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. *