4 stars · fiction

The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse by Louise Erdrich

 

The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse

author : louise erdrich

pages : [paperback] 384

memorable quote To love another another human in all of her splendor and imperfect perfection , it is a magnificent task…tremendous and foolish and human.

favorite character : nanapush

summary :

For more than a half century, Father Damien Modeste has served his beloved people, the Ojibwe, on the remote reservation of Little No Horse. Now, nearing the end of his life, Father Damien dreads the discovery of his physical identity, for he is a woman who has lived as a man. To complicate his fears, his quiet life changes when a troubled colleague comes to the reservation to investigate the life of the perplexing, difficult, possibly false saint Sister Leopolda. Father Damien alone knows the strange truth of Sister Leopolda’s piety and is faced with the most difficult decision of his life: Should he reveal all he knows and risk everything? Or should he manufacture a protective history though he believes Leopolda’s wonder-working is motivated by evil?

review :

I had to read Louise Erdrich’s novel for one of my college courses and I’m very glad that it was assigned. I typically don’t end up enjoying the novels that I need to read for school; usually I don’t have the book to fault for this but time constraints in which I need to hurry through the novel or bad professors could make me dislike the book. Luckily I have a great professor for this course and Erdrich’s powerful novel withstands even the hastiest reading. Actually, the material is so well-written and dense that it’s impossible to skim through this book without missing all of the important (and interesting!) aspects of the novel.

I haven’t read many books set on Native American reservations; luckily we had a class presentation that provided us with more information on the Ojibwe but I think that anyone reading the novel could find out a bit more with a quick google search. Just looking up the background of these people, understanding what the characters have come from and what they’re striving toward, will hope you connect more fully with the novel if you find the prose to be too intense for your liking.

I couldn’t imagine this tale told in any other way. Through Father Damien’s story, narrated to a fellow priest, the reader explores gender roles, lost cultures, religious complications, and the significance of truth. It’s fascinating to see how the characters develop their attitudes throughout the novel. Father Damien is over one hundred years old and we’re able to see him from around the 1920s to the 1990s. That leaves a lot of room for change and a lot of lessons to be taught through his experiences.

Anyone looking to explore concepts of gender, race, and religion can look at this book; anyone simply searching for a thought-provoking narrative should pick this up. I’d certainly save it for when you have enough time to significantly ponder the text and fully consider every aspect of the novel. Not everything can be taken at its surface appearance.

I really enjoyed reading this book and it’s something that I might read again. I’d definitely recommend this!

4/5 stars

3 stars · fiction · young adult

Blackbird by Anna Carey

 

Blackbird

Blackbird Duology #1

author : anna carey

release date : september 16th 2014

pages : [ebook] 256

favorite character : ben

summary :

This twisty, breathless cat-and-mouse thrill ride, told in the second person, follows a girl with amnesia in present-day Los Angeles who is being pursued by mysterious and terrifying assailants.

A girl wakes up on the train tracks, a subway car barreling down on her. With only minutes to react, she hunches down and the train speeds over her. She doesn’t remember her name, where she is, or how she got there. She has a tattoo on the inside of her right wrist of a blackbird inside a box, letters and numbers printed just below: FNV02198. There is only one thing she knows for sure: people are trying to kill her.

On the run for her life, she tries to untangle who she is and what happened to the girl she used to be. Nothing and no one are what they appear to be. But the truth is more disturbing than she ever imagined.

The Maze Runner series meets Code Name Verity, Blackbird is relentless and action-packed, filled with surprising twists.

review :

I haven’t read many books written in the second person so I was fascinated when I heard that Anna Carey’s latest novel was going to be written that way! Of course I needed to find a way to read it. The premise was interesting as well. Typically I believe that the waking amnesiac story has been overdone but I think the fact that it was written in second person and it seemed to be more of a thriller captured my imagination enough for me to give this a shot!

Unfortunately, Blackbird fell short of my expectations. I wasn’t a huge fan of Carey’s writing when I read the Eve trilogy but the plotline there was interesting enough to keep me reading. Blackbird contained the same sparse writing, even though I’d expected so much more substance in a second-person book. I was never fully captivated by the story nor was I wrapped up in Sunny’s tale because I didn’t feel fully connected with the characters.

