Monday, September 15, 2014

Review–Speechless by Hannah Harrington

by Hannah Harrington
Summary: Everyone knows that Chelsea Knot can't keep a secret
Until now. Because the last secret she shared turned her into a social outcast—and nearly got someone killed.
Now Chelsea has taken a vow of silence—to learn to keep her mouth shut, and to stop hurting anyone else. And if she thinks keeping secrets is hard, not speaking up when she's ignored, ridiculed and even attacked is worse.
But there's strength in silence, and in the new friends who are, shockingly, coming her way—people she never noticed before; a boy she might even fall for. If only her new friends can forgive what she's done. If only she can forgive herself.

Source: I purchased a paperback

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Speechless was amazing. It was sort of  mixture of Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver and Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. When Chelsea took her vow of silence, it opened her up to entirely new interactions. Losing everything she was familiar with gave her the insight into her life that she needed. And by staying silent, she learned to listen to others. Both Speak and Before I Fall were amazing teen issue novels and Speechless is right up there with them. It was hard hitting. I think a good contemporary teen issue novel should make you think, make you reflect on your teen years if you are an adult, and make you question yourself and the people around you. Speechless does exactly that for me and I definitely recommend reading it.

When I first started the book, I had no idea what to expect, but I’m glad I wasn’t given too much information. The synopsis only tells us that she shared a secret that endangered someone and made her unpopular. I could not figure out what kind of secret it would be, but once it happened, I understood perfectly. I’m glad that, unlike Melinda in Speak, Chelsea’s silence was healthier and much needed after being the kind of person who told everyone everything. Chelsea needed to stay quiet because she told too much all of the time, but she spoke up when it truly mattered, while Melinda’s silence wasn’t the same in Speak.

I loved watching Chelsea grow and change and the story had bigger themes than just keeping secrets and listening to others. It was about acceptance, too. I loved Sam and Asha and thought they were amazing supporting characters. I wish I could go on about the major theme, but I preferred not really knowing what it was about, so I don’t want to spoil it for anyone.

I highly recommend Speechless. I love the cover and I love that the synopsis doesn’t give too much of the story away. I cannot praise the book enough and I had a really hard time putting it down.


Sunday, September 14, 2014

Book to Movie Review–The Giver

The Giver
Movie Summary (from IMDb): In a seemingly perfect community, without war, pain, suffering, differences or choice, a young boy is chosen to learn from an elderly man about the true pain and pleasure of the "real" world.

Book: The Giver by Lois Lowry

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I don’t have a blog review of The Giver, unfortunately, but it’s one of my favorite books of all time. I read the book in 6th grade, again in high school (on my own), and a handful of times as an adult. I absolutely love it. It’s short, well written, and conveys such strong and deep themes in such a simple way.

Movie Thoughts:

When I first saw previews for The Giver, I was extremely skeptical. The book has been out for a very very long time and is a favorite book among many people I’ve met in my life. I think, like most people, I was afraid the movie would fall short, despite the all star cast. After all, YA dystopian books turned movies is like the thing now. I feel like they are releasing left and right.

I knew The Giver was releasing during a time when the technology we have for visual effects would work nicely, so I was looking forward to seeing a lot of the scenes come to life. But I was afraid that, among the handful of other dystopian movies, it would get lost in the muck, be forgetful, or be turned into some terribly action romance thing. I almost refused to see it. I was that concerned about it being completely awful.

I’m really glad my husband decided to take me to see it. He’s not a huge reader, but we share a lot of old favorites, and The Giver is one of those shared favorites. Many times during the movie, we looked at each other, surprised that a certain scene in the book was playing before our eyes. He leaned over once to say, “I always imagined their bikes would look just like that.”

Of course, like any movie, there were tons of changes. Jonas was older, some of the events were changed, and the ending was a bit different. Despite the changes, the movie stayed very true the book and the elements of the book. The movie gave readers a glimpse of what could have happened to Jonas. Readers will never forget the way the book ended, but the movie expands on that ending and gave us some pretty pivotal scenes. To me, it provided a kind of what-if closure that I never got with the book.

I was shocked by how much I was moved by the memories given to Jonas. When the Giver shared music and dancing and war and sledding… I loved every scene. It contrasted with the daily life of the community in such a way that played with the viewer’s emotions. I thought it was perfectly done. It’s rare that I am so moved by that kind of thing, but the way all the moments flashed and revealed themselves and the way human beings can be just moved me.

