Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Summer Sisters

Summer Sisters
Judy Blume
Age Level: Adult

No writer captures the seasons of our lives better than Judy Blume.  Now, from the New York Times bestselling author of Wifey and Smart Women, comes an extraordinary novel of reminiscence and awakening--an unforgettable story of two women, two families, and the friendships that shape a lifetime.

When Victoria Leonard answers the phone in her Manhattan office, Caitlin's voice catches her by surprise.  Vix hasn't talked to her oldest friend in months.  Caitlin's news takes her breath away--and Vix is transported back in time, back to the moment she and Caitlin Somers first met, back to the casual betrayals and whispered confessions of their long, complicated friendship, back to the magical island where two friends became summer sisters.

Caitlin dazzled Vix from the start, sweeping her into the heart of the unruly Somers family, into a world of privilege, adventure, and sexual daring.  Vix's bond with her summer family forever reshapes her ties to her own, opening doors to opportunities she had never imagined--until the summer she falls passionately in love.  Then, in one shattering moment on a moonswept Vineyard beach, everything changes, exposing a dark undercurrent in her extraordinary friendship with Caitlin that will haunt them through the years.

As their story carries us from Santa Fe to Martha's Vineyard, from New York to Venice, we come to know the men and women who shape their lives.  And as we follow the two women on the paths they each choose, we wait for the inevitable reckoning to be made in the fine spaces between friendship and betrayal, between love and freedom.

Summer Sisters is a riveting exploration of the choices that define our lives, of friendship and love, of the families we are born into and those we struggle to create.  For every woman who has ever had a friend too dangerous to forgive and too essential to forget, Summer Sisters will glue you to every page, reading and remembering.

I sort of picked this book up on a whim; I was in a thrift store, and I have no reading material with me, and so I decided to give this a shot.

Overall, I would say it was a decent book. It was written well enough, and the story had me interested and I could sympathize with Vix and her deep feelings of friendship for Caitlin. However, I just don't think that it was a story that was really worth reading about.

The book is set over quite a lengthy period of time, from when Vix is a young girl to when she is a grown adult. It basically follows her life, and most especially her friendship with Caitlin. The reason I'm not really a fan of this book is because I feel like it is something that every girl has experienced in her life; the gaining of a great friend, and then the gradual loss as they grow older and grow apart. I suppose that is why this book is easy for women to relate to, but at the end I found myself with a "So what?!" feeling.

That's not to say that it isn't an interesting story; Caitlin is the type of person who captivates you, and Vix is easy to relate to because she's just your everyday girl, so the story is entertaining. However, I don't feel like I've gotten anything from the story. It's a good beach read, for sure, but nothing like what I was hoping for.


Monday, October 17, 2011

The Berlin Boxing Club

The Berlin Boxing Club
Robert Sharenow
April 2011
Age Level: YA

Fourteen-year-old Karl Stern has never thought of himself as a Jew. But to the bullies at his school in Naziera Berlin, it doesn't matter that Karl has never set foot in a synagogue or that his family doesn't practice religion. Demoralized by relentless attacks on a heritage he doesn't accept as his own, Karl longs to prove his worth to everyone around him.

So when Max Schmeling, champion boxer and German national hero, makes a deal with Karl's father to give Karl boxing lessons, Karl sees it as the perfect chance to reinvent himself. A skilled cartoonist, Karl has never had an interest in boxing, but as Max becomes the mentor Karl never had, Karl soon finds both his boxing skills and his art flourishing.

But when Nazi violence against Jews escalates, Karl must take on a new role: protector of his family. Karl longs to ask his new mentor for help, but with Max's fame growing, he is forced to associate with Hitler and other Nazi elites, leaving Karl to wonder where his hero's sympathies truly lie. Can Karl balance his dream of boxing greatness with his obligation to keep his family out of harm's way? 
The Berlin Boxing Club is a book that I was a little skeptical about reading. I wasn't entirely sure if I was going to enjoy a book about boxing, but I know that I always enjoy a book set during World War II. Because of this, I decided to give it a shot.

I am so incredibly glad that I gave this book a chance. If I hadn't, I would have missed out on a fascinating novel. Karl is a wonderfully complex character, who wants to stand out as a champion. At the same time, he wants to blend in, in order to be accepted by society in an unforgiving world. Watching Karl grow from the young boy he is at the beginning of the novel, to the man he becomes, is an incredible journey.

I also really enjoyed the illustrations. They provided something like comedic relief when placed next to the dark content of the novel, and it also gave readers an in-depth view of what Karl was drawing and thinking as his life went on.

The only problem I had with this book is the ending, and the reason that is the case is because it ended up somewhere entirely different than I was expecting. In the beginning, you get the sense of where you think the book will go. While I'm glad the book is not predictable in that sense, I still wish there could have been some closure when it comes to Karl's encounters with the people in his life. Although I suppose, considering that Karl not only becomes stronger physically, but mentally as well, the message of the book is that it's better to take the high road out and avoid confrontation. However, I suppose the action-lover in me was hoping for a huge showdown, which didn't happen as I expected.

