Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Truth About Forever

The Truth About Forever
written by Sarah Dessen

While The Truth About Forever may not be the most memorable or remarkable of Sarah Dessen's books, it's still a heartwarming story of family and forever. It takes a while for the story to really get started, but it is very much worth the wait. Once again, we are presented with an amazing, diverse cast of wacky characters and grow to love them all for their quirks. It's Sarah Dessen, so idealism is slightly expected, but I feel as if the idealism is overdone in this book more than any (particularly with the whole 'running' metaphor). I found Macy and Wes's ongoing game of Truth to be my favorite part of the book by far, fitting with Dessen's remarkable style of writing, full of her own poignant life truths. The ending was a bit anticlimactic--I think it should have just ended with the game, and the last two scenes would have worked well (with some tweaking) before that.

Rating: 4/5

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Booking Through Thursday-April 23, 2009

Question suggested by Barbara H:

My husband is not an avid reader, and he used to get very frustrated in college when teachers would insist discussing symbolism in a literary work when there didn’t seem to him to be any. He felt that writers often just wrote the story for the story’s sake and other people read symbolism into it.

It does seem like modern fiction just “tells the story” without much symbolism. Is symbolism an older literary device, like excessive description, that is not used much any more? Do you think there was as much symbolism as English teachers seemed to think? What are some examples of symbolism from your reading?

Symbolism, plain and simple, destroys any book for me. I'm fine if the symbolism is there and I'm not aware of it, but the moment it's pointed out and analyzed, it's gone, dead, not even gonna try to like it anymore. It is the main reason I despise analyzing books in class. Not everything has a deeper meaning, most stories were written for the stories. It is also the very reason I love modern fiction so much more, because authors are finally realizing, hey, it's what is told that counts, not what's hidden beneath. I love them for it.

I would like to direct you to this Facebook group, joined by Laurie Halse Anderson herself.

So my answer? Symbolism exists only if you look for it. You can get symbolism out of anything, and more than likely, it will be complete and utter rubbish you're pulling out of nowhere, but if you want to call it symbolism, well then, symbolism it shall be. Some stories really are better with the symbolism, but if it's relevant to the story and something you should be catching, you will. It's the so-called "symbolism" that's hidden way, way, way beneath the surface and often coaxed out by high school english teachers and professors that just ticks me off.

I prefer not to look for symbolism and just enjoy my stories for what they are, the way the author intended it to be read.

ETA: Was about to mention poetry, but would have been late for school had I done that. I'm fine with symbolism in poetry. In fact, poetry without symbolism is pretty bad poetry, unless it is written by Shel Silverstein or Dr. Seuss, and even they have some pretty heavy symbolism at times. However, this kind of symbolism isn't the impossible-to-determine, grasping-at-straws kind, and is easier to notice (Robert Frost, for instance).

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Book meme

Stolen from Katie's Book Blog!

Hardback, trade paperback or mass market paperback?
Hardcover. Paperbacks fall apart too easily and are flimsy. I like the firm cover.

Barnes & Noble or Borders?
I have never actually been to Borders. We only have a Waldenbooks around here and they barely ever have the books I want. Barnes & Noble, definitely.

Bookmark or dog-ear?
I used to dog-ear like crazy, but then I realized that it's not a very good thing to do, so now I use bookmarks :) (of course, by 'bookmarks' I do mean weird things, like notecards, sandwich receipts, hair-ties, etc.)

Amazon or brick-and-mortar?
Amazon...what's brick-and-mortar?

Alphabetize by author, or alphabetize by title, or random?
erm. well, once I get my own bookshelf, I'm hoping it'll be by author and then by series.

Keep, throw away, or sell?
Keep the ones I love, swap the ones I didn't like as much, and WHY WOULD ANYONE EVER THROW A BOOK AWAY?!?!

Keep dust jacket or toss it?
keep! I love my dust jackets <3

Read with dust jacket or remove it?
with. I know removing it would make reading easier, and I wouldn't be all distracted by having to even it out,'s shiny. And sparkly.

Short story or novel?

