Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Review: Leverage, by Joshua Cohen

LeverageLeverage by Joshua C. Cohen

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is as hard-hitting as the steroid-infused, foul-mouthed, warp-minded football players at its center. A very, very intense read that is not for the faint of heart. Although it is marketed as YA, I wouldn't recommend it to anyone under 16 due to the extremely graphic language and violence.

This is one of those books I think all parents should read, though. I was told it was a male version of Speak, but it's much more than that. It is an incredible, intense, heart-stopping book that will make your jaw hit the floor on more than one occasion.

There were a few times when I found a character's actions unbelievable, such as when Ronnie tries to get the boys to talk about his assault. I can't see a boy wanting to talk about such an extreme occurance of bullying, especially with the stigma and shame attached to victims of that sort of attack. However, most of the book was perfect, and although at times it was a bit predictible, it was the sort that made you HAVE to keep reading to see if you are right. You will think you know what's going to happen, but you won't be 100% sure and you won't be able to stop yourself from finding out for sure. Once you start this book, you won't be able to not finish it. And you'll be glad you did--the ending is so, so, so completely perfect that it leaves you smiling despite all the horrible things that happen to the characters throughout the book.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Book Review Wednesday: The Beckoners by Carrie Mac (Contemporary YA)

The BeckonersThe Beckoners by Carrie Mac

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is one of those books I've picked up several times at the library, but never opened it because I'd never heard of it. So even though it sounded good, I'd end up reading something else I got at the same time. Silly me.

Here is this undiscovered gem of a book. All I kept thinking as I listened to it was, HOW THE HELL IS THIS BOOK NOT A PRINTZ AWARD WINNER!!!???? It is so good, and exactly like what they always pick. Except way better. I know it doesn't have the best reviews, but THIS BOOK ROCKS!

It was so grungy and grimy and sad and brutal and depressing and just all around...amazing. One of those books that, as I read, I kept thinking, "Man, I wish I'd written this book." Not in the way of, "I could have done it better," but in the way of, "I wish I was Carrie Mac."

I will never understand why this book isn't rated higher. I loved it. I loved the characters, I loved the evilness of children portrayed here. It's like a modern Lord of the Flies, about bullying and bad parenting and reality. And girls. And cruelty. And conformity. People have complained that it's written strangely, but I had the audio and couldn't tell (and sometimes, you can...ahem *sarahdessen*). It sounded great to me. I liked the reader, and the prose flows well. People have also complained that it dealt with too many issues, but I didn't even notice. I was too busy going squee squee squee all the way home.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Veteran's Day Review: The Things They Carried, by Tim O'Brien

The Things They CarriedThe Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It took me a while to read this book, and I'm not sure why. It's not very long, but it seemed really dense. I'm not sure I could have told you if I liked the book as I was hearing it, but somewhere towards the end, I just fell in love. I think it was when he told about the girl who went to Vietnam and became addicted to it. That part rang so true that the whole thing, all the talk about war stories and how they didn't have to be true, it all fell into place. I understood what he meant. Just as there is truth in fiction, truth to the stories, truth to the characters, so could a war story be true even if it wasn't, in the strictest sense, factual in all parts.
After the story of Maryanne (pardon if I'm a little off on names, I listened to this one so my spelling might not be correct), I wanted to hear all about the rest of the characters. And it was the characters who really made this story. It's not so much a story, in the linear-progression, plot-arc kind of way. But all the stories together made something beautiful. I wanted to hear all about Jimmy and Henry, about the suicides and the 'accidents,' about the medics and Tim and the shit-fields and, yes, the things they carried. It didn't matter a bit which parts actually happened.
Really the book wasn't so much about what happened or didn't happen, it was about the characters and about humanity, about maintaining humanity in the face of the most horrid circumstances, about finding joy in the sickest places imaginable, about the horror and pettiness and cowardice and beauty not of war, but of the human spirit and of life.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Book Review Wednesday: Torn by Stephanie Guerra (contemporary YA)

TornTorn by Stephanie Guerra

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This year I've been reading contemporary YA like it's the only thing ever published. Which is different for me, because that's what I write, and when I was writing fantasy, I avoided reading it at all cost. However, I cannot get enough of this genre.

This book made me happy that I went on a library binge and grabbed pretty much every book in this genre that I could carry (about 10 at once, no exaggeration). This book made me want to wallow in it. It made me want to go into it and never come out. For a book that is so focused on character, and really not a lot happens, it was compulsively readable. So much so that I actually wanted to do stretches so I could listen to it. So much so that I found excused to do laundry so I could listen to it while folding clothes. In short, I found every excuse I could to hang around the CD player.

If there was anything bad about this book, it's that some parts of it were a little cheesy. I liked the character, but she could be pretty saccharine at times. Still, it was nice to read a strong female lead who isn't 'hard'. Stella was sweet and caring, but she also didn't let people walk all over her--and when she did, she recognized it. She admits at times that Ruby was using her, but she was letting it happen. Sometimes that did bother me, esp. when she was doing something really stupid for Ruby, who was kind of evil to her for most of the book.

Audio note: Great reader on the audio--just a trace of an Hispanic accent, perfect for the character (half Mexican but raised by her white mother since early childhood). Highly recommend the audio.

Overall, this was a great read, if you're into reading about friendship (I'm taking a romance break), and if you don't need a ton of action in your books. It was one of those that sneaked up on me and suddenly I'd well up (esp. the parts with her sister, who I adored beyond words--I wish I'd written that character).

Content: mature language (including F-bombs), adult situations (including statutory rape and hard drugs), included but not explicit.

View all my reviews