Tag Archives: gay/lesbian

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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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

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The Immortals Series by Alyson Noel (Evermore, Blue Moon, Shadowland, Dark Flame, Night Star, Everlasting)

The Immortals Series

“Today’s worries are yesterday’s fears and tomorrow’s stories.” 

I’m not sure how many of you guys read my little note on my 100 Book Challenge page, but in case you didn’t and don’t feel like going back, I’ll just give you a quick explanation. I was planning on rereading Heaven Is for Real, that short and sweet book that’s been crazy popular for a while now, and reviewing it for you guys in a whiny but professional manner– as I usually do when I dislike a book, even a little bit. However, constant family issues and other personal problems posed a threat. I was a complete mess for a while and didn’t once think about my blogs. So one day, while I was a little cooled off, I decided to cancel the 100 Book Challenge and take a break from blogging for a while. And during my break, I finally finished Heaven Is for Real (it took me nine days total because of everything that was going on– which is sort of embarrassing considering that book is tiny) and reread the Hunger Games series and Immortals series. (No reviews for the Hunger Games series, though, just because I don’t know what I would say other than how much I love the books and how much I’m in love with the character of Finnick.)

But what I really came here to say is: Break’s over, guys. J’s back. And now, it’s back to the most popular time on this blog: reviewing time.

The Immortals series is an action-packed fantasy told from the point of view of Ever Bloom, a sixteen-year-old who recently lost her family to a devastating car crash. Ever wades through her new life in California, hiding beneath loud music and hoods to block out the constant noise that comes with the psychic powers she gained after the near-death experience. That is, until she meets Damen, who seems to be the one person that she can’t read– the one person who silences everything around her– the one person she can’t help but feel attracted to. But Damen is hiding a secret himself, and when it is revealed, it will change both of their lives forever.

Considering the name of the series, I highly doubt what I’m about to mention would be considered a spoiler. But, if you’re still determined not to learn a single thing that could be “spoiler-ish”, you may want to stop reading now.

In the first book, Evermore, we get a background on Ever’s life and how she adjusts to her new school and powers. She uses loud music to block out the endless stream of thoughts coming from everyone around her, avoids touching people at all costs for risk of seeing their entire life story, and learns to deal with seeing everyone’s aura and talking to the ghost of her little sister, Riley (who, eventually, got her own series, which I haven’t read yet but would really like to). Then we meet Damen, who arouses Ever’s suspicions when she can’t read his mind, can’t see his aura, and gets nothing with a touch. He seems to read her mind at times, taking her suspicions even further until he reveals his secret: Damen is immortal, and had made Ever immortal after the crash that claimed her family.

There’s never a dull moment in this six-part series, which constantly reveals new secrets, problems, and enemies. It’s exciting, it’s romantic, it’s philosophical– it’s everything you could ask for in a fantasy series. And just when you think you know everything, a new problem appears.

Just like with most series I read, the final book, Everlasting, was my favorite. After everything that had happened in the previous novels, I constantly wondered what Alyson Noel could do for a big finale without turning one of my favorite characters against them (as she had previously done, but I won’t get into that). The series definitely went out with a bang, though, and I loved every minute of it.

Although, numerous Goodreads users disagree entirely. I’d say it’s about a fourth of the readers out there that hate this series with a passion. I can tell they’re frustrated because Ever always seems to make terrible decisions under pressure– but Alyson Noel has her admit to it being her weak point, and besides, without terrible decisions, how could there be a plot in the first place? So yes, Immortals series-haters, I do understand where you’re coming from, because Ever’s decisions have frustrated me beyond belief as well. But everyone makes bad decisions at some point in their lives, and Alyson Noel is just acting upon this common weakness.

And before I wrap this review up and head off to bed, I want to take a minute to mention two things about Alyson Noel’s writing– one compliment, one constructive criticism. The compliment: I love how she uses unusual names for her characters. And although she does use them frequently in these books, she also uses them in other books– though I’ve yet to read all but one. A couple of my favorite names she has used are Echo, Ever, Haven, Evangeline, Misa, Rafe, Honor, Adelina, and Roman.

Now, some quick constructive criticism. Alyson Noel tends to recycle a lot of phrases when describing things, which tends to get somewhat annoying. While I’m writing this, two big examples are jumping out at me: the Shadowland and the Great Halls of Learning. The Shadowland first came into play in the eponymous third novel of the series, Shadowland, and was described as “The Shadowland. The home for lost souls.” And in every book since then, that’s exactly how she describes it. Along with the Great Halls of Learning, which, during their first appearance in Blue Moon, the second installment of the series, were described using the same monuments and repetition of the word “facade”. And guess how she describes it in every other book it appears in?