Harry Potter or Lemony Snicket?
HP! No offense to Lemony Snicket, who I'm quite convinced is just as brilliant, but, HP.

Stop reading when tired or at chapter breaks?
tired, bored, when the procrastination just gets to be too much. Depends on the book, too. If, for instance, I was reading the latest Meg Cabot book, there's no way I'd put it down. On the other hand, if I was reading some random book that I wasn't entirely into, I'd be fine with putting it down for a while regardless of where I am.

“It was a dark and stormy night” or “Once upon a time”?
Once upon a time!

Buy or borrow?
It's gotten to be horrible, but buy. *sigh* I used to be such a borrower. When did that end?!

Buying choice: book reviews, recommendations, or browse?
usually recommendations by Amazon contribute a lot. If something's by an author I love and I've been looking forward to the release for months, it's going to be just name recognition. Book reviews help, but they aren't a huge deciding factor, they'll just determine if something gets put on my ever-growing to-read list. I'm really not a huge browser, but when I do browse, it's judging books by their covers all the way!

Tidy ending or cliffhanger?
I like cliffhangers. I do. But I prefer cliffhangers on books whose sequels are already released, as opposed to something like Airhead, where I had to wait wayyy too long to have that cliffhanger resolved.

Morning reading, afternoon reading, or nighttime reading?

Stand-alone or series?
I'm a huge series girl.

Favorite series?

Favorite children’s book?
A Bad Case of Stripes. Among many many others.

Favorite YA book?
Thirteen Reasons Why

Favorite book of which nobody else has heard?
Thirteen Reasons Why

Favorite books read last year?
Thirteen Reasons Why

Favorite books of all time?
Thirteen Reasons Why

What are you reading right now?
Ransom my Heart

What are you reading next?
God, please tell me it's Wintergirls.
oh, nope, it's not. It's an ARC I got from LT EarlyReviewers.

Favorite book to recommend to an 11-year-old?

Favorite book to re-read?
Still HP!

Do you ever smell books?
Yes. New books have awesome smells, old books make me want to barf.

Do you ever read primary source documents like letters or diaries?

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Library Card

The Library Card
written by Jerry Spinelli

Jerry Spinelli is an author I can never quite make up my mind about. On one hand, he wrote the absolutely brilliant Stargirl, and on the other, some of his books just fall completely flat. From the start, it seemed like he was trying too hard and bought into many stereotypes (TV crazed kids, the 'enlightenment' and snobbery that comes from books, etc) and it was just unpleasant to read. Other than the first story that did have some dimension to it, the others were pretty standard, dull pieces with nothing to make them stand out. This may have worked much better as a single story, expanding on Mongoose and Weasel's relationship as opposed to branching out and cramming four stories in one book. There's no thread connecting them other than the library card, and it just feels awkward. The section about Sonseray in particular was really hard to get through. It was written in a completely reader-unfriendly way, and I had to force my way through the dense description. Overall, I think if you're looking to read Spinelli, read Stargirl or Loser instead.

Rating: 2/5

Monday, April 13, 2009

Pale Phoenix

Pale Phoenix
written by Kathryn Reiss

I really don't know why I never noticed this when I read them before, but Kathryn Reiss's books are just so predictable. True, they are full of those wacky plot twists that you would never see coming, but for the most part, you can see things coming from miles away! Maybe it's just that I'm not in the target age range anymore, or the fact that these are rereads, but I still feel as if too much information is given, or not so much information as constant hinting. It's still pretty amazing in Pale Phoenix how she's constructed this great new plot, and yes, predictable as it is, it's still not something you'll find written by anyone else, completely original and new ideas. It's also great to see the continuity between this and Pale Phoenix, particularly the budding relationship between Dan and Miranda. The characters start off as your standard dull characters, but throughout the book, you see the characters evolve in front of your eyes, and it's a pretty neat thing to see. My one other complaint somewhat goes along with the predictableness--everything is a bit too convenient. Here they are, stuck in a perilous situation with apparently no way out, but wait, wait, look, there's the completely random solution that nobody ever would have thought of because it's completely convoluted, but here it is, it seems to have just randomly popped into my head! It gets very annoying, but it does provide for a satisfying ending.

