Monthly Archives: March 2013

Note (Please Read)

Right now, I’m a little stressed out over the fact that my entire review for Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac and The Burn Journals has vanished. I didn’t notice until today, when I tried to post my review for The Burn Journals and noticed that everything was gone except for the quote. In my review for Memoirs, all that posted was the playlist. I’m not sure what is happening to them, but it’s really stressing me out. I’m sorry to say that I’m not planning on rewriting my reviews for these two books, and if the next review I post is gone, I’m not exactly sure what I’m going to do.

I’ve deleted The Burn Journals post, but I’ll leave up the other one since the playlist is still there. I’m really sorry for all of this, and thanks for taking the time to read this quick note. For your reward, here is something that should brighten your day. 🙂

-J

Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac by Gabrielle Zevin – Bonus Playlist

(I included a bonus playlist with my review for Saving June; if you enjoy this one, you should definitely check out that one as well. It’s mostly the same type of music, but that one has a lot more classic rock songs. Also, if you’d like the full list, contact me and I’ll send you them.)

-J

J’s Top Ten Songs from Memoirs

1. “Learning To Fly” by Pink Floyd
2. “Hallelujah” by Jeff Buckley
3. “I Will” by The Beatles
4. “Higher Ground” by Red Hot Chili Peppers
5. “Bittersweet Symphony” by The Verve
6. “Baba O’Riley” by The Who
7. “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen
8. “Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)” by Arcade Fire
9. “Vindicated” by Dashboard Confessional
10. “1979” by The Smashing Pumpkins

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The Last Summer of the Death Warriors by Francisco X. Stork

The Last Summer of the Death Warriors

“It’s a declaration of intent. In the case of the Death Warrior, it is a public declaration of how the Death Warrior is going to live his life.”
-D.Q.

Pancho, a boy whose goal is to avenge his sister’s death, and D.Q., a boy struggling with brain cancer, couldn’t be less similar. But after Pancho moves to St. Anthony’s, a home for orphaned teenagers, the two become fast friends. And when D.Q. takes Pancho with him to get treatments, Pancho is introduced to a life like he’s never expected.

This is another one of those books that I can barely type a summary for without giving something away. Believe me, I know that was a terrible summary, but don’t judge the book from that. It actually was an alright book, even though it could get boring at points and it wasn’t really my type.

There isn’t much of a central conflict in the story; it’s pretty much just a cause-and-effect kind of book. Pancho and D.Q. have this whole schedule, so for the most part you know what to expect. It’s not very exciting or anything; it’s more of a feeling kind of book, if that makes any sense.

Let me try to explain. D.Q. is dying from brain cancer, like I said earlier. But he refuses to mope around about it and would rather live every moment of his remaining life to its full extent. So there’s a lot of inspiring and deep quotes from this kid and stuff like that.

I expected a lot more, to be honest. The back cover made it seem so exciting, and it was anything but. Sorry if I’m giving you mixed signals with this review, but even I don’t know what my feelings are toward this book.

-J

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Willow by Julia Hoban

Willow

“Oh, Willow, what if you had died that night too?”
-David Randall

Seven months ago, Willow was involved in a car accident that killed both of her parents. Believing the event to be her fault, Willow has been cutting herself to relieve the pain of losing them. Then she meets Guy, a boy at her new school that wants to help her through her struggles. But can he save her before she ends up hurting herself worse than she intends to?

This book is so real. Real struggles, real feelings, real things that actually do happen. I could understand everything that every character was going through, and it was incredible. Willow’s brother, David, was definitely my favorite character (I have no idea why, he just seemed pretty cool to me), and that was one of the main things I loved about this book: the author didn’t kill my favorite character like every other author does with every other book I read. (I may post a rant about this eventually, because it happens so often.)

The only thing that I think would’ve made this book better is if it were written in first person, from Willow’s point of view. I feel like it would help us get to know Willow better, to better understand everything she’s going through and how she feels about different people. Don’t get me wrong, Julia Hoban did a great job explaining all of Willow’s feelings and motives and everything; I just think it would be even better if it was written in first person.

