Sunday, January 31, 2010

Dear John by Nicholas Sparks

After graduating from high school, John Tyree just goes through the motions of living. No ambitions, no career, he's just living from job to job. The relationship with his father is strained, as they have nothing in common, and there's no one he can turn to. After a few years of floating around, John decides to join the army, and it's the best thing for him. He learns disclipline, patriotism and has a group of guys that he would give his life to protect. But it's during his summer leave that everything changes. That is when John first meets Savannah, who is beautiful, sweet and unlike any girl he's ever met. They start spending time together and before he knows it, he's in love with her. But at the end of two weeks, John has to return to Germany and it's harder than ever now that he's leaving someone behind. Savannah and John vow to keep in touch, but will their love conquer the boundaries of time and space?

So, the phenomenon that is Dear John. I first heard of this book when I saw the movie trailer a few months back, and thought the movie looked really cute. I didn't give much thought into reading the book until one of my friends (who happens to be a guy) was practically in love with this book. He's one of those people who rarely, if ever, picks up a book, so the fact that he liked this one so much (a romance at that) made me want to read it. And as it gets closer to the movie release date, Dear John is becoming a craze at my school. Seriously, everyone has read, is reading or wants to read this book. It's starting to feel a little like Twilight. So I decided to pick it up. Here's my review:

It seems to me that Dear John is one of those books that appeal to non-readers. This is my first Nicholas Sparks book and I've found that his writing is simple and the story easy to follow. Everyone (and this is mostly people who don't do a lot of reading) rave about this book. I, however, was a little disappointed because I didn't enjoy it as much as I thought I would. I don't know if it's because I've read some amazing books that non-readers haven't or if it just wasn't the book for me, but it wasn't the masterpiece that people are making it out to be. It wasn't all bad; like I said the story is cute and easy and doesn't take that much brainpower. The thing that bothered me was that it seemd like Nicholas Sparks was writing superficially because the book doesn't go into much detail nor does it speak in-depth about the character's thoughts and feelings. This book was based on emotion and the fact that the characters were kind of blah is sort of disconcerting. I also didn't understand why the book was titled Dear John if Savannah only writes two letters the whole book (that the reader can actually read). The whole story seemed kind of rushed if you ask me.

I know it sounds like this book is awful, but it wasn't. I did enjoy reading, I just wasn't that impressed overall. I'm still looking forward to seeing the movie (Amanda Seyfried and Channing Tatum are two of my favorite actors) and I have a feeling I'll like the movie more than the book.

7 out of 10.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Technical Problems

So I don't know if anyone has noticed, but my header appears to be not working. For some reason, the link to the picture is broken, and I have no idea why. Since I'm not tech savvy in the least, I don't know when/how I'm going to fix it. So please don't mind the top lol. And if anyone has any advice, I'd sure appreciate it : )

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Other Queen by Philippa Gregory

During Elizabethan England, Queen's Elizabeth's cousin Mary Queen of Scots has been forced to flee her country from rebels and seek refuge in England. Mary, while being the Queen of Scotland, is also heir to the English throne, and some believe that she is the true monarch while Elizabeth is merely an imposter. Fearing assassination and a royal overthrow, Elizabeth imprisons Mary against her will as a "guest" of the Earl of Shrewsbury, George Talbot, and his wife Bess. George and Bess, at a great expense to them, are forced to host Queen Mary and her entire court. As they sink deeper and deeper into debt, their residence becomes a center of intrigue and rebellion against Elizabeth. But as George begins falling for Mary and Elizabeth and her steward, William Cecil, become more and more paranoid, will George and Bess be able to escape with their fortune intact, and hopefully their lives?

I love books about Tudor England and think that Philippa Gregory is a fantastic writer, so I knew I would enjoy The Other Queen. The one problem I had with this book, that I didn't have with others written by Gregory, is that it was really hard to get into. In the beginning, there wasn't a lot of dialogue or movement in the plot, just a lot of narration, made worse by the fact that The Other Queen is written in first person. The book switched point-of-view between Mary, George, and Bess, and at first every chapter was just a monologue for whichever character was narrating. It wasn't until the 200 page mark that the book picked up and I actually started to enjoy it. I didn't know that much about Mary, Queen of Scots, so it was neat to read and learn about her. The characters had a lot of depth, and it was interesting to get into their minds and see their thoughts and feelings. I think I liked reading about George the best, because he was torn between his love of Mary and his loyalty to Queen Elizabeth and this contradiction shaped his actions. Even thought it got off to a bumpy start, I would recommend The Other Queen to any fans of historical fiction.

