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Bone Gap: A Review

4 Aug

Title: Bone Gap

Author: Laura Ruby

Format: Hardcover, borrowed from public library

Release Date: March 3, 2015

Summary (from Goodreads): Everyone knows Bone Gap is full of gaps—gaps to trip you up, gaps to slide through so you can disappear forever. So when young, beautiful Roza went missing, the people of Bone Gap weren’t surprised. After all, it wasn’t the first time that someone had slipped away and left Finn and Sean O’Sullivan on their own. Just a few years before, their mother had high-tailed it to Oregon for a brand new guy, a brand new life. That’s just how things go, the people said. Who are you going to blame?

Finn knows that’s not what happened with Roza. He knows she was kidnapped, ripped from the cornfields by a dangerous man whose face he cannot remember. But the searches turned up nothing, and no one believes him anymore. Not even Sean, who has more reason to find Roza than anyone, and every reason to blame Finn for letting her go.

As we follow the stories of Finn, Roza, and the people of Bone Gap—their melancholy pasts, their terrifying presents, their uncertain futures—acclaimed author Laura Ruby weaves a heartbreaking tale of love and loss, magic and mystery, regret and forgiveness—a story about how the face the world sees is never the sum of who we are.

I am not sure exactly how I am going to review this one.  I absolutely loved Ruby’s writing.  It is beautiful. She builds such fascinating characters that keep you wanting to read more.  Her descriptions make you feel as though you are right there in Bone Gap along with Finn and the others.  I can really appreciate the art of her writing.

I also enjoyed the multiple perspectives.  I have written about how much I like this in books before. I was pretty sure there were only going to be two perspectives, but was pleasantly surprised as to how many and which characters added to the story.  All the perspectives are written in third person which I also enjoyed because it is not as common these days.  I have nothing against first person narratives; it was just a nice change of pace.

Where I am struggling is with the magical realism aspect of the book.  I have struggled with books like this before. They just don’t hold my interest most of the time.  I still give them a try and every now and then, I find books with elements of magical realism or fantasy that I really enjoy.  However, I did not understand how it fit into the plot with this one.  There are parts where magic appears that does not seem to fit in with the story.  And I still do not fully understand what happened to Roza and at the end of the novel.  I know many people have loved this book.  I just think this is a genre I do not enjoy as much as others.

There are still strong themes of love, family, and friendship that I also liked.  These are what kept me reading the novel to the end.  This is by no means a bad book; it just was not the book for me.

3.5/5 Stars 


Afterworlds: A Review

4 Mar

Title: Afterworlds

Author: Scott Westerfeld

Format: Hardcover borrowed from library

Release Date: September 23, 2014

Summary (from Goodreads): Darcy Patel has put college and everything else on hold to publish her teen novel, Afterworlds. Arriving in New York with no apartment or friends she wonders whether she’s made the right decision until she falls in with a crowd of other seasoned and fledgling writers who take her under their wings…

Told in alternating chapters is Darcy’s novel, a suspenseful thriller about Lizzie, a teen who slips into the ‘Afterworld’ to survive a terrorist attack. But the Afterworld is a place between the living and the dead and as Lizzie drifts between our world and that of the Afterworld, she discovers that many unsolved – and terrifying – stories need to be reconciled. And when a new threat resurfaces, Lizzie learns her special gifts may not be enough to protect those she loves and cares about most.

So much drew me to this book.  First, I liked the idea of two books in one.  Second, it seemed Darcy would be living my dream come true: move to NYC to be a writer.  Third, once again, friends of mine had a lot of positive things to say about it.  I saw it on the NEW ARRIVAL display at my public library and knew I had to grab it.  Overall, I really enjoyed both stories in the book.

I really like the novel Afterworlds that Darcy is writing in the book.  Lizzie’s story was a page turner.  Sometimes, I found myself hoping to rush through the chapter about Darcy so I could see what happened next in Lizzie’s world.  The beginning of that novel in the airport was so suspenseful that it set the stage well for an amazing story.  There were twists and turns I did not see coming.  The ending was awesome as well, something Darcy struggles with throughout the writing of the book.

That is not to say I didn’t enjoy reading about Darcy as well.  It was fascinating to learn about the publishing industry and what it is like.  There is a lot I never knew.  I also appreciated reading about the struggles Darcy had as a writer and how she worked through them.  There were times I wanted to felt frustrated Darcy for how she was acting, but I know her age had a lot to do with that.  I think she was a realistic eighteen-year-old to read.  I think Darcy grows and matures realistically throughout her story as well and it was great to read that transformation.

