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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Fault In Our Stars


The Fault In Our Stars by John Green

(Summary taken from the inside of the book jacket) "Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at  Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel's story is about to be completely rewritten."

This book is written very well. It flows well, is easy to read and understand, and yet is also quite complex. The metaphors and literary terms abound in this book. There are also a lot of fabulous vocabulary words. I learned a few new words! The characters are developed well and come to life on the pages. Hazel (I love this name, it is my grandma's name. She hated it, but I love it.) felt like my best friend or close cousin. She is a typical teenager, and yet she's not. I love the attention to detail that Mr. Green used when writing her. She's feisty and tough, and sensitive and caring all at the same time. Augustus was also developed well. He's a complex guy. He definitely likes his metaphors and takes them to the extreme. At first you want to say, "Yeah, right.....that's totally fake." But then as you get to know Augustus better it just fits him. Isaac was a good character to be in there with them. I definitely felt bad for him. I'm not sure why I felt worse for him than I did for Hazel or Augustus, but it may be because of his attitude compared to theirs. I think Van Houten was kind of a weak link in this book. His character was mostly well done, but at the end I got annoyed with him and thought his actions seemed contrary to what he really was. I'm not sure I think his character would have done what he did at the end, and that bothered me. However, people grieve and suffer in their own ways, so I guess you never know what to expect. I began this book only knowing it was about a girl with cancer. (By the way, I don't know if I've ever read a book written by a male with such an accurate female main character. Kudos to Mr. Green for doing a great job with the female attributes, attitudes, emotions, and hormones.) I went into it 99% positive that she would die. Now, I'm not going to spoil it-she may or she may not die- but let's just say it wasn't exactly what I thought. It was about 2/3 through that I started thinking that maybe I was wrong. I was surprised and yet I wasn't. Hahaha.....is that confusing enough? You'll just need to read it and let me know what you thought. Don't think you have it completely figured out before you even start. It's much more complex than you think. I did cry, though. A lot. So there you go. You'll just need to read it.

There is quite a bit of language in this book. There is one "f" word, a bunch of others, and they take the Lord's name in vain. There is talk of being a virgin along with an "intimacy" scene. It's not detailed at all, but it is still there. It's also difficult to read in some places because of what happens to the characters. 

Rating: PG-13+ (Language, including the "f" word, along with innuendos and an "intimacy" scene)

Recommendation: At least 16 yrs and up. I think I'd feel more comfortable with my kids reading it at 18. I'm finding I'm quite conservative in my age-ratings, but that's just me.



Friday, August 22, 2014

As Sweet As Honey


As Sweet As Honey by Indira Ganesan

(Summary taken from inside the book jacket) "In her latest novel, Indira Ganesan...gives us an enchanting story of family life that is a dance of love and grief and rebirth set on a gorgeous island in the Indian Ocean. The island is filled with exotic flora and fauna and perfumed air. A large family compound is presided over by a benign, stalwart grandmother. There is a very tall South Asian heroine with the astonishing un-Indian name of Meterling, who has found love at last in the shape of a short, round, elegant English-man who wears white suits. There are also numerous aunts, uncles, and young cousins--among them, Mina, grown now, and telling this story of a marriage ceremony that ends with a widowed bride who, in the midst of her grief, discovers she is pregnant. While enjoying their own games and growing pains, Mina and her young cousins follow every nuance of gossip, trying to puzzle out what is going on with their favorite aunt, particularly when the groom's cousin arrives from England and begins to woo her. As Meterling--torn between Eastern and Western ideas of love and family, duty and loyalty--struggles to make a new life, we become as entranced with this family, its adventures and complications, as Mina is. And with her we celebrate a time and place where, although sometimes difficult, life was for the most part as sweet as honey."

I have a sister-in-law that is from India, so I was very interested in this story. Mina makes a point of the family not being Indian, but Islanders, and so I guess it's different, but some of the customs seem similar. The island they lived on seemed like a little piece of paradise. The descriptions of the island left me wanting to go there. The characters in this book are well developed and life-like. I liked Meterling, Simon, Mina, Sanjay, and Rasi. It was interesting to learn about an adult through a child's viewpoint. Things that may have been important to an adult were not important to the child, and the reverse would be true as well. Although it provided a different viewpoint, I didn't love it in this case. Having the niece narrate the story of her aunt just didn't really fit. I'm not sure why, exactly, but I think it may be because I never really felt connected to Meterling herself. There was a definite disconnect there. Also, Ms. Ganesan has a very different writing style that took me a long time to get used to. Whereas some reviewers loved it, I didn't. I found it difficult to read and understand. Ms. Ganesan also used a lot of Indian terms, which makes sense, but because I didn't know those terms it left me to guess their meanings, and consequently, I'm sure I lost a lot of meaning and content. There were also a lot of family members, and I tried, but I couldn't figure out who was who. By the end of the story I was a little more invested, but still never quite felt attached. 

