Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Amy Einhorn Books, 451

"Aibileen is a black maid in 1962 Jackson, Mississippi, who’s always taken orders quietly, but lately she’s unable to hold her bitterness back. Her friend Minny has never held her tongue but now must somehow keep secrets about her employer that leave her speechless. White socialite Skeeter just graduated college. She’s full of ambition, but without a husband, she’s considered a failure. Together, these seemingly different women join together to write a tell-all book about work as a black maid in the South, that could forever alter their destinies and the life of a small town…"

I really hate to say it, but my main reason for reading The Help was because of the movie coming into theaters recently. If there is a chance that I could read the book before seeing the movie, then I make sure I do. This novel tells a great story about struggle, desire, love and what it's like living in the 1960s Jackson, Mississippi. I absolutely loved it!

Before reading The Help, I wasn't quite sure what to anticipate from it or what to even expect. I had heard that the author was not African American, and that only made me curious as to how Kathryn Stockett would portray her characters going through tough times. She surprisingly did a terrific job, leaving you with enough information so the reader is aware of the circumstances, but not so much negative attention that made you feel sour while reading it. This was not a book that gave me a harsh feeling inside. It gives you a hope of triumph.
I'm one for reading a book that is told in a different perspective, and that was one of my favorite aspects to this novel. The chapters change every so often, switching between different characters: Aibileen, Miss Skeeter, and Minny. Aibileen and Minny both are house maids while Miss Skeeter is a white socialite. The characters are more than sympathetic. As a reader, I was crossing my fingers wishing everything would turn out well for them in the end. I enjoyed reading about the various activities and events going on and how each character would react to something. Each had their own stamp of uniqueness and I liked that.
The writing for the different chapters was interesting as well. There was a clear dialect when it was Aibileen's or Minny's chapter, but when it was Miss Skeeter's chapter it was definitely more proper. This added to the story. What I really loved about this novel was that the stories the maids had to tell weren't all bad. Sure there were some terrible stories, it's the 1960s in Jackson, Mississippi, but the stories about love is something any mother out there I know can relate to.
Kathryn Stockett did a great job showing those lines the characters had to cross and how difficult a decision it was to cross them. I liked that she didn't quickly have her characters instantly agree to work with Miss Skeeter. With the story advancing I found myself wanting to find out what will happen because that city is surely full of drama. Also, there's a bit of mystery behind Miss Skeeter's own house maid (Constantine) who suddenly disappears and only limited people know Constantine's story.
If you thought about reading The Help there are a few things to keep in mind. Personally, I feel this book should be read by an older teen, maybe fifteen and up. It doesn't necessarily have mature content or anything explicit, but if say a thirteen year old read it, I don't think they'd get everything out of it that they could have. The Help is a wonderful story and something very unique that I hadn't read about before. With a different perspective and a battle ahead, Kathryn Stockett leaves her readers with a heart felt story that makes me travel back to the 1960s and imagine what it'd be like.
Rating: 5 stars - I loved it! Buy a copy!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly
Random House, 496 pages

"BROOKLYN: Andi Alpers is on the edge. She’s angry at her father for leaving, angry at her mother for not being able to cope, and heartbroken by the loss of her younger brother, Truman. Rage and grief are destroying her. And she’s about to be expelled from Brooklyn Heights’ most prestigious private school when her father intervenes. Now Andi must accompany him to Paris for winter break. PARIS: Alexandrine Paradis lived over two centuries ago. She dreamed of making her mark on the Paris stage, but a fateful encounter with a doomed prince of France cast her in a tragic role she didn’t want—and couldn’t escape. Two girls, two centuries apart. One never knowing the other. But when Andi finds Alexandrine’s diary, she recognizes something in her words and is moved to the point of obsession. There’s comfort and distraction for Andi in the journal’s antique pages—until, on a midnight journey through the catacombs of Paris, Alexandrine’s words transcend paper and time, and the past becomes suddenly, terrifyingly present.   Jennifer Donnelly, author of the award-winning novel A Northern Light, artfully weaves two girls’ stories into one unforgettable account of life, loss, and enduring love. Revolution spans centuries and vividly depicts the eternal struggles of the human heart."

