Monthly Archives: February 2013

Sickened by Julie Gregory (with Screamin’ Beans!)

Sickened

“Truth is whatever your mind believes.”
-Julie Gregory

Munchausen by proxy is one of the most extreme cases of abuse, but is also somewhat unheard of. Sickened gives a firsthand account of a young girl whose mother took her to numerous doctors with both inflicted and fabricated symptoms, begging for a solution. Complete with doctors’ reports, Julie’s story is both heartbreaking and fascinating, and sometimes even unbelievable.

After reading A Child Called “It” less than a month ago, I spent a lot of time comparing the two books while I was reading. Surprisingly, they’re pretty similar, but they’re also very different.

When I first picked up Sickened, I assumed the entire book would be about Munchausen by proxy. There are actually a number of different kinds of abuse, not only regarding one person, and not only inflicted by her mother. Although most of the abuse in A Child Called “It” was much worse than this, the abuse in this book surprised me much more, since Julie’s parents (mostly her mother, but her dad was sometimes involved) abused a number of people.

I know this is kind of a short review, but there’s not much else to say. Sickened is a surprising, twisted account of a nightmare of a childhood, and should be picked up by anyone who read  A Child Called “It”.

And, finally, since this is my 25th post and I’m pretty excited about being a fourth of the way to my goal, here’s a link to Screamin’ Beans. I won’t tell you what it is, other than that it’s interactive, hilarious, and you’ll probably want to wear headphones to play if you’re trying to be quiet. Enjoy! 🙂

-J

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One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

“I had to keep on acting deaf if I wanted to hear at all.”
-Chief Bromden

When I brought this book to school to read, a few people came up to me and said, “I watched that movie; it was awesome!” Hearing so many people say that, I was excited to read the book. Usually if the movie’s good, the book is even better, right? I haven’t watched the movie yet, but I can say I enjoyed the book.

The novel is narrated by Chief Bromden, a Native American who pretends to be deaf and mute, allowing him to hear the hospital’s secrets. He tells the story of McMurphy, a troublemaking gambler who transfers into the hospital near the beginning of the book. (I don’t know what else I can say about this book without giving away any key plot points or spoilers, so I’ll just leave it at that.)

This is the kind of book that just makes you want to keep reading. The reasoning behind the fact that it took me five days to finish isn’t because I disliked the book; it’s just really long (nearly 300 pages, with extremely small font) and I’ve been busy over the past week. That’s all. And though I could complain that the book was too long or dragged on at parts, I won’t focus on that at all, since those are pretty much the only flaws I could find within the book.

However, there is one flaw I’m going to complain about a little bit. This book was written in the sixties, so obviously the writing style is a little different from the current YA books I’ve been reading. Also, it’s more of an adult book, so the tone is going to be different as well. That being said, I still believe it should have been clearer at some points. After reading a book, I’ll usually go onto Wikipedia and read the plot synopsis to make sure I didn’t miss anything. I actually missed a lot in this one. Maybe I wasn’t paying close enough attention, but I think Ken Kesey should have been a little clearer in some of the major plot points.

Well, that’s about all. I’m off to watch the movie now, which, judging by how many people told me it was great, I’m very excited to see. See you in a few days!

-J

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What Happened to Cass McBride? by Gail Giles

What Happened to Cass McBride

“I was begging him. I knew it would get me nowhere. I watch TV. I read those kinds of books. The bad guy likes the begging… He gets off on it.”
-Cass McBride

After reading this book and Shattering Glass, I’ve developed a particular liking for Gail Giles. What Happened to Cass McBride? is really a book you keep thinking about long after it’s over, and those kinds of books are always the best. I have to say, this is one of the few books that actually scared me, in a way– reading about this kind of topic with Gail Giles’s descriptiveness makes you really feel what it’s like to be trapped like Cass, and that’s kind of scary sometimes.

David Kirby killed himself not long after being rejected by Cass McBride, the most popular girl in school. Although there’s no way of telling, Cass can’t shake the feeling that his death is her fault. But David’s brother Kyle believes Cass must pay for her actions– so he buries her alive.

