Monday, May 25, 2015

Hush by Donna Jo Napoli

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Publication date: 2007
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Pages: 308
My rating: 4 stars
Ages: 14+

Melkorka and her sister, Brigid, are captured to be sold as slaves as they are escaping from that very thing. Taken from Ireland, they are eventually separated, leaving Mel on the ship by herself. Choosing to remain silent, Mel finds power over her captor and leadership among the other slaves. Based on an Icelandic saga.

I have been reading Napoli since I was a tween, starting with Zel. Most of her books (all that I have read) are retold fairy tales, myths, and legends, which is part of why I like them. But I also like how she doesn't shy away from some of the grittier details, and doesn't condescend to the reader. With this in mind, keep in mind that most of her books do contain sexual situations.

I bought Hush sight unseen, based solely on Napoli's name. It's the tale of a girl who was born into privilege and expects it, but then has to learn and grow. Mel becomes a strong and complex character, caught between her new and old life. My only critique is that it ended so suddenly--I wanted a happier ending for her, a reunion with her sister or family. The author's note at the end made it better, once I learned about the legend surrounding her.

Good for those who like retold stories, fairy tales, and Ireland.

*I do not receive compensation from Amazon.

Monday, May 18, 2015

I Was Here by Gayle Forman

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Publication date: 2015
Publisher: Viking
Pages: 270
My rating: 3 stars
Ages: 17+

Cody's life turned upside down the day she received an email from her best friend, Meg. Trying to figure out what would cause Meg to take her own life, Cody starts on a journey that she can't seem to stop. Her only companion is Ben, someone who has his own history with Meg.

Before I start, I feel like I should issue a trigger warning for this book. If you have depression or have ever had suicidal thoughts, I'd recommend caution before reading I Was Here. Not only does it deal with things, but there are some details within the book that could bring up feelings or thoughts that it would be better to stay away from.

This is very different from Forman's other books. It's grittier and doesn't focus so much on the romance aspect (though that is still there); instead, it focuses more on the "finding yourself" part that all of Forman's books contain. The grief that Cody and Meg's family are going through are real and difficult--when someone you know ends their own life, it can make it difficult to continue, more so than with any other death. Because of this, Cody does some really stupid and outrageous stuff. She becomes obsessed with trying to understand Meg. If the book had been longer, this would have gotten annoying, but the pacing of this book is phenomenal. All the characters are well developed, even the secondary ones, and each change and grow throughout the story.

There is a lot of hard swearing and some sexual situations.

*I do not receive compensation from Amazon.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

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Publication date: 2010
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Pages: 476
My rating: 2.5 stars
Ages: 14+
Series: The Infernal Devices

Tessa arrives in London expecting to be met by her brother. Instead, she is taken prisoner by two old women who show her a talent she didn't know she had. This begins her journey into learning about Downworld, Shadowhunters, and demons. Tessa needs to decide who to trust, learn who she is, and chose who to love.

When I first started reading this, I spent the first 20 pages worried about whether I would understand it or not since I haven't read Clare's Mortal Instruments series. I finally decided to let go of that worry and see what happens. If I did miss something, I didn't realize it. I was more drawn to this book than to the Mortal Instruments because I'm an anglophile, and I love the Victorian Era.

The writing was good and the magic system and cultures interesting. Tessa was a somewhat stereotypical paranormal heroine, but not annoying. The biggest critique I have is that for the first 125 pages, the story was told from one third-person point of view--that of Tessa (excepting the prologue, but then, prologues have their own kind of rules), and then all of a sudden I was going between several character's third-person point of views. It really threw me off, and the switch between point of views could be close together or far apart that it almost made me think that Clare had chosen the wrong main character. Perhaps this is just me, but I feel that the first bit of the book gives certain promises to the reader, in this case, that Tessa was the person I would be following. But, when Tessa wasn't in an important scene (as she wasn't for the confrontational scenes, until the end), Clare chose another person to follow. I think I would have rather that the main character had been Will.

As for the title, Clockwork Angel. This relates to a piece of jewelry Tessa wears, and I believed would play a much larger part in the book. Hold some secret to who she is, or who her parents were. And maybe it does, if you continue the series, but I don't think I'm going to do that.

I did like that the book finished. It's obvious that it's the beginning of a series, as there were things left unaddressed, but the main storyline of the novel ended with this one. This is something that I will always appreciate--I'm not fond of books that end practically in the middle of a sentence, in an attempt to manipulate readers to continue with the series.

There was very little language, no sexual situations. I would recommend this series to teens who have like other paranormal series, or that have previously read Clare's works. Like I said, it had good writing and good descriptions.

*I do not receive compensation from Amazon. 

Friday, May 8, 2015

Under Magnolias: A Southern Memoir by Frances Mayes

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Publication date: 2015
Publisher: Broadway Books
Pages: 282
My rating: 2.5 stars

Frances was born and bred in pre Civil Rights Georgia. The youngest of three girls, she has distinct memories of her father and mother's unhappy marriage, something that colored her views of them as parents. After spending her childhood desperate to get out of the south, she returns and finds a home.

It took me a long time to get into this book. In fact, I started it and then took about a month break before returning to it. I found the style very impersonal, affected, and pompous. Non of the other memoirs I've read seemed so against connecting to the readers. Then there were times when the tense changed, and the writing seemed more of a stream of consciousness thing instead of memories. At the same time, I felt that maybe it was just me, because Mayes is a well-known author and professor.

When I came back to it and really stuck to my guns and read it, I found Mayes's memories interesting. The writing still seemed to hold me at arm's length, but since I had given myself to the halfway mark and I continued reading past that, it was keeping me a lot more interested than I had believed. Mayes's descriptions of 1950s and 60s south are full and bright.

I think this might be better for readers who enjoy a "higher" and more intellectual type of reading. There is little language and some sexual situations, but nothing graphic.

*I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Monday, May 4, 2015

I Must Say: My Life as a Humble Comedy Legend by Martin Short

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Publication date: 2014
Publisher: Harper
Pages: 318
My rating: 3.5 stars
Ages: 16+

From a young age, Marty Short was a showman. In his attic bedroom, he performed songs and created his own talk show, but he never thought of making it career until his early 20s. This follows the ups and downs his career and his life.

I always felt some sort of affection for Martin Short when I saw him in various roles throughout the years, but my respect for him just grew the more I read about his life.

He went mostly in chronological order, splitting up the book with explanations about characters that he created. A lot of the time I would rather read a book than listen to it, but with books like this, I wish that I could read it as I'm not very familiar with Short's characters and it would have been nice to be able to hear how they spoke.

I was finding the book interesting and engaging, but the end really got to me. I was reading it during lunch at work and had to take a few moments to get my eyes cleared away.

Great book for those (like me) that like learning about celebs, fans of Martin Short, SNL, or movies in general.

*I do not receive compensation from Amazon.