Book Review: Along for the Ride, by Sarah Dessen

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Auden needs an escape from her overbearing mother, so she goes off to a small town to live with her somewhat-neglectful father, his new wife, and their newborn baby for the summer. While there, Auden learns a lot about judging others, love, and family. People aren’t always who you think they.

REVIEW

Sarah Dessen is an author I’ve loved since childhood and I will probably always love. Every time I read one of her novels it’s like I’m returning to say hello to an old friend. She was the first favorite author I ever had and she is still easily one of my top five favorite authors today. She shaped me a lot as a writer and as a person. Along for the Ride was a beautiful story that brought me back into the world of Sarah Dessen. As per usual her writing was top notch, with loveable characters, great pacing, and a storyline that grabbed me right away.

I really fell for Auden’s plight and I grew to care about her character, but I will talk more about her later. I was incredibly invested with what was going on in her world, as she had a mother, Victoria, who thought everything she did was right…and Auden always had to be a miniature version of her mother. If she didn’t agree with her mother, her mother would always try to have the last word. So when she set off to spend the summer with her father and his new family, I could understand why…but then her father, Robert could be almost described as neglectful. He loved his family, but he was never there for him. Every time his new wife, Heidi was left alone with the newborn baby, I felt bad for Heidi. Robert never was there and he was full of excuses on why he couldn’t help with the baby or even change the diaper. Her business meant nothing to him, and I understood why Auden was misguided in life. She had two selfish parents, that at some points I grew to hate. I felt that the novel should have painted them in better lights early on…because by the time we saw them in better lights it was the end of the novel, and I just didn’t like her parents.

Ever since her parents’ divorce Auden has been plagued by Insomnia and that is what actually sets off her romance with the distant, elusive Eli. Eli has a dark past, but of course Auden helps him get through his problems and they fall for one another. Their romance was cute, and I liked that Dessen took her time to let them fall in love. Dessen never falls into the love at first sight gimmick, and she lets her characters talk for themselves. When Auden and Eli fall for one another, it feels deserved and not like Dessen is just throwing two random people together. When they were together, their nightly adventures were adorable and funny, and very romantic in how simple they were. Dessen never had anything extravagant, but instead a trip to a diner or just eat pie at a Laundromat would make my heart flutter. While I can’t say the romance was totally realistic, it worked and won me over.

Dessen has always had a way with writing side characters as they are full of life and usually steal the entire scene. Along for the Ride is no different. Many of the side characters stole the show, such as the three teen girls who work for Heidi—Maggie, Leah, and Esther—who each had a giant personality and each one made me laugh. For me Maggie was almost the heart of the novel. She was a beautiful soul who made me so happy. She was selfless, cared maybe too much, but had her badass moments as well. She was girly and wore tons of pink, but she could also do many amazing stunts on a BMX bike. When Maggie came into the scene, everything just got better. In any normal book Maggie and her friends would be the villains or they would be annoying jokes, but Dessen treated them as real young women with their own distinct personalities.

Along for the Ride suffers from honestly the same flaw, which plagues many of Dessen’s novels. If you read one of her novels, you basically know the heroine. In many of her novels, the heroine comes off exactly the same in dialect, personality, and through their thought processes. They are always the young introspective girl, unsure of themselves. They usually have a dry sarcastic wit and a pessimistic outlook on life. I’m not saying this is a bad character. I actually love the character she always uses…but after a while it’s starting to get a bit boring. Along with that the parents got on my nerves big time, and I kept waiting for Auden to finally tell them off…but then this never happened. I was disappointed that I never got this…as I felt the entire novel was leading up to Auden telling her parents off for being the way they were.

In the end, I had a great time with the novel, and once again Dessen didn’t let me down. She crafted a beautifully written romance novel, that also was about not judging others, friendship, and family.

VERDICT

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YEAR READ: 2014

Book Review: Daughter of Smoke & Bone, by Laini Taylor

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Karou, who was raised by demons, meets Akiva, an angel. They should be sworn enemies but they fall in love as Karou starts to learn about who she truly is.

REVIEW

One novel I’ve heard constantly great things about was Daughter of Smoke & Bone, by Laini Taylor. I’ve read such high praise for the novel and for the author, so I knew I had to read this. I desired a YA fantasy series, so I finally bought the first novel, and how did it go for me? Pretty well.

