Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas Review

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

Author: John Boyne
Average Rating: 4.04/5.0
Personal Rating: 4.0/5.0
Page Count: 224
Finished Reading: June
Published: September 12th, 2006

According to Goodreads

Berlin 1942

When Bruno returns home from school one day, he discovers that his belongings are being packed in crates. His father has received a promotion and the family must move from their home to a new house far far away, where there is no one to play with and nothing to do. A tall fence running alongside stretches as far as the eye can see and cuts him off from the strange people he can see in the distance.

But Bruno longs to be an explorer and decides that there must be more to this desolate new place than meets the eye. While exploring his new environment, he meets another boy whose life and circumstances are very different to his own, and their meeting results in a friendship that has devastating consequences.

My opinion: 

I'm not going to say that this novel has become one of my all time favorites, but it is a book that brings a bit more awareness into people's lives about the Holocaust. Not a huge amount, but there's some there. I felt like the book started off extremely slow. Literally at page 100 the pace picked up, but I just felt like the writing was too simplistic. 

The simplicity of the writing was actually spot on, because the author created the main character to be nine years old. So of course this nine year old wouldn't be throwing out eight or nine syllable long words. However, by page 50 I felt like I just wanted the book to end so I could be done with the simplistic style of writing. 

I was reading the interview with John Boyne that was at the end of my version of the novel, and he talked about how the book came into existence when an image of two boys separated by a fence popped into his head. He made it his goal from there to portray the naivety of many people during the events of the Holocaust. I feel like people today assume that everybody knew what was actually happening as the Holocaust unfolded. In truth though, many did not know. They knew that their leader, Hitler, was strict and maintained control with fear. They knew that if they publicly gave an act of kindness towards the prisoners they would be severely punished. However, they did NOT know about the gas chambers. They did NOT know about the ovens that many were forced into. They did NOT know about the large ditches that the prisoners were forced to dig, and then be shot one by one into the ditch once they finished. They did NOT know that millions were being starved and forced to work from dawn to dusk. All these horrific actions were kept away from the public.

Today, we have first accounts from the people who experienced these atrocious inhumane acts through interviews and books. We know so much more about the Holocaust than the ones who lived it. I try to read as many articles and books about the Holocaust as I can, because I feel like it's my own way of honoring those who lost their lives. We know most of the truth today, which leads us to tough questions. 

Would you risk your own life to help one of the prisoners? Give them food? Shelter? 

Or would you sneer, spit on them, and say that they deserve everything that they get?

How do you think you would have acted if you had lived during that dark period of time?

Personally, I would like to believe that I would have tried to figure out how to sneak food to them or help them find a way to sneak out. But who knows. Fear causes us to become selfish. 

The fence plays an essential role in the book, and in many of our lives. In the interview, Boyne talks about various "fences" that have erected in our own time. He talked about various wars in Africa and the Middle East, and how war victims were placed in camps to work to death. However, I interpreted that the fence doesn't have to be physical. Maybe you are experiencing some financial struggles or the loss of a beloved family member. Those particular struggles may be temporary, but it's a fence all in the same. Everybody has their fences. Some may have them longer than others, but we all have our fences. I'd like to add this quote from the interview: 

"Fences like this exist all over the world. We hope you never have to reach such a fence." (Boyne)

I highly recommend this book, because of its portrayal of the naivety of the people who lived outside of the fences. This book will open your eyes a bit more about the Holocaust resulting in losing your own naivety of that awful period of time. 

Saturday, June 21, 2014

The Tragedy Paper Review

The Tragedy Paper

Author: Elizabeth LaBan
Average Rating: 3.76/5.0
Personal Rating: 3.0/5.0
Page Count: 312 
Finished Reading: June
Published: January 8th, 2013

According to Goodreads:

Tim Macbeth, a seventeen-year-old albino and a recent transfer to the prestigious Irving School, where the motto is “Enter here to be and find a friend.” A friend is the last thing Tim expects or wants—he just hopes to get through his senior year unnoticed. Yet, despite his efforts to blend into the background, he finds himself falling for the quintessential “It” girl, Vanessa Sheller, girlfriend of Irving’s most popular boy. To Tim's surprise, Vanessa is into him, too, but she can kiss her social status goodbye if anyone ever finds out. Tim and Vanessa begin a clandestine romance, but looming over them is the Tragedy Paper, Irving’s version of a senior year thesis, assigned by the school’s least forgiving teacher.

