept waiting for that ah-ha! moment where everything made sense and the book went from just alright to amazing... but it never happened. It just... ended and left me very unfulfilled.


2.5 out of 5 stars

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Book Review: Louder Than Words

Title Louder Than Words

Author Laurie Plissner

Release Date December 18, 2012

The debut novel of an American original, Laurie Plissner's is both medical thriller and lyric love story in the tradition of magical realism

Since the snowy night when her family's car slammed into a tree, killing her parents and little sister, Sasha has been unable to speak except through a computer with a robotic voice. Nothing is wrong with her body; that's healed. But, after four years, Sasha's memory, and her spirit, are still broken. Then one day, she's silently cussing out the heavy book she dropped at the library when a gorgeous, dark-haired boy, the kind of boy who considers Sasha a freak or at least invisible, "answers" Sasha's hidden thoughts -- out loud. Yes, Ben can read minds; it's no big deal. He's part of a family with a host of unusual, almost-but-not-quite-supernatural talents. Through Ben's love, Sasha makes greater progress than she has with a host of therapists and a prominent psychiatrist. With him to defend her, bullies keep the world from ever understanding Sasha, he pulls away. Determined to win him and prove her courage by facing her past, Sasha confronts her past -- only to learn that her family's death was no accident and that a similar fate may wait for her, in the unlikeliest of disguises.
I'm going to admit that I wasn't that interested in reading Louder Than Words after reading the summary for it. I figured it was going to be a typical romance where the girl was falling all over herself to win over the boy. You know, I'm not even sure what caused me to request it on Netgalley. I did, though, and I'm really glad I did.

I feel like Louder Than Words was different. There was romance, mystery, and a little bit of the supernatural. All of the elements of the story come together very nicely to create a wonderful story. A few chapters into the book, it was clear to me that this book was going to be very hard to put down. I just love it when books are impossible to stop reading.

Plissner's writing was great. Her characters were real and alive. I want to mention again that I was afraid the story was mainly going to be about Sasha making a fool of herself to win over Ben. While Sasha's motivations did include Ben, I definitely don't feel like it was overdone or irritating. Although Ben might have been a big part of her finding the truth and getting well, there was much more to it than that. Sasha seemed to be a very real teenage girl. And to keep with that, Ben also seemed to be a very real, very confusing teenage boy. I really loved how Plissner developed both her story and her characters.

I'm really glad that I was about read Louder Than Words. It turned out to be a really good book that I would definitely recommend.


4/5 stars

* This book was received from Netgalley for review. *

Book Review: Almost Perfect

Title Almost Perfect

Author Brian Katcher

Release Date October 13, 2009

You only hurt the ones you love.

Logan Witherspoon recently discovered that his girlfriend of three years cheated on him. But things start to look up when a new student breezes through the halls of his small-town high school. Sage Hendricks befriends Logan at a time when he no longer trusts or believes in people. Sage has been homeschooled for a number of years and her parents have forbidden her to date anyone, but she won’t tell Logan why. One day, Logan acts on his growing feelings for Sage. Moments later, he wishes he never had. Sage finally discloses her big secret: she’s actually a boy. Enraged, frightened, and feeling betrayed, Logan lashes out at Sage and disowns her. But once Logan comes to terms with what happened, he reaches out to Sage in an attempt to understand her situation. But Logan has no idea how rocky the road back to friendship will be.

I find it really disappointing that there's a huge spoiler in the summary. I feel like I would have enjoyed the book more if I didn't know Sage's big secret going into the book.

I have very mixed feelings about Almost Perfect. It was one of those books that I couldn't put down until I finished it, but there wasn't anything that was particularly amazing about it. I really wanted to like it more than I did. I'm not sure where it fell flat for me, but it did.


