Review: The Impossible Knife Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson

The Details

Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
Published:  January 7th, 2014
Genres:  YA, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, Mental Health
My Rating: 4.75 Stars

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GoodReads Blurb

For the past five years, Hayley Kincain and her father, Andy, have been on the road, never staying long in one place as he struggles to escape the demons that have tortured him since his return from Iraq. Now they are back in the town where he grew up so Hayley can attend school. Perhaps, for the first time, Hayley can have a normal life, put aside her own painful memories, even have a relationship with Finn, the hot guy who obviously likes her but is hiding secrets of his own.

Will being back home help Andy’s PTSD, or will his terrible memories drag him to the edge of hell, and drugs push him over? The Impossible Knife of Memory is Laurie Halse Anderson at her finest: compelling, surprising, and impossible to put down.

My Review

Laurie Halse Anderson’s books hold a special place in my reader’s heart. Her books always touch on difficult issues that aren’t discussed fully, in my opinion, in the YA community, yet are issues that teens and young adults face. Most of us know of or have read Speak, Anderson’s amazing book about a young girl dealing with the aftermath rape. Speak is top 10 best books I’ve ever read. Anderson also tackled eating disorders in Wintergirls. I found that book heartbreaking and brilliant. The Impossible Knife Memory discusses PTSD, and mental health issues is a way only Laurie Halse Anderson can deliver.

Hayley’s voice throughout the story stuck with me. She has a pessimism about life, that feels so real. She’s snarky. And everything about her worldview makes sense as we are introduced to her father, a man who is a war vet suffering from PTDS.

To be honest, I don’t know much about PTDS, I do know that Laurie Halse Anderson does research that anyone who does research should be envious of. I have been following her blog for a long time, and while she was writing this book as well as Wintergirls, she shared some of her research and discussed her ways of learning and understanding the issues that she was writing about.

Hayley’s snark and voice hides deep issues that she is struggling with while trying to deal with her father and what he’s living through. Hayley trying to fix everything and everyone while not dealing with herself is, just, so relatable.

This book is wonderful, I could never praise Laurie Halse Anderson enough. This book is another excellent example proving that Anderson is one of this generation’s best and most powerful writers.

Have you read this book? Have you read Laure Halse Anderson’s other books? What did you think?

 

Until next time Internet,

 

Deanna

 

Book Review: Panic by Lauren Oliver

The Details

Publisher:  Harper Collins
Published:  March 4, 2014
Genres:  Contemporary, YA, Mystery
My Rating: 4 Stars

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Panic began as so many things do in Carp, a dead-end town of 12,000 people in the middle of nowhere: because it was summer, and there was nothing else to do.

Heather never thought she would compete in Panic, a legendary game played by graduating seniors, where the stakes are high, and the payoff is even higher. She’d never thought of herself as fearless, the kind of person who would fight to stand out. But when she finds something, and someone, to fight for, she will discover that she is braver than she ever thought.

Dodge has never been afraid of Panic. His secret will fuel him, and get him all the way through the game, he’s sure of it. But what he doesn’t know is that he’s not the only one with a secret. Everyone has something to play for.

For Heather and Dodge, the game will bring new alliances, unexpected revelations, and the possibility of first love for each of them—and the knowledge that sometimes the very things we fear are those we need the most.

My Review

I love Lauren Oliver. I feel in love with her writing with Before I Fall, her Deliurm trilogy cemented my love of her work, and Panic continued the series of fantastic Lauren Oliver works.

Panic is the kind of story that reminds me about small town living. I am from a small town, and I’m sure if we had a cliff to jump off of, we would have had something like the panic. We have a river here, but not much of a cliff. The high rock “cliff” we have is too close to the main road for a mass amount of kids to jump off of without the cops showing up. Small town living is a special kind of living, and I think Oliver really hits the nail on the head with Carp. I feel like small towns get romanticized a lot when in real life it’s a lot of hanging out in the Walmart parking lot and gossiping about what house just might be a crack den.

