Friday, August 31, 2012

Book review: Winter's Bone

Winter's Bone by Daniel Woodrell

Description from Goodreads (below) can be found here along with other reviews. Linking up with Blonde... Undercover Blonde for Book Club Friday.

Ree Dolly's father has skipped bail on charges that he ran a crystal meth lab, and the Dollys will lose their house if he doesn't show up for his next court date. With two young brothers depending on her, 16-year-old Ree knows she has to bring her father back, dead or alive. Living in the harsh poverty of the Ozarks, Ree learns quickly that asking questions of the rough Dolly clan can be a fatal mistake. But, as an unsettling revelation lurks, Ree discovers unforeseen depths in herself and in a family network that protects its own at any cost.

I grew up on the outskirts of the Ozarks.

I guess, technically, we might be in the Ozarks, but I'm not sure, and I wasn't as country as Ree in Winter's Bone, so I'm gonna go with the outskirts.

I think the fact of growing up so close to the setting of this novel made it way intriguing for me.

Because all through reading the book, it's really easy to forget that this is set in present time. When Ree is hunting squirrels for food and teaching her brothers how to prepare them, it doesn't seem like something that would be happening right now. But then Ree will pull out her walkman and you're reminded that it takes place in the now (although walkmans are old, Ree isn't one who could really afford an iPod, yaknow?).

Winter's Bone gives a picture of life the way tons of people currently live it that many of us have never seen.

Ree is tough. Her mom is not very present mentally and her dad is no where to be found. But even when he is around, it's clear that this girl has had to learn how to survive, how to take care of herself, and how to support two kiddos and her mother while she's at it. Oh, and she's only 16. Pretty sure when I was 16 my dad was still giving me money anytime I wanted to go to the movies.

The story line reeks of desperation, but Ree never really shows it or feels sorry for herself. She just keeps going and does what she has to do. You really get to rooting for her to succeed, even as everything falls apart and it looks like she has very little hope.

The characters are fascinating and real, and very dynamic. A meth dealer could be a very one-dimensional, stereotypical character, but not in this book. You become fond of cookers of Crystal Meth and see them as real people, which is also something many of us don't do often (unless you're my mom, who becomes friends with them as she's busting their labs...). Usually, for me anyway, meth addicts and cookers are just names in the paper or mugshots on the news. The kids are even multi-demensional. Every character in Winter's Bone has at least one surprise up their sleeves that keeps you interested the whole way through.

Winter's Bone didn't become my favorite book in the world. But it did wake me up to a bit of life I'd never have seen otherwise, and shake me out of my middle-class white girl cocoon. I think it's worth the read just for that.

Have any of you read Winter's Bone or seen the movie? I'd love to hear what you thought! Also, here's a fascinating article about how they worked toward accuracy in the movie!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Book review: The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Description from Goodreads (below) can be found here along with other reviews. Holy long description, Goodreads! I cut some to make it fit better. Linking up with Blonde... Undercover Blonde for Book Club Friday.

...A portrait of the Jazz Age in all of its decadence and excess, Gatsby captured the spirit of the author's generation and earned itself a permanent place in American mythology. Self-made, self-invented millionaire Jay Gatsby embodies some of Fitzgerald's--and his country's--most abiding obsessions: money, ambition, greed, and the promise of new beginnings... Gatsby's rise to glory and eventual fall from grace becomes a kind of cautionary tale about the American Dream.

It's also a love story, of sorts, the narrative of Gatsby's quixotic passion for Daisy Buchanan. The pair meet five years before the novel begins, when Daisy is a legendary young Louisville beauty and Gatsby an impoverished officer. They fall in love, but while Gatsby serves overseas, Daisy marries the brutal, bullying, but extremely rich Tom Buchanan. After the war, Gatsby devotes himself blindly to the pursuit of wealth by whatever means--and to the pursuit of Daisy, which amounts to the same thing...

So I've always been a bit reluctant to read the "classics." I read the ones I had to in high school, made a half-hearted attempt at reading 1984 (which I made it halfway through), and called it good.

Then I saw the trailer for The Great Gatsby.

And I had to admit, the story actually seemed kind of exciting. I love that era of US culture. And I was hearing lots of people bemoan all the casting choices. So I decided to read it for myself (and of course, by that I mean I listened to it).

My thoughts:

1. F. Scott Fitzgerald certainly did have a way with words. It's one of those books that if I was reading it, I'm sure I would have marked many pages and gone back to copy down some of the beautiful language.

2. When I think of the "classics" I think long difficult to get through. This might just be because I've been too stubborn to read many of them. The Great Gatsby is neither. It's about cheating husbands, love affairs, the wealthy compared to the rest of us, perception of others, and many other things I could definitely relate to. (Well, I haven't had a cheating husband, but the plotline is familiar. :)

3. I'm not good at pointing out theme, but one of the ideas this book seemed to portray is one of my favorites -- that you can never really know what's going on in someone else's life. Only the parts they choose to show you.

In the end I gave this book three stars. I enjoyed it, but I didn't looove it. I think I might read it again, and actually read it, because I love the way Fitzgerald placed his words and phrases. The writing really is beautiful.

Did I fall in love with the story or the characters? No. Was I entertained the whole way through the book? Yes. So it's probably worth your time.

Plus, you know, it is a classic.

Are any of you huge Gatsby fans? I know they're out there! I'd love to hear what you all think of this one.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Book review: Across the Universe

Across the Universe by Beth Revis

Description from Goodreads (below) can be found here along with other reviews. Linking up with Blonde... Undercover Blonde for Book Club Friday.

