Sunday, December 29, 2013

Book Review: Kindness for Weakness

Kindness for Weakness
Title: Kindness for Weakness
Author: Shawn Goodman
Publication Date: May 14, 2013
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers

Genre: Realistic fiction
Pages: 272
Age Rating: Readers above the age of 15 due to violence, language, and substance abuse
My Opinion: 10/10

Hi, Readers!

       This is a big day for me - my first 10/10 rating for a book review!  Not even my absolute favorite books have earned this extremely high honor, and for a realistic fiction novel that I had never heard of to come and snatch up the first 10/10 is a big deal.  Kindness for Weakness, by Shawn Goodman, made me laugh, (almost) cry, and fall in love with all of the main characters.  I had trouble falling to sleep after I read one of the chapters because I was so touched.

       James is stuck living with his drug-addict mother and her boyfriend until his brother, Louis, offers him an escape through selling drugs.  James is able to make some quick cash to buy food for his family until he is captured by the police.  Louis immediately deserts James and leaves him to fend for himself in the confusing and scary world of the law.  Quickly, James is sentenced to juvie.  He must use all of his strength to get by in the prison for teens, and he has to deal with adversity both physically and mentally.

       The story of James' struggle in the juvie system was extremely enlightening because it exposed the utter truths about juvenile prisons.  For example, James is excessively physically punished by the security guards, and then they force him to sign a waver stating that the punishment was necessary.  Also, Goodman touches on issues such as being an outsider in juvie through characters that have different physical appearances or sexual orientations.  Depression, anxiety, and suicide are also prominently portrayed.

       Although the novel has so many deep issues to address, Goodman captured my attention through his excellent creation of characters.  Each boy in James' juvie group had a different personality that reflected on their family life and upbringing.

       By the end of the novel, I felt emotionally attached to James and his story.  I recommend this book to both teens and adults alike because everybody would benefit from reading Kindness for Weakness.

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Top Ten Books I Wouldn't Mind Santa Bringing Me

Top Ten TuesdayHi, Readers!

       'Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, not a blogger was stirring, except for the Top Ten Tuesday crew at The Broke and the Bookish blog!  Now that the most celebrated day of the entire year is almost upon us, the Top Ten Tuesday list of this week is the Top Ten Books I Wouldn't Mind Santa Bringing Me.  Sadly, Santa is probably done with his Christmas shopping at this point, so I probably won't get any of these titles.

Please note that I have not read any of these books, so they are not necessarily good!  The beginning of my list starts off as realistic fiction, and it changes into dystopian and science fiction at the end.  Also, each title is linked to Goodreads for a short summary, reader reviews, and online retailers.

Disneylanders1. Disneylanders, by Kate Abbott

Books about Disney World obsess me.  One of my favorite books is Dream Factory (read my review here), which is also about Disney World.  I just cannot get enough of the place where dreams come true.  It is fascinating how a place can be so happy, but at the same time, can hold so many secrets and falsehoods.  With that logic, I MUST READ THIS BOOK!

The Boyfriend App
2. The Boyfriend App, by Katie Sise

Technology in books is usually a major no-no, but this novel sounds like a light and fun read about social media and apps.  It involves a competition to see who can create the best app for a $200,000 prize, and Audrey creates The Boyfriend App to win the money for college tuition.  Smart + Technological = WIN.

Counting By 7s
3. Counting By 7s, by Holly Goldberg Sloan

This book's description sounds like my least favorite type of book - a sappy realistic fiction novel that will give me a new perspective on the world.  *YAWN*  However, it was an Amazon Best Book of the Year, and it won a whole bunch of other awards, so it must have actually been good.  Plus, it has an awesome cover.

A Match Made in High School
4. A Match Made In High School, by Kristin Walker

I read the description of this book on Goodreads and just about died of laughter.  This book sounds hilarious.  Forcing high school seniors to participate in a Marriage Education program? Genius.  It's even worse than having to carry around a flour sack baby for a week, especially with high school drama thrown into the mix.

