Thursday, November 20, 2014

Book Review: The Spectacular Now

The Spectacular Now
Title: The Spectacular Now
Author: Tim Tharp
Publication Date: November 1, 2008
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
Genre: Realistic fiction
Pages: 304
Age Rating: Readers over 13 due to substance abuse
My Opinion: 8/10

Hi, Readers!

Have you ever come across a character that you love to hate?  Well, I found one when I was reading The Spectacular Now, by Tim Tharp.  I don't think I've ever read a book where I was so intrigued by the main character but still managed to hate every decision he made.  And I'm not exaggerating.  I still can't believe that I liked this book as much as I did, because the character that Tharp created is terribly skewed in his way of thinking.

Sutter and Aimee from the movie
       Sutter Keely is always the life of the party.  Any high schooler who wants to have a good time knows to seek out Sutter.  Although the ladies seem to love him at parties and at school, Sutter can't manage to keep a girlfriend.  They all break up with him after a couple of months, and he can't figure out why.  Weirdest of all, every single one of Sutter's ex-girlfriends wants to stay friends with him.  When his dream girl breaks up with him, Sutter wonders if he has to make a change to his lifestyle.  After a rough night of partying, he wakes up on a girl named Aimee's front lawn and decides to make the shy, intelligent girl his "project".  He believes that if he helps Aimee to climb the social ladder, he will be doing some good in the world and his life will return to normalcy.  However, as Sutter grows closer to Aimee, he becomes even more confused about his feelings, and it will take a lot more than parties and alcohol to solve his problems.

       Let me make this very clear before you decide to read this book - take everything Sutter says with a grain of salt.  He claims that he's not an alcoholic.  LIES.  Sutter is drunk throughout every page of the book.  I can't believe he gets away with it - he's drunk at work, during school, while driving... You'd think somebody would stage an intervention.  Sadly, Sutter doesn't have a strong support system.  Tim Tharp does a wonderful job of incorporating Sutter's broken family as a subplot while keeping the emphasis on Sutter's relationships.

       I am so frustrated at how likeable a character Sutter is, because I want to hate him.  (Be prepared for a rant here.)  He is drunk all the time, turns Aimee into a lush, doesn't care at all about those around him, and thinks the world revolves around him.  He breaks the law on a regular basis, he skips school, and he disregards authority.  And trust me, I could keep this list going.  But, Sutter's friendly attitude, hilarious anecdotes, and overall warm character makes him irresistible.  I'm sure that, although he has many, many flaws, Sutter would be a very fun friend to have in real life.

       Once I finished reading The Spectacular Now, I thought for a good five minutes about what the point of the book was.  I felt impacted, but I did not know how.  I was very disappointed at how the book ended, but only because I NEEDED to know what happened to all of the characters because I felt so emotionally attached to them.  I would highly recommend that any high schooler, especially boys, would read The Spectacular Now, but trust me when I say it leaves you questioning and wanting more.  My next step is to watch the movie adaptation, and I'm hoping that Miles Teller will portray Sutter to his full extent of awesomeness.

Happy reading!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Book Review: To All The Boys I've Loved Before

To All The Boys I've Loved Before
Title: To All The Boys I've Loved Before
Author: Jenny Han
Publication Date: April 15, 2014
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Genre: Realistic fiction
Pages: 288
Age Rating: Readers over 13
My Opinion: 9/10

Hi, Readers!

       Sometimes good books come from unexpected sources.  I was reading a Seventeen magazine (don't judge me!!!!), and I saw an ad for To All The Boys I've Loved Before.  After looking at the adorable cover and reading the short summary of the book, I took a picture of the cover with my phone and then forgot about it.  Finally, three months later, I got around to checking it out from the library, and boy, am I glad that I did.  This is possibly because I just finished reading an extremely boring book, but I was absolutely entranced by Jenny Han's light and funny style of writing.  I would highly recommend To All The Boys I've Loved Before to any high school girl.