Revolution is a novel about finding and understanding yourself. It gets down to the dirty and nitty gritty parts of life and makes you face them head on. I truly did not have any expectations going into this book. I had read A Northern Light before Revolution, but I personally think Revolution completely blew the award winning A Northern Light out of the water. It was a very pleasant surprise.

First off, I very much liked Andi as a main character. She had gone through so much, and even though she was on the edge of breaking, I had immense respect for her strength. It was such a joy to see her grow as a person throughout the book. And as for our second narrator, Alex, I absolutely loved her too. She was an ambitious girl in 18th century France that learns that there is more to life than being successful. I found this very refreshing... she was a character that learned to balance love and ambition.

I very much enjoyed the past and modern plot lines. I have to admit that once Andi found the diary I constantly wanted to read Alex's story instead, but then Andi's story started to majorly kick in and I became equally fascinated with each side and felt like the author balanced each story very well.

And let me say that I did NOT expect this book to make me so weepy at the end. Strangely enough, even though the story had to deal with morbid content (Hello, it IS the French Revolution everyone!), I wouldn't say the story was sad, per se. I can't really explain the feeling that the book gave off without revealing too much of the ending. You could say that it leaves you with a spark of hope, even if it is relatively small.

So, to wrap up, I will leave you with a small quote from the book that I feel truly captures its beautiful meaning:

"It goes on, this world, stupid and brutal. But I do not. I do not."

Rating: 5 stars - I loved it! Buy a copy!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Unearthly by Cynthia Hand

Unearthly by Cynthia Hand
Harper Teen, 435 pages

"Clara Gardner has recently learned that she's part angel. Having angel blood run through her veins not only makes her smarter, stronger, and faster than humans (a word, she realizes, that no longer applies to her), but it means that she has a purpose, something she was put on this earth to do. Figuring out what that is, though, isn't easy. Her visions of a raging forest fire and an alluring stranger lead her to a new school in a new town. When she meets Christian, who turns out to be the boy of her dreams (literally), everything seems to fall into place- and out of place at the same time. Because there's this other guy, Tucker, who appeals to Clara's less angelic side. As Clara tries to find her way in a world she no longer understands, she encounters unseen dangers and choices she never thought she'd have to make- between honestly and deceit, love and duty, good and evil. When the fire from her vision finally ignites, will Clara be ready to face her destiny? Unearthly is a moving tale of love and fate, and the struggle between following the rules and following your heart."

Unearthly is Cynthia Hand's first novel, and I think she is going to be an excellent author. The book really takes off when Clara moves to her new school to fulfill her purpose. Unearthly has adventure, mystery, and romance all packed into one. There is enough action to keep the reader on his or her feet, but there isn't an overload. Clara's visions are what keep the mystery going. The reader sees them as she does, but her visions are sketchy, and, like Clara's mother, never quite tell her the whole story. In fact, the full story of the vision is kept from the reader up until the very end, when it's basically go-time. The romance definitely kept me reading, and is in the most unexpected places at times, which makes the story more interesting.

Unearthly is written in a first person point of view, from Clara Gardner's perspective. Because of this, the reader gets to know the main character very well, which I view as a plus. It gets the reader quite attached to the book, as well as emotionally invested in Clara.

One of the major necessities of a good YA book is a strong main character, and Clara is definitely that. Clara is strong and dedicated to her duties as a quarter- blood angel, but is also personable enough to have her own internal struggles in the book. Clara has a lot of choices to make because of her purpose, and I can honestly say that at the end of Unearthly, I could not have been more proud of Clara for sticking to her decisions.

The more minor characters in the book also play an important role. Angela Zorbino, who quickly becomes Clara's friend, is an eccentric, sometimes brutally honest character. Tucker adds a lot of humor to the story, and the reader almost can't help but like him. Wendy is Clara's first friend at her new school, and is always there for her.

This book is definitely a great read, and if you're considering reading it, I would suggest that you do. I'm excited for the next one in the series to come out!