The Fault in Our Stars
5. The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green

I am probably the only YA blogger who has not read this book.  Enough said.

A Really Awesome Mess
6. A Really Awesome Mess, by Trish Cook and Brendan Halpin

This book is apparently about "friendship and self-discovery" (Goodreads), but it's description makes it sound more like a comedic take on teenage rebellion.  The characters sound intriguing, and the cover is adorable, although it shows the complete opposite of the novel's title.

Shatter Me
7. Shatter Me, by Tahereh Mafi

Another blogger favorite that I have not read.  Yet.  The idea behind this novel is extremely unique - if Juliette touches somebody, they die.  This novel's plotline sounds like it could rival that of Divergent (read my review here) and other big YA series.  Also, unlike most YA books, it's tagline "My touch is lethal.  My touch is power." sounds AWESOME and makes me want to read the book.

Not a Drop to Drink
8. Not a Drop to Drink, by Mindy McGinnis

This dystopian novel deals with the issue of drinking water.  Judging by the title, there is none.  Lynn has to protect her water from strangers, and she will kill anybody that gets in her way.  I am getting a Hunger Games vibe from this book, and since I've always had plenty of water, it could open up my eyes to a new experience.

9. Cinder, by Marissa Meyer

I have read so much about this book, and it has appeared on countless Top Ten Tuesday lists.  Each time I see it, I think to myself, How is it possible that I still haven't read this book?!  It's description sounds like it was written to please readers just like me - filled with dystopia, science fiction, action, and mystery.   Plus, the cover is a work of art.

The Fifth Wave
10. The Fifth Wave, by Rick Yancey

Goodreads compared this to The Hunger Games, so therefore, I must read it.  The novel actually sounds really scary and haunting, but the premise is genius and fresh.  It has all of the components of a good dystopian, futuristic novel.  Hopefully it lives up to the hype.

       Although I most likely won't get any of these books from Santa, it was worth a shot.  I will definitely be reading and reviewing these books in the new year, so keep watching for my posts.  Have a safe and festive holiday.

Happy Holidays!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Required Reading: How School-Issued Books Can Actually Be Good

Hi, Readers!

       I decided to change it up this week instead of doing a regular book review because I am beginning to get that holiday-laziness.  This week on Book Savvy (drumroll please), I am discussing school-required reading books.  Now, a lot of my AP English classmates hate reading in general (WHYYYYY?!), but a select few enjoy delving into the depths of our required reading books with me.  Some of these books actually do put me to sleep.  Yes, I'm talking about you, Great Expectations.  However, I have  been getting into the books that we are reading this year!  I just saw a quote saying, "Some books help you pass a midterm.  Others get you through life."  So true for the books below.

Easy A      My favorite school-required reading book to date would have to be The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne.  Aside from being an amazing story, it clearly relates to modern-day society.  In case you haven't read The Scarlet Letter, it's a historical fiction novel about a woman named Hester Prynne who has committed adultery in seventeenth-century Puritan Society.  She becomes entrapped within a web of deceit and lies alongside her adulterer, her husband, and her daughter, and the only way to escape the moral labyrinth is through death.  One of my favorite parts about The Scarlet Letter is Hawthorne's unbelievable use of symbolism.  Some quick examples of symbolism in the novel are sunlight, darkness, the rose bush, Pearl, and weeds.  Another great aspect of the novel is the suspense - I almost wanted to read ahead in order to find out what happened next.  Although The Scarlet Letter is set in the seventeenth-century, it can be seen through modern entertainment and media.  An obvious example is the movie Easy A, starring Emma Stone.  The novel's undertones of lying and deceit are also shown in the popular Pretty Little Liars series and the song Demons, by Imagine Dragons.  It's so cool that, how after reading the novel, I was able to compare seventeenth-century Puritan Society to 2013.

