Monthly Archives: September 2012

Book Review: Willow by Julia Hoben

Cannonball Read IV #35

In Julia Hoben’s Willow, we meet teenage Willow, whose parents have died in a car accident caused by Willow. She is sent to live with her brother and sister-in-law, and still consumed by guilt of what she thinks she did, Willow retreats into herself, cutting her skin open and pretending everything is okay.

I sympathized with Willow in this book — mostly. I have done things accidentally that I still kind of feel guilty about. And I get the pain that she feels, pain that makes her hurt herself. I have been in that exact spot. And while I don’t think this novel has a overly tight, tidy ending, I do think its ending does an injustice to girls Willow might inspire to fight on. Instead of Willow realizing she is strong and that with help, she will be okay, Willow gets a boyfriend who is very worried about her cutting and is the cutter patrol. Once they officially become boyfriend-girlfriend, everything is a-okay and Willow sees the light at the end of the tunnel.

I hate the message this sends to teenage girls. “All you need is a boyfriend and he will be your knight in shining armor and life will be good again.” But it’s so much more complicated than that, and that’s if you’re a teenage girl who doesn’t feel the weight of your parents’ death hanging on you the way Willow does.

Nice try, Julia. Perhaps your next novel will hit the mark.

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Book Review: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Cannonball Read IV #34

Dear Ventura County Library & Overdrive: Thank you for supplying me with free ebooks. Because of you, I was able to read this book, which I was kinda wary about. I’d heard comments that contained the words “Harry Potter” in them, and as I indicated in my review of The Magicians, those comments make me wary (in that case, with good reason). But when there was zero monetary commitment on my part? Yes ma’am I’ll read that. All my love, Krista

Erin Morgenstern’s debut novel The Night Circus is the story of an unusual circus — the tents and performers appear one day, and the circus is at night. No one knows where it will appear next, yet it’s always found, by the faithful followers and those new to the circus. It is a lovely black and white circus, full of class and charm. But what no one can see is that the circus is all held together by two young magicians, Celia and Marco, competing in a battle with few rules that they understand and a prize that they will never be able to reach. When they fall in love, things start to happen to the circus, risking the balance of the fragile magic they have spun throughout the years.

I was absolutely enchanted and enamored with this book! Morgenstern’s language is so lovely that I felt as though I was walking the cool streets of the circus with all of the other visitors. The magical fire? I felt its warmth and saw its color. Each of the different tents in the circus, each created by Celia and Marco’s magic, was alive to me, even though they are things I could never experience in any kind of reality. I was there. It truly cast a spell on me, which is a super lame way to review a book about magicians but it’s my review and I just went there.

Not only did I feel like the circus was real to me, but I enjoyed the characters immensely as well and felt as though each of them was a friend in real life, especially Celia and Marco. Their love was palpable and touched me. The cast of supporting characters also helped with my like of C&M because they moved them around like pawns, and seeing every interaction was a beautiful thing.

How many flowery, poetic words can I use in this? I think I’ve reached my cap. I’ll call it good and end with this: The Night Circus is no on my favorites shelf (yes, I ordered it after reading the ebook!).

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Book Reivew: Destined to Fail by Samantha March

Cannonball Read IV #33

This book. Oh, this book. Destined to Fail is the story of Jasmine Jones, who heads off to college with her friend Abby. Jasmine had a pretty rough life growing up, but she is determined to make a good life. She makes friends at college quickly, joins clubs, gets a job, and finds a boyfriend. When Abby announces she is pregnant and leaving college, Jasmine flips out and says a lot of mean, judgey things to Abby. But then boom goes the dynamite, because just a few months later, Jasmine is pregnant, too.

I really want to find a book that depicts teenage pregnancy in a real way, in a way that is believable. Because I don’t believe in Jasmine. Sad to say, but her character was so annoying and when she got pregnant my first thought was “Big. Freaking. Surprise.” And how it’s dealt with really did not jive with me. She loses her baby to a misscarraige, which is very traumatic for her, and then opens up a home for girls to teach them skills in life and how to get out of bad relationships or depression, all with the support of her college president. All in the span of a year.

I’m sorry, Samantha March, but have you ever worked for a college? You are smoking crack because nothing happens that fast.