7 out of 10.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton

Unusual among Edith Wharton's work is Ethan Frome, a dramatic tale that takes us into the most private recesses of a remote New England village. Remarkable for its beauty and simplicity, this story of great love shadowed by tragedy has become an authentically American classic. (Taken from back cover)

Surprisingly, I loved Ethan Frome. I was really curious about this book, because I've never read any of Edith Wharton's work and my teacher hinted that this book would be about an affair. And it was actually very good. The book was written in 1911, so it wasn't too long ago. It's extremely short and gets to the point quickly, which I like. There is a lot of imagery and description in some parts, but it's written so beautifully that I didn't mind. The plot moved at a decent pace, the characterization was good, the ending was surprising. There is a bit of a twist that I wasn't expecting, which was refreshing because I usually can predict the endings of books pretty well. If you ever need to read any of Edith Wharton's work, whether for school or for fun, I would definitely recommend Ethan Frome.

7 out of 10.

Friday, January 15, 2010

All Unquiet Things by Anna Jarzab

Carly: She was sweet. Smart. Self-destructive. She knew the secrets of Brighton Day School's most priveleged students. Secrets that got her killed.

Neily: Dumped by Carly for a notorious bad boy, Neily didn't answer the phone call that she made before she died. If he had, maybe he could have helped her. Now he can't get the image of her lifeless body out of his head.

Audrey: She's the reason Carly got tangled up with Brighton's fast crowd in the first place, and now she regrets it - especially since she's convinced that the police have put the wrong person in jail. Audrey thinks the murderer is someone at Brighton, and she wants Neily to help her find out who it is.

As reluctant allies Neily and Audrey dig into their shared past with Carly, her involvement in Brighton's dark goings-on comes to light. But figuring out how Carly and her killer fit into the twisted drama will force Audrey and Neily to face hard troubles about themselves and the girl they couldn't save. (Taken from back cover)

All Unquiet Things was an amazing book! I love mysteries, and this one actually seemed realistic. It wasn't like Nancy Drew where you sometimes have to suspend belief (seriously, how does Nancy always solve the mystery?). But I could actually see Neily and Audrey going through Carly's things, subtlely questioning their friends, discussing possible suspects. They didn't somehow get access to police records or stumble across blood stains in someone's house. It was more deliberative and thoughtful and more real. That's one of the reasons I enjoyed All Unquiet Things so much. I felt like I was there with Audrey and Neily, wondering who the murderer was. And as for the actual killer - it was huge surprise. I would never have guessed the culprit in a million years, and somehow it made perfect sense. So kudos to Anna Jarzab for creating an extremely well-written mystery.

As for the characters, I really liked Neily and Audrey. I liked their alternating point-of-views, and especially that the book didn't switch narrators every other chapter. Sometimes that can get tiresome because I constantly have to be aware of whose speaking or else I get confused. In this book, I only had to readjust my perspective a few times, instead of twenty. Carly was also interesting, because she was a puzzling character at times. I enjoyed seeing her in flashbacks and trying to decipher her character.

Another thing - if you've read The Secret Year by Jennifer R. Hubbard, these books are pretty similar. I read them back-t0-back, so I was even more aware of the similarities. Mainly they both have the main character/love interest dead for the story and you get to see the character through flashbacks and diary entries. The stories are really different, but when if you think about it, how many books employ this theme? So if you liked one, you'll probably like the other.

9 out of 10.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Secret Year by Jennifer R. Hubbard

Colt was with Julia for a year, but nobody else knew about it. Julia lived on Black Mountain Road in a mansion - with servants - and had a country-club boyfriend to complete the picture. But Colt definitely did not come from Black Mountain, and no one would have understood why they were together. It never mattered to them, but when Julia dies in an accident right before her senior year, Colt is suddenly the only who knows their secret. He tries to pretend that his life is the same as ever, but he's haunted by memories of Julia. It gets even worse after the journal she kept about their romance falls into her hands. Colt searches every entry for answers: Did Julia really love him? Was he somehow to blame for her death? But the ultimate question - one nobody can answer - is how he's supposed to get over someone who was never really his to begin with.

