Thursday, October 31, 2013

Author Review: Sarah Dessen

Hi guys!
I know it's been a while since I've posted (school! Need I say more? ;) ), and I'm super sorry about that! But things are starting to settle down now, so I promise I'll start posting more often, as I've read tons of new books worth squealing over! :)
Just to deviate from the usual single book reviews, I've decided to start this thing called Author Review, which is basically (despite it's semi-misleading name) reviewing all, if not the majority, of the books of a specific author in one neat post.  I'll mainly use this way of reviewing if the books are in a series that have been completed for some time now,  or (like in the case of Sarah Dessen books) I go on a book spree where the only thing I read for that week or month is just that one author.  

This time is a little different because I'm reviewing all her books in general, AND I'm also specifically giving a rating to What Happened to Goodbye (generally it won't be one specific book, but just the books of the author in general). I've also decided to address how I rate books because even though  my explanation below explains how I rate in general, it REALLY explains why WHTG deserved the rating it did.  

Happy readings!:)

 MAJOR/MINOR SPOILERS- NONE of the spoilers are covered up, so beware! MWAHAHAHAHA!  Happy Halloween! ;)

I have been in a Sarah Dessen mood lately. I've read one book by her back in 6th grade, and that was Lock and Key. I didn't really like it then, frankly because I couldn't relate to it, and my preteen self did not appreciate the beautiful writing and gentle rhythm. No, she wanted some hard core action with a side of slapstick humor (shameful... I know). So, I stopped reading her books and moved onto something less gentle and pretty- like 39 clues. 

So a few years later, after I had gone through my fairytale phase and Rick Riorden phase(actually, I don't think I've ever dropped this phase lol), I saw the cover of The Truth About Forever, and thought, What the heck? And so my Sarah Dessen craze had begun.

Now that I've finished all her books I thought it would be good to write a review about them in one go. (The rating for What Happened to Good bye specifically is 3 stars, and I'll address that later.)

Sarah Dessen is such a pretty writer. Her writing style is simple, as it has no "fancy" vocab, and it's real. Everyone of her books sound like they could be written by a teenager. They all have their own voice- even if their situations are really similar (mom/dad are dead or divorced, there's a guy, they share something special (could be running, a bike, music, etc)). And no one is perfect- not the guy, not the main character, and especially not the parents. They all have faults, and that's what makes her books so real. I feel like these people could be my next door neighbors.

And her themes. Oh my gosh! Her themes. She addresses everything from finding yourself (What Ever Happened to Goodbye) to abuse (Dreamland, Lock and Key) to the death of a parent (The Truth About Forever, This Lullaby- there was probably another book too but those two were the only ones I could think of). Everything a teenager may deal with or has dealt with, Sarah Dessen has probably written a book on it. 

If there's one bad thing about Sarah Dessen, it would be her book writing formula. They all have that same messed up background, and I can pretty much tell what's going to happen at the end. That's really the only thing I have a problem with, and even then it's so minor because her writing and character development make up for it 100x over.  

I LOVE LOVE LOVE how the romance is like a real life romance- no insta love!- and how it's really gentle and quiet. Sarah Dessen almost never addresses the romance until the end(she drops hints and stuff, but the kiss is almost always at the end). 

The character development in each book is simply amazing. All her characters change slowly, with the help of friends, family, and life, and in the end they finally start to heal. I also really like that she leaves the ends kind of open ended- it fills me with an odd feeling of completion. And her Easter eggs in a few of her more recent books help to keep all those characters alive (especially Jason! ) and show us their lives don't end when the book does. 