       When Lara Jean's mother was still alive, she gave her a teal hat box and told her to put her most prized possessions inside.  Lara Jean takes her mom's advice and fills the box with five love letters.  However, these are no normal love letters - she writes each one when she is done being in love with a different boy and wants to move on.  She never expects anybody to read them.  So when the letters are accidentally mailed, well, things get a little crazy.  Each of the five boys reacts in a different way, and Lara Jean ends up in a love triangle that she never thought was possible.  She has to navigate these difficult relationships while taking care of her family at the same time, a feat that is practically impossible.

       My favorite part of the novel is that Jenny Han created characters that I fell in love with.  They are all so lifelike that when I was reading, I felt like I was actually hanging out with Lara Jean and her family.  My favorite character would probably be Lara Jean's little sister, Kitty.  She's a stereotypical younger sibling, always getting on everybody's nerves, but she is extremely intelligent and witty.  I also love the relationships between the characters.  Of course, Han focuses on the relationships between Lara Jean and the boys, but she also incorporates Lara Jean's relationship with her two sisters and her father into the plot.  Lara Jean's mourning of her mother is extremely realistic - she obviously misses her mother greatly, but she is not hung up on it and this seems to free up the story.  I'm so impressed with how Han incorporated a few major social issues into the book while keeping it so upbeat and positive.

       Lara Jean is just such a fantastic character that I could go on and on about her forever.  She is everything that a female protagonist should be - strong but caring, smart, and passionate.  Although she has a few flaws, they are flaws that the majority of high school girls can relate to.  Reading about Lara Jean falling in love for the first time made me feel butterflies in my stomach alongside her, and I was rooting for her relationship to work out the whole time.  I truly wanted Lara Jean to be happy, which is quite a feat considering she is a fictional character.

cookie       Just to clarify, though, To All The Boys I've Loved Before is only for a female audience.  Male readers definitely wouldn't enjoy it as much as I did.  I think that grown-ups would enjoy reading it and find it to be a cute book, but it is perfect for high school and even college-aged girls.  Now, every time one of my friends asks for a book suggestion, I am totally telling them to read To All The Boys I've Loved Before.

Happy reading!

P.S. I just found out there's a sequel coming out on my birthday next year!!!!!  I can't wait!  (P.S. I Still Love You, being released on April 21, 2015)

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Top Ten Characters Who I Would Totally Want To Be For Halloween

TTTHi, Readers!

       Three days and counting until the spookiest day of the year!  Sometimes when I'm reading, I discover certain characters that I wish I could be.  And what better holiday than Halloween to become somebody else for a night?  This week's Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish blog, challenged bloggers to create a list of the Top Ten Characters Who I Would Totally Want To Be For Halloween.  Here it goes!  By the way, if I've reviewed a book below, its title is linked to the post.

1. Bast from The Red Pyramid, by Rick Riordan

Talk about a new take on the classic cat costume!  Bast is the Egyptian Cat Goddess, and she first appears in the novel as an actual cat.  However, I would focus on Bast's human look in my costume by wearing animal prints and applying some killer cat-eye winged eyeliner.

2. Mad Ophelia from Hamlet, by Shakespeare

In my AP English class this year, we read Hamlet and watched three film adaptations.  Each film, specifically the Olivier, Gibson, and Branaugh, interpreted Ophelia's madness in a different manner.  I would create my own take of her insanity by emphasizing the make-up and wearing a mid-century gown.

3. Isaac from The Fault In Our Stars, by John Green

The sassy blind side-character from TFIOS would make a quirky and understated Halloween costume.  I would dress like the movie version of Isaac, wearing tinted Ray Bans and a classy grey blazer.  Plus, for dramatic effect, I'd wear a name tag saying, "Hi, my name is... Isaac" so that people wouldn't be bugging me all night about my costume.

Effie Trinket
4. Effie Trinket from The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins

I think I'm somewhat influenced by the movie adaptation of The Hunger Games for this costume, but all of the Capitol fashions inspire me.  Wearing one of Effie's trademark colorful wigs or insane dresses would be the perfect ensemble for a Halloween dance.