I also didn’t know that this book was going to be part of a duology . . until I was fifteen pages from the end and realized that things could not possibly be wrapped up by the end of the story. I don’t know whether I’ll read the next book; I’m very disappointed because I feel like the two could have been compressed into an awesome, action-packed story, if the plot hadn’t been dragged out to fit into two novels. It’s so frustrating because I can see the potential, and think perhaps others would enjoy this book more than I would, but the extended plot combined with lacking writing has me so disappointed.

If you’re looking for a thriller, this book does have a few plot twists but isn’t as action-packed as you might hope it is. Honestly, most of the action happens when Sunny is running away from something. While her reactions make sense, they don’t exactly make for an interesting read. The plot twists kept me going for a while; some of them I could predict but I was excited to see how the characters would react once they found out what I’d already assumed to be true.

I might try another one of Carey’s books in the future but I’m beginning to believe that her writing style simply doesn’t mesh with me.

3/5 stars

4 stars · fiction

Landline by Rainbow Rowell

 

Landline

author : rainbow rowell [also wrote eleanor & park]

pages : [hardcover] 310

memorable quote I love you more than I hate everything else.

favorite character : georgie

summary :

Georgie McCool knows her marriage is in trouble. That it’s been in trouble for a long time. She still loves her husband, Neal, and Neal still loves her, deeply — but that almost seems beside the point now.

Maybe that was always beside the point.

Two days before they’re supposed to visit Neal’s family in Omaha for Christmas, Georgie tells Neal that she can’t go. She’s a TV writer, and something’s come up on her show; she has to stay in Los Angeles. She knows that Neal will be upset with her — Neal is always a little upset with Georgie — but she doesn’t expect to him to pack up the kids and go home without her.

When her husband and the kids leave for the airport, Georgie wonders if she’s finally done it. If she’s ruined everything.

That night, Georgie discovers a way to communicate with Neal in the past. It’s not time travel, not exactly, but she feels like she’s been given an opportunity to fix her marriage before it starts . . .

Is that what she’s supposed to do?

Or would Georgie and Neal be better off if their marriage never happened?

review :

Reading one of Rainbow Rowell’s adult novels is a completely different experience from her young adult, though it’s a lovely read all the same. Her characters are just brilliant and while her plots are contemporary and may take a while to progress, the writing is interesting and constructed in such a way that I’m still interested even if not much is happening.

I’d like to start off talking about the characters. None of Rowell’s characters are perfect and I think that’s what makes them so realistic and relatable. They aren’t unreachable creatures; instead they’re human like we are and might easily be your next door neighbor or your best friend. Of course little quirks and things are exaggerated to keep things interesting throughout the novel; sometimes a character’s defining traits can be used to nudge the plot along.

While I enjoyed reading about Georgie, and saw her as a realistic character, I didn’t really relate to her life. I’m not an adult; I’ve never been married, had kids, or dealt with any of the decisions Georgie’s trying to make throughout the book. But I’ve often been afraid when I think of my own career ambitions as well as what I’m going to do if I want to have a family. Women have it hard and Georgie wants to have it all. Unfortunately it’s difficult to find the perfect balance between what she’s doing and what needs to be done. And then a magic telephone is thrown in.

That was undoubtedly the most interesting part of the book and I wish there was more centered around it. That’s the only unusual, unnatural aspect of the otherwise contemporary read. Is Georgie simply hallucinating the conversations? Maybe, but I like to think that her phone really is connecting to the past!

I’d recommend this book to other people but it’s not one of my favorite books. I really enjoyed it and think that others will love it yet I’m not sure if I’d reread it. You should give it a shot!

4/5 stars

5 stars · steampunk · young adult

Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare

 

Clockwork Princess

The Infernal Devices #3
Book 1: Clockwork Angel
Book 2: Clockwork Prince

author : cassandra clare

pages : [hardcover] 570

memorable quote Life is a book and there are a thousand pages I have not yet read.

favorite characters : tessa & jem

summary :

London 1873 shape-shifter Tessa Gray 16 is engaged to Jem Carstairs 17, dying of addiction to demon drug, all bought up by evil Mortmain. The “clockwork prince” controls an army of automatons to abduct Tess, kill the Shadowhunters, and blackmail Charlotte Branwell, head of London Institute. Will and Tessa hide their love, for love of Jem. Plus 2-pg Note on Tessa’s England.

review :

Oh my goodness. I don’t even know what to say about this novel, though first of all I’d like to tell you I’m going to try hard not to include spoilers from the first two books in this review. There definitely won’t be any spoilers from Clockwork Princess.

