Read in November 2014

3 12 2014

I didn’t read as much as I would have liked to in November. I also don’t have the time right now for more than sketchy impressions of the books I read, rather than the full reviews they rightfully deserve. So here goes nothing…

Power books by power women, or also: books that will kick your ass as they rightly should:

GloryOBrien

 1) Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future (by A.S. King aka the most missed author at NCTE/ALAN 2014)

I really hope to write a longer review of this, because this book and this author so deserves all the praise! This is a veritable horror story too. And can I be shallow and say how much I love my signed copy? Look at it!! But seriously. Read this!ASKingNCTE2014

4 stars (but really, it already has 6 starred reviews!)

2) The Truth about Alice (by Jennifer Mathieu)

There’s definitely an overarching theme in my November reads and that is cruelty. In this particular case, it’s cruelty in the guise of ‘slut shaming’. The Truth about Alice is Jennifer Mathieu’s debut YA novel and I was completely and shamelessly sucked in by it.

I “loved” every bit of this book: the multiple perspectives, the ruthless investigation of stereotyping people (and characters in a book), the way it unflinchingly shows how boys and girls are seen and judged in a completely different light. I also “hated” everything about this book: the way the boys and girls are shown and how stereotypes are reinforced. How some people have (too) loud voices and others don’t have a voice at all.

This is such an important book. For boys and for girls. And not in the least: for the adults raising those boys and those girls.

4 stars

3) Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass (by Meg Medina)

This is a book from the heart. It’s not a ‘nice’ story, though. On the contrary, Meg Medina wrote a harsh psychologically layered story about bullying and female relationships. It’s edgy – and I’m not even talking about that title (which, by the way kicks so much ass 😉 – and I’m sure not just girls will identify with Piddy Sanchez or possibly even the mysterious Yaqui Delgado. If there’s one thing that’s abudantly clear after reading this provocative little book then it’s that everyone has a story: the victim, but also the bully, even if we don’t know what that story is, as is the case with Yaqui Delgado. And more than being ‘just another bullying book’, what really stands out is Medina’s great rendering of female relationships.

3.5 stars

Power books by power men

1) Knockout Games (by G.Neri)

Based on true events, comes G. Neri’s Knockout Games. I read this one right before Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass and what the two definitely have in common is the violence. This one is a ruthless book. Set in St. Louis it’s all about a knockout club, a group of middle and high school kids who basically get into random violence (knocking out random people on the street for the fun and thrill of it). When Erica is uprooted to St. Louis after her parents’ divorce, she gets mixed up with the game (she’s good with a camera) and its leader, K (Kalvin), the Knockout King.

The narrative and the language are very straightforward. There’s no needless fancy talk, which wouldn’t really fit with the book’s topic anyway. Also like Yaqui Delgado, I see this being liked by a younger audience (Yes, yes, I know: there’s violence. And sex. Bite me). There’s also the same trope of the outsider trying to fit in, which that age group really seems to appreciate a lot. In this case, the protagonist is the white Erica who moves to a predominantly African American neighborhood and who’s trying to keep her head above water after her parents’ divorce.

3 stars

nctereads1

2) He Said, She Said (by Kwame Alexander)

This is described as a ‘hip hop’ novel and the language use of esp. the male protagonist Omar or T-Diddy (I did the same eye-rolling as the female protagonist!) in the book also reflects this. However, I can’t really say I was into it all that much. I also don’t like hip hop, so maybe it’s that. The story is too stereotypical for my taste: a good looking star football player (a real “player” too, of course) and a studious and responsible girl. Of course they’re destined to meet. Mixed in with this tale of destined yet too good to be true romance is a fight for social justice at the local high school.

I don’t know, it’s all very much in your face. I just couldn’t see past the shallowness of it all (maybe that’s the point?) and I just like my stories more nuanced and my characters with a lot more depth.

2.5 stars

Graphic novels:

1)  The Silence of our Friends (by Mark Long)

This graphic novel – also drawn by Nate Powell – is another (historical) graphic novel/memoir in the same vein as March Book One. It’s not quite as powerful as March Book One, but I can see this being liked a lot by my reluctant readers who’re really into history and the Civil Rights Movement.

