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Archive for January, 2014

Scar Boys by Len Vlahos

Posted by Caitie F on January 18, 2014

Title: Scar Boysscar
Author: Len Vlahos
Hardcover: 256 pages
Pub Date: Jan 21, 2014
Publisher: EgmontUSA
Rating: ++++

Summary from pub:

A severely burned teenager. A guitar. Punk rock. The chords of a rock ‘n’ roll road trip in a coming-of-age novel that is a must-read story about finding your place in the world…even if you carry scars inside and out.

In attempting to describe himself in his college application essay–help us to become acquainted with you beyond your courses, grades, and test scores–Harbinger (Harry) Jones goes way beyond the 250-word limit and gives a full account of his life.

The first defining moment: the day the neighborhood goons tied him to a tree during a lightning storm when he was 8 years old, and the tree was struck and caught fire. Harry was badly burned and has had to live with the physical and emotional scars, reactions from strangers, bullying, and loneliness that instantly became his everyday reality.

The second defining moment: the day in 8th grade when the handsome, charismatic Johnny rescued him from the bullies and then made the startling suggestion that they start a band together. Harry discovered that playing music transported him out of his nightmare of a world, and he finally had something that compelled people to look beyond his physical appearance. Harry’s description of his life in his essay is both humorous and heart-wrenching. He had a steeper road to climb than the average kid, but he ends up learning something about personal power, friendship, first love, and how to fit in the world. While he’s looking back at the moments that have shaped his life, most of this story takes place while Harry is in high school and the summer after he graduates.

Review:

If you are looking for young adult/new adult realistic fiction set in the past, this is a book for you. It is right on the edge of the young adult/new adult line. Most of the book takes place during the summer between high school and college/the rest of life. They are dealing with figuring out the rest of their lives and being in an awesome punk band.It is truly a coming of age novel.

There is so much to like in this book. As a huge fan of music, that was one of my favorite aspects – all of the music references and seeing what it was like on the inside of the band and how ugly it could get. I also loved that the chapters titles were songs that gave a hint about what would happen. I spent some time on Youtube and iTunes when i was done.

I also thought the style of the book was interesting. It was written as a college essay (probably the longest one ever), but it only referred to the admission counselors a couple times. It took me out a little when it happened, but in a good way because it reminded me that this is how Harry wants to represent himself. It says more about who Harry is than his actions and adds another layer to the book.

My only complaint is that some of the secondary characters felt a little flat, especially the female character. It was because the characters were only described how Harry saw them, but there could have been some depth added.

Overall, it is a good read with a different story and voice than what it out there. I am a big music fan so having that,a road trip, and a character that had visible scars that changed how he saw himself made me pretty sure I would like it before I even started.

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A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller

Posted by Caitie F on January 13, 2014

Title: A Mad, Wicked Follymad
Author: Sharon Biggs Waller
Hardcover: 448 pages
Pub Date: Jan 13, 2014
Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Rating: +++++

Summary from pub:

Welcome to the world of the fabulously wealthy in London, 1909, where dresses and houses are overwhelmingly opulent, social class means everything, and women are taught to be nothing more than wives and mothers. Into this world comes seventeen-year-old Victoria Darling, who wants only to be an artist—a nearly impossible dream for a girl.

After Vicky poses nude for her illicit art class, she is expelled from her French finishing school. Shamed and scandalized, her parents try to marry her off to the wealthy Edmund Carrick-Humphrey. But Vicky has other things on her mind: her clandestine application to the Royal College of Art; her participation in the suffragette movement; and her growing attraction to a working-class boy who may be her muse—or may be the love of her life. As the world of debutante balls, corsets, and high society obligations closes in around her, Vicky must figure out: just how much is she willing to sacrifice to pursue her dreams?

Review:

We need more YA historical fiction, especially YA historical fiction that looks at the suffrage movement. Young women take all the rights they have for granted sometimes. Yes, we aren’t where we need to be, but we seem to forget all of the women who helped us get this far.

But this isn’t just a story about feminism and suffrage, it is a story about love, art, and following your dreams no matter what the cost.

No one expects anything for Vicky other than a good marriage where she will be a dutiful and doting wife and mother. Vicky’s true passion is art and she wants to go to the best school in London to learn and then live as an artist. It is much harder when she is sent home for posing in her art class in France. Her parents no longer trust her and want to marry her off as quickly as possible.