Jumping between viewpoints of the love-struck Tim and Duncan, a current senior about to uncover the truth of Tim and Vanessa, The Tragedy Paper is a compelling tale of forbidden love and the lengths people will go to keep their love.

My opinion:

I wasn't too impressed with this book. I dived into the book with extremely high expectations that ended up not being met. I still remember the first time that I read the summary on Goodreads before the book had been published. It sounded amazing, no, it sounded spectacular. Looking back though, I think I fell in love with it because it wasn't about vampires, werewolves, and faeries. I always tend to drift towards books that aren't the current trend. I had my vampire and werewolf fix with Twilight, so at the time I was looking for books that did not even mention those two words. 

In the book the current senior class has to write a long thesis paper or they refer to it as The Tragedy Paper. Throughout the year, their teacher Mr. Simon would drop hints about what to include if they wanted extra credit on it. The students truly had free reign with this paper, because the guidelines Mr. Simon did give were quite frank but specific. Reading about the stress and anxiety given by this paper brought back memories of a research paper that I had to complete my eighth grade year. Although, we just had to stress about it for a semester, not a whole school year. I found the two assignments quite similar. I could choose what ever topic I wanted, as long as I followed the few specific guidelines that were given. 

My favorite character out of the whole novel is Mr. Simon. He, himself, attended Irving School, and now is the teacher for Senior English. He's one of those teachers who you want to dislike, because he is the giver of a difficult and lengthy assignment. However, he teaches the material in a way that makes you want to pay attention, and do well. He is charismatic, highly intelligent, gentle, and a bachelor who can bake amazing food. Do I need to say more? 

I was really hoping that The Tragedy Paper would be a winner for me, but it just didn't capture me enough to lose myself into the world of the characters. The writing was boring, and if it wasn't for my curiosity about what happened the year before I probably would have started reading something else. This is a fine example about how I hate reading books that I and others have created hype around. (That's why I haven't read The Fault in Our Stars yet - too much hype especially now that the movie is out.) 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Dear John Review

Dear John

Author: Nicholas Sparks
Average Rating: 3.96/5.0
Personal Rating: 5.0/5.0
Amount of Pages: 276
Finished Reading: June

According to Goodreads:

An angry rebel, John dropped out of school and enlisted in the Army, not knowing what else to do with his life--until he meets the girl of his dreams, Savannah. Their mutual attraction quickly grows into the kind of love that leaves Savannah waiting for John to finish his tour of duty, and John wanting to settle down with the woman who has captured his heart. 

But 9/11 changes everything. John feels it is his duty to re-enlist. And sadly, the long separation finds Savannah falling in love with someone else. 

Dear John, the letter read... and with those two words, a heart was broken and two lives were changed forever. Returning home, John must come to grips with the fact that Savannah, now married, is still his true love—and face the hardest decision of his life.

My opinion:

Oh my goodness gracious THE FEELS! Nicholas Sparks has done it again ladies and gentlemen.

Like every Nicholas Sparks book that I have read, Dear John started out slow. The whole first chapter was a major information dump. The information that was given was a necessity for the rest of the story to unfold, but it just seemed tedious to read about it. Once Savannah came into the mix the novel took off. 

One thing I loved about this particular novel was watching the changes in the relationship between John and his father. When John is confronted with the possibility that his father may have a mental disorder, anger and denial quickly become prominent. He knows that he and his father never had the typical father son relationship, but he just thought his dad was quiet and socially awkward. Then John notices the symptoms in his dad more and more, but he doesn't let them destroy their relationship even more. John learns more about the disorder, and learns how to connect with his father. The relationship that blossoms between them literally brought tears to my eyes. John turns his remorse for being such a difficult teenager into pure love for his father. 