5. Aslan from The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, by C.S. Lewis

Another kick-butt cat that I'd love to dress up as for Halloween is Aslan.  This king of the jungle is literally the king, and his ferocity is unmatchable, both in the Narnia novels and the movies.  I think that in order to dress up as Aslan, I'd probably just end up dressing up like a lion and then adding sparkles onto my face to seem regal.

6. Luke from Dream Factory, by Brad Barkley and Heather Hepler

I guess this would be a good excuse to dress up as an adorable chipmunk for Halloween, and it has the bonus of an interesting back story behind it.  The only downside of this costume is that Luke is not a very well-known character, but maybe this would be a good opportunity to spread the word about my favorite book!

7. A fairy from Fablehaven, by Brandon Mull

I'm sure there are tons of people who dress up as fairies for Halloween.  However, Brandon Mull's fairies are special.  They each have a different theme, per say.  For example, there are ice fairies, fire fairies, etc.  Each one looks unique and fantastic.  If I was to dress up as one of these fairies, I would choose an ice fairy because the make-up and costume would be gorgeous.

8. Patty Farrell from Diary of a Wimpy Kid, by Jeff Kinney

This nerdy chic pre-teen is one of my favorite characters in both the books and the movie adaptations of Diary of a Wimpy Kid.  From her wrestling to her part in the school play to her tennis playing, Patty comes along with a variety of costumes that are all equally as hilarious.  I would definitely use her movie's trademark braids and bangs in my costume.

9. Max Ride from Maximum Ride, by James Patterson

Max is the perfect combination of hard and soft - an angel who dresses in punk rock clothing.  She certainly demonstrates girl power and toughness.  In order to dress up as Max, I would wear a leather biker jacket and acid wash skinny jeans, but I would complete the look with angel wings.

10. Olaf the Snowman from Frozen

Ok, I know Frozen isn't a book, but I have a reason for putting Olaf on the list.  Aside from being my favorite cartoon character, Olaf is adorable.  I saw a little girl dressed up as Olaf at church a couple of days ago, and the cuteness factor was overwhelming.  So therefore, Olaf is the best costume.  Case closed.

I hope that you have enjoyed my Top Ten Characters Who I Would Totally Want To Be For Halloween!  Make sure you comment below with a link to your own TTT list, or leave a comment/suggestion about mine.

Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 13, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? Say What You Will

Say What You Will
It's Monday!  What Are You Reading?Title: Say What You Will
Author: Cammie McGovern
Publication Date: June 3, 2014
Publisher: HarperTeen
Genre: Realistic fiction
Pages: 352
Age Rating: Readers over 14
My Opinion: 5/10

Hi, Readers!

       There are some topics that authors have to handle with the utmost care.  Some of these topics include depression, abuse, and in this case, disabilities.  If the authors think about every single element of the story and how it will affect readers, these novels can usually turn out to be the most impactful pieces of literature.  However, when they're not done right, they leave readers with a sour taste in their mouths.  For this It's Monday!  What Are You Reading?, I chose to review one of the more sour works, Say What You Will, by Cammie McGovern.  The blogging meme is hosted by Teach Mentor Texts, Book Journeys, and Unleashing Readers.

       Amy has been kidding herself her whole life.  She has never had a single friend, and yet she pretends to be happy each and every day.  She has cerebral palsy, a condition that she entirely accepts, but she wishes it wasn't so difficult to meet other children her age.  Before her senior year of high school, Amy decides to drop the act and asks her mom to hire student helpers to carry her books during the day.  In a sense, Amy's mom is paying these children to be her daughter's friends.  Amy emails one boy in particular, Matthew, and invites him to be a student helper.  She has been observing him for years and is thrilled when Matthew accepts the invitation.  On the other hand, Matthew thinks he's a regular teen trying to make some money by working for Amy.  He doesn't realize right away that he is struggling with OCD and that he severely needs help.  When Amy and Matthew begin working together, they seem to learn more about themselves than each other.  They form a tight bond, but struggles such as college applications and prom threaten to tear their friendship apart.