3 out of 5 stars

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Book Review: The Fragile Lion

Title The Fragile Lion

Author Mark Darley

Release Date August 31, 2012

When a fatal car accident changes her life, Ohio schoolteacher Justine feels responsible for the American Indian child who has now lost her mother. But the sweet-faced seven-year-old isn’t a typical young girl, and she looks like no one Justine has ever seen. The child is critically underweight and has been starving herself for the past two years – and to help her, Justine will need to uncover a deeply guarded secret – and she knows there isn’t much time. With drama, mystery, and suspense, The Fragile Lion follows the story of a woman who must reconcile the unwanted past that comes to find her, the secrets she herself hides, and the endless lies that keep her safe. As she does, she will find herself abandoning everything that was once important to her, while fighting to save a troubled young girl's life, and hoping it will be enough. The Fragile Lion is an emotionally riveting story for readers who enjoy books such as My Sister’s Keeper, The Lovely Bones, or The Fault in Our Stars.

The Fragile Lion is a very unique book.

The writing is very well done. Even though a lot happens in a relatively short period of time, the story doesn't seem rushed. There's so much going on in the book that it's hard not to become emotionally invested in the characters. Throughout the story, I found myself hoping that both Justine and Sonya would find the answers that they needed. And while she starts out helping Sonya, Justine's quest ultimately transforms both of their lives.

Even though the ending leaves questions unanswered, the ending was satisfying. After all, the very first thing I said whenever I finished the book was, "wow."


5 out of 5 stars 

* This book was received in exchanged for an honest review. *

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Unfinished Book: We Need to Talk About Kevin

Title We Need to Talk About Kevin

Author Lionel Shriver

Release Date July 3, 2006

The gripping international bestseller about motherhood gone awry

Eva never really wanted to be a mother - and certainly not the mother of the unlovable boy who murdered seven of his fellow high school students, a cafeteria worker, and a much-adored teacher who tried to befriend him, all two days before his sixteenth birthday. Now, two years later, it is time for her to come to terms with marriage, career, family, parenthood, and Kevin's horrific rampage in a series of startlingly direct correspondences with her estranged husband, Franklin. Uneasy with the sacrifices and social demotion of motherhood from the start, Eva fears that her alarming dislike for her own son may be responsible for driving him so nihilistically off the rails.

I would say that it's pretty rare that I don't finish a book that I start. Once I start a book, whether it's good or bad, I feel compelled to finish it. Sometimes, though, I find a book that I just cannot get through. Unfortunately, We Need to Talk About Kevin is one of those books. I made it through about 14% of the book (thanks Stanza for allowing me to be weirdly specific with my percentages) and I'm surprised that I was able to make it that far. I feel badly about not finding the strength to finish this book, especially because it's one I really wanted to read.

The thing that sticks out for me was the writing. Shriver goes overboard with flowery language. While it might have been okay for Shriver to write while thumbing through a thesaurus the entire time, I dislike having to spend so much time looking up words in a dictionary while reading. Don't get me wrong, I love expanding my mind and learning new words, but every third word is ridiculous! In general, this is probably what killed the book for me. It was too much work to get through the book.

Since I wanted to read this book so much, I am going to watch the movie. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it isn't as painful as the book.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Book Review: Coal to Diamonds: A Memoir

Title Coal to Diamonds: A Memoir

Author Beth Ditto with Michelle Tea

Release Date October 9, 2012

A raw and surprisingly beautiful coming-of-age memoir, Coal to Diamonds tells the story of Mary Beth Ditto, a girl from rural Arkansas who found her voice.

Born and raised in Judsonia, Arkansas—a place where indoor plumbing was a luxury, squirrel was a meal, and sex ed was taught during senior year in high school (long after many girls had gotten pregnant and dropped out) Beth Ditto stood out. Beth was a fat, pro-choice, sexually confused choir nerd with a great voice, an eighties perm, and a Kool Aid dye job. Her single mother worked overtime, which meant Beth and her five siblings were often left to fend for themselves. Beth spent much of her childhood as a transient, shuttling between relatives, caring for a sickly, volatile aunt she nonetheless loved, looking after sisters, brothers, and cousins, and trying to steer clear of her mother’s bad boyfriends.