I feel like I’ve had a love/hate relationship with Cassandra Clare. On the one hand I absolutely love the world she’s built of Shadowhunters, Downworlders, and Mundanes. On the other, her writing style isn’t exactly my type and when I heard she was making this trilogy (and, apparently, yet another spin-off from the original Mortal Instruments) I wondered why she would keep delving into this world instead of writing about something new. Apart from her knowing that she has a large fanbase who’ll eagerly devour anything written by her.

I have to say that I didn’t enjoy this trilogy at the start. Some of the characters were interesting but they felt similar to ones I’d read about originally in City of Bones. But then Clockwork Princess came along. To be honest I’ll recommend this trilogy just so you can get to this last book because, believe it or not . . this conclusion makes it all worth it. What’s set up in the previous two falls together so nicely (and it’s fun to see how things will tie in to the other books she’s written!) and you’ll probably be shedding tears like I did when I reached the end of this book and the epilogue tore my heart in half, then stitched it up a little to make things slightly less painful and bittersweet.

Some parts of this book were predictable but where it counted most, where I was hoping it would pull through, I was surprised and things happened that I never saw coming. And it was awesome. This trilogy ended up being so much better than the original and I’m so thankful my friend convinced me to read it through to the end.

If you’re looking to get into reading Cassandra Clare, I’ve heard the best method is to read the original three books, then this trilogy, and then the next three Mortal Instruments books. But if you’ll take my recommendation and go with my favorites, you’ll stick with these.

5/5 stars

Have you read this trilogy? I’d love to discuss everything that happened (or why you haven’t read it yet) with you!

books to movies · nonfiction

The Art of Rise of the Guardians

The Art of Rise of the Guardians

by Ramin Zahed, foreword by Alec Baldwin, preface by William Joyce

pages : [hardcover] 158

summary :

In Rise of the Guardians, North, Bunny, Tooth, and Sandman recruit the mysterious Jack Frost to help them stop Pitch from putting an end to childhood belief and sending the world into eternal darkness. Based on the children’s book series by William Joyce, Rise of the Guardians is both an exciting adventure and a poignant exploration of the hopes and dreams of youth.

Rise of the Guardians is one of DreamWorks Animation’s most ambitious films to date. Its mythic premise allowed the artists at the studio to let their imaginations loose, producing a truly unique take on the imaginary figures of childhood, the worlds they inhabit, and the innocence and joy they represent.

With more than 400 pieces of meticulously reproduced art, including storyboards, character designs, visual development art, and effects concepts, The Art of Rise of the Guardians is an insider’s tour of DreamWorks Animation’s dynamic development process. Included is exclusive commentary from the director, producers, production designer, and crew that paints a fascinating picture of the way these filmmakers collaborated to create a stunning CG movie.

review :

Rise of the Guardians is one of my favorite animated movies of all time. For some odd reason it seems like every animated movie I fall in love with I never get to see in the theaters. There’s something amazing about seeing all of these animated characters up on the big screen, though on a smaller screen (and through the second or twelfth time viewing the movie) you get to appreciate all of the fine details that went into making that animation. I have such a high respect for animators. I would love to be able to do what these people can; I’ll settle for hoping to write the same magical storylines these writers come up with.

William Joyce wrote the original children’s series the film was based on and though the two mediums of book and film are completely different, I fell in love with both ideas and wish that more people could dive into Rise of the Guardians and see for themselves how lovely it is. I especially loved Joyce’s preface to this book of art, knowing that he had input in the movie and wanted it to be as great and wonderful as possible. They certainly succeeded.

The art contained in this book is just gorgeous. I could spend ages flipping through the pages just reading through the pictures. But whenever I stopped to read the text, the stories behind the visual developments of the characters were fascinating. It’s easy to see how a figure that seems so iconic to me now could have ended up completely different and I would have never known that there had been another concept up for grabs unless I peered through the pages of this book. I think it’s a great insight for any fan, let alone any art or film lover.