I don’t really think the blurb really does justice to the story. On the Goodreads page, many people ask if this book is Hunger Games like, which it isn’t. The Panic isn’t a life and death thing, it’s a “we’re bored” in a small town thing. Just something to do it the summer after senior year.  The seniors participate in some very dangerous things for money. The seniors put money in a pot, and the winner of the Panic gets the money and for many of the kids participating in Panic need that money to go to college and get the hell out of Carp. That seems to be the main motive over everyone involved in the game.

I loved characters. Heather’s home life is terrible. She reminded me a little of Eleanor in Eleanor and Park– very similar family dynamic. Dodge has very different motives than Heather, but both are easy to relate to and empathize with. The story switches between their narratives, telling their stories about why the Panic is so important to them and how they prepare and experience with the games.

Overall I loved this book. I haven’t read much like it. There are elements for many different stories that are melted together to form a great story with a little bit of a mystery intertwined. I think it’s worth reading if you’re looking for something a little different with relatable characters and an interesting story.

Until next time Internet,

Deanna

 

 

 

Audiobook review: The Handmaid’s Tale

The Details

Publisher:  Fawcett Books
Published: December 12th 1986 by Fawcett Books
Genres:  Fantasy, Dystopia, Science Fiction
My Rating: 5 sold Stars

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Goodreads Blurb

A gripping vision of our society radically overturned by a theocratic revolution, Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale has become one of the most powerful and most widely read novels of our time.

Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead, serving in the household of the enigmatic Commander and his bitter wife. She may go out once a day to markets whose signs are now pictures because women are not allowed to read. She must pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, for in a time of declining birthrates her value lies in her fertility, and failure means exile to the dangerously polluted Colonies. Offred can remember a time when she lived with her husband and daughter and had a job before she lost even her own name. Now she navigates the intimate secrets of those who control her every move, risking her life in breaking the rules.

Like Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, The Handmaid’s Tale has endured not only as a literary landmark but as a warning of a possible future that is still chillingly relevant.

My Review

I had heard a lot about this story recently because of the upcoming Hulu show. Also, it’s a Dystopian novel, and with the current culture of the universe, dystopian novel recommendations are all over my facebook feed.  So I picked bought it with my March audible credit and listened to the narration by Clare Danes.

What I loved about this book is that Offred isn’t a Katniss. She isn’t the person who “takes down” the man. She’s a cog in the world; she doesn’t fight the power. She wants to, but she doesn’t know what to do and is afraid that if she steps out of line, she will die, or her daughter will be killed. She follows the rules for the most part. She does what she’s told. I’ve read so many dystopian novels where a 17-year-old girl overtakes the government that having a woman that works against the system in a different way was refreshing and different.

This book is terrifying. The things that humans are capable of are terrifying. This book is about 30 years old, and there are times when you read a book that “old” if feels dated, watching movies from the late eighties feel and look dated, but this book has the feel of a story that fits directly into the current time line.

From what I’ve seen on Goodreads, this book has an odd formatting, but I loved listening to it. Claire Danes doesn’t do crazy voices but does change her tone when she talks different characters words.

Overall, I believe this book is up with 1984 for best dystopian novels that I’ve read. Definitely worth reading (or listening to if you’re into that). It made my long car rides back and forth to work bearable.

 

Until next time Internet,

Deanna

 

 

 

AudioBook Review: Jane Eyre read by Thandie Newton

Since Jane Eyre was published in 1847, I’m going to do this review a little different from my regular reviews. I’m going to assume that most people who are reading this blog post have heard of this book, if not read it, so I’m going to skip over the part where I post the book details and the good reads summary. That being said, there are spoilers, but the book is 170 years old, so I think I passed the mark of which it’s okay to talk about a book with spoilers included.

I have been listening to this book for about a month. It’s a little over 19 hours long and perfect for my to and from work traveling. I am new to audiobooks, so this was my first novel of this kind, where the book was “performed” instead of simply read. I mostly listen to historical biographies and memoirs. I’ve listened to the first Welcome to Night Vale novel, but that wasn’t exactly “performed” the way this one was.