Her punk education began in high school under the tutelage of a group of teens—her second family—who embraced their outsider status and introduced her to safety-pinned clothing, mail-order tapes, queer and fat-positive zines, and any shred of counterculture they could smuggle into Arkansas. With their help, Beth survived high school, a tragic family scandal, and a mental breakdown, and then she got the hell out of Judsonia. She decamped to Olympia, Washington, a late-1990s paradise for Riot Grrrls and punks, and began to cultivate her glamorous, queer, fat, femme image. On a whim—with longtime friends Nathan, a guitarist and musical savant in a polyester suit, and Kathy, a quiet intellectual turned drummer—she formed the band Gossip. She gave up trying to remake her singing voice into the ethereal wisp she thought it should be and instead embraced its full, soulful potential. Gossip gave her that chance, and the raw power of her voice won her and Gossip the attention they deserved.

Marked with the frankness, humor, and defiance that have made her an international icon, Beth Ditto’s unapologetic, startlingly direct, and poetic memoir is a hypnotic and inspiring account of a woman coming into her own.

My introduction to Beth Ditto began on the internet. I've read articles about her being fat-positive and feminist. I've read articles about her creating a clothing line for fat girls. I've seen plenty of pictures of her. I had never, before today, heard any of her music. Yes, I knew she was in a band, but I never thought about checking them out. Of course, that was the first thing I did whenever I finished this book. Mainly, though, I requested to read Coal to Diamonds because I was interested in hearing more about Ditto's fat-positive views. Perhaps, reading the book would help me to embrace myself a little more.

I really enjoyed the conversational style of the memoir. It gave me the feeling that I was meeting Beth for the first time and she was giving me insight into her life by sharing these stories that helped shape her into the person she is today. She speaks very openly about her life, the good and the bad, and I found that to be really refreshing.

I was a little disappointed that the book wasn't longer. Things could have been a little more fleshed out than they actually were. The story doesn't follow a linear pattern at all, but I guess that fits in with the more conversational style of the book. Overall, those two things didn't make enough of a negative impact.

I enjoyed Coal to Diamonds: A Memoir. And after checking out Gossip's music, I really enjoyed it as well. I would recommend checking them both out.


4/5 stars 

* This book was received from Netgalley for review. *

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Book Review: Embracing You, Embracing Me

Title Embracing You, Embracing Me

Author Michelle Bellon

Release Date May 6, 2012

It's the 1990s. 16-year-old Roshell McRady dances her way through High School, never quite admitting that she’s ashamed of her trailer park family home.
She listens to Madonna while wondering why girls her age swap BFFs about as often as some boys change their dirty socks; she empties enough hairspray until her bangs are feathered and vertical like a lethal weapon; and she agonises over how to convince Gabriel Harrison, the new Mystery Guy in town, to invite her to the prom - a night which threatens to turn into a disaster.

But then life takes a dramatic turn for Roshell, and her life changes forever.

A love story emerges from the anguish of Roshell's life, and when she leaves school and finds work at a casino, things don't get any less complicated for her - until one night a powerful dream marks out the exact path that she must take.

I wanted to like this book a lot more than I did. The blurb made the book seem more interesting than it really was. And while I didn't read any reviews of the book before I read it, I did read some shortly after. I was certain that I couldn't have been the only one slightly disappointed, right? Apparently, I am. I always feel sort of weird whenever I don't generally agree with the reviews I read. Unfortunately, I just can't see the greatness that everyone else does.

There wasn't one big thing that made the book less than stellar for me. It was definitely a combination of things. I didn't too much care for the little excerpts from different people throughout the story. I feel like it was too distracting to make a positive impact on the story. While it was nice to know what the other people in the story were thinking, I could have down without it. While I did enjoy the female characters in the book, I didn't too much care for the male characters, especially the ones Roshell was involved with. I don't feel like they were realistic in their dealings with Roshell. It made me irritable and I spent many times rolling my eyes at them. Even with their little excerpts, I didn't really grasp why they acted the way they did. And truth be told, I'm not sure they knew why they acted they way the did, other than they were sure Roshell was worth it.

That being said, the book wasn't all bad. There were parts that I enjoyed and parts were I felt emotionally connected to Roshell. I just wish the entire book was that way.


2.5 out of 5 stars

* This book was received from Netgalley for review. *

Friday, November 2, 2012

Book Review: Rape Girl

Title Rape Girl

Author Alina Klein

Release Date September 1, 2012

Valerie always wanted to be the smart girl. The pretty girl. The popular girl.

