Thursday, July 25, 2013

Review: Daddy-Long-Legs

Daddy-Long-Legs, by Jean Webster. The GoodReads summary:
A trustee of the John Grier orphanage has offered to send Judy Abbott to college. The only requirements are that she must write to him every month, and that she can never know who he is. Judy's life at college is a whirlwind of friends, classes, parties, and a growing friendship with the handsome Jervis Pendleton. With so much happening in her life, Judy can scarcely stop writing to the mysterious "Daddy-Long-Legs"!
This was a short, cute read. It’s written as a collection of letters from Judy to her anonymous benefactor over the four years she’s at college. Judy’s pretty hilarious, and the book made me wish I was more of a letter writer because her letters are so entertaining. Even though the book was written in 1912, it didn’t feel that old—it was very readable and accessible. Some of the things she talks about obviously date the story, but Judy’s narrative voice itself felt surprisingly modern, and if I was judging based on the style alone, I don’t think I’d ever guess that it was written over 100 years ago.

The story was fairly predictable, and I guessed what was going on behind the scenes pretty early on, but the predictability didn’t make the journey any less fun. I do feel indignant on Judy’s behalf for what I feel was some unfair manipulation, but I won’t go on about it as much as I’d like to because it would be too hard to avoid major spoilers. So I’ll just say that while my indignation over a few things was very real, it never made it to the point where I was ever seriously turned off from the book.

Overall, a light, fun story. It’s not exactly a book with hidden depth, but all the same, despite some issues I had with it, I enjoyed it quite a bit.

Rating: 3.5 / 5

Monday, July 22, 2013

Review: Green Heart (Green Angel & Green Witch)

Green Heart (Green Angel & Green Witch), by Alice Hoffman. The GoodReads summary:
When her family is lost in a terrible disaster, 15-year-old Green is haunted by loss and the past. Struggling to survive in a place where nothing seems to grow and ashes are everywhere, Green retreats into the ruined realm of her garden. But in destroying her feelings, she also begins to destroy herself. It is only through a series of mysterious encounters that Green relearns the lessons of love and begins to heal as she tells her own story.

As she heals, Green lives every day with feelings of loss. Her family is gone, the boy she loves is missing, and the world she once knew has been transformed by tragedy. In order to rediscover the truth about love, hope, and magic, she must venture away from her home, collecting the stories of a group of women who have been branded witches for their mysterious powers. Only through their stories will Green find her own heart's desire.
So the book’s called “Green Heart,” but it’s actually a compilation of two novels, “Green Angel” and its sequel, “Green Witch.” Both of the two novels are short, like less than 150 pages, so reading them together was basically the same as reading one full-length book. In Green Angel, Green is dealing with the grief of losing her family and slowly finding her way back to herself. In Green Witch, she’s searching out the women known as the Enchanted and ends up on a mission she wasn’t expecting. The stories pull together elements from both the dystopian and fairy-tale fantasy genres, which was a bit of an unusual mix, but it worked for me.

So now that those explanations are out of the way, can I just fangirl over this book a bit? Cuz I liked it quite a lot. First off, the writing was dang gorgeous. Writing styles that draw attention to themselves can go either way for me, but in this case, I thought it shaped the atmosphere and tone of the story really well. It made me feel like I was being told a story, rather than simply reading one. And speaking of stories, the plots of these two novels clicked with me. They aren’t super complex or detailed or anything—after all, the two books are short. But despite that, they feel complete and satisfying and not at all simple. Plus, I’m a sucker for stories about girls who have hit rock bottom but manage not only to survive but to bloom, despite their circumstances.

I don’t have that much more to say, actually. Some books just reach me on a level that I can’t express with words. And I’ll admit that elements of these two stories reminded me a little of certain Robin McKinley books, and once that connection was made, no matter how tenuous, my adoration of these books was pretty much cemented. But Robin McKinley aside, these are wonderful stories in their own right.