I found it extremely frustrating how John wouldn't be open with his feelings with Savannah. He would rave about how much he loved her, but once she asked why he was angry or sad he wouldn't tell her. He would take the easiest way out and say "I don't know." Communication is one of the biggest keys in a healthy relationship. There are two parts that go along with communication: speaking and listening. John would listen to everything Savannah had to say about her feelings, but when it was his turn it was "I don't know." You have to give something before you can take. 

The writing was very simplistic. Not to the point where you felt like you were drudging slowly through it. Sparks incorporated real life events that brought back memories like 9/11. I know I was only in preschool when it happened, but I don't think I will ever forget the panic and tension in the air. Nor the expressions that were worn by the adults in my life. Sparks did a wonderful job in portraying how difficult it is for an intimate relationship to stay strong between a military member and a non-military member. 

I have loved all the books that I have read by Nicholas Sparks. He knows how to write a romance that isn't filled with sex or is so cheesy that I feel sick to my stomach. He knows how to pull the right strings in our hearts that send us on an emotional roller-coaster with the characters. If you are looking for a novel that is filled with a romance that is reality for many people out there today, then I would highly encourage you to pick up Dear John

Friday, June 13, 2014

Bittersweet Review


Author: Miranda Beverly-Whittemore
Average Rating: 3.68/5.0
Personal Rating: 4.5/5.0
Amount of Pages: 400
Finished Reading: May

According to Goodreads

Suspenseful and cinematic, Bittersweet exposes the gothic underbelly of  an American dynasty, and an outsider's hunger to belong.

On scholarship at a prestigious East Coast college, ordinary Mabel Dagmar is surprised to befriend her roommate, the beautiful, blue-blooded Genevra Winslow. Ev invites Mabel to spend the summer at Bittersweet, her cottage on the Vermont estate where her family has been holding court for more than a century; it's the kind of place where swimming boldly is required and the children twirl sparklers across the lawn during cocktail hour. Mabel falls in love with the midnight skinny-dips, the wet dog smell lingering in the air, the moneyed laughter carrying across the still lake, and before she knows it, she has everything she's ever wanted: wealth, friendship, a boyfriend, and, most of all, the sense, for the first time in her life, that she belongs.

But as Mabel becomes an insider, she makes a terrible discovery, which leads to shocking violence and the revelation of the true source of the Winslows' fortune. Mabel must choose: either expose the ugliness surrounding her and face expulsion from paradise, or keep the family’s dark secrets and redefine what is good and what is evil, in the interest of what can be hers.

My opinion:

Before we continue we must all give a round of applause for "Bittersweet" to celebrate how much I loved this book! (claps vigorously while wiping a tear away from face) 

To be quite frank with all of you, there isn't a ton of action throughout the novel. However, I was able to fly through this book. It would feel like I had been reading for maybe 15 minutes, and then I would look at the clock to realize I had been reading for three or four hours. One aspect I absolutely loved about the format of the book is how the chapters are not that long. I think the longest chapter was about three and a half pages. Whenever a book has short chapters like that, I feel like I am able to finish the book faster. Is that just me? 

Throughout the whole novel I was rooting for Galway Winslow. I think I was drawn to him the most, because he seemed to be the most grounded out of his whole family. The Winslows had millions upon millions. They all knew that fact, and used their wealth to their advantage. However, Galway was...different. Mabel was drawn to the fact that Galway didn't seem as interested in those millions. I have to admit I was pretty jealous that Mabel got to hang out with this guy, because let me tell you he is my dream guy.  

My biggest pet peeve out of the whole novel was Mabel's insecurity with her friendship with Ev Winslow and her relationship with Galway. I'm not being condescending towards her having insecurities, because I am certainly not insecurity free. It got to the point that she was practically whining, and insecurities that turn into whining gets under my skin sometimes. We can figure out why she is insecure as we learn more about the characters and her back-story. It's just the fact that there were a lot of times where I wanted to shake her by the shoulders and tell her that everything will work out if it's meant to be! 