Rating: 3.5/5

Sunday, April 12, 2009


written by Robin Wasserman

Okay, so I didn't really enjoy this book at all. I felt like many of the plot threads have been done to death and almost in an identical way (see Airhead, The Adoration of Jenna Fox, Remember Me?, etc.) Same death/near death, replanting the brain kind of story. Same reactions by the parents, friends, and peers. I have read this book before and while the first time it was pretty neat, after that, it got slightly boring. It picks up a little bit after Lia gets out of the hospital and gets to interact with the world again, but just as it begins getting good, it crashes down again. Auden was the only character I liked (and I have a very strong hatred of others, particularly JUDE), and his role progresses dismally. The ending was completely disappointing, and I really think it would have been much stronger if Lia had just chosen to die. What is written instead is cringe-worthy and kind of sickening. It just really seems like this is a patchwork quilt of all the sci-fi futuristic YA books that are currently out there, and I know Robin Wasserman is capable of better.

Rating: 1.5/5

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Living Dead Girl

Living Dead Girl
written by Elizabeth Scott

Looking back at my notes that were written while I read Living Dead Girl, you'd find a very large number of incoherent "Good Lord!"s and "WHOAAAA"s. The writing is good. I mean, this is a completely new, untouched way of writing, way of storytelling, and it's just difficult to judge it, but it's certainly intriguing and keeps you reading through your horror. It's a baffling book, it's hard to imagine something like this ever being written, and written well, but Elizabeth Scott has certainly pulled it off. I just can't say enough about the style of writing. Though the subject matter is horrifying, the way it's written may perhaps be even more horrifying. The streams of conciousness and ways that "Alice" describes herself will change your view of the world. It's a satisfying ending, albeit slightly rushed (but with all that's happening, rushed is good.). I definitely think this is a book that teens should read, but they should be prepared to be challenged and offered a highly negative, but raw, real perspective of the world.

Rating: 5/5

For something a little different...

1. Best Villain [Every story has a villain, but these villains were bad in the worst ways.]
Rogerson, Dreamland by Sarah Dessen

2. Best Evil Lair [Boats, caves, castles, visible, invisible! Whatever and wherever they are, they’re the ultimate form of sinister lodging.]
Malfoy Manor. I mean, come on, the man's got peacocks.

3. Most Helpless Heroine [Let’s face it: most leading ladies couldn’t find their way out of a paper bag, but these girls are completely helpless!]
Bella, Twilight

4. Best Couple [Romeo and Juliet, Samson and Delilah, Mickey and Minnie, Brad and Angelina; some couples are just meant to be… And these nominees are no exception!]
Owen and Annabel, Just Listen by Sarah Dessen

5. Best Kiss
Ron and Hermione, Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling

6. Most Angst in a Series [Sometimes everyone feels like they’re lives are a bit stressful, but these cranky, angry, hormonal characters take it to a whole new level.]
haha, I'm going to go with the entirety of the Sweet Valley series. ANGSTFEST >.<

7. Best Battle/Fight [Violence is never the answer, but if it comes to that make it exciting! These fight scenes left us wanting the next swing of the battle ax!] about the ending battle of the Cirque Du Freak series, by Darren Shan.

8. Character With the Most Hardcore Powers [Some were born to cast spells, while others can’t help but hear every thought around them! The flyers, the shape shifters, the invincible, too! These characters just aren't human… they’re superhuman.]
I rather like Jasper's power to manipulate human emotions in the Twilight saga by Stephenie Meyer

9. Best Comic Relief Character [When everything comes crashing down.. when black clouds move in.. when nothing seems to be going right.. This character knows the way to find the funny.]
I'm trying very hard not to do HP& Twilight...but Fred & George Weasley from HP

10. Biggest Badass [Even Chuck Norris is scared of these thoroughly great characters.]
Neville Longbottom

11. Biggest Backstabber [“Et tu, brute?” These Benedict Arnolds brought backstabbing to a whole new level.]
Tally Youngblood, Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

12. Best Parent/Mentor [Some parents would go through hell and high water for their children. Some fictional ones literally have! These parents are truly incredibly.]
Mr. Freeman, Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

13. Best Creature [Dragons, demons, fairies, wolves, vamps, cats! If they’re not human, they count!]
Alice Cullen, Vampire.