Combining the forbidden romance of Romeo and Juliet with the tension and turf wars of The Outsiders, Jennifer R. Hubbard creates an unforgettable debut novel about love, loss, adn the freedom that comes with figuring out who you really are. (Taken from back cover)

I thought that The Secret Year was very good. It was short, but I was able to get sucked into the story really easily. I liked that it was an unconventional love story, mainly because the love interest wasn't alive for the book. We see Julia in flashbacks and read her thoughts and feelings in her diary, but the reader is still kept at a distance, which I liked. I was able to learn about Julia, while still recognizing that she was absent from the story. I also like the Romeo and Juliet theme and how the two groups (rich and poor) were always at each other throats. Though I'm not sure what town has such a difference in wealth and income, but it made for a good book.

As for the characters: I really liked Colt. It was different reading a "romance" from a boy's point-of-view, but I enjoyed the differences. Colt wasn't as sappy as you'd expect a girl to be, but you could still feel his pain and grief. He was a smart aleck, but it made the book so funny. Julia, the other main characters even though she's technically not alive, was on the fence for me. I started out liking her and being intrigued by her actions. But by the end, I thought she was mean and actually kind of selfish. There were times that she treated Colt like crap, and I think he deserved much better. Overall, though, I enjoyed The Secret Year, and thought that it put a unique twist on the Romeo and Juliet and West Side Story theme.

8 out of 10.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday - 9

So I haven't done a Waiting on Wednesday in like three million bajillion years. Okay, not since March, but that's still a pretty long time. As you know, Waiting on Wednesday was created by the lovely Jill at Breaking the Spine.

The Line by Terri Hall

An invisible, uncrossable physical barrier encloses the Unified States. The Line is the part of the border that lopped off part of the country, dooming the inhabitants to an unknown fate when the enemy used a banned weapon. It’s said that bizarre creatures and superhumans live on the other side, in Away. Nobody except tough old Ms. Moore would ever live next to the Line.

Nobody but Rachel and her mother, who went to live there after Rachel’s dad died in the last war. It’s a safe, quiet life. Until Rachel finds a mysterious recorded message that can only have come from Away. The voice is asking for help.

Who sent the message? Why is her mother so protective? And to what lengths is Rachel willing to go in order to do what she thinks is right?

I think this book sounds amazing and I can't wait for it to be released on March 4! What are you looking forward to?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Survivor by Chuck Palahniuk

Tender Branson - last surviving member of the so-called Creedish Death Cult - is dictating his life story into the flight recorder of Flight 2039, cruising on autopilot at 39,000 feet somewhere over the Pacific Ocean. He is all alone in the airplane, which will crash shortly into the vast Australian outback. But before it does, he will unfold the tale of his journey from an obedient Creedish child and humble domestic servant to an ultra-buffed, steroid- and collagen-packed media messiah.

Unpredictable and unforgettable, Survivor is Chuck Palahniuk at his deadpan peak: a mesmerizing, unnerving, and hilarious satire on the wage of fame and the bedrock lunacy of the modern world.

My friend read Survivor for summer reading one year, and she recommended it to me. If you've never heard of the author Chuck Palahniuk before (like me), you should be familiar with his other work: Fight Club. I haven't read the book or seen the movie, but the name reassured me that the book would be somewhat good. I mean, come on, Fight Club is pretty famous. But I don't think Survivor was as good as Fight Club, because it was only okay, and not amazing. I think the one problem I had with Survivor was that it was a satire. Not that satires are bad, but I feel like a lot of the irony and humor just goes right over my head. There were parts that were funny in the book, but I could tell the author was trying to write a social commentary on society's obsession with fame, and that just didn't interest me a lot. You also can't just jump into Survivor (at least I couldn't). At first, it was hard to read, but once you get into a rhythm and get used to the writing, the story gets better. But Survivor wasn't all bad. The plot was interesting and didn't stall or get boring. I never knew what was going to happen next and the book kept me on my toes. I would recommend Survivor for fans of satire and irony.

6 out of 10.