Anyway, I think that’s enough for tonight. I hope you enjoyed my review, hope it was worth it after all of the time I’ve been off. And, although I just came back, I’m going on vacation soon, which basically means I won’t have time or a way to review. I’m using this time to reread the Harry Potter series, if I can, which I was planning to do soon anyway but would cause me to disappear for a while again. But since I recently got four new books, and have at least three that I’ve read but haven’t reviewed yet, I promise I’ll return with more reviews as soon as possible. Until then, keep enjoying the summer! 🙂

-J

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Crash Into Me by Albert Borris

Crash Into Me

“Self-esteem is overrated. Anyone will think they color great if enough people tell them. Artificial praise. Down inside, compliments like that are hollow… Real self-worth comes from mastery, from getting good at something. It doesn’t matter what. Then you don’t have to worry about empty compliments. You don’t worry about what other people think. You have self-respect.”
-Mr. Clark

Frank, Audrey, Owen, and Jin-Ae are four suicidal teenagers with one common goal: a cross-country road trip to visit celebrity suicide sites ending in Death Valley, California, where they will kill themselves together. They spend the rest of their time completing bucket list items and sharing secrets, knowing that death is final and this is their only chance to finish what they’ve started. But will time during the road trip change their minds before they reach their final destination?

This is and always will be one of my favorite books, for a few reasons. One, the suspense. You just don’t know what will happen at the end. Everything is so completely unpredictable, even when you think you know exactly what’s going on. Two, the awesome subject matter. I’ve always been attracted to books about suicide (I’m not obsessed with death or anything, I promise), and this is a perfect choice for someone like me. Sad? Of course it is. But not as sad as you’d think, and it’s not an all-out tear fest. It’s just like any other book, just with a much darker subject matter.

And finally, number three deserves its own paragraph. This is one of those few books where I like all of the main and supporting characters. Owen, the narrator and main character of the story, is quiet and easily lovable boy you wish you knew in real life. He seems considerably more vulnerable compared to the other characters. Frank, the other male of the group, is mainly described as an awkward-looking “jock” who really likes beer and hates his father. Jin-Ae is the only gay member of the group, and also a cutter with a love for poetry. Audrey, the youngest member of the group, is an extremely outspoken Nirvana fanatic with a buzz cut and a large scar across her forehead. Despite their total oppositeness, together they make one awesome pack.

I’m kind of rambling now, but you get the main idea. As a whole, the book is great, and I believe everyone should take the time to read it at least once in their lifetime. This book is very underrated, so if you do read it or have read it before, please let me know what you think of it. (I haven’t found one person yet who has read it, and everyone I try to convince thinks it looks too depressing.) Have a great night, and happy June! 🙂

-J

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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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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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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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The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Perks of Being a Wallflower

“We accept the love we think we deserve.”
-Bill Anderson

Surprise review! I borrowed this book from a friend yesterday, and finished all but 20 pages in one day. Yes, it was that good.

I’ve had this on my to-read list on GoodReads since the day I saw the commercial for the movie, though I had no idea what it was about. I knew I heard about it, and if they were making it into a movie, that was automatically enough for me to want to read it. I had high expectations because of all of the good things I’ve heard about it, and it didn’t disappoint.

Charlie is a freshman in high school and makes friends with a group of seniors after his best friend Michael commits suicide. The Perks of Being a Wallflower is set in the 90’s, so there are countless references to 80’s and 90’s music, movies, and TV shows. Charlie is also a big reader, so the book mentions many English literature books.

Since this book is about life in high school, there are so many topics involved, which makes it perfect for anyone. I laughed, I cried, I felt the characters’ emotions– which is more than I can say for most of the books I’ve read. This is a truly unique novel that definitely deserves every bit of hype that it gets, and I can’t wait for the movie to come out on DVD. In my honest opinion, everyone should read this book, even if it’s not your style. You won’t be disappointed.

-J

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Love is the Higher Law by David Levithan

Love is the Higher Law

“The secret to living long is to have something to live for.”

Well, it’s a little late, but I promised you a review within the next few days and here it is. This is the only 9/11 book I’ve ever read, and I’m having some mixed feelings. Like I said in my review for The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, I’m really not too interested in history-related books, so this is a little new to me. Okay, here we go.

Love is the Higher Law focuses on the New York City area during 9/11. There are three sides to this story: Claire, who is in school when it happens; Jasper, who sleeps through it, oblivious to the situation; and Peter, who witnesses the attacks firsthand. Their separated stories are told, and eventually the three meet (Claire goes to school with Peter and meets Jasper by chance, and Peter and Jasper had a date planned for that night before they knew) and their stories mix.

This is a great book, don’t get me wrong. It’s just not my thing. I know there’s not a lot of 9/11 YA novels out there, and I’m really glad that I found one and read it. But now I know it’s not my type of book. I do like that David Levithan mixed so many elements into one book, and it kept my attention through its very short span. If this is the kind of book you’re into, definitely read it, and if it’s not, at least give it a try.

-J

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Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen

Girl, Interrupted

This was a fairly quick read, less than 200 pages and only took me two days to finish, but that doesn’t make it any less incredible. Susanna Kaysen has a serious talent to make a memoir read through like fiction, and to not overly detail like most nonfiction authors do. Being a nonfiction book, there isn’t much of a plot to talk about, other than that Susanna Kaysen is living in the mentall illness ward of McLean Hospital after being diagnosed with schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder, and depression. The book tells about her stay in the hospital and the other girls that live there with her, and her struggles with coping with her mental illnesses.

I’d heard so many good things about this book before I started it, so I immediately had high expectations. Just as I predicted, Ms. Kaysen didn’t let me down: she delivered a rich, intriguing story that really shows you what it’s like to cope with numerous disorders. This, along with Mary Forsberg Weiland’s autobiography Fall to Pieces, is currently my favorite nonfiction book, and I’m sure to read it over and over again for years to come.

-J

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