Ok, so my rating on What Happened to Goodbye:

I rate my books on a really different (read: weird) scale. Five is like extra credit. If I absolutely love them(and I'm really really picky about that... it takes a lot to please me lol) and they're memorable, I give them a five. (So basically, I find that book perfect with no faults, or the faults make the book even more perfect. It's possible! :)). 
My rating scale really starts at four. Fours are for the books I love, and there's a few things iffy about them, but they are still memorable- just not incredible enough to be a 5.
 Threes are for the ones I liked, they were good, but they were just a fun read for the moment. They were still really good, but are sometimes unmemorable,and, most of the time, I won't think about it days after. It was average.
 Twos are the ones I just read and toss without another glance. I sort of liked it (sometimes bordering on the I didn't like it line), and it was ok, but I definitely won't linger with it. Ones are just bad. I didn't like it at all, and it can die in a hole for all I care (better yet, it can donate itself to Shrek the Musical). 

With that being said, my rating was a three because I liked this book, and I love Sarah Dessen, but I doubt I'll think about this book for days after. 

Thanks for reading!~

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Elsewhere

ElsewhereAuthor: Gabrielle Zevin 
Release Date: September 9th, 2005
Publisher: Square Fish 
Genre(s): YA Contemporary?  (This book was hard to place because it feels/reads like a contemporary, but it's about a girl's life in heaven.  I guess it could also be considered Fantasy?)
Pages: 277
*Stand alone*

Summary (Goodreads):
Welcome to Elsewhere. It is warm, with a breeze, and the beaches are marvelous. It’s quiet and peaceful. You can’t get sick or any older. Curious to see new paintings by Picasso? Swing by one of Elsewhere’s museums. Need to talk to someone about your problems? Stop by Marilyn Monroe’s psychiatric practice.
     Elsewhere is where fifteen-year-old Liz Hall ends up, after she has died. It is a place so like Earth, yet completely different. Here Liz will age backward from the day of her death until she becomes a baby again and returns to Earth. But Liz wants to turn sixteen, not fourteen again. She wants to get her driver’s license. She wants to graduate from high school and go to college. And now that she’s dead, Liz is being forced to live a life she doesn’t want with a grandmother she has only just met. And it is not going well. How can Liz let go of the only life she has ever known and embrace a new one? Is it possible that a life lived in reverse is no different from a life lived forward?

Review:
I’ve only read one another book written by this author- Memoir’s of a Teenage Amnesiac- and that was an “eh” read for me as well.   Maybe it’s because I had high expectations for both books.  Both of them had extremely interesting premises, which was why they had both been on the top of my to-read list.  (I finally found Elsewhere at my school library, hidden behind two Twilight books (don’t judge! I wanted to reread Cinder by Marissa Meyer).  I know- I was confused too.)  And both were huge letdowns- at least in my opinion.

Elsewhere was very interesting (the concept and the world), but half the book was bland, while the other half was rushed.  After a certain point, we only see pieces of her life until she finally becomes age 0 and goes back to Earth.  It skipped around a lot, and I really didn’t like that effect because I felt the last third or so of the story was like a summary, rather than a story. 

I guess my problem with this entire book was that the story telling was very detached and shallow (not personality wise, but depth wise).  I expected more out of this book emotionally, and while at the very, very, very end, I had a slight twinge of melancholy, 99% of the book I was just reading it to get to the end.  The tone of the entire book was like:

Liz did this. 
Liz did that.
This is Owen. 
Owen wants a dog.

 I felt no connection to the characters, and I had no sympathy for Liz.  I felt the author could have portrayed Liz better.  I understood her intent was sympathy and understanding from us readers, but Liz came across as annoying and a bit bratty.  She spent a lot of money- lying to Betty even to get that money- just staring at her old life from a far.   Call me heartless, but during that phase, all I could think about was the money wasting.  And there was a lot of telling rather than showing.  I believe every single character had a detailed profile that told us everything about them, instead of us- the readers- getting to know them through their actions and interactions.  I can’t say the characters were cardboard because I got to know them quite well, but it was like reading a straightforward biography about them.  The characters themselves hardly had any emotions as well, which made for a boring read.

