Thursday, February 28, 2013

If I Stay by Gayle Foreman

If I Stay
Gayle Forman
2010, 320 pgs

Summary from Publishers Weekly
The last normal moment that Mia, a talented cellist, can remember is being in the car with her family. Then she is standing outside her body beside their mangled Buick and her parents' corpses, watching herself and her little brother being tended by paramedics. As she ponders her state (Am I dead? I actually have to ask myself this), Mia is whisked away to a hospital, where, her body in a coma, she reflects on the past and tries to decide whether to fight to live. Via Mia's thoughts and flashbacks, Forman (Sisters in Sanity) expertly explores the teenager's life, her passion for classical music and her strong relationships with her family, friends and boyfriend, Adam. Mia's singular perspective (which will recall Alice Sebold's adult novel, The Lovely Bones) also allows for powerful portraits of her friends and family as they cope: Please don't die. If you die, there's going to be one of those cheesy Princess Diana memorials at school, prays Mia's friend Kim. I know you'd hate that kind of thing. Intensely moving, the novel will force readers to take stock of their lives and the people and things that make them worth living.

My Summary
I enjoyed this book, but I never connected with it.  I would still fully recommend it to others – The relationships between Mia and her parents, Mia and her brother, Mia and her friend Kim and Mia and her boyfriend Adam are well fleshed out. 

I actually identified with Mia on quite a few levels.  I was the well behaved teenager who got along with her parents and loved her much younger brother (mine is 7 years younger).  My activity of choice was music (vocal), but nowhere near Mia’s skill level.  It really bothered me that I didn’t fully invest in the story, but I didn’t.  I do still plan to read the sequel.  Maybe I didn’t connect because I was seeing things through Mia’s eyes and she was just watching large chunks of the action rather than living it.  That shouldn’t be the case in “Where She Went”.

Other Reviews
Alluring Reads

My Rating
Enjoyability (2.5 out of 5 stars)
Relationships (4 out of 5 stars)
Writing (4 out of 5 stars)
This book will stay with me….I’ll have to let you know after reading the sequel.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Top 10....4 Authors on my Autobuy list

This week’s Top 10 from The Broke and The Bookish is Top 10 authors on my autobuy list!

1. John Sandford – I love his books and they are so consistent.  He’s written at least thirty and there’s only one that I haven’t re-read.

2.  Rainbow Rowell  I’ve been reading her column in the newspaper here for about a decade so Rainbow was on this list before I had even read her first book!  I’ve read two now and she somehow keeps exceeding my expectations.  Eleanor & Park comes out today in the US! 

3.  Harlan Coben – He isn’t quite as consistent for me, but still autobuy.  The Myron Bolitar series is the perfect mix of thriller and funny.

4.  Claire LaZebnik – I think her books just speak to me.  She’s not afraid to write characters that some readers aren’t going to like, so I always find them believable and cheer for them in spite of their flaws.

I’ve been burned by some of my favorites over the last few years so some have dropped off.  These four are my only “Will buy regardless of topic and other reviews”. 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Struck by Lightning by Chris Colfer

Struck by Lightning
Chris Colfer
272 pgs, 2012

My Summary

Man there is not a good standard summary for this one so I’m gonna have to actually summarize myself.  Sigh. 

Carson Phillips has dreams.  Big ones.  But they start with getting out of high school, his small hometown, and getting into Northwestern.  Carson gets good grades and is active in all the appropriate activities (newspaper, writing club, etc) that he thinks he’ll need to get into Northwestern.  Unfortunately his propensity to say exactly what he’s thinking at all times means his peers do not like him.  The newspaper is composed of 5 misfits who don’t want to be there and Carson usually ends up writing the whole thing himself.

Carson is dismayed to learn that his standard activities are too by the book for Northwestern and is encouraged to create a literary magazine.  Initially by accident, but then by plan Carson digs up dirt on key popular students, blackmailing them into submitting entries for the magazine.

My Thoughts

I probably would have hated Carson in high school even though I wasn’t popular either.  He goes out of his way to make sarcastic comments to everyone (I saw it as a defense mechanism).  But he’s definitely an entertaining character to read about.

He’s a funny and well fleshed out character and I desperately wanted him to get out of his small town – although I had concerns that college would disappoint him.  All of the characters around him were one or two dimensional, but I think that was by design.  That was all Carson chose to see in his peers.

Overall I enjoyed the book, but I just felt like something was missing.  If Colfer authors a second novel I think I’ll give him another shot, because there’s a lot of potential here.