       The best part about McGovern's book would have to be its honesty.  McGovern certainly doesn't shy away from difficult topics in the novel, even if they make readers uncomfortable.  She also does an excellent job telling the story over a long period of time and showing the minute changes in the characters' relationships.  I also enjoyed the changing perspective, which switches between Matthew and Amy.  It's especially interesting because, unlike most books with duel narration, both Matthew and Amy have disabilities that they are struggling to cope with.

       However, there were some things about this book that particularly bugged me, which is most likely because it had the potential to be such a fantastic work of literature.  First of all, I wish that Amy's condition was clarified.  Maybe I didn't read carefully enough, but there was never a clear explanation of cerebral palsy.  I wanted to look up more information about it on the internet to fully understand the book, but the disability really should have been described in the first few pages of the book.  Another thing that I really disliked about Say What You Will is the fact that Amy's mom paid people to be her friends.  I totally understand that Amy struggled to fit in, but paying people to be her friends is such a cliche that Amy's mother should have known it was doomed to fail.  There are so many other options that Amy's mom could have explored to benefit her child.  For example, in my high school, there is a club called Best Buddies that pairs together individuals of different backgrounds to build relationships.  Instead of renting friends, Amy's mom should have focused more on this positive building of friendships that will last a lifetime, like in Best Buddies.  Third, although I liked McGovern's inclusion of emails and text messages from Amy to Matthew at first, it started to become overkill.  There were pages upon pages of unsent emails that took away from the action occurring in real life.  One last thing that I disliked was how Amy let random kids fill her walker with beer and sneak it into prom.  The idea is entirely degrading, and Amy is such a smart kid that I couldn't believe she went along with the plan.  Of course, author Cammie McGovern was trying to demonstrate how Amy would go to extremes to make "friends", but I wish that she could have shown this in a more appropriate manner.
Read this instead!

       Sorry for the rant, but I believe that because McGovern wrote about such a sensitive topic, it must be handled very carefully.  I truly believe that McGovern for the most part handled the topic respectfully, but there were just a few elements that I really disliked, and I mean no offense to her as an author because the rest of the book was good.  I did enjoy reading the novel and it opened my eyes to completely different lifestyles, but I just couldn't ignore certain aspects of the book.  At this point in time, I don't think I would recommend this book to others.  If you are looking for a book with a similar plot line, I would suggest Out Of My Mind, by Sharon M. Draper.

Happy reading!

Monday, September 29, 2014

New Release Book Review: Four

Title: Four: A Divergent Story Collection
Author: Veronica Roth
Publication Date: July 8, 2014
Publisher: HarperCollins
Genre: Dystopian, science fiction
Pages: 208
Age Rating: Readers over 13 due to some violence
My Opinion: 6/10

Hi, Readers!

       My first ever blog post was about Divergent, by Veronica Roth.  I loved the book's thrilling and mysterious plot line and fantastically developed characters.  When I heard that Veronica Roth had written a prequel of sorts to the series, I had to get my hands on it.  Four is a collection of mini-stories that tell the tale of Tobias Eaton's transformation from Erudite to Dauntless to Divergent.  Although it is not the most loquacious or descriptive novel, it stayed true to the Divergent series and will certainly please fans of Four and Tris.

Four       The Divergent series is written completely in the point of view of Tris Prior.  However, author Veronica Roth completely changed up the perspective of many memorable events from the novel and compiled them in a collection, titled Four.  It takes place over a time period of about three years, starting from Tobias's betrayal of his previous faction and ending with the upcoming revolution (which is at the beginning of Insurgent).  Four gives readers insight to his relationships with his faction members and his thoughts on Dauntless in general.

