Thursday, June 24, 2010

Review: The Life of Glass

Title:  The Life of Glass
Author:  Jillian Cantor

       From GoodReads, "Before he died, Melissa’s father told her about stars. He told her that the brightest stars weren’t always the most beautiful—that if people took the time to look at the smaller stars, if they looked with a telescope at the true essence of the star, they would find real beauty. But even though Melissa knows that beauty isn’t only skin deep, the people around her don’t seem to feel that way. There’s her gorgeous sister Ashley who will barely acknowledge Melissa at school, there's her best friend Ryan, who may be falling in love with the sophisticated Courtney, and there’s Melissa’s mother who’s dating someone new, someone who Melissa knows will never be able to replace her father.

To make sure she doesn’t lose her father completely, Melissa spends her time trying to piece together the last of his secrets and completing a journal her father began—one about love and relationships and the remarkable ways people find one another. But when tragedy strikes, Melissa has to start living and loving in the present, as she realizes that being beautiful on the outside doesn't mean you can't be beautiful on the inside."

     I have to admit that this book reminded me a little bit too much of my own life to a certain degree.  As I began reading, it was eerily familiar and I felt a certain deja vu until I got past the first several chapters.  Let me explain... in high school, my father was diagnosed with a brain tumor that eventually led to his death after hospice in his early forties (which is similar to the main character's issues).   Another similarity that the main character and I share is our first name, Melissa.  As I started reading, the book transported me back to my earlier experiences.  Thankfully, those two similarities are the only ones we shared.  If the book had had anything else in common with me, I might have written the author and asked her where she got her inspiration.  
     To say that I liked this book would be an understatement.  I thought the book was amazing.  I loved how the author, Jillian Cantor,  voiced the main character, Melissa, and found her to be a honestly, refreshing high-school female character.  It was easy to feel what she was feeling.  I found Cantor's writing to be impeccable and reminiscent of why I fell in love with Sarah Dessen's writing in the beginning.  The way Cantor describes Melissa's emotions make it easy to identify with her problems and dilemmas.  It is unbelievable to think that this is only her second book.  From the first written words on the page to the very last period, she made me a part of her story and it reminded me of why I love reading in the first place... that you get a chance to live somebody else's life for a while.  

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Review: She's So Dead to Us

Title: She's So Dead to Us
Author:  Kieran Scott

     From GoodReads, "Perfect, picturesque Orchard Hill. It was the last thing Ally Ryan saw in the rear-view mirror as her mother drove them out of town and away from the shame of the scandal her father caused when his hedge fund went south and practically bankrupted all their friends -- friends that liked having trust funds and new cars, and that didn't like constant reminders that they had been swindled. So it was adios,Orchard Hill. Thanks for nothing.

Now, two years later, Ally's mother has landed a job back at the site of their downfall. So instead of Ally's new low-key, happy life, it'll be back into the snake pit with the likes of Shannen Moore and Hammond Ross.
But then there's Jake Graydon. Handsome, wealthy, bored Jake Graydon. He moved to town after Ally left and knows nothing of her scandal, but does know that he likes her. And she likes him. So off into the sunset they can go, right? Too bad Jake's friends have a problem with his new crush since it would make Ally happy. And if anyone deserves to be unhappy, it's Ally Ryan.
Ally was hoping to have left all the drama in the past, but some things just can't be forgotten. Isn't there more to life than money?"

