Tag Archive | 2011

Book Review: Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

GreystatsThis is a story that is best left until you read it for yourself. I choose to review this book during winter because, well, that way you’ll have at least maybe an eighth of feeling of what it was like for Lina. This is a shocking story of the Stalinist repressions of Lithuanians. It’s a story that is written in fiction, but was born from fact and needs to be known.

Sepetys language is brilliant and heartbreaking and frighteningly real. You feel the emotions of the characters, you gasp in breathe at the destitution of their situation. You cry when their heart breaks because your heart is breaking too.

When I was home in America, I had become close to a Lithuanian family. The shocking reality of what these people attempted to survive is…there are no words for how they lived and were taught to never mention a word. This is history, although it’s written in fiction, it is still history that desperately needs to be known.

In a starkly honest view, Sepetys paints how life would have been life for a Lithuanian family that was highly educated with opinions. Their stories need to be heard, and this book is the one that tells it with grace and civility. Sepetys’ words are hollow, but strong and angering all at the same time. Her book is powerful and it needs to be read. This is a sliver of World War II that grossly goes under the radar.

For those that are sensitive, this might not be the best book, but I can’t back down in how I feel that this novel, although it is fiction, is a fantastic and a frightening depiction of what life was like for Lithuanians during WWII. It’s time their voices be heard. It’s time their stories be known. They are still afraid and that is the powerful message at the end of the story that proves true. For American’s, this is history relatively unknown or understood. That needs to change.

Between Shades of Gray opens up the world during a time when the world was a terrible place. Sepetys does an amazing job making it clear that once the war was over, not everyone won.

This book is not just for teens, but adults would do well to understand the difficulties of those not from this land. This is the eye-opener. This story makes you appreciate what you have. Stop ignoring the past. Between Shades of Gray gives evidence to our future. How will we roll the dice? Let’s be accepting of everyone this time.

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Book Review: Rage by Jackie Kessler

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*Note -This is the second book in the Riders of the Apocalypse series and may contain spoilers
For my review for Book 1: Hunger

“Missy didn’t mean to cut so deep. But after the party where she was humiliated in front of practically everyone in school, who could blame her for wanting some comfort? Sure, most people don’t find comfort in the touch of a razor blade, but Missy always was . . . different. That’s why she was chosen to become one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: War. Now Missy wields a new kind of blade—a big, brutal sword that can cut down anyone and anything in her path. But it’s with this weapon in her hand that Missy learns something that could help her triumph over her own pain: control. A unique approach to the topic of self-mutilation, Rage is the story of a young woman who discovers her own power and refuses to be defeated by the world.”

This follow up to the first, is very different but just as interesting and intense. Since I felt a personal connection to Hunger, I was interested to see how different the next book would be. I don’t have first hand experience in self harm. However I did know people in my life that did, and perhaps it’s because of that that I still felt a powerful connection to the story. 

Actually, it’s probably because of the sister’s bit. That hits close to home. 

Moving on. Missy is a perfect War, so much better than the first one we met. I enjoyed that Missy had a personality, no matter how conflicted it is. It makes her human, and that’s what makes this series a standout. Her characters are human (until their not), and they’re teenagers. They are going through that transition in life that no one has a guide book for. 

Missy takes to War much easier than Famine, and as a reader you are right along with her. Yet there still beats a human heart and as Missy begins to learn to control her new power, she can see she has the power to control her self harm. A fantastic message. 

Plus the romance bit with death is weird, interesting and odd. It’s like the chance to date Kurt Cobain. Even if it isn’t him, who wouldn’t want that opportunity? 

The ending to Rage is more of my taste as well. The connection between the horseman within the books is subtle -making me crave more, but nevertheless this second book doesn’t disappoint. 

Book Review: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

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Jacob is a special kind of boy. After witnessing the tragic death of his grandfather, it’s up to Jacob to sort out the truth between his childhood stories and what he really saw. 

He journeys to Wales with his father in tow. A culture shock upon another culture shock happens as he stumbles upon a world that never should have existed. 

A tale a wonder and magic through the use of words and pictures. This debut for Riggs is absolutely stunning and definitely one of the top five best books that I read last year. There isn’t much to say about this book except that everyone should read it! The use of photos within the book helps enhance the story in a way I’ve never experience before. It’s because of the use of creepy – yet still true images that help aid this remarkable and adventurous story. 

A true tale of wonder in Wales. It’s a fantastically coming of age story about Jacob and Miss Peregrine’s home for peculiar children. 

Book Review: A Need so Beautiful by Suzanne Young

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“We all want to be remembered. Charlotte’s destiny is to be Forgotten…

Charlotte’s best friend thinks Charlotte might be psychic. Her boyfriend thinks she’s cheating on him. But Charlotte knows what’s really wrong: She is one of the Forgotten, a kind of angel on earth, who feels the Need—a powerful, uncontrollable draw to help someone, usually a stranger.

But Charlotte never wanted this responsibility. What she wants is to help her best friend, whose life is spiraling out of control. She wants to lie in her boyfriend’s arms forever. But as the Need grows stronger, it begins to take a dangerous toll on Charlotte. And who she was, is, and will become–her mark on this earth, her very existence–is in jeopardy of disappearing completely.

Charlotte will be forced to choose: Should she embrace her fate as a Forgotten, a fate that promises to rip her from the lives of those she loves forever? Or is she willing to fight against her destiny–no matter how dark the consequences.”