Their Eyes Were Watching God      Another one of my favorite school required reading books would have to be the one that I am reading right now, Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston.  This novel is certainly less well-known than The Scarlet Letter, but Hurson's writing style is so distinct and full of voice that it deserves to be recognized.  Here's a quick summary: Janie Crawford is an African American living in the South a couple of decades after the Emancipation Proclamation is announced.  Both Janie's mother and her grandmother have not lived lives of privilege, so her grandmother arranges a marriage for Janie with a creepy man named Logan Killicks.  Janie quickly runs away with Joe Sparks, but still feels unfulfilled.  She must continue to do whatever is necessary for love while navigating dangerous racial and gender-based issues.  When I first picked up this novel, I thought it would be the hardest book that I had ever read because of the character dialogue.  Hurston types dialogue exactly as it sounds.  For example, when Janie is hungry, her friend Pheoby says, "Ah knowed you'd be hongry.  No time to be huntin' stove wood after dark.  Mah mutallo rice ain't so good dis time.  Not enough bacon grease, but Ah reckon it'll kill hongry" (5).  It took me at least five minutes to figure out that Pheoby was saying that she would give Janie food.  The entire novel is written in this manner, but I have come to enjoy reading it out loud.  Another interesting part of Their Eyes Were Watching God is the historical perspective about race and gender.  Janie is a mix between a feminist and a romantic, which makes it difficult for her to find love.  All in all, I may have even enjoyed reading this book even if it was not a school-required reading book, which is saying a lot!

       A couple of other school-required reading books that were better than I expected were Lord of the Flies, Nickel and Dimed, and Romeo and Juliet.  I probably wouldn't have ever read these books on my own, but they all gave me new perspectives that have helped me to become a better reader and a well-rounded individual.

Lord of the FliesNickel and DimedRomeo and Juliet

       These school-required reading books are excellent pieces of literature that everybody should read.  On a side note, in case you haven't noticed, I decided to make a management decision for Book Savvy and link all novel titles to Goodreads instead of Amazon Books from now on.  Goodreads gives a more accurate summary and reader reviews, and it also links up to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and tons of other online bookstores.  Thanks for reading, and please remember to comment and follow me by e-mail or GCF.

Happy Holidays!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

New Release Book Review: OCD, the Dude, and Me

OCD, the Dude, and Me on Amazon Books
Title: OCD, the Dude, and Me
Author: Lauren Roedy Vaugn
Publication Date: March 21, 2013
Publisher: Dial
Genre: Realistic fiction
Pages: 240
Age Rating: Readers above the age of 10
My Opinion: 9/10

Hi, Readers!

       As you may know, Christmas is exactly 16 and a half days away!  I am getting very excited because I will visit family and friends, watch Christmas specials on television, spread holiday cheer, and most importantly, not go to school!  Here is my plan for the holidays, courtesy of Elf:

Buddy the Elf

       My mom keeps asking me what I want for Christmas, and I never know what gifts to request.  Therefore, I decided that my December book reviews will be about great books that I recommend as gifts for book lovers and reluctant readers alike.  This week, I chose to review OCD, the Dude, and Me, by Lauren Roedy Vaugn.  This heartwarming novel is perfect for teenage girls and readers who enjoy a bit of sarcasm and comedy.

       Danielle Levine does not fit the prototype for the popular girl at her high school, and she often feels left out from her classmates due to her struggles with OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder).  When her English class takes a field trip to England, Danielle initially assumes that the trip will be just as bad or even worse than her experiences at school because she has no classmates who are her friends.  However, she begins to enjoy exploring the foreign setting and makes a few long-lasting friendships along the way.  She also begins to grow more comfortable in her own skin.  Danielle tells her story of adventure and coming of age through journal entries, essays, letters, and e-mails.

