Monday, April 28, 2014

Rock and a Hard Place by Angie Stanton

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Publication date: 2013
Publisher: HarperTeen
Pages: 290
My rating:  2 stars
Ages: 14-16

 In the first of the Jamieson Brothers novels, we are introduced to Jamieson front man, Peter--he of the swoon worthy voice and magical lyrics. While on tour, Peter meets Libby, a beautiful but tragic girl with a penchant for art. Both Peter and Libby feel a strong connection, but can they possibly clear all the hurdles that stand in the way of them being together?

Since I'm all about being honest here, here is what I thought while reading this book: "It's like a teenage fantasy written down." I'm sure I'm not the only one as a teenager that had a celebrity crush and fantasized about meeting him and him falling in love with me . . . (oh, I was?) Anyway, it's a little bit like Jonas Brothers fanfic, except the names of the brothers are changed.

That being said; it was a quick read, a little bit of fluff in what I've been reading lately. I really think that younger teens would enjoy this book, but the writing doesn't shine as anything special, and the story is contrived.

*I do not receive compensation from Amazon.

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

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Publication date: 2005
Publisher: Scribner
Pages: 288
My rating: 4 stars
Ages: 18+

In this memoir, Walls gives an in depth view of what it was like for her growing up in the 1960s and 70s, roaming from place to place with her parents. Her father--an intelligent, creative man with a drinking problem--and her mother--an artist and writer without any real maternal instinct--pack their family up and move all across the west anytime they lose a job or get so behind in their bills they have to leave to avoid paying their debt. Finally, they end up in West Virginia, when the four Walls kids are old enough to realize that they want more than the life they had had, causing all four to leave their parents and move to New York.

The writing of this memoir is amazing. There were times when I had to remind myself that the things Walls wrote about actually happened, and that it wasn't just a story. This is definitely a case of truth being stranger than fiction--the life Walls led as a child is so fantastical that it's hard to believe that anyone could have gone through everything she did in the time that she lived.

The Glass Castle is an amazing journey through a daughter's eyes as she goes from holding her father in the highest esteem to becoming disillusioned when she realizes how his drinking has affected him and their whole family. Walls had to learn that even when you love someone, you sometimes have to leave because it's what is best for you. It doesn't mean that you love them any less. In a way, this is really a book about family, and how to be a family.

I put the age rating high because there is mention of sexual assault and some swearing, as well as the subject matter being mature.

*I do not receive compensation from Amazon.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

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Publication date: 1934 (original), 2004 (this edition)
Publisher: Berkley
Pages: 322
My rating: 4 stars
Ages: 14+

Famous Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot, thought he was going on vacation when he receives a message calling him back to England to work on a case. He is able to catch the Orient Express, where he comes across a wide variety of people, one of whom is killed the second night. Caught in a snowstorm, it is up to Poirot to discover the murderer.

How does one go about reviewing a book by such a well loved author as Agatha Christie? Especially one of the most well known books of her career? Well, as honestly as I can. I was first introduced to Agatha Christie through the Marple television show, then the play Mousetrap while I was in London, and then I finally started reading her books through a roommate of mine and they were all Poirot novels, so I do have a love for that particular Belgian detective. That being said, Murder on the Orient Express falls behind Death on the Nile for me.

There were great twists in the story, and I was with some of the other characters thinking it seemed a bit too coincidental until Poirot gave the whole story. Poirot is in fine form in this novel and the other characters interact with him in an interesting way. I just found that Poirot reached the solution a little too conveniently. But for mystery lovers, it's a good story with an interesting ending.

*I don't receive any compensation from Amazon.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein

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Publication date: 2013
Publisher: Hyperion
Pages: 346
My rating: 4 stars
Ages: 16+

In the companion to Code Name Verity, Rose (an American working in England as a civilian pilot) is captured when flying over Europe and sent to a concentration camp. There she meets women who show her the meaning of strength, hope, and family, all while endeavoring to find a way to escape and make it back to Allied territory.

Unlike Verity, I felt that Wein went more "typical" in this WWII novel while still putting a unique spin on it. As an American in a concentration camp, Rose's point of view is completely different from the stories we know about the Jews. And because it's in a concentration camp, the tone of the novel is entirely more depressing than Verity was. There were a few times that I had to put the book down and go do something else to get away from the feeling. While not necessarily bad, and I didn't feel manipulated by Wein, it's just something to keep in mind before you pick it up. There are descriptions during the camp scenes that are pretty horrific--just as it really was--and I felt my stomach turn a little at them.

I thought Verity was the superior book, but that this was a necessary one. The camp Rose is imprisoned in is a women's camp, and one where medical experiments were conducted. Just like in Wein's other book, this draws attention to things that history books and classes don't really concentrate on, and in a more narrow view than is usually given. It gives a different view of war besides who won and who lost, but instead addresses things like the victims of war, and how many of those victims had no real part in the war. Again, it's those shades of gray that we dismiss in our view of history that Wein brings out with intense attention to detail and emotion. I think this book would be particularly good for high school students to read while studying the war--while fictional, it's a personal view at what the war did, to people, to places, and to history.

*I receive no compensation from Amazon.