The romance was very awkward, not only because of the age thing, but also because it was very abrupt. (Granted, the book was not about the romance, but still.)  The author gave us maybe one chapter on their flirting, if you could even call it that.  It was just them hanging out together so Liz would learn how to drive.  Later, they have an awkward confession, and all of a sudden, they love each other.  (The romance was bordering on insta-love, but at this point, I didn’t care enough for any of the characters to be too peeved about it.)  I wished the author didn’t include the romance in the book because it felt very forced, and I felt it really undermined the message of the book.

Undeniably, the premise was interesting, but the writing and the story falls flat.  One thing I did enjoy was Alvy and Liz’s relationship with each other after her death.  It was very sweet, and I wish the rest of the book could have been like this: sweet, but melancholy. 

Happy Readings~!

Rating: 2 out of 5

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Fault in Our Stars

The Fault in Our StarsAuthor: John Green
Release Date: January 10th, 2012 
Publisher: Dutton Books
Genre(s): YA Contemporary 
Pages: 313
*Stand alone*


~Spoilers are hidden! Highlight the page to see them:)~

Summary (Goodreads):
Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel's story is about to be completely rewritten.

Review:

***EDIT: 3/2/15 After reading the book a second time, I take back everything I said in this review.  Every. Single. Thing.  That book was so PRETENTIOUS.  I honestly don't know why I thought this book was the greatest thing since sliced bread.***

Disclaimer: The reviewer is not responsible for what the overload of sappiness she has attributed to this (totally not sappy) book will do to unsuspecting persons.      

There are some books that rudely yell into your face they are a love story that requires oversensitive tearducts; there are other books that smack you in the face with a love triangle plot without giving any warnings.  Then there are books that gently tiptoe into your life, gently coax out a tear or a waterfall, and proceed to float away into the midnight sky.  This is one such book.   

The cancer story itself is common (you know someone is going to die); it's the writing and the voices of both Augustus and Hazel that led me into a pool of tears.... from which I have not fully been able to draw myself out of still yet.   Augustus and Hazel’s relationship is a beautifully intelligent romance (if you want to call it that).   It's mature and thought provoking.  No drama, no dramatic breakups- just an honest procession that didn't emphasize a transcending type of love, but rather a legacy of this love.   Their romance is like an honest flower that continues to grow...  and grow...  and grow… until that flower’s petals fall off one by one, and the only thing left is its essence and a light perfume of nostalgia-- You get the idea :) 

(I know, I know, I sound like a cliche spouting machine or a sappy poet, but I feel like I can't give the book its due justice without bordering- or crossing- into the sappy side; it's that good!)

It isn't just a romance between the two main characters either;  it's a also a romance with the reader as well.  You just fall in love with both of them.  John Green has a way of writing that just makes you feel like you are Hazel-  making it even more body-wrenching when Augustus dies. 

Another thing, besides the writing, the characters, the plot, and the everything,  was that I absolutely love Hazel’s way of  dealing with Augustus’s death.  No clich√© “All the tears I had held in came bursting out of me at that moment.”  This clich√© line works for a lot of books, I’m not bashing it, but with Hazel’s personality, it would have been totally out of character for her- and totally the reason why so called ‘gut wrenching novels’ have failed to wrench my gut.   (Again, there is nothing wrong with the bursting of tears; it's  just the way she deals with it left me totally unable to hold an intelligent conversion or any coherent thoughts for several hours after.  )  No, Hazel deals with grief in spurts, and slowly recovering as she moves on and live life, enjoying the legacy that person left behind.

The title:
LOVE. IT.
That quote from Julius Caesar is one of my favorite quotes! And I get it  too, you know? Hazel and Augustus know their love is star-crossed, and they know they would have to live with the rest of their lives with their illness.  That is their fate.  Whether they choose to let this fate affect their life is their choice, to be the ‘underlings’ or not.  