What I see: This is an interesting shorter YA. Charlotte’s story focuses on relationships. What begins as a standard YA blossoms into a story of heavenly assistance. As reader you’re torn between wanting Charlotte to have a life. Her childhood was tragic but she raises herself up, has a steady boyfriend, best friend and hopes and dreams for her future. Charlotte has to make a choice to continue on her destiny or reject it and turn to darkness. At the same time you want Charlotte to have her life, you’re always wondering what will come after should be complete her destiny’s task.

There is a lot of heartbreak as Charlotte continues her transition. The ending is smacked with surprises and the final chapter is only a thread. It’s excellently paced, with a continous flow and althought the endings feels completely different from the beginning, I am curious to see how Charlotte’s choice turns out. 

Book Review: Velveteen by Daniel Marks

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“Velveteen Monroe is dead. At 16, she was kidnapped and murdered by a madman named Bonesaw. But that’s not the problem.

The problem is she landed in purgatory. And while it’s not a fiery inferno, it’s certainly no heaven. It’s gray, ashen, and crumbling more and more by the day, and everyone has a job to do. Which doesn’t leave Velveteen much time to do anything about what’s really on her mind.

Bonesaw.

Velveteen aches to deliver the bloody punishment her killer deserves. And she’s figured out just how to do it. She’ll haunt him for the rest of his days.

It’ll be brutal… and awesome.

But crossing the divide between the living and the dead has devastating consequences. Velveteen’s obsessive haunting cracks the foundations of purgatory and jeopardizes her very soul. A risk she’s willing to take—except fate has just given her reason to stick around: an unreasonably hot and completely off-limits coworker.

Velveteen can’t help herself when it comes to breaking rules… or getting revenge. And she just might be angry enough to take everyone down with her.”

What I see: Up front? A bit too long. However, this is a gruesome ghostly tale with teenage heat! (I’m not a fan of the heat but I know tweens and teens will love it!) I loved all the spookiness and it’s nice to see Purgatory get some environmental space. I feel like the idea of it all is fresh, pushes the limits, has a murder(ish) mystery and teen love blossoming.

Yes it’s a bit calculated but at the end I got what I wanted, to a point, and it followed the formula. A nice change of pace and different from most of the usual YA I read, it’s perfect for Halloween! Be warned, the author does not hold back from squirmy details! Happy Halloween everyone!

Book Review: Cranwood by J. Bryer

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Abby Hill and her mother have moved to England to help her grandmother run the inn she owns in Cranwood. However, Abby Hill isn’t a normal sixteen-year-old girl. No, no, no. She hears/sees dead people and tries to save the ones they warn her are in trouble!

For example, David, the cute neighbour in the village. Though she struggles with her visions, Abby is desperate to help everyone she can. When a particular haunting spirit warns her of friend in trouble, Abby will have to figure out who to ask for help or if she can try to do it all on her own.

The harsh reality: Well, I don’t have anything nice to say about this book, it’s terrible and there’s noting Young Adult about it. The book is written in an elementary age range instead of fourteen+. I’m talking, ‘I’m having the best day ever!’ kind of sentences. There is a time and place for juvenile writing, and Young Adult fiction is not it.  

For instance: Abby gets ‘mad’ that David hasn’t called her so she walks over to his house to see if he’s home. When he’s not, she pouts and hates her life until he finally calls which then the day suddenly becomes the best ever! I’m sorry, but nothing about that passage makes sense! How can a day be the best ever, when it clearly wasn’t?

Le sigh, the main problem is that the age range is all wrong for this book. If the author tweaked the characters age and made changes to the story that fit the writing range it might have a chance at working, but as is, it’s awful and I’m sorry for stating that. It’s not easy to hear but I grew so frustrated with the clunky language, thin plot and ignorant assumptions on people different from Americans. To top it off, Abby states how she’s been living in England for while, but her mother who must be English (because hello, the grandmother obviously is?), clearly only speaks like an American. It. Just. Doesn’t. Work.

And the cover? Beautiful, but honey there is no way that girl is sixteen. Try twelve and you’ve got yourself a better start. Make like a knitter and rip it up. Start over and either read a lot more R. L. Stine for appropriate age range or start reading constantly current YA fiction to learn how it’s written. The ideas are there, but there needs to be much more practice. 

Book Review: Silence by Becca Fitzpatrick

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Please note: This is the third book in the Hush, Hush series and does contain spoilers.

Check out my review for Hush, Hush (1) and Crescendo (2).

All summer Nora Grey has been missing. When she appears out of nowhere in the middle of the cemetery, she discovers she can’t remember the past five months of her life. It also turns out her mother has been dating the father of her biggest enemy Marcie Millar. Talk about living an nightmare.

Traumatized and feeling alone Nora tries to piece her life back together.  Her friends say one thing and other people from her past say another. Nora knows her mother is keeping something from her, but as she muddles through her memories each road comes up empty.

Try as she can to figure things out there are other forces drawing Nora into danger. Each time she lands in perils way, a handsome unknown stranger swoops in to save her. Like a guardian angel. If only Nora could just remember what really happened…

Sigh. It’s been a slow deterioration for this series. Granted, again, Fitzpatrick has made me eager to know what happened to Nora. However the plot is beginning to thin. I found this book to be ‘too easy’. There were many sections where I thought ‘That seriously wouldn’t happen’ to ‘The world doesn’t operate that way’.

Now I understand this is a YA book and sometimes you come across ones that don’t make sense and it’s supposed to be ok. However, the best YA can weave a tale where even if things don’t make sense it’s still believable. This is not one of those series.

My disappointment is growing, but there is only one book left so I feel I’ve invested this much and need to finish. My hopes are not high though.