A BOOK: The Chaos of Stars

Hello, hello! I have been trying to add a little variety in my reading, which is why I picked up THIS:

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Although technically this is not variety for me because I have read pretty much all of Kiersten White’s books, it is variety for me because it deals with Egyptian mythology. I’m pretty sure the last book I read that had any sort of Egyptian setting to it was The Egypt Game way back in 4th grade. I would say the mythological elements and stories explored in White’s novel is one of the main reasons why I ended up enjoying The Chaos of Stars. It was just down right interesting. The main character, Isadora, was snarky, independent, and albeit upset with her parents she was rightfully so. Isadora felt whole and fully realized, and I enjoyed viewing life from her perspective. I also enjoyed that this book dealt so much with family and death, that I kind of wish the love story line was downplayed. A lot of time was spent laying down the foundation for that, and I would be interested to see what this book would have been without it. But of course, that story line brought us many of swoony moments and it does explore love and life vs. death in a different manner.

Please take a moment to admire this first line: “When I was a little girl, I still believed I was part of the world’s secret magic.”

Isn’t that BEAUTIFUL?

If you are looking for a book that feels light and fluffy yet causes you to think and consider life and learn about Egyptian mythology without even realizing it, this one might be the one for you!

Summary:
Kiersten White, New York Times bestselling author of Paranormalcy, is back with The Chaos of Stars—an enchanting novel set in Egypt and San Diego that captures the magic of first love and the eternally complicated truth about family.

Isadora’s family is seriously screwed up—which comes with the territory when you’re the human daughter of the ancient Egyptian gods Isis and Osiris. Isadora is tired of living with crazy relatives who think she’s only worthy of a passing glance—so when she gets the chance to move to California with her brother, she jumps on it. But her new life comes with plenty of its own dramatic—and dangerous—complications . . . and Isadora quickly learns there’s no such thing as a clean break from family.

Blending Ally Carter’s humor and the romance of Cynthia Hand’sUnearthly, The Chaos of Stars takes readers on an unforgettable journey halfway across the world and back, and proves there’s no place like home.

Kiersten White on The Chaos of Stars:
“It’s a strange little beast, more contemporary than paranormal. And it’s by far my most personal book. I started it when things in my life were not what I wanted them to be and I felt very angry and betrayed. Isadora, my darling, arrogant, angry narrator, was the voice I needed at the time. I love her. I love the particular journey we went on together, through betrayal and anger to hope and happiness.”

Check it out of Goodreads.com!

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Review: Never Enough

Never EnoughNever Enough
Denise Jaden
Published July 10, 2012
Simon Pulse

From the author of Losing Faith, a novel about two sisters and the eating disorder that threatens to destroy their family.

Loann’s always wanted to be popular and pretty like her sister, Claire. So when Claire’s ex-boyfriend starts flirting with her, Loann is willing to do whatever it takes to feel special… even if that means betraying her sister.

But as Loann slips inside Claire’s world, she discovers that everything is not as it seems. Claire’s quest for perfection is all-consuming, and comes at a dangerous price. As Claire increasingly withdraws from friends and family, Loann struggles to understand her and make amends. Can she heal their relationship —and her sister—before it’s too late?

Photo and summary from Goodreads.com

Ugh. This made me cry for like 15,000 days in a devastating but good kind of way. Devastating because my heart had been ripped out, but good because I was impressed that Denise Jaden was able to so successfully handed me a slice of life.

This is a story about two sisters striving to be perfect in some manner or other. Well, Claire is striving to be perfect and Loanne kind of wants to be like Claire. This is told from Loanne’s perspective the entire time as she tries to navigate through catty friends, stupid boys, smart boys, and her family. Some specific things I like:

1. Claire is not a jerk. She is a well-rounded girl, looking out for her younger sister yet still going through a hard time in life.

2. Loanne has discovered her own passion. One of my favorite parts is that Claire plays a hand in this.

3. Loanne’s new friend in the book. It’s a two steps forward, one step back kind of friendship as he has his own things going in his life.

4. There is a WHOLE lot going on in this, and I think I like it. I was unsure if I did at first, but then I started thinking about what story line I would take out and I couldn’t decide. Everything felt like it needed to be there for some reason– whether to help Loanne come to a new realization or to show the depth in a different character. I think one of my favorite scenes is the end of the play, which is when we get to see behind the scenes a little bit of one of the secondary characters.

5. This deals with eating disorders. It deals with it seriously and carefully. Starting with little hints we get to see the progression as a girl gets stuck further and further, and we get to understand the mental process behind what is happening.

