September Girls by Bennett Madison

I started reading this to get away from series for a little while. I thought it would be a nice vacation from long chains of stories that go on and on. This story turned out to be just that, a vacation.
After Sam’s mom takes off, Sam’s dad gets a little weird and hauls Sam and his brother, Jeff, off to some obscure beach. It doesn’t take long for the boys to notice something is strange, beautiful girls who all look similar crowd the beach, they are everywhere and they are all interested in Sam. They party together and Jeff gets with Kristle and Sam gets a crush on DeeDee.
This is a quirky love story if I have ever seen one. I liked it a lot and reading from Sam’s point of view was nice. Bennet Madison put a lovely twist on the classic summer love story.

My Sister’s keeper by Jodi Picoult (spoilers)

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Official first book of Christmas break. On that note, happy Christmas Eve to all who celebrate.

Although this was a terribly sad, buzz kill kind of a book I really liked it. It did make me very angry in a way that I wanted to toss in across the room or into my fire place. I watched the movie years ago (shame on me for not reading the book first) and I thought it was sad but I definitely did not recall this amount of anger.

This book is told from different perspectives. That is a tricky style, in my opinion, because it either makes the book difficult to follow or enhances your perception of the characters and the story. In this book it worked.

Kate was diagnosed with Leukemia at age two and Anna is made to be her donor. Kate’s illness is severe and Anna and Jesse really get put on the back burner. I feel terrible for Anna, she is put in a tough place and I wanted to take her side when she hired Campbell Alexander to medically emancipate her from her parents. Kate needs a kidney, and Anna doesn’t want to give it. If I were in the situation, I would give my sisters anything to live, but I might feel differently if the reason I was alive was to give them every part of me. This story follows Anna’s lawsuit, Kate’s illness, Jesse being ignored and his rebellious teenage ways, Anna’s father, Brian’s career, and Campbell and Julia’s weird love life. It was insane.

There were some awesome things about this book, but two in particular stood out to me. Here come the spoilers. Number one was that no one was how they seemed. Campbell seemed to be really quite an ass in the beginning but it turns out he cared about people and was hiding his terrible epilepsy. Jesse seemed like just an angsty kid when he really did care, but also was harboring some other problems like arson. Anna filed a petition but she wanted to give Kate that kidney. Kate seemed like she wanted to beat cancer, but she told Anna to kill her. The second thing I loved was the excuses Campbell gave for his service dog, Judge, and that they changed every time.

Lastly, I CAN NOT EVEN WRAP MY MIND AROUND THE FACT THAT ANNA DIED. That was cruel and mean and a perfect example of how the world is not a fair place. Beautifully written, but I will never get over the fact that Anna won and then died immediately after. How rude.

Four by Veronica Roth

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First off, I would like you all to ignore my awkward book selfie. Secondly, I would like to make you all aware that I am kicking off winter break by laying in my bed reading and then immediately blogging about what I have just read.

I was extremely skeptical about reading Four. Generally, I hate reading the same book over again from another perspective and that was exactly was I expected from this book. I read it anyways because I can’t help myself when it comes to books and I have no self control.

I was pleasantly surprised. It was a quick read, much like the other books in Divergent series*, but it was captivating. There definitely was some repetitiveness, especially in the three short chapters in the end where Tris is involved, but a lot of it was completely new.

I loved reading about Four’s initiation. I had no idea the initiations weren’t always so brutal and I loved the extra insight. I loved learning about the games and traditions and really just more about the factions.It honestly made me like Tobias better as well. I just saw him as a moody guy who liked a phenomenal female character. Now, not only do I like him, I think he is a really interesting character and I feel bad for him (more so than when I found out about Marcus the first time) and I have this weird pride for fictional characters who do difficult things and overcome bad situations.

Because Four is a small collection of short stories I am giving it a short review. It only seems fair. Four was good, but it isn’t a piece of literature that I would feel incomplete without. It was really nice for a couple days worth of distraction from whatever it is you’re supposed to be doing. I also have to keep this brief because I have another book waiting for me.

Happy Holidays!

*About the Divergent series, they are not quick because they are easy or little, they are quick because while you are reading them you may forgot to do daily tasks like homework, or eating, or sleeping.

Maybe One Day by Melissa Kantor

IMG_1012This book starts in the office of New York City Ballet school where two high schoolers are hearing the words no ballerina wants to hear, they are being cut. There isn’t room for Olivia and Zoe because NYCB can’t afford to teach girls who will not make it. Zoe can’t imagine anything happening that could be worse than being cut, until something does happen. Olivia gets sick, really sick, and Zoe has to deal with her best friend getting Leukemia and going through high school without Olivia.

