Tag Archives: family

Don’t You Dare Read This, Mrs. Dunphrey by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Margaret-Peterson-Haddix-image-margaret-peterson-haddix-36328311-284-475

“She told me once that her failing was pride. I didn’t know what she meant then, but maybe that’s what she was talking about.”
-Tish

Told using journal entries for an English class, Don’t You Dare Read This, Mrs. Dunphrey is the heartbreaking story of sophomore Tish Bonner. Since Mrs. Dunphrey promised not to read any entries marked “don’t read this,” Tish uses this project to confess her deepest secrets about her father’s abusive behavior, mother’s neglect, and struggle to take care of her eight-year-old brother on her own.

I don’t know how to describe this book without using the word “depressing.” Honestly, this book was one of the saddest books I’ve ever read. It starts off a bit slow, but the descriptions of neglect and abandonment that Tish and her little brother go through is sometimes hard to read and constantly threatening to make you cry with the turn of each page. It also makes you really think, what if that had been me?

I know this is a very short review, but this book was a short read and there isn’t much else to say. Just try to avoid it if you’re overly sensitive, because it’ll definitely stick in your head for much longer than you think.

-J

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

The Divergent Trilogy (Divergent, Insurgent, Allegiant) by Veronica Roth

photo-1

“A brave man acknowledges the strength of others.”
-Four, Divergent

Many years in the future, the city of Chicago has been split into five factions: Abnegation, the selfless; Amity, the peaceful; Candor, the honest; Dauntless, the brave; and Erudite, the intelligent. Each faction has specific jobs and requirements that must be made in order to join. At the age of sixteen, a choice must be made: whether to leave the faction of your parents that you’ve grown up in, or to transfer to another faction. After a simulation that is supposed to show her what her strongest aptitude is, Beatrice Prior learns that she is Divergent, or has equal aptitude for three different factions. This revelation causes her to rethink her previous idea about the factions, and her decision will transform her into a completely different person.

I tried to write that summary without any spoilers, so I apologize if it seems a little vague and uninteresting, because it’s truly anything but. The Divergent trilogy is reminiscent of trilogies like The Hunger Games and The Maze Runner, due to the dystopian future and survival themes, and this trilogy is just as action-packed and compelling. If it weren’t for the trouble I had finding the second and third books, I would’ve had this entire series read within a few days.

Not only do I love the action and suspense in these books, but the numerous themes are also a big deal to me. It’s like Veronica Roth just decided to write about absolutely everything she could think of to try to fit the books into every category possible. And I don’t just mean that this is an action/romance/sci-fi/suspense novel, but the fact that she decided to take nearly every problem a person could be faced with and let the characters struggle with them. The ability to do all of that and still make it work, I think, is what makes this series even more incredible than it would have been.

This trilogy also has a growing fandom, and that fact is an even better reason to try out these books. Although Allegiant, the final book in the trilogy, was released only two months ago, Veronica Roth has already announced a series of short stories from Four’s point of view will be published as an anthology in February. Additionally (and yes, I realize I’ve been ending a lot of my reviews with this sort of statement, but that just means they’re good books, right?), the film adaption for Divergent will be out in March, starring Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort (who will also be playing Augustus and Hazel in the The Fault in Our Stars film adaption) as Beatrice and her brother Caleb.

I’m going to use the end of this post to do a little promotion for the Divergent Fandom WordPress blog, in case you’ve already read the series and want to check it out. It’s a great site that you should definitely check into if you’ve read and enjoyed the series. Thanks for reading, and happy New Year!

-J

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Burn Journals by Brent Runyon

The Burn Journals

“The only problem with seeing people you know is that they know you.”
-Brent

This is my second attempt at reviewing this book, so hopefully it doesn’t get deleted like the last one. The Burn Journals is a true memoir of Brent Runyon, who doused himself in gasoline and lit a match when he was only fourteen. He spent almost a year in treatment for his injuries and depression, and over this time learns to accept himself.

