Friday, July 5, 2013

Review: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Review: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Publishing Date: February 26, 2013

Publisher: St. Martin's Press

Pages: 325 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 5/5

Summary (From Goodreads):

"Bono met his wife in high school," Park says. 
"So did Jerry Lee Lewis," Eleanor answers. 
"I’m not kidding," he says. 
"You should be," she says, "we’re sixteen." 
"What about Romeo and Juliet?" 
"Shallow, confused, then dead." 
''I love you," Park says. 
"Wherefore art thou," Eleanor answers. 
"I’m not kidding," he says. 
"You should be." 

 Set over the course of one school year in 1986, Eleanor and Park is the story of two star-crossed misfits – smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try. When Eleanor meets Park, you’ll remember your own first love – and just how hard it pulled you under.

I am far beyond astounded by this book.

I can not put into words all the things I have felt, and, my gosh, the tears I have cried due to Eleanor & Park.

Ever since reading The Fault in Our Stars, I've been longing to read more contemporary fiction.  So, when I saw how much all my friends and several of my favorite authors had all been saying how awesome Eleanor & Park was, I decided I'd read it next.

I figured, considering the fact that the last contemporary book I read was all about a girl who had cancer, that Eleanor & Park would be a cute, lighthearted read in comparison.  Little did I know.

This book is filled to the brim with emotion.  Gallons of it.  Rivers of it.  Oceans of it.  Not a page went by that I was not thoroughly enthralled by the beauty or the reality of this book.  I read the entire book in a single day because I simply refused to put it down.

Rainbow Rowell beautifully tells a love story that is so simple, and yet somehow unlike any other.  It's something seen a million times before, and yet, never seen quite like this.  It's heartbreakingly beautiful.

And, even though you may cry more than you think it should be possible to cry over a book, you won't want to take it back.  Something about this book, charming and touching as it is, will gain a special place in your heart.  Something you won't want to let go of.

And isn't that the whole point of a book? To add a little something to each and every person who reads it? I think Eleanor & Park definitely added something beautiful to me, and it's something I'm glad to have.

Favorite Quote:
"Eleanor was right.  She never looked nice.  She looked like art, and art wasn't supposed to look nice; it was supposed to make you feel something."

Peace out, Girl Scouts,

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Review: Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

Review: Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

Publishing Date: October 25, 2010

Publisher: Harper

Pages: 470 (Paperback)

My Rating: 4/5

Summary (From Goodreads):

What if you only had one day to live? What would you do? Who would you kiss? And how far would you go to save your own life?

 Samantha Kingston has it all: looks, popularity, the perfect boyfriend. Friday, February 12, should be just another day in her charmed life. Instead, it turns out to be her last.

 The catch: Samantha still wakes up the next morning. Living the last day of her life seven times during one miraculous week, she will untangle the mystery surrounding her death—and discover the true value of everything she is in danger of losing.

I'm not quite sure what to do about this review.

It's funny, as soon as I finished reading the book, I had so much to say, so many thoughts to convey.  I was two people all at once: the busy-bee inside of me was thinking of all the things I could include in my review, every single feeling I had and why I felt that way.  I was bursting at the seams with thoughts and emotions that I had to let out.  And then there was the calm side of me, that just sat for about 15 minutes (yes, there were tears) and listened to my heartbeat.  I was amazed at how alive I was,  how beautiful it was to just be.  

So, as I start this review, I have one million things to say, but absolutely no idea how to say them.

War between the two sides of me.

I suppose I'll start with the fact that things have more than a surface-level meaning, and how well Before I Fall conveys that.  For the first half of this book (if not more), I hated it.  I hated everything about it.  I loathed the self-obsessed main character (Sam Kingston), I loathed her friends' (and her own) lack of morality, and I thought it was nothing more than another stupid, "teen-y", idiotic book that makes it look okay to party and do drugs and have sex as much as you want.  I had basically already written the hate-review in my head.

And then I got farther in.  I realized that this book was not glorifying immorality, but rather using it to represent mistakes.  Big mistakes, small mistakes, stupid mistakes, all those stupid things we humans do. The mistakes that come back to bite you in the butt.  And that's exactly what happened: it bit Sam in the butt.  If she hadn't been doing what she'd been doing, she never would have been in a position where she was going to die anyway.  

