Monday, January 31, 2011

Review: The Secret Year

The Secret Year by Jennifer Hubbard
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Goodreads description:

Colt and Julia were secretly together for an entire year, and no one—not even Julia's boyfriend— knew. They had nothing in common, with Julia in her country club world on Black Mountain and Colt from down on the flats, but it never mattered. Until Julia dies in a car accident, and Colt learns the price of secrecy. He can't mourn Julia openly, and he's tormented that he might have played a part in her death. When Julia's journal ends up in his hands, Colt relives their year together at the same time that he's desperately trying to forget her. But how do you get over someone who was never yours in the first place?

My rating: 1 out of 5 stars

I was extremely disappointed by this book. All the reviews I read were basically raving about it, so I expected so much more than I got. I couldn’t tell you a single aspect that I liked, except for the switches between flashbacks and the present, which were seamless and very well done.

Some of the side characters I liked – for example Tom (Colt’s brother) and Michael (Julia’s brother) – but I didn’t like the main characters. Colt was mean and inconsiderate (especially to Syd and Pam) and Julia was extremely self-centered, as she didn’t care how it would affect anyone but her if she stayed with both Austin and Colt. That whole storyline seemed unrealistic – Julia seemed like she wouldn’t care what anyone thought of her but still dated Austin solely for appearances. I don’t think it would have been that big a deal, either, if she had made her relationship with Colt public. This might have made sense had this been historical fiction, but since this story takes place in the present, I don’t really think it would have mattered that much.

The whole feud between Black Mountain kids and kids from the flats seemed silly – as far as I know, nowadays popularity has little to do with how much money you have, and people don’t really care that much – for example, except for my closer friends, I couldn’t tell you what my classmates’ parents do for a living.

I didn’t get the romance between Julia and Colt at all – basically, all they do is have sex. The whole rich-girl/poor-boy relationship seemed corny, especially when Colt talked about all those rich kids are spoiled and stupid and how different Julia is.

I didn’t feel Colt’s grief at all – it all seemed like facts without feelings to me, and it was very flat. Actually, I didn’t only not feel Colt’s grief – I didn’t feel any of his feelings. For example, he never tells or shows us how he feels about his dad being an alcoholic, or about his relationship with Kirby. The sub-plot of Colt’s brother coming out of the closet and his father disowning him (to which Colt didn’t emotionally react, either) was ridiculous and didn’t add anything to the story.

All in all, this is not a book I would recommend. The main idea was good, but it was badly executed and terribly clichéd. There are way better books on dealing with grief.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

In My Mailbox #2

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren where you can talk about the books you bought or received this week.

So this week I got...

Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler

Goodreads description:

According to her best friend Frankie, twenty days in ZanzibarBay is the perfect opportunity to have a summer fling, and if they meet one boy ever day, there's a pretty good chance Anna will find her first summer romance. Anna lightheartedly agrees to the game, but there's something she hasn't told Frankie—-she's already had that kind of romance, and it was with Frankie's older brother, Matt, just before his tragic death one year ago.
Beautifully written and emotionally honest, this is a debut novel that explores what it truly means to love someone and what it means to grieve, and ultimately, how to make the most of every single moment this world has to offer.

Lots of people read this one for last year's Debut Author Challenge, so it's gotten a lot of reviews - and they're almost all good! That's got to mean something, and I hope I'll like it as much as those other reviewers!

The Secret Year by Jennifer Hubbard
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Goodreads description:

Colt and Julia were secretly together for an entire year, and no one—not even Julia's boyfriend— knew. They had nothing in common, with Julia in her country club world on Black Mountain and Colt from down on the flats, but it never mattered. Until Julia dies in a car accident, and Colt learns the price of secrecy. He can't mourn Julia openly, and he's tormented that he might have played a part in her death. When Julia's journal ends up in his hands, Colt relives their year together at the same time that he's desperately trying to forget her. But how do you get over someone who was never yours in the first place?

Another debut author, and another awesome-sounding storyline! Despite the admittedly corny cover, I'm really excited to read this one!