14. Trouble Magnet [wherever these characters go, trouble seems to stick to them like white on rice.]
Jinx from Jinx by Meg Cabot

15. Best Character in a Supporting Role
I'm going with Owen Armstrong, Just Listen by Sarah Dessen

16. Best Characteress in a Supporting Role
Lilly Moscovitz from The Princess Diaries series by Meg Cabot

17. Best Character in a Leading Role
This makes me realize exactly how very few novels I've read with male main characters.
Let's go with Holden Caulfield from Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

18. Best Characteress in a Leading Role
She's dead, but Hannah Baker in Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

19. Breakthrough Character [These characters have only been in one book(so far) but they sure made their marks!]
Let's go with Renesmee Cullen, Breaking Dawn. Caused quite the stir.

20. Best Team/Crew [Some people just can’t do it alone. And why would they if they have such an incredible team to get the job done?]
The Marauders from Harry Potter

21. Best Cast of Characters [In these books, there just wasn’t a single character that wasn’t interesting. Whether you loved them or loved to hate them; they were awesome]
Mediator series, by Meg Cabot

22. Vanity Award [Sure, we loved these characters… but they definitely loved themselves more…]
Bella, Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer

23. Best One Liner [Sure, anyone can tell a joke… But it takes a really funny character to deliver one of these zingers!]
Just because you've got the emotional range of a teaspoon, Ron, doesn't mean we all have. -Hermione Granger

24. The RIP award for Best Deceased Character [They’re dead to the point of no return (or re-birth).]
Remus Lupin, Deathly Hallows by JKR

25. The Damn It Award for the Character that Angers the Most Fans By Not Being Real [… if only :( ]
Not myself personally, but Edward Cullen seems to anger a LOT of fans for being fictional

26. Favorite Character We Love to Hate [Sure, we hate them… But, really, would it be half as fun without them? I think not.]
Severus Snape.

27. Most Lied to Character [There was a truth party and these characters just weren’t invited.]
I don't know why, but I feel like Annabel from Just Listen by Sarah Dessen would fit this one well.

I'll have a review up shortly :)

Friday, April 10, 2009

Cindy Ella

currently reading: Pale Phoenix

Cindy Ella
written by Robin Palmer

Cindy Ella is one of those books that's actually incredibly difficult to judge. The Cinderella re-telling has been done to death, but the fractured fairy-tale fanatic in me thought this one was actually pretty good, although I'm not entire sure Cinderella was so ridiculously shallow. I was hooked from the very beginning, thinking that Cindy was going to be this awesome hippie activist standing up for the little people, but while reading, this view changed quite a lot. While she says she's an activist, her actions didn't exactly go along with her words, and I found India a much bigger activist than Cindy could ever be. India goes to prom, while Cindy does not, and yet, India really doesn't come off so balloon-headed. Cindy claims to be anti-prom, but then she goes falling all over random guys. For all those YA books out there that are about independent strong girls, there really is an awful lot of flirting in all of them, and this certainly seems to follow that pattern. I found some parts of the book to be dreadfully predictable, and others just plain dreadful (the reveal of BklynBoy's identity falling in both categories), and the ending just didn't do it for me.