One thing I really like about this book is how it switches between three different points of view. It goes from Cass’s perspective of being buried alive, to Ben’s perspective of the investigation, to Kyle’s perspective after the whole ordeal as he’s being interviewed by the police. It’s a really strong novel, and I loved every second of it.

-J

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The Dream Where the Losers Go by Beth Goobie

The Dream Where the Losers Go

“…What’s real is real. You don’t need to hold on to the echo.”
-Elwin “Lick” Serkowski

After cutting her wrists as a suicide attempt, Skey Mitchell was taken to a group home to recover mentally. She spends her time there slipping into her dream world full of dark tunnels and cave wall markings, enjoying the one place where she can escape from her thoughts. Then she finds a boy in her dream, wandering the same tunnels. No longer alone in her escape from reality, Skey tries to help the boy as she deals with her problems outside of the dream as well.

This was so difficult for me to read. I hated every character in the book, even the “good guys”, which made it hard for me to feel bad for the characters after something unexpected happens. I saw every “twist” coming from a mile away, too, making the book just plain boring.

The summaries make it sound like the tunnel dreams are the main plot of the book, but really they aren’t. I tried my best to give a good summary without any spoilers, so I probably made it sound the same way, but the main plot is actually about Skey’s trouble going back to school after being in the group home for so long. I guess it doesn’t really matter, though, because either way the book was dreadful.

-J

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Break by Hannah Moskowitz

Break

“Break a body, grow a better body. The worse you’re hurt, the stronger you get.”
-Jonah McNabb

First thing’s first: I didn’t just finish this book today. I read and finished this book on Thursday (February 14), but couldn’t post a review since I’ve been having some trouble with WordPress on my laptop. This is the first day it’s actually worked for me since then, and I don’t know when or if it’ll stop working again. So if I don’t post for a while again, that’s most likely why. If that happens, I’ll be sure to post the real date I finished the book (more for me than you, since I’m trying to keep track of how many books I read this year, and I’ll post that list in my Pages soon).

Break is about a kid named Jonah who is trying to break every bone in his body. His home life is too much to handle, and since broken bones grow back stronger than they were before, he believes he will be strong enough to face his problems after his bones heal. But when his self-destructive behaviors begin to hurt everyone around him rather than help, will he give them up in favor of an alternative source of strength?

Judging by the fact that I read this book in less than a day, it’s needless to say how much I enjoyed it. Although some of Jonah’s bone-breaking methods were a little gruesome to read, it was really interesting to read about all of the different ways to break he thinks of. Also, for this being Hannah Moskowitz’s first book, I have to say she did an awesome job.

The overall plot was great, especially since you can understand Jonah’s reasoning for what he does to an extent. I know it would be unbelievably hard for me in his position, but I know I’d never hurt himself in the ways he thinks up. Thinking about the part with the pool makes even me shudder, and I’m a horror film addict. Gore and pain should be something I’m used to, but that was just too much to handle. I could almost actually feel his pain.

I thought the ending was a little abrupt, but leading up to the very end was great. The trouble he accidentally causes in the hospital is a great sort of twist, and I really enjoyed it. I think this will be another book that I’ll end up reading over and over again.

-J

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Luna by Julie Anne Peters

Luna

““Me? I had no dreams. No longings. Dreams only set you up for disappointment. Plus, you had to have a life to have dreams of a better life.”
-Regan O’Neill

After reading Parrotfish and not liking it as much as I thought I would, I immediately thought Luna would be the same way. Boy, was I wrong on this one.

Luna is told from the perspective of Regan, a girl with a secretly transgendered brother. During the day, her brother Liam bottles up his true self and acts as people expect him to; but at night he becomes Luna, unbeknownst to everyone but his sister. Finally, Luna decides to reveal herself, but is everyone else prepared to hear the truth?

Certain points in this book made me truly understand what Liam/Luna had been going through his/her whole life. The sleepover,  the incident in the pool (no spoilers in this review, so you’ll just have to find out yourself if you really want to know)… if things were that difficult for me, I don’t know how I’d live. Granted, Liam is depressive and suicidal when he bottles things up for too long. And although I’d never encourage anyone to attempt suicide, I do understand where he’s coming from. Transgenders/transexuals/cross-dressers have it hard. (Different terms are appropriate for different people, so I try to include all of them.)