Hate List by Jennifer Brown
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Goodreads description:

Five months ago, Valerie Leftman's boyfriend, Nick, opened fire on their school cafeteria. Shot trying to stop him, Valerie inadvertently saved the life of a classmate, but was implicated in the shootings because of the list she helped create. A list of people and things she and Nick hated. The list he used to pick his targets.
Now, after a summer of seclusion, Val is forced to confront her guilt as she returns to school to complete her senior year. Haunted by the memory of the boyfriend she still loves and navigating rocky relationships with her family, former friends and the girl whose life she saved, Val must come to grips with the tragedy that took place and her role in it, in order to make amends and move on with her life.

This one has been on my wishlist for ages, and I have no idea why I waited so long to buy this. The topic alone is enough to make me especially excited for this one! I hope it's as thought-provoking and powerful as most reviews have said it is!


Glass by Ellen Hopkins
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Goodreads description:

Crank. Glass. Ice. Crystal. Whatever you call it, it's all the same: a monster. And once it's got hold of you, this monster will never let you go.
Kristina thinks she can control it. Now with a baby to care for, she's determined to be the one deciding when and how much, the one calling the shots. But the monster is too strong, and before she knows it, Kristina is back in its grips. She needs the monster to keep going, to face the pressures of day-to-day life. She needs it to feel alive.
Once again the monster takes over Kristina's life and she will do anything for it, including giving up the one person who gives her the unconditional love she craves -- her baby.
The sequel to Crank, this is the continuing story of Kristina and her descent back to hell. Told in verse, it's a harrowing and disturbing look at addiction and the damage that it inflicts.

I recently read Crank and loved it, so I'm looking forward to reading this one. I hope the sequel is as good as the first one!

I also got some great swag from Steph over at The Thoughts of a Book Junky, for signing up for her A-Z Reading Challenge! Thanks!

So, what was in your mailbox this week?

Saturday, January 29, 2011

On My Wishlist #2: Split

On My Wishlist is a weekly meme hosted by Book Chick City where you can talk about a book you want to read but haven't actually bought yet.

My pick for this week is...

Split by Swati Avasthi
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Goodreads description:

Sixteen-Year-Old Jace Witherspoon arrives at the doorstep of his estranged brother Christian with a re-landscaped face (courtesy of his father’s fist), $3.84, and a secret.

He tries to move on, going for new friends, a new school, and a new job, but all his changes can’t make him forget what he left behind—his mother, who is still trapped with his dad, and his ex-girlfriend, who is keeping his secret. At least so far.

Worst of all, Jace realizes that if he really wants to move forward, he may first have to do what scares him most: He may have to go back. After you’ve said enough, after you’ve run, after you’ve made the split—how do you begin to live again?

I don't think I've read many books about domestic violence, but the topic seems really interesting. This book has gotten lots of good reviews - the characters and the writing are supposed to be great, and (in my opinion) that's what matters most. Oh, and I love the cover - I just noticed the faces, and that's a really nice idea for a cover.

What's on your wishlist this week?

Friday, January 28, 2011

Follow Friday #1 / Book Blogger Hop #1


Follow Friday is a weekly feature hosted by Parajunkee's View. I thought it would be a good way to get to know other bloggers, so I'm taking part!

Each week, it features one book-blogger, and this week it's Marie of Mission to Read (be sure to check out her blog!).

It also asks a different question each week. This week's question is: What is/was your favorite subject in school?

Right now, my favorite subject is Spanish - I love languages. I also really like English (another foreign anguage for me, as I'm German), and Math.

Book Blogger Hop

The Book Blogger Hop is hosted by Crazy for Books and is a place just for book bloggers and readers to connect and share our love of the written word.

This week's question is:What book are you most looking forward to seeing published in 2011?  Why are you anticipating that book?

Wow, that's a hard question - it's impossible to pick only one! But if I had to chose, I'd probably go with Delirium by Lauren Oliver, even though that's not very original. I loved Before I Fall, and Delirium is supposed to be even better, according to basically every review I've read. I hope they're right and it really is that amazing!

Leave your answers to both questions or your link in the comments!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Review: Some Girls Are

Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Goodreads description:

Climbing to the top of the social ladder is hard--falling from it is even harder.  Regina Afton used to be a member of the Fearsome Fivesome, an all-girl clique both feared and revered by the students at Hallowell High... until vicious rumors about her and her best friend's boyfriend start going around.  Now Regina's been "frozen out" and her ex-best friends are out for revenge.  If Regina was guilty, it would be one thing, but the rumors are far from the terrifying truth and the bullying is getting more intense by the day.  She takes solace in the company of Michael Hayden, a misfit with a tragic past who she herself used to bully.  Friendship doesn't come easily for these onetime enemies, and as Regina works hard to make amends for her past, she realizes Michael could be more than just a friend... if threats from the Fearsome Foursome don't break them both first.

