Monday, April 28, 2014

The Smart One by Jennifer Close

"I just think you can't be so quick to be so sure of other people's situations.  Examine you own situations.  You also have a lot of choices.  It's not always easier for other people.  It doesn't work like that."

In Jennifer Close's second novel, she looks looks at family, growing up, and getting through life when it didn't go exactly as planned.  This is the story of the three Coffey children: Martha - nearly thirty and still living at home after she's couldn't handle the the pressure of a high-stress nursing career, Clarie - recently broken up with her fiance and having to move back home after running out of money to pay for her New York apartment, and Max - who has his life together, except for knocking up his college girlfriend.  Too old to live at home, the novel follows the Coffeys (and Max's girlfriend) through the struggles of transitioning into adulthood. 

I normally don't read a lot of "chick-lit," but this book had me hooked.  I loved the writing style and rare sense of humor.  The writing was good and the story was engaging, but the real reason I had to give it five stars was because of the realistic portrayal of life, love, and finding your way in a crazy, mixed up world.

Jennifer Close has this amazing way of writing the perfect book exactly when I need it.  I read her first novel, Girls in White Dresses over two years ago - right after I finished college, was some-what single, and had no idea what I was doing with my life.  When I was younger, I always assumed I would finish college and magically everything else would fall into place.  I quickly learned that wasn't the case!  The book was all about being surrounded by everyone you know getting married and and having a perfect career while you're just trying to figure out what you're doing next week.  

Two years later, I now find myself engaged and living with my boyfriend's parents.  I love them, but there is still the day-to-day struggle of dealing with crazy family drama and  trying to be on your own while still feeling like you're in high school.  Not to mention waking up one day and realizing that you're almost 26, getting married in 3 months, and still not an "adult."  This book captured this perfectly.  Jennifer Close a knack for writing the perfect book for getting you through those not-so-perfect situations.

This book was #7 on my top ten list of 2014.

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card (audio)

"But it's so easy, when you never meet people, when you never know the Earth itself, it's easy to forget why Earth is worth saving.  Why the world of people might be worth the price you pay."

First read: 5/14/2009

Update: I read this book about five years ago and finished listening to the "Ender's Game Alive" audio version.  I enjoyed it just as must as I did the first time I read it!!  I don't remember everything, so I'm not sure how different it was from the original (I've heard mixed reviews), but I really liked all of the different fast members and added sound effects into the reading.  The first time I read it, I remember being really surprised at the ending.  With all of the young adult science fiction/dystopia coming out in the recent years, it was nice to go back to the of the early one.  Now, on to see the movie!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (audio)

"Some infinities are bigger than other infinities.  A writer we use to like taught us that.  There are days, many of them, when I resent the size of my unbounded set.  I want more numbers than I'm likely to get, and God, I want more numbers for Augustus Waters than he got.  But, Gus, my love, I cannot tell you how thankful I am for our little infinity.  I wouldn't trade it for the world.  You gave me a forever within the numbered days, and I'm grateful."

"Cancer is also a side effect of dying.  Almost everything is, really."

Goodreads Summary: "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."

- - - - - - - - - - - - 

I am a big fan of John Green, and this one was absolutely amazing - as I knew that it would be.  This isn't just a cancer story.  It's a story about love and loss and adolescents.  Hazel and Gus are determined to live their lives to the fullest, even though everything is against them.  There love story is one of courage, strength, and inspiration.  And do top it all off, they are also incredibly funny and delightful characters to read about.  This story was beautifully written and gave a touching and realistic (at least I'm assuming) view of what experiences young adults go through when dealing with cancer.  I loved not only that the author did a wonderful job describing the emotions that Hazel and Gus went though, but also their reactions to how they were treated because of their disease.  A extremely heart-felt novel that puts young love and dying into perspective.  

I was thrilled to see that it had been chosen as the Time Magazine YA pick for 2012 and that the movie will be out this June - be prepared for a tear jerker!

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley (audio)

"...the fields might fall to fallow and the birds might stop their song awhile; the growing things might die and lie in silence under snow, while through it all the cold sea wore its face of storms and death and sunken hopes...and yet unseen beneath the waves a warmer current ran that, in its time, would bring the spring."