I’d best compare this book to a mixture of Gayle Forman’s If I Stay and Laurie Halse Anderson’s Wintergirls. In If I Stay, Mia is involved in a car accident that lands her in the hospital, but kills her parents. In Wintergirls, Lia struggles with self-harm after her best friend’s death. These two books mixed together is a perfect description of Willow, and if you read and enjoyed either of these books, I suggest you read Willow as well. (Alternatively, if you’ve read Willow, definitely check out these other books. You won’t be disappointed.)

-J

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Jerk, California by Jonathan Friesen

Jerk, California

“Even at six years old I knew I was alone.”
-Sam Carrier/Jack Keegan

First thing’s first: I apologize for taking so long to finish this book; I had a busy weekend and didn’t even get to start it until Monday. I finished the book yesterday, but fell asleep very early without writing the review. Okay, now let’s focus on the book.

Sam Carrier has struggled with Tourette’s Syndrome since he was six. He’s never forgiven his father, who died when he was only two, for passing his Tourette’s onto him, and making his stepfather, Bill, hate him. But soon he meets George, an old friend of his father, and who teaches Sam he’s not who he thought he was. Unsure even of his own name, Sam goes on a road trip to Jerk, California with his crush, Naomi, to figure out anything he can about the life he never knew about.

This would’ve been a great book if Naomi didn’t exist. All I could focus on was how much I hated this girl. Jonathan Friesen makes her seem like the most perfect girl you can think of, but I really can’t imagine someone being that perfect. And that’s just her looks; her personality isn’t worth anything. She treats Sam/Jack like crap, exploits his syndrome, and flirts with him teasingly, knowing that he likes her. Not only that, she’s also a bit of a slut. But I won’t go into detail, since this is a spoiler-free review.

Otherwise, I really liked this book. With the author himself having struggled with Tourette’s throughout his life, the character of Sam/Jack was much more realistic. Also, this book squashed Tourette’s-related stereotypes that even I believed, having never met someone who has this disorder and not knowing much about it.

Sorry again for keeping you waiting, and thanks for reading. I hope the six-day wait didn’t disappoint too much.

-J

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Get Well Soon by Julie Halpern

Get Well Soon

“I hardly think it wise to put the idea of flying into the heads of impressionable teenagers who are already battling the challenges of lunacy.”
-Anna Bloom

It’s so difficult to write a review of a book with the kind of storyline that giving away tiny details could ruin the entire plot. So, all I’ll say is that the main character, Anna Bloom, is in a mental hospital, trying to make sense of everything and deal with the problems from both her old and new lives.

At first, I thought this would be just another mental hospital story. I still liked it; it was just kind of a “what else is new?” book. But at a certain point, where Anna notices something different about one of the patients (that’s the best I can do, sorry!), I started to get really into it. I wanted to know everything about this kid. The suspense was nearly killing me, especially because nothing regarding it is revealed until almost the end of the book. I read half the book in one sitting, I was so desperate to know. And when the truth came out, I was impressed. The signs were subtle but there, and I was a little surprised I didn’t pick up on it sooner.

Although I liked most of the characters (which doesn’t happen often), I have to say my favorite is Matt O. I don’t know what it is about him, but I just want to be friends with this kid. It was a little weird how many shared interests Anna and I had, too. (Imagine reading a book while listening to a band you really like and wearing one of your favorite shirts and pair of shoes. Now, imagine the narrator start talking about that band, describing your shirt to you, and mentioning the shoes you’re wearing. Then, a while later, the narrator mentions that she really likes to do one of your favorite passtimes. Wouldn’t you freak out too?)

And, a quick note before I leave: Since tomorrow is my birthday, I don’t know if I’ll get around to reading or not. If I do, great; if I don’t, you guys will probably have to wait an extra day until I post again. And since I’m basing what book I’m reading next over whether I get to read tomorrow, that may mean waiting up to four or five days for another review. 😦

Have a great weekend, guys. See you later!

-J

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Going Bovine by Libba Bray

Going Bovine

“The dark does not weep for itself because there is no light. Rather, it accepts that it is the dark.”
-Balder

After being diagnosed with mad cow disease with no hope for a cure, loser Cameron Smith becomes everyone’s hero overnight. While staying in the hospital, an angel named Dulcie visits him in the middle of the night and tells Cameron he has to search for the cure in order to find it. He takes with him a Spanish dwarf named Gonzo and they travel across the country, meeting all sorts of unusual people, villians, and Viking gods as they look for not only a cure for disease, but a cure for the end of the world.