My Ratings

Enjoyability (3 out of 5 stars)

Relationships (1 out of 5 stars)

Writing (3 out of 5 stars)

This book will stay with me for 1 years.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Thousand Oaks Series by Miranda Kenneally

Catching Jordan     
Miranda Kenneally    
281 pgs, 2011         


Stealing Parker
Miranda Kenneally
256 pgs, 2012
Summaries from Publishers Weekly
Catching Jordan

Jordan Woods is the captain and quarterback of her high school football team in Franklin, Tenn. (“I mean, obviously I think Justin Timberlake is a megahunk, but I’m also over six feet tall and can launch a football fifty yards,” she boasts). Jordan single-mindedly pursues her dream of getting a football scholarship to the University of Alabama until Ty, a hot quarterback from Texas, moves to town and throws her off her game. In addition to Jordan’s instant crush on the new competition, her father (a starting NFL quarterback) won’t come to her games; she is under the scrutiny of recruiters; and her longtime best friend is in love with her. When Jordan breaks her own rules and starts dating Ty, she must re-evaluate her priorities. Jordan’s team’s wholesale acceptance of a female quarterback strains credibility, but debut author Kenneally does a solid job of depicting Jordan’s conflicted emotions, the pressure she is under, and her testy relationship with her father. Despite the gridiron setting, this is at its heart a romance—most of the action and drama takes place off the field.

Stealing Parker

Parker Shelton wants everyone to know one thing about her: she likes boys. After her mother divorced her father for another woman, Parker has made it her goal to be seen with guys. Lots of them. But when not-quite-legal Parker sets her sights on the boys’ baseball coach, things get dicey—even for her. Parker is also growing closer to her academic rival, Will, a thoughtful, chivalrous guy who her newly out BFF Drew secretly has the hots for, too. Further complicating matters: a brother who’s constantly drunk or high, a father who thinks the church has all the answers, and a former friend intent on taking Parker down. Kenneally (Catching Jordan) writes with heart, earnestly tackling such challenges as being a teen with a gay parent and being unsure of one’s faith. Parker’s insecurities, her desire to be loved, and her uncertainty about how far to take her steamy but illegal relationship are realistic. Not only will readers want to see Parker find true love, they’ll also hope she learns to love herself.

My Thoughts on Catching Jordan

I hate to even acknowledge this, but I struggled to get past the premise of Catching Jordan.   I’m a girl and I LOVE football.  I know football.  And I commend the author because the football related sections of the book are accurate (except that the author is clearly a Tennessee fan and living in fantasy land – Tennessee hasn’t been relevant in a decade). I believe there are some very talented female athletes out there and I can even believe one would be successful at the high school level, BUT I just don’t see there being any Division 1 scholarship interest for a female QB.   Jordan has her heart set on Alabama and it becomes clear that the only reason they are returning the interest is so they can use her as a recruiting tool.  First of all, Alabama doesn’t need recruiting help.  When you’ve won a few recent National Championships recruiting gets easier.  Second of all, why would having a female on the team assist in recruiting?  And finally, the way she is treated by Alabama’s (fictional) head coach and athletic director makes it clear they have no intention of her ever playing – which opens them up to a myriad of lawsuits.  Basically they don’t have to even look at women football players when recruiting, but the second they have one on the team she has to be given a fair shot at playing (there was a lawsuit a few years ago).

Anyway I kept getting distracted by these issues so I never got completely immersed in the book.  I like Jordan, she wasn’t perfect, sometimes judged other girls too quickly, but her relationships with the guys on the team were fun and genuine.  The QB competitor and love interest, Ty, was a little two dimensional, but I liked that the author painted a realistic look at what high school dating is like (even when it isn’t what we want it to be).  Jordan’s relationship with her best friend Sam was much more fleshed out and interesting.

Overall it was fun, entertaining, and quick read.  And I liked it enough to follow up with the companion Stealing Parker.

My Rating
Enjoyability – 3 out of 5
Relationships – 2.5 out of 5
Writing – 3 out of 5

Entertaining in the moment, but pretty forgettable.  I don’t even really see myself rereading it.

My Thoughts on Stealing Parker

I found Stealing Parker to be much easier to lose myself in because I bought the premise.  Parker’s mom left their family for another woman.  Parker lost all but one of her “friends” at the same time, basically cause they were stereotypical judge-y church friends.  One of whom spread rumors that Parker was gay too.  So Parker quit softball (which she LOVED), dropped some weight and started to fool around with boys to prove the rumors wrong.  Too make matters worse Parker’s father won’t admit that maybe the church they attend is a problem and continues to attend and insist Parker attend.

I felt like the author did a great job of giving Parker depth.  You understood why she was doing things even though doing them made her feel worse.  Unlike quite a few TV shows I could name, Kenneally doesn’t glamorize the relationship with the adult coach.  The best years of his life were clearly high school and he doesn’t know how to grow up.  I did feel like Stealing Parker followed a similar script as Catching Jordan.  I knew which guy Parker would end up with about 10 pgs in.

Again it was fun, entertaining, and quick to read.  The author has 4 more companion books in this series, 2 of which come out this year.  I may try one more.