The thing I really love about this book is that you can tell he wrote it straight out of his fourteen-year-old mind. The language he uses, his sentence structure, everything is an indicator that he is not at all an adult yet. It isn’t told in the “this happened to me” way; it’s told in the present tense, to emphasize his youth. Even his thoughts and actions point toward childhood, and I think it’s brilliant. Also, the things Brent Runyon included in the story that he could have easily removed to save himself embarrassment are the greatest parts of the book, since it shows you how real everything was.

The Burn Journals is definitely a painful and depressing story, and its subject matter of attempted suicide and recovery is very strong. But that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone, even those who are considering suicide. Actually, I think it’s the perfect book for someone who struggles with depression or suicidal behavior, because it shows the repercussions suicide has on everyone around you, and that everyone can get better with proper treatment and time.

Sorry it took me a while to get this review up, but I should have another one either today or tomorrow. Thanks for reading!

-J

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac by Gabrielle Zevin (with bonus songs)

Memoirs

“You forget all of it anyway. First, you forget everything you learned– the dates of the Hay-Herran Treaty and the Pythagorean theorem. You especially forget everything you didn’t really learn, but just memorized the night before. You forget the names of all but one or two of your teachers, and eventually you’ll forget those, too. You forget your junior year class schedule and where you used to sit and your best friend’s home phone number and the lyrics to that song you must have played a million times. For me, it was something by Simon & Garfunkel. Who knows what it’ll be for you? And eventually, but slowly, oh so slowly, you forget your humiliations– even the ones that seemed indelible just fade away. You forget who was cool and who was not, who was pretty, smart, athletic, and not. Who went to a good college. Who threw the best parties. Who could get you pot. You forget all of them. Even the ones you said you loved, and even the ones you actually did. They’re the last to go. And then once you’ve forgotten enough, you love someone else.”
-Grant Porter

Depending on how long you’ve been following my reviews, you may or may not remember my previous attempt to review this book. Sadly, as I had just finished writing and was about to post, the entire thing erased itself, save for the “bonus playlist” I added at the end. So here I am, ready to review this book over again.

After losing a coin toss and having to go back to school to retrieve a camera, Naomi fell down the stairs in front of her school and hit her head. She awoke in an ambulance, confused and scared. By the time she got to the hospital, she discovered that all of her memory from the past four years was gone. Now, Naomi struggles to fit in and figure out everything she’s forgotten– including her best friend, boyfriend, her parents’ divorce, and the birth of her younger sister.

My review probably didn’t do this book justice, but trust me, it was a great book. It’s clear that Gabrielle Zevin did her research, because everything seemed very believable and accurate. Her character development was great, and the slow memory regaining made me not want to stop reading. I think the best thing about the entire book, though, is the tension between Naomi and the three guys she has to pick from– her boyfriend Ace, her best friend Will, and James, the boy she just met who saved her during her accident.

Since I can’t add the playlist (it’s still posted here), I’ll add my favorite song of the entire playlist in the back, which somehow didn’t make it onto the first list. It’s called “A Certain Romance” by the Arctic Monkeys, one of my favorite bands of the moment. And, just for a little something extra, I’ll add a link to the song I haven’t been able to stop listening to for about a week now: “Evolution of Get Lucky” by PV Nova on YouTube. Basically, he took the song “Get Lucky” by Daft Punk and Pharrell Williams, and he did one of those “how music changes over the decades” things with it. It’s hard to explain, so it would probably be best if you just listened to it. I promise, it’s incredible.

Thanks for reading, guys, and I’ll see you soon!

-J

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

The Ocean at the End of the Lane

“You don’t pass or fail at being a person, dear.”
– Mrs. Hempstock

The Ocean at the End of the Lane is an unusual story told by an unnamed narrator about the childhood he has just remembered after sitting by the “ocean,” the lake in his old friend Lettie Hempstock’s yard.That’s really all I can say about the book without spoiling anything, so this will be a pretty short review for a pretty short book.