Rating: 3/5

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Nature of Jade

The Nature of Jade
written by Deb Caletti

Jade DeLuna is a girl who is going through her senior year of high school coming to terms with life with an anxiety disorder. The animal lover in her is pleased by a volunteering job at the zoo, and the boy-crazy part of her has been captivated by a mysterious boy in a red jacket, who just happens to have a son. Deb Caletti brings to life fresh new characters with her usual amazing, crisp writing, full of beautifully composed teenage dialogue and thought. However, while Jade DeLuna may not be her illness, she sure talks about it an awful lot. Her constant reassurances that her disorder didn't mean a thing just got repetitive, and it's pretty obvious that, yes, it does mean something, and yes, she made too big a deal of it. I know people who deal with anxiety disorders, and unlike Jade, they don't dance around in front of you screaming "Hey, hey, look at me, I have ANXIETY ATTACKS! But I'm fine, really, don't worry about it!" It got to be extremely aggravating, and somehow, Jade's constant mentioning of the disorder ended up giving it a negative image, something the literary world needs desperately to avoid when dealing with serious topics such as mental health. I also disliked the ending, specifically, the vagueness. I would have liked to have actually seen the ending, as opposed to an allusion to what might probably happen. The book, as seemingly all of Caletti's do, had fresh writing, but ended up just lacking that critical punch necessary, just had to end tragically. I don't think this woman believes in happy endings, and that's a very sad thought.

Rating: 4/5

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

I Am The Messenger

I Am The Messenger
written by Markus Zusak

Markus Zusak's I Am the Messenger is a poetic tale, masterfully crafted to be honest, but realistically unrealistic. The plot is set up in a thoroughly original way, unraveling a mystery through a deck of cards. The characters, too, have their original traits, letting the reader really see the beauty that exists in ugly. While everything is a little hard to believe (would people really be that happy to receive help from a stranger, with no questions, taking these symbolic gestures so emotionally, knowing exactly how they were meant to be interpreted?), the message is one that will resonate long after the book has been put down, with a truly empowering ending. However, while the message of random acts of kindness is a strong and resonating one, I have discovered that much of the plot is not. After reading this book twice now, I still can barely remember one clue from the next, and everything blurs together. It is still completely worth the read, as once you're in, you're in, and you won't be able to put this stellar book down.

Rating: 5/5

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Bliss & BEDA

Extremely overdue review, and I really will try harder to get into the swing of things, great timing too, with Maureen Johnson's awesome Blog Every Day April project (not too late to join in)!

written by Lauren Myracle

Bliss is a new kind of book, something quite unlike anything else Lauren Myracle has written, lacking greatly in the fluffy-bunnies department. She pulls it off spectacularly, with great narration, fresh and complicated new characters, and plenty of those lovely plot twists we love so very much! Though I didn't realize at first, this book is set in the past, but the girls seem so modern in their speech and actions, everything blends in wonderfully. I loved how this was your typical YA plenty of supernatural elements, plus social commentary. The blurring of genre lines was done seamlessly and perfectly. While I had some issues with the ending and I really think the better ending would have been the less tragic one, I can see why Myracle did decide to write it as she did. I highly recommend this book--many people somehow think "supernatural? Pshh, must be a lame Twilight rip-off!" but I'm telling you, this bone-chilling novel has things much much scarier than a family of vegetarian vampires, and it's a truly original book well worth your time.

Rating: 5/5

Booking Through Thursday-Library Week

I saw that National Library week is coming up in April, and that led to some questions. How often do you use your public library and how do you use it? Has the coffeehouse/bookstore replaced the library? Did you go to the library as a child? Do you have any particular memories of the library? Do you like sleek, modern, active libraries or the older, darker, quiet, cozy libraries?

I love my public library, but I'll have to admit I don't go there as often as I would like. During the summers, I do volunteer there (although this summer, I will be too old, which breaks my heart). I hate coffeehouses, and I could never read in a bookstore, but then again, I never read at the libraries, either. I'd just use them to get massive piles of books that I always had trouble carrying and then got yelled at for checking out too many books. Oops?
I went every week at least as a child. When we lived in Massachusetts, the library was walking distance from our house, so my brother and I would always walk over there. We didn't have much money, so buying books was completely out of the question, so we loved our libraries. I have lots of memories of the Massachusetts libraries, as well as the ones here in Virginia, but I don't remember any of the earlier ones. I remember the Massachusetts library had this geoquiz thingy in the back corner that you could do and I was devastated when they took it away. I also remember my parents always getting as many science books as they could for me, and I always begged for question/answer books (still love 'em!). I also remember that the MA library had a little library shop, so if I ever had any pocket money, I'd go buy a worn book or a puzzle or something small from there :)
Ah libraries.
But it's not the libraries themselves that are awesome--it's the librarians *huggles the awesome librarians*