Overall Review: For people who love stories about sisters, tough issues, misfits in high school– this one is for you. Loanne is a character who starts out unsure and gets stronger as she finds her own place in the world. The story starts off small, and grows to be bigger and bigger the more involved we get in the lives of these characters.

Other fun things:
You can get a free e-book copy of Never Enough Stories over at Denise Jadens website. These are deleted scenes and companion stories to Never Enough. 

Read an interview with Denise Jaden over at A Good Addiction!

Review: Where Things Come Back

Where Things Come Back
by John Corey Whaley
Atheneum
May 2011 

Just when seventeen-year-old Cullen Witter thinks he understands everything about his small and painfully dull Arkansas town, it all disappears. . . . 

In the summer before Cullen’s senior year, a nominally-depressed birdwatcher named John Barling thinks he spots a species of woodpecker thought to be extinct since the 1940s in Lily, Arkansas. His rediscovery of the so-called Lazarus Woodpecker sparks a flurry of press and woodpecker-mania. Soon all the kids are getting woodpecker haircuts and everyone’s eating “Lazarus burgers.” But as absurd as the town’s carnival atmosphere has become, nothing is more startling than the realization that Cullen’s sensitive, gifted fifteen-year-old brother Gabriel has suddenly and inexplicably disappeared. 

While Cullen navigates his way through a summer of finding and losing love, holding his fragile family together, and muddling his way into adulthood, a young missionary in Africa, who has lost his faith, is searching for any semblance of meaning wherever he can find it. As distant as the two stories seem at the start, they are thoughtfully woven ever closer together and through masterful plotting, brought face to face in a surprising and harrowing climax. 

Complex but truly extraordinary, tinged with melancholy and regret, comedy and absurdity, this novel finds wonder in the ordinary and emerges as ultimately hopeful. It’s about a lot more than what Cullen calls, “that damn bird.” It’s about the dream of second chances.

Summary and Photo from Goodreads.com

Have you ever written a paper defining a certain word?

In high school I wrote a paper about the word “passion” and I had to define it in various ways. In college my final paper involved discussing anthologies based on a concept or a word instead of a time period. I have always been a big fan of defining a word from multiple angles, because I am a firm believer that you can’t define anything with one simple definition. There are so many different types of love and hate and second chances and they all mean something a little different to everyone.

I have been typing and retyping this review trying to capture how I feel about this book. The thing is, yes, there is one “main” story when it comes to Where Things Come Back. There is one “main” narrator with his perspective of the world. But somehow, in someway, John Corey Whaley is able to capture so many stories in this one book. You have Cullen’s and Gabriel’s and Cullen’s aunt’s, and his mom’s story and his dad’s and Benton Sage’s, and John the bird guy’s and Cullen’s best friend’s story and that best friend’s girl friend’s story and so on! I feel like I was able to gain something from every. single. character. Even Cullen’s friend’s grandmother some how.

Please, forgive me for the amount of possession going on in the above paragraph!

But seriously. This book? Is like a real story about real people and real life, but with the added majesty of observed and acknowledged poetic life. I mean yea, you can read it as the story of a boy who lost something EXTREMELY important to him and then pursues surviving in this new life (while Benton Sage is being missionary extraordinaire confusing the bejeezies out of you (in a good curious way)). But, there is more to it, which makes this book totally beautiful (or handsome?).

So, if you haven’t read Where Things Come Back here are some tips.

1. Participate, yet enjoy. One of my favorite parts of Mr. John Corey Whaley’s writing is it kept me on my toes going nuts. Will this happen? How do these things correlate? IS THIS A CLUE?! Are clues in this book?!?!?! These were only samples of what I was thinking. Yet, even though my inner dialogue was going crazy, there were so many great parts for me to just sink down into and breathe in.

2. Read it. You know, get a copy of the book. Open it up. And read!

Those are my tips. 🙂 If you like books that are art, stories that make you slow down and consider life (yet aren’t boring), and/or books that involve intense action-packed fight scenes every other page, this one is for you.

(I was kidding about the intense action-packed fight scenes, although there is a bit of violence and there is intensity!)

Ultimate Review: Fannnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnntastic! Once it comes out in paperback I’m going to be buying this just to own and keep. Or depending on if I cave I just might get this in hardcover:).
Random tidbit: I borrowed this from my library, and once I started it I was really intent about reading it ASAP so other people could check it out. This is one of the reasons why I don’t name a lot of names in the possession nightmare paragraph– I don’t have my copy to refer too and I’m too stubborn to look it up on the internet.