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I’ve really been dreading writing this review. The novel was really well done, but I can’t say I loved this book. When I was done reading, I just wanted to scream. I usually like sad books, but this one just made me angry. I really don’t know whether that’s  good or bad – of course this isn’t supposed to be a fun and fluff read, but I just wanted it to be more…uplifting. Actually, I don’t know if that’s true – if the story were uplifting, it wouldn’t show how terrible bullying is, which is the whole point.

Aside from the last sentence (which I loved), there was absolutely no hope – and the last sentence didn’t offer any solutions. Maybe the point of the novel wasn’t to solve the problem, but just to portray it, but it was all so depressing! The whole story was extremely realistic, but for me, it was too realistic at times. Especially with the Michael-storyline, I just wanted it to work out and them to be happy together already, even though it wouldn’t have been realistic if he had just forgiven her directly.

With that out of the way, the writing was spectacular. I absolutely loved the simplistic, less-is-more style of writing. It made it extremely easy to relate to Regina (even when I didn’t want to – I mean, she’s pretty much the definition of a bitch!). Her pain was so real, and this book made me realize just how hurtful bullying can be. I don’t know whether the feelings were realistic (I’ve never experienced anything like that), but it definitely seemed realistic to me. Courtney Summers made me understand each one of Regina’s choices, even though I usually disagree with revenge and wanting to make other people suffer because they made you suffer.

I loved how fleshed-out all the characters were, even the minor ones. All their histories with the main character were explained really well (for example, I loved the story of Michael’s mom and her connection to Regina) despite the minimalistic style. Even though I didn’t agree with their decisions, each character’s motivations were clear. There wasn’t a single flat character; each one of them – Anna, Kara, Michael, Liz, and of course Regina – showed a range of emotions and seemed well-developed.

One thing I didn’t like, though, was the reason Regina was “frozen out”, and the true story behind it – that’s been done before, and my first thoughts while reading this novel were that this is exactly like Just Listen by Sarah Dessen and partly also Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. Since both of those novels concentrated on other aspects, though, this wasn’t too big a deal.

All in all, this novel was really well-done – the writing and the characters were great, and the story was extremely realistic. Somehow, though, I still wouldn’t say I loved this book – it was too depressing and made me angry. If you think you can handle such a depressing novel, though, you should read it. I’ll still check out some of the author’s other work because the style really was amazing.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday #2: What Happened to Goodbye

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking The Spine that "spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating." So this week I'm waiting on...

What Happened To Goodbye by Sarah Dessen
(Amazon / Goodreads)
Expected publication: May 10th 2011

Another town. Another school. Another Mclean. Ever since her parents' bitter divorce, Mclean and her father have been fleeing their unhappy past. And Mclean's become a pro at reinventing herself with each move. But in Lakeview, Mclean finds herself putting down roots and making friends—in part, thanks to Dave, the most real person Mclean's ever met. Dave just may be falling in love with her, but can he see the person she really is? Does Mclean herself know?

I know, I know, I should probably give my WoW post to a lesser-known author. But, well, it's Sarah Dessen! It's been ages since the last Sarah Dessen novel has been released, so I'm extra-excited for this one (along with every other Dessen-lover, aka teenaged girl, out there). I'd probably buy a new book by this author without even knowing what it's about, as she's one of my favorites. This sounds like another great novel with lots of emotions and finding yourself, which is what Sarah Dessen does best! Well, that and romance, obviously. I can't wait for this one to be published!

What are you waiting on this week?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Review: Everyone Worth Knowing

Everyone Worth Knowing by Lauren Weisberger
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Amazon description:

Bette Robinson is a twentysomething Emory graduate who shunned her parents' hippie ideals in favor of a high-paying yet excruciatingly boring job at a prestigious investment bank. One day, after a particularly condescending exchange with her boss (who sends her daily inspirational e-mails), Bette walks out on her job in a huff. After a few weeks of sleeping late, watching Dr. Phil and entertaining her dog Millington, Bette's uncle scores her a job at an up-and-coming public relations firm, where her entire job seems to revolve around staying out late partying and providing fodder for clandestine gossip columns. What follows is one episode after another of Bette climbing up the social ladder at the expense of her friends, family, and the one guy who actually seems worth pursuing.