     As a huge fan of Kieran Scott, I had been anxiously awaiting this book.  Unfortunately the book didn't live up to my expectations.  Don't get me wrong, there were lots of things about this book that I liked.  For example, I liked how the author used the school calendar to present what was going on in the story.  I thought that this was a clever way to progress through the book.  I also liked the premise of the book, especially because of all the things we hear on the news about the recession and ponzi schemes.  I also liked how the book alternated between two perspectives, Ally and Jake.  I liked the character of Ally for the most part.  Her fall from grace was believable and I could totally buy why it would have been difficult to return to the scene of the crime.  The hardest things to read were the parts of the story where her former friends were so incredibly mean to her.  I really liked the character of Jake.  Even though he was probably one of the most popular guys in school (and one of the best looking), Kieran Scott managed to give him soul and depth.  His inner struggle with fitting in with the crowd and doing the right thing was my favorite thing about the book.
     Now for the things I didn't exactly like.  Maybe I am just used to the way Kieran Scott usually writes, but this book was a lot different from earlier books that I have read.  I thought that in many ways the book was very predictable.  Once I realized that Ally's friends were mostly mean girls (especially Shannon), I pretty much could guess what their next terrible plan was for Ally.  I almost put the book down a couple of times, but the one thing I really wanted to know about (Ally's father) kept me reading.  Without giving away anything, I was very disappointed in how the book ended.  I now know that this book will probably be a sequel and it really isn't one that I can't wait to get my hands on... in fact, I'm not really that invested now with how Ally's life will turn out.  Having read (and loved) all of Kieran's Scott's book, I will definitely return to this author, but I probably won't return to this series.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Review: Into the Wild Nerd Yonder

Title: Into the Wild Nerd Yonder
Author: Julie Halpern

     From GoodReads, "It’s Jessie’s sophomore year of high school. A self-professed “mathelete,” she isn’t sure where she belongs. Her two best friends have transformed themselves into punks and one of them is going after her longtime crush. Her beloved older brother will soon leave for college (and in the meantime has shaved his mohawk and started dating . . . the prom princess!) . . .

Things are changing fast. Jessie needs new friends. And her quest is a hilarious tour through high-school clique-dom, with a surprising stop along the way—the Dungeons and Dragons crowd, who out-nerd everyone. Will hanging out with them make her a nerd, too? And could she really be crushing on a guy with too-short pants and too-white gym shoes? If you go into the wild nerd yonder, can you ever come back?"

     I'm feeling a little conflicted about this book because I love the main character in the story's quirkiness (she sews her own patterned skirts and plays the drums and Dungeons and Dragons), her ability to get rid of poseur-friends, and her smarts.  There is one aspect of the main character that bothers me though and that is her relationship with her brother, Barrett.  I am fine with the fact that they look up to each other and have a close relationship, but there were times where I felt that they were too close.  I felt like Jessie had a certain innocence on one hand, but the next minute she was discussing her friend Bizza's sexual exploits with her brother. I think that the author meant this to demonstrate a certain coming-of-age quality to the book.  
      Overall, I liked the book and think that it would appeal to middle school and high school girls particularly.  There were parts of the book that I think upper elementary girls would like, but I worried about some of the sexual aspects of the book for this age group.  One huge compliment that I have for the author is her highlighting other terrific books.  I loved how she described the audiobooks that Jessie was listening to and a couple of the books discussed I had read and some I had not, but it made me want to read those books as well. Kudos, Julie Halpern!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Review: Split

Title: Split
Author: Swati Avasthi

     From GoodReads, "Sixteen-Year-Old Jace Witherspoon arrives at the doorstep of his estranged brother Christian with a re-landscaped face (courtesy of his father’s fist), $3.84, and a secret.
He tries to move on, going for new friends, a new school, and a new job, but all his changes can’t make him forget what he left behind—his mother, who is still trapped with his dad, and his ex-girlfriend, who is keeping his secret.
At least so far.
Worst of all, Jace realizes that if he really wants to move forward, he may first have to do what scares him most: He may have to go back. First-time novelist Swati Avasthihas created a riveting and remarkably nuanced portrait of what happens after. After you’ve said enough, after you’ve run, after you’ve made the split — how do you begin to live again?"

     This book was an amazing read!  I'm always trying to find great books for guys and I am really happy that this book is written from a guy's perspective.  I think that author, Swati Avasthi, (a woman, which I didn't realize until I read the back flap) did an amazing job portraying the feelings of someone like Jace, a teenager who purposefully takes the abuse of his father to protect his mother.  The book is a roller coaster ride of emotions and it is easy to see how even in a bad experience, family is one of those things that is permanent.  
     I loved the dynamic between Jace and his brother, Christian, who left the family when Jace was eleven to escape the abuse.  It is understanding that Jace would be somewhat untrusting of Christian and vice-versa.  The thing that is difficult to understand, both before and after reading the book, is why someone stays in an abusive relationship.  The book gave me some insight into the reasons, but I still don't understand it fully... and maybe, fortunately for me, I never will.

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