Review: And Then Things Fall Apart

And Then Things Fall Apart
Arlaina Tibensky
July 2011
Simon and Schuster

Keek’s life was totally perfect.

Keek and her boyfriend just had their Worst Fight Ever, her best friend heinously betrayed her, her parents are divorcing, and her mom’s across the country caring for her newborn cousin, who may or may not make it home from the hospital. To top it all off, Keek’s got the plague. (Well, the chicken pox.) Now she’s holed up at her grandmother’s technologically-barren house until further notice. Not quite the summer vacation Keek had in mind.

With only an old typewriter and Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar for solace and guidance, Keek’s alone with her swirling thoughts. But one thing’s clear through her feverish haze—she’s got to figure out why things went wrong so she can put them right.

Summary and photo from Goodreads.com

So the other day during work I was on break reading this and my Emily Dickinson poems for the day. While I was reading Emily Dickinson, one of my fellow employees asked what I was reading. I told him Emily Dickinson. Then he made all these jokes about how depressing she was and har dee har har and why don’t I read some Sylvia Plath while I’m at it, and I went, “well, actually… this book here (pointing to And Then Things Fall Apart) is pretty much inspired by The Bell Jar.” And then he guffawed and made more jokes.

The glory of Keek’s obsession with Sylvia Plath and The Bell Jar is you don’t have to read it in order to get through this book. On one level And Then Things Fall Apart is about a girl who just loves books and uses them to understand her world around her. A really neat chain started to develop while I was reading, Keek kept relating to Esther (the mc in The Bell Jar), and I kept relating to Keek. It was like a three person massage line!

I’m pretty sure Keek is one of my more favorite characters I’ve read. Arlaina Tibensky did an awesome job of rounding out Keek, so I got a good feel for her personality and hobbies and likes/dislikes. One of my favorite things is when a writer successfully puts as many details as possible into the story, without the readers even noticing it and then at the end of the book they know the mc (and others too!) like a good friend without having meant to know the character so well. Tibenskey won at this game!

Keek essentially is a book lover, and she said quite a few things that I got out my trusty pen to record. Here were some of my favorite lines:

“Everyone is wrong and everyone is right and we are alive so there you go” (238).

“Reading makes me feel like I’ve lived a thousand lives in addition to my own. Characters in books really stick around for me. You know cartoon cells, the translucent sheets they draw on to make cartoons? Every time I read a book, especially one that grabs my guts, there is another translucent layer added to what makes me, me. Each layer is saturated in color and signed by the artist” (177).

That last one about reading I ADORE. Also, if any of you are going to major in college this is going to happen to you all the time:

“Like when people (my parents) ask what I’m going to study in college and I say ‘English.’ They say, ‘Oh. So you want to be a teacher?’ And I want to cover my eyes and mouth with duct tape and pretend to be dead and done with it.  No, you simpletons. I want to travel and write and live in a big city and do cool things with my brain.”

I especially love the last part. I want to do cool things with my brain!

So as you can see, Keek has a pretty awesome sense of humor.

While there are a lot of funnies in this, there is a level of seriousness too (laced with her jokes, of course). At the end of the day, Keek is still dealing with the reality of her parents perchance getting a divorce and her boyfriend wanting to do IT (not while she’s still chicken pox-y of course). While I’m lucky in that my parents are still happily married, I still was able to relate on some level to that feeling of being betrayed. No one is perfect, and regardless of good intentions I’m sure almost everyone has wondered, “why did you do this to me?!”

Also, her talk about doing IT is something I believe would be beneficial to a lot of high schoolers. She’s just one girl who is really tempted to do it, but still isn’t sure if she’s ready. It’s an honest monologue weighing what is the best decision for her. While her boyfriend, Matt, is ready to get it on asap and he does put some pressure on her (just by wanting to do it), I am glad that he REALLY respected her feelings and never was a jerk about the whole situation.

Last but not least, I really like the grandmother. While you don’t see her a TON, Keek gets to know her as more of a person and less of a simple grandma. There comes a time in your life (ha, don’t I sound so wise?) when you’re going to see your parents and all your role models as actual people– the good and the bad. It sucks. But at the same time, it doesn’t. Keek has this awesome perspective on the subject, and I think you should go read this and find out what it is:).

So!