Basically, it’s an awesome book. There’s lots of drama (the good kind), and no laughable-when-trying-to-be-serious lines. I really like how Julie Anne Peters decided to write the book through someone else’s eyes, but still captures the character of Liam/Luna perfectly. So overall, I’d just like to say how unsure about this book I was, but how much I ended up liking it. Just in case you’re the same way, please take my advice and try it out.

-J

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Saving June by Hannah Harrington (with bonus music)

Saving June

“He took his pain and turned it into something beautiful. Into something that people connect to. And that’s what good music does. It speaks to you. It changes you.”
-Jake Tolan

I absolutely love this book. Saving June is officially tied with a couple of other books regarding my favorites of the ones I got for Christmas. It’s hard for me to write this review without gushing, so please try to ignore it if anything slips out.

Harper’s sister June killed herself a week before her high school graduation. While her family, friends, and everyone around her is recovering, Harper holds it all inside, vowing to be strong and untouchable. But when her recently divorced parents decide to split the ashes, Harper decides to take the ashes and go to the place June had always dreamed of living: California. Along with her best friend, Laney, and a mysterious boy with an unknown connection to June, Harper travels across the country on a great, music-filled adventure and tries to let go of everything that’s been weighing her down.

First thing’s first: I love the huge element of music in this book. The quote I used above was taken out of a conversation about Eric Clapton and how he wrote “Tears in Heaven” after his four-year old son fell out of a window forty-nine stories to his death. Also, the whole book mentions classic rock songs, and even has three playlists in the back with incredible songs. I’d recommend listening to all of them after reading this book, because a great number of them are fantastic. (I’ve linked the first of the playlists at the end of this post, for any of you who are curious.)

Now, to the actual book itself. For this being her first novel, Hannah Harrington’s writing style is amazing. She seems to really understand everything that’s going on, and how each character feels after each event, as if she had experienced all of these situations herself.

I didn’t hate most of the characters like I do in a lot of books, either. Hannah Harrington isn’t one of those authors who makes every character sound the same in terms of dialogue and actions; she even took the time to distinguish the extremely minor characters. And even though this book probably doesn’t sound exciting or adventurous (I didn’t think it would be, at least), it totally is. The main characters end up in so many different places that you can practically feel the memories being made.

Well, I’m done obsessing over this book for now. Below are the links to each of the songs in one of the playlists featured in Saving June. I’ve bolded my favorites, so if you’re only planning on listening to a couple you know which ones. If you like what you hear, be sure to check out the rest of the playlists featured in this book (you can Google them or just contact me and I’ll send them to you). Hope you enjoy the music!

-J

Nolite te Bastardes Carborundorum

1. “Start Me Up” – The Rolling Stones
2. “Oh! Sweet Nuthin’ “ – The Velvet Underground
3. “Nights In White Satin” – The Moody Blues
4. “Stairway To Heaven” – Led Zeppelin
5. “Gloomy Sunday” – Billie Holiday
6. “Where Is My Mind?” – The Pixies
7. “Asking For It” – Hole feat. Kurt Cobain
8. “Boom Swagger Boom” – Murder City Devils
9. “Train In Vain” – The Clash
10. “Under Pressure” – Queen feat. David Bowie
11. “If Six Was Nine” – The Jimi Hendrix Experience
12. “American Girl” – Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
13. “Tangled Up In Blue” – Bob Dylan
14. “Wonderful World” – Sam Cooke
15. “Michaelangelo” – Emmylou Harris
16. “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)” – Nancy Sinatra
17. “God” – John Lennon
18. “Where Did You Sleep Last Night” – Nirvana
19. “The Sounds Of Silence” – Simon & Garfunkel

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The Lost Boy by Dave Pelzer

The Lost Boy

“And as always, it’s my fault.”
-Dave Pelzer

This took me a while to read, on account of recovering from my sickness this past week, but The Lost Boy is still exceptional. In Dave Pelzer’s previous novel, A Child Called “It”, he recounted his experience of living with an abusive mother from ages four through twelve. In this installment, he remembers his rescue, trials, and foster homes from ages twelve through eighteen, the only exception being the first chapter and epilogue.