The characters in this book were poorly created, basically cookie-cutter characters. You had the abused girl, the cutter, the happy girl escaping a bad life, the bad boy, another bad boy, a supportive counselor… I mean, shake it up a little bit, you know? There are smart books about girls living through teen pregnancy. Why not be one of them instead of being one that is just like every other book?

Final words: Skip it.

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Book Review: Expecting Adam by Martha Beck

Cannonball Read IV #31

In Expecting Adam by Martha Beck, Beck tells the story of her son Adam. Adam was Beck’s second child and during her pregnancy, she found out that he had Down Syndrome. Beck and her husband decided not to terminate the pregnancy and Adam was born the usual way, with Down Syndrome as anticipated. This is the story of how Adam is their extra special child.

This was a very… new age novel. I bought it because I’d read good things about it online but it was a little too far out there for me. Beck has a lovely story about choosing life for her son and it’s amazing to see the joy that he has brought to her family through the years (Adam is now an adult in his twenties), but there were a lot of “I felt the light” and “A stranger carried me down the stairs” and “mystical, magical” moments. This happened often enough that I felt it detracted from the beauty that was Adam’s story. I know the point was to show readers that Adam has always been surrounded by extra special stuff, but it was overkill.

I wanted to like this but overall my thoughts are just a meh.

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Book Review: The Light Between Oceans by ML Stedman

Cannonball Read IV #30

I have been going back and forth on ML Stedman’s The Light Between Oceans for some time. I was going to get it on my nook but then I got a coupon for 20% of a Barnes and Noble book, and since I get free shipping, it was the same cost as the nook book, so I ordered it. Then I read my best friend Jen Hatmaker‘s tweet about how she finished it and her husband asked her if something was wrong with her face because it was all swollen.

That is, apparently, what sobbing does.

I am a sucker for books that make me cry. (Point in case: Where the Red Fern Grows has the ability to make me weep just thinking about it, and is one of those books that I read when I’m in the mood for a good cry.) But I am wary of books that people tell me are so good they’ll make me cry. (Yet that has not stopped me once from telling everyone who ever asks me about books that The Book Thief will make them weep and if it doesn’t then they’re a robot and we can’t be friends.) Hence the vacillation between nook, not ordering, and hardcover.

The Light Between Oceans is the story of Tom Sherbourne and his wife, Isabel. The two live on a deserted lighthouse, the only two on the islands. After multiple miscarriages and a stillborn, the couple is devastated. One day, a small boat washes up on the shore of the island. In it are a dead man and a live, little baby girl. Against Tom’s judgement, he agrees to keep the infant after he finds Isabel, only a few days postpartum from their stillborn son, nursing the girl. They name her Lucy and it isn’t until several years later that they realize the devastation of what they have done.

You guys. This novel was breathtaking. It’s a gorgeous setting, beautiful writing, and compelling characters. I could feel Isabel’s grief and Tom’s reluctance, even though he grew to love Lucy. Its pace was perfect. Spanning many years, Stedman does an excellent job of describing the passage of time. The dialogue was believable. And the support cast of characters, from friends to family to law, was a group of people who might exist in real life. And the story! I could not put this book down. It was “just a few more pages” and “just this last chapter” — and that led me to finishing the book in a spectacularly little amount of time.

I genuinely cannot think of a single thing to say about this that is negative. It’s a beautiful adult novel but a young adult could read it, too. Its language is appropriate and its themes, while serious, would be okay for an older teenager. I would have read this in high school and loved every word of it.

I finished reading this at work, so I did my very best to keep my own tears until control, but there were lots of them. I would have ugly cried had I not been sitting in my office with a window that anyone could look through. Highly recommend this one. I’ll totally be reading Stedman’s next work.

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Book Review: Save Me by Lisa Scottoline

Cannonball Read IV #29

Save Me by Lisa Scottoline had a super intriguing plot summary on the book jacket. Rose’s 3rd grade daughter, Melly, has a birthmark on her face that puts her at the mercy and taunts of her classmates. When a terrible accident happens in the school cafeteria, forcing Rose to make a horrible decision between her daughter and her daughter’s bully, chaos happens.