       One of the downsides of Four is that it seems like an afterthought to such a brilliantly written trilogy.  The novel includes minimal description, and it reads more like a play-by-play of events than a novel.  Veronica Roth missed out on the "show, not tell" idea, and she stated what happened over time instead of focusing in on specific moments.  However, I will take what I can get because I love how Roth still had enough ideas left in her Divergent toolbox to craft another book.  If only J.K. Rowling would do the same with Harry Potter!

Theo James
Theo James, who plays Four
in the Divergent movies
       Reading about about certain events from Four's perspective instead of Tris's was interesting.  He had a different viewpoint about his own fear landscape, and reading about how he fell for Tris from the male perspective was enlightening.  I wish that Roth would have focused more on Four's relationship with his father because nothing was ever resolved.  Also, I kept waiting for a different ending to the novel, and it seemed like it was cut short.  It should have taken place over the span of all three Divergent books instead of disjointedly covering one and a half of them.

       I would certainly recommend Four to any die-hard Divergent fans because they will not be disappointed.  On the other hand, if you haven't read the series, stay far away from Four.  You will be completely confused by the characters and events in the novel.  Some events are alluded to but never explained, such as when Edward was stabbed in the eye.  I repeat - if you haven't read Divergent, or at least seen the movie, DO NOT read Four.  If you have read Divergent and enjoyed it, though, definitely check out Roth's addition to the series.

Happy reading!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Book Review: Paper Towns

Paper TownsTitle: Paper Towns
Author: John Green
Publication Date: September 22, 2009
Publisher: Speak
Genre: Realistic fiction, mystery
Pages: 305
Age Rating: Readers over 12
My Opinion: 8/10

Hi, Readers!

       Don't worry, my obsession with reading every John Green book on the planet is almost over.  And that's not just because there are only a couple of his books left that I haven't read yet.  John Green is such an amazing author that reading too much of his works at one time makes other books seem insignificant.  I would recommend that anybody else who becomes obsessed with John Green should read his books once or twice a year so that they have more impact.  Paper Towns is probably one of my least favorite John Green books, but it still deserves an 8/10 because it is a phenomenal and realistic mystery story. 

Quote       Quentin Jacobson, also known as Q, is a fairly average, if not a little bit nerdy, high schooler.  He plays video games with his friends, complains about prom, and is about to graduate.  Ever since he was a little boy, Q has had an enormous crush on his next-door neighbor, Margo Roth Speigelman. When she shows up outside of his bedroom window in the middle of the night, Q follows her and embarks on the adventure of a lifetime.  However, the next morning at school, everything seems to go back to normal.  Q cannot figure out Margo's intentions, and when she mysteriously goes missing, he is more puzzled than ever.  He decides that it is up to him to find his missing neighbor, and Q's search helps him to discover just as much about himself as he does about Margo.

       Paper Towns is a mystery book in disguise.  In reality, it is all about Q's search for Margo, but John Green makes it seem like a coming of age story instead of a search.  He creates excellent characters who made me want to read more.  They were willing to follow Q on his road trip journey to find Margo, no matter what their parents said about the matter.  Q had some fantastic friends that always had his back, which is one aspect of the novel that is different than other John Green books.  Although the story has some spooky parts, it is overall a heartwarming road trip journey.

Nat Wolff
Nat Wolff, who will play Q
       As I mentioned before, all of John Green's books are so good that they cannot be read in a row.  All of his novels share similar plot lines and characters.  They are all great books and I would highly recommend them to anybody and everybody.  That being said, Paper Towns seemed to lack a little something that the other books had.  The whole time, I struggled to understand why Q loved Margo so much, when she constantly ignored him to be higher up the social ladder.  Margo's attitude at first reminded me of Into The Wild, but by the end of the book she seemed like a stuck up teenager looking for attention.  My tip is that when you are reading Paper Towns, use your judgement - going on a wild goose chase to find a missing girl isn't always the best idea.