One tiny thing bothered me.  I am not one to be against behaviors in books like underage drinking.  However, the fact that Darcy, at 18, had no issue ordering a beer anywhere she went in New York without once being asked to show an ID kind of irked me.  I found that unbelievable.  Or it may be sign that I am getting old.  🙂 But I digress.

If you like a supernatural story as well as a realistic one, Afterworlds is a book for you.  Do not be intimidating by its size; it can be a surprisingly quick read.

4/5 stars

I Am Malala: A Review

22 Feb

Title: I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban

Author: Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb

Format: ebook on Nook, Personal Purchase

Release Date: October 8, 2013

Summary (from Goodreads): I come from a country that was created at midnight. When I almost died it was just after midday.

When the Taliban took control of the Swat Valley in Pakistan, one girl spoke out. Malala Yousafzai refused to be silenced and fought for her right to an education.

On Tuesday, October 9, 2012, when she was fifteen, she almost paid the ultimate price. She was shot in the head at point-blank range while riding the bus home from school, and few expected her to survive.

Instead, Malala’s miraculous recovery has taken her on an extraordinary journey from a remote valley in northern Pakistan to the halls of the United Nations in New York. At sixteen, she has become a global symbol of peaceful protest and the youngest-ever Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

I Am Malala is the remarkable tale of a family uprooted by global terrorism, of the fight for girls’ education, of a father who, himself a school owner, championed and encouraged his daughter to write and attend school, and of brave parents who have a fierce love for their daughter in a society that prizes sons.

I Am Malala will make you believe in the power of one person’s voice to inspire change in the world.

Yet again, this is a book that I waited far too long to read.  Ever since I heard Malala’s story, I wanted to read this.  Seeing her interview with Jon Stewart on the Daily Show made me immediately buy the book. And then it sat on my ereader for months upon months.  I had plans to read it, even mentioning it in It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? posts.  But it took the urging from my good friend Jacqueline for me to finally sit down and read it.  So glad I did.

I will admit, it was a little hard for me to get into at first.  The writing seemed to jump around at first and I had a hard time keeping people and new terms straight.  I did not realize until after I finished the book that there was a helpful glossary at the end (a downfall of e-readers – I never pay attention to the table of contents once I click the link to the first chapter) and it was harder to flip back on the e-reader.  However, the look-up function on the e-reader was very helpful at times.  Once I got into the first few chapters, I picked up the flow of the book and was hooked.

One thing about this book is how much I learned.  I learned quite a bit about life in Pakistan: its history, daily life, and people.  I guess I always assumed the Taliban had always been there; clearly, I was wrong.  Reading this book reminded me of how much I don’t know about the rest of the world, even if it is a little embarrassing to admit at times.  This reminds me of the power of reading: to experience and learn about the world outside of where and how you live.

This book also made me very grateful for the life I have and the opportunities I have been given.  Jacqueline and I talked a bit while reading and she hit the nail on the head when she said how this book is a reminder of how much we take for granted.

I enjoyed reading this for all that I learned and reflected on.  I also loved Malala’s voice in the writing.  I highly recommend this book to readers of all ages.

5/5 stars

I’ll Give You the Sun: A Review

28 Jan

Title: I’ll Give You the Sun

Author: Jandy Nelson

Format: Personal Purchase, Hardcover

Release Date: September 16, 2014

Summary (from Goodreads): Jude and her twin brother, Noah, are incredibly close. At thirteen, isolated Noah draws constantly and is falling in love with the charismatic boy next door, while daredevil Jude cliff-dives and wears red-red lipstick and does the talking for both of them. But three years later, Jude and Noah are barely speaking. Something has happened to wreck the twins in different and dramatic ways . . . until Jude meets a cocky, broken, beautiful boy, as well as someone else—an even more unpredictable new force in her life. The early years are Noah’s story to tell. The later years are Jude’s. What the twins don’t realize is that they each have only half the story, and if they could just find their way back to one another, they’d have a chance to remake their world.

This radiant novel from the acclaimed, award-winning author of The Sky Is Everywhere will leave you breathless and teary and laughing—often all at once.

So here is how I thought I was going to have to start this review a few days ago: I think this one was a little too hyped up for me.  My expectations were too high.