Overall, I have mixed feelings about this book. While I was reading, I didn’t want to stop. It was suspenseful, it was strange, and it was like I had been transported into Neil Gaiman’s little fantasy world. Sure, all of his books are unusual in a way, but this one was a little more so than the others I’ve read. And although I did really like it while I was reading, I’d become a little disappointed by the time it was over. Like I needed more, like it couldn’t be over so soon. Not as if it needs a sequel– I just feel he left too much unexplained and he should’ve  had an extra chapter or something. The ending was the only thing I really didn’t like about the book, but looking back on how odd the entire thing was, I’m surprised I even liked it at all.

And once again, like I’ve been ending a lot of my reviews lately, I hear about a possible film adaption produced by Tom Hanks. I don’t know if I can picture the book actually becoming a movie, but I’m excited nonetheless.

To conclude this review, I’d like to ask your opinion of whether I should post a review of the movie adaption of Catching Fire, which I recently went to see. Hopefully this will work out, since this is the first time I’ve ever linked a poll into a post. Vote on it below, and I’ll see you next time!

-J

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

The Hush, Hush Series by Becca Fitzpatrick (Hush, Hush, Crescendo, Silence, Finale)

“Any happiness, no matter how brief, seemed better than the long, simmering torture of waking up day after day, knowing I could never have him.”
-Nora

Romance was not part of Nora Grey’s plan. She’s never been particularly attracted to the boys at her school, no matter how hard her best friend, Vee, pushes them at her. Not until Patch comes along. With his easy smile and eyes that seem to see inside her, Patch draws Nora to him against her better judgment. But after a series of terrifying encounters, Nora’s not sure whom to trust. Patch seems to be everywhere she is and seems to know more about her than her closest friends. She can’t decide whether she should fall into his arms or run and hide. And when she tries to seek some answers, she finds herself near a truth that is way more unsettling than anything Patch makes her feel.

I’m a little lazy today, so that summary is directly from Goodreads.com. Considering the cover art of the series pictured above, I don’t think it’s a spoiler to tell you that Patch is a fallen angel. I mean, it’s almost screaming it at you. So, not only are there fallen angels in this fantasy world, there are also fallen angel-human hybrids called Nephilim, and that’s where it gets tricky. Basically, fallen angels can possess the body of a Nephil during the Jewish month of Cheshvan (which I’ve tried to look up and figure out exactly when it is, but so far, I’ve got nothing) if they swear fealty to the fallen angel. This will, in turn, make them immortal, like the fallen angel who possesses them. Fallen angels and Nephilim generally despise each other, not only due to the possession, but the fact that fallen angels created Nephilim.

I can’t say much more without destroying the plot of the entire series, but that’s the main premise. Also, fallen angels can’t physically feel, so there’s the whole forbidden love thing. You get the idea. So how about the actual review?

Honestly, I have mixed feelings about the series. I remember when I read Hush, Hush for the first time, I absolutely loved it and couldn’t wait to get the sequel. About a year later, I re-read Hush, Hush and read Crescendo for the first time, and I remember loving it just as much. But recently, when I got Silence and Finale and read the entire series, my feelings about them had changed. Maybe I read them too many times, maybe I grew out of them, and maybe it’s the fact that I was reading multiple books in a row. Who knows? The thing is, I really didn’t like them very much, and I struggled to finish Silence because it was so boring for so long. And once I’d finally finished that one, I didn’t even want to read Finale. I was so sick of the entire series that I was ready to just give up, write a terrible review on half of the series to emphasize my hatred with the previous book, and be done with the whole ordeal. But, I didn’t. And in a way, I’m glad I didn’t, because Finale was definitely the best of all four novels and the only one I didn’t feel like I was wasting my time reading. The suspense leading up to the main plot point is great, the training is great, and the characters have visibly matured since the first installment.

I’d say overall, not bad. Some parts were cliché, yes, but others were great. Some well-liked characters I hated, but others I liked. The series was meh, excluding Finale.