       A movie adaptation based on Paper Towns is due to come out on July 31, 2015.  Nat Wolff, who played a side role in the John Green-based movie, The Fault In Our Stars, has been cast as Q.  I absolutely cannot wait to see how he makes the character of Q his own.  I believe that this movie adaptation could be a massive hit.  There are a number of scenes that will be filmed beautifully, and John Green's descriptions in the books will really come to life.  Also, the emotion of the characters will come across better on screen than it does in the book.  Now, I wonder who will play Margo Roth Speigelman.

Happy reading!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Book Review: Will Grayson, Will Grayson

Will Grayson, Will Grayson
Title: Will Grayson, Will Grayson
Author: John Green and David Levithan
Publication Date: April 6, 2010
Publisher: Dutton Children's
Genre: Realistic fiction
Pages: 304
Age Rating: Readers over 14
My Opinion: 8/10

Hi, Readers!

       Happy first day of school!  Now that kids are back in school, their thoughts are filled with friends, sports, and homework.  It's much more difficult to make time for a good book during the school year, but Will Grayson, Will Grayson is worth the effort.  This collaboration between John Green and David Levithan is a great coming of age novel infused with comedy on every page.  
A quote from Will Grayson

       When Will Grayson gets roped into attending an underground concert with his best friend, Tiny, he thinks that the evening will be fairly ordinary.  However, things take a turn for the unexpected as soon as the concert bouncer notices a mistake on Will Grayson's fake ID and doesn't let him in.  Will's friends ditch him and he is left wandering on the street.  He runs into a boy who asks if he is "Isaac".  Turns out, that boy is also named Will Grayson!  The two boys develop an unusual friendship and struggle to figure out their high school traumas, from romance to social media, together in this funny, soul searching novel that makes being different cool.

       Although Will Grayson, Will Grayson isn't John Green's most powerful, life changing novel, it is certainly entertaining.  The story is narrated off and on by both Will Graysons.  One narrates in all lower-case, which makes it easy to differentiate whose point of view the story is being told through at any given point.  This lower-case narration also adds an interesting twist to reading.
Will Grayson's pastime

       The characters in the novel are absolutely, positively lovable. My personal favorite (and the most popular) character would have to be Tiny, the first Will Grayson's best friend.  Tiny is extremely large and openly gay, and he speaks his mind without any second thoughts.  He does play along with some societal stereotypes, but he is still a character that I wish could come to life off of the book pages.  My second favorite character is the second Will Grayson because he manages to turn his life around from being a depressed loner to being a caring young man with some excellent friends.  He faces some hardships head on, such as coming out, with absolutely no help from his classmates at school.

       Sure, Will Grayson, Will Grayson isn't a prize-winning novel, but it is a very quirky book with realistic characters and a unique plot line.  I would recommend it to any high school student, male or female, and it has wide reader appeal.  Now I will be adding this novel to my list of favorite John Green books!

Happy reading!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Book Review: Elsewhere

Title: Elsewhere
Author: Gabrielle Zevin
Publication Date: May 15, 2007
Publisher: Square Fish
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 277
Age Rating: Readers over 12
My Opinion: 9/10

Hi, Readers!

       I recently saw a magazine article that discussed how a vacation can be influenced by what you read.  A good vacation is improved with a quality novel, while a bad vacation seems even worse if you've packed a boring book.  Luckily, I brought Elsewhere along on my vacation, and it entertained me through a couple of rainy days.  It is a lighthearted read that is at the same time  thought provoking.  Plus, Elsewhere's timeless qualities make it interesting for readers of all ages.

       Liz Hall gets into a biking accident and dies instantly at a mere fifteen years old.  Sounds like the end of her story, right?  Well, Liz wakes up on an enormous cruise ship that is traveling through an enormous ocean.  She can't remember how she has gotten there or where she is going.  After going exploring with a friendly roommate named Thandi and meeting the late musician, Curtis Jest, Liz comes to the realization that she is dead.  Of course, this discovery is not taken lightly.  The cruise ship finally reaches land, called Elsewhere, and Liz has no idea what is coming next.  When she is greeted by her deceased grandmother, Betty, who appears to only be thirty years old, she slowly begins to learn about life in Elsewhere.  However, her discoveries in Elsewhere are life-altering (or should I say death-altering?), and Liz's perspectives of life and death are changed forever.