But it didn't just make it seem like humans should never make mistakes and that we're awful beings if we do mess-up.  It showed that you have to learn from mistakes.  You have to pick yourself up again when you fall, and you have to learn to do it right.  Even if it takes you a thousand tries.  You have to learn.  

So is there content that I most definitely don't agree with in this book? Yes.  But I think that Lauren Oliver used it to show that just because we mess up doesn't mean that things can never be right again.  Doesn't mean that things can never be beautiful again.  Sure, it might not (and probably won't) be easy, but there's always a way to come back from your worst nightmare.

Another thing this book beautifully depicts is that there can't just be bad or good in life.  There can't just be white and black.  Sure, individual actions can be right or wrong, but life? No, life is a complete mix of the beautiful and the horrible.  On her best days, Sam still managed to mess something up.  On her worst days, she still managed to find at least a shred of goodness within her.  Nothing is white and black in life, and nothing is white and black about people.  

So, my feelings for this book are kind of in a jumble.  I'm sure I could have waited a couple of hours, or even days, to write this review, and I'm sure it would have been much clearer.  But, if Before I Fall taught me one thing, it's that you can look back on a moment and remember it.  You can summarize your feelings, or maybe even feel them again.  But you'll never be in that specific moment ever again.  So I wrote this review in the moment, writing how I feel right here, right now.

You guys, go enjoy your own moments. 

Peace out, girl scouts.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Review: A Voice in the Wind by Francine Rivers

Review: A Voice in the Wind by Francine Rivers

 Publishing Date: February 18, 1998 (First published 1993)

Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers

Pages: 520 (Paperback)

Rating: 5/5

Summary (From Goodreads):

Torn by her love for a handsome aristocrat, a young slave girl clings to her faith in the living God for deliverance from the forces of decadent Rome.

I honestly have no idea how to respond to that.

Never had  I read such an emotionally-involved and beautifully articulated story as this one.

This story takes place a few years after Christ's death, set mostly in Rome.  Somehow, Francine has managed to create one of the most beautiful stories I have ever read in my life.

A Voice in the Wind is one of those stories where you get overly-attached to the characters, and you've absolutely no idea why.  With the exception of Hadassah.  With Hadassah, you absolutely know why you love her.

Hadassah is probably the sweetest, most beautiful woman whom I've ever read about.  Her faith is miles beyond any I've ever seen, and she serves with true love all those whom she is around.

This book as a whole pushed my faith to its limits, challenging me to serve more, to love more, and to be all that I can be.  I'd encourage anyone and everyone to read this, for all that is has within its pages.  This is one of those books that has forever changed my perception of life.  I believe that it will be one of those books that I look back on and say, "Part of the reason I am the person that I am is because I read that book."

This book is a challenge to everyone's faith, from the unbeliever to the strongest of Christians.

So, I'll close with quote:
"Unless we have something worth dying for, Atretes, we've nothing worth living for."

Peace out, Girl Scouts,

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Review: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Review: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Publishing Date: May 10, 2011 (first published 1999)

Publisher: Square Fish

Pages: 214 (Paperback)

Summary (From back cover):

Melinda Sordino's freshman year is off to a horrible start.  She busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops, and now her friends- and even strangers- all hate her.

Months pass and things aren't getting better.  She's a pariah.  The lowest of the low.  Avoided by everyone.  But eventually, she'll reveal what happened at the party.  And when she finally speaks the truth, everything will change.

I'm not really sure how I feel about Speak.  In my opinion, it was very middle of the road.  Not too great, but also not bad at all.

There were some things about this book that were absolutely beautiful.  Times when Laurie seemed to stun me with her eloquence or her observation of something so often dismissed or not thought of.

Other times, however, I was left just sort of facepalming.

I will give her this, however, that Speak is perhaps one of the most accurate portrayals of a high school that I've ever seen in my life.  Often, high schools are either WAY overplayed on the strictness/ how they work, or WAY underplayed.  This version wasn't quite perfect, but man, it was close.  I was seriously impressed with the accuracy of her portrayal.

Speak was a good book, but not the best.  Other than what I've already mentioned, I don't really have anything bad or good to say about Speak.  It was not a waste of time, but I also would not put it at the top of my to-read list.