 I had absolutely no complaints about this book, though I did read some reviews mentioning their ' overly mature voices.'  To be honest, I truly feel Augustus and Hazel could speak as mature as, say, a 30ish year old.  Why?  It's just THEM, you know?  That's who they are- and yes, it isn't very surprising to me that teenagers are capable of this level of maturity, ( thanks for the faith in our generation guys!) especially teens who have been dragged through nightmare after nightmare and back again. They've experienced things that some adults can't even fathom- and they're still on their feet.  That should be testimony enough to their maturity.  

The only other thing I can say about this book is to just read it. This book is SO worth it.  

And was I the only one who highlighted the WHOLE FREAKING book for all those lovely quotes?

Rating: 5 out of 5

The Birthday Ball

The Birthday BallAuthor: Lois Lowry 
Release Date: April 12th, 2010
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers 
Genre(s): Middle Grade Fantasy (Fairy Tale) 
Pages: 192
*Stand alone*

Summary (Goodreads):
Princess Patricia Priscilla is bored with her royal life and the excitement surrounding her sixteenth birthday ball. Doomed to endure courtship by three grotesquely unappealing noblemen, she escapes her fate—for a week. Disguised as a peasant, she attends the village school as the smart new girl, Pat,” and attracts friends and the attention of the handsome schoolmaster. Disgusting suitors, lovable peasants, and the clueless king and queen collide at the ball, where Princess Patricia Priscilla calls the shots. What began as a cure for boredom becomes a chance for Princess Patricia Priscilla to break the rules and marry the man she loves.

Review:
I loved this book! It was a quick and easy read, but it had a whole bunch of SAT words scattered in it, especially when Princess Pat talked to her cat (who knew there were so many words that rhymed with Delicious?).

The plot was generally predictable, but it was a sweet story and has your typical fairytale feel to it. It was mostly about Princess Pat and her search for adventure in a schoolhouse, but Lois also gave the other minor characters a voice too (in the case of the triplets, a singing voice!), which I appreciated, because it made all of them very memorable (especially Liz and Duke Desmond. They were just adorable!). 

I loved all the really awkward interactions Princess Pat had with the schoolmaster. It was super cute. Princess Pat is a little bit insensitive, and the story seemed a little rushed (it's a middle grade novel after all!:)), but overall, I really liked it. I haven't read such a light and cute tale in a long time!!:)

Thanks for reading!

Rating: 3 out of 5

Friday, October 4, 2013

Liebster Awards: Nominations and Questions


Hi guys!
Kyendwarrior here:)
So I've been nominated for the Liebster Award.   (With a little googling, I found out Liebster means "dearest."  Daww ;) Isn't that cute?)  This award is a way to help blogs with less than 200 followers to expand their audience.  

The rules are: 
Link back the blogger that tagged you
Nominate 10 others and answer the questions of the one who tagged you
Ask 10 questions for the blogger you nominate
Let your nominees know of their award

So, to get started:  A GINORMOUS thank you cake (blue o'course!) to Sofia at Take a Walk on the Write Side for nominating me!:) 

My answers:
1. What made you decide to start blogging?
    I've always loved reading and- of course!- fangirling about them.  Then I found this nifty little site called Goodreads and met other people who were just as crazy about books as I was ( and here I thought I- the Bookmaniasaurus-was the last of her kind!), and many of them did this thing called "blogging."  I thought it sounded pretty cool-and a fun way to share my love of books with people ;)- so I started to try to this blogging thing, and here I am!:)



2. From where do you usually get your books (library, local bookstore, amazon...)?
   If I can, I get books from the library.  If I really love a book, I buy them online at amazon.  PRINTED BOOKS FOREVER<3! (...but I will admit  that sometimes my impatience gets a hold of me and *gasp* I buy a ebook. *hangs head in shame*)

3. What book has influenced your current tastes the most?
    Gosh! This is a hard one:).  I would have to say the Percy Jackson series because it officially started my fantasy mania, which for some reason led to my contemporary craze, and now, I gobble up anything with words! 

4.What's your favorite thing about blogging so far?
   All the people I meet and interact with! There's nothing more fun than finding someone who loves the same books as you do and when you start babbling about that ending in the Mark of Athena- THEY UNDERSTAND.