Except that’s not really what this book is about. That’s what it’s about for about 50% of the time, and that was the part I liked the best. It was all Jodi Picoult-ish, and I was totally stoked on that. I mean, my sister is in 3rd grade, and if I was in her cafeteria when there was an explosion and I had to pick between helping her and another child who was closer… well, it’s hands down not even a choice. I’d get my Goosie girl first. And for a little while that’s what this book is about. But about halfway through, it suddenly because a book about some far-fetched murder plot about why there was an explosion in the cafeteria to begin with. And at that point, the book because exceptionally stupid.

I’m jumping around here, but one thing really upset me about the first half of this novel. Every. Single. Parents. attacks Rose for abandoning Amanda, Melly’s bully. Rose didn’t — she got Amanda almost all of the way out the building — but then turned around and ninjaed her way through a burning building to save her daughter. Every parent said she’d abandoned the other little girl, who ended up almost dying (spoiler: both girls live) after something smashed her on the head. Here’s the thing: I cannot think of one person who wouldn’t save her own child first. And every parent bitches Rose out when they think she did that.

I don’t see the problem. Scottoline presents an unrealistic attack on a woman who did what 99% of most women would do. I don’t care if I was one foot from another child, I would run through 100 yards of burning shards of glass to save my sister, even if it meant dying myself. I love my friends’ children, but I’d pick Charisse first.

Please, call me a horrible human being now.

So yeah, I was definitely sympathetic to Rose for this portion of the novel. But then she gets all investigative journalist and it’s really annoying. At one point, she hunts down Melly’s gifted teacher and is ready to kick some teacher ass, and goes raging into the teacher’s home, ranting and freaking out. Then she suddenly, like a super spy with amazing vision, spies a book about pregnancy and becomes the woman’s BFF.

In like one paragraph.

It was just too much not to believe. Then there was some nonsense about peanuts and senators and senator’s babies and an assassination plot and how did we even get there?

If the first half of the book had continued and this became a courtroom drama (it really did start that way!) I would have been all over that like a white woman on Jodi Picoult books. But this book just left me feeling like a giant WTF.

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Book Review: Beachcombers by Nancy Thayer

Cannonball Read IV #28

I do not know why I do this to myself. No, I do know why. I have a thing for angsty-girls-mother-daughter books and this one, given its description fit nicely. Beachcombers by Nancy Thayer is the story of three sisters — Abbie, Emma, and Lily — whose lives are changed once when they’re young after the death of their mother and again in their twenties when they call converge at their father’s Nantucket home to figure out who they are.

This has spoilers. I don’t even care that you know that. You should know that this is dumb and telling you what happens will let you in on said avoiding. Let the number of exclamation points determine my feelings for this novel.

So. This book is told mostly from the perspective of four different women, plus Marina, a 30-something woman whose husband left her recently for her best friend. Marina is infertile, and her former friend Dara is pregnant! With her ex-husband’s child! The girls’ father rents out their small, kid’s playhouse to Marina and they fall in love! Woo! They swim and make love and it’s all peaches and creme!

Meanwhile, Emma is super depressed because she got dumped by her boyfriend, Duncan, who has a pretty douchey name to begin with. Duncan, being a grade A d-bag, gets with one of their coworkers. Emma loses all of her monkey in a stockmarket crash and now she can’t get out of best, she’s so depressed! Except five or six chapters in, she gets out of bed in a miraculous recovery when oldest sister Abbie, summoned home by big fat baby Lily, creates a gopher-jack-of-all-trades business.

Abbie becomes a nanny for Harry and his parents, Howell (called Owl) and Sydney! Howell and Abbie have the hots for each other! They have sex in the living room while Sydney is gone and Harry is asleep! Sydney goes from bitching out Abbie in one breath to being almost gracious to her in the next! SO MUCH ANGST!

Emma falls in love with Spencer, her employer’s grandson! She uncovers that his mother is stealing her employer’s heirloom possessions! Emma tries to take a few things for appraisal to prove they’re fake and wooooo, Lily has called the police to have her arrested!

Lily is just a brat, spoiled and always almost bursting into tears for 350 pages! She doesn’t get anymore.

Shallow writing, shallow characters, and a shallow plot: that’s what you get with this one. The only perk is that it is SLIGHTLY more well-written than a Danielle Steel novel.

NEXT.

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