My rating: 2 out of 5 stars

I read this book because I liked The Devil Wears Prada by the same author. What I didn’t realize, though, was that the storylines of both novels are pretty much the same: A normal girl gets a fancy, popular job but loses herself along the way. Basically, Everyone Worth Knowing is a Devil-Wears-Prada-replica. But it’s worse. I’m not going to compare everything I criticize in this novel with Lauren Weisberger’s first book since it’s been a while since I read that one, but I remember liking it, so it must have been better than Everyone Worth Knowing.

This book is the opposite of a page-turner – there was no suspense, as there was no real conflict the reader was waiting for the protagonist to resolve, except for Bette not liking her job (or rather, the influence it had on her personal life), which didn’t create any suspense as it was obvious and predictable that (sorry if this spoils it for you!) she was going to quit eventually, just like in The Devil Wears Prada. Bette tried to turn the fact that Ellie Insider wrote about her in her column into this huge problem, even when it was only positive and helped her career, and everything else about the book was just as over-dramatic.

One of the things that annoyed me most was the dialogue – it seemed fake, especially when the author made the characters use ‘fancy’ words (sorry, don’t know what else to call them), even if they were completely out of character for those speaking. That’s not to say I mind those ‘big’ words – I think it’s important to have an eloquent narrator – but it seemed like the author just wanted to add some big words without thinking about how her characters would speak.

Even though the protagonist was fairly relatable (well, not in her sulking phases, where she was just plain annoying), the minor characters were flat, underdeveloped and clichéd; they seemed more like roles (best friend, hippie parents, bitch, fashion-obsessed co-worker, etc.) than like actual people. The parents are supposed to be hippies and feminists, but of course Bette’s mom is the one who cooks and does the housework when Bette comes to visit them. Abby’s character description (as someone who would sell out her own parents to get ahead) was repeated so often I was sick of it by the end of the book.

Sammy’s character was one of the few I actually liked, and the Bette-and-Sammy-romance could even have been cute (albeit clichéd), had it been developed and described properly – at first Bette absolutely hates Sammy and right afterwards she has a huge crush on him, without any sort of explanation.

(This next paragraph contains spoilers!)
Another thing that wasn’t explained properly was why Elisa sold out information about Bette to Ellie Insider. I understand why she would stab Bette in the back (she’s jealous of Bette because Kelly, the boss, put Bette in charge instead of Elisa, and because of Phillip), but giving Bette more media attention made no sense whatsoever – Kelly was delighted by the publicity!

I’m giving this book two stars instead of one only because the main idea could have been fun, had it not been the exact same one as Lauren Weisberger’s first novel’s. Other than that, I only have negative comments on the book. Read The Devil Wears Prada instead!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

In My Mailbox #1

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren where you can talk about the books you bought or received this week.

So this week I got...

The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling
(Amazon / Goodreads)

I didn't tecnically get this in my mailbox, I borrowed it from a friend after (finally!) seeing the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows: Part 1 movie, but whatever. Remember the story Luna's dad told Harry, Ron and Hermione, "The Tale of Three Brothers"? When my friend told me there was an actual book with this story and other wizard-fairy tales by J.K. Rowling, I knew I had to borrow it. And Dumbledore comments on all of the fairy tales, which is great because, well, Dumbledore is awesome!

It looks really cute - in the front it says the stories were translated from the original Runes by Hermione Granger. Even though the book is really short (around a 100 pages, I think), this seems like a great way to revisit the Harry Potter series.

I also got...

The Second Summer of the Sisterhood by Ann Brashares

Goodreads description:

The four girls who starred in The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants - Tibby, Bee, Lena, and Carmen - find themselves wrapped up in a summer of unexpected surprises. After Bee finds out that five years' worth of Grandma's letters to her have been kept secret, she leaves for Alabama on a mission to connect with her past, which also means dealing with her mom's death. Meanwhile, Tibby's decided to attend a filmmaking workshop in Virginia (she's getting a perspective on Bailey's death), and Carmen's at home, screwing up her mom's dating life and then putting it back together. And as for Lena, well, she's busy getting over Kostos -- that is, until he shows up for a surprise visit. But despite whatever happens to this foursome, the Pants find their way into the hands of one of them at just the right time.