Olivia is a sweetheart, but I happen to identify very closely with Zoe. Other than the fact that I don’t have a best friend since birth who is dying of cancer I could be Zoe. Recently, I underwent a similar speech. I wasn’t cut but I was told that I probably would have better luck in not ballet. Zoe and I had very similar reaction, I continued to go to class but I cut my hair very short and went into a ballet rebellion. I also am more of Zoe because I can be the bitchy friend sometimes. I am not telling you all of this because you all care deeply about how I view myself in line with the characters, I am telling you this because the characters in this book are life-like. Olivia was a sweetheart, the world would be a cruel place to take her. She was kind and loving and she taught ballet to unfortunate kids when she no longer could learn. Olivia was just the kind of person cancer should not be able to touch.

Life goes on. Zoe learned that more than ever when Olivia gets sick. Zoe has tests and grades that don’t care that her best friend is in the hospital. She has overly friendly cheerleaders and hot football players that suddenly care. There is parties and other friends and birthdays, but Zoe doesn’t want any of that. Zoe wants Olivia to be okay. Zoe deals with sadness as she takes over teaching Olivia’s dance class, and as she gets involved with a boy Olivia used to like. Zoe and Olivia even fight, but Zoe would do anything for Olivia, even take her to the nutcracker.

This book was real and sad and moving. As I was reading it in a hotel lobby I had to pause every paragraph in order to not disrupt the others in the room with my ugly sobs. This book hooked me because I am a dancer, but I kept reading because I fell in love with the characters and the plot. Everyone should read this a cry with me.

The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey

My very first post on this dear blog of mine was about a book that I instantly fell in love with, The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey. I am very happy to be writing this review on the second book.

Once you fall in love with a book it is very hard for the sequel to surpass or even meet the bar that the first had set. In the beginning of The Infinite Sea I was skeptical, I loved the 5th Wave so much there was no way it could compare, but I had questions, and I wanted more of my new favorite book.

The Infinite Sea was so good. The first book shifted perspectives, from Cassie’s to Ben’s to Evan’s and so on, The Infinite Sea did that as well. Not only did we get Cassie’s view ( which I loved ), I got to see Ringer’s side. Ringer was such a mystery, the excellent female soldier who didn’t joke or talk about her personal life before. I adored hearing the way she thought about things and I was very surprised by her emotions, especially at the end.

Poundcake was another point of view that I really liked. In the first book, that’s all they are, soldiers, children that are trained to kill the “the bad guy.” You have no idea who they are, where they have been, or who they have been taken from. Poundcake never talks and yet there are just a couple sections dedicated to him. His search for his brother, the verbal abuse from his mother, the reason that he never talks, Poundcake is quite the mystery as well. It is heartbreaking. That kid is always hoping for his brother, he constantly watched out for him among new recruits at Patterson-Wright and was thinking of his brother when he saw the children. I came to like that chubby little soldier quite a lot.

This book starts where the last book left off. Everyone is impatient and waiting for Evan to get back and Ringer is the most impatient, she goes off and Teacup follows. Most of the first part of the book takes place in that hotel. Evan comes back and of course clashes with Ben. They all want to avoid dying and move along before they are found. That proves to be much more difficult than planned because of some unexpected people (Grace and Megan).

The second half of the book is mostly with Ringer as she recovers from being upgraded and going through Wonderland a second time. The character development with her is so good. She loves Teacup like Poundcake loves his brother, or Cassie loves Sams.

All around, this book was phenomenal, and I highly recommend it.

Independent Study by Joelle Charbonneau

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A+ to Joelle Charbonneau, she knows where romance belongs in a dystopian. I love Cia, she will be put on my list of wonderful females for sure.

Independent Study begins as Cia and the rest of the colony students that passed the Testing are taking their general exams. Cia and Thomas are falling back in love, and Cia finds the recording she created at the end of the last book.
The examinations place her in Government studies instead of her desired field and she is separated from her friends. She excels in Induction and takes on 9 classes as well as an internship with the president herself. She works with Mical and a few classmates to fix the way the testing is done, but that brings trouble.
I can’t wait to see what happens in Graduation Day, unfortunately I have a stack of books up to my shoulder that I have to read before I can get to it. I love how Thomas and Cia have a relationship but it is only present when Cia wants it to be, after being chosen for government there was no mention of Thomas at all during the induction. But after he was still there for her. I love it.

Romance in Dystopian Novels: a Mini-Rant

There is a time and place for romance. There are times when romance is good and possibly encouraged, for example when you’re on a date you can be romantic. Romance goes hand in hand with Nicholas Sparks, and even though John Green writes a different kind of love story it still is a love story.

Do you what is not a love story?

The Hunger Games, Divergent, and The Testing, those are just a couple examples of books that I don’t think are or should be love stories. I will not deny that there is an element or love/romance, but that is not the focus. The focus is placed on the corrupted government and truthfully I don’t think those characters can really afford to get sidetracked by relationships. In the dystopian world, especially when they are faced with difficult tasks, getting distracted or being careless could cost them or their families their lives.

