Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Hope hurt more than the cold. ~ Week 10

Another addition to my young-adult fiction collection! A friend recommended Shiver to me, and I must say that I was not disappointed. Shiver centers around 17-year old Grace. When she was ten, she was attacked by a pack of wolves that live in the woods surrounding her house. She survived the attack and grew up with a curious fascination of the mysterious creatures. One wolf intrigues her the most, with his yellow eyes and gentle demeanor. She feels protective towards the pack, yet can't figure out why. Thus begins Shiver...

The good: Stiefvater's writing is beautiful to behold. It's lyrical, flowing, and colorful. Most of the time, I felt like I was reading a song. On top of that, her characters were equally beautiful. See... I have this really weird "thing" where I actually fall for the characters in some of the books I read. Yes, I am that level of nerd. Well I fell hard for Grace and Sam. Grace and her pragmaticism. Her non-nonsense, "lets get to the bottom of things" attitude. Sam and his wounded and endearing self. Their personalities polar opposites, yet they fit together like some perfect puzzle. Absolutely loved them. I found myself wishing and hoping for a happy ending because I felt for them so much. Any writer that can pull that kind of emotion from me gets an "A" in my book.

Oh and another thing. I'm a sucker for lines like this:
"Books are more real when you read them outside."
"Just like your eyes. You're like a song that I heard when I was a little kid forgot I knew until I heard it again."
"If that moment had been a real thing, it would've been a butterfly, flapping and fluttering towards the sun."
and my favorite
"I'd found heaven and grabbed it as tightly as I could, but it was unraveling, an insubstantial thread sliding between my fingers, too fine to hold."

...what can I say, I'm a hopeless romantic.

The bad: Parts of the story might be a little too "lovey" for some people's taste. Yes, it has action and adventure... but deep down it's really a love story. Personally, I eat that stuff up... but if you're not into the touching, kissing, and loving each other up stuff, I could see it getting on your nerves.

The verdict: To put it simply, I loved this book. I thought Stiefvater's writing was lyrical and beautiful. If you like books like Twilight, If I Stay and The Hunger Games - this is right up your alley. Shiver is the first in a the Wolves of Mercy Falls series so there will be more to follow. The next book is called Linger and comes out in July 2010. I honestly don't know if I can wait that long!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

After you've had it, there isn't even life without drugs... ~ Week 9

I've noticed this book everytime I go to the bookstore. Since I'm a huge fan of Young Adult books, I would usually find Go Ask Alice and it would always intrigue me. Last week I was at Chamblin Bookmine and I finally grabbed it. Go Ask Alice is the harrowing first-hand account of a young girl driven to the brink of madness by her decent into drug use.

The good: It really took a little work for me to find the good in this book. I guess that if you're 12 or 13 years old, the information in this book might be shocking. It could definitely give a young teenager a glimpse and "warning" into the dangers of drug use. Other than that, there wasn't much else that was good about it.

The bad: If you're looking for a sincere glimpse into the life of a drug addict... look elsewhere. I felt like it was cliche and corny. The book was first published in 1971, so it's very dated. This book might have been more relevant about 20 years ago... but now it just missed the mark.

I'm going to flip the pages of the book and see what I run across to make my point:

"Oh Diary, I'm so happy I could cry!"

"Oh terrors, horror, endless torment."

"I'm getting bored to the teeth."

Another "problem" I had - at one point our narrator is put into a mental hospital for going into a mental breakdown after overdosing on LSD. Apparently, in the midst of her arrest and detention she manages to bring her beloved diary with her into the mental ward. She also takes her diary along for the ride when she's homeless on the streets of San Francisco. Really? I guess it's plausible... but pretty unlikely considering the events that she describes.

The verdict: There was just so much about this story that bothered me. I wanted to like it. I really tried... but it just didn't work out for me. I didn't feel that Go Ask Alice taught me anything I didn't know about the dangers of drug use. I didn't find myself shocked or appalled at all. A lot of this might have been due to my age and the other horrific drug memoirs that I've read (Try Beautiful Boy...). Most of all, I didn't feel that reading this book would deter a teenager from using drugs. In this day and age, this book is dated and there's probably better books out there to show to your teenager.