My Rating
Enjoyability – 3.5 out of 5
Relationships – 3 out of 5
Writing – 3 out of 5
Entertaining in the moment, but pretty forgettable.  I can see myself rereading when I need something light.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Kisses from Katie by Katie J. Davis

Kisses from Katie
Katie J. Davis
304 pgs, 2011

Summary from Amazon

What would cause an eighteen-year-old old senior class president and homecoming queen from Nashville, Tennessee, to disappoint her parents by forgoing college, break her little brother’s heart, lose all but a handful of her friends (because the rest of them think she has gone off the deep end), and break up with the love of her life, all so she could move to Uganda, where she knew only one person but didn’t know any of the language? A passion to make a difference. Katie Davis left over Christmas break her senior year for a short mission trip to Uganda and her life was turned completely inside out. She found herself so moved by the people and children of Uganda that she knew her calling was to return and care for them. She has given up a relatively comfortable life—at a young age—to care for the less fortunate of this world. She was so moved by the need she witnessed, she's centered her life around meeting that need. Katie, a charismatic and articulate young woman, is in the process of adopting 13 children in Uganda, and she completely trusts God for daily provision for her and her family. 

Despite the rough conditions in which Katie lives, she has found a life of service to God to be one of great joy. Katie's children bring constant delight and help her help others by welcoming whoever comes to their door. As the challenges grow, so does Katie's faith and her certainty that what she's doing in Uganda, one person at a time, will have far-reaching rewards. It isn't the life she planned, but it is the life she loves.

To further her reach into the needs of Ugandans, Katie established Amazima Ministries. The ministry matches orphaned children with sponsors worldwide. Each sponsor's $300/year provides schooling, school supplies, three hot meals a day, minor medical care, and spiritual encouragement. Katie expected to have forty children in the program; she had signed up 150 by January 2008; today it sponsors over 400. Another aspect of the ministry is a feeding program created for the displaced Karamojong people—Uganda's poorest citizens. The program feeds lunch to over 1200 children Monday-Friday and sends them home with a plate of food; it also offers basic medical care, Bible study, and general health training.

Katie Davis, now 22, is more than fascinating; she's inspiring, as she has wholeheartedly answered the call to serve. 
My Thoughts

I started this book apprehensively, fully prepared to roll my eyes frequently; spine stiffened in preparation for constant harassing to give my life to God.  I’ll also admit that while I did submit to the occasional eye roll overall, I was genuinely moved and inspired my Katie’s story. 

This book is Katie telling her story, exactly how she wants to tell it.  God has worked in her life and she doesn’t care who she turns off by being up front.  In other books by authors of the same persuasion I have found this to be annoying.  But since Katie seemed so genuine to me I wasn’t as bothered by it (I still had a few of my impatient moments).  She doesn’t preach, she lives.

I won’t say this is a favorite book.  I think it proves that no matter how unconventional a person’s life choices are, reading about their day to day life is monotonous, just a different sort of monotony.   I’m moved by what Katie sees daily to investigate what I could do to make things better, but I’ll admit to skimming sections where I got the “didn’t I just read this” feeling.  I also felt some of Katie’s analogies to how God was working in her life to be a stretch.

One thing Katie suggests that I really liked was the idea that you should be looking for the one thing you can do right in front of you that will make things better.  Instead of looking at child poverty as an epidemic that you can’t possibly make a dent in, see what you can do locally to make sure one more child has enough food.  I never felt like Katie was trying to convince me to give up everything and move to Africa (although I definitely felt like I’m not doing enough).

My Rating
Enjoyability – 4 out of 5
Relationships – 5 out of 5
Writing – 3 out of 5

This book will stay with me for a long time.  Next time I’m deciding where to give charitable funds I’ll highly consider Amazima.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Forget You by Jennifer Echols

Forget You
Jennifer Echols
292 pgs, 2010

Summary from Goodreads


There’s a lot Zoey would like to forget. Like how her father has knocked up his twenty-four-year old girlfriend. Like Zoey’s fear that the whole town will find out about her mom’s nervous breakdown. Like darkly handsome bad boy Doug taunting her at school. Feeling like her life is about to become a complete mess, Zoey fights back the only way she knows how, using her famous attention to detail to make sure she’s the perfect daughter, the perfect student, and the perfect girlfriend to ultra-popular football player Brandon.  But then Zoey is in a car crash, and the next day there’s one thing she can’t remember at all--the entire night before. Did she go parking with Brandon, like she planned? And if so, why does it seem like Brandon is avoiding her? And why is Doug--of all people-- suddenly acting as if something significant happened between the two of them? Zoey dimly remembers Doug pulling her from the wreck, but he keeps referring to what happened that night as if it was more, and it terrifies Zoey to admit how much is a blank to her. Controlled, meticulous Zoey is quickly losing her grip on the all-important details of her life--a life that seems strangely empty of Brandon, and strangely full of Doug.

My Thoughts

My current reading strategy is to have one serious book going at all times – and read that at least two hours/week – and then fill with books for pure enjoyment. 

I read Forget You three days ago and I’m struggling to remember enough to write a review.  It was light and easy to read (perfect), I enjoyed it in the moment, but obviously none of the characters made a huge impression.  The biggest thing I noticed was that in both books by Echols that I’ve read is that she tends to make the father’s into the bad guys a lot.

Honestly that’s all I’ve got. 

My Ratings

Enjoyability (3 out of 5 stars)

Relationships (3 out of 5 stars)

Writing (3 out of 5 stars)

This book will stay with me for ….as I’ve said it’s pretty much already forgotten.