She is a headstrong young woman and won’t give it all up that easily. She finds ways to sneak out to get supplies and get her work done. Along the way, she meets some suffragettes and joins their cause, all while meeting a handsome police officer who offers to be the subject of her application to art school. She does not want to be caught, but she does not want to give up on her dreams, so it is all worth it.

There is so much drama in this book and it makes it so very hard to put down! I loved reading the historical context of the suffrage movement in London and how her parents treated Vicky (and how she handled the king!). I loved the subtle romance. I loved the plotting and sneaking. It was the perfect YA historical fiction book!

Have you read any good historical fiction lately?

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The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson

Posted by Caitie F on January 8, 2014

Title: The Impossible Knife of Memory imp
Author: Laurie Halse Anderson
Hardcover: 372 pages
Pub Date: Jan 7, 2014
Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Rating: ++++

Summary from pub:

For the past five years, Hayley Kincaid and her father, Andy, have been on the road, never staying long in one place as he struggles to escape the demons that have tortured him since his return from Iraq. Now they are back in the town where he grew up so Hayley can attend school. Perhaps, for the first time, Hayley can have a normal life, put aside her own painful memories, even have a relationship with Finn, the hot guy who obviously likes her but is hiding secrets of his own.

Will being back home help Andy’s PTSD, or will his terrible memories drag him to the edge of hell, and drugs push him over?

Review:

Many people forget about soldiers who come home and their families. The Impossible Knife of Memory takes a look at how war impacts both veterans and their families even after everyone is back home. It is not an easy book to read, but it is a book we all need to read. It is a very good book, so it is worth the difficulty.

Hayley’s father drinks to deal with his PTSD, so Hayley never knows what to expect when she gets home. It isn’t easy being just the two of them and she feels helpless. She has moved around so much that it is hard for her to make friends, and it is hard for the reader to know who she is also. Luckily, she meets Finn, a guy that starts out as a pain in her ass who has his own problems at home.

Their relationship develops slowly and naturally. She pushes him away because she doesn’t want anyone to be close to her, to see what is really going on, but eventually becomes more comfortable. As she opens up to Finn, the reader gets to see she is smart and kind and caring, but far from perfect. How can she be, growing up how she has?

This is a wonderfully written book and it is a must-read for anyone. It is about asking for help when you need it, finding the right way how. It is about opening yourself up to friendship and being there for those you love and even just those around you, looking out for those in your community.

Give this incredibly moving and current book a read.

 

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Independent Study by Joelle Charbonneau

Posted by Caitie F on January 5, 2014

Title: Independent StudyIndie Study
Author: Joelle Charbonneau
Hardcover: 320 pages
Pub Date: January 7, 2014
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
Rating: +++++

Summary from pub:

In the series debut The Testing, sixteen-year-old Cia Vale was chosen by the United Commonwealth government as one of the best and brightest graduates of all the colonies . . . a promising leader in the effort to revitalize postwar civilization. In Independent Study, Cia is a freshman at the University in Tosu City with her hometown sweetheart, Tomas—and though the government has tried to erase her memory of the brutal horrors of The Testing, Cia remembers. Her attempts to expose the ugly truth behind the government’s murderous programs put her—and her loved ones—in a world of danger. But the future of the Commonwealth depends on her.

Review:

I thought The Testing was incredible and it reminded me of The Hunger Games. This book was also incredible, but it was even better than Catching Fire, and I loved that book.

Cia is still a wonderful main character. She has some idea of what happened during the Testing, so she is very wary of the others, especially the students from Tosu City who did not have to go through it. Her intelligence and natural instincts continue to be at the core of who she is. Does she do some risky things? Of course, it is a dystopian book with death on the line. Yet she thinks, acts, and responds as a leader should.

This book is still about what you would do to become a leader, but it is handled in much different ways. There are competitions and tests, but there are also more ways to work together and encourage others a little more. Not everyone is to be trusted, but there is more trust in this book.

If you dislike books that foreshadow too much what is going to happen, don’t worry, that does not happen in this book. I was reading it in public and I am sure others keep looking at me weirdly because I kept gasping at my book.

The other great thing about this book is that it wasn’t filler, even though it was the second book in a trilogy. Some of the book was set-up, but it didn’t feel that it was just setting up the big action of the final book. The book had events and consequences to those events. There were game changers, but they weren’t thrown in at the very last sentence (I am looking at you Catching Fire). Events mattered, conversations mattered.

This book brings up so many questions about life. What makes a good leader? Are the best leaders those who don’t ask for it? Can leadership be taught? Where are the lines between right and wrong? Would you change your mind on how to react to something differently if it didn’t affect you? There are so many questions about society that I am still thinking about it over a week after I finished the book.

