Be omnivorous, don't just read one kind of book, read everything. - Richard Wagamese

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Review: The Here and Now by Ann Brashares

Publisher: Delacorte Press
Released: 2014
Pages: 192
Source: Publisher
Rating: 3.5/5

Prenna, a young girl from the future was born in a world riddled by plague, and desolated her population. In order to survive, she’s gone back in time and lives within a small community that has very strict rules. They’re hoping to makes some changes to make their world a better place in the future. Her two younger brothers succumbed to the blood plague in her time period, and her father never made it to her current life. She’s alone with her mother, who remains as cold hearted and distant as possible. Her mother is following the rules, Prenna is struggling. Prenna must fit in with her peers , assimilate, and not draw any attention to herself. She must never fall in love, and focus on the task at hand. She had every intention to follow the rules, but lately a boy has caught her attention, and he knows a lot more about her life than she expected. 

When I picked up The Here and Now I was looking for something to switch gears from the book I read previously. It’s been awhile since I picked up a YA book of this nature, and I didn’t really expect much. This book is fast paced, and enjoyable but not very complex compared to other YA storylines.  Brashares succeeds in depicting a realistic future, but she doesn’t elaborate on the time travel aspect of the novel. I felt like she gave just enough to keep readers going, but not having to really give any indepth analysis. 

Ann Brashares wrote The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, and she really stole my heart with that series. The Here and Now is completely different and not in the same category. This book really felt like it was lacking certain elements. The love story isn’t really convincing, and I never felt the passion. I did enjoy the book. I thought it was a fast read, and if you’re looking for something not too complex, you might want to give this one a try. I’m happy I read it but wouldn’t mark it among my favorites. 

Monday, August 11, 2014

Review: Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands by Chris Bohjalian

Publisher: Doubleday
Pages: 288
Released: 2014
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5


Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands will break your heart and will undoubtedly move you. Once you pick the book up, it's almost impossible to put it down. If you do, you certain do so begrudgingly. Readers are introduced to Emily Shepard, a homeless 16 year-old girl who has built an igloo with snow and trash bags. She's had to build a new identity, steal, and move on with her life the only way she knows how. Accompanying her is a little boy named Cameron, and Emily wants to protect him at all costs. Nearly a year ago, a nuclear explosion at their local power plant melted down and wiped out a large radius. Her parents both worked at the plant; her father was in charge, and her mother head of the PR department. Neither one survived, and Emily is all alone. She cannot stand to hear everyone blaming her parents, and she fears they will continue to take it out on her. When the plant initially melted down, no one held back on their thoughts about her parents. As a result Emily had to change her identity.

The narration skips around, and we learn what Emily's life was prior to the meltdown. Her parents weren't Saints, and both hated living in Vermont. They drank a lot, fought a lot, but both loved Emily. Emily was your typical teenager, going to an elite prep school and found herself getting into trouble from time to time. She rebelled, didn't live up to her potential as a student, but was a fairly good kid who loves Emily Dickenson. Sadly, coping with her new life on the streets includes stealing, resorting to prostitution from time to time, and she becomes a cutter.

I haven't read many of Chris Bohjalian's books but of the two I've read, I've loved them both. Midwives was a great read, and Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands is now one of my favorite reads. Emily narrates the story, and she takes readers on a heartbreaking journey. Bohjalian captures the raw emotion, and the desperation of a teenage girl living on the streets with no where to go. "Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands" is such a powerful statement when mentioned in the book, and it will remain with you. I highly recommend this one. I can go on and on about how powerful this book it, but you should really read it for yourself.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Review: Sweet Water by Christina Baker Kline

Publisher: William Morrow
Pages: 320
Released: 2010
Source: Publisher
Rating: 3/5

When Cassie's grandfather passes away, she learns that he bequeathed a house to her,  and she's not sure what to think. Her mother's family are virtually strangers to her, she's been raised by her widowed father and her maternal family never played a role in her childhood. Her mother was killed in a drunk driving accident with her father at the wheel, and Cassie wonders why he would give her a house. The family tried to move on the best they could, and they quickly offer to sell the house for her. Cassie is a struggling artist and would love to move to Tennessee and possibly get some answers that she's never been able to have answered. Meeting her family is tense, and uncomfortable- some family members are more welcoming than others. Her grandmother seems nice, but very guarded. Her family warns her not to ask any questions to her grandmother regarding her mother's death. They tell her that everyone has moved on, and she should too. When Cassie learns that there seems to be quite a bit of town gossip regarding her mother's passing, Cassie is determined to get the answers she wants. She believes it's the least they can do, and she deserves their honesty.

Sweet Water is told in alternating perspectives between a confused, and determined Cassie, and her guilt-ridden grandmother Clyde. Clyde believes her husband has hidden secrets inside the house, and this is his way of finally getting back at Clyde. Their relationship over the years deteriorated and him killing her daughter in a drunken stupor is something she will never get over. Especially since Ellen was her favorite child. Clyde clearly states that Ellen was her favorite, and her other children have always known that she was the favorite. Amory had his own secrets and thought Clyde was at fault for the accident as well. He had been drinking because of her and his secrets.

I enjoyed Sweet Water for the most part but felt the story was missing something. I felt like I've been waiting and waiting for this big reveal, and it didn't really happen. I had figured out the secret long before, and felt disappointed by the end.  The shocking mystery is incredibly obvious to readers. Cassie's relationship with Troy, her cousin, also through me for a loop. Overall, Sweet Water was a quick read and I did enjoy some aspects of the book but I was happy when it was finished and I could move on to something else.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Review: China Dolls by Lisa See

Hi everyone!

My summer reading hasn't been the most successful, but with a 7 month old I'm thankful to still fit in reading. I've been thinking about incorporating more of my new mom stuff into my blog and reviewing some of my favourite products, since I spent quite a bit of my time looking up product reviews when I'm interested in something. I finally bought a new battery for my Macbook, and upgraded my RAM so my laptop is actually functional again. I've been meaning to get back into blogging, but the new battery thing really helped me get motivated. Usually, I start thinking about pulling out the laptop and getting the cord and extension cord, and then I get lazy and don't bother. So, I'm hoping that I will be able to come back more regularly and update. I really miss blogging. 

China Dolls by Lisa See
Publisher: Random House
Released: 2014
Pages: 400
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

So, let's get into reading... My favorite summer read so far has been China Dolls by Lisa See. Lisa has an incredible ability to tell stories, and she remains one of my favourite writers. China Dolls does not disappoint, and readers will fall in love with the characters. Ruby, Grace and Helen have very different backgrounds but come together as friends when they meet at an audition to become show girls. Each has their reason to want to become a show girl, and each girl is running away from their past. They become fast friends, but each are looking out for their own interests. In 1938, the world around the girls is about to change with the bombing of Pearl Harbour, and Ruby is still trying to hide the fact that she is Japanese passing as a Chinese American. Her relationships with her new found friends become strained during this time, and she doesn't know who she can trust or how careful she should be. Grace is an American-born Chinese and doesn't understand Helen's scepticism of Ruby and her Japanese background. Grace doesn't realize that Helen's past in China is more dark than she can imagine.

Lisa See captured my heart when I read Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. That book will always remain with me, it was the first time I dipped into Chinese history and I was so captivated and interested. I remember I researched some of the background information to find out more and enrolled in a Chinese history class in university. That's how powerful that book was to me, books transport you into another world. Another one that had a similar reaction for me was Philippa Gregory's The Other Boleyn Girl about the Tudors. If you haven't read any of Lisa See's books, I highly recommend them. If you have, you'll want to add China Dolls to your reading list. It's truly a "must read."