Now, a little pathetic apology note: I actually finished the series yesterday, and I don’t really have an excuse for why I didn’t write the review then. However, between then and now I finished another book, which I’m currently multi-tasking on writing the review for and getting distracted on Tumblr. It’ll definitely be up before I go to bed, though, and it’s a good one.

Anyway, guys, thanks for reading, and I’ll be back soon with another review!

-J

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

Tempest by Julie Cross

Tempest

“Forget everything you think you know about time travel.”
-Jackson

Nineteen-year-old Jackson has a secret: he can time travel, but the things he can change in the past don’t affect the future. He hasn’t told anyone but his genius friend Adam, who is trying to help him understand the limits of his ability. But one day, two men appear and shoot Jackson’s girlfriend, Holly. He ends up jumping to a different time in surprise, and finds himself stuck in 2007– two years ago, before he had even met Holly. He spends his time getting to know Holly all over again, and in doing so finds out nearly everything he knew in his old life was a lie. Now Jackson is left wondering who to trust, and he must choose before time runs out and the so-called Enemies of Time come back for him…

You probably don’t know this considering the books I’ve been reviewing, but I’m really into things that mess with your head. Some film examples that immediately come to mind are The Butterfly Effect, The Prestige, Inception, and Frailty. I’m just going to assume that you’ve seen or heard of at least one of these incredible movies. Now, imagine one of those types of movies, but in book form. That’s kind of what Tempest was like: you think you know something, but then you get further in and realize you don’t know anything. And it just gets worse (and by worse, I mean better), because Tempest is a planned trilogy, with an added prequel.

So, I should probably say something about the book itself. In short, here’s what I’ve come up with:

  • Characters: awesome. Other than the obvious antagonists, I don’t think there was anyone I really disliked, and this doesn’t happen often.
  • Pace: perfect. At no point did I feel the story was moving too fast or slow, which made me not want to stop reading.
  • Twists/major revelations: awesome. Just awesome.
  • Action/suspense: yes.
  • Definitely not as confusing as I probably made it out to be.
  • Also, I commend this book for being one of the few with a female love interest who doesn’t totally suck. (*Cough, cough,* Martyn Pig; Jerk, California; and Twisted. Grrr.)

Well, there you have it. Short and sweet and straight to the point. If I had to grade this book, I’d say A-. (We can’t all be perfect.)

By next week I’ll most likely have up the series review for the Hush, Hush series by Becca Fitzpatrick, which is a paranormal romance sort of thing. I haven’t reviewed many books of this genre, so it should be interesting. Hope to see you then!

-J

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

The Fault in Our Stars

“That’s the thing about pain. It demands to be felt.”
-Augustus Waters

Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.

Once again, I’ve used the easy way out in copying the description from the book sleeve, but it’s just to be on the safe side. This is truly an amazing book, and I wouldn’t want to spoil anything in it.

I know I’ve said this before, but John Green is one of my favorite authors. Even before, when all I had read by him was Looking for Alaska, he was still good enough to be one of my favorites automatically. Now, reading The Fault in Our Stars has just intensified my adoration for his books and writing style.

There aren’t many books that can actually make me laugh out loud. Not saying I don’t laugh at anything, it’s just that most humor in books fails in making me laugh. So far, I’ve only found two exceptions: the Harry Potter books and John Green’s books. The wittiness of Isaac and Augustus, and some of the weird metaphorical conversations between Hazel and Augustus are just great.

And, once again, I’m excited to say that the film adaption comes out sometime next year. I don’t totally agree with the cast that has been chosen, but I refuse any more judgment until I actually see the film, which I’m sure will be nearly as incredible as the novel.

Until next time, my dears.

-J

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Impulse by Ellen Hopkins

Impulse

“Love means holding on to someone just as hard as you can because if you don’t, one blink and they might disappear forever.”
-Tony

Sometimes life just gets too hard. Sometimes everything piles up until it feels like you’ve been left with one option: to end it all. That’s what Conner, Tony, and Vanessa thought, at least– but after failing at each of their suicide attempts, they end up in Aspen Springs for recovery. Now they’ve been given a second chance at life… Will they take it or opt out once again?

