Thursday, August 16, 2012

REVIEW: The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbotsky

Rating: 5/5 Stars
Genre: Realistic Fiction, Coming-of-age, Epistolary Novels
Audience: Older Teen/Young Adult, Adult Crossover
Format: Audiobook

Summary: Fifteen-year-old high school freshman Charlie is anxious about starting high school, especially after his only friend committed suicide last year. So he chooses an unnamed stranger as his confidante. Over the course of a year, he sends anonymous letters describing his triumphs and tribulations as he befriends two seniors who welcome him into their eccentric group of friends and show him how to engage with the world.

First Line: "Dear Friend, I am writing to you because she said you listen and understand and didn't try to sleep with that person at that party even though you could have."   

Tracy's Thoughts:
Charlie is now one of my all-time favorite book characters. His narrative voice is one of the strongest I've ever read, engaging and startling in its naive honesty. Charlie is unguarded about his emotions, often to the bafflement of those around him, and honestly clueless about many of the basics of social interaction. Take the following passage between Charlie and his older sister:
"I hate you."
My sister said it different than she said it to my dad. She meant it with me. She really did.
"I love you," was all I could say in return.
"You're a freak, you know that? Everyone says so. They always have."
"I'm trying not to be."
He is vulnerable, awkward, and sometimes downright brilliant. In a word, he has depth. The book's other characters, including the "unconventionally beautiful" Sam and her stepbrother Patrick, are equally well drawn and likeable. This book's story and characters seem completely real, and it is almost impossible not to relate to them no matter how different your life may be.

Wallflower has been frequently compared to classic coming-of-age novels like The Catcher in the Rye and A Separate Peace. But although it addresses a lot of "issues"—suicide, sex, drugs, depression, abuse, homosexuality, bullying, teen pregnancy, etc.—it's not all angst. Instead, it is a completely engrossing story full of hilarity, heartbreak, and inspiration. There were parts that made me laugh out loud; others left me stunned, anxious, saddened, hopeful. Although this book was published over a decade ago, it speaks to an age-old high school experience. It doesn't feel outdated at all, though I could be a bit biased considering I was a high school student myself in the 90s. But considering the movie adaptation is coming out next month—featuring what promises to be a very un-Hermione role for Emma Watson—I don't think I could be too biased. (The cast also includes Logan Lerman from the Percy Jackson movies as Charlie, with Paul Rudd, Mae Whitman, Vampire Diaries' Nina Dobrev, and others.)

In addition to the excellent characterizations and well-crafted story, I love how Charlie relates to so much through books and music. (As we've covered before, I am a sucker for books featuring characters who have a special relationship with books and/or music.)  For me, The Perks of Being a Wallflower more than lived up to its reputation. I loved it, which in turn makes me a bit wary of the upcoming movie adaptation. But since Stephen Chbotsky wrote the screenplay and directed as well, I have faith the film will remain true to the novel. Here's the official trailer, in case you haven't seen it yet:

I don't actually go to the movies very often (the last movie I saw was The Hunger Games), but I am looking forward to seeing this one. What about you? Do you plan to see the movie adaptation when it comes out?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

REVIEW: Becoming Sister Wives by Kody, Meri, Janelle, Christine, and Robyn Brown

Rating: 3/5 stars
Genre: Nonfiction
Audience: Adult

Summary: Ever wonder what it would be like to be part of a polygamist family? How would it feel to share your husband with three other women?  This book can perhaps provide some insight into these questions.  Becoming Sister Wives tells the story of the polygamist Brown family and how they came to be the family that can be seen on TLC's reality show Sister Wives.  Cody, the husband, is married to not only Meri, but also Janelle, Christine, and Robyn and they have some 17 children among them.  This story tells of their tribulations, not only as they struggle to become a unified family unit, but also the struggles that they face/are facing as polygamists in prevalently monogamist America.  You will learn how each couple came to be married and how each wife has come to grips with "sharing" her husband with four other women.

Lucinda's Views: I picked up this book because I was curious as to what the Brown family would say concerning their unconventional lifestyle.  I found it to be an easy, quick read that in some ways touched my heart.  The views expressed by all of the Brown in this book is that this lifestyle is a sincere calling from God, not a salacious attempt by Cody to have as many women in his life as possible using the excuse of religion.  Each voice in the book was expressed in a sincere, clear manner that left no doubt about who was speaking and that each voice was sincerely expressing their beliefs as they see them.  I found this book to be an interesting, even informative read.  Even if you do not agree with the Browns' choice of livestyle, this book is worth giving a read.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

REVIEW: A Discovery of Witches and The Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness

Star Rating: 4.5/5
Genre: Supernatural Fantasy/Time Travel
Audience: Adult, Young Adult

Summary: In two sweeping novels that range in setting from modern-day Oxford to Elizabethan England, Deborah Harkness tells the story of the lovers Matthew and Diana, a vampire and witch who are breaking every taboo to be together.  It all begins when Diana calls up the alchemical treatise "Ashmole 782".  Unbeknownst to Diana, this manuscript has not been seen in hundreds of years and is said to hold the key to the origins of the three races; witches, vampires and daemons.  Subsequently, Diana simply sends it back to the Bodlien Library's stacks.  With this one act, Diana suddenly finds herself the object of a race against time, at the center of a powerful magic, and in a struggle for her very life and that of the vampire she loves. 