There really isn't any language in this book, or violence. A character dies at the beginning of the story, but it's not too graphic or violent. There is talk of procreation and "intimacy" in this book, along with some kissing.

Rating: PG-13 (Some kissing, talk of procreation and "intimacy," but no scenes. No language)

Recommendation: 16 and up

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.


Monday, August 18, 2014

The Objects of Her Affection


The Objects of Her Affection by Sonya Cobb

(Summary taken from an email the publicist sent me) "The Art Forger meets The Theory of Opposites in a riveting family drama that goes inside the art world’s black market. After the housing market collapse, Sophie and her husband, a museum curator, are in danger of losing it all—until Sophie realizes she’s found a dangerous way out of their crushing debt."

You know those books (and movies) where you can see the consequences of the choices the character is making before she can? And you know how you start screaming in your head, "Nooooo!!!! Stop!!! Don't do it!!!!" And it doesn't make any difference, the character obviously doesn't listen and it drives you crazy? Well, this book is full of those moments. Ahhhhhh!!! You just want to call Sophie on the phone and ask her what she is thinking and tell her to stop. Yeah. It's frustrating. Even though I did not like the choices Sophie made, I still really liked her character. I thought she was so cute and would be someone I would get along with. She just seems like a cute mom that lives in my neighborhood, and I'd probably be friends with her. I like her drive and her normal mom-ness. I love that she loves her kids but isn't perfect. I love that she struggles with being at home all the time and wonders where her formal self went (Maybe it's because I'm dealing with this right now....my baby will start first grade this week.....). I just like Sophie; she's a fun character. I also like her husband Brian. He can be a little aloof at times, but that's normal for everyone sometimes, right? I thought he was well developed and real as well. I liked Carly most of the time. She made a few poor choices herself, but overall was a good supporting character. I could never get my finger on Harry. Sometimes I liked him and sometimes I did not. I don't think I ever trusted him as much as Sophie trusted him. The book was well written. I liked Ms. Cobb's writing style. I thought it was easy to read and understand, it flowed well, and the descriptions were well done. I loved the details in this book, and I loved how Ms. Cobb perfectly described motherhood. I also enjoyed learning a little bit about the world of art and museums. 

The only negative for me in this book is the language. Boo. Why? Why do authors feel the need for the language? I don't understand. It's distracting and irritating. I really enjoyed this book but cannot recommend it to my friends or family because of the language (Most of my friends and family dislike the language as well). There's not a whole lot of "normal" profanity, it's just that there are a lot of "f" words. A lot. Please authors, don't ruin a good story by splattering it with profanity. There are a few innuendos and an almost-"intimacy" scene. It doesn't quite happen, but almost. I did like this book, and if language doesn't bother you then I would recommend it.

Rating: R (There's no violence, but there are a few innuendos and an "intimacy" scene that almost happens. There are a lot of "f" words and a handful of other profane words.)

Recommendation: Adult

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Someone Else's Love Story


Someone Else's Love Story by Joshilyn Jackson

(Summary taken from the first page of the book) "At twenty-one, Shandi Pierce is juggling finishing college; raising her delightful three-year-old genius son, Nathan, aka Natty Bumppo; and keeping the peace between her eternally warring, long-divorced Christian mother and Jewish father. She's got enough complications without getting caught in the middle of a stickup in a gas station minimart and falling in love with a great wall of a man named William Ashe, who willingly steps between the armed robber and her son. Shandi doesn't know that her blond god, Thor, has his own complications. When he looked down the barrel of that gun he believed it was destiny: it's been one year to the day since a tragic act of physics shattered his universe. But William doesn't define destiny the way other people do. A brilliant geneticist who believes in science and numbers, destiny to him is about choice. Now, he and Shandi are about to meet their so-called destinies head-on, making choices that will reveal unexpected truths about love, life, and the world they think they know. Someone Else's Love Story is Joshilyn Jackson's funny, charming, and poignant novel about science and miracles, secrets and truths, faith and forgiveness; about a virgin birth, a sacrifice, and a resurrection; about falling in love, and learning that things aren't always what they seem--or what we hope they will be. It's  a novel about discovering what we want and ultimately finding what we need."