Although The Hunger Games is not a love story, it has an element of love but more strongly is the element of care. Katniss cares more about her family and her friends than herself, and that is mistaken for a love triangle mess. The way I see it Katniss was never in love with Gale, she does what she believes will be best for him, and she does the same with Peeta. Katniss did not want to admit she loved Peeta. Katniss put her family and the task at hand first. Katniss survives and in the end she does end up with Peeta but that isn’t what the book is about, the book is about the revolution and fighting for what is right.

I will admit that there is an added dimension to the story when there is an aspect of love, but I also think that the small aspect of a small romance gets blown out of proportion and overshadows the real focus. For example, Divergent is about being brave, sticking to what you know is right, and standing up for yourself and that is overshadowed by the romance between Tris and Four. I don’t think it’s fair to the stories to ignore all the other concepts and focus in on the teeny tiny romance. I will stand up for great elements that get ignored!

That is all.

The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau

So I recently finished the first book in the Testing trilogy: The Testing. By recently I mean roughly a half hour ago.

As I huge fan of dystopian novels, I already was excited to read this book, but I didn’t have super high expectations. Cia reminded me of Katniss, and I have read nearly a billion of the same book so I was a little worried as well.

This book has some downfalls. For starters, I could put it down. I forgot about it for at least a week while I was busy with a book for school. It also doesn’t sound good, the title reminds me of high school and the sequels title is actually a class I am in. I get that is about a school but really. All in all, there could be much worse problems to have.

I don’t mean to bash this book at all (that isn’t even bashing, you should hear me talk about Eleanor and Park), I do have some really good things to say about this particular novel. I love Cia, she is smart and cunning and modest. She takes care of Thomas and helps him, but she won’t flat out say she loves him. There is no messy love story problems if the boy is the clingy one (I CANNOT EMPHASIZE HOW MUCH I LOVE THAT). I love that Cia figures everything out and is trusting anyway. I love Cia as a character. Thomas reminds me a little bit of Four from Divergent because he is moody, but he is different because he is clingy and I like that too! I really loved the plot and the concepts and the testing scene. It was very well written and once I picked it up a second time I got through it in one day.

I will write to you all soon, until then, I will be reading Independent Study!

WinterGirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

Before this week it had been a long time since that book has blessed my brain. I revisited the ‘dangerland’ of Lia and Cassie over the weekend and relived the scenes and sentences of these tragic teenagers. It is heart breaking. That is the only word that I could think to truly describe the tortured world inside their calorie-counting heads. What makes it so heartbreaking is that this is a real thing that happens to real people. I would like to dedicate this review to ED awareness, but because I have a small blog that like four people see the best I can do is to provide some stats and the warning signs.

Most people who are affected by eating disorders are female, like Lia and Cassie, but men also experience eating disorders.

Lia and Cassie develop their disorder during a middle school summer and it follows them through high school and it completely takes over their life. Lia had been to an inpatient hospital twice and the book only starts when Cassie dies. Those two fictional girls are in high school, they should be having fun, not spending hours exercising or being in funerals. This book follows Lia as she struggles with her disorder and losing her friend.  Lia’s disorder follows her around like Cassie’s ghost and everyone she loves doesn’t know what to do with her. How do you help someone who only wants to destroy themselves?

I love this book. The characters seem real, like they could be a neighbor or someone you go to school with. It’s a great look into to the mind of a struggling teen, which is often just cast aside. I would recommend Wintergirls because it is crazy, and sad, and so very, very real.

To wrap up my book review I am going to give you the warning signs in case you, or someone you know may be struggling with an eating disorder.

You can look for starvation and weight loss, being afraid to gain weight, refusing/restrictive eating or continuous dieting. There may also be over-exercising, being very cold, strange hair growth, or hair loss. That’s what to look for if you are worried about the problem being anorexia. Bulimia Symptoms include a preoccupation with or obsession with food, binging and purging, laxatives, diet pills, etc.  Physically you may notice the salivary glands may be swollen or they may have broken blood vessels in the eye. There may also be similar symptoms to Anorexia. Get help.

Statistics and Symptoms found on  www.anad.org

I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai

I finished the book I am Malala yesterday. Although I find it very hard to read nonfiction, I struggled through this whole book anyway. It was a great story and it really opened my eyes to what was going on over there. As a very fortunate American it can be very hard to realize what is really going on around the world, despite my efforts to educate myself on it.

The first part of this book was slow going. It talked a lot about her family and where she came from. I know that it is very important to know all of that in order to understand, but I did have a hard time following it, probably because I was not familiar with the names and there were no dragons.

I really started to get interested when Malala began speaking out. Although it was very dangerous she didn’t worry for herself. She didn’t think the Taliban would kill a little girl. Malala spoke out everywhere and raised money for schools, she even wrote a secret diary for BBC Urdu. Her father encouraged her and was a great support.

After things settled down a bit Malala became paranoid (for a good reason), her father’s friend had been shot. Malala began double checking locked doors and windows. She didn’t stop going to school though, and it was on the bus ride home that she was shot by the Taliban.

Her medical procedures were hard to follow, she moved hospitals a lot and eventually landed in the UK where she lives and studies.