I know I start a lot of reviews like this, but I really love this book. The re-read for this review was probably the third or fourth, and I never get sick of it. Although I’m in love with all of Ellen Hopkins’s books, this one is definitely my favorite. It’s the first I ever read by her and what made me fall in love with her writing style and writing, period. It’s a little strange to read at first, but if you give it a chance you’ll adapt quickly and end up loving her too.

As I’ve said in previous reviews, books are always more exciting with multiple narrators. This adds to my love for this book, but I don’t think that is the main reason I like it so much. I’ve always been really into books about mental hospital/group home sort of things, as you may know by my numerous reviews about the subject, and the entire book is about this. Plus, it deals with some really important issues and “taboos,” in such a way that I strongly believe everyone should read this book at least once– especially for those who judge by reputation or first impressions, this book should be a real eye-opener.

And, like I say about all of Ellen Hopkins’s books, it’s powerful. I cry just as much now as I did the first time I read it. It really changed my opinion and views on certain things, but I won’t talk about that… spoilers and all.

What I will talk about before I go, though, is the sequel, Perfect. I don’t own it, I haven’t read it, and I haven’t seen it in any bookstores yet, but I really want to read it. From what I’ve heard, it’s three completely different narrators– two of which I remember as Cara, Conner’s twin sister, and Kendra, Conner’s ex-girlfriend who made a brief appearance in Impulse, but I don’t remember the other at all. I think it sounds like it’ll be incredible, and as soon as I find and read it, you’ll be the first to know.

Once again, I forgot to write this review, so the review for the book I’m about halfway done with now (a big surprise, I bet, but I will say it’s a classic) will most likely be up tomorrow. Thanks for reading, and see you then!

-J

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Go Ask Alice by Beatrice Sparks

Go Ask Alice

“I guess I’ll never measure up to anyone’s expectations. I surely don’t measure up to what I’d like to be.”
-Unknown

First, I’d like to apologize for taking so long on this– I’d completely forgotten to write a review once I’d finished the book, and just now remembered it hadn’t been posted.

About five months ago, I posted a review of Jay’s Journal, which was mainly written by the same author as Go Ask Alice, although both have the author’s name listed as “Anonymous” on the front covers. And the explanation for that is simple: there’s a lot of controversy over whether these diaries are real or just made up by Beatrice Sparks, who is listed as the “editor”, or a little of both. And although I don’t want to make this a rant post, that’s probably what’s going to happen. So if that’s not what you came here for, leave now or face extreme disappointment.

Alright, so. Go Ask Alice is about a fifteen-year old girl in the 70s who writes in her diary about normal teenage problems, but eventually becomes involved with drugs. (When I say drugs, I mean LSD, although there are a few mentions of other drugs.) Pretty simple, pretty straightforward, deals with a lot of common young adult novel topics.

Now I’m going to do some comparisons between this book and Jay’s Journal, which I’ll link the review to here in case you’re interested. There are a few things they have in common that emphasize the fact that they’re not true, if even a little: tripe repetition of words or phrases (“I do! I do! I do!”), vocabulary that no normal teen uses, and nearly identical writing style. Other than the subject matter and the character of Jay’s use of poems in his entries, they could easily have been narrated by the same character. In my opinion, Go Ask Alice is wholly fiction, and Jay’s Journal is mostly fiction. I’d like to include a few passages from the books’ Wikipedia articles to show you:

From the Jay’s Journal article:

Jay’s Journal is a book presented as an autobiographical account of a depressed teenage boy who becomes involved with a Satanic group. After participating in several occult rituals, “Jay” believes he is being haunted by a demon named Raul. The book is based on “true” events of 16-year-old Alden Barrett from Pleasant Grove, Utah, who committed suicide in 1971.

Some critics have challenged the authenticity of the story, noting that the editor of this book, Beatrice Sparks, has filled the same role on many other “actual, anonymous diaries of teenagers” that explore such sensational themes as drug addiction, teenage pregnancy, and prostitution. These books, the most well-known of which is Go Ask Alice, serve as cautionary tales.