This book poses the possibility of so many different things, such as “What would happen if there were nothing but happiness?” and “If you only had one wish to base your life on, what would it be?” It’s definitely the kind of book to make you think right up until the end.

I know you guys probably hate my nerdy comparisons, but I can’t resist this one. This is the only way I can think of to make you understand what reading this book is like. Going Bovine, to me, is a lot like the movie Total Recall (both the Arnold Schwarzenegger one and the Colin Farrell remake)– the best part about it is the fact that throughout the whole thing, you don’t know if most of it was real or not. I’ll provide you with some examples–without spoilers, of course:

In Total Recall, Douglas Quaid uses a sort of memory-implanting device called Rekall to see what his life would be like as a secret agent. Just as it’s about to take effect, the people who have set up the device for him learn that he’s not who he appears to be and try to kill him. The basic plot of the movie revolves around the whole idea of “Is this whole thing really happening, or is it just part of the Rekall?”

In Going Bovine, Cameron is diagnosed with mad cow disease and told the symptoms he will face, incluidng dementia and hallucinations. After a few nights in the hospital, he is visited by a punk-rock angel and told he needs to search for the cure if he wants to find it. Everything he encounters on his crazy adventure could very well be a hallucination from his disease, but who knows?

This book is pretty intense. You have to be open to all possibilities while reading it, or you probably won’t like it at all. I was really skeptical about reading this, but now it’s within my favorites of my new books (and yes, I do say that a lot, but I truly believe this one passes up almost all of the others). It’s definitely an adventure you won’t want to miss out on, and an adventure I’m glad I decided to take.

-J

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Saving Zoe by Alyson Noel

Saving Zoe

“But I’ve strayed so far from normal now, I’ll never find my way back. And the truth is, I no longer want to.”
-Echo

Before reading Saving Zoe, I was already a little biased on Alyson Noel. I read her Immortals series (which I’ll be reviewing on here eventually) and absolutely loved it, so I had high expectations of this book. And, just as I expected, I wasn’t at all disappointed.

Saving Zoe tells of Echo, an almost-fifteen-year old girl whose sister, Zoe, was murdered about a year ago. As Echo adjusts to her life in high school, her sister’s old boyfriend gives her Zoe’s diary that she’d left at his house before she was murdered. Echo reads through the diary, discovering things she never knew about her sister, and some things that strangely connect with her own life.

With every book I love, there’s always at least one thing, even something very very minor, that I’ll dislike. Yes, these are minor things, but I’m getting them out of the way now because that’s what reviews are for. The two small things that annoyed me about this book: Zoe’s expression “thank G” in replacement of “thank god”, and Alyson Noel’s apparent obsession with cobalt blue. Literally any time a color is mentioned in the book, it’s cobalt blue. And it’s so repetitive. This annoyed me beyond words.

Other than those minor problems, this book was incredible. The connections between Zoe’s diary and Echo’s current life will keep you on the edge of your seat and prevent you from putting the book down. Judging by the fact that I read all but the first few chapters in one day, I’d call it a success.

(Also, and I didn’t notice this until recently, but be prepared for a lot of dying-related books in the future. I didn’t realize I had so many unread books with close to the same topic. I’ve only got about fifteen Christmas books left, so I’ll try to space them out as best as I can, but try not to hold a grudge if it doesn’t work out. 🙂 )

-J

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Accidents of Nature by Harriet McBryde Johnson

Accidents of Nature

“Here, people understand.”
-Jean

(WordPress wouldn’t work for me again last night, so the review’s a day late. Sorry!)

This is the first book I’ve read (or even heard of) with physical disabilities as the main topic. Lots of books have a disabled character, but it’s different when each of the characters has something that makes them different. The book is narrated by Jean, a soon-to-be senior with cerebral palsy, and the story of her attendance at Camp Courage, a ten-day activity program for people with disabilities.

I don’t know how to describe this book other than okay. There’s really no plot, and not much to look forward to. Everything related to the writing is great, especially Sara and her genius-talk, but the concept could use some work.

There’s not a whole lot else to say, so I’ll just leave it at that. Sorry for such a short review, but I’ll have another (hopefully longer) review for you within the next two days.

-J

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