Rating: 3/5

Favorite Quote: "You have to know what you stand for, not just what you stand against."

Peace out, Girl Scouts!

(Note- This is my OPINION.  I know tons of people who really liked this book, so if you think you'd be interested, I'd go ahead and suggest that you check it out.  I didn't think it was a poorly-written book.  It just wasn't one of my favorites.)

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Review: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Review: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Publishing Date: January 10, 2012

Publisher: Dutton Books

Pages: 368 (Hardcover)

Summary (From Goodreads):

Diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer at 13, Hazel was prepared to die until, at 14, a medical miracle shrunk the tumours in her lungs... for now.

 Two years post-miracle, sixteen-year-old Hazel is post-everything else, too; post-high school, post-friends and post-normalcy. And even though she could live for a long time (whatever that means), Hazel lives tethered to an oxygen tank, the tumours tenuously kept at bay with a constant chemical assault.

 Enter Augustus Waters. A match made at cancer kid support group, Augustus is gorgeous, in remission, and shockingly to her, interested in Hazel. Being with Augustus is both an unexpected destination and a long-needed journey, pushing Hazel to re-examine how sickness and health, life and death, will define her and the legacy that everyone leaves behind.

I've been wanting to write this review for a long time.  There's so much to say, but it's almost impossible to say it.  I've tried to make myself just sit down and do it.  Get it done.  Rip it off like a band-aid.  But each time, I just couldn't find the words.  Or, at least, the right words.  I think I've finally found them though.

Love is not entirely composed of happy things.  If it were, what would love be at all? When people think of love, it is usually in that ooshy-gushy, holding hands, iwillloveyouforeverandever, type thing. But love is made up of more than that.  Love is made up of more than just happiness.

Love can be made up by dreary things, sad things, things that cause countelss emotions.  Sure, happy things are a part of love, but they are not love in its entirety.  Love can be for something melancholy or gloomy, like a rainy day.  Love can be the hard things in life, like rough days that somehow make you stronger.  The days that, in the end, push you harder and make you grateful.  That is why a heart-breaking, emotional, tear-jerking story such as this one can even be described as love, and can be described as something completely beautiful.

This is the story of cancer patient, Hazel Lancaster.  She grew up knowing that she was going to die.  She constantly stays tethered to an oxygen tank, and hasn't really had many true friends since she was diagnosed.

Until she meets Augustus Waters.   A cancer survivor himself,  something about Hazel catches his eye when they see each other at a "Cancer Support Group" meeting.  He asks her to come see a movie at his house with him, and that is the beginning of everything.

These characters are some of my favorites, possibly ever.  As opposed to a strong, kick-butt, dystopian female who can do everything for herself, Hazel is quite dependent on others.  But she is still strong.  Stronger than I've ever been, at least.  She finds a way to maintain her independence and her own opinion, even when everyone else tells her she can't.  Even the knowledge that she's dying won't let her stop living.

And Augustus Waters.  Oh, Augustus Waters.  What can I say? He's a great person.  Absolutley beautiful.  I don't really know what to say about him.  You can just read about him.  I don't think I could find any words that accurately describe him.  He's just his own person.  The only words to desrcibe him are Augustus Waters.

I'll admit, for a long time, I didn't really want to read this book.  I was worried that I would go into it with high expectations and it wouldn't live up to what everyone else claimed it was.  In additon, I rarely read contemporary.  I like to stick with dystopia, urban fantasy, medieval fiction, etc.  Mainly, fiction with a good bit of action in it.  So, this book had no general appeal to me.

About a month ago, though, I saw my best friend put up a review for this book.  She gave it five stars and went on about how good and emotional it was.  So, I decided it was worth a shot.  Little did I know what I was walking into.

I've never cried over a book like I have for The Fault in our Stars.  I've cried hard, but not like this.  This was sheer, raw emotion.  It was one of the most beautiful things I've ever read, which makes it hard to talk about.  It cuts deep into you, reaching into emotions buried so deeply inside, you barely knew you had them at all.  It touches a part of us that we all fear, a part of our hearts that is innate in nearly every human.

So, what can I say?  Read the book.

Favorite Quote: “My thoughts are stars I cannot fathom into constellations.” 

Rating: 5/5

Peace out, Girl Scouts,