I'm glad this novel brought attention to the reality of how many people suffered during the Holocaust, and how many people were able to flourish due to obtaining the property of the suffering. I had a slight notion that it did happen, but it was never taught to me. It was something that I came across at some point in researching or reading another novel. The Winslows represent many families that became wealthy from the victims, and another offense added to the list of actions against the Holocaust victims that people today want to ignore.

Overall, I loved this book! I am giving "Bittersweet" a 4.5 out of 5. If you are looking for a novel that is filled to the brim with action, then this novel is not for you. However, if you are a love of suspense then DING DING DING you have found a winner! I was guessing the outcome of the story only to be completely stunned when the truth came out. 

For More Information:

DISCLAIMERI received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review.

Monday, June 9, 2014

The Girl with All the Gifts Review

The Girl with All the Gifts

Author: M.R. Carey
Average Rating: 4.08/5.0
Personal Rating: 2.0/5.0
Amount of Pages: 416
Finished Reading: May

According to Goodreads:

Melanie is a very special girl. Dr Caldwell calls her 'our little genius'. Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class. When they come for her, Sergeant keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don't like her. She jokes that she won't bite, but they don't laugh. Melanie loves school. She loves learning about spelling and sums and the world outside the classroom and the children's cells. She tells her favourite teacher all the things she'll do when she grows up. Melanie doesn't know why this makes Miss Justineau look sad.

My opinion:

I received an electronic copy of this book to review from NetGalley, but in no way does that have an impact on my views and opinion. 

I was basically blind going into this book. I had read the the summary on NetGalley, and read the summary from Goodreads. I thought this novel was about this little girl who had all this special talents and intellectual gifts.  

It wasn't like that.

Not even close.

This novel is a full fledged sci-fi novel. I clearly did not do my research, but I felt like the summaries were enough. They sounded intriguing, and I personally thought the story was going to be taken place in a mental ward, or some special building. 

Man, was I wrong.

I will be fair, and say that it wasn't boring. I just found myself very disturbed by what went on in the story. I want to never read about how to remove a brain from a skull ever again. I'm being dead serious. (Note the underline, italicized, and boldness of the word ever.) 

The story was written in third person, which I am not a huge fan of in general. I don't feel like writing in third person allows the author to properly portray how a character looks. I could never really develop that clear picture of the characters in my head. Having clear images of characters in my head is crucial to my reading experience, because when I read the book runs through my head like a movie. The two most important parts of a successful movie is the plot and the characters. If one is missing then the whole experience is basically ruined.   

This brings me to the inevitable time to rate the novel. I gave "The Girl with All the Gifts" a two out five. I know that's going to anger a lot of people, but hear me out when I say this book wasn't for me. I found it disturbing and disgusting. My stomach literally churned during some parts that I read. I am surprised that I even finished it, because there were a lot of times that I wanted to put it down. 

With all that said, this book is perfect for all the sci-fi lovers out there. I highly recommend all lovers of the genre to pick up this book, and read it. I don't think you'll regret it. However, if you're not into trudging through long scientific words or reading about rotting bodies releasing spores then this novel isn't probably going to make it to the top of your to-be-read list. 

Friday, June 6, 2014

Happyface Review


Author: Stephen Emond
Average Rating: 3.74/5.0
Personal Rating:  3.5/5.0
Amount of Pages: 320
Finished Reading: May

According to Goodreads:

Enter Happyface's journal and get a peek into the life of a shy, artistic boy who decides to reinvent himself as a happy-go-lucky guy after he moves to a new town. See the world through his hilariously self-deprecating eyes as he learns to shed his comic-book-loving, computer-game playing ways. Join him as he makes new friends, tries to hide from his past, and ultimately learns to face the world with a genuine smile. With a fresh and funny combination of text and fully integrated art, Happyface is an original storytelling experience.

My opinion:

There are two things that I loved about "Happyface." One is how fast paced the story was. It seemed like I just kept turning the pages without stopping to blink. Second, the information about what happened with Happyface's family and Chloe, the girl he left behind when he moved. Emond delivers this information at a very slow pace, and at times you're wondering what really happened. You're probably thinking I am contradicting myself, because I just said the story was fast paced. The story moved quickly, but the information that I think all the readers of this novel were looking was delivered very slowly to keep us all guessing. I know when clues were starting to be dropped I began to make my own assumptions, but the truth of what really did happen with his parents, his brother, and Chloe caught me off guard. It was like a swift blow to the stomach that took my breath away. 