Rating: 4 stars- I really liked it. Worth buying.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
MTV Books, 213 pages

"Standing on the fringes of life... offers a unique perspective. But there comes a time to see what it looks like from the dance floor. This haunting novel about the dilemma of passivity vs. passion marks the stunning debut of a provocative new voice in contemporary fiction: The Perks of Being a Wallflower. This is the story of what it's like to grow up in high school. More intimate than a diary, Charlie's letters are singular and unique, hilarious and devastating. We may not know where he lives. We may not know to whom he is writing. All we know is the world he shares. Caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it puts him on a strange course through uncharted territory. The world of first dates and mixed tapes, family dramas and new friends. The world of sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, when all one requires is that perfect song on that perfect drive to feel infinite. Through Charlie, Stephen Chbosky has created a deeply affecting coming-of-age story, a powerful novel that will spirit you back to those wild and poignant roller coaster days known as growing up."

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is one of those books I'll probably never forget. It's a novel I'll more than likely re-read just for fun, or if I'm going through something personal in my life. I don't know why I didn't pick up this book a long time ago, considering it was published in the late 90s. But man, I sure am glad I did.

The book is written in a diary form. Every entry starting with a, "Dear friend" and ending with a "Love always, Charlie." The main character Charlie makes it feel like that "friend" really is you and it's intimate and real and so true. Charlie's first and foremost road block starts when his best friend commits suicide. He becomes lonely; but when he meets Patrick and Sam is when everything changes for Charlie.

I fell in love with the characters. Patrick was a friend everyone should have. The kind that lets you be yourself. And Sam was sweet to Charlie even though Charlie loved her and she was older and it just wouldn't work out. And Charlie. Charlie was a character that anyone could relate to, and I mean anyone. I feel that at one point or another someone has felt sad, alone, like it's not enough, or just that you don't have a place in the world. He's such a relatable character and that's why this book hits home to so many readers out there, including myself.

The writing. The way this book was written just had me at a loss for words. There was an equal mixture of happiness and sadness, but confusion and being hurt. Charlie is an emotional person, and the writing had me feeling those same emotions. When Charlie was down, I couldn't help but feel bad, but when Charlie was happy I felt like cheering him on. The Perks of Being a Wallflower is definitely about growing up and finding out who you are and what you want to be. There was an essence to the story that made me want to cry and smile at the same time. It's the type of book that can change the way you view the world or even yourself.

Everything Charlie goes through, you're right along with him. And I felt like I actually knew him and Sam and Patrick; like I was friends with them or something. Doesn't get more real than that.

If you ever considered reading The Perks of Being a Wallflower then I suggest you get your butt to the nearest library or bookstore and get a copy! This book honestly should be required reading for teens in high school, or just required reading in general. A terrific read and a new favorite novel, I'd have to say!

Rating: 5 stars - I loved it! Buy a copy!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Tiger's Curse by Colleen Houck

Tiger's Curse by Colleen Houck
Splinter, 403 pages

"The last thing teenager Kelsey Hayes thought she'd be doing over the summer was meeting Ren, a mysterious white tiger and cursed Indian prince! When she learns she alone can break the Tiger's curse, Kelsey's life is turned upside-down. The unlikely duo journeys halfway around the world to piece together an Indian prophecy, find a way to free the man trapped by a centuries-old spell, and discover the path to their true destiny."

Tiger's Curse is certainly a must-read for anyone who is looking for an action thrill ride filled with romance, because it sure does deliver. The reason I wanted to read this book was because the plot appeared to be very original and I have only ever read one other book set in India.

Even though Tiger's Curse at times reminded me a bit of Twilight in some sense (Mr. Kadam is a bit like Carlisle and Ren wants to protect Kelsey so bad all the time), I can forgive these likenesses. For one, Ren kind of needs to protect Kelsey all the time. They constantly are doing dangerous tasks by themselves, and I don't think any girl from the United States could survive in an Indian jungle by themselves for very long. As for Mr. Kadam, he is such a sweetheart that I can completely forgive his likeness to Carlisle Cullen. I greatly enjoyed his character. What made me so fascinated with him is that Mr. Kadam even has his own interesting backstory.

