Friday, January 30, 2015

Looking for Alaska

Looking for Alaska
by John Green

Miles has never really fit in in Florida. He's gawky, skinny, and pale, so he's really the anti-Floridian. In the hopes of finding "The Great Perhaps" (and maybe a few friends), he asks to follow in his father's footstep and attend Culver Creek Boarding School in Alabama.

Within moments of unpacking, Miles is introduced to Alaska, who is the epitome of The Great Perhaps. 

She is 100% authentic, 100% insane, and 100% what Miles never knew he always wanted.

So, as Miles is getting acclimated to boarding school and classes, Alaska and Miles's roommate, The Colonel, acclimate him to smoking, drinking, and pranks.

He's finally found friends who are more like family and he thinks he's on the way to finding The Great Perhaps.

But then something happens that changes everything that Miles ever knew, ever thought he knew, and ever thought he might know in the future. Can anyone make sense of the world again?

Final thoughts: I admit that I'm late to the party on this one. I could never keep it on the shelf in my last high school library, even though I had at least five copies at one point. It was the rare book with a large waiting list and students desperate to read it again and again and again. It's very well written and powerful, but it's biggest draw is the way it addresses some very deep topics. There's friendship, family, peer pressure, sex, drinking, smoking, cliques, and death. This is NOT a fluff book and it's definitely not cotton candy. This is full of angst and mature themes. It's powerful and worth the read for older teens and adults alike.

Rating: 5/5

Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Watchers

The Watchers
by Lynnie Purcell

I'm skipping the book talk on this one because it's just so very wrong in so many ways.

This book is basically Twilight but with the author addressing all the complaints that people had about Twilight.

So Clare's the daughter of a flighty human and a fallen angel. She's been stalked most of her life because she's not only different from humans, but also different from the other half-breeds out there. Like Bella in Twilight, her powers have come on strong long before they were supposed to, but the author wants to believe that she's not Bella because she's really graceful, instead of clumsy, and she has a snarky sense of humor.

Edward... umm.. sorry! Daniel is a half-breed who's killed quite a few bad guys in his long life (he's now 118 years old). He also goes to high school to keep up appearances and has been "adopted" by two other half-breeds who help him maintain his cover as well as the cover of two other half-breeds. One of those is a half-angel named Jackson who never feels major emotion. (As in Jackson Rathbone who plays Jasper, the empathic vamp who controlled emotions.)

Clare can read minds, while her destined love can not only read minds, but see the future. And he's perfect. He is also the anti-Edward because he doesn't stalk Bella... um, Clare... but instead waits for her to invite him to come into her bedroom whenever he wants, so it's not stalking anymore. He also doesn't force her to stay behind, but only because she'll do whatever she wants anyway. 

There are a ton of similar moments like her not waking up right away and Edw... Daniel... panicking. Enemies finding a way to get Bel... Clare... separated from the others in order to do whatever they wanted to do. Mike is there in this one, though he's a little more sinister and hard to dissuade, and he, too, has a girl who is jealous of Bel... Clare... because of Mike's attention. "Irrevocably" is used to describe their love. There are dog-like creatures that kill half-breeds until they get one that's on their side.

So much more. So much Twilight. So little of me wanting to read it again.

Rating: 2/5

Saturday, January 24, 2015


by Melissa de la Cruz and Michael Johnston

The world has fallen apart. It's all ice, snow, and cold.

Nat is one of the Marked. She is among those who the government has deemed dangerous. Because of this, her life in on the line. If she is discovered, she'll be locked away for the good of the people and forced to do jobs for the very government that despises her.

To get away, she hires Wes, a runner, to get her as far from the ice as possible, to the mythical land known as The Blue. She has a map, some money, and voice in her head guiding her.

But she's not the only one heading to The Blue and the way there is less than safe.

Final thoughts: Messy. So very messy. This could have been amazing! But it's just a letdown. The premise is on the scale of Game of Thrones, but it's all handled badly. It's more like a really poorly edited epic story, shortened and abridged to take out all the details. It's a shorthand version of something that had the potential for greatness. Moments that could have been meaningful end up being chopped up and nearly impossible to understand. Ideas are made up and jammed in to explain the unexplainable and then are never mentioned again. So, while the basic plot is decent, the overall follow-through is horrendous.

Rating: 2/5

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Don't Touch

Don't Touch
by Rachel M. Wilson

Caddie has always had games that she would play with herself that she believed would keep her world in order. If she kept extremely clean and washed constantly, the world would make sense.

For a while, the games controlled her. But she got counseling and things got better. Things seemed to work out even without her games.

Now, however, her parents have suddenly separated and Caddie's games begin again. 

If no one touches her then her dad may come back. And she means that literally. No skin to skin contact whatsoever. She avoids all touching at all costs. If she gets touched, that means she has to go back to washing again to scrub off everything that might stop her dad from coming home.

High school is difficult enough to get through with her games, but she's now been cast in the school's production of Hamlet and she's Ophelia. 

Acting means trust. 

Acting means sharing. 

Acting means touching.

And touching means that her father will never come home.

Final thoughts: Great story about OCD and how it affects not only the person afflicted, but all those around her. Three-quarters of the book is really amazing and draws the reader in. Unfortunately, the last quarter is a little messy. The book feels realistic and the author has end notes that include her own struggles with OCD, so there's definitely a feeling of honesty in the pages. Great book for those who suffer from or know people who have OCD.

Rating: 4/5

Tuesday, January 6, 2015


by Elana K. Arnold

Sephora's life has never been easy, but she's always had her mother to love her and she's had art to keep her sane. As long as she has both, she can make it through anything, even the secret she's kept for the last few months.

Her mother's beauty is so amazing and enthralling that Sephora often compares her to a mermaid and focuses much of her art on recreating the emotions she and others feel when they look on her almost mythological beauty.

She's also fascinated by the grittier stories of fairy tales and mythology. The version that she loves best of Sleeping Beauty is harsh and filled with cruelty. It's truth feels more real to her than much of her own life. 

Now she must face the summer before her senior year and find her way past her secret because there is no way she will share it with anyone.

Final thoughts: This is a good companion to Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak, though aimed at a more mature audience. The fairy tales and myths are told using the original, non-Disneyfied, versions with all the rape and cruelty shared by the Grimm Brothers and Bulfinch. The story itself really has no plot and is more of a coming of age tale as the reader is slowly immersed in Sephora's world and given insights into her reasoning. I have two real issues with this book: 1) is the focus on her mother's beauty. It's repeated over and over that her mother makes all heads turn, that she'd been a supermodel before she had gotten pregnant, and that it was her pregnancy that ruined her career. However, there are many models out there who've had families and then have successfully returned to their careers, so why couldn't Sephora's mom? Especially if she's such a head-turner? The second issue I have is the author's writing style with almost never using capital letters. It's so frustrating that there aren't even capital I's. I get that this is a choice that has been made, but when things like acronyms come up and the first letter is lowercase, but the next two are upper, it's annoying. Sephora's story is powerful, but it does get a little lost.

Rating: 3/5


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