The long book was a fast read and it held my interest throughout. I was never bored and the novel moved at a good steady pace. It never slowed down for too long, but never moved at such a rapid pace that it felt like it was jumping through plot points to get to the end. The novel was full of action, and boy was some of it awesome! Karou and Akiva were pretty badass! Reading about their fight scenes with each other and with other characters was a blast. Taylor crafted some great action scenes, and along with that she created an entire world that I was instantly immersed in. I kept turning the page, wanting to know more about this world Karou lives in, and I loved seeing her interact with her demon family.

One thing I loved about the novel was how Taylor did something a little different. We’re usually told angels equal good and demons equal bad, but Taylor switched things around. The story is told from the point of view of a girl raised by demons. We’re shown a world where demons care for others and they each have a personality. The angels (good guys?) are just as vicious as the demons are, even though they think they’re better. I loved this aspect of the novel and it is what made Daughter of Smoke & Bone stand out for me, even when the novel didn’t work.

I know the novel has a lot of fans, but sadly the romance just didn’t work for me. By themselves Karou and Akiva were fine characters. I can’t say I loved them, but I enjoyed them and I liked reading about them. They were good characters to follow and they never annoyed me. I did like how they were flawed, and never perfect. The best character in the entire novel though was Zuzana, Karou’s best friend. She was hilarious and incredibly likable. She was a great character and honestly was the heart of the novel for me. When she came onto the page, the whole novel came to life. I needed more of her. But she wasn’t the main character.

Karou and Akiva have are supposed to have had an epic romance, but their romance just felt incredibly forced to me. I would have liked if their romance was more gradual, but in once scene they are fighting one another and then the next scene they are immediately in love…out of the blue. This made no sense and just felt like bad writing to me. It went from Point A RIGHT to Point Z, and skipped all the middle points.

Taylor’s writing was fine. She had some great lines and I loved the world she created. I also loved the point of view she took…but she had a bad habit of talking and not showing. She kept telling us what happened or how characters felt, but never actually showed us. She did this too many times and after a while it really started to bother me.

In the end, while I didn’t think the novel was as amazing as I kept reading it was, I still really enjoyed it. I loved the world and I enjoyed the characters and the action was pretty swell. The novel even had some cool twists, but there is one flashback scene towards the end that went on for so long I started to get bored. But I liked it and I do plan to read the sequels.

VERDICT

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YEAR READ

2014

Book Review: Anne of Green Gables, by L.M. Montgomery

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Anne Shirley is an 11-year-old orphan with red hair and a loud personality. When she is sent to live with the Cuthberts, they were expecting a boy but instead of sending her back they keep her. Anne is a unique young girl with a loose tongue and a crazy imagination and over a few years, Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert learn to love the young girl.

REVIEW

Anne of Green Gables charmed the hell out of me! It is a book I’ve always wanted to read as a kid but never did, so at 23-years-old I finally bought the book, and I’m glad I did. Like many readers around the world I have fallen in love with Anne (with an E) Shirley and her crazy imagination! Anne is a precocious young child who lets her imagination run rampant and with seemingly no control of her tongue, meaning she never stops talking. I instantly loved the character and throughout the novel, I loved the way her mind worked. She would look at a certain tree or object and give it an entire story!

Anne was also a flawed character. She did border the line of annoying and she made so many dumb mistakes, but it helped develop her character. The novel follows her from age 11 to 16, so getting to watch her grow up and mature was a delight. It never felt rushed and I really honestly enjoyed the world I was in. I found myself loving all the characters. Marilla was very well developed and loved how she wouldn’t admit her love for the young girl. The book let me disappear into the fictional world of Avonlea, and I wish I could have lived there.

L.M. Montgomery’s writing was beautiful! She described the world so well; it actually felt like I was there. There were instances where I felt she told and didn’t show enough, especially with the characters…but I had to keep reminding myself this was a children’s novel (the first part of eight books actually). Through her writing she created a great lead character in Anne, a girl who could be a great role model for young girls and boys. She always stuck to her morals and was always there for her friends, and finding a man wasn’t the first thing on her mind (but I DO wish we got more of Gilbert Blythe). In the end I had a wonderful time with the novel and I can’t wait to read the next one!