The book was written pretty well, but I did feel like the sentences were a bit choppy in the first handful of chapters. This may have been because Tiger's Curse is Colleen Houck's first novel, so I can forgive her for that as well because the writing got much better as the book went on.

So, now on to the romance. It was... AMAZING. Tiger's Curse is definitely a book that shows that romance does not have to be explicit in books in order for it to be intense. You can pratically feel the romantic tension between Kelsey and Ren sparking through the pages. It's that intense.

Needless to say, I am now on to reading the next book in the series, Tiger's Quest. I simply had to go on to the next book after the huge cliffhanger at the end of Tiger's Curse. All in all, Tiger's Curse was a very satisfying and enjoyable read.

Rating: 5 stars - I loved it! Buy a copy!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
Dutton, 384 pages

"Anna was looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. So she's less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris—until she meets √Čtienne St. Clair. Smart, charming, beautiful, √Čtienne has it all . . . including a serious girlfriend. But in the City of Light, wishes have a way of coming true. Will a year of romantic near-misses end with their long-awaited French kiss? Stephanie Perkins keeps the romantic tension crackling and the attraction high in a debut guaranteed to make toes tingle and hearts melt."

From all the hype I had heard to the adorable cover art, I just had to get my hands on this book! Let me start off by saying I loved Sarah Dessen as an author. Realistic fiction with romance and family was at one time, my favorite genre. Anna and the French Kiss was that and more of the hype, I absolutely loved this book and is now one of my favorite novels.

Let's talk about the plot and setting. Paris, France. You really can't have a more romantic city to set a book in, can you? I loved the setting and made me want to visit France that much more! The plot was amazing. Stephanie Perkins did a very good job pacing this book. I finished it in one day; so definitely an easy summer read! Anna is going to a boarding school in France because her father is more or less forcing her to go. (But who wouldn't want to go to Paris, France? I mean, come on!!) What Anna is really upset about is the fact that she's leaving behind her best friend, Bridgette and her boy crush, Toph. (Short for Christopher) As soon as she arrives in France the plot definitely thickens as we meet lots of new characters and relationships develop. Especially because the guy Anna comes to have a crush on not only has a girlfriend, but her new friend she just made has a MAJOR crush on him as well. Talk about a love polygon.

Characters. Characters. Characters. Where to even start? I fell in love with the characters in this book! First off, Etienne St. Clair. (Can I say, OH MY GOSH!) He's American born, has a British accent, and can speak French. Talk about a dream guy. Not to mention he's funny and nice. Anna Oliphant is also a terrific character. She's sarcastic and a real person that I feel a lot of people can relate to. The romantic tension put between St. Clair and Anna was fantastic! I don't know why, but I have this thing for romantic tension, and it was just done so well. Meredith, Rashmi, and Josh are Anna's main friends at the boarding school. All of them were great characters that I enjoyed reading about.

The writing in this novel was great as well. Stephanie Perkins knows how to capture her readers. At times I felt like I was really there in France, a part of the story! (I tend to literally get caught up in my books I read. Sort of a hard habit to escape. :)) But like I mentioned, the pacing was fantastic. There was just enough excitement to keep me reading.....and reading.....and reading until I basically finished the book! I don't think there was a time where I ever felt the need to put this book down because I always yearned for more.

I can hardly believe this is Stephanie Perkin's debut novel, and what a debut it is! I'll have to read more of hers. Actually, come to think of it, there is a companion novel to Anna and the French Kiss coming out in late September called Lola and the Boy Next Door. I am SO eager to read that book. I bet it will be just as amazing and adorable as her debut!

I will admit there are some moments where it's completely cheesy, but it's cheesy in the cutest way possible and I enjoyed every bit of it.

For any Sarah Dessen fans or anyone looking for a cute light summer read, I say choose Anna and the French Kiss. I promise all that hype isn't just for show.

Rating: 5 stars - I loved it! Buy a copy!