To be perfectly honestly, I had never read any of the classic books. I have a very hard time reading Victorian era writing. It’s sometimes hard for me to follow, so I figured why not have it read to me? This was a perfect decision. Without the audio, I wouldn’t have finished the book.

I did enjoy this book, which I need to say before I say other things about it which make it sound like I didn’t enjoy it. I mean, it doesn’t have a swoon-worthy romance, in my opinion, but an understandable one. I can see what Jane would see in Rochester, but he’s not my type, which for me, is a large part of my categorizing swoon-worthiness. I understand why there are many people that love this novel. I am, however on the like side.

There is something about audiobooks that make books like these easier to understand, although there was a part when I was confused about what was happening, so I googled it and the character named was spelled very differently than I imagined it was. So I assumed it was a different character then went back and listened to the chapter over because I couldn’t remember meeting this new character only to discover that nope, I was right her cousin is asking her to marry him.

Why? Why is the woman’s first cousin so instant that she marry him? Why is everything I’ve read about this book taking that as a viable option of life for Jane? Why are so many people in her live telling her to marry her cousin? Don’t marry your cousin, Jane.  That part is so weird. If anyone can explain this to me, I will be so thankful. Was it a thing that happened in the 1740’s? I know that it happened a lot in royal families, but Jane Eyre is not from a royal or even a very well off family. Also, why is St. John pronounced like that? *shakes fist at Victorian England*

I did enjoy it, but this book is moderately ridiculous, why are there so many references to ghosts and vampires? Ghosts are not important to the story? Why didn’t Mr. Rochester smoother Bertha with a pillow in her sleep? That’s what I would have done. Locking her in a room for 11 years seems excessive, if I were locked in a room for 11 years, I would attempt to burn down the house I was a prisoner in multiple times as well. Murdering her or sending her to an asylum would have prevented the weird cousin marriage situation. The editor in my wants to read line edit it and send it back to Ms. Bronte for fixes. Large passages highlighted and sent back with a big question mark next to them. I’m assuming my confusion about these themes is just my unfamiliarity with the genre, but still, weird.

What I really want to discuss in this post is Thandie Newton’s reading. I mentioned in a post before that finding the exact right voice to read a book in my head or with an audiobook is incredibly important. Thandie Newton has the perfect accent for this book, and the voices she does, so great. It was so easy to follow with her voices; to tell who was speaking without the dialogue tag. I was a big fan of her Mrs. Fairfax voice and her Mr. Rochester voice. The voices add so much to the narrative.

Overall, I would give the book itself 3.5 stars for the narrative, but Thandie Newton’s performance kicks it up to a 4.5-star story. If you like the classics but have a hard time reading the flowery langue, I recommend her as a narrator. (Honestly, I recommend audiobooks as a whole if you have an issue with this kind of writing.)

I am looking forward to listening to more classic literature from audible soon. A friend of mine told me to listen to Wuthering Heights, so that is probably going to be my next buy in Audible when I get my monthly credit.

Until next time Internet,

Deanna

Review: Frost Blood Elly Blake

The Details:

Publisher: Little Brown Books for Young Readers
Published: January 10th, 2017
Genres: YA, fantastic, magic, romance
My Rating: 4 Stars

Goodreads Blurb:

The frost king will burn.

Seventeen-year-old Ruby is a Fireblood who has concealed her powers of heat and flame from the cruel Frostblood ruling class her entire life. But when her mother is killed trying to protect her, and rebel Frostbloods demand her help to overthrow their bloodthirsty king, she agrees to come out of hiding, desperate to have her revenge.

Despite her unpredictable abilities, Ruby trains with the rebels and the infuriating—yet irresistible—Arcus, who seems to think of her as nothing more than a weapon. But before they can take action, Ruby is captured and forced to compete in the king’s tournaments that pit Fireblood prisoners against Frostblood champions. Now she has only one chance to destroy the maniacal ruler who has taken everything from her—and from the icy young man she has come to love.

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My Review:

Last week I discussed Sci-Fi and Fantasy novels that I’ve read and enjoyed, and I’m not sure if it was 100% clear in that post, but that particular genre isn’t exactly my favorite of all time. This book coming shortly after a reading a book with similar but not the same storylines, I was a little weary about whether or not this was going to be my cup of tea. However, I was pleasantly surprised.

