Sunday, May 30, 2010

I am telling you, trouble is like the ocean. It covers two-thirds of the world. ~ Week 24

The good: This book touches on some serious stuff. War in Africa. Definitely not a light read. But certainly something that is happening for real and it does not hurt to be aware of the reality of what some children face in Africa right now. This book made me heart break a little bit. I say this as a good thing, because although it was fictional - it made me want to find out what I could do to help the people who are facing the situations that were described in the book. Poverty, civil war, and brutality. Words on a page to you and me - but for many they are reality. This book made me feel. That is always a plus for me.

Another plus - Little Bee was an amazing character. She was strong and believable.

Oh, and I found a few wonderful quotes in Cleave's writing:

Death, of course, is a refuge. It's where you go when a new name, or a mask and cape, can no longer hide you from yourself. I's where you run to when none of the principalities of your conscience will grant you asylum.

That disaster, when it is quite sure of it's own strength, will announce itself by hardly moving it's lips?

And my personal favorite:

That is a good trick about this world, Sarah. No one likes each other, but everyone likes U2.

The bad: I was hesitant to pick up this book at first because of the cheesy little "hook" they put on the back cover to try and get you interested in reading it. "We don't want to tell you what happens in this book. It is a truly special story and we don't want to spoil it..." It goes on for a bit about how awesome the book is and how magically it unfolds. Yes, the book was good. But it would've helped to put a little more about what the book was about and then let the reader decide how incredible it is. I don't think that they needed a "gimmick" for this one...

Another problem - I found Sarah quite despicable. Oh and Lawrence... even worse. I disliked those characters very much. Not sure if this is a negative - again, Cleave made me feel a strong emotion for these characters. Good writing does that.

The verdict: Put this one back on the shelf if you are looking for a light-hearted summer read. If you're looking for a book to make you feel, cry, and ache - that's what you'll get with Little Bee.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

As terrible as the truth was, there was something restful about it. ~ Week 23

Ahh yes, another Young Adult book that fulfills the "requirements" I have for a highly entertaining read. Here's the formula:
Strong female character + Attractive bad boy + supernatural "stuff" = happy Dana

The Dark Divine
has all of these aspects and then some. From the first page I was hooked. We're introduced to Grace Divine, your typical good girl - daughter of a pastor, conservative, excellent student. We're told that a few years back, there was some type of mysterious "incident" between Grace's brother, Jude, and his best friend, Daniel. No details are given... all we know is that Jude returned home covered in blood and really pissed off at Daniel. Daniel disappears for a few years without a trace. Grace is never given an explanation as to what happened and every time Daniel's name comes up the family falls into an uncomfortable silence.

Well, Daniel returns one day and shows up in Grace's art class. Oh, I forgot one aspect of my "formula" - the bad boy is usually artistic and hot. He won't talk about what's happened and Grace reaches out to him to try and figure out what the deal is. In the midst of all this, an undeniable attraction begins to grow between Grace and Daniel. Big problem: Jude loathes Daniel and doesn't seem to want to explain why. There's also something off about Daniel that Grace can't seem to put her finger on...

The good:
Daniel, Daniel, Daniel. Another book crush. He's tormented, artistic, and basically awesome. Despain's story is a page-turner. It wasn't really what I expected and I enjoyed the twists and turns.

The bad:

The verdict:
If you like: Twilight, Shiver, Graceling, Fallen, Evermore... etc etc etc. You will like this book. I read it in a day. Pick it up, lay back on the beach, and let yourself be immersed in a good story.

There are no happy endings. ~ Week 22

Set in the "Paris of Asia," Shanghai Girls is about Pearl and May; two beautiful girls growing up in a beautiful city without a care in the world. Daughters of a wealthy businessman, Pearl and May spend their days sleeping, evenings modeling for a handsome photographer, and the nights partying with their friends. They are carefree and oblivious to the political turmoil going on just outside their safe haven. That is until one day when their father tells them that he's gambled away their wealth and savings and must "sell off" the girls to suitors from America. Pearl and May witness their city being devastated by Japanese bombs and are forced to flee and embark on a journey that will change their very existence and question their places in the world.

The good: I love Lisa See's ability to transport me to another time and place. I've read Peony in Love and Snow Flower and The Secret Fan; both of those books took me to another more romantic era. I loved the glimpse into the family structure and daily life of a traditional Chinese family. These are things I would've never sought to read about on my own, yet I found myself intrigued. While I'm no authority on the subject, she seems to really do her research and provide historically accurate information to go along with her narratives. I've said it before - I love a book that makes me want to learn more. After each of her books, I've gone searching on Google to find out more. Lisa See's writing is seamless, flowing, and at times lyrical. All of her books have been an enjoyable read. She really lets you feel her characters and the experiences that they are going through.

The bad: Without giving too much away... I wasn't a huge fan of the ending. I felt like this story ended abruptly and that the last few chapters were rushed to try and give the book some form of closure.
The verdict: Great story + excellent writing + a little dose of history = A must read. You are sure to enjoy Shanghai Girls.

Monday, May 24, 2010

It's not nice when girls die. ~ Week 21

Coming back from a long hiatus. Since I posted last, I've read 15 books. Ouch. I have a lot of catching up to do. I'm not promising that I'll be able to catch up, but I'm going to try my best. With summer vacation coming up I just might have the opportunity. So here we go...

This is one of those books that always caught my attention on the shelves at the bookstore, but I never ventured to figure out what it was about. I finally requested it from the library and was surprised to find that it touched on a subject that has always caught my attention and made me wonder. Wintergirls is about two girls - Lia and Cassie - "wintergirls," frozen in thin bodies and sick minds. Both Lia and Cassie are anorexic and bulimic (respectively), fiercely competitive about their weights, and in a codependently and eventually deadly competition.

This book is reminiscent of Wasted by Marya Hornbacher but takes a different approach. Hornbacher's book is very matter-of-fact and while it does delve into the emotional aspects of anorexia, Wintergirls gives you a first-person account from Lia's point of view and really shows you the complex and disturbing thought processes that accompany eating disorders. This is definitely not a light read.

If you've ever watched a show or read a magazine article about anorexia and asked yourself, "Why don't they just EAT?" then perhaps this book might be a good one for you. Wintergirls gave me another glimpse into just how daunting and nearly impossible it can seem to recover from an eating disorder. I say "recover" because I truly believe that you can never be "cured" from being anorexic and bulimic.

The good: Very informative and emotional. Any book that makes a strong emotion rise in me (weather it's amusement, disgust, or fear) is a good one in my opinion. I also feel like this is a good book for anyone that's had a friend or family member that's been affected by an eating disorder. Seeing the thought processes that an anorexic goes through can help you to be more empathetic and understanding. It's a very well written book. Anderson's prose is straight-forward and enjoyable to read.

The bad: I wouldn't say that this is 100% a "bad thing," but sometimes Anderson was a little heavy on the figurative language. Don't get me wrong - I love a good metaphor or simile. It can definitely add to an author's work. However, at times during Wintergirls, I felt like Anderson was throwing them in just for the hell of it. Here's a fun example: "I lie down in a glass-coffin dream where rosebushes climb the walls to weave me a thorny fortress." Lyrical? Yes. Fun to read? Sure. Necessary to read something like this in every paragraph? Not really.

The verdict: Highly recommended for anyone that is curious about anorexia and bulimia and wants to understand it better. While it's a serious subject matter, you will find Anderson's writing interesting and informative.