I’m not a huge fan of Jeff Bridges or Katie Holmes, but they both nailed their characters. I was worried about Jeff Bridges being the Giver because I always pictured someone more Dumbledore-ish, but he really did a wonderful job. All of the acting was amazing. In fact, most of my initial concerns about the movie were unfounded. It wasn’t turned into an action or romance movie, but stayed true the themes of the book.

Bottom Line: I definitely recommend seeing the movie. It wasn’t perfect or as good as the book, but it was good. Perhaps I loved it so much because I expected to hate it, but I didn’t find it disappointing at all. It probably won’t resonate with viewers the same way the book resonates with readers, but it’s not nearly as forgettable as I imagined it would be.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Review–Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma

Imaginary Girls
by Nova Ren Suma
Summary: A beautiful and chilling story for fans of Lauren Oliver and Lisa McMann
Chloe's older sister, Ruby, is the girl everyone looks to and longs for, who can't be contained or caged. When a night with Ruby's friends goes horribly wrong and Chloe discovers the body of her classmate London Hayes left 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 to town two years later, deadly surprises await. As Chloe flirts with the truth that Ruby has deeply hidden away, the fragile line between life and death is redrawn by the complex bonds of sisterhood.

Source: I purchased a paperback at a used bookstore.

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Imaginary Girls was intense, creepy, and mysterious. For a very long time, I had no idea what was happening. On the surface, Chloe found a dead girl floating in the middle of their local reservoir while swimming one night and it freaked her out. But underneath, it was a story about something else altogether.

The book is one of the most unique stories I’ve read in a while. I loved the way it was written because it revealed small pieces of the story lurking under the surface. It was written from Chloe’s point of view, which was obviously skewed in favor of her sister, Ruby. Imaginary Girls was such a sinister story. It was a story about family and the bond between Ruby and Chloe, but it was also a story about control.

It’s difficult to go into too much detail without ruining the plot. It was just one those books you have to read to figure out.

I loved the book and I would recommend it to fans of Megan Abbott’s novels. Like her books, Imaginary Girls was strange, dark, twisted, and sinister, but also beautiful and engaging. While Imaginary Girls is more YA than Megan Abbott’s novels, they share a lot of similar themes. I’m so glad I found the book during my last used bookstore run! I can’t wait to read more of the author’s books.


Thursday, September 11, 2014

Review–Where She Went (If I Stay #2)

Where She Went (If I Stay #2)
by Gayle Foreman
Summary: It's been three years since Mia walked out of Adam's life.
And three years he's spent wondering why.
When their paths cross again in New York City, Adam and Mia are brought back together for one life-changing night.
Adam finally has the opportunity to ask Mia the questions that have been haunting him. But will a few hours in this magical city be enough to lay their past to rest, for good - or can you really have a second chance at first love?

Source: I borrowed a digital copy from my local library

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I didn’t like If I Stay very much as it wasn’t my kind of story. However, after seeing the movie, I was mildly curious about what happened next. Also, all of my friends and other readers kept saying how much better Where She Went was, so I decided to read it. I should really go with my gut sometimes. I didn’t love Where She Went, though it was fairly interesting and it was nice to get Adam’s point of view. These books just aren’t my thing. I hated the characters in If I Stay, but the movie made me like them a lot more, so I figured it would be nice to get some closure. I saw from the synopsis that Adam and Mia broke up, so I guess I just wanted to know why.

There’s a lot of types of characters and storylines that just aren’t for me. Some of them include obvious tearjerkers, near death types of things, and whiny guy protagonists. So… why am I reading these? Adam is the kind of male character I can’t stand. A lot of girls just eat up a good musician pining after an ordinary girl and gobble up the verses he sings for her and writes for her. And if you’re that kind of girl.. this is TOTALLY for you. But, ugh. It was all so cliché.

I wanted… I wanted closure. I wanted to know why Mia and Adam broke up in the first place. I expected this sort of bomb to drop and them to break up in all of the flashbacks, but it was more like a gradual separation. And all of it was just so anticlimactic and then, next thing I know, they are suddenly on an adventure, meeting for the first time since their break up and deciding to begin anew. I get that pain and loss affect people and the fact that they broke up made sense, but I didn’t think there was enough of a bang with the break up or enough glue to put them back together if they just gradually grew apart.

If I didn’t like Mia in If I Stay, Where She Went didn’t help at all. I couldn’t grasp her character at all. She was a phantom. Adam was mopey about everything and Mia was on this other planet.
Basically, everyone should just disregard my review because it’s my fault I keep reading about these people. I should have never picked up the first book. I should have never picked up this book. It’s not my thing. I don’t think it’s sappy or romantic or sweet. It’s a journey consisting of nothing but a handful of moments and flashbacks.