VERDICT

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YEAR READ

2014

Book Review: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

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Eleanor is chubby with curly red hair. Park is half Korean and kind of cute. Everyday they sit next to one another on the bus and through their love of music and comic books, their friendship turns into love as they fight against any obstacle that comes their way.

REVIEW

This was my introduction to the perfection of Rainbow Rowell and I loved, loved, loved this novel! Eleanor & Park was a beautiful romance set in the 1980s between two teenagers. The novel rang true and their romance was just lovely. Rowell wrote two ordinary characters that you would see everyday in life. Neither one is overly beautiful, nor is either one perfect. Each character is flawed but likable. No…not likable. LOVABLE! I became so attached to the two main characters, that I was desperately in need of a happy ending for these two. Do they get their happy ending? That I won’t spoil.

The love story was handled so well in that they didn’t fall in love right away. In fact for the first few chapters all they did was sit there in silence, but they slowly became friends and that slowly turned into love. I love when a novel takes their time developing the characters and the romance and it doesn’t just fling you right into romance. Before sparks flew, Rowell had already given us a pair of well developed characters. Reading about all their obstacles together and in their own lives had me so invested. This was a novel I couldn’t put down. If the zombies rose and were at my door, I probably still wouldn’t have moved away form the novel! Yeah, it was THAT good!

Every time the novel through a new obstacle in the way of our leads, my heart dropped and I wanted to jump in and make everything okay for them. They became real people to me, almost like dear friends. When they were together the novel just truly came to life.

I have to commend Rainbow Rowell. Her writing in Eleanor & Park was just astounding. Her voice was amazing and her style was just beautiful. She has a way with characters and dialogue and she did a great job at the pace. The novel never felt drawn out or too short. It just seemed right. Plus, it was nice to read a young adult novel where the teen characters ACTUALLY cursed! It’s such a small thing but I loved it. As the novel came to a close I had tears in my eyes. It was just a beautiful novel with a bittersweet ending. I didn’t want to leave the world of Eleanor and Park. I wanted to stay with them forever. The novel felt like real life form their romance to their problems at home. I felt for them and I cared. Rainbow Rowell became an instant favorite of mine through Eleanor & Park. This novel will make you believe in love again. It warmed my cold heart.

VERDICT

five-stars

 

YEAR READ
2014

Book Review: New Moon by Stephenie Meyer

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Edward breaks up with Bella, leaving her so utterly depressed she acts out in ways that hurt herself (at one point jumping off a cliff), and then sucks onto the first man she finds like a leech. This is New Moon.

REVIEW
            If you were curious about my MOST hated novel of all time, well look no further than New Moon, the sequel to the smash hit novel Twilight, written by Stephenie Meyer. For me THIS is the culmination of all pain, torture, and Hell combined into one novel, that I don’t just consider bad, but I would compare this novel to toilet paper. This is when the franchise turns to utter shit, and it never looks back with the further sequels…and it’s ONLY the second book of the franchise. Congrats, that must be like a record or something.

Coming from someone who enjoyed the first Twilight novel, it perplexes me how the series could only get worst. The first novel gave us a decent read that set the seeds for a series of novels that could have been something. Well all the good that could have been is thrown out the window and we get utter trash instead. People may be thinking I’m being incredibly hard on this novel, but it is just everything I hate. Meyer’s writing hasn’t improved all since the first book. It’s still very weak, with an overuse of big words that somehow make the author look more like an idiot, and if you want well developed characters, well you better turn to another novel, because you won’t get any here. Instead of further developing the characters, especially of Bella during her break up with Edward, instead the novel retreats into itself and seems to go backwards with character development. I didn’t even know that was utterly possible.

New Moon is boring, monotonous, and just plain bad. But through all the bad writing, what truly ruins the novel and continues to ruin the franchise is…Bella Swan! Never in my life have I been put into the head of such a vile character, someone so loathsome, unlikable, and annoying…AND SHE ISN’T EVEN THE VILLAIN! This first sequel cuts down on the actual likable characters (Alice, Charlie, Jessica…) and instead focuses on the loathsome Bella and the utterly bland Jacob. It’s funny how huge these novels are, yet I still feel like I learned nothing about these characters. In the world Meyer set up these aren’t people who exist to be happy with themselves. In this fantasy world, people only exist to be with someone…especially girls.