That is not how I am beginning this review now that I am writing it.  Not at all.  I loved this book.  It took me a little bit to really get into, but once I was, it turned into read-every-possible-second-of-the-day and stay-awake-way-past-my-bedtime-to-get-it-read kind of book.  This book is amazing.  This book is beautiful.

I loved these characters.  Each of them.  Nelson has created characters that are flawed.  This characters make mistakes; in most cases, many mistakes.  Yet, I still cared for them. I could still feel for them.  This made them so real to me because people are not perfect.  And yes, we sometimes hurt those we love the most.  But they love us, too, no matter what.  And that’s what matters.

I really loved how the story was told.  Noah told the story from when they are 13- to 14-years-old.  Jude tells the story when they are 16 and this alternates each chapter.  I really loved the way their experiences are intertwined even with the gap in years in the story.  I wanted to know what happened to go from Noah’s story to where the twins and the people in the lives were in Jude’s story.  It kept me wanting more the more I got into the story.

Nelson’s writing blew me away.  I want to see the artwork that is described.  I want to read all of Grandma Sweetwine’s Bible.  I wish I could be even half as articulate in describing this book as Nelson is in telling the story.  I don’t think I can give it full justice.

While I had to take my time with this and did not devour it the way I expected, I would not have had it any other way.  When I read the last page, I said “Wow!” out loud.  I have not felt this affected by a book in a long time.  I hope you have the opportunity to read this book and enjoy the experience as well.  I look forward to discussing it with readers.

5/5 stars

On the Fence: A Review

22 Aug

Title: On the Fence

Author: Kasie West 

Format: Personal Purchase, Hardcover

Release Date: July 1, 2014

Summary (from Goodreads): For sixteen-year-old Charlotte Reynolds, aka Charlie, being raised by a single dad and three older brothers has its perks. She can outrun, outscore, and outwit every boy she knows—including her longtime neighbor and honorary fourth brother, Braden. But when it comes to being a girl, Charlie doesn’t know the first thing about anything. So when she starts working at chichi boutique to pay off a speeding ticket, she finds herself in a strange new world of makeup, lacy skirts, and BeDazzlers. Even stranger, she’s spending time with a boy who has never seen her tear it up in a pickup game.

To cope with the stress of faking her way through this new reality, Charlie seeks late-night refuge in her backyard, talking out her problems with Braden by the fence that separates them. But their Fence Chats can’t solve Charlie’s biggest problem: she’s falling for Braden. Hard. She knows what it means to go for the win, but if spilling her secret means losing him for good, the stakes just got too high.

I adore Kasie West’s books. When I was scrolling on Twitter back in July and saw she had a new release, I knew I would buy it.  I didn’t even have to necessarily know what it was about; I just knew I wanted to read it.  This book did not disappoint. I also love that this novel takes place in the same town as West’s novel The Distance Between Us.  

I absolutely loved Charlie.  As with the ideas I discussed in my review of Dairy QueenCharlie is not a female stereotype.  She plays sports and is very athletic.  She is described as “tall and strong.”  However, now she is having a hard time dealing with what it means “to be a girl” and wonders it she can be a “real girl” and herself.  What I loved is that Charlie discovers that her own preconceived notions and stereotypes of what being a girl means are not necessarily true.  She also learns how important it is to be true to herself and who she really is even as she starts to discover new aspects of herself.  I think that is a strong message for girls today to read.

There are a number of other parts of her life Charlie is dealing with as well.  Along with figuring out her feelings for Braden, Charlie is dealing with some other personal issues, particularly the death of her mother when Charlie was very young.  While there are definitely aspects of romance in On the Fence, it was not too overpowering and there is enough of the other parts of the story to keep it engaging and realistic.  Plus, I loved so many of the characters, especially Charlie’s older brothers.  Especially her brother Gage.  They are fun, funny, and memorable.  

On the Fence was a very enjoyable read.  Not too light, not too heavy.  It was just what I needed as summer is winding down and I’m still finding my reading groove again.  

4/5 stars 

Dairy Queen: A Review

21 Aug

Title: Dairy Queen

Author: Catherine Gilbert Murdock

Release Date: May 22, 2006

Format: Paperback gift from friend

Summary (from Goodreads): When you don’t talk, there’s a lot of stuff that ends up not getting said.
Harsh words indeed, from Brian Nelson of all people. But, D. J. can’t help admitting, maybe he’s right.