This book is a little more expensive than what I usually buy but I’m one hundred percent certain I made the right decision in purchasing this. The story of the movie is so heartfelt that people of any age can enjoy and cherish it. Seeing the love and hard work that went into the characters while the movie was being made makes me appreciate the outcome that much more. If you loved Rise of the Guardians or enjoy animated movies, pick up this book now! And if you haven’t seen the movie yet, well, what are you waiting for? It’s one that will stick with you forever.

5/5 stars

If you enjoyed this book, you might also love The Art of Tangled.

4 stars · fiction

More Than This by Patrick Ness

More Than This

author : patrick ness

pages : [hardcover] 480

memorable quote : A book… it’s a world all on its own too. A world made of words, where you live for a while.

favorite character : seth

summary :

From two-time Carnegie Medal winner Patrick Ness comes an enthralling and provocative new novel chronicling the life — or perhaps afterlife — of a teen trapped in a crumbling, abandoned world.

A boy named Seth drowns, desperate and alone in his final moments, losing his life as the pounding sea claims him. But then he wakes. He is naked, thirsty, starving. But alive. How is that possible? He remembers dying, his bones breaking, his skull dashed upon the rocks. So how is he here? And where is this place? It looks like the suburban English town where he lived as a child, before an unthinkable tragedy happened and his family moved to America. But the neighborhood around his old house is overgrown, covered in dust, and completely abandoned. What’s going on? And why is it that whenever he closes his eyes, he falls prey to vivid, agonizing memories that seem more real than the world around him? Seth begins a search for answers, hoping that he might not be alone, that this might not be the hell he fears it to be, that there might be more than just this. . .

review :

I love Patrick Ness and his writing. I think what’s so wonderful about it is that it seems uniquely great in every book that he writes. I loved A Monster Calls, which is geared toward children and has a dreamlike quality. I read the Chaos Walking Trilogy, which is impossible to accurately describe because it is just so fantastically written and the emotions evoked are one that I, three years later, still feel and am able to reflect on. Now, of course, I was going to read More Than This as soon as it was released. I ended up waiting until I could get it from my local library and absolutely loved the voice used to tell this story though I’m left uncertain by the ending.

The entire plot of More Than This is both complicated and fascinating because Seth only knows as much about what is going on as we do, which is nothing. Is he dead? Is he living? Is this some kind of dream? Is he about to die? These questions and more pop up even in the first few chapters of the book and continue to accumulate throughout the story. I loved how the place where Seth woke up was built and the mystery surrounding it. I especially loved Seth’s trying to reason with it because he questioned and reflected on things almost all of the time when I was doing the same thing and this really made me think about how relatable Seth was. The other characters were built with their complications, flaws, and quirks as I’ve come to expect from Ness.

The ending was both what I expected and what I was hoping wouldn’t happen. I could understand the necessity of it and was almost happy with it, until I realized that I’d wanted something more. And than realized that there was really nothing more than this when the book concluded . . . Which, I suppose, ties in rather well to the entire thing, doesn’t it?

If you love a good mystery, this book is certainly for you. New complications and revelations come at every turn and leave you guessing and trying to figure out the puzzling truth! If you like great characters, world building, and an interesting story, you should also pick this up. And, last but not least, if you’re just looking for some great writing, More Than This has that for you.

4/5 stars

4 stars · fiction

Escape from Eden by Elisa Nader

Escape from Eden

author : elisa nader

pages : [hardcover] 271

memorable quote : Do you think you can walk and dissect my psyche at the same time? I’d prefer not to die today.

favorite characters : mia & gabriel

summary :

Since the age of ten, Mia has lived under the iron fist of the fundamentalist preacher who lured her mother away to join his fanatical family of followers. In Edenton, a supposed “Garden of Eden” deep in the South American jungle, everyone follows the Reverend’s strict but arbitrary rules—even the mandate of whom they can marry. Now sixteen, Mia dreams of slipping away from the armed guards who keep the faithful in, and the curious out. When the rebellious and sexy Gabriel, a new boy, arrives with his family, Mia sees a chance to escape.