This story starts with the heroine, Ruby, being discovered as a Fire Blood in a Frost Blood kingdom. She has the power to control Fire, and this is a threat to the people who can control Frost who rule the kingdom. Acceptable and plausible plot, I like it.

After Ruby’s mother is killed by the frost blood king’s men, she is taken to jail and held there for 5 months. Durning this time, she is tortured, cold water is thrown on her so she can’t produce fire. Then she’s rescued. During the time while she is traveling it is discussed that she is physically weak (and also smells because she hasn’t bathed in 5 months. This was an important part for me, and I was very pleased the Elly Blake included it. Thank you for realism Ms. Blake.)

Ruby is rescued by a teenage-ish age guy and a bunch of monks. The teenage-ish age guy Arcus wears a mask and hood all the time that covers his face, so he obviously looks like this:

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I mean, that’s what I saw in my head when Ruby describes him. Arcus is a super strong frost blood, and together with help from the monks, Ruby learns to use her power and gets stronger because there is a good chance that she probably is the child talked about it prophesy because why not.

Just as Ruby is getting to the pivotal moment of her training, she is captured but the Frost Blood King, then major spoilers, so that’s the end of my talking about the plot.

Real talk though, I enjoyed this book. Parts of it were a little cliche, but, you know, trappings of genre. It wasn’t super predictable, the characters were well formed. Although the love interest was clearly Kylo Ren, he grows on you over the story. I like his character arc.

Ruby is a strong narrator, who feels like a “regular” 17-year-old girl, her conflicted feelings about Kylo Ren/ Arcus, her want to revenge her mother, her feelings of inadequacy, she feels like a real person.

Overall this book is well written and enjoyable. I recommend it to fans of the fantasy genre and those who are on the fence about whether or not fantasy is something you don’t exactly love. It’s just a good book.

Goodreads

Until next time Internet,

Deanna

 

 

 

Review: Hate List by Jennifer Brown

The Details:

Publisher: Little Brown Books for Young Readers
Published: October 5, 2010
Genres: YA, realistic fiction,  mental health
My Rating: 5 Stars

Goodreads Blurb:

Five months ago, Valerie Leftman’s boyfriend, Nick, opened fire on their school cafeteria. Shot trying to stop him, Valerie inadvertently saved the life of a classmate but was implicated in the shootings because of the list she helped create. A list of people and things she and Nick hated. The list he used to pick his targets.

Now, after a summer of seclusion, Val is forced to confront her guilt as she returns to school to complete her senior year. Haunted by the memory of the boyfriend she still loves and navigating rocky relationships with her family, former friends and the girl whose life she saved, Val must come to grips with the tragedy that took place and her role in it, in order to make amends and move on with her life.

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Review

You know when you are 6 pages into a book, and you have to put it down because you’re thinking “This is probably the best book I’ve read in the last 5 years.” That was this book.

To be fair, this book may not be for everyone, it does deal with a school shooting and the aftermath of that so I can see how it would be hard for some to read, but I found it powerful and well written.

I hadn’t read a book that deals with this topic before, and honestly growing up in the time that I have I’m sort of surprised by that. Durning, my middle school and high school years school shootings, happened seemingly monthly. So that I had never picked up a book or come across books that focused on this topic seems a little odd. I’m sure there are plenty of them, I just hadn’t read them. So this book caught me by surprise by how deep and thoughtful it was about a topic that I’m sure wasn’t easy to write about.

The book is set up to show what happened leading up to the shooting as well as what is happening in the present. I can’t imagine what someone like Val is going through, but
Jennifer Brown takes this terrible event and makes you feel for someone who was involved. Val didn’t kill anyone, but her classmates know what she was involved in some way.

The journey that Val goes through, mental and physical, is so well done. Val is struggling to understand what happened, why her boyfriend did what he did, dealing with the fact that people are dead because of something she was a part of, even if she believed what they were talking about would never have happened.