Seventeen-year-old Amy joins her parents as frozen cargo aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed and expects to awaken on a new planet, three hundred years in the future. Never could she have known that her frozen slumber would come to an end fifty years too soon and that she would be thrust into the brave new world of a spaceship that lives by its own rules.

Amy quickly realizes that her awakening was no mere computer malfunction. Someone-one of the few thousand inhabitants of the spaceship-tried to kill her. And if Amy doesn't do something soon, her parents will be next.

Now Amy must race to unlock Godspeed's hidden secrets. But out of her list of murder suspects, there's only one who matters: Elder, the future leader of the ship and the love she could never have seen coming.

I don't read a whole lot of science fiction, so it's hard for me to compare, but this one seems like a really good science fiction book for someone who doesn't read science fiction.

Did that make sense?

The premise of the book is pretty cool. Amy is frozen and stuck on a ship and she'll wake up in a bajillion (ok, like 300) years and be on a new earth.

The terrifying nature of her future in that alone was enough to get me hooked.

But then you add that someone is trying to kill her, and that they might try to kill her parents too, and it turned into a book I couldn't stop reading. Not that I wanted to.

I really liked and connected with both the male and female leads of this book, which is good, because it switches perspectives between the two. Each time we left one, I was reluctant initially to leave them, but soon got sucked into the plot going on with the other, then was reluctant to leave them.

I really liked the characters I was supposed to like and hated the characters I was supposed to hate. I got pretty darn invested in this story and was definitely rooting for Elder and Amy.

There are lots lots lots of surprises constantly coming in this book. I guessed a few, but I missed more than I guessed, so Revis still managed to shock me a few times.

There's also a lot of ethical issues. Elder is the future leader of the ship, and he's faced with a lot of choices about what will be best for him as a leader and for the people he will be leading, and the choices he makes are not black-and-white issues. There's also questions of race and discussion of the benefits and difficulties that arise from difference.

I think I would recommend actually reading this one (as opposed to listening to the audio). The narrators were both really good, but (and this might be hard to explain, so bear with me) when the male character was reading, Amy's voice sounded really whiny and not likeable. But when the book was read by the woman reading Amy's parts, she was kind of BA. The disparity bothered me a bit.

I liked this book! It mostly got so-so reviews on goodreads, but I recommend it as an easy, fun read.

Have any of you read it? What did you think?

Friday, August 10, 2012

Book review: We'll Always Have Summer

We'll Always Have Summer by Jenny Han

Description from Goodreads (below) can be found here along with other reviews. Because this is a sequel, it will by nature have some spoilers. Read my review for the previous books here and here. Linking up with Blonde... Undercover Blonde for Book Club Friday.

It's been two years since Conrad told Belly to go with Jeremiah. She and Jeremiah have been inseparable ever since, even attending the same college-- only, their relationship hasn't exactly been the happily ever after Belly had hoped it would be. And when Jeremiah makes the worst mistake a boy can make, Belly is forced to question what she thought was true love. Does she really have a future with Jeremiah? Has she ever gotten over Conrad? It's time for Belly to decide, once and for all, who has her heart forever.


I'm just not super thrilled with this series. Which is so weird, since usually I'd stop reading if I wasn't liking it. So I guess I liked this book enough to keep reading, but not enough to look back on it favorably.

Should I even say more in a meh review?

I think this book could have been better. There are a lot of intense relationship issues going on, but I feel like it skates over the serious issues (alluded to in the description as "the worst mistake a boy can make") and focuses on more superficial issues.

I also just don't get the whole Conrad thing.

Like, he's cute, I'm sure, and she loves him, loved him since she was little.

But that seems to be the only thing going for him -- that she always wanted him and never could have him. He never wowed me. He never really treats her well in the first couple books, so I just don't get why she keeps going back to him. I just don't get the love triangle thing.

Maybe that makes it realistic, though. We don't always want what or who is best for us. Not that Jeremiah is perfect for Belly either.

Idk. I'm apathetic.

I know I've asked this the last couple reviews, too, but has anyone else out there read these books? Do you get the Conrad thing?

Friday, August 3, 2012

Book review: It's Not Summer Without You

It's Not Summer Without You by Jenny Han

Description from Goodreads (below) can be found here along with other reviews. Read my review for the previous book here. Linking up with Blonde... Undercover Blonde for Book Club Friday.

Can summer be truly summer without Cousins Beach?It used to be that Belly counted the days until summer, until she was back at Cousins Beach with Conrad and Jeremiah. But not this year. Not after Susannah got sick again and Conrad stopped caring. Everything that was right and good has fallen apart, leaving Belly wishing summer would never come.But when Jeremiah calls saying Conrad has disappeared, Belly knows what she must do to make things right again. And it can only happen back at the beach house, the three of them together, the way things used to be. If this summer really and truly is the last summer, it should end the way it started--at Cousins Beach.

I liked this one much better than I liked the first book, The Summer I Turned Pretty.

I think a big part of it was that this one had more of a plot. The first book was kind of just Belly flailing around and lusting after boys for most of the time. But the characters had something they were all trying to accomplish in the second installment.

This book also gave a better, more well-rounded view on almost all the characters. We got to see some things from Jeremiah's perspective and understand his motives better, and through him we also learn more about Conrad. Not just how Belly sees the boys, but how they see each other and how they really are.

I also liked the role of the parents in this one. Laurel turns into a rock star. I loved her.

The characters really are what shine in the first book, and they're still awesome here. Although I'm still not a huge fan of Belly's. But this one had a much better storyline and plot. If I gave the first book three stars, this one probably gets three and a half.

So I kept reading. As I'm writing this, I already finished the third. I got a little behind on my reviews.

Have any of you read this series? Which book was your favorite?


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