       In this case, I don't feel that any summary of the novel could do it justice.  Gabrielle Zevin is able to create an entire alternate universe in a mere 277 pages.  She brings up questions such as what happens after death in a philosophical and respectful way.  One of Zevin's smartest decisions is to leave religion out of the picture - she therefore avoids upsetting readers with her creation of an afterlife.  Also, Zevin completely changes the rules of society in Elsewhere by making people age backwards and not care about money.  Although these concepts seem vague and difficult to comprehend, they are explained clearly in the novel and seem almost realistic.  Additionally, although Elsewhere is completely fictional, Zevin still deals with real-life issues such as depression and romance.  She perfectly blends the fantastic (talking animals, etc.) with the realistic.  

       One of the best parts about Elsewhere is that it is suitable for a wide audience.  Both teens and grown-ups alike will enjoy reading this fun and yet philosophical novel, both because of its interesting plot line and because of its lovable characters.  If you have any time left in your summer to read, I would highly recommend picking up a copy of Elsewhere.

Happy reading!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Book Review: Mojo

Title: Mojo
Author: Tim Tharp
Publication Date: April 8, 2014
Publisher: Ember
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 288
Age Rating: Readers over 14
My Opinion: 7/10

Hi, Readers!

       Every once and a while, I enjoy reading a good mystery book.  Trying to figure out the culprit before the main character solves the mystery is a lot of fun.  In the novel Mojo, author Tim Tharp includes a great mix of mystery and comedy to create a lighthearted and entertaining read.  However, some of his characters were not my favorite.

missing girl       Dylan is an ordinary high school boy who enjoys writing for the school newspaper and hanging out with his best friends, Audrey and Randy.  However, when Dylan finds the dead body of his high school classmate discarded in a dumpster, he is worried, to say the least.  Therefore, as soon as a girl from a local private school goes missing, Dylan feels obligated to investigate and he believes the cases may be intertwined.  He starts writing a column in the school newspaper about the disappearance, but he becomes more involved in the case than expected.  His investigation takes him to Gangland, a dangerous club created by students from the private school.  Faced with rich kids, overzealous parents, and the police, Dylan must figure out who he can trust while attempting to solve the mystery of the missing girl.

       The best part about Tim Tharp's writing is that he seamlessly integrates comedy into his storytelling.  Some of the situations that Dylan must face made me laugh out loud.  For instance, Dylan has an obsession with cheeseburgers, so whenever he feels passion for something, he connects it back to his love of burgers.  In addition, Tharp uses his comedic style in order to deeply develop his characters.  He even uses a joking manner when describing characters.  Specifically, Tharp described Randy as "wearing a cheesy collared shirt that was unbuttoned far enough to expose his pale bony chest.  I should also point out that he'd been trying to grow a mustache... which had the texture of armpit hair.  Apparently, he thought it was suave."  Just imagine a whole book filled with descriptions as wacky as these.

       However, one drawback of the novel is that none of the characters really stood out.  Although Tharp made Dylan into a funny character, I did not particularly like him.  Many of his decisions and thoughts made me mad.  For instance, it took Dylan the entire novel to figure out that the 'popular crowd' was using him for their own personal advantage, even though all of the signs were there.  I got frustrated that Dylan was self-centered throughout his search for the missing girl, and it got to the point where I wondered why he was even looking for her in the first place.

       If you are a mystery lover, Mojo would be an entertaining read for you.  I enjoyed reading it and it made me laugh, but the novel lacked a certain something to transform it from good to great.

Happy reading!


