Monday, August 31, 2015

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

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Publication date: 2015
Publisher: Harper
Pages: 278
My rating: 3 stars
Ages: 18+

No longer the young Scout, Jean Louise Finch is returning home to Maycombe, Alabama, for her annual trip to see her father, Atticus. Everything is going as normal, with Hank courting her and her relatives driving her crazy. But Jean Louise starts noticing how things have changed in Maycombe--or maybe it's New York that has changed her.

I tried to keep myself away from other reviews of this book, but it's a little hard when people have been waiting for over 60 years for another book by Lee. However, that did mean that I was expecting some of it.

I tried to keep in mind that this book was written before To Kill a Mockingbird, in fact, that it was because of this book that Mockingbird was written. At least, that's what I understand from the news stories that came out when this book was "discovered" by Lee. So, with that in mind, here is what I have to say:

Mockingbird is the far superior book. It is more polished and focused. Watchman goes from the past to the present with little warning, and at times seems to be more stream of conscious. That said, it was an interesting story. It seemed so far distanced from Mockingbird that the characters almost seemed like different people to me, which is why I don't think I was as shocked as the early reviewers were. Or perhaps it was because of the early reviews that I wasn't shocked.

There were times when I got lost in the narrative, but not in a good way. I was mentally lost--I didn't understand things they were referencing or things were just going over my head. Maybe I was a distracted reader, or tired, or maybe I just really didn't understand. I think that the main point of the story was an interesting point to make and worthwhile to think about.

There is some language, including the "n-word," which is a product of the time it was written and the themes.

*I do not receive compensation from Amazon.

Monday, August 24, 2015

An Uncertain Choice by Jody Hedlund

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Publication date: 2015
Publisher: Zondervan
Pages: 254
My rating: 2.5
Ages: 12-15

Since she was fourteen, Rosemarie has done two things: 1) ruled her land, 2) prepared to enter the convent on her eighteenth birthday. With a month to go for her birthday, she is faced with a decision. She can enter the convent like she had planned,  or attempt to find true love with one of the three knights she is presented with. But with murder plots and a sacred vow, Rosemarie isn't sure how to make the right choice.

I'm not exactly sure where to start with this book. I don't think I've ever read anything else by Hedlund, but she seems to be a pretty well loved author, which is why I was surprised by this book. I found the story predictable and some of the writing choices questionable.

The Point of View for most of the book is first person, by Rosemarie. But about every seven chapters, the font and POV changes. The first time it happened I thought the font change was a mistake. It wasn't until I was halfway down the page that I even realized that the POV had changed. And I didn't really see the point, since I didn't learn anything that I couldn't have learned from Rosemarie.

The ending made it seem like this story is going to be continued in another book.

The writing is technically good, but I just felt that the story could have gone deeper and been more mysterious, keeping me guessing. That's why I have put the age limit where I did, because I think that younger teens would get more enjoyment out of it than anyone older. There is no swearing or sex.

*I do not receive compensation from Amazon.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Dear Mister Essay Writer Guy: Advice and Confessions on Writing, Love, and Cannibals by Dinty W. Moore

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Publication date: 2015
Publisher: Ten Speed Press
Pages: 193
My rating: 4 stars
Ages: 16+

After having gathered questions from his writer friends, Moore attempts to answer them, and in the process creates "the most important book ever published."

This book was so much fun! Moore answer each letter's question with his own letter and then a personal essay illustrating the point.

The letters from the writers are funny themselves, and then Moore's answers and essay just make them more funny. This isn't your usual book about writing--the usual rules or dry prose. There is a bit of wry-ness, some satirical-ness in the way the Moore and the others approach writing.

There are a lot of topics covered, mostly in reference to creative nonfiction, from em-dashes (my favorite punctuation, unless they ever decide to make the interrobang a thing and then it will be dethroned) to why there is an "ess" in "essay."

Fun to read, quick, and rather informative.

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

Monday, August 17, 2015

The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brusker Bradley

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Publication date: 2015
Publisher: Dial Books
Pages: 316
My rating: 4.5
Ages: 13+

With threat of the war coming to Britain, Ada and Jamie join other children leaving London for the country. Ada had never left their apartment, her mother too ashamed of having a cripple for a daughter, so the world outside is full of surprises. Though living with Susan is difficult, Ada begins to grow and change. But the war threatens more than just Britain; it's threatening the life Ada has started to accept.

I loved this book so much I couldn't stop reading it. When I came to the end of the chapter, I just wanted to keep reading, even though I knew I had to do things like take a shower and get ready for the day. This is one of those books that you start reading one night and finish the next morning because you need to, because the characters need you to finish their story so that they can get to the end and make sure it ends well.

I was so involved in Ada's story, in Jamie and Susan--horrified and over joyed at different times, sad and scared at others. I had never thought about what it would be like to see trees for the first time or to not know how to write or walk. It amazed me that in the 1930s, there was still someone who hadn't ever used a bathtub, or flushed a toilet. Mostly, I found it interesting to see the war through the eyes of an English girl who was basically new to the world.

The writing is simple but interesting, showing the effects of abuse on someone and how they react to everyone around them.

*I do not receive compensation from Amazon.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen

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Publication date: 2015
Publisher: Viking
Pages: 417
My rating: 4 stars
Ages: 14+

Sydney has always been in her older brother's shadow and is even more so now that he's in prison. She thought she was used to being invisible, until she met Layla and Mac. Not only do they see her, but teach her the joys of pizza and the seriousness of french fries. While things are falling apart at home, Sydney turns to Layla and Mac more and more. But even that can fall apart.

After reading this book I finally understand all the comments on Twitter about people craving pizza, DumDums, and fries while reading it. It does make you a little hungry.

I think what I like most about this book is that it's not really the typical "Girl meets boy, they fall in love, something happens, they break, they get back together, happy ending" type of YA novel that we come across so often. Everyone has a back story, everyone has reasons for doing and being who they are. Mac isn't just the handsome guy, Layla isn't just the pixieish best friend, Sydney isn't just the shy girl. They are well developed and interesting. They all have issues, "tender spots," and family drama.

Saint Anything is more the story of accepting yourself, your family, and your friends. To grow as a person, in spite of how all of these people try to influence you in a different ways.

No language and very vague sexual situations.

*I do not receive compensation from Amazon.

Monday, August 3, 2015

A School for Unusual Girls by Kathleen Baldwin

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Publication date: 2015
Publisher: Tor Teen
Pages: 344
My rating: 3.5 star
Ages: 13+
Series: Stranje House

The war is over and Napoleon is imprisoned on Elba. But Georgiana's imprisonment is just beginning. After accidentally burning down her father's stables, Georgie is been taken to Miss Stranje's home for girls to be made into a presentable young woman. Miss Stranje's has a horrible reputation for punishing her students in unimaginable ways; which is just one reason why Georgie doesn't want to be taken there. But things are not always what they seem.

While this is the beginning of the novel, the story (for the most part) comes to a close at the end of the book. Which I appreciate. I may read more books, especially since it looks like they each focus on another one of the girls. Baldwin created an intriguing alternate England, with well-rounded characters.

My own big complaint was that both Georgie and the reader is kept in the dark for about half the novel. I kept wanting the girls and Miss Stranje to spell out exactly what they do at the school. In fact, there is still a lot unanswered, and that is kind of bugging me a little. Maybe enough for me to continue reading . . .

This book has spies, romance, history, and science. No language and no sex.

*I do not receive compensation from Amazon.