Doing the math, by the time this sequel begins Bella and Edward have ONLY been together for a few months. That’s right a few months, but when he broke up with her, she went into a catatonic state for months on end. I’m sorry, that is no way normal or healthy. This novel is not portraying a healthy relationship or a healthy break-up. To go further into the insanity, whenever Bella acted in a harmful act (such as riling up a gang), she would actually hallucinate that Edward was there talking to her. Again, how is that in anyway sane? Throughout the novel she would go on to ride motorcycles and even jump off a cliff, nearly killing herself, all because she wanted to hear a fake Edward talking to her.

The novel could have done something interesting, breaking up the lead couple in the second novel, so then we could have the lead girl learning to be on her own and learning to be independent. Instead she harmed herself, because now she has lost her man and the whole point of living. Because what is a girl without a man? Apparently nothing of course. So what does Bella do? She latches on to Jacob, her apparent best friend. He takes off his shirt and she swoons. Oh and no he has become a werewolf…but werewolves and vampires hate each other. Why? I have no clue. The novel never goes into detail why the two creatures hate each other, so my only clue to why it’s in the series is because Stephenie Meyer saw Underworld and thought that was a neat idea. It’s called showing and NOT telling, girl!

Once again, we’re told so much, but shown so little. Like why am I supposed to care about Bella? She doesn’t care about herself, or her “friends.” She continues to put others in harm’s way without even second-guessing it or feeling guilt. It’s one thing she is doing it to herself, but then to others, how am I supposed to like this girl? At one point she comes face to face with a biker gang, while out with Jessica (again I don’t understand why we’re supposed to dislike her. She is the MOST likable character in the franchise), and she puts her in harm’s way too. Why does this girl have friends? She treats everyone around her like dirt and uses people. She manipulates everyone in this novel and she does whatever she wants to have her way. In most novels, she would be the villain of the series…but in Meyer’s world this is how all women should be.

Now I’m not saying a woman shouldn’t want a man. A female character could still need a man, but could still be well developed and well written. Female characters don’t have to be strong. But this is not the case in New Moon. We just got an utterly terrible and despicable human being, and don’t worry because we have two more giant novels starring her…and it only gets worst from here.

VERDICT

 

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Book Review: Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

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Bella Swan moves in with her father as her mother goes away with her new husband. Bella lives a hard life as she has parents that care for her, and she becomes instantly popular at her new high school in Forks, Washington…but she feels so much angst and then she meets Edward Cullen, another angst-ridden teenager…and I guess through their shared dark and deep feelings they fall in love…oh and Edward is also a vampire.


REVIEW

It would be so easy to just rip apart the novel, but I’m not going to do that. You can probably tell by my plot description I’m not the biggest Twilight fan…but to tell you the truth I don’t think the first novel is half bad. Please don’t throw any tomatoes! I think the first novel gets more hate than it deserves and I found it to be enjoyable. Granted I read it nearly eight years ago. It was before the hype started. The third novel wasn’t even released yet. I was in the mood for a fantasy romance, and my friends were obsessed with the first two novels, so I decided to give Twilight a try…and I actually quite enjoyed it. Yes, it is an incredibly flawed novel, but I don’t think it’s the trash people make it out to be.

I finished the book in one day and I never felt any torture getting through it. There were some cute scenes and the characters didn’t annoy me too much. In fact I didn’t truly hate anyone in this novel. That comes in the sequels…but I will get to the sequels another time. For today, I’m simply focusing on Twilight. The set up was simple. A teenage girl moved to a new town, falls in love, and learns her new boyfriend was a vampire. It’s a decent set up with a lot of potential to be something great and romantic. It tried hard to be Romeo & Juliet for the supernatural teenaged crowd, but it didn’t quite hit the mark. I did enjoy many of the romantic scenes, and Edward was somewhat likable, despite his creepy stalkerish acts. I also liked how the novel took its time to set up the romance. Stephenie Meyer didn’t just dive right into it, and I appreciated that. The side characters were fun and unique, with Alice Cullen and Charlie Swan being my favorite characters! I loved Alice and actually could have read an entire franchise if she was the main character.