But not the rape girl..

That’s who she is now. Rape Girl. Because everyone seems to think they know the truth about what happened with Adam that day, and they don’t think Valerie’s telling it..

Before, she had a best friend, a crush, and a close-knit family. After, she has a court case, a support group, and a house full of strangers..

The real truth is, nothing will ever be the same..

Rape Girl is the compelling story of a survivor who does the right thing and suffers for it. It is also the story of a young woman’s struggle to find the strength to fight back.

I was immediately drawn to Rape Girl whenever I read the blurb. I wanted to know what really happened with Valerie and Adam.

This was a really good book. There were many times when my heart hurt for Valerie and I wanted to reach into the book and hug her for days. I think it was pretty spot on as far as Valerie's reaction (right down to her doubting whether or not she made the right choice in telling on Adam) and the reaction of her family, friends, and school.

I liked that Klein took a look at a serious subject without being overly graphic and violent about it. While that can definitely be an effective way to tell a story, Rape Girl didn't need to be that book in order to get the point across. She did a fantastic job at getting me emotionally invested in Valerie's story without excess violence or graphicness.

The book was a little shorter than I would have liked. The story did wrap up, but it was over far too quickly for me.


3.5 out of 5 stars

This book was received from Netgalley for review.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Book Review: And All the Stars

Title And All the Stars

Author Andrea K. Höst

Release Date September 30, 2012

Come for the apocalypse.
Stay for cupcakes.
Die for love.

Madeleine Cost is working to become the youngest person ever to win the Archibald Prize for portraiture. Her elusive cousin Tyler is the perfect subject: androgynous, beautiful, and famous. All she needs to do is pin him down for the sittings.

None of her plans factored in the Spires: featureless, impossible, spearing into the hearts of cities across the world - and spraying clouds of sparkling dust into the wind.

Is it an alien invasion? Germ warfare? They are questions everyone on Earth would like answered, but Madeleine has a more immediate problem. At Ground Zero of the Sydney Spire, beneath the collapsed ruin of St James Station, she must make it to the surface before she can hope to find out if the world is ending.

Warning: Contains swearing, sexual situations, and Australians.


Whenever I read the description on NetGalley, I was hesitant to request it. I wasn't sure if I was up for reading a sci-fi book. I love a good sci-fi book, but I have to be in the mood for one to really enjoy it.

However, I'm really glad I requested this book. I ended up liking it a lot more than I thought I would. The characters felt real and were relatable. The story was interesting and kept my attention.

I loved that Höst kept the story to a single book. It's becoming more and more rare for an author to wrap up a story in a single book instead of making a series. If a sequel were to come out, though, I would definitely read it.

Though the book was great, I felt like the ending was a little abrupt. It wasn't enough to throw me off completely. I also really appreciate Höst adding the epilogue to finish off the story.


4 out of 5 stars

This book was received from Netgalley for review.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Book Review: Push: A Novel

Title Push: A Novel

Author Sapphire

Release Date April 29, 1997

Precious Jones, an illiterate sixteen-year-old, has up until now been invisible: invisible to the father who rapes her and the mother who batters her and to the authorities who dismiss her as just one more of Harlem's casualties. But when Precious, pregnant with a second child by her father, meets a determined and highly radical teacher, we follow her on a journey of education and enlightenment as Precious learns not only how to write about her life, but how to make it her own for the first time.

I wanted to like this book, I really did. A couple of years ago, I saw Precious (the film based on the novel). I really enjoyed the movie and I was hoping that the book was even better.

Unfortunately, I was wrong. Perhaps the book was a little too crude for me. Perhaps it was just beyond my understanding. Perhaps the movie just translated better for me. Whatever the case may be, it just didn't live up the movie for me. In my opinion, skip the book and watch the movie. This isn't advice that I give out very often, so take it for what you will.

Precious is the narrator of the story. In the beginning of the book, while Precious is still functionally illiterate, she uses minimal English. She forgoes spelling and grammar completely. As Precious learns, though, the book evolves with her. The entire tone of her voice changes, although she still keeps her dialect.