Overall, two gorgeous stories that I totally fell in love with. I was trying to decide if I prefer one over the other, but nope—I love them both. They’re both quiet stories, but Green Angel is especially so, since it focuses on Green’s inner journey while Green Witch deals with an actual physical journey. So actually, having both novels together in one book was really nice, because together they have a good balance. Anyway, moral of the story, I wholeheartedly recommend both.

Rating: 4.5 / 5

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Review: Hooked

Hooked, by Liz Fichera. The GoodReads summary:
When Native American Fredricka ‘Fred’ Oday is invited to become the only girl on the school’s golf team, she can’t say no. This is an opportunity to shine, win a scholarship and go to university, something no one in her family has done.

But Fred’s presence on the team isn’t exactly welcome — especially not to rich golden boy Ryan Berenger, whose best friend was kicked off the team to make a spot for Fred.

But there’s no denying that things are happening between the girl with the killer swing and the boy with the killer smile...
So there I was totally enjoying this book—I had some issues with it, sure, but I was really having fun—when wham! The ending came and ruined it. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a book with such promise muff it so badly when it came to the resolution. I mean, it almost left me speechless with just how majorly the ending fell apart. It did not resolve anything in a believable way. Every single thing about how it all worked out was far too easy and superficial and unbelievable. Not to mention the ending felt abrupt—I was expecting at least another chapter for the characters to work things out, but nope. I got sent straight to the epilogue. It all left me feeling rather frustrated and disappointed, especially considering how much I was enjoying the story up to that point.

But enough about the ending. The other main thing that bugged me about the story was Ryan, the love interest. What a douche, is all I have to say. Actually, that’s NOT all I have to say; I’m going to harp on him a little more. He’s trying, I’ll give him that. And I know it can be hard to stand up to your friends, but still—he’s a coward in my book. He does manage to stand up for Fred in the little ways, but every time it really matters, he drops the ball. So I got really tired of him always doing the wrong thing. And don’t even get me started on the way he gets back in Fred’s good graces with a dramatic gesture rather than by consistently proving that he’s changed.

As for Fred, I liked her and the fact that she goes after her dreams despite her difficult circumstances. And I loved that she never lets the Ryan drama affect her committment to golf. I also thought her reactions to her Native American culture were well written. She’s maybe a little embarrassed by it at times, but she’s generally respectful and proud of it. The only thing that got on my nerves about her was that her expectations for her relationship with Ryan were too high to fast—like, she expected one date and a kiss to mean that they were going to live happily ever after forever—so I kinda rolled my eyes at her dramatic reaction to Ryan being a jerk to her after that.

Overall, I think the disappointing ending made me slightly more critical of this book than I would’ve been otherwise. Because really, up until the end, the story is totally readable. I even made it through Ryan’s douchey-ness because I was having such a good time reading the book. And I appreciated that though it’s essentially a teen romance, it explores issues in a way that’s meaningful without becoming too heavy-handed for the type of book it is. And then it had to go and lose my respect with that ending. Grrr.

Rating: 3 / 5

Monday, July 15, 2013

Review: Salvation

Salvation, by Anne Osterlund. The GoodReads summary:
Salvador Resendez--Salva to his friends--appears to have it all. His Mexican immigrant family has high expectations, and Salva intends to fulfill them. He's student body president, quarterback of the football team, and has a near-perfect GPA. Everyone loves him.

Especially Beth Courant, AKA the walking disaster area. Dreamy and shy, Beth is used to blending into the background. But she's also smart, and she has serious plans for her future.

Popular guy and bookish girl--the two have almost nothing in common. Until fate throws them together and the attraction is irresistible. Soon Beth is pushing Salva to set his sights higher than ever--because she knows he has more to offer, more than even he realizes.