But the scandalous secrets the two discover beyond the compound’s façade are more shocking than anything they ever imagined. While Gabriel has his own terrible secrets, he and Mia bond together, more than friends and freedom fighters. But is there time to think of each other as they race to stop the Reverend’s paranoid plan to free his flock from the corrupt world? Can two teenagers crush a criminal mastermind? And who will die in the fight to save the ones they love from a madman who’s only concerned about his own secrets?

review :

Wow. That’s the first word that popped into my mind when I tried to think about how I was going to start reviewing this book. It was everything I expected, sure, but there was so much more to it than that. Elisa Nader really takes the reader on a crazy ride in this one; I had no idea where the action was taking me and what twist could happen next! Nader’s writing style was great and this book really makes me want to see and read more from her in the future!

Okay, I have to admit the whole idea of being trapped somewhere by a fundamentalist cult freaks me out. Maybe that’s a little weird because I know it’ll never happen but I ended up spending half of the book stressed out about the things Mia had no choice in. Their leader picks who they’ll marry, and other people decide how she’s going to help out the compound. They all have “gender appropriate” duties (I think it was the preacher who called it that) and, sure, it’s great that it seems like Mia enjoys her time cooking, but I’d go crazy.

There are so many aspects of this book that I loved but can’t mention without spoiling anything so you’ll just need to pick this book up for yourself and see where it’ll go. When I thought I knew what was going to happen, most of the time I was wrong.

The only thing that bothered me slightly was Gabriel’s generic bad boy identity, which was nothing compared to how strong and complex Mia was. She didn’t really need him because she’d already planned on making her escape, eventually, though I could see some times when she really needed some other perspective to all of the crazy things that were going on.

This book is a great, quick read that has plenty of action, suspense, and plot twists!

4/5 stars

If you like this book, you might also like Held or I am Not Esther.

5 stars · fiction · young adult

Audacious by Gabrielle Prendergast

Audacious

author : gabrielle predergast

pages : [hardcover] 288

favorite character : raphaelle

what’s special about this book : it’s written completely in verse and told very beautifully

summary :

Sixteen year old Raphaelle is that girl who says the wrong thing, who crosses the wrong person, who has the wrong hair, the wrong body, the wrong attitude, the totally wrong clothes. She can’t do anything right, except draw, but she draws the wrong pictures. When her father moves the family to a small prairie city, Raphaelle wants to leave behind the misfit rebel, the outcast, the vengeful trouble-maker she was. Reborn as “Ella,” she plans fit in at her new school, while her perfect younger sister goes to the Catholic girls’ school and her emotionally fragile mother looks for a job.

But Ella might just be a different kind of misfit. She’s drawn to a brooding boy in her art class, Samir, and expresses her confused feelings in an explicit artwork. When a classmate texts a photo of Ella’s art to a younger friend, the horrendous fallout spreads though Ella’s life like an uncontrollable disease. Ella is expelled from school and faces pornography charges, her mother is hospitalized, her sister fails all her classes, and her distant father finally notices something is wrong.

review :

I love novels in verse and Audacious stands out in its own right because of Raphaelle, our wonderful leading lady. Every character in this book has his or her own flaws, including Raphaelle. She wants to fit in. She wants to get over the past. She wants to ignore everything that’s wrong with her family so that she can focus on fixing herself instead. Sometimes she makes the wrong choices. Sometimes things turn out horribly for her. But she’s real, and fun to read, and I couldn’t wait to read on and see what else was going to happen with her.

I do think that this book tried to take on a lot of issues all at once and maybe it got stretched a little too thin in places. That’s about the only complaint that I can think of because, otherwise, it was so beautifully written and captivating that I didn’t care much about how long it dwelt on a particular plot point or feature.

I read the summary a while ago, just before I got the book, and didn’t reread it beforehand. That gave Ella’s story a little more suspense because I genuinely couldn’t tell where the plot might have been going. Ella is trying to figure herself out and I liked how I as the reader was also trying to do the same thing, looking through her thoughts and actions and trying to determine what had happened to her in the past and why she acts and thinks rebelliously when at the same time some part of her just wants to blend into the background and be normal. I feel like everybody has these two warring sides within them, though in Ella it’s more obvious a problem than it is for most people.

There were so many great characters in this book-Samir and his sister, Ella’s art teacher and her disabled daughter, Ella’s entire family-that I can still remember clearly and who all had an impact on Ella’s way of thinking. She changed because of or in spite of people and I think I learned something along with her.