Now while I do admit I like the first Twilight, I also am the first to admit how deeply flawed it is. The writing is very weak. I think everyone knows that and it has become a thing to make fun of Meyer’s bad writing, so I won’t delve too much into it. Yes, she is a bad writer. She doesn’t know how to develop characters, pace scenes, and she has TWO habits that really get on my nerves: 1. Her overuse of big words. It’s like she just goes through a thesaurus picks out random big words and she throws them into her novels, even if the word doesn’t totally make sense. 2. Show and don’t tell! Meyer doesn’t listen to this. She CONSTANTLY tells, but never shows. She tells us who to like and who to dislike, but we never see WHY we should like or dislike them. For example, we’re supposed to be annoyed by Jessica, but I don’t know why. Jessica befriended Bella right away and she introduced her to her friends, and Bella became instantly popular. So why do we dislike Jessica? She is the MOST LIKABLE person in the novel to me. Oh right…because Stephenie Meyer says we should.

I also don’t get Bella’s attraction to Edward. At first he is a jerk to her, so why was she so worried about him liking her. She should have said bye and found another guy, or better yet she should have learned to be happy on her own. She acted like she had such a hard life, but she CHOSE to move in with her father while her mother and step-father went away. They didn’t ship her off. She chose this. All the angst the novel fed to us, made no sense. Bella lives a great life. She is popular. Apparently EVERY boy wants her (which I still don’t get) and she makes friends right away. Bella is the WORST part of the Twilight franchise. In trying to create a relatable heroine, Meyer instead wrote the biggest villain in history. It’s not so much in this novel, but in the sequels, Bella gets worst.

Even with the giant flaws in tow, I found myself enjoying the novel. It’s not high literature, but the first Twilight didn’t anger me either. Now if I get to the sequels…those reviews won’t be as friendly. But for a paranormal romance, you could do much worst than Twilight.

VERDICT

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Book Review: Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

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In the third and final book of the trilogy, the rebellion has started and now Katniss is leading it to bring the end of the Capital and President Snow. An all out war has erupted and there is no Hunger Games this time.

REVIEW

It is always hard when it comes to the final novel in a series. It is the FINAL novel so you can’t go out with a whimper, you need to go out with a bang. Mockingjay left many fans split. Some loved it while others hated it. I kind of fall into the middle. The novel was sadly disappointing. It wasn’t terrible but it just ended with a lackluster ending and felt anti-climactic.

Now I’m not saying this is a bad novel. It’s nowhere near bad. Katniss is a wonderful character and for the first ¾ I was love the novel! Katniss continues to grow as a character and now she is no longer just a girl. She is a leader and she is the Mockingjay. She has become a symbol of hope for the country. The country needed someone to believe in, and Katniss has become that girl. I thought it was a good idea to not have a Hunger Games in this sequel…instead the games has been brought to the country, leading towards the Capital. I would describe this novel as a war novel with tons of action and lots of death. I found my heart ripped out of my chest a few times as there were many deaths that came out of nowhere to shock me. The novel really captured the spirit of the war quite well, with the fact that it has a lasting effect on the survivors, and along with that you never know what can happen. You can die at any point, and Collins wasn’t afraid to kill off some of the fan favourite characters.

I also liked how they dealt with Peeta. They really gave him a good story arc, and I FINALLY felt that Katniss cared about him. I never felt that in the first two…and Gale also finally had a larger role. I enjoyed his character as well. But the character that stood out the most was Finnick. He really is a great character and his love story with Annie continues on into this novel and it’s adorable, sweet, and realistic. I could have read an entire novel about Finnick and Annie!

I also liked how the novel dealt with PTSD with Katniss. She is haunted by the world and what is going on and she doesn’t know if she is ready to lead a rebellion, but she fights through it to do so. BUT I also wished Katniss was stronger. She is the lead of the series, and I felt she just wasn’t the strong heroine we grew to love in the first two novels. The novel also introduces another character in a woman named Coin. There is an ambiguity with her as you never know if she is a good guy…or is she just as bad as Snow was. This was not a happy novel. It was dark and very sad. This was a bit of a heavy novel and left me feeling melancholy.

Now the novel falls apart in the end. It’s completely anti-climactic and Collins makes some really bad choices. There is one character killed off in the end that I thought wasn’t necessary and in fact it negated a lot of what Katniss has done…and even Katniss makes some choices I wasn’t a fan of. The novel had many slow parts and many of the new characters weren’t as interesting. I just wasn’t attached to them. But in the end this was a good book, but it suffered from so many problems. I just wasn’t left with closure and with this being the final book of the series, I needed that closure. I just felt the novel was lacking.

VERDICT

3-5-stars