5.  Have you ever read a book that you wish you had written? If yes, which one?
    To be honest, I've never read a book that I wish I had written because then I would know the endings.  I mean, it's not like I can put a spoiler tag on myself (I WISH!). :)

6. What's the one thing you can't stand in a book?
    CARDBOARD CHARACTERS.  I can excuse the info dumping.  I can excuse the lack of info.  I can handle (okay, only if the character grows throughout the novel/it turns out the character's actually a softy) if the guy/girl is a jerk.  I can even excuse insta- love (on a good day- which are far and few, and with the increasing amount of books using this plot device, my patience is starting to wear thin...).  But CHARACTERS WITH ABSOLUTELY NO PERSONALITY?   I HATE WITH A BURNING PASSION.  I mean, a whole purpose of the book is, yes, the plot, but also getting to know the characters, to bond with them, to laugh with them, to root for them, to have your heart ripped to tiny little shreds when something happens to them.  But when they have no "character" (Is this a pun? I don't think it's a pun, but I want to say this anyway.  PUN INTENDED), that's impossible. 

7. Do you have any weird reading habits?
     When there's a really good part in a story, I tend to start unconsciously  acting the scene out.  I get so into it that I've been told  I start making weird facial expressions and literally twitching and gesturing as if I was a character in that book.  It's okay when I'm at home (my family is used to it by now... I think), but when I'm in a public place (say the library at my school yesterday morning at table 3), this tends to get awk-ward. 

8. With which fictional character do you identify the most? 
    I would love to say Annabeth, but that's a total lie.  I wouldn't last a day in her shoes (or her brain, for that matter).  I think I identify the most with Junie B. Jones.  Remember her? She's AWESOME.  A few weeks back I was hit with nostalgia ( VHS Disney!), and I started reading the Junie B. Jones books again.  I know, I know, they're for little kids (and she's a first grader...), but re-reading them now is seriously like reading a diary of my inner thoughts.  She's crazy, she's quirky, she's friendly, and when she gets excited (or in general), she uses bad grammar! :)

9.  Favorite book(s)? 
   The Bible!:)  That's my fav. nonfiction book.  Within the Bible, I really love the book of Romans.   
  For fiction...  
    PERCYJACKSONPERCYJACKSONPERCYJACKSONPERCYJACKSONPERCYJACKSON.
Then I guess there are other books like There You'll Find Me, Unwind, The Fault in Our Stars, Flipped, Flowers for Algernon, To Kill a Mockingbird, Hattie Big Sky, and the Gregor Overlander series, but those are irrelevant compared to Percy Jackson.  Every other fiction book  is irrelevant compared to Percy Jackson. 

10. What's your favorite book adaptation (in any media: movies, TV, theater...)?
      Ooo this is a hard one.   I can definitely tell you which one is NOT my favorite adaption (the Percy Jackson series).   But for the one I really liked, I would have to say... To Kill a Mockingbird (the black and white version).  It was very faithful to the book.  (Forest Gump is close, but TKAM was more like the book, which I absolutely adored! ) 

My nominations!

The Gothic Ballerina 
Books A to Z
To Read or Not to Read?
Books and Books
Sharon's Book Nook!
Books, Movies, and Me
The Paper Sea
Books of Love
My Fiction Nook
PaperGrey 

My Questions:
1.  *Poof!* A genie appeared in front of you!  He can grant you three wishes- but they must all be wishes related to books! What three things would you wish for?
2.  What book (s) do you wish more people knew about?
3.  Favorite authors and favorite books from said authors?
4.  Any books you wish had a sequel?  How about books that you wish were stand-alones?  Why?
5.  What do you think of multiple point-of-view novels?
6.  First book character crush?
7.  Favorite classical novels?
8.  What was the first book that sparked your book-lovin' soul?
9.  Favorite genres?
10.  Favorite childhood books?

:)