This is a wonderful sequel and I want the last book now.

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Joyland by Stephen King

Posted by Caitie F on January 4, 2014

Title: Joyland13596166
Author: Stephen King
Paperback: 288 pages
Pub Date: June 4, 2014
Publisher: Hard Case Crime
Rating: +++++

Summary from publisher:

Set in a small-town North Carolina amusement park in 1973, Joyland tells the story of the summer in which college student Devin Jones comes to work as a carny and confronts the legacy of a vicious murder, the fate of a dying child, and the ways both will change his life forever

Review:

The first book I finished in 2014 is a perfect book. It is Stephen King, so I knew it was a possibility, but I wasn’t expecting it to be this good.

This is the King book for readers that do not like horror because it isn’t really a horror book. There is a ghost and some suspense, but it is not a scary book. It is categorized as a mystery, but it feels more like a realistic fiction/coming-of-age adult novel that happens to have a mystery in it. The main focus isn’t the mystery, the main focus of the book is Dev and the year that changed him.

The writing of this book is phenomenal. Stephen King is a master story teller and everything is spot on in  this book. All the characters are realistic and full characters.  The reader understand each of the characters and their motivations. They talk like real people and their actions make sense.

The setting is also great. I am all about amusements parks and can only imagine places like Joyland, since that kind of place isn’t around anymore. It was like reading about a whole different world, but one you could easily imagine from every ride to wearing the fur. It made me long for an amusement park, even Disney World which it put down so many times (not cool!).

The mystery is even good, but there are a couple spots where characters say things that make no sense once you finish the book. It felt like King was misdirecting the reader and that was all. The rest of the book is so fantastic that I didn’t even care.

The structure of the story is also very clever. The narrative is as if Dev is the writer, but decades later. There are hints to what happened in his life beyond this summer that really add to him. It takes away form some of the suspense, but this book isn’t about suspense.

Overall, this is a fantastic book and everyone should read it, especially if you have always wanted to read Stephen king, but don’t like horror. I started my 2014 reading with a truly amazing book.

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The Blossoming Universe of Violet Diamond by Brenda Woods

Posted by Caitie F on January 3, 2014

Title: The Blossoming Universe of Violet Diamond 18079754
Author: Brenda Woods
Hardcover: 240 pages
Pub Date: January 9, 2014
Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books
Rating: ++++

Summary from pub:

Violet is a smart, funny, brown-eyed, brown-haired girl in a family of blonds. Her mom is white, and her dad, who died before she was born, was black. She attends a mostly white school where she sometimes feels like a brown leaf on a pile of snow. She’s tired of people asking if she’s adopted. Now that Violet’s eleven, she decides it’s time to learn about her African American heritage. And despite getting off to a rocky start trying to reclaim her dad’s side of the family, she can feel her confidence growing as the puzzle pieces of her life finally start coming together. Readers will cheer for Violet, sharing her joy as she discovers her roots.

Review:

This book came to me at work and I was really excited. I am always looking for diversity in middle grade books with real characters and stories.

Violet is amazing. She talked and acted like kids actually talk and act. She was very well-behaved but was not perfect, especially when she was in uncomfortable situations or frustrated with the world. She is smart and kind, but like everyone, does things she shouldn’t have but she learns from it.

Race is what is in the center of this book. VIolet loves her family, but sometimes feels out of place. People look at her funny when her Mom introduces her as her daughter and she gets treated differently. Her father’s family never had an interest in getting to know her, but she reaches out even though the results might not be so good. She handles herself with such poise and bravery that it had me in tears.

I don’t want to spoil what happens next, but you will tear up many times at her strength, laugh at her cleverness, and cheer for her entire family.

This is a wonderful book that centers around an important topic, but is really about one character that won’t leave your mind anytime soon.

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2014 Goals!

Posted by Caitie F on January 1, 2014

Jason put up a list of his resolutions today and i thought I would too! Here are my goals for 2014

Bookish:

If I stay in my current job, read 140 books.
OR
If I change jobs, read 100 books.

Read 5 books from the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die list

Read 10 non-fiction books

Finish all the challenges I signed up for!

Health:

Get down to 150 pounds

Get a couple of specialist doctors

Cancel our gym we dislike and find something new

Join a Masters swim team

Other:

Spend more time with family

Get into the next step in my career

Find 5 fun new activities to do with Jason

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