Saturday, March 29, 2014

Review-Half Bad

When a book has such a huge hype around it I generally find that I either love the book as much as everyone else does or I really don't find it all that great.  With this book I'm surprised that I actually fall somewhere in the middle.  It's not that I didn't like it, but while it was fresh and interesting I'm not sure it was amazing.  The first section of the book was told in second person, and while that's not something you usually find (at least not in YA, I'm not sure about other age groups) I found that it really worked.  Honestly the first part of the book was my favorite and I would have loved to see the rest of it, or at least more parts of it, with that same style. That being said the rest of the book wasn't bad, and in all honesty the premise was something that I hadn't read before, which kept me interested in the story.  I did find it a bit odd that the book covered so much of the main character's life.  Most of the time if a book talks about a character's early life it's done in flashbacks but this one took about 100 pages covering the earlier life of the main character, which did confuse me; it somehow seemed very important and not important at all in terms of furthering the plot (and I'm not entirely sure how that's actually possible).  I was slightly surprised with some of the violence that occurred in the book just because of the age of the main character at some points, but it reminded me of the prejudice and treatment held about African Americans after the civil war so the young age of the character did make some sense.  There are several pretty gruesome scenes in the novel as well as a smattering of swear words, so take note of that before reading the novel yourself (or before giving it to a younger reader).  There was also a slight bit of romance (which I didn't feel a ton of heat behind) but it wasn't the main focus of the story and took up no more than 30 pages total, so if that's something you're looking for it's not a large part of the book.  Overall it was an interesting concept and I liked the fact that the main character was a teenage boy (which is even more interesting when you realize the author is a female), but for me it wasn't anything overly fabulous.  I'll probably check out the second book, just to see what happens and I would recommend it to fans of fantasy novels and teenage males in general.  While I may not have adored it I'm sure it will find fans all over the world and I wish the author the best.  She has great ideas and an interesting new voice that I'm glad has been added to my bookshelf.

4/5 dust spirits

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Review-The Summer of Letting Go

Three years ago I read a lovely debut novel geared more towards middle grade readers and, since then, I've been waiting for the author's next book to come out.  Now we finally have a YA novel from the amazing mind of Gae Polisner.  There are those novels you read that are contemporary, but have the slightest hint of magic, and you're not sure if the magic is REAL or if it's just believed to be real by the characters (which, sometimes means it is, right?), and that's something that's so hard to do.  Honestly I've only ever found two authors who do it right, and Gae is one of those two.  This book has so much feeling in it, and I can't seem to get over the fact that it's somehow both heartbreaking and uplifting at the same time.  I mean really, how does that even work?  There's a little bit of mystery, some kissing, death, redemption, and forgiveness all wrapped into one little book that has a really big heart.  The main character, Frankie (the girl) was flawed, but it made her whole and real in a way that I totally understood.  The other Frankie (the little boy) was so much fun, and I smiled every time I read parts with him in them.  I would have liked to see a little more of the best friend and her boyfriend, but seeing as that's not really what the book was about I understand why there was only so much of them in there.  Although I really don't have a lot in common with the girl Frankie in terms of what's going on in her life I felt like I connected with her perfectly emotionally.  Overall the book has a slightly magical undertone with real characters and whimsical bits and pieces scattered throughout the novel that made it that much better.  I do have some questions for Gae regarding how the book ends, but that's okay, because it does wrap it up nicely in a way that completes the story while still keeping a few things left to the mind of the reader.  Everyone should at least look into this book because it's something that could appeal to almost anyone and has an underlying message that's just so important it should be shared.  I can't wait to see what Gae comes up with next as I'm sure I'll be reading that too.

Out March 25, 2014

4.5/5 dust spirits

*Thanks to Algonquin for providing me with a copy of this book in return for an honest review

Monday, March 17, 2014

Review-Side Effects May Vary

I first heard about this book several months ago, and my first reaction to it was "that sounds super cool!"  Then the cover came out and my response was "dude, that's SO COOL!"  Now that I've finished it my immediate thoughts on it are "hmm".  I went into this novel knowing that it was about a girl that was diagnosed with cancer who had miraculously recovered, so there were some things I expected, and a few things that caught me off guard.  The story is told in dual POV, told through both Alice's eyes (the main character who was diagnosed with cancer a year earlier) and her "best friend" Harvey, a boy her age.  That in and of itself isn't super different, but in both POVs she switches between past (starting right before Alice is diagnosed) and present time, revealing bits and pieces of the story slowly.  Both of these things worked really well, and with the plot I feel like it enhanced the overall feel of the book and that it was a natural progression.  The plot itself was fresh and, as a whole the book had an interesting "lesson".  To me it asked the questions "if you were going to die how would you spend the rest of your life?" and "if you then got to stay what would you change?"  Kind of deep topics there if you ask me, and so maybe because of other books with sick antagonists that I've read I was expecting one thing, but what I got wasn't it.  This is me being 100% honest, the characters in the book drove me crazy, and not in a good way.  A character with cancer should elicit some kind of sympathy, but the only thing that kept running through my head is what a b*tch she was.  Before she got sick (in those few chapters we saw her pre-illness) she wasn't so bad, but after (once she started treatment and after she went into remission) she was terrible.  Harvey on the other hand I did like, he was charming and lovable, and the kind of guy friend I wish I had.  But he was also a huge pushover.  Honestly even the supporting characters fell flat for me.  I don't know what it was, if it was just me or if there was just no spark there, but despite the fact that they changed throughout the story (and Alice did redeem herself in some ways), like good characters should, I just couldn't invest in any of them.  Overall it was an interesting book and it had some quotes in it that were really beautiful (mostly near the end) it's not one I can say blew me away by any means.  Regardless of my opinion I applaud Murphy for doing something different, and I wish her the best with her writing career, but I probably won't be picking up another one of her novels anytime in the near future.

Out March 18, 2014

3.5/5 dust spirits

*Thanks to Harper Teen for providing me with an ARC of this book in return for an honest review.