Another thing about the writing is her choice of language. She uses a lot of curse words and derogatory language. I am certainly not against cursing or anything (trust me, I've got a terrible mouth), but I feel like it took away from the story rather than added to it.

I understand that Push is written from Precious's PoV and sometimes in order to take a harsh and gritty story, you've gotta write like she Sapphire did. I get it. Sometimes, though, it was just too much to handle.

I truly enjoyed the change in Precious. It was wonderful to see her evolve from someone that thought she was worth nothing to someone that knew her life had a greater purpose and that she was more than her struggles.

Fantastic story, but execution left something to be desired. 


2.5 out of 5 stars

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Book Review: Shine

Title Shine

Author Lauren Myracle

Release Date May 1, 2011

When her best guy friend falls victim to a vicious hate crime, sixteen-year-old Cat sets out to discover who in her small town did it. Richly atmospheric, this daring mystery mines the secrets of a tightly knit Southern community and examines the strength of will it takes to go against everyone you know in the name of justice.

Against a backdrop of poverty, clannishness, drugs, and intolerance, Myracle has crafted a harrowing coming-of-age tale couched in a deeply intelligent mystery. Smart, fearless, and compassionate, this is an unforgettable work from a beloved author.

Whenever I first heard about Shine, I immediately wanted to read it. Heavy issues like homophobia and hate crimes have a tendency to draw me in. Throw in the fact that the story takes place in a small Southern community and I couldn't wait to pick this book up.

First, let me say that I had a hard time writing a decent review for this book without giving away too many spoilers.

Shine was a decent book. I think I might have expected more than it was willing to give, though. Of course, that's not the books fault. I blame the blurb for being too interesting.

I feel like, in general, the characters and story follow like they would if these were real events. The small town characters were more willing to brush the ugliness of the world aside and pretend like it never happened.

I enjoyed Cat's character. Myracle made her feel very real and relatable, especially as someone from the South. I could relate to her wanting to be different from all the others around her. While I'm not from a small Southern town, I understand how people from the South get pegged as uneducated, ignorant people. I really liked that Cat worked to be different by staying in school, away from drugs, and open-minded.

It really bugged me that by halfway through the book, I was 90% sure I knew who committed the hate crime against Patrick. And by the time Cat had figured it out, I was 100% sure. I feel like Myracle made it a little bit too obvious to the readers.

Another thing I wasn't too fond of was Cat's "love interest" in the story. It seemed completely out-of-place in the story. He could have been omitted from the story and it wouldn't have made any difference at all. Overall, I don't feel like he contributed enough to the story to even be in it.


3.5 stars out of 5 stars

Friday, October 12, 2012

Book Review: Brother/Sister

Title Brother/Sister

Author Sean Olin

Release Date June 9, 2011

Will and Asheley have a troubled past. Their father left them when they were little, and their mother has just been carted off to an alcohol treatment center. Now, they have the house to themselves, and an endless California summer stretching out before them. Through alternating perspectives, they tell the story of how and why their lives spun violently out of control - right up to the impossibly shocking conclusion you'll have to read for yourself to believe.
I read numerous reviews on Brother/Sister before I decided to read it. Many people called the book dark and disturbing with a shocking and surprising ending. I knew I had read it. 

Brother/Sister was an amazing book. The writing, the characters, the plot... all of it was pretty mind-blowing. I was sucked in from the beginning and could hardly put down the book.

I really enjoyed the alternating views in the story. I think Olin did a fantastic job at switching between Asheley and Will. I felt like his writing suited each character perfectly, almost as if each character was written by a separate author. I find that some authors struggle with giving each character a unique voice, but that's definitely not the case here.

It was hard to find any faults with this book, but I did find a small one. How the story was told (talking to the police, but without their questions or reactions) was a little off-putting at times. It wasn't a huge problem, but just a little odd.

And of course, I must mention the ending of the book. Without giving away any spoilers, it was (just as the reviews I read promised) both shocking and surprising. It could not have possibly ended in a better way.

I would really like to see a sequel for Brother/Sister, but I completely understand if it doesn't. In fact, while I would like to see a sequel, I believe not having one would make much more sense in the grand scheme of things. Ending the story like Olin did was pure perfection.