Though this book is less about his real family and more about his “temporary families”, the pain of his past experiences is still there. David gets into a bit of trouble during the first half of the book as he tries to gain acceptance from other students in his new school, though he’s not at all a bad kid. You can actually feel the goodness in him sometimes, and you can feel all of his emotions throughout the book, from excitement to sadness. And once again, I have to mention how amazed I am that he can relive all of these tragic and heartbreaking events. I know I’d never be able to do the same in his situtation.

A great sequel to A Child Called “It”, The Lost Boy should definitely be read if you’re curious about Dave Pelzer’s life afterward and how he struggles to cope with it all.

-J

(Note: Although I did borrow A Man Named Dave from my grandma to read, I don’t think I’ll be reading it after reading the first two. That book is mostly about forgiveness and adulthood, which I’m not too interested in. Be sure to check it out if you are interested in it, though, because Dave Pelzer is a great, detailed writer and surely won’t disappoint.)

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A Child Called “It” by Dave Pelzer

A Child Called 'It'

“It is important that the body survives, but it is more meaningful that the human spirit prevails.”
-Dave Pelzer

(Sorry for the late review. I finished this book on February 4th, but I’ve been sick all week and unable to get on my computer to post a review.)

A few of my friends read this book a couple of months ago, and after hearing their opinions on it I decided I wanted to read it too. I knew it was about child abuse and it may be difficult for me to read, but I could do it if they could. Then, about two weeks ago, I mentioned something about it to my mom while at my grandmother’s house, and my grandma mentioned that she had all three of Dave Pelzer’s books.

The first of Dave Pelzer’s trilogy is A Child Called “It”, which tells about his life from ages four through twelve.

I can’t even find the words to express my emotions toward this book. I find it absolutely incredible that after what this kid went through for close to eight years, he still has the strength to relive it all and write about it. It’s unbelievable how determined he was to keep fighting, without ever knowing how long he’d be trapped there or if he’d ever make it out alive.

Although it may be considered disturbing or disgusting, I believe everyone should read this book at one point in their lives. Everyone should know what goes on when nobody is paying attention, and what could even be happening to someone you know right now.

-J

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Beastly by Alex Flinn

Beastly

“Maybe we judge people too much by their looks because it’s easier than seeing what’s really important.”
-Kyle Kingsbury

(Sorry for the late review. I finished this book on February 3rd, but I’ve been sick all week and unable to get on my computer to post a review.)

Excuse me for being blunt, but I hated this book. I read it in two days because I knew that if I didn’t, I’d never finish it. And I really had to force myself to read it, just so that I could come on here and warn you guys.

Well, here we go.

Beastly tells the story of Kyle Kingsbury, a popular high school student who uses his looks to get anything he wants. He pities the unattractive and unpopular, treating them terribly because he knows he can get away with it. But after playing a mean joke on a witch, she turns him into a beast. Kyle is given two years to fall in love with a girl who loves him back, despite his ugliness, and who will kiss him to prove it.

This was pretty much a modern-day Beauty and the Beast, with a blind tutor and Mexican maid and without the talking dishes. Plus, every once in a while you’ll get an excerpt of Kyle’s chat room conversations with other “transformed people”, and each of them are fairy tale rip-offs. For example, there’s a mermaid who gives up her voice for legs, a prince who has been turned into a frog and needs a princess to kiss him to change back, and a bear who moves in with a girl named Snow White. Any of these sound familiar?

Not only that, but the dialogue and complete storyline were terrible. One specific conversation actually made me wonder if it could get any worse. And the attempt at humor throughout the book was just pathetic. I felt embarrassed to be reading it. Literally the only thing I enjoyed about this book was the reference to one of my favorite parts in The Princess Bride. That’s it.

I truly have no idea why anyone would make this horrible book into a movie, but it happened. All I know is that I surely won’t be watching it anytime soon.

-J

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