Then tragedy strikes--and threatens to destroy everything that Salva has worked for. Will Beth's love be enough to save him?
I’ll admit when I picked this one up, I was hoping it was going to be along the lines of “Perfect Chemistry.” Because that one, while approaching the overdramatic and over the top, never actually crosses the line and never tries to be more than it is, so it manages to be a lot of fun. But “Salvation” didn’t quite succeed in the same way for me.

I mostly felt that the book was trying too hard to be deep and meaningful. I just wanted to be taken on a soap-opera-worthy ride through a dramatic cross-cultural relationship, but I ended up feeling like I was being force fed a “moral of the story.” Like, I felt the author was a bit too obvious in the message I was supposed to take away from the book. I also thought the writing could be a bit over the top, and that’s one of the things I always find hardest to forgive in a book. But while I found the writing a little much, I thought the story was still pretty readable, and I never seriously thought about not finishing it.

I did like that Beth and Salva knew each other for quite a while before starting a relationship. The story takes place over most of a school year, and the two of them spend quite a bit of time together during that period. So I respected their relationship a little more than I maybe would have otherwise. I also liked that the story was about the girl saving the guy, and not the other way around, like it so often is in YAs. I feel like usually it’s the girl struggling with personal or familial issues, and the guy helps her sort things out and get back on track. But the tables are turned in “Salvation,” and even though Beth wasn’t necessarily my favorite character ever, I did like that she was the one to help Salva work things out.

For me, the resolution of the story was waaaay to easy. I won’t go into spoilery territory, but something tragic happens towards the end of the book that Salva needs to deal with. And it weighs heavily on him. But then within the space of, like, two pages and one conversation, it’s all magically fixed, and that didn’t sit well with me. I wanted to see him struggle a little more, and I wish that the solution would’ve been something a little more complex than “true love heals all wounds.”

Overall, not my favorite book, but it did have a few redeeming qualities.

Rating: 3 / 5

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Review: Stealing Heaven

Stealing Heaven, by Elizabeth Scott. The GoodReads summary:
Dani has been trained as a thief by the best--her mother. Together, they move from town to town, targeting wealthy homes and making a living by stealing antique silver. They never stay in one place long enough to make real connections, real friends--a real life.

In the beach town of Heaven, though, everything changes. For the first time, Dani starts to feel at home. She's making friends and has even met a guy. But these people can never know the real Dani--because of who she is. When it turns out that her new friend lives in the house they've targeted for their next job and the cute guy is a cop, Dani must question where her loyalties lie: with the life she's always known--or the one she's always wanted.
This is one of those books that I’ve seen recommended on enough blogs that I thought I should give it a shot. Or to be strictly honest, being the cheapskate that I am, I bought it for my sister for her birthday and then pretty much simultaneously asked if I could borrow it. But anyway, the book turned out to be decent. Not quite the game changer I was hoping for, but still generally enjoyable.

Basically the best thing about the book, in my opinion, is Greg. He’s beyond adorable. In fact he’s so adorable that there’s pretty much no way he could exist in real life, but hey—isn’t that why we read fiction? His appeal comes from the fact that he sees the best in Dani and never gives up on her, despite the fact that she’s incredibly standoffish to him and only gives him the smallest slivers of outward encouragement. But Greg keeps trying anyway, and he’s such a decent guy that his persistence comes off as endearing rather than creepy.

Dani herself is a likeable narrator. I did find it frustrating, though, that she felt like she had no alternatives to being a thief. I get why she felt that way, and that a lot of it had to do with wanting to feel worthy of her mother’s affection, but at the same time, I just wanted to shake her and tell her that she’s better than that.

Plot-wise, I was good with it all until the end, when the story takes a more serious turn. The serious stuff didn’t ruin the book or anything, it’s just that I thought the book was already doing a good enough job dealing with consequences and what not, so the added seriousness at the end felt unnecessary to me.

Overall, a good read. I didn’t fall in love with it in quite the way I hoped I would, but I still liked it well enough, all things considered.

Rating: 3.5 / 5
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