Overall: even if you are skeptical, pick this book up and give it a chance. It surprised me, so it might surprise others as well. It's a great book about adolescence and growing up, and it's also set in a time where growing up might not be quite as simple as it is today.

PS. As a side note, I lent this book to a friend and he read it in two days or so. That just goes to show that it's good for girls and guys :)

Friday, October 14, 2011

13 Little Blue Envelopes

13 Little Blue Envelopes
Maureen Johnson
Original Publication Date: August 2005

When Ginny receives thirteen little blue envelopes and instructions to buy a plane ticket to London, she knows something exciting is going to happen. What Ginny doesn't know is that she will have the adventure of her life and it will change her in more ways than one. Life and love are waiting for her across the Atlantic, and the thirteen little blue envelopes are the key to finding them in this funny, romantic, heartbreaking novel.
I read this book for the first time when I was in high school, and I did not enjoy it as much as I wanted to. However, when I got the chance to read it again, I decided to give it a go. After all, everyone loves Maureen Johnson, and she's hilarious on Twitter, so I knew there was obviously something wrong with me for not enjoying it.

Plus, I was about to embark on my own overseas adventure. Granted, I knew exactly where I was going and what I was doing, but it seemed to be the perfect book to read while traveling.

I must say, I did enjoy the book more the second time. I think part of the appeal of this book is simply the magical idea of having the chance to go to Europe on an unplanned, unknown adventure. As I was reading this book in the airport, all I wanted to do was to purchase a ticket for some random destination and see if I could make it.

This book is simply magical, while at the same time being entirely realistic. Because Ginny just didn't hop on a plane and go on a glorified adventure through Europe. She had problems throughout the book.

This book is more than just a trip through Europe, though. It's about growing up, and I can understand and relate to it much better now than I did when I was just a couple years younger. Throughout the book Ginny became a different person, and her entire view of things changed. I loved joining Ginny on a physical and spiritual journey, and I think a lot of girls could relate to her.

After reading this for the second time, I can honestly say that I am extremely excited to read The Last Little Blue Envelope. I want to see the end of Ginny's journey. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Class of 2k11 Giveaway

As a library lover and supporter, I am really happy to post about this giveaway.

The Class of 2k11 will be giving away 30 books. One pack of all 17 books from the Class of 2k11 will go to a school or library of the winner's choice. And another pack of 13 books will go to the winner.

I find it super awesome that there is a chance to win books for your library, and so I think everyone should head on over HERE and enter to win some books. It's really easy- all you have to do is comment.


Top Ten Books I Wish I Could Read Again For the First Time

TTT is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. It's a lot of fun so stop by if you get the chance :)
Top Ten Books I Wish I Could Read Again For The First Time

1. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. I feel like this is one of the books that everybody wants to re-read, but it's impossible to truly experience the magic when you know how everything ends up. I wish I could go back to being in suspense, always wondering what would happen next.

2. Twilight
by Stephenie Meyer. When I first read this, I was young and my opinions on good books were a lot different. I would like to go back and read this as a college student (as opposed to a middle schooler) and get a new perspective.

3. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. Once again, I was young when I read this the first time, and I didn't really realize what a real piece of literature I had my hands on.

4. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Same thing. Young. Oblivious to literature.

5. My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult. I cried so much reading this book. It was a constant tear-jerker, from beginning to end. I'd love to go back and do that all again.

6. The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton. Another tear-jerker that I'd like to experience for the first time.

7. Dreamland by Sarah Dessen. One of my favorites; I was so shocked the first time I read it, I'd love to feel that again.

8. Undone by Brooke Taylor. I was very excited to read this book because the hype at the time was unbelievable... it was everyone's new favorite. I was disappointed, but I'm not sure if that's because I was just busy and unable to enjoy it, or because my expectations were too high. I'd like to go back and try this again.

9. Harry Potter (series) by J. K. Rowling. I'm sure everyone wants to relive their first magical moments with this boy wizard.

10. The Host by Stephenie Meyer. I love this book, and I want to relive it over and over and over again!

Monday, October 10, 2011

What Happened to Goodbye

What Happened to Goodbye
Sarah Dessen
May 2011
Age Level: YA

Since her parents' bitter divorce, McLean and her dad, a restaurant consultant, have been on the move-four towns in two years. Estranged from her mother and her mother's new family, McLean has followed her dad in leaving the unhappy past behind. And each new place gives her a chance to try out a new persona: from cheerleader to drama diva. But now, for the first time, McLean discovers a desire to stay in one place and just be herself, whoever that is. Perhaps Dave, the guy next door, can help her find out.

Combing Sarah Dessen's trademark graceful writing, great characters, and compelling storytelling, What Happened to Goodbye is irresistible reading.
As a long-time fan of Sarah Dessen's, I am always more than willing to buy her latest masterpiece. However, lately I've been finding myself more disappointed than not.

Going back in time, I can still remember being a young teenager reading Sarah Dessen for the first time. I devoured her books like crazy, reading and re-reading and going completely nuts for her work. Then, when her next book came out (at this time, it was Just Listen), I fell completely in love. I felt like there was always something new or different to be found with each novel.