According to a book written by Barrett’s brother Scott (A Place in the Sun: The Truth Behind Jay’s Journal), and interviews with the family, Sparks used roughly 25 entries of 212 total from Barrett’s actual journal. The other entries were fictional, based on case histories from other teenagers Sparks worked with, and interviews of friends and acquaintances of Barrett.

A rock opera titled A Place in the Sun was created and performed by Utah country band Grain in 1997. According to some family members, it was a more accurate portrayal and showed Sparks’ alleged exploitation of the story.

And, from the Go Ask Alice article’s Authorship section:

Go Ask Alice was originally promoted as nonfiction and was published under the byline “Anonymous.” However, not long after its publication, Beatrice Sparks, a psychologist, began making media appearances presenting herself as the book’s editor.

Searches at the U.S. Copyright Office show that Sparks is the sole copyright holder for Go Ask Alice. Furthermore, she is listed on the copyright record as the book’s author — not as the editor, compiler, or executor, which would be more usual for someone publishing the diary of a deceased person. (According to the book itself, the sole copyright is owned by Prentice-Hall.)

In an October 1979, essay by Alleen Pace Nilsen for School Library Journal, Nilsen surmised that Sparks partially based Go Ask Alice on the diary of one of her patients, but that she had added various fictional incidents. Sparks told Nilson that she could not produce the original diary, because she had destroyed part of it after transcribing it and the rest was locked away in the publisher’s vault. Nilsen wrote, “The question of how much of Go Ask Alice was written by the real Alice and how much by Beatrice Sparks can only be conjectured.”

Sparks’ second “diary” project, Jay’s Journal, gave rise to a controversy that cast further doubt on Go Ask Alice’s veracity. Jay’s Journal was allegedly the diary of a boy who committed suicide after becoming involved with the occult. Again, Sparks claimed to have based it on the diary of a patient. However, the family of the boy in question, Alden Barrett, disowned the book. They claimed that Sparks had used only a handful of the actual diary entries, and had invented the great majority of the book, including the entire occult angle. This led many to speculate that “Alice’s” diary—if indeed it existed—had received similar treatment. No one claiming to have known the real “Alice” has ever come forward.

And a final section I’d like to share:

In an article on the Urban Legends Reference Pages (snopes.com), urban folklore expert Barbara Mikkelson points out that even before the revelations about Go Ask Alice‘s authorship, there was ample internal evidence that the book was not an actual diary. The lengthy, detailed passages about the harmful effects of illicit drugs and the relatively small amount of space dedicated to relationships and social gossip seem uncharacteristic of a teenaged girl’s diary. In addition, the article mentions the disclaimer in the book’s copyright notice page, which states: “This book is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people, or real locales are used fictitiously. Other names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination, and any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.”

There are some errors of consistency. On page 16, the author has not “had time to write for two days”. In the same paragraph she refers to the last entry as “yesterday” when she says, “I’ve apologized to every room about the way I felt last night” even though according to her first sentence she would have felt that way two nights ago, not “last night”. On pages 79–80, the text describes the girl living with a friend in Coos Bay, Oregon, where she enthuses over the Diggers’ Free Store and the Psychedelic Shop – both establishments were actually in San Francisco. Another error is on page 2 where the author writes “It’s my birthday. I’m 15.” Later in the book on page 46 in August the author writes “After all I’ve just turned 15 and I can’t stop life and get off” meaning she did not turn 15 eleven months ago.

Well, that’s mostly all I have to say about that. I don’t think I would’ve complained so much about the validity of the book if it weren’t for my hatred of it– I found it an extremely boring, hit-and-miss novel, but the hits were so few they were nearly nonexistent. It’s a really popular book, however, so you may like it– who knows. Maybe I’m just one of those people who despises a bestseller. But, if you do decide to read it and completely agree with me, don’t say I didn’t warn you! 😉

-J

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,