The characters in this book are well done. Each has a distinctive voice and personality. I had a bunch of guy friends in high school and college, so I could definitely picture the relationship between Shandi and Walcott. I loved the love that Shandi had for her son. I loved that she was trying to finish college and not let a teenage pregnancy rule the rest of her life. Walcott was one of my favorite characters. I thought he just seemed so nice, helpful, kind, considerate, patient, and gentlemanly. William was harder to read. I couldn't ever quite figure him out, but at the same time I thought he was genuinely sincere and had a good heart. I liked the impulsively nice things he did, like putting himself between the robber and Shandi's son Natty. Oh, Natty. I loved him. So cute and smart!!! Three is a hard age, but a fun one too. I had a hard time getting used to Ms. Jackson's writing style, and had to reread a few sentences to understand them, but by about half-way through I didn't notice it as much, and got sucked into the story. It's not the easiest writing style to read, but it got easier the more I read. I didn't like how she jumped from character to character. Sometimes it was in the character's mind and sometimes it was not in the other character's mind. I think it felt choppy and it took me a few sentences each time to figure out where we were. I ended up liking the story, ok. It came together well and there were some surprises at the end that completely got me! I liked how Shandi and William were able to move past some very difficult situations to find what they needed. Both of them showed personal growth; it was good to see. Although, I'm not quite sure her decision to maybe forgive at the end was realistic, especially without the whole truth. The lessons of accepting the past and moving forward, and figuring out what you really need are poignant. I wished it went on just a few more pages....I wanted a little bit more info at the end, but it was ok. I did enjoy the story in the end, but it did take me awhile to get into her writing style. I also figured out half the ending. I know, half, right? Well, the other half was one of the surprises.

It's a good thing the story was good because the language was awful. There is a lot of profanity in this book, especially the "f" word. There is also a lot of talk of, and discussions about, "intimacy." There is a rape that is discussed and a lot of "intimacy" scenes and discussion. It's not put delicately either. College frat initiations, high school boys that have reputations, that kind of thing, and it's quite detailed. You've probably read enough of my reviews to know that I'm not a huge fan of this. I did find parts of this book offensive, and the language was too much for me. But, I know I'm kind of by myself in this regard. The story was good, but it would have been so much better without the language and "intimacy." I know, some of it may have been necessary to set up histories and personalities, but for me it was too much. Putting all that aside, I did enjoy getting sucked into Shandi and William's worlds. I think I can learn their lessons and try each day to make my marriage stronger, not take for granted the loved ones in my life, and help make the world a better place.

**Update!!! I originally posted this review on 11/12/13, but I'm reposting it today because it comes out in paperback this week, and the publisher asked if I could help her get the word out!!!**

Rating: R (This does not follow the movie ratings exactly, it is just my way of saying it is not appropriate for younger readers.) Language, especially the "f" word, rape, intimacy scenes and discussions about, a robbery with a gun, and violence.

Recommendation: Adult. This book is not appropriate for younger readers.

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.






Monday, August 4, 2014

Crossed


Crossed by Ally Condie

(Summary taken from inside the book jacket) "Chasing down an uncertain future, Cassia makes her way to the Outer Provinces in pursuit of Ky--taken by the Society to his sure death--only to find that he has escaped into the majestic, but treacherous, canyons. On this wild frontier are glimmers of a different life and the enthralling promise of rebellion. But even as Cassia sacrifices everything to reunite with Ky, ingenious surprises from Xander may change the game once again."

One thing that is hard for me as a reviewer is that I have so many books that authors or publishers have asked me to read, that I usually do not have time to just read what I want to. That is the case with this book. I read the first book soooooo long ago that when I finally found time to pick up the second one (that has been sitting under my bed for at least two years....just waiting to be read), I really couldn't remember anything about it. I didn't have time to go back and reread the first one either, so I just started reading and hoped it would come back to me. I really liked the first book, so I was excited to get back into the series. Once I remembered the characters' names I was able to start getting back into the story. The writing style is simple and easy to read (I read it in a few hours), but not as exciting as I remembered the first one being. I liked the characters, but didn't feel as connected to them as I remember feeling about the first book. I didn't like the two person narration. The last book that I read like that (Divergent #3) was awful, so maybe it was just the anticipation of something bad, but in any case, I didn't really like it. There were times I couldn't tell who was speaking so I'd have to go back and look at the chapter heading to see if it was Cassia or Ky. The plot was kind of slow moving, but was fine, although I didn't feel that it really advanced the story much. It seems like they're in the same position as they were before, but in a different place. We met a few new characters and learned a few new things, but that's about it. I didn't really feel like either Cassia or Ky developed or grew much in the story. Yes, they had changed since the first book, but there wasn't a whole lot of growth in this story. I liked this book, but had hoped for more. If you've read the first one then you will want to read this one.

I did like that it was clean. There's not any profanity or "intimacy" scenes. There is a little bit of tension between Cassia and Ky, but it's clean. There is also some kissing. There is some violence with people and characters dying in the war, but those scenes aren't too graphic or over-the-top. I'd say it's YA approved, which is good. 

Rating: PG (Some kissing and some minor violence in the war, with a few characters dying)

Recommendation: 13 and up (YA approved!)