Val is the type of character that I connect with. She’s on the outside of the social circles, unpopular, misunderstood. How she re-creates herself when she gets back to school is powerful. She connects with one of the popular girls when she gets back to school, something that Val feels is out of pity or to make the popular girl feel better about herself, but that relationship is the center of the changes in Val. It’s just so powerful.

This book plays around a lot with character names, which is something that I like to do with my characters. Val’s last name being “Leftman” and essentially every other character’s name has significance. To me, that’s the sign of a writer who spends a great deal of time thinking about a working with their characters.

I highly recommend this book to anyone. It’s a powerful and emotional read that made me sit back and think when I was finished with it. I own some of Jennifer Brown’s other books, but they are sitting in my gigantic TBR pile, I do look forward to reading more by this author.

Goodreads

Until Next time Internet,

Deanna

Review: The Bermudez Triangle / On the Count of Three by Maureen Johnson

This is the same book that for some reason was renamed. The copy I have is called The Bermudez Triangle, so that’s what I will call it, but it is currently titled On The Count of Three

The Details:

 

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The Details:

Publisher: Razorbill
Published: October 6, 2015
Genres: Romance, Young Adult, LGBT+
My Rating: 4.5 Stars

Goodreads Blurb:

What happens when your two best friends fall in love…with each other?

“Their friendship went so far back, it bordered on the Biblical — in the beginning, there was Nina and Avery and Mel.” So says high school senior Nina Bermudez about herself and her two best friends, nicknamed “The Bermudez Triangle” by a jealous wannabe back on Nina’s eleventh birthday. But the threesome faces their first separation when Nina goes away the summer before their senior year. And in ten short weeks, everything changes.

Nina returns home bursting with stories about Steve, the quirky yet adorable eco-warrior she fell for hard while away. But when she asks her best friends about their summer romances, an awkward silence follows.

Nina soon learns the shocking truth when she sees Mel and Avery…kissing. Their friendship is rocked by what feels like the ultimate challenge. But it’s only the beginning of a sometimes painful, sometimes funny, always gripping journey as three girls discover who they are and what they really want.

My Review:

Being honest, I haven’t read a lot of books with queer characters. I haven’t actively avoided them or anything, I just haven’t read them. From what I understand, there is a lack of LGBT+ books, especially in YA. However, this book is good and also happens to have a story that centers around sexual identity and accepting yourself. There are some things that 12 years later read much more problematic than it did in 2005, but I still think it captures figuring out who you are when you are 17.

A great deal of the story is about the friendship between the three girls. Can it survive, firstly, a huge secret as Mel and Avery hide their relationship that started over the summer while Nina was at smart camp and, also, the break-up?

Each girl goes through a complete transformation through the story, which I think is a brilliant part of the book. I could have been very easy to focus just on Avery’s journey as I think her’s is the biggest, but Johnson chose to write a rotating narrative that highlights each of the girls.

Reading Mel’s discovery of her sexuality was powerful, hers is a story of self-discovery and acceptance of herself.

Nina’s is a story of learning to see people, especially people close to her differently than she had before. She needs to accept chance and learn that even though people seem different, they are fundamentally the same.

Avery, oh Avery,  her story is so complex, and it’s with hers that some of the now problematic storylines lay. She doesn’t want to label herself, which I loved, but I can see how some could find it problematic. Johnson talked about this a little in a Twitter conversation years ago, and I couldn’t find it. Mostly because it was in, like, 2010 and if you don’t follow Maureen on Twitter,  you don’t understand the sheer volume of tweets she has.

This book also does a deep dive into female friendships. Out of all of Johnson’s books, I think this one does the best at exploring how girls relate to each other. Female friendships are complex and hard to quantify. I thin that she does an amazing job showing the different sides of those kinds of relationships.

Overall, I loved this book. I found it just really compelling and a quick read overall. Most of Maureen Johnson’s books are quick fun reads, this one is rather deep for her line of work. I recommend highly.

Maureen Johnson is my favorite author, I’ll be writing more about her on Thursday if you want to know more about that.

Until next time Internet,

Deanna