This is a quick read even though it contains several issues within it. I’d recommend it to anyone, including people who love verse novels or who are looking for a quick, insightful read.

5/5 stars

If you like this book, you might also like Glimpse or Perfect

5 stars · fiction

Stained by Cheryl Rainfield

Stained

author : cheryl rainfield [also wrote scars]

pages : [hardcover] 304

favorite character : sarah

summary :

n this heart-wrenching and suspenseful teen thriller, sixteen-year-old Sarah Meadows longs for “normal.” Born with a port-wine stain covering half her face, all her life she’s been plagued by stares, giggles, bullying, and disgust. But when she’s abducted on the way home from school, Sarah is forced to uncover the courage she never knew she had, become a hero rather than a victim, and learn to look beyond her face to find the beauty and strength she has inside. It’s that—or succumb to a killer

review :

I really don’t even know where to start with this review because I read this book so quickly and loved it so much that when that happens I usually only spend my review fangirling over what I just read. That usually doesn’t make for the most coherent review so I’ll try to contain myself!

First of all, let’s talk characters. Sarah is everything you could want in a female protagonist. She has flaws. And she isn’t one of those characters who’re shown as quirky  in a bad representation of actual people and are waiting for other people to stand around and help them. No, Sarah can certainly handle herself, even if she truly is the only one holding herself back. Like most characters she can’t seem to step back and think of herself without also considering how other people judge her because of the port-wine stain on her face. Even if her parents constantly support her and remind her of how beautiful she is.

I loved the alternating viewpoints between Sarah and Nick. Because of Nick we get to see what’s happening in the outside world after her abduction but we also get a better feel of him as a character than we would if everything was left to only Sarah’s point of view. He’s a great friend and I’d definitely like to have him as my friend, especially if he’s up for lending me some of his comics!

Even if you think that you know what to expect in this book, everything will turn itself over and you’ll find yourself wondering what might happen next. There are so many twists in this book, little things that’ll have you sitting on the edge of your seat and rooting for Sarah all the way through to the end!

Although this book does contain some material that might make some readers uncomfortable (kidnapping, rape, psychological torment) this is a very powerful read and I think that it’s important for many people to read this. From where I am in life right now, I really needed an empowering book like this. I think there are other people out there who’ll benefit from Sarah’s bravery just like I did. Pick this book up as soon as you can!

5/5 stars

If you like this book you might also like Held or Pretty Girl-13.

4 stars · fiction · young adult

Brother, Brother by Clay Carmichael

Brother, Brother

author : clay carmichael

pages : [hardcover] 314

favorite characters : kit & jack

summary :

After his grandmother’s death, seventeen-year-old Brother sets out, with the abandoned son of a friend, on a 200-mile trip to North Carolina’s Outer Banks to find his twin brother, of whose existence he just learned.

Part coming-of-age story, part love story, this is a book about finding out that who you are and where you come from aren’t necessarily the same thing.

review :

I really didn’t know what to expect from this book. It’s contemporary, the focus is on family, and I haven’t read a book like this in ages, if ever! I loved reading about these characters because no one’s perfect in this story. Even Brother, who dropped out of high school. But he was able to take care of his grandmother and get a job to help support them instead. He’s had a hard life, about the opposite of the one of his twin brother that he’s just found out about. I found it so interesting seeing how the two of them were so alike in appearance and so different in personality just because of how they grew up and where they came from.

I really loved the supporting characters in this as well. Well, loved as in they were very interesting and absolutely well-constructed but some of them were just horrible. Even Cole, who seems to be there for his brother sometimes, is very willing to drop him at any moment just when things are getting tough for him. That kind of an unsupportive brother is practically the only one shown here. That and another one I can’t mention because I’m afraid I’ll spoil one of the big twists of the book! I love how Brother sees all of this and still wants to strive to be the best sibling he can possibly be, under the circumstances.

One of my own personal fears is having someone try to control how I act or what I say. Brother needs to face that now that he’s found out about his family. I loved his strength and I think he’s a great role model. I would love to have the strong morals that he has. Well, I think that I have them, but everything like that becomes a real test when something bad is happening and the easy route isn’t always the best one.

I’d recommend this book to anyone, boy or girl, young or old. Read it with your sibling. Appreciate your family. Strive to be a better person.

4/5 stars