Another problem was the supposed "Anonymous" author. After a little digging on the internet, I discovered that Ms. Anonymous is actually Beatrice Sparks, a Mormon Youth counselor with a few books dealing with difficult subjects ranging from Satanism to teenage pregnancy. She claims to have only edited and compiled the information from the diary but that the content is completely authentic. I have my doubts!

The Reader - Week 17

The Reader is about a 15-year old boy, Michael, who becomes sick on his way home from school. As he's crouched on the side of the road, an older neighbor, Hanna notices him and takes him to her apartment to help him. A few weeks later, he returns to her apartment to thank her for being so kind. A friendship ensues... which eventually turns into more than a friendship. Hanna is tempermental and secretive. Michael can't seem to figure her out, but he's falling into the grips of a near obsession with the mysterious Hanna. She seems to be hiding something. Something big. Suddenly, one day Hanna disappears. Michael moves on with his life and the memory of Hanna fades. Years pass and Michael becomes a law student. He ends up observing a court case with a defendant that is none other than his long-lost lover, Ms. Hanna. Finally some of the questions that Michael had about Hanna are answered.

The good: Interesting glimpse of post-Nazi Germany. Honestly, that's all I've got for the GOOD.
The bad: This book gave me the creeps. First of all, why the heck is a 30-something year old woman messing around with a 15 year old kid? Eww. Secondly, talk about an anti-climax. After all the build-up I was honestly let down by Hanna's "deep dark secret." Without giving it away, let's just say that whatever you're probably imagining by this point in the book is WAY worse than what it actually is. Don't get me wrong, Miss Hanna did some dirty deeds in her day... but the "secret" ends up just letting you down.
The verdict: I struggled to get through The Reader. It wasn't Schlink's writing at all. He's a great writer. My problem was the characters. I found myself thinking that the boy was mostly annoying. I found Hanna boring and was frustrated by the minimal glimpse into her personality. She was flat. By the end of the book I had little attachement to either of them and was just happy to have finished the book without quitting it.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

While I was looking the other way your fire went out, left me with cinders to kick into dust… – Week 8

Oh how I love young adult fiction. One of my co-workers suggested that I read Graceling, Kristin Cashore's first novel and companion to Fire. I'd never been into fantasy until I started reading these books. I love Cashore's writing. It's interesting and intelligent, yet easy to read. I love her characters. In both Graceling and Fire, her main characters are strong and powerful women. The men/love interests are equally engrossing. If you've read Graceling you know what I mean. Who read that book and didn't fall in love with Po?

In Fire, the main character is the book's namesake. Fire is a fiery-haired, half-woman/half-monster "creature." She's a skilled archer and blessed with the power to read and influence minds. Apparently Fire is also stunningly beautiful and able to manipulate men with just a glance. This power of manipulation is also a gift that her father had. The book takes place after he has been killed by one of the monsters that he kept as a "pet." This gives you just a hint into what type of person her was, to keep one of his own kind as an amusement. We are treated to a few flashblacks that familiarize us with Fire's father and the controversy surrounding his life (and death). Fire's greatest fear is that she will use her powers to control and hurt people as her father did.

The good: Great dialogue and deep plot. The conversations between characters are engaging and intelligent. The characters are believable. I mean, it's a feat to make you able to relate to a teenage, human/monster crossbreed that reads minds. But somehow Cashore manages. Also, the side love stories are not too sappy, but just enough to appeal to my girlishness.

The bad: The sketchy link between this book and Graceling. I kept waiting for that definite connection and it finally came in the form of a mysterious (and creepy) child named Leck. He plays a big role in Graceling. He comes into play in Fire only momentarily. I found myself disappointed and a little confused as to why he didn't have a bigger part in this book. I almost felt that she put his character in this book in order to claim that it's a companion to Graceling. If his character hadn't had that small "cameo," there would be little to link the two books.

The verdict: If you haven't read any young adult fiction and think that it not appeal to you, I'd suggest you give it a chance and pick up one of Cashore's books. I'm pretty sure that you will enjoy Fire, even if you aren't into fantasy writing or young adult literature.