5 out 5 stars

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Book Review: Unbreakables

Title Unbreakables

Author Joe Pringle

Release Date August 22, 2012

Chris, Ben and Leon are qualified, willing and ambitious, yet unable to find work in their fields. Leon is tired of waiting tables, Ben can't take sitting at home with nothing to do anymore and Chris has had enough of his tedious, make-do, job. Just as they're about to give up all hope Ben arrives with a plan.

With all the skills and knowledge that typical criminals are without, Ben, Chris and Leon are more than qualified to be professional thieves. The score? Three large and rare diamonds that have been confiscated from smugglers, now belonging to no one. It’s a victimless crime.

Being inexperienced means that the three men run into many problems and more than just their skills are tested with each one discovering his own weaknesses. Technical, moral and emotional issues obstruct their plan, but will it stop them in their tracks entirely?

When options run thin, creativity kicks in.

I wouldn't normally pick up a book like Unbreakables. The whole crime/adventure genre doesn't appeal to me very much. That said, after reading the blurb I was definitely interested in reading this book to see if it could change my mind about the genre. 

Unbreakables was a really good book. I was much more interested in it than I thought I would be. The writing and characters definitely kept me interested in the beginning. By the middle of the book, I was totally hooked into the plot.

I enjoyed the solid writing. The author is great at attention to detail and actually fleshing out his story. His characters are believable and his story seems very real.

The story did seem a little slow to get to the point in the beginning of the book. However, this was not enough to make the book unbearable. It was more of a minor annoyance than anything.

If you're looking for a solid crime/adventure book or, if you're like me and just want something different, I definitely recommend this book.


4 out of 5 stars

* This book was received from the author in exchange for an honest review. *

Friday, July 6, 2012

Book Review: White Oleander

Title White Oleander

Author Janet Fitch

Release Date September 1, 2001

Everywhere hailed as a novel of rare beauty and power, White Oleander tells the unforgettable story of Ingrid, a brilliant poet imprisoned for murder, and her daughter, Astrid, whose odyssey through a series of Los Angeles foster homes-each its own universe, with its own laws, its own dangers, its own hard lessons to be learned-becomes a redeeming and surprising journey of self-discovery.

I first heard about White Oleander a few years ago whenever I saw the movie on TV. Whenever I found out that the story was originally a book, I decided that I wanted to read it (which almost always happens).

In general, White Oleander was a well written book. Sometimes, though, the descriptive language was overdone. I'm unsure of whether or not this is Fitch's style of writing or if it's somehow related to this story (Astrid's mother, Ingrid, is a poet after all).

I really enjoyed the story. While it did seem to drag a bit in some places, I understand that it does cover an extensive part of Astrid's life (the better part of nine years, I believe). I also feel like a chunk of the book could be removed (any chunk, just pick a chunk) and you'd still end up the with same storyline.

As far as the ending goes, it wasn't the best. I feel like the ending of the book was very rushed. It didn't really match the pace set by the rest of the story. When I reached the end of the book, I was sort of left with the feeling of "that's it?".

Overall, though, I would recommend this book. Even with its flaws, it's still interesting enough and written well enough to be enjoyed by most people. Keep it mind, though, that's not sunshine and rainbows at all. If that's what you're looking for, you'll be sorely disappointed.


4 out of 5 stars

Friday, June 22, 2012

Book Review: The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight

Title The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight

Author Jennifer E. Smith

Release Date January 2, 2012

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.

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight was a cute, but quick, read. It wasn't really what I expected, but that's not to say it was bad.

The story was a bit too unrealistic for my taste. The entire story takes place over 24 hours. Because of this, it feels like Smith rushed to get all the loose ends tied up. It would have made more sense to me to have the story take place over a longer period of time than to squish everything into 24 hours.

While the book was very predictable and fluffy, it might be something I'd recommend to someone looking for a quick read.


2 out of 5 stars 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Book Review: Love & Leftovers

Title Love & Leftovers

Author Sarah Tregay

Release Date December 27, 2011

My Wish
is to fall
cranium over Converse
in dizzy daydream-worthy love.
(If only it were that easy.)