I feel like this kind of contemporary YA book is like candy to some people. Death, sappiness, heartfelt lyrics, whiny boy, ordinary girl… and there’s your sob story. Cue the excitement. It’s like what billionaire love stories are to adult romance. Nothing but addictive genre candy. There’s just nothing about books like these that set them apart. They are a dime a dozen. I really thought If I Stay would transcend the genre and after hearing the praise for Where She Went, I was sure the author would pull through in this one, but no. I’m sorry to my friends who love this kind of thing. I just can’t. I am SO happy I didn’t buy the book and I found it at the library. I would be a lot harsher about it if I paid 10 dollars.


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Book to Movie Review–If I Stay

If I Stay
Movie Summary (from IMDb): Life changes in an instant for young Mia Hall after a car accident puts her in a coma. During an out-of-body experience, she must decide whether to wake up and live a life far different than she had imagined.

Book Review

Movie Review:

The movie was a lot better than the book, at least in my opinion. The story was more captivating on screen. The characters and the love of music was easier to understand and relate to in film than written word.

The music was a lot more enjoyable and less pretentious, probably because the characters were doing more playing than talking about playing. People talking about playing music always comes across as more pretentious for some reason and actually seeing people play is something completely different to experience. I enjoyed all of the characters, despite disliking them in the book and I think the playing vs talking about playing was one of the major reasons why. I’m not a huge fan of Pacific Northwest hippie scenes, but I thought Mia’s family was far more relatable and understandable in the film. I thought the movie portrayed more aspects of Mia’s life and felt like it was less perfect and less focused on her than the book seemed. I can’t really think of any examples, but perhaps I just feel like the movie was the better way to tell the story.

Though the changes from book to movie were small, there were still a few differences. I preferred the events of the movie completely, as I found them to be more believable than the scenes in the book, especially the whole scene with the characters playing each other like instruments and the part when Adam gets in to the ICU to see Mia. Adam was a lot more likable to me in the movie, so perhaps some of the changes in their actual relationship moments made a difference.

If I Stay is still not my favorite story and the movie didn’t bring me to tears or anything, but I felt feeling totally satisfied because it was better than I expected. Finishing the book left me with zero interest in reading Where She Went, but finishing the movie left me feeling curious and I may end up reading Where She Went to see how things evolve.

Bottom Line: My opinion may not be the norm, but I disliked the book and enjoyed the movie. I say the movie is better.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Review–If I Stay by Gayle Forman

If I Stay
by Gayle Forman
Summary: Just listen, Adam says with a voice that sounds like shrapnel.
I open my eyes wide now.
I sit up as much as I can.
And I listen.
Stay, he says.
Choices. Seventeen-year-old Mia is faced with some tough ones: Stay true to her first love—music—even if it means losing her boyfriend and leaving her family and friends behind?
Then one February morning Mia goes for a drive with her family, and in an instant, everything changes. Suddenly, all the choices are gone, except one. And it's the only one that matters.
If I Stay is a heartachingly beautiful book about the power of love, the true meaning of family, and the choices we all make.

Source: I purchased a Kindle copy.

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The problem with book blogging and being a part of the book community is that book excitement is contagious. Sometimes, you end up hearing about and reading books you love that you might not have heard of otherwise, which is the best side effect. But other times, you end up breaking down and buying a book you aren’t sure about because so many others are raving about it. Which is how I ended up with If I Stay.

If I’m honest, If I Stay has a synopsis that sounds like something I’d never ever read on a normal basis. I hate sappy books about death, dying, in between-ness, near death experiences, and that whole power of souls and love to physically bring someone back from the brink of death kind of thing. I love romance and books that deal with the truth and beauty of love or books that deal with those tough issues in a unique way, but as a whole, sappy books just aren’t my thing. There are exceptions to my rule, but those books tend to take a normal sappy subject and revolutionize it in the writing or plot in order for me to love it.

I read this synopsis and expected the protagonist would lose her family and be stuck in some in between type of thing and have to decide to stay or die. I wasn’t sure if her parents would be in the novel as ghosts trying to get to her to come with them or if the novel would explore her waking up and whether her experiences were real or what the details would be, but none of those things sound interesting to me.

I have a few issues with the premise because I don’t think it’s at all probable, so it was impossible for me to relate. I don’t subscribe to any of those otherworldly beliefs that a lot of novels in this subject seem to appeal to, so I knew If I Stay would have to do something unique and unexpected for me to like it. Mia’s entire dilemma, if she should stay, was not something I was able to even help with, mildly relate to, or sympathize with. What would I do in Mia’s situation? I can’t even answer that because I don’t believe there IS such an in between that would leave me with the opportunity to make choices. I would either live or die as a result of what injuries I sustained. Love can be powerful, but this is not the type of situation in which I believe it manifests.