Overall Review:  There were a few parts where I got kind of antsy, but I really enjoyed learning more and more about Keek and learning more about her viewpoint of the world. Tibensky deals with a lot of stuff in here (growing older, divorce, sex, parents, friends) that even twentysome-year-olds can relate to. I am really picky with my re-reads ( and really emotional about it too– basically I generally re-read what I crave) so I don’t know if I would personally re-read this one, but I really appreciate the place I’m in because of it (MINUS MY COLD WHICH IS MORPHING INTO WEIRD PLACES THAT THIS BOOK GAVE ME. I’ve never had a head-cold quite like this. It stinks. Or it would stink if I could actually smell anything. Alright, enough whining) and so I would definitely give this as a gift.
Speaking or re-reading…: What do you tend to re-read? For me it’s either Sarah Dessen books or books that make me really emotional, like The Onion Girl by Charles DeLint. Oh, and Harry Potter, of course!

Review: Pretty Tough

Pretty Tough
by Liz Tigelaar
August 2007
Razorbill

Bubbly, blond Krista Brown is pretty and popular. Her sister, Charlie, is more interested in braving the Malibu waves than the halls of the school that Krista rules. but when Krista and Charlie are both recruited to the school’s soccer team, they are forced to face their differences. Can these two sisters become teammates, and friends, in time to make it to the championships? Classic themes of sisterhood and romance make Pretty Tough a new take on Francine Pascal’s Sweet Valley High.

Summary and photo from Goodreads.com

Thanks to my favorite local used bookstore I was able to get this one for $1! I was, and still am, pretty excited about it.

Alright, speaking as someone who has a sister I enjoyed reading this book. From my own experience, I feel like competition is a really hard stumbling block sisters (and really just siblings in general– I have the same competitive tendencies with my brother) have to work through in their relationship (at least I have to on my side of the relationship!). In this book Krista is a senior and Charlie is a sophomore, so when you have that close of an age gap the competition gets even worse I would think.

If you haven’t noticed, jealously is a main theme of the book and Liz Tigelaar handles it very realistically. It’s not a problem that is easily fixed and for the characters to grow they really need to work at it. Personally, the ending was a little too “perfect”, but I do not feel like it took away too much from the book for me.

Honestly, I skimmed through some of the soccer parts. I really like sport books (especially girls playing sports!), but I get bored during the actual sport parts. I’m more of a fan of the inspirational training montage that takes place before the big game (which there was some of that in here!). This book wasn’t bogged down by a ton of game talk, which is good for me, but I suppose bad if you’re looking for something more sport heavy.

Krista and her relationship with Cam was an added perk in this book. Not because they were cute and enjoyable to read about, but because he’s pretty much a jerk and I loved reading about how she handled being pressured by him to be more physical in their relationship and to shrug of her responsibilities to be with him. I would love to see more of the social consequences that take place due to her actions, but the book ended at a poor spot to include that, so I understand why I wasn’t able to see that.

With Charlie I enjoyed her personality a ton! Snarky, yet unsure of herself she is a funny narrator. It’s nice to see her be pretty stupid, but then fix her mistakes. Also, Liz does a good job of mixing vulnerability with toughness to make Charlie a well-rounded, interesting character.

My favorite part of Pretty Tough is how it is narrated by both Krista and Charlie, switching every chapter. It is fascinating to see how two different people are interpreting the events happening around them, and their relationship.

What have I learned from this book? There are so many things going on behind a person than you can even FATHOM! This is something I know to be true, but have a hard time applying this in my daily life– especially when it comes to interacting with people in the moment. It was good to be reminded of this.

Overall Review: So will I read Pretty Tough again? Probably. Would I consider it to be one of my favorites? Not really, if only because I would have liked Liz put me in the book more. More often than not it felt like someone was describing to me a story about two sisters, instead of sucking me into their lives.
Series?: This is actually the first book in a series! The next books don’t follow Krista and Charlie directly, but the setting is the same high school. The next books are Playing With The Boys, Head Games, and Stealing Bases.

Review: If I Stay by Gayle Forman

If I Stay
by Gayle Forman

Published April 2009
Dutton
Young Adult

In a single moment, everything changes. Seventeen-year-old Mia has no memory of the accident; she can only recall riding along the snow-wet Oregon road with her family. Then, in a blink, she finds herself watching as her own damaged body is taken from the wreck…

A sophisticated, layered, and heartachingly beautiful story about the power of family and friends, the choices we all make—and the ultimate choice Mia commands.

Photo and Summary from Goodreads.com

This book is heart-wrenching, beautiful, and devastating.  I fell in love recently with Gayle Forman just reading her blog.  I figured, if I think she’s amazing her book If I Stay must be at least half as amazing as her.

I was wrong.  It is just as amazing.