Danielle learns to face and overcome her OCD.
       When I started the novel, I did not have any previous knowledge about or experience with OCD.  I was surprised and intrigued that Danielle had OCD but that it was not the main focus of the novel.  Although her condition impacted certain decisions that she made, it definitely did not control her life.  It was extremely enlightening to read Danielle's personal thoughts because her mind processed events in different ways than I would, yet she was still relatable.

       Danielle struggles with many different issues throughout the novel.  Aside from having OCD, she is bullied a lot at school because she is overweight and has a distinct appearance.  Also, she is forced into attending social skills classes with a group of individuals who are even more quirky than she is.  Author Lauren Roedy Vaugn does an excellent job at touching on various modern-day social issues while retaining a conversational and comedic tone.

       My absolute favorite part about the novel is that Danielle goes through a definite and realistic change throughout the novel.  It warmed my heart when she came out of different negative situations as a better person.  She overcame many more issues than I could ever imagine having to face.

       OCD, the Dude, and Me is a must-read for all teenage girls.  It gives insight to how all teens struggle with issues of different kinds, and it stresses the importance of friendship and strength.  If you are looking for a book to read yourself or to gift to a friend, I would definitely recommend picking up a copy of OCD, the Dude, and Me at your local bookstore.

Happy reading and happy holidays!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

New Release Book Review: Altered

Altered on Amazon Books
Title: Altered
Author: Jennifer Rush
Publication Date: January 1, 2013
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Genres: Science fiction
Pages: 323
Age Rating: Readers above the age of 13
My Opinion: 8/10

Hi, Readers!

       Have you seen the movie Abduction, starring Taylor Lautner and Lily Collins?  If not, basically, a boy finds out that his entire past was a lie and he goes on a big adventure while trying to escape some bad guys.  The plot line of Abduction is very similar to that of Altered, in a good way.  The novel has lots of plot twists and mysterious references to the past, giving it an edgy feel.  However, it is definitely a book geared towards a female young adult audience (like me!).

       Four boys live in Anna's basement.  They are the test subjects of The Branch, a mysterious agency that Anna's father works for.  Anna is not entirely sure why the boys are locked up, but she knows that they are dangerous and unstable.  They are also her best friends.  One day, agents from The Branch come to take away Nick, Cas, Trev, and Sam.  They do the unthinkable and escape, taking Anna with them, and drive to a safe house.  Because of the escape, Anna begins doubting her father and her past with the knowledge that The Branch is hunting her as well.  The five teenagers must work together to discover how their pasts are all intertwined and follow the clues to discovering who Anna's real family is, all while escaping dangerous agents of The Branch.
A fan-made collage of the four boys in The Branch program
       My favorite part about Altered is the perfect mix between action and mystery.  Sure, there are loads of fight scenes and weapons, but the five teens also have to solve the mystery of why they are being followed by The Branch.  For example, my favorite scene is when Anna goes shopping for new jeans at the mall, all happy and thoughtful about the boys, and then The Branch shows up and she must escape safely while surrounded by hundreds of innocent onlookers.  Sadly, the mystery of Anna and the boys' past is not solved in book 1, but it does make me want to continue the series.

Erased, the second book
in the Altered series
       Altered definitely caters towards a female young adult audience in the way that Nick, Cas, Trev, and Sam are described.  Anna is the main character, and she has a major crush on Sam, so her thoughts are romantically inclined.  Additionally, Anna is not as involved in the fight scenes as the boys, so she focuses more on telling the readers how she can either escape to safety or try to step in.  I was not especially pleased with Anna's role as the protected female who can't win a fight, but she shows strength mentally throughout the book.

       Overall, I did enjoy reading Altered because of its mystery and excitement, and also because of its somewhat realistic feeling for being a science fiction novel.  Each night that I picked it up to read, I wondered what would happen next, and that is why I would definitely recommend that you grab a copy of Altered.  The second book in the series is Erased, which will become available for purchase on January 7, 2014.

Happy reading!