Tag Archives: fiction

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

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

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“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

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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

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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

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The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling

“Hope springs forever.”
-Albus Dumbledore

The Tales of Beedle the Bard is a set of five magical fairy tales from the Harry Potter universe. Any of you Harry Potter fans out there should know that this book was mentioned in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows numerous times, specifically due to the story “The Tale of Three Brothers.” Yes, that story is included, along with four other magic-laced stories which were occasionally mentioned in the Harry Potter series.

Although I’d usually review each story separately, with them being so short, I’m going to just do them all at once. The Tales of Beedle the Bard starts off with “The Wizard and the Hopping Pot,” an odd story about generosity. Among the four not previously mentioned in entirety, my favorite (and, according to the notes by Dumbledore, the most popular) was “The Fountain of Fair Fortune,” a seemingly sad yet beautiful story about three depressed witches who search for the cure to their troubles along with a Muggle knight. The darkest of the five tales, “The Warlock’s Hairy Heart,” is violent and lacks a happy ending, but still teaches a great lesson. “Babbitty Rabbitty and Her Cackling Stump” is the last of the new stories featured in the book, which tells of a man who tricks the king into thinking he can be taught magic. And, finally, “The Tale of Three Brothers” is the infamous tale featured in the final book of the Harry Potter series about three brothers’ encounter with Death. It is the story that sparked the theory of the Deathly Hallows: the Elder Wand, the Resurrection Stone, and the Cloak of Invisibility.

I really enjoyed reading this book. It was only about a hundred pages, which made it easy for me to sit down and read it all in one sitting. But, being a huge Potterhead, I may have only liked the book for its connection with the entire franchise. So, make of that what you will, but in my opinion, J.K. Rowling couldn’t have done a better job giving us insight into the childhood of magical families and giving us more information on the famous book that helped Harry Potter learn about his ancestry.

Before I go, I’d like to give a big happy Thanksgiving to everyone, just in case I don’t get to write to you all again before Thursday. And go crazy, any of you Black Friday shoppers! 🙂

-J

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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

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The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

“People want to forget the impossible. It makes their world safer.”
-Silas

After his family was murdered when he was just a baby, Nobody “Bod” Owens grew up in a graveyard, parented by the ghosts of a married couple and guarded by a tall, dark, mysterious man named Silas who is neither living nor dead. The man who killed his family is still out there, waiting until the time is right to finish him off as well. And although the graveyard protects him, Bod wants to explore and meet others like him– which means exposing himself to his family’s killer.

The premise of this book is mysterious and strange, but beautiful nonetheless. It’s not your average fantasy story, of course; it’s bent on showing the “good side” of monsters and creatures we were all afraid of as children, while still being extremely dark.

I really liked the book while reading it, but I think the fan theory about Silas was what made me step up into loving the book. The theory that Silas is actually a vampire never occurred to me while I was reading, but after thinking about it, it made a lot of sense (actually, after thinking about it, I felt stupid for not getting it sooner– but apparently a lot of people were in my same situation) appreciate that Neil Gaiman didn’t stick to the vampire stereotypes that circle today. He was my favorite character in the book by far, and the realization that he was actually a vampire made me love him (and the book) even more.

Although I thought the book was absolutely great, I really disagree with one of the reviews featured in the version I read, which stated it was “a book for all ages.” The novel begins with a man murdering three people and attempting to murder a baby, and the entire plot circles around Bod not being allowed to leave the graveyard in case of being killed by the same man. There are creatures in the book called the Indigo Man and the Sleer, which I believe could definitely be nightmare-triggering to some children. And there’s a chapter where Bod is kidnapped by Ghouls and taken through what seemed to be a portal to the Ghoul world, which I definitely wouldn’t recommend any children to read. Yes, I do love how they portrayed werewolves and mummies and ghosts and vampires to be the good guys, but there are still bad guys in the book.

So, in general: Neil Gaiman is fantastic, The Graveyard Book is fantastic, Silas is fantastic, and I can’t wait to hear more. And, again, I’ve heard rumors of a movie going around. According to Wikipedia:

Irish Academy Award-winning filmmaker Neil Jordan signed on to write and direct a film adaptation, which as of January 2010 was in pre-production. In April 2012, however, rights to the adaptation were acquired by Walt Disney Pictures. Henry Selick, director of The Nightmare Before Christmas and the film adaptation of Gaiman’s novel Coraline has been chosen to direct The Graveyard Book. Like most of Selick’s other films, it is probable that the film will be stop-motion animated, although that decision has yet to be confirmed by Selick himself. However, in the wake of Disney choosing to cancel another Selick project, The Shadow King, Disney appears to be seeking another director, one possible candidate being Ron Howard.

A possible stop-motion film adaption in the future would be brilliant, in my opinion, as I loved Coraline and I could definitely see another of Neil Gaiman’s novels shining in stop-motion, especially certain characters.

Okay, well, I think that’s mostly it. Sorry about the delayed review once again– I was so caught up in the Doctor Who marathon and 50th anniversary episode that I didn’t even remember I’d finished this book. (By the way, Doctor Who— wow. I know I shouldn’t be discussing it here, and no spoilers for any fellow Whovians out there, but seriously… wowI’m absolutely thrilled.) I should have the review of the Hush, Hush series by Becca Fitzpatrick up either tomorrow or Monday, so I’ll see you soon!

-J

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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

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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

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The Giver by Lois Lowry

The Giver

“They were satisfied with their lives which had none of the vibrance his own was taking on. And he was angry at himself, that he could not change that for them.”

The Giver tells the story of Jonas, an eleven-year-old boy living in a utopian society. Each year at the Ceremony of Twelve, all Elevens receive their career paths, but Jonas has an important task– he is to train with the Receiver of Memory, the most respected Elder in the community who has the job of storing all memories of the past. But as Jonas gets further into his training, he discovers all of the secrets his society is hiding, and how nearly all of the community is living in a black-and-white world (literally).

I hope that was an adequate summary– this is one of those books that is really hard to describe without excessive spoilers. I really enjoyed the book: the symbolism, the foreshadowing, everything. My only problem with the entire book was the “big twist” that I “definitely wouldn’t see coming,” which I suspected from the very beginning.

The thing that came as a big surprise to me– and probably what made me love the book so much– wasn’t a turn-of-events or anything like that; it was the thing about color that I alluded to in the description above. You really have to pay attention to detail to pick up on the fact that everyone in the society is completely color-blind. The way the author uses words like “dull” and “colorless”– they aren’t just plain adjectives, they’re literal. The way the author talks about sometimes Jonas sees things change— he’s seeing small glimpses of color. It’s crazy, and it’s subtle, but it becomes a major plot point later on in the story.

Also, like many other books I’ve been reviewing lately, I’ve just found out a film adaption is being made. (You’d think with a book from 1993 that’s so popular, there would already have been a movie.) It stars Jeff Bridges as the Giver, which I’m extremely excited about, and as soon as I see the movie (which won’t be until sometime in 2014… sigh), you guys will hear about it. See you soon!

-J

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