Goodreads Summary: In the spring of 1708, an invading Jacobite fleet of French and Scottish soldiers nearly succeeded in landing the exiled James Stewart in Scotland to reclaim his crown.

Now, Carrie McClelland hopes to turn that story into her next bestselling novel. Settling herself in the shadow of Slains Castle, she creates a heroine named for one of her own ancestors and starts to write.

But when she discovers her novel is more fact than fiction, Carrie wonders if she might be dealing with ancestral memory, making her the only living person who knows the truth-the ultimate betrayal-that happened all those years ago, and that knowledge comes very close to destroying her..

The above photograph is a picture of Slains.  I found it through Google images when searching for the book's cover and it describes the book perfectly.  I can't say enough good things about this book...I absolutely loved it and the narration on the audio book was amazing.

I've read a lot of past/present historical fiction novels, and this is by far one of my favorites.  I loved the description and instantly was intrigued by the characters.  I usually have a tendency to like the parts in the past better, but this one was a dead tie.  This novel was extremely well-written and unique.  I knew it was going to be a 5-star from the very beginning and I loved the idea of using the writing of a historical-fiction novel as the contemporary story!  The research process was really interesting and I loved being able to learn more about it as the author did.

All-in-all and excellent book and a great new author to read!  I came across this when a patron returned it at the library and am so glad I picked it up.  I loved listening to the narration, but there was a lot to take in and I often found myself having to look back at the book and look up the historical characters and dates to make sure I was getting everything.  I am very much looking forward to reading the second Slains novel, The Firebird, but I may read the novel this time around!

This book was #1 on my top ten list of 2014.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Divergent by Veronica Roth

"We believe in ordinary acts of bravery, in the courage that drives one person to stand up for another."

This book wasn't the next Harry Potter.  Or Twilight.  Or even the next Hunger Games.  Not for me anyways.  The story was engaging, and I did enjoy reading it, but I don't have a huge desire to read the next two books right away.  The world that Veronica Roth created was interesting enough and I really liked the idea of grouping everyone into a world by a single character trait (which we know from the beginning is going to fail).  I tried placing myself in a facet, and it was impossible to pick just one.  True to real-life, there are so many positives and negatives of a single characteristic! After reading the book, I felt that there was a little too much focus on the action of the training and not enough on exploring the world and the character.  
Looking forward to seeing how the movie is when it comes out :)

Saturday, April 5, 2014

An Abundance of Katherines by John Green (audio)

"Here's to all the places we went.  And all the places we'll go.  And here's to me, whispering again and again and again and again: iloveyou."

After being dumped by his nineteenth girlfriend named Katherine, Colin Singleton he takes a much needed road trip with his best friend.  They spend the next weeks in a small town recording people's stories of the work that they've done working in a mine.  Colin is also determined to prove the "Theorem of Underlying Katherine Predictability," which will prove the length and dumper of any relationship.  Along the way, he discovers there might be a lot more to relationships that can be proven by a theorem.  

This book was a typical young-adult-coming-of-age story.  It was often funny with catchy dialogue and interesting characters.  I also thought it gave a very realistic protrayal of life-and-love at 17.  I liked it, but didn't love it.  I love John Green, but this one wasn't my favorite.


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Tallgrass by Sandra Dallas (audio)

★ 1/2

Set in Colorado during World War II, Rennie's life changes when a Japanese internment camp is opened up nearby.  When a young girl is murdered all eyes turn to the Japanese for answers.  Thirteen-year-old Rennie's isn't sure what to believe at first, but when her family hires young Japanese workers, she is forced to stand up against prejudices of the camp.  

I enjoyed this book.  I haven't read too much about the Japanese internment camps - except for Jamie Ford's Hotel of the Corner of Bitter and Sweet - and liked the perspective of World War II in the United States.  I always found it surprising that there is so little mention of these camps in histories of the war.  While very different from concentration camps in Europe, we did segregate individuals based solely on their race.  I am also wondering why there was not camps for Germans?

Anyways, I really liked that the story was told from the eyes of a young girl.  As the novel unfolded, she grew up and was faced with many situations that were far beyond her age.  Rennie's didn't always know as much as the readers did, but she began to put the pieces together of those around her.  All in all, a good historical fiction novel.