If I Stay was exactly what I expected, which meant I didn’t enjoy it very much. And that’s totally and completely my fault and has more to do with me than the actual book itself. It’s my fault for reading a book I knew wasn’t my thing and just crossing my fingers hoping that it would transcend its own synopsis.

It was well written, interesting, and I’m sure it is moving if the premise if your thing. My only real criticism that is fair is that it doesn’t do anything unexpected. Mia is in between and views herself in the ICU and decides if she will stay or go. Nothing more, nothing less. You get an insight to what her life was like, what fears she has, and what her family is like. And she makes a decision. You definitely get what you came for, but I thought it was disappointing that it didn’t bring anything else to the table.

I also disliked the characters to some degree. I didn't enjoy the punk rock boy vs the classical girl scenario with Mia and Adam. I hated that the parents were former rocker people who fell into marriage and kids and ended up being totally awesome parents who were oh so cool. Not only was that unbelievable to me, but it made it difficult for me to relate to, even with me having relatively cool parents and a much younger brother. I think, despite disliking the basic premise, my overall dislike of the characters and their "scene" made it even less enjoyable to read.

I recommend If I Stay to people who enjoy novels that are designed to be tear jerkers about death, loss, dying, and that sort of thing. People who believe in the power of love to heal or bring people back from the edge, or things of that nature might also love the premise. Mia, her boyfriend, and her family were all extremely musical people. I think people who play instruments or are particularly influenced by and feel a deep connection to music might also enjoy the novel. If it sounds like something you’d enjoy if you read the synopsis, you’ll probably love it. If the synopsis doesn’t quite sway you, I recommend leaving it alone.


Sunday, September 7, 2014

Review–A Great and Terrible Beauty (Gemma Doyle #1) by Libba Bray

A Great and Terrible Beauty (Gemma Doyle #1)
by Libba Bray
Summary: A Victorian boarding school story, a Gothic mansion mystery, a gossipy romp about a clique of girlfriends, and a dark other-worldly fantasy--jumble them all together and you have this complicated and unusual first novel.
Sixteen-year-old Gemma has had an unconventional upbringing in India, until the day she foresees her mother's death in a black, swirling vision that turns out to be true. Sent back to England, she is enrolled at Spence, a girls' academy with a mysterious burned-out East Wing. There Gemma is snubbed by powerful Felicity, beautiful Pippa, and even her own dumpy roommate Ann, until she blackmails herself and Ann into the treacherous clique. Gemma is distressed to find that she has been followed from India by Kartik, a beautiful young man who warns her to fight off the visions. Nevertheless, they continue, and one night she is led by a child-spirit to find a diary that reveals the secrets of a mystical Order. The clique soon finds a way to accompany Gemma to the other-world realms of her visions "for a bit of fun" and to taste the power they will never have as Victorian wives, but they discover that the delights of the realms are overwhelmed by a menace they cannot control. Gemma is left with the knowledge that her role as the link between worlds leaves her with a mission to seek out the "others" and rebuild the Order. A Great and Terrible Beauty is an impressive first book in what should prove to be a fascinating trilogy.  

Source: I purchased a paperback at a used bookstore

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I loved the author’s YA novel set in the 1920’s that dealt with the occult, The Diviners, but it seems to be taking forever for the next installment to come out. When I saw A Great and Terrible Beauty at the used bookstore, I knew I had to have it. I love the author’s writing and the unique characters she creates in her novels.

A Great and Terrible Beauty was interesting. Gemma was placed in a boarding school after her mother’s death in India. Strange things were happening to her and she was trying to make sense of it all. The boarding school was full of answers, strangely enough.

The Victorian era is one that is completely suffocating for women and I almost always hate reading books set in that time period. However, I enjoyed this novel quite a bit. I loved how the small group of girls Gemma befriended were different in many ways and all hoped for more than life could give them. I don’t know that I could have read a book where the girls all wanted to be married off and obedient. I think the time period worked quite well for the book, as the girls longed to be more without constraints, which is what made the realms and the story of Mary Dowd even more appealing and enticing. The power and magic of the realms was intriguing to girls who were unable to be themselves in real life.

There were a lot of twists and turns, making the novel enjoyable, mysterious, and quite unpredictable. I will definitely continue the trilogy and I recommend the first book to any fans of the supernatural, YA, and historical fiction.