Marcie has been dragged away from home for the summer--from Idaho to a family summer house in New Hampshire. She's left behind her friends, a group of freaks and geeks called the Leftovers, including her emo-rocker boyfriend, and her father.

By the time Labor Day rolls around, Marcie suspects this "summer vacation" has become permanent. She has to start at a new school, and there she leaves behind her Leftover status when a cute boy brings her breakfast and a new romance heats up. But understanding love, especially when you've watched your parents' affections end, is elusive. What does it feel like, really? Can you even know it until you've lost it?

Love & Leftovers is a beautifully written story of one girl's journey navigating family, friends, and love, and a compelling and sexy read that teens will gobble up whole.

I love books written in verse (e.g. anything written by Ellen Hopkins). Be that as it may, I didn't really care for Love & Leftovers.

While some books written in verse do a great job in telling the story, I feel like Love & Leftovers was just random tidbits of what could have been a good storyline. I feel like this story would have been better if it wasn't written in verse.

Overall, Love & Leftovers left me feeling underwhelmed. While it was a quick read, it's not a book that I'm likely to recommend.


2 out of 5 stars 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Book Review: Saving June

Title Saving June

Author Hannah Harrington

Release Date May 1, 2011

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.

Hannah Harrington has definitely set the bar high with her debut novel, Saving June.

Harrington is a wonderful story-teller. Her writing is polished and realistic. Harrington creates very relatable characters and an engaging storyline. Saving June was one of those books that I had a hard time putting down while I read it.

Another thing that I loved about Saving June is that Harrington incorporated music into the storyline. (She includes the playlists at the end of the book.) I believe that the music helps strength the emotional connection the reader feels with the characters.


4 out of 5 stars

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Book Review: Fifty Shades Freed

Title Fifty Shades Freed

Series Fifty Shades, book 3

Author  E.L. James

Release Date January 17, 2012

When unworldly student Anastasia Steele first encountered the driven and dazzling young entrepreneur Christian Grey it sparked a sensual affair that changed both of their lives irrevocably. Shocked, intrigued, and, ultimately, repelled by Christian’s singular erotic tastes, Ana demands a deeper commitment. Determined to keep her, Christian agrees.

Now, Ana and Christian have it all—love, passion, intimacy, wealth, and a world of possibilities for their future. But Ana knows that loving her Fifty Shades will not be easy, and that being together will pose challenges that neither of them would anticipate. Ana must somehow learn to share Christian’s opulent lifestyle without sacrificing her own identity. And Christian must overcome his compulsion to control as he wrestles with the demons of a tormented past.

Just when it seems that their strength together will eclipse any obstacle, misfortune, malice, and fate conspire to make Ana’s deepest fears turn to reality.


Did anyone bother to edit these books before they were published or did they just publish the rough draft? Between the horrible writing and the grammar mistakes, you'd think they published the first draft E. L. James gave them. I'm not sure about most people, but a book loses some of its awesomeness whenever there are tons of mistakes. Also, can anyone tell me why the book is sprinkled with "big" words when James seems to have trouble coming up with something other than eye-rolling, flushing, muttering characters?! It certainly seems like she can flip through a thesaurus and pick out the most obscure words, but she can only make characters murmur or scream at each other. What the hell is that about?

Now, I hesitate to say that the sex scenes have improved. While they do seem to be a little hotter, they still are highly unrealistic. Let me explain myself. Women rarely orgasm every single time (and those that do are very lucky, haha), but Ana has no problem doing do. Not only does Ana orgasm every time (with the exception of once or twice), she always does so before Christian. And she can practically orgasm on command. Seriously? I understand that this is a fiction book, but a little bit of realism would greatly improve the quality of the sex scenes. Another issues I have with the sex scenes is... holy crap, there's a ton of them! I understand that this is an erotic book, but there is such a thing as overkill. This is it.

Overall, the book (and the trilogy in general) was interesting enough to read. Out of all three books, this one was the best read. While I'd probably recommend it to friends, I'd include the same warning I include with the Twilight books... don't look for spectacular writing or an amazing storyline. You definitely won't find either in these books. You will find, however, a way to past the time.


