Room: A Novel by Emma Donoghue
Publisher: Little, Brown
Publication date: September 2010
For: Book Club
Jack has always lived in Room - a place where he and his Ma live, eat, sleep, and play. It is his whole world. But for Ma, it is a place of torture that is only made bearable because of Jack. But she knows they can't remain there forever and hopes that both of them can escape the clutches of Old Nick.
This is a unique, intriguing, thought-provoking, emotional book. What I think I liked best was that we are able to explore a difficult, tragic, and painful topic just a little easier, because we view it through a child's eyes. Everything is softened and has a lighter cast to it, because we see through Jack's point of view. The pain, torture, and other psychologically damaging things his mom experiences could have been too much for me to finish, but having it just a step away made it more bearable. It really has a lot more going for it than I initially expected. Honestly, the fact of its subject (is it a spoiler to say what it is?) makes it kind of not something you want to recommend or "enjoy." The one thing consistently bothering me was that in the Room Jack has a name for everything, most of them capitalized. Except for when he's "having some." I think it was a tiny bit inconsistent that he did not ask his mom what "some" should be called, or at least called it Some. Probably there's a reason for it, but I thought it seemed a little less consistent with Jack's voice, like she added it so she could prolong the surprise of what "some" was. Still, it offers a unique look at a very difficult topic. It obviously is an adult book with some very disturbing and sometimes graphically violent things happening.
I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore
Publisher: Harper Audio
Publication date: August 2010
Length: 11 hrs, 24 min
Source: Audiobook from Library
Series: Lorien Legacies, Book 1
There were nine who left Lorien as it was destroyed, each of them separated for their own safety. But when number four, going by the name John Smith, discovers that the first three are dead, he knows they are coming for him next. Will hiding in this new small town, where a cute girl and a new friend make him feel welcome, keep him safe long enough?
I liked the idea of aliens living among us, waiting to return to their home planet. I liked the fact that John didn't want to follow all the rules, keep running, never have a life, and do what Henri told him to. But ultimately, I had so many issues with this book I can't include them all and still call this a mini review. The writing was, as many have noted, quite bad. It seemed riddled with cliches and strange phrases that made for awkward scenes. Even more annoying were plot points that seemed painfully obvious and characters that were stereotypical. The Bernie Cozar plot point (seriously, the name alone annoys me) was evident almost from the beginning, but John doesn't pick it up until the end. The bad guys are so evil they can't do anything but cackle evilly whenever they are on page. I think that the characters were not helped by the narrator, Neil Kaplan, who gave them all voices to match the stereotypes (deep jock voice, nasal nerdy voice, and don't get me started on his female voices). Sarah was probably the most annoying character for me - I swear all she did was hit John on the arm and called him "silly." The romance was, as we say in my house, vomitrocious. The whole ending, which I expected to be exciting and heart-pounding and make the book worth listening to was so weird and confusing, with plot points just showing up that made no sense that I can't believe I finished the book. I guess I did because I have a copy of the next book, which I might try, just to see if it gets any better. I guess I'm a glutton for punishment. The book has some swearing and violence, but nothing overly graphic.
Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters by Meredith Zeitlin
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Publication date: March 2012
Source: e-book from Publisher
Kelsey Finklestein is fourteen and determined to make freshman year the best yet - she's going to be a soccer star and finally catch the attention of the hot boy she's crushed on for years. But when things don't go quite according to plan, she must figure out what she can do to turn this year around from a disaster to a success.
I really liked Kelsey! She is really the only reason I kept reading the book. She's smart, funny, teenage, and able to take whatever comes her way. She could have spent the entire year crying in her room over everything, but she doesn't. She is tough and pushes through the embarrassment and other difficult things she deals with and is smart about it. Her views on life were so hilarious, because I remember feeling and thinking the same things, especially her crushes. I laughed a LOT in the book, but pretty much I didn't like anything else. The story seemed to have no real point, except to show one funny, embarrassing, sort of sad moment after the other. I can see how Kelsey was supposed to change over the course of the stories, but I really prefer having more story and less episodes. I was not very interested in what happened next or in any of the other characters. The seriously lax attitude of the 14-year-olds about drinking made me uncomfortable. I'm sure it happens, but I just don't think (or I guess I just don't want to think) it's quite that common at 14. There is also a bit of swearing and plenty of talk about sex with one near incident, but most is not on page. I guess this one was just not right for me!
Dreamland by Alyson Noel
Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Publication date: September 2011
Length: 4 hrs, 50 min
Source: Audiobook provided by Publisher
Series: Riley Bloom, Book 3
Riley is learning that the afterlife is really depressing when you don't have much of an afterlife, especially at a permanent twelve years old. After focusing only on her work as a soul catcher, she decides to visit Dreamland - the place where dreams happen. In her eager attempts to contact her sister Ever, she finds herself caught in a nightmare that may never end.
This series covers a lot of interesting ideas and things that tween girls struggle with and worry about, but in a unique setting. The fact that Riley spends so much time trying to grow up will really resonate with those girls right on the cusp of becoming teens. I remember wanting to be older, grown up, and look like it, so I think it will definitely appeal to those experiencing that. I thought the narrator, Kathleen McInenery, really nailed the voice too - almost to the point of annoyance as she's got the tween girl whining part down pat. As an adult, though, this book was pretty annoying. I thought the story was kind of pointless, except to show Riley still stuck, not improving, not changing, being obnoxious, selfish, and defiant. She still hasn't learned anything and it's book three? By this point, she should have been getting something. It just seems like she's not going anywhere and each book is the same thing over and over with a slightly different side character's story. Apparently, I didn't need to pick up the second book (I thought this was the second one) because Riley's exactly the same and had pretty much the same adventure as in Radiance, the first book. Hand these to the tween who is ready to be a teen already.
Flesh and Blood So Cheap: The Triangle Fire and Its Legacy by Albert Marrin
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publication date: February 2011
For: Learnin' :)
This book recounts the events leading up to and happening on March 25, 1911 in the Triangle Waist Factory fire. It also covers the aftermath and modern day working conditions and factory hazards.
I have become truly fascinated with the Triangle Waist Factory fire from 1911. I've read plenty of historicaly fiction about it, but don't think I've read enough nonfiction. I was so impressed with the detail and the information the book contained. The photos and other graphic images added just the right touch to everything, keeping it real and making it even more possible to imagine the plight of those women and their families. I was especially interested in the details about modern factory tragedies and poor working conditions. It is well researched and interesting, not to mention fascinating and horrifying. Despite its title, the amount of the book actually dedicated to discussing the fire - what actually happened and the aftermath - was remarkably small. I liked having plenty of introductory information to set the scene and tell about what led to it, but I was truly surprised by how short that part was. Of course, I cried through the whole part about the fire, so perhaps that was good. Either way, this is a great book to introduce the topic and get a better feel for what led to the incident and what happened after.
Which of these books are you most interested in?
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