This is another one I didn't technically get in my mailbox; I borrowed it from - drumroll, please - my mom. Weird, right? I'm always trying to get her to read the books I read because, well, I want everyone to read what I read so I can talk about it to them, but this series she found all on her own. She read the first Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants books and loved it, so I read it, too. I didn't think it was that great - pretty cute, but nothing special - but considering this book's already in my house, I'll probably read it anyways.


Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers

Goodreads description:

Climbing to the top of the social ladder is hard--falling from it is even harder.  Regina Afton used to be a member of the Fearsome Fivesome, an all-girl clique both feared and revered by the students at Hallowell High... until vicious rumors about her and her best friend's boyfriend start going around.  Now Regina's been "frozen out" and her ex-best friends are out for revenge.  If Regina was guilty, it would be one thing, but the rumors are far from the terrifying truth and the bullying is getting more intense by the day.  She takes solace in the company of Michael Hayden, a misfit with a tragic past who she herself used to bully.  Friendship doesn't come easily for these onetime enemies, and as Regina works hard to make amends for her past, she realizes Michael could be more than just a friend... if threats from the Fearsome Foursome don't break them both first.

To me, this plot seems pretty average - not terrible, but not a totally original idea, either -  but I've heard great things about Courtney Summers, so I'll give this one a try!


Hold Still by Nina LaCour

Goodreads description:

After losing her best friend, Ingrid, to suicide, Caitlin is completely immobilized. Unable to function, and refusing to visit a therapist, she begins the long journey to wellness alone. During this year of heart-wrenching, raw emotion, Caitlin finds Ingrid's journal, which not only reveals her descent into irreversible depression, but also serves as Caitlin's vehicle for renewed hope in the future. The book is written with honesty, revealing one's pain after the loss of a loved one. Caitlin learns, with the help of new friends and her parents, that there is life after Ingrid.

This book has been on my wishlist for quite a while already. It seems right up my alley and has gotten some great reviews, so I'm really excited to finally read this one.

So, what's in your mailbox this week?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Triple Review: Ttyl, Ttfn and L8r, G8r

Ttyl by Lauren Myracle
(Amazon / Goodreads)
 Amazon description for Ttyl:

Three high school sophomores, lifelong best friends, are now facing a variety of emotional upsets in their personal and social lives. Angela is boy crazy and emotive, but able to lend support to her friends when they need it. Zoe is the quietest and most self-effacing, considered by some to be a goody two-shoes but in fact headed full speed into a very dangerous relationship. Madigan is the hothead, less certain of how to grow up than she allows anyone, including herself, to see. The entire narrative is composed of the instant messages sent among these three, from September into November, as they each get involved with dating, sort out how to have friendships with others, cope with disasters that range from wardrobe issues to getting drunk, and offer one another advice and defiance. Each character's voice is fully realized and wonderfully realistic in spite of the very limiting scope of the IM device.

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

At first, I was a bit wary of these books - I didn't think the unusual format would work. I thought it would be impossible for the reader to get enough information about the plot and the characters only from IMs without the conversations seeming forced (it wouldn't have been very realistic if the author had made the characters explain every situation they were in, even if the person they  are IMing already knew about it). However, Lauren Myracle made it work!

She managed to give the reader just enough information for them to understand what happened, without making the conversations seem stilted. Sometimes one of the two IMers didn't know what happened, so it was easy, but other times Lauren Myracle thought of clever ways to integrate what happened into the natural flow of the conversation.

Ttfn by Lauren Myracle
(Amazon / Goodreads)
The plot, while not the most original, portrayed teenage life realistically - most of the problems the three main characters  had were problems every teenage girl knows - guy trouble, fights between friends, mean girls, gossip, etc.

What I liked most about the book were the characters. I thought it would have been problematic to portray the characters only with dialogue and without any sort of description, but it worked perfectly! Each of the characters had a distinct voice and I could imagine them easily. All three of the main characters were easy to relate to. Even though Angela's whining was annoying at points (more in ttfn and l8r, g8r than in ttyl), this, too, seemed like a realistic portrayal of teenage characters - because honestly, don't we all have something we're kind of whiny and melodramatic about?