3 stars

2) The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil (by Stephen Collins)

GET THIS BOOK NOW. GET IT! NOW! Absolutely brilliant graphic novel. What can I say? There’s the neat and orderly island of Here. The threat of a chaotic There. And there’s a *gigantic beard*. I repeat: there’s a gigantic beard. What more do you need? Brilliant artwork? It’s all there.

Gigantic Beard 1

Gigantic Beard 2

It’s the ultimate surrealist and eerily honest truth metaphor about the state of man in our current society (unfortunately it’s probably also the ultimate hipster book). This book is  awesome. Did I mention there’s a gigantic beard? That is evil?

5 stars

 

Up next: photo impression of NCTE/ALAN 2014





Exam reads: one pass, one fail.

22 06 2014

My life next door (by Huntley Fitzpatrick)

Despite the butt-ugly cover (yes I am a sucker for good covers and this one is just too cheesy!), I liked this book quite a bit. It’s what one would call “a beach read” but in the best Sarah Dessen sense of the word: well-plotted, good characterization (protagonist Sam as well as the love interest Jase and his entire family), a summer romance, an all around satisfying contemporary read by an author who takes her time to tell a story. I like that. If this is what my summer will be like, reading-wise, I am a happy camper!

4 stars

 

the adoration of jenna foxThe Adoration of Jenna Fox (by Mary E. Pearson)

Very disappointing read…reads like it was ‘so 5 years ago’… by which I mean it’s a book that followed a certain trend (e.g. Matched, Beta, The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer…) and the trend wasn’t a great one to start out with. It did start off intriguingly enough with a girl who woke up from a coma with no memories and who tries to put the pieces together again, but it soon goes down the hill of predictability. Those pieces of the puzzle, well, it’s not very hard to figure out for the reader what went on with Jenna as Pearson takes us along on a tour of medical science and bio-ethics. All very “issue-y” and all none too subtle. Nah, just a blah book, I guess.

2 stars

 





Just Listen (by Sarah Dessen)

7 03 2014

justlistenFinishing up on Grasshopper Jungle is a hard thing to do, probably like coming off a drug cold turkey… so any book following that would have been, well… a letdown. That’s why I played it a bit safer and decided to pick up a book that I knew beforehand I would at least like. Didn’t need to love it, but like would have been good… which lead me to Sarah Dessen. And I got exactly what I expected from Just Listen. There was nothing in this book – which actually has a bit of a Speak-vibe, btw – that I didn’t expect, which means, that yes, although Dessen is definitely following a formula, her writing and character development is up to par – as per usual. Just Listen isn’t the best Sarah Dessen (I’m still very much in love with The Truth About Forever), but it’s Sarah Dessen, you know?

Next up? Adam Rapp’s The Buffalo Tree.





Sean Griswold’s Head ( by Lindsey Leavitt)

17 02 2014

sghWell isn’t this a fun little book! In Lindsey Leavitt’s Sean Griswold’s Head, Payton Gritas has sat behind Sean Griswold since forever, but she doesn’t really know much about him. She still wouldn’t, were it not for the fact that on the insistence of her school counselor, she picks his head as her Focus Object. Why would she need a ‘focus object’, I hear you ask. Well, Payton has just found out that her father has MS and that he (and the rest of her family) has known about it for 6 months, yet they didn’t tell her… She’s furious with her parents, gives them the silent treatment and is then forced to see the school counselor to ‘deal with things’.

“Dealing with things” is what this book is all about: Payton and her father’s MS, Payton and her friend Jac (short for Jaclyn), Payton and Sean… Seriously, I have no reservations about this book: it’s well-written, smoothly done, the main character and what her family goes through is relatable, the relationships are drawn very well, there’s a bit of nerdy humor, there’s a bit of romance, there’s a bit of sadness. It’s unpretentious yet complicated at the same time. Good, quick read.





Also read in September 2013

2 10 2013

Disappointing reads, continuing the bad summer streak:

Guitar Girl (by Sarra Manning):

guitargirlThis is Sarra Manning’s debut, and although entertaining enough and some of the sparks of later work is present, this is overall a disappointing read. It felt too unrealistic and too stereotypical to be taken as a serious effort. For instance: if music is your world, and if your band is supposed to be the next big thing, then you know that Roskilde is not in Belgium, but in Denmark… or at least the writer should know! I also loathed the many grammar and spelling mistakes in the edition I read (I mean, seriously, it’s not an ARC or a first edition, by now those mistakes should have been weeded out).