Next came Lock and Key. And when I read this, I was sadly disappointed. While all of Sarah Dessen's previous books were memorable, with interesting and wonderful characters and unique and realistic plot lines, Lock and Key had none of that. It was cute, sure, but not anything I'd want to read again and again.

Following Lock and Key was Along for the Ride. After speed-reading this one, I felt like Sarah Dessen came back. Lock and Key was just a bump in the road, so to speak.

However, after reading What Happened to Goodbye, I'm not so sure what to think. While reading it, I thought that it was a very nice and refreshing book. Very cute and sweet; AKA, very Sarah Dessen. I enjoyed reading about MacLean's life, simply because she lives a life so different from my own. I also found myself hoping that everything would work out in her impossible situation.

While I enjoyed the book, I still had one problem: it was entirely too predictable. It's all girl meets boy, girl falls in love, girl has a problem, boy gets sad, girl finds herself, boy and girl get together, girl overcomes impossible situation, whatever. In previous books, I've always marveled at how Sarah Dessen could write about real situations that girls go through, and how the girls cope with their problems and find their own way. But this book just didn't seem real to me. It seemed like just any old love story. While it was sweet and fun to read in the moment, there is nothing about it that draws me back for seconds or thirds.

I'm sure if you enjoy Sarah Dessen's previous books, you will not be completely disappointed. However, if you're hoping for some of her earlier magic, you might have to wait for the next one, or revisit some of the classics.

Friday, October 7, 2011


Pam Bachorz
January 2011

Ruby dreams of escaping the Congregation. Escape from slaver Darwin West and his cruel Overseers. Escape from the backbreaking work of gathering Water. Escape from living as if it is still 1812, the year they were all enslaved.
When Ruby meets Ford--an irresistible, kind, forbidden new Overseer--she longs to run away with him to the modern world, where she could live a normal teenage live. Escape with Ford would be so simple.
But if Ruby leaves, her community is condemned to certain death. She, alone, possess the secret ingredient that makes the Water so special--her blood--and it's the one thing that the Congregation cannot live without.
Drought is the haunting story of one community's thirst for life, and the dangerous struggle of the only girl who can grant it.
Drought is a book that is extremely difficult to review. My feelings are so incredibly mixed about this book; one part of me wants to give it a raving review, but the other part of me has reservations about that sort of review.

Starting off, I felt like the book had a lot of religious subtext. This is not something that bothers me, although I think it's necessary to mention because I know some people may not enjoy this book for that simple reason. Once the plot moved forward a bit I didn't think it was too bad, but starting off it can be a bit overwhelming.

Other than the religious content, I thought this was a very enjoyable book. The plot had me intrigued and kept me in suspense, and I genuinely started caring about what happened to the main character. However, I felt like the other characters weren't as developed as they could be. I found myself wanting to know more about Ford, especially, and yet by the end I was unsatisfied. I also felt like it was a bit of an unrealistic setting and situation. I realize that the point of this type of novel is to broaden a reader's mind and send them to a far-off reality, but this book didn't have me quite sold.

Overall, a good read. However, I must warn you that you may not be satisfied with the content, especially when compared to some of the other great dystopian novels out on the market today.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Space Between by Brenna Yovanoff Contest + Entry

Brenna Yovanoff, author of The Replacement, is holding a contest to win her second novel, The Space Between. Unfortunately, I have yet to read The Replacement, but I am still very interested in participating in this contest just because it gives me a chance to talk about a very cool experience I had.
Details about the contest can be found here, but hurry up... the deadline is midnight Eastern time on October 2nd.

One of the requirements of this contest is to talk about a trinket or souvenir that is important to me, and I shall do that now.

For the past two months I have been studying abroad in Fiji. Living in a developing country has proven to be quite an interesting and challenging task, because everyday people here live much different than people back in America. For example, the people live in "bures," which are basically thatched huts, and those that don't live in bures live in poorly constructed houses with no air conditioning units, no kitchen, no hot water, etc. The communities are quite different as well. A traditional Fijian village will be made up of a combination of different families, and the focal point of village life is at the community building where traditional ceremonies are held (such as the sevusevu ceremony, which is used to welcome visitors to the village), or the church on Sundays.

As a study abroad student, I had the opportunity to stay in one of these villages for a weekend, and my time there was invaluable. It made me learn to appreciate the luxuries that I have as an American, and also gain a greater respect for people living in developing countries. I know I will bring this new-found respect back to America with me, and it will make me a much better person in the long-run.

I told you that story to explain my memento: a two piece blouse and shirt combination that was given to me by my village sister. I was given the opportunity to sit in during their church service on Sunday, and my sister wanted to make sure that I was traditionally dressed for the service. She let me keep the outfit, even though I'm sure the family could use all the fabric and clothes they can get, and I will always keep it as a reminder of my learning experience in a Fijian village.

Note: this picture is just a general overview of what church clothes might look like. Mine is more of a floral print, and the top it not quite as long.