Friday, July 18, 2014

Book Review: Loud Awake and Lost

Loud Awake and Lost
Title: Loud Awake and Lost
Author: Adele Griffin
Publication Date: November 12, 2013
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Genre: Realistic fiction
Pages: 304
Age Rating: Readers over 14
My Opinion: 5/10

Hi, Readers!  

       Have you ever read one of those books that just flat out confuses you?  Well, I felt that way about Loud Awake and Lost, by Adele Griffin.  The novel's plot line was so intricate that I lost track of what was going on about about three quarters of the way through.

       After Ember gets in a terrible car accident, she forgets the past two months of her life.  Her doctor believes that she is not ready to handle the trauma and stress of what has occurred and that her amnesia will be temporary.  However, knowing this does not help Ember when she attempts to reintegrate herself into her former lifestyle after eight months in a rehabilitation center.  Ember comes home and is enthusiastically greeted by all of her friends, but she can tell that something is off.  She discovers that she had been acting "differently" before the accident - dressing in grunge clothing, listening to new music, and even sneaking around with a boy.  As Ember attempts to recollect her pre-accident memories, she meets a boy named Kai who seems to hold the key to past secrets that her family is hiding.

Loud Awake and Lost could rival PLL
       When I finished the novel, I sat on my bed for a minute and tried to wrap my head around the ending.  I just couldn't figure out what happened until I went step by step through Ember's story.  I understood the gist of the conclusion, but I was not satisfied and there seemed to be a number of loose ends throughout the novel that were never tied up.  Also, I did not find the characters of Loud Awake and Lost particularly likable.  In particular, Kai seemed like a big jerk because author Adele Griffin tried to make him too mysterious and manly.  

       When I attempted to explain the plot of this novel to a friend, she agreed that it was much too complex to be put in writing.  Instead, she suggested that the plot line would make for an excellent TV show.  Once I heard that idea, I agreed completely.  Loud Awake and Lost would make an amazing ABC Family show that would bring in fans of Pretty Little Liars; it just doesn't flow very well in novel form.

Happy reading!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Book Review: An Abundance of Katherines

An Abundance of Katherines
Title: An Abundance of Katherines
Author: John Green
Publication Date: September 21, 2006
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Genre: Realistic fiction
Pages: 229
Age Rating: Readers over 13
My Opinion: 9/10

Hi, Readers!

       Lately, I have been addicted to novels by John Green.  Seriously addicted.  They are the only books that I want to read because Green creates characters that seem to leap off of the pages and come to life.  I just finished reading An Abundance of Katherines, my third John Green novel, and I am yearning for more.

John Green quote       Colin, a washed up child prodigy, only dates girls named Katherine.  Not Catherine, or Cathy, or Katie.  He has dated nineteen Katherines since third grade, and each one has dumped him.  So when Colin's best friend, Hassan, suggests a road trip after the nineteenth break-up, he grudgingly accepts.  The two arrive in a tiny country town, and their lives change completely when they meet Lindsey Lee Wells, a teenager who takes them in and gets them jobs.  All the while, Colin is still smarting from his break-up, so he decides to create a mathematical theorem to predict future relationships.  Colin has to work through his own self-confidence issues as he makes his own way in the world and attempts to figure out who he really is.

       An Abundance of Katherines is absolutely stuffed with quirky characters.  Each and every character has something (or multiple things) about him that makes him unique and interesting to read about.  For instance, Colin is a child prodigy who can anagram anything, so Green explores ideas such as Colin feeling inadequate when he cannot solve a problem.  Also, Green includes flashbacks throughout the novel to Colin's past relationships with Katherines, and they are told in an endearing and funny way.  Each Katherine has affected Colin and he has loved them all, so the break-ups influence who he becomes as a person.

       Although An Abundance of Katherines is not John Green's strongest novel, it is still an excellent book that made me laugh out loud.  It is not as serious as other John Green novels, and it does not deal with as many social issues, but everybody could use a lighthearted read every once and a while.  With such an entertaining plot line and hilarious characters, Green couldn't go wrong.

Happy reading!