2.5 stars

24 girls in 7 days (by Alex Bradley):

24girlsIf you talk about predictability in beach reads, then this book aces it. This book, by the way, is now published in a ‘beachproof’ edition, whatever that may be. However, I couldn’t get over the fact that this book felt like such an insult to serious teen romance novels, that it’s hard to recommend this book about a nerdy senior – Jack Grammar (haha) – who is set up by his 2 best friends to find the perfect prom date. Also, why would you write your “teen only” books under the name Alex Bradley when your actual name is Jeremy Jackson and you’ve written other novels under your real name? Anyway, this really doesn’t have anything to do with the quality of 24 Girls in 7 Days, of course. Or does it?

2 stars





The Reece Malcolm List (by Amy Spalding)

10 09 2013

reecemalcolmI don’t want to disparage this book or Amy Spalding or anything, but … I had kind of hoped that with the new school year, the mediocrity-streak I had been on would pass, but it hasn’t really and The Reece Malcolm List is just one more example of what a weak(ish) reading year 2013 has been for the cat so far. There’s nothing really wrong with this book, it’s engaging enough (while it lasts), and up to a point I could get into Devan’s ‘search’ for her mother, but…meh… it’s not all that.

The Reece Malcolm List is about Devan Mitchell, who has just lost her father. She’s never been too close with her father, and definitely not close to her stepmom, but obviously she never wanted her dad to just die and her stepmom to ship her off from St. Louis to Los Angeles to go and live with a mother she has never known: the famous writer, Reece Malcolm.

Because of this weird back story, it’s sort of odd the way things just go so smoothly for Devan when she gets to L.A. (school and friends-wise, I mean) and it’s definitely weird the way she didn’t have ‘the chat’ with Reece earlier on in the book (wouldn’t that be the first thing you do?).

Anyway a book that doesn’t read all that unpleasantly (despite its obvious shortcomings as a debut — pacing and fleshing out of characters needs some work here), but which isn’t very memorable in the end… Oh and did I mention there’s Glee-like fun and drama and musical-stuff? Yeah, that too…

Oh, and never has a cover been that close of an impression as to what a book will deliver. You be the judge of what that means!





The summer I turned pretty (by Jenny Han)

30 07 2013

sitpIf there was ever a summer beach read contest, then Jenny Han’s The summer I turned pretty would be podium material.

Belly (seriously??) has been spending her summers at Cousins since forever. Her mom always takes Belly and her brother Steve to visit Susannah, her mother’s best friend, and her two sons: Conrad and Jeremiah. The four kids have always been close, with Conrad and Jeremiah treating Belly like a younger sister (of course). Belly, though, knows she has loved Conrad, the broody mysterious one of the two – since she was about ten years old. This summer – the summer that Belly turned pretty – the boys obviously no longer notice her as the little kid she once was, but as a young woman. Belly’s feelings for Conrad haven’t really changed anything, but things get complicated when Jeremiah too crushes on Belly and to top it off there’s another boy, Cam, who Belly goes on dates with. So we’re basically getting not a love triangle, but a love quartet which is even further complicated by the fact that Conrad behaves like a stupid jerk, Susannah being sick again (you saw that one coming from miles off, so it’s not like it’s a spoiler or anything)… and Belly just being a spoilt little brat who wants to have her cake and eat it too.

The summer I turned pretty is probably better than I make it out to be here: the writing is not all bad, it’s definitely the quickest read of this summer for sure (not that this has any affinity with the quality of a book, of course), it’s just that it’s very … light… It’s blurbed by Sarah Dessen, who’s got the patent on summer reads, but The summer I turned pretty is just not developed in the way any Dessen book ever is. The only real relationship that has some depth is the one between Belly’s mother and Susannah. The teens’ relationships are … well, fluffily handled. This is the type of book that one would call “an enjoyable read” while it lasts. No risks. A dime a dozen.








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