Lucinda's Views:   I have a confession to make, I have a guilty pleasure.  I love a good supernatural love story/fantasy, so I eagerly grabbed A Discovery of Witches when it first came out.  Then I heard that the sequel was arriving, so I got out my handy Nook and reread A Discovery of Witches.  It was as absorbing a book as it had been during the first read.  Diana's tenaciousness and true strength of character draws the reader in and holds them in thrall until the last page.  Matthew is the quintessential vampire hero, strong, protective, and a little bit of an enigma.  As seen in Shadow of Night, Matthew has been a hidden player throughout much of our modern era, including being a member of the School of Night.  (An organization founded by Sir Walter Raleigh during Elizabeth I's reign.  It consisted of some of the most gifted minds of the day.)  Anyone who loves the combination of history and fantasy will enjoy this aspect of the novels.  These book are well-written, interesting, and will hold a fascination for any reader who picks them up.  I can't wait for the third novel in the trilogy to be published!

Thursday, August 2, 2012


So I recently realized that over the past year I've read several YA books that I never got around to reviewing. Now, many of these books have sequels out or soon to be released. Here's a quick look at some of the books I overlooked:

All These Things I've Done (Birthright #1) by Gabrielle Zevin
Genre: Dystopia/Crime Fiction/Romance
Rating: 2.5/5 Stars

 In a near future where chocolate and caffeine are contraband, water and paper are carefully rationed, and curfews are strictly enforced, sixteen-year-old Anya Balanchine finds herself coping with an ailing grandmother and mothering her orphaned siblings.Oh, and she also gets herself tangled up in the illegal family business while falling for the son of New York's new District Attorney. Anya is a strong and fascinating character and this book provides a slightly different slant in dystopian literature, but I felt that some of the details strained credibility. For me the book fell a bit flat, especially the romantic relationship. But there's still hope for this wonderful premise and characters: Book 2, Because It's in My Blood, is due out September 18, 2012.

Ashes (Ashes Trilogy #1) by Ilsa J. Bick
Genre: Apocalyptic Fiction/Horror
Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

On the run from an incurable brain tumor, 17-year-old Alex is camping alone in the mountains when catastrophe strikes. The sudden explosion of an EMP (electromagnetic pulse) instantly kills most of the adults and turns many of the younger humans into crazed, flesh-eating monsters. Tough and resourceful, Alex teams up with a contrary eight-year-old and a young soldier named Tom. The first half of this novel is a high-energy gorefest that kept me enthralled, but events take a sudden turn midway though. The creepy factor ratchets up in a totally new way, but the sudden veer had me baffled for a bit. However, the cliffhanger ending takes a turn back in the right direction. There are tons of questions left in the air, and I can't wait for the sequel, Shadows, due out September 25, 2012! For its foray into societal issues and mores as well as the vivid action sequences, Walking Dead fans will definitely want to check this one out.

Glow (Sky Chasers #1) by Amy Kathleen Ryan
Genre: Science Fiction
Rating: 3/5 Stars

Decades ago, when it became clear Earth would not survive much longer, two pioneer spacecraft were launched to locate and colonize  a New Earth. Fifteen-year-old Waverly and her boyfriend Kieran were born aboard the Empyrean, a completely self-contained habitat. The Empyrean and its inhabitants are still at least 40 years away from reaching their goal when their sister ship, New Horizon, inexplicably attacks and kidnaps all of the girls. Suddenly, Kieran finds himself in a power struggle with Seth, who becomes both a romantic rival and a rival to Kieran's role as future leader of the ship. Meanwhile, Waverly must figure out a way to thwart her captors. This is a fast-paced space epic with some fascinating twists. A less-than-subtle dig at the corruptible qualities of organized religion may alienate some readers.  The second installment of the series, Spark, was released July 17, 2012. 


Hourglass (Hourglass #1) by Myra McEntire
Genre: Science Fiction/Mystery/Paranormal Romance
Rating: 3/5 Stars
Seventeen-year-old Emerson Cole sees ghosts. Or, at least she believes that's what they are. Now that she is home—after being hospitalized for a nervous breakdown—her older brother and guardian has hired the Hourglass Institute to help Emerson deal with her "hallucinations." But Micheal Weaver is not the therapist Emerson expects; instead he is a consultant for a secretive organization that works with gifted people of the X-men variety, helping them to develop and use their abilities for good. Emerson believes he's nuts at first, but soon she's thinking all sorts of things might be possible, including time travel. This book isn't perfect, but Emerson is a likeable, slightly offbeat narrator, and the romantic triangle that develops with Michael and Kaleb is intriguing if a bit predictable. Hourglass is a clever combination of science fiction, superheroes, and paranormal romance that will appeal to a wide range of readers. The sequel, Timepiece, is now available.

Wither (Chemical Garden Trilogy #1) by Lauren DeStefano
Genre: Post-apocalyptic Fiction
Rating: 3/5 Stars
In a future world where genetic engineering has created a disease that kills women by the age of 20 and men by the age of 25, polygamy has become a way of life for the rich and a means of ensuring survival of the species. Rhine is sixteen when she is kidnapped from her Manhattan neighborhood and forced to become the bride of Linden Ashby, one of the most handsome and affluent young men in Florida. Even as Rhine struggles with her feelings about her new husband, she also develops a wary relationship with one of the household's male servants. And yet she is determined not to allow her developing relationships to make her lose sight of her goal to escape and somehow reunite with her twin brother. This is a creepy, dangerous world filled with hidden agendas. The narrative tension is high and although I was often frustrated by Rhine's inner conflicts, I fully plan to discover more of this disturbing world in Fever.
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