Category Archives: book review

What Girls Are Made Of by Elana K. Arnold

what-girls-are-made-ofNina Faye was most definitely not a hopeless romantic.  Her own mother told her (when she was only 14 years old) that there was “no such thing as unconditional love,” and she took that message straight to heart.  Nina’s work in a high kill shelter and her obsession with stories of saints who had endured horrible tortures to prove their love for God only reinforced her mother’s statement.  And because she was aware of the fact that love was “conditional,” she made it her mission to figure out the conditions of love for the people in her life.  Not only did she try to figure out what she should do to make sure her parents didn’t stop loving her, but she also started to keep track of the conditions by which she could keep her boyfriend happy.  But what if knowing those so-called conditions of love is not enough?

This story was a brutally honest, often heart-wrenching, look into the struggle many girls face with both loving and being loved.  As the story alternates between Nina’s own story and the stories she is writing for her senior project (inspired by the stories of the tortured saints), readers are able to witness Nina’s life and better understand her frame of mind.  Since it describes both sex and torture in graphic detail, nevertheless, I feel compelled to state that this book is not for the faint of heart.

Happy Reading!

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

ready-player-one As a child of the 80s (having been born in 1979), this book felt so much like coming home.  All of the references to 80s pop culture, especially geek culture, were just so spot-on!  I was not an arcade kid, since we didn’t have an arcade close enough to my house, but I definitely played more than my fair share of video games on personal gaming consoles like the Atari 2600 and NES.  I also have fond memories of playing puzzle and sim games on the Commodore 64 and Mac Classic in “computer class” at school.  I also watched waaaaaay too much TV and too many movies, so most of Cline’s references felt like a conversation with an old friend.  It’s beyond obvious that Ernest Cline was a fellow geek and that he loved all the cheeseball 80s stuff just as much as my friends and I did.  For real…  If you are a fanboy/fangirl of geeky 80s pop culture, you NEED to read this book!

Even better than the reminiscing, though, was the foreshadowing of what could come to be if we (citizens of the world) don’t change our reliance on fossil fuels and unplug a little from the world of “social media” to actually interact with the people and the world around us — in real life!  Imagine, if you will, a future in which most people around the world are so immersed in a virtual reality “utopia” known as the OASIS that they rarely leave their houses.  Since most people no longer have their own vehicles or even the financial means to utilize public transportation, the OASIS was the closest thing they would ever get to traveling.  Kids even started to attend school in the OASIS because the virtual world created it’s own schools to let pressure off of the failing public school system.  When I read one quote, I wondered if Cline was really just that attuned to the forthcoming changes in our society back in 2011 or if he somehow traveled through time to 2016 before he finished his story — “Now that everyone could vote from home, via the OASIS, the only people who could get elected were movie stars, reality TV personalities, or radical televangelists.”

One of the creators of the OASIS, James Halliday, had very few friends and never married or had any children.  By the time of his death, he had even been estranged from his former business partner and one-time best friend for about a decade.  So, before he died, he crafted an elaborate “Easter Egg” hunt within his virtual world to determine who would receive his fortune.  Halliday’s last will and testament was announced to the world with a video chock-full of 80s references and explained that his heir would need to use their knowledge of Halliday’s favorite things to puzzle out the location of three keys and three gates/trials he had programmed into the OASIS.  Everyone went nuts at first, but excitement waned after the first five years and only hardcore Gunters (a condensation of “egg hunters”) like Wade kept up the hunt.  When Wade finds the first key and his name shows up on the leader board, though, the OASIS is suddenly hopping again and the competition stirs up adventure, danger, and even romance. I can’t wait to see how the movie of this book turns out…

Happy Reading!

 

Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore

jane-unlimitedJane led a relatively quiet life.  She was raised by her Aunt Magnolia, who was an adjunct professor best known for her work as a wildlife photographer.  Sadly, Aunt Magnolia was lost on one of her adventures in Antarctica, and Jane was left completely alone.  Though able to make ends meet, Jane barely did more than mourn her aunt, work, and construct umbrellas.  Construct umbrellas?  Yes, you read that right.  Jane was a bit of an artist, but her works were elaborately themed umbrellas rather than photographs or paintings.  (One of her favorites, for example, looked like a speckled bird’s egg.)

Everything changed, though, when Jane was visited by an acquaintance named Kiran Thrash.  Kiran insisted that Jane should come home with her — to her estate, Tu Reviens, for a gala.  Though Jane was reluctant to go, she recalled a time when Aunt Magnolia had made her promise that she would go to Tu Reviens if she was ever invited.  With nothing much to lose, she agreed.  And this was where everything went wacky…  Not only did Jane meet a variety of people — everyone from Kiran’s family to the caretakers of the Tu Reviens property — but she also found herself in the midst of a great heist.  Right as everyone was ramping up and preparing for the gala, some very famous (and very expensive) artwork went missing.

This was nothing like the Graceling [fantasy] stories, though I don’t think fans of that trilogy will necessarily be disappointed.  Jane, Unlimited was very much a mystery/spy story, but it had coming-of-age, romance, and science fiction elements as well.  In fact, I can’t imagine having to pin it down to a single genre.  Since it is very character driven, and there are SO MANY characters to get to know, it was a little slow for me to get into this one at first.  I think that perseverance paid off, but I feel compelled to “warn” readers, nevertheless, that this book has a bit of a Groundhog’s Day feel to it.   There were several times where I wondered if I had lost my place and read something over again only to realize that only some, not all, of that information had been revealed before.  I can’t say much more without giving away any spoilers, so I will just have to ask you to trust me on this one and read it when it comes out in September.  (Hope you like it as much as I did.)

Happy Reading!