L8r, g8r by Lauren Myracle
 The theme (that friendship is the most importatnt thing) was cute, albeit a little overdone at points (Angela and Zoe tell their friends how great they are and how lucky they are to have each other a bit too often for it to seem realistic to me).

I guess you could critique that the side-characters were a little cliched and underdeveloped, but it would have been extremely hard to develop them more without ever having them actually appear in the book (it only shows the IMs between the three main characters).

One thing that I think could have made the book better would have been different styles of writing for the different characters. What they said characterized them well, but how they typed didn't. All three of them typed the same way, but I think it would have helped set the characters apart if they used different styles. For example, 'Good Girl Zoe' seemed like she would take the time to write "you" and "are" instead of "u" and "r", while I don't think Maddie could have bothered to write "don't", and instead should have left out the apostrophe and written "dont". That's not that big a deal, though.

Overall, it was a cute, fun and enjoyable read that made me laugh out loud at times (especially Maddie was hialrious). No, it isn't deep or meaningful, but I think we all need some fun, fluff reading every once in a while, and if that's what you're looking for, this series is perfect for you!

On My Wishlist #1: Tell Me A Secret

On My Wishlist is a weekly meme hosted by Book Chick City where you can talk about a book you want to read but haven't actually bought yet.

My pick for this week is...

Tell Me a Secret by Holly Cupala
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Amazon description:

It's tough living in the shadow of a dead girl. . . .
In the five years since her bad-girl sister Xanda's death, Miranda Mathison has wondered about the secret her sister took to the grave, and what really happened the night she died. Now, just as Miranda is on the cusp of her dreams—a best friend to unlock her sister's world, a ticket to art school, and a boyfriend to fly her away from it all—Miranda has a secret all her own.
When two lines on a pregnancy test confirm her worst fears, Miranda is stripped of her former life. She must make a choice with tremendous consequences and finally face her sister's demons and her own.
In this powerful debut novel, stunning new talent Holly Cupala illuminates the dark struggle of a girl who must let go of her past to find a way into her own future.

I know, I know, the cover is corny, to say the least. But the description sounds really interesting - there should be some mystery about the death, lots of emotions about both the sister's death and the pregnancy, and (form the reviews I've read) the characters and the writing are supposed to be great - what more could you ask for?

What's on your wishlist this week?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Books vs. Movies

Image by Jonathan Liu
I recently got into an argument with someone, which prompted me to write this post. This guy told me he hated Harry Potter, which of course made me tell him he’s crazy and talk about how awesome the books are. Only, turns out, he had never read the Harry Potter books; he’d just seen the movies. Of course I know plenty of people who haven’t read the series but love the movies, and I understand not everyone enjoys reading as much as I do, but this guy saying he hates Harry Potter without knowing the original really pissed me off.

After I told him this, he started ranting about books in general – he said that reading is boring and that it’s pointless to read books because they’re all turned into movies, which take less time to watch. Overlooking the fact that this statement is wrong (lots of great books aren’t turned into movies), this got me thinking about my own opinion on the topic.

On principle, I always read the book before watching the film adaption, no matter what, even though it annoys my friends when I tell them that no, I can’t watch that movie with them because I haven’t finished the book yet. I do this because I feel that the original book is almost always better than the film adaption (for example I love Nicholas Sparks’ books, but the movies usually bore me). I don’t really know why I feel that way (it could be because thoughts and feelings, which are really important to me, are easier to convey in books than they are in movies; it could be because I look for different things in movies than in books – I watch a lot of comedies, while most of the books I read aren’t supposed to be funny; or it could be because I have expectations as to how the characters, locations, etc. should look, and those expectations are different from the movie). Either way, I’m often disappointed by the movie versions of books I really liked. Somehow, though, I still feel obligated to watch movies based on books I loved, despite knowing I’ll probably be disappointed.
I’ve heard lots different opinions on this topic. Some people (who don’t read a lot in general) almost never read the book versions of the movies they see, which I guess makes sense (even though I don’t quite understand it – books are awesome!). Of those that do read, though, some feel like me and need to read the book before they watch the movie, while others have said they like reading the books after reading the movies (which I don’t really understand). Others don't watch the movies at all.

So, how do you feel about this topic? Do you read the book before or after watching the movie, or not at all? Do you always watch the movie versions of books you liked? And what do you think is usually better – the original book or the film adaption? Let me know what you think in the comments section!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday #1: Imaginary Girls

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking The Spine that "spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating." So this week I'm waiting on...

Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma
(Amazon / Goodreads)
Expected publication: June 14th 2011

Goodreads description:

Chloe’s older sister, Ruby, is the girl everyone looks to and longs for, who can’t be captured or caged. When a night with Ruby’s friends goes horribly wrong and Chloe discovers the dead body of her classmate London Hayes floating in the reservoir, Chloe is sent away from town and away from Ruby.

But Ruby will do anything to get her sister back, and when Chloe returns home two years later, a precarious and deadly balance waits. As Chloe flirts with the truth that Ruby has hidden deeply away, the fragile line between life and death is redrawn by the complex bonds of sisterhood.

Honestly, the cover would have been enough to make me add this one to my wishlist - I simply cannot stop looking at it; it's breathtakingly beautiful and tells a story on its own. Add to that the description! It sounds like the perfect blend of suspense and emotion! I really can't wait to read it!

100 Books in a Year Reading Challenge

I've decided to join the 100 Books in a Year Reading Challenge over at Book Cick City.

This is my first year doing reading challenges, and this one seems pretty un-complicated (you have to read 100 books this year), so it should be a good start. Plus, my personal goal this year is 150 books, so I don't think I'll have a problem with 100.

I will not be updating this post with which 100 books I've read, I'll just post that here, where I'll update all the books I read.

Review: Thirteen Reasons Why

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
(Amazon / Goodereads)

Goodreads description:

Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker—his classmate and crush—who committed suicide two weeks earlier.

On tape, Hannah explains that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he’ll find out how he made the list.

My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This novel took my breath away – I could not put it down until having finished the very last page, and I loved everything about it. First off, the format was a great idea. It was a very original way to let two distinct voices merge, and Jay Asher made it seem effortless.

Both of the main characters are raw and realistic. While I didn’t like Clay too much in the beginning (back when he felt this was all a mistake and he didn’t belong on the list), this seemed like a realistic reaction, and later on I warmed up towards him. Hannah, though, I loved from the beginning on. I liked that Jay Asher didn’t go with classic bullying as the cause for her suicide, but chose a more subtle (but nonetheless hurtful) way of constantly not being appreciated. Her problems seemed like things that could happen to anyone, but showed that if you add them all up, the do affect people greatly. I found it easy to relate to Hannah and I was drawn into the situations she described – so much so that I felt her excitement, her anger and her desperation.

What I admire most in this book is the wide range of emotions it evoked in me. It was sad, obviously, but it was also uplifting. Despite the solemn topic, I could not stop smiling after having finished the novel – the last scene had such a powerful and uplifting effect on me. The book also scared me, to some extent, as I thought I related too Hannah a bit too easily – when she described the thoughts and feelings leading up to her suicide, I felt myself go “I’ve thought that, too,” or “I’ve felt that way, too,” which surprised me as I don’t consider myself a particularly depressed person.
Most of all, though, the novel is thought-provoking. By explaining that little, unimportant things that seemed like no big deal at the time played such a big role in Hannah’s suicide, Jay Asher made me question the way I treat the people around me. He made me think twice about saying or doing something that could be considered hurtful, things I don’t usually pay attention to. I honestly cannot think of anything bad to say about this book.

This is a thought-provoking novel I think everyone should read, even though it isn’t an easy read due to the many issues it addresses. You will not forget this book, as it will make you question the way you treat people. This book could really make a difference. It is both heart-breaking and hopeful and it conveys a beautiful message.

Review: If I Stay

If I Stay by Gayle Forman
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Goodreads description:

What if you had everything:
A gorgeous boyfriend who was madly in love with you?
Quirky hip parents who totally got you?
A musical talent that could take you anywhere?
What if your biggest problem in life was choosing which path to take?
Follow your first love--music-- to New York City?
Or stay with your boyfriend, friends, and family?
What if one day, you went out for a drive...
And in an instant everything changed?
What if suddenly all the other choices were gone?
Except for one--the only one that truly mattered?
What would you do?

My rating: 2 out of 5 stars

This was one of the rare books I’d heard almost only good things about, and it seemed right up my alley – I love being moved to tears by a book – so naturally, I was excited to read If I Stay once I got my hands on it. And at the beginning it seemed like it would live up to my admittedly high expectations – the scene of the accident was described so well that I could visualize it all easily. I actually had the feeling I was there with Mia when she found her parents.