1.  Mia, our main character here, is visibly a teenager in this.  Although she is very well-loved, she has her fears of not fitting in and worries about making the wrong decision in regards to life after high school.  Gayle Forman did a fantastic job of capturing a teenager.  She hit it spot on.

2.  There is so much love in this book.  It’s never sappy or really even emphasized either.  It’s just there.  It’s there between Mia and her parents, her brother, her grandparents, family friends, her boyfriend, and her own best friend.  And it’s real love too- with all of its fights and silliness, which you get to see all of.  The book doesn’t take place just in the present, but spans throughout Mia’s life delving deeper into the relationships of those who matter to her.

3.  I only read author’s acknowledgments when a book REALLY touches me or if I’m really bored.  In this case it was of the former and Gayle Forman left a nugget in there that hit me: “I didn’t immediately recognize how much of this book is about the way parents transform their lives for their children.”  While reading I took this for granted just like I do in my own life and didn’t even notice it.  At least in my own life, this is so true.  This is one of the reasons why I love reading.  It helps you to see more of life.

Ultimate Review: 10 out of 5 stars.  This went above and beyond my expectations.  I would love to own two copies of this: one to keep and one to lend out.
Good News: This book is a part of a series and the second one, Where She Went, will be out April 5th, 2011

Review: The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May, & June by Robin Benway

The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May, & June
by Robin Benway
Published August 2010
Razorbill
Young Adult Fiction with a splash of Fantasy

Three sisters share a magical, unshakable bond in this witty high-concept novel from the critically acclaimed author of Audrey, Wait! Around the time of their parents’ divorce, sisters April, May, and June recover special powers from childhood—powers that come in handy navigating the hell that is high school. Powers that help them cope with the hardest year of their lives. But could they have a greater purpose?

April, the oldest and a bit of a worrier, can see the future. Middle-child May can literally disappear. And baby June reads minds—everyone’s but her own. When April gets a vision of disaster, the girls come together to save the day and reconcile their strained family. They realize that no matter what happens, powers or no powers, they’ll always have each other.

Because there’s one thing stronger than magic: sisterhood.

Photo and summary from Goodreads.com

Alright, so I have a secret (well, not so secret anymore) fascination with mind-reading, which is one of the reasons why I wanted to read this book (and I am glad I read it!).  I’m always interested in how the author will handle mind-reading as well as what they’ll have everyone think.  It’s also something I sometimes wish I had, but know I’d hate it if I had it.  I love reading these kinds of books because I can live vicariously through the mind-reader and I don’t have to worry about the whole consequence thing.

After all of that, this book is not about mind-reading.  In fact, it’s not so much about the powers themselves, but instead about the sisters having some big changes forced upon them (a divorce, a move, and SUPERPOWERS) and having to adjust their lives and their relationships with each other.

1.  Robin Benway did a fantastic job portraying three closely aged high school sisters (the youngest being a freshman and the oldest being a junior).  Although she followed the stereotypical family roles (oldest is controlling, middle feels invisible, youngest feels belittled and babied) almost exaggeratedly(their powers even relate to their roles),  I loved how she handled the friction and love that comes with having a sister.

2.  This book handles divorce well.  While the family is obviously hurting, this portrays a family that isn’t shattered by the divorce.  I feel like she walked a good line of realism in between “cheesy-let’s-all-band-together-and-love-each-other” and “all-three-girls-fall-into-drugs-and-get-bad-grades”.  That’s one thing I LOVED about this book– how even though there were supernatural occurrences, it was so true to life on every.single.level.

3.  Benway splits the book up so each sister is able to narrate and I love that she did that.  It provides three perspectives on the same situations (all the while not being too repetitive!).  Also, that gives us readers a better chance to find a character to relate to.

4.  Because you’re in each sister’s head you’re able to get to know them intimately and know their true feelings for each other.  This made it sooooo easy to become invested in the girls and care about what happens to them.  I think I would have liked to keep reading even if there wasn’t a potential disaster on its way.

5. With books I tend to like to glean something from them.  An idea.  An aspiration.  A quote.  I can’t say I got anything from this book, but I did enjoy it and had fun reading it!  I do hope we see the sisters again and Extraordinary Secrets… turns into a series or a trilogy (or something along those lines).  I closed the book wanting to read more.  It’s a really good family book and we don’t see a lot of those.

Ultimate Review: I’m personally probably going to read this again sometime.  Also, I’d definitely give this as a gift to a sister or a cousin in high school if I had one.
Number of parentheses in this post:
16!  Oops.  Hahahaha