Stars Above by Marissa Meyer

stars-aboveA while back, I decided to stop posting about the subsequent books in the various series I’m reading.  This was for a variety of reasons, but the two most important reasons were because (1) it was just too tough to keep up with all of the series I am interested in finishing and (2) I wanted to provide more variety for my blog readers. Well… I am going to have to break that rule today because I just have to tell y’all about Stars Above!

First of all, I think it’s important to note that some of this story takes place before Cinder, and some of it takes place after Winter.  If you haven’t yet read the other books in the Lunar Chronicles yet, do yourself a favor and GO READ THEM FIRST!  😉

I really enjoyed the opportunity to look at the stories we’ve already read through the eyes of different characters (like when Kai first meets Cinder, as told through his perspective), and the fact that readers have a chance to get a little more background on characters like Michelle Benoit and Carswell Thorne.  But I think my favorite story in the collection was “The Little Android,” which was a retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid.”  Meyer’s unique adaptation of fairytale characters (Cinder from Cinderella, Scarlet from Little Red Riding Hood, Winter from Snow White, and Cress from Rapunzel) is one of the things I love the most about this series, so I was glad to get a “bonus” tale in this collection of stories.  It’s hard to believe I waited almost a full year after it was published to actually get around to reading it, but I guess that is what happens when your TBR pile is out of control…  😉

Happy Reading!

The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

the-rest-of-us-just-live-hereIf you’re a Buffy the Vampire Slayer (BtVS) fangirl like me, you will probably agree that Patrick Ness must be a huge BtVS fan too…  I mean.  You can’t help but get a Sunnyview/Hellmouth vibe from everything going down in Mikey’s small town!  (I can’t seem to recall where, exactly, it was other than some hick town in Washington state…  Did he ever mention the name of the town?  Anyway…)  I don’t make this comparison to BtVS lightly, by the way, because there are just so many parallels.  Between all the supernatural creatures that randomly show up and attack the teenagers in their town, the fact that the adults seem to be in complete denial of what has been and is currently going on, and the fact that the story is a tongue-in-cheek offshoot of the classic “chosen one” theme, I can’t imagine a BtVS fan who would be disappointed in this story.  Mikey even reminds me of my favorite BtVS characvter, Xander, who once said, “They’ll never know how tough it is, Dawnie. To be the one who isn’t chosen. To live so near to the spotlight and never step in it. But I know. I see more than anybody realizes because nobody’s watching me.”

That being said, I don’t want people to think I’m saying this was just a BtVS ripoff, either.  The characters in this story are most definitely unique, as is the plot of the story.  I enjoyed the fact that the supernatural elements of the story were almost periphery to the main plot.  I honestly think that the interpersonal relationships, dysfunctional families, and personal struggles of the characters could have kept this story afloat even without the battles between the chosen ones (who all seemed to be “indie kids”) and the supernatural creatures like vampires, werewolves, and the Immortals.  It was rather ambitious of Ness to merge teen angst and tough issues with a lighthearted, satirical supernatural story — but it worked very well.

Happy Reading!

A List of Cages by Robin Roe

list-of-cagesDuring his senior year, Adam was assigned to be an aide for the school psychologist.  At first, he had a lot of downtime, which was kind of hard to deal with (since he had ADHD), but he found small ways to keep himself busy.  After all, he didn’t want to complain and end up with a much harder job.  All of that downtime went away, though, when the psychologist asked that Adam become an escort for a student who kept missing/avoiding his appointments.  As it turned out, the student was a freshman named Julian — and Julian actually used to be Adam’s foster brother!  Adam was overjoyed, at first, to be reunited with Julian, but then he started to worry about the younger boy.  Julian was much quieter and much more sullen than he used to be, and he didn’t seem willing to open up to Adam anymore.  Adam wondered whether it was simply that Julian had changed a lot since they parted ways about five years prior, but he worried that Julian was hiding something about the “uncle” who took him in when he left Adam’s house.

Would Adam be able to reconnect with Julian to find out what, if anything, was wrong?  Would he be able to, at the very least, get Julian to attend his appointments with the school psychiatrist and to open up to her?

While it is important to have “tough reads” like this out there — so some people will realize they are not alone in their suffering and others will be able to empathize with those who have suffered horrific abuses — I think it is important to warn people about the graphic descriptions of abuse in this book.  I know there are far too many children who are living this horrible reality, but there is also no need to scar the emotionally immature tweens and teens who aren’t yet ready to learn about the darker side of humanity. (I would hand this to readers who could handle Living Dead Girl and The Lovely Bones.)

Happy Reading!

This Is Not the End by Chandler Baker

this-is-not-the-endImagine a world in which every person had the opportunity to resurrect someone on their 18th birthday.  It sounds kind of cool at first, but then you have to imagine making that incredibly difficult choice.  Do you think YOU could choose to bring someone back if you had to go through all the people you’ve lost in your lifetime and only pick one person?

For Lake Devereaux, the choice is nearly impossible.  You see, her parents have long expected her to use her resurrection to bring back her brother who had an accident and became a quadriplegic.  (There’s just that tricky little thing about how they would have to be sure to kill him first — minor detail!)  To complicate things even more, though, Lake ends up in a devastating car accident in which both her boyfriend (Will) and her best friend (Penny) die.  Not only does she need to go through the painful physical recovery after the accident, but she needs to sort out her emotions in a few short weeks before she turns 18.  She needs to decide whether she will go through with the original plan her parents concocted or whether she will bring back one of her friends.  Would she and Will have ended up breaking up at some point anyway, or was he her one true love?  And could she really feel right not choosing Penny even if it was for Will?  What will her parents do if she doesn’t choose her brother?  And does she even care?  Such a great premise for a story… I’m only sad that the rest of y’all have to wait until August to read it.

Happy Reading!