When you don’t talk, there’s a lot of stuff that ends up not getting said.
Stuff like why her best friend, Amber, isn’t so friendly anymore. Or why her little brother, Curtis, never opens his mouth. Why her mom has two jobs and a big secret. Why her college-football-star brothers won’t even call home. Why her dad would go ballistic if she tried out for the high school football team herself. And why Brian is so, so out of her league.

When you don’t talk, there’s a lot of stuff that ends up not getting said.
Welcome to the summer that fifteen-year-old D. J. Schwenk of Red Bend, Wisconsin, learns to talk, and ends up having an awful lot of stuff to say.

As with many books I read, I had heard of this one from a few different friends who loved it.  In a session at #nErDcampMI held by my friends Sarah and Cindi, Dairy Queen came up again as we discussed diverse literature and the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign.  I had brought it home to read this summer so I could see what it was about.  

Overall, I did like this book.  For one thing, I love DJ’s voice and Murdock’s writing style to create it.  At times, long, almost “run-on” sentences are used by DJ as she tells her story.  I really loved this!  It felt like I was sitting next to her and just having a conversation.  I could hear a teen girl saying many of the things DJ shares.  And the way DJ tells her story creates her entire character.  She is honest.  That is what I loved the most about her.

I also love that DJ a pretty unique female narrator.  DJ works hard on her family farm.  She plays sports.  She even has a lot of knowledge about football.  She’s not perfect.  This book came up in the #WeNeedDiverseBooks discussion because DJ is a diverse protagonist in this way.  I can really appreciate that, and we definitely need more narrators and characters like DJ to help more students see themselves in literature.  I really enjoyed getting to know all parts of DJ.

A few parts of the book did drag for me at times.  While I read it in just a few days, there were times when I felt like I was just pushing through the book and it did not hold my attention as much. However, I so much enjoyed DJ that I do want to read the other books to know the rest of her story and what happens to her.  Sarah recommended listening to the audio for the rest of the books, and I do believe I am going to follow her advice.  Because I love her voice so much, I think hearing it out loud will be an even better reading experience.

3.5/5 stars 

Panic: A Review

24 Jul

Title: Panic

Author: Lauren Oliver

Format: Hardcover personal purchase

Release Date: March 4, 2014

Summary (from Goodreads): Panic began as so many things do in Carp, a dead-end town of 12,000 people in the middle of nowhere: because it was summer, and there was nothing else to do.

Heather never thought she would compete in Panic, a legendary game played by graduating seniors, where the stakes are high and the payoff is even higher. She’d never thought of herself as fearless, the kind of person who would fight to stand out. But when she finds something, and someone, to fight for, she will discover that she is braver than she ever thought.

Dodge has never been afraid of Panic. His secret will fuel him, and get him all the way through the game, he’s sure of it. But what he doesn’t know is that he’s not the only one with a secret. Everyone has something to play for.

For Heather and Dodge, the game will bring new alliances, unexpected revelations, and the possibility of first love for each of them—and the knowledge that sometimes the very things we fear are those we need the most.

There is something about Lauren Oliver’s writing that I just love.  Her way with words always blows me away.  While the plot of Panic does have suspense and kept me at the edge of my seats at times, it is Oliver’s writing that keeps me glued to her stories. This is another beautifully written novel that I found very hard to put down.

I found the whole idea of this Panic competition fascinating.  I wondered what it would take for someone to want to do it.  Heather and Dodge were strong narrators to follow in their journeys because they are both in the competition for such different and personal reasons.  They view Panic differently and their views give readers multiple meanings of what Panic and living in Carp really mean.  I am usually a big fan of duel narration and I really enjoyed both narrators and how different they were.

One thing that did bother me about Panic was I kept asking, “Where are the adults?  They have to know about it by now.  Why does it keep happening?”  Maybe that is just a sign of my age now, but I I found myself asking that over and over.  Despite this, there is enough tension along with Oliver’s writing to keep readers intrigued and wanting to know what will happen next.  The tension at the end had me trying to rush through pages to see how it would all work out.  This was a stay up late to finish type of ending.

I know there has been some comparisons out there to The Hunger Games.  While I can see where some comparisons might be made with this type of competition, I think when I do share this book with students I am going to shy away from that comparison.  A book can be enjoyable on its own, not just because it is the next whatever.  I will focus on the tension and suspense that comes with this plot as opposed to it being another Hunger Games.

Overall, Panic was an enjoyable read and paced just fast enough to keep me reading and waning to know what will happen next.  I can see it being popular in the classroom.

4/5 stars