However, things started going downhill fast. After the accident, I found myself unable to relate to Mia anymore. Some of the flashbacks connections to the present seemed forced and unnecessary – I remember one scene where Mia talked about how quickly time passed the time she went to a casino just to explain how quickly time passed at the hospital. This, like a few other flashbacks, added nothing to the story whatsoever. I was also annoyed by the characters, who (except for Mia and Adam) seemed very one-dimensional and stereotypical, like Mia’s parents.

My main problem with the novel, though, was that, too me, it was lacking feeling. This surprised me, as lots of others say they bawled while reading this novel and it’s usually pretty easy to get me to cry. The concept was sad, but for some reason I didn’t feel much of anything and didn’t shed a tear. The writing even seemed matter-of-fact at times – Mia isn’t affected at all by her parents’ death, she only states she figured out they didn’t survive. It just wasn’t fleshed-out enough for me, and I wasn’t drawn into Mia’s character, so that by the end of the novel I didn’t really care whether she stayed or died. The ending confused me more than anything – I didn’t understand what message Gayle Forman was trying to convey, and it didn’t feel uplifting to me, which many others have called it.

On a brighter note, I did enjoy the cute love story between Mia and Adam. I also liked the references to music and how the author used their different tastes in music to explain Mia’s feeling if not belonging into her family and Mia’s character in general.

I really wanted to like this novel and I feel bad about giving it only two stars, but there wasn’t enough substance or emotion for me. But since Gayle Forman achieved to move many people, she must have done something right, and I won’t say it’s a bad book. Maybe it just didn’t speak to me personally.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Review: An Abundance of Katherines

An Abundance of Katherines by John Green
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Goodreads description:

When it comes to relationships, Colin Singleton’s type is girls named Katherine. And when it comes to girls named Katherine, Colin is always getting dumped. Nineteen times, to be exact.
On a road trip miles from home, this anagram-happy, washed-up child prodigy has ten thousand dollars in his pocket, a bloodthirsty feral hog on his trail, and an overweight, Judge Judy-loving best friend riding shotgun but no Katherines. Colin is on a mission to prove The Theorem of Underlying Katherine Predictability, which he hopes will predict the future of any relationship, avenge Dumpees everywhere, and finally win him the girl.

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

There is no doubt that John Green is an amazing writer - almost anyone who has read Looking for Alaska or Paper Towns would agree. What makes him so great, in my opinion, is that he manages to make the reader laugh out loud and cry within a few pages - sometimes even paragraphs. But his second novel, An Abundance of Katherines, has been critiqued several times for not showcasing this talent. Even though I understand where this critique is coming from (the book definitely showed John Green’s distinct sense of humor, but didn’t touch my heart or make me cry like his other novels), I don’t think these reviews do the novel justice. It is, quite simply, a cute and entertaining read, which happens to be extremely well-written.

The characters’ personalities were quirky, distinct, and fun to read about. To me, they are what make this story work, as the plot alone (which I have to admit was pretty predictable) would not have satisfied readers. The way he shows the readers his characters’ personalities is what makes John Green’s writing so special. I especially loved Lindsey and her relationship with Colin. One of my favorite parts of the novel were the cave scenes and the metaphor they provided (Lindsey’s physical hiding-place being the only place she does not have to hide her true personality), which I thought was cleverly crafted.

The novel has been critiqued for not being as serious as Looking for Alaska or Paper Towns, but the summary alone shows the reader that this is supposed to be a light, funny, not completely realistic read. Especially the footnotes and the comments on the math show that the author doesn’t take himself or his book too seriously.

One aspect of the novel I did have a problem with was the point-of-view. I thought the first-person narrator worked very well in the rest of John Green’s writing, while the third-person narrator made this novel lack some of the teenage-authenticity I loved about his other novels (especially Looking for Alaska). However, maybe this sacrifice was necessary to help the author create a certain distance between the protagonist and himself – Colin’s problem of taking himself too seriously wouldn’t have fit John Green’s self-deprecating style of writing.

Even though An Abundance of Katherines is not as emotional or powerful as John Green’s other novels, I’d still recommend it if you’re looking for a quick, funny and entertaining read. If you haven’t read anything by this author yet, though, I’d suggest reading some of his other work first.
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