The main character, Happyface, has a sarcastic humor and is very insecure with his status. His older brother is the all American boy who is athletic, gets decent grades, and has many friends. He can do no wrong in the eyes of his parents. Of course, Happyface grows up in his brother's shadow. I noticed early on how Happyface would write a lot about not having any friends, and how he believed he needed to become more popular for Chloe to like him more. He moves to this new school, and he decides that he is going to reinvent himself as person. Happyface develops this theory that if he smiles all the time then more people will want to be around him, because everybody likes being around someone who is always happy. He becomes obsessed with the attention, and thirsts for the popularity that he has gained. He struggles with the fact that if he confronts the truth and just be himself he would be truly happy.

I despised the characters of Misty and Karma. They are sisters, and are friends with Gretchen who is Happyface's new love interest at the new school. When I first met Misty and Karma in the novel, I just felt something off with them. I knew if I met them in reality I wouldn't be able to trust them. Sure enough they stuck their noses into Happyface's past. They would ask him nonchalant questions about certain people or events right in front of everyone. They added a lot to the premise of the story, and were probably the main reason that Happyface had to eventually confront the truth. However, they just irritated me a boatload, and made me cringe whenever they opened their mouths. 

Even though I gave this novel a rather low rating, I still encourage all of you out there to read it. This novel is a great example of how many people hide behind "masks" or smiles to run away from the truth. We all have these "masks." I know I have had several. The truth will always be there, and when we confront it we will then be truly happy. We don't have to conform to what society says we need to be in order to make friends. As long as we act like our unique selves, then we can find those true, sincere, and supportive friends that will be there for everything. 

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Murder Farm Review

The Murder Farm

Author: Andrea Maria Schenkel
Average Rating: 3.23/5.0
Personal Rating: 4.0/5.0
Amount of Pages: 192
Finished Reading: May

According to Goodreads:

A whole family has been murdered with a pickaxe. They were old Danner the farmer, an overbearing patriarch, his put-upon devoutly religious wife, and their daughter Barbara Spangler, whose husband Vincenz left her after fathering her daughter, Marianne. Also murdered was the Danners' new maidservant, Marie, who was regarded as slightly simple. Despite the brutal nature of the killings and the small village where it has taken place, the police have no leads. Officially the crime is unsolved. And then a former resident returns home The Murder Farm is an unconventional detective story. The author interweaves testament from the villagers, an oblique view of the murderer, occasional third-person narrative pieces and passages of pious devotion. The narrator leaves the village unaware of the truth, only the reader is able to reach the shattering conclusion.

My opinion: 

I received an electronic copy of this book to review, but in no way does that have an impact on my views and opinion. 

"The Murder Farm" is a fine example of how a thriller should be. I believe that goriness, as in buckets of blood and guts, is completely unnecessary. A thriller needs to have several parts that send your heart beating, and having you glance over your shoulder once or twice. 

I highly enjoyed how the novel began, even though I thought I was reading a little excerpt from the author, but in reality it was part of the story...whoops. Every so often there would be a page or two with a part of a prayer asking all the saints and God to watch over the murder victims. I thought that was a unique touch that I as a reader doesn't see that much. I don't necessarily get uncomfortable when faith or God gets brought up in a novel that I am reading, but if it's thrown and shoved down my throat I will stop reading the book. However, Schenkel weaves this prayer intricately and beautifully throughout the novel. I would forget about the prayer while I was reading, and then at the perfect moment I would turn to a page with more of the prayer. 

As far as the character development goes, there wasn't too much. The chapters were set up so that part of them was a character giving their account of what happened, and the other parts of the chapters was actually what happened. I loved that set up, because usually if a question arose while reading, the second part of the chapter supplied the answer. You just find out bits and pieces of each character while they give the information about the murders that they know or witnessed. This is definitely not a novel where you can form a relationship or connection with the characters.