2 out of 5 stars 

Friday, June 8, 2012

Book Review: Fifty Shades Darker

Title Fifty Shades Darker

Series Fifty Shades, book 2

Author E.L. James

Release Date September 13, 2011

Daunted by the singular tastes and dark secrets of the beautiful, tormented young entrepreneur Christian Grey, Anastasia Steele has broken off their relationship to start a new career with a Seattle publishing house.

But desire for Christian still dominates her every waking thought, and when he proposes a new arrangement, Anastasia cannot resist. They rekindle their searing sensual affair, and Anastasia learns more about the harrowing past of her damaged, driven and demanding Fifty Shades.

While Christian wrestles with his inner demons, Anastasia must confront the anger and envy of the women who came before her, and make the most important decision of her life.

First off, the writing is still pretty awful. Once again, we're stuck with the same old boring and repetitive descriptions. You would think that someone would have mentioned to the author that perhaps she should try some different words or phrases. Truly, I'm sick of seeing Ana flush, bite her lip, and roll her eyes.

Secondly, the sex scenes haven't improved much at all. There's still nothing sexy or erotic about referring to parts of the female body as "down there" or her "behind." Under no circumstances am I expecting crude language, but I am expecting something a little less childish. This is supposed to be an erotic fiction book for ADULTS, right?

And of course, I'll give you something positive about the book. Much like the first, it keeps you reading. The only thing is you can't try to delve deeper into the storyline. The whole thing is very shallow and surface. Look for more in this book (most likely the entire trilogy) and you're going to be sorely disappointed. If you can get past the terrible writing (which apparently I can), it's an entertaining read.


2 out of 5 stars 

Monday, June 4, 2012

Book Review: Fifty Shades of Grey

Title Fifty Shades of Grey

Series Fifty Shades, book 1

Author  E.L. James

Release Date May 25, 2011

When literature student Anastasia Steele goes to interview young entrepreneur Christian Grey, she encounters a man who is beautiful, brilliant, and intimidating. The unworldly, innocent Ana is startled to realize she wants this man and, despite his enigmatic reserve, finds she is desperate to get close to him. Unable to resist Ana’s quiet beauty, wit, and independent spirit, Grey admits he wants her, too—but on his own terms.

Shocked yet thrilled by Grey’s singular erotic tastes, Ana hesitates. For all the trappings of success—his multinational businesses, his vast wealth, his loving family—Grey is a man tormented by demons and consumed by the need to control. When the couple embarks on a daring, passionately physical affair, Ana discovers Christian Grey’s secrets and explores her own dark desires.

Erotic, amusing, and deeply moving, the Fifty Shades Trilogy is a tale that will obsess you, possess you, and stay with you forever.


It seems like everyone is talking about this book. It's a New York Times #1 best-selling erotic fiction paperback and e-book. I've seen it mentioned around the web, on Facebook, in magazines and newspapers. After hearing so much about the book (and the trilogy in general), I had to give it a read.

First off, the writing is pretty bad. There was nothing engaging about it. The descriptions were boring and repetitive (is it possible that repetitive is an understatement?). There were numerous times throughout the book where I sighed to myself and rolled my eyes (haha), unable to believe that she used the same phrase again. [Side note: I've read in numerous places that this book started out as fanfic for Twilight. While there are some similarities, I can definitely connect the two by way of terrible writing and story-telling.]

Secondly, the story was pretty bad. While the concept was interesting for a romance novel, the execution was terrible. The storyline wasn't fleshed out enough, the pace was sluggish, the "romance" was childish, and the sex scenes sound like they were written by a very sheltered and shy teenage girl. Another note on the sex scenes, who was the author trying to turn on here? Nothing was sexy, erotic, or hot at all about the sex scenes.

Thirdly, I'll give you some positive about the book. I did keep reading it. While the author is definitely not a writer of a literary masterpiece, she does keep you turning the page. Maybe it's like a car accident, where you just can't look away. Whatever it is, I finished the book and I started reading the second one. Here's to hoping that it's better than the first.


2 out of 5 stars