Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Review (23): Ugly to Start With

Ugly to Start With
by John Michael Cummings

Series: None
Other Reviewed Titles: None
Release Date: October 1, 2011
Publisher: West Virginia University Press
Pages: 168
Source: PDF
Challenge: None

Jason Stevens is growing up in picturesque Harpers Ferry, West Virginia in the 1970s. Back when the roads are smaller, the cars are slower, the people more colorful, and Washington, D.C. is way across the mountains-- a winding sixty-five miles away.

Jason dreams of going to art school in the city, but he must first survive his teenage years. He witnesses a street artist from Italy charm his mother from the backseat of the family car. He stands up to an abusive husband-- and then feels sorry for the jerk. He puts up with his father’s hard-skulled backwoods ways, his grandfather’s showy younger wife, and the fist-throwing schoolmates and eccentric mountain characters that make up Harpers Ferry-- all topped off by a basement art project with a girl from the poor side of town. 

Plot: This book is actually a series of short stories about a young boy named Jason. The stories are all pretty random, the only thing that connects them all is Jason. All 13 stories are events in Jason’s life that made an impact on his childhood. The first few stories focused on his family; on his mother, brothers but mostly on his father. Then the focus shifts and we start to see Jason searching for new friends and meeting a homosexual neighbor which leads to doubts about himself. There are a few risky subjects, some sexual content, especially in Carter, and strong language that you should definitely be on the look out for.

Characters: Jason is a very curious, smart and a big dreamer, but I didn’t relate to him. Although we are in his head the entire time and get to know him pretty well, there was just something...missing. It might have been because I’m a girl and I probably couldn’t really connect with the male perspective. But overall the characters were all very believable. My favorite would definitely have to be his mom; she was just everything you want in a mother.

Cover: I really liked the cover, it was simple which is definitely the opposite of this book.

Overall Impression: This isn’t my typical read and, had I not been contacted, I probably never would have picked it up, but I still enjoyed it. Definitely a good read for adults.

                                                                  Rating: * * *

Thank you to the author for sending me the copy for review.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Review (22): Boys, Girls and Other Hazardous Materials

Boys, Girls and Other Hazardous Materials
by Rosalind Wiseman

Series: None
Other Reviewed Titles: None
Release Date: January 6, 2011
Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
Pages: 282
Source: Purchased
Challenge: 2012 OTS

There’s no such thing as a drama-free year. 

Charlie Healy is done with drama. After surviving a middle school packed iwth mean girls, Charlie is ready to leave all that behind. But then, on her very first day of high school, she runs into her former best friend, Will, who moved away years ago. Now he’s back, he’s HOT, and he’s popular-- and he takes Charlie back into the danger zone of the popular crowd. But when a hazing prank goes very wrong, Charlie has to decide where her loyalties lie. 
Plot: The first half of the book focuses on Charlie finding her way around her new school and making new, and much better, friends while the second half focuses on the actual hazing stuff and what some students feel they need to do in order to fit in. I can’t really say I related much to either because that sort of thing doesn’t happen at my high school, but I know it is a common occurrence in others. There was a lot more dialogue then I felt necessary. Really there were just a lot of unnecessary words in general. Overall it was a pretty predictable plot. Only a few things seemed to shock me, but only because I felt they were random.

Characters: I liked Charlie and could really relate to her need to ditch her middle school friends and find new, drama-free ones. I was glad to see her finally standing up for herself and doing what she knew was right. I love that she stayed true to herself. Will was a sweetheart and just a normal teenage boy trying to fit in and be liked by his fellow teammates and schoolmates. Their crushes on each other were very obvious and I saw then ending coming from the beginning. I’ve always been a fan of the best-friends-turned-into-a-couple romance and theirs was no different. 

Cover: I felt that the cover and, even the title, was a bit misleading. It made me think there was going to be a lot of chemistry involved, but there wasn’t any chemistry between the characters and I don’t even think that was one of their classes. It’s still cute though.

Overall Impression: I had heard a lot about this book which set my expectations pretty high and unfortunately I don’t feel like they were met.

Fun Fact: The movie Mean Girls was loosely based off of Rosalind Wiseman’s other book, Queen Bees and Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends, and Other Realities of Adolescence

* * * 

Monday, February 6, 2012

Review (21): Chain Reaction

Chain Reaction
by Simone Elkeles
Series: Perfect Chemisty, #3
Other Reviewed Titles: None
Release Date: August 16, 2011
Publisher: Walker Publishing Company, Inc.
Pages: 308
Source: Purchased
Challenge: 2012 OTS

The youngest Fuentes brother will risk everything to protect his family.

Luis Fuentes has always been sheltered from the gang violence that nearly destroyed his brothers’ lives. But that didn’t stop him from taking risks whether he’s scaling a mountain in the Rockies or dreaming of a future as an astronaut, Luis can’t stop looking for the next thrill.

Nikki Cruz lives her life by three rules -- boys lie to get their way, don’t trust a boy who says “I love you,” and never date a boy from the south side of Fairfield. Her parents may be from Mexico, but as a doctor’s daughter, she has more in common with her north-side neighbors than the Latino Blood at her school. Then she meets Luis at Alex’s wedding, and suddenly, she’s tempter to break all her rules.
Getting Nikki to take a chance on a south sider is Luis’s biggest challenge, until he finds himself targeted by Chuy Soto, the new head of the Latino Blood. When Chuy revveals a disturbing secret about Luis’s family, the youngest Fuentes finds himself questioning everything he’s ever believed to be true. Will his feelings for Nikki be enough to stop Luis from entering a dark and violent world and permanently living on the edge?


- Spoiler-y if you have not read first two Perfect Chemistry books -

Plot: The plot of Chain Reaction was very similar to the plot of the first two; a Fuentes brother gets mixed up with the Latino Blood, his rich hoity-toity girlfriend disapproves of his gang affiliation and eventually loves trumps all. I was kind of hoping to see something at least slightly different with this third installment, but it fell short. Even though it was very similar, it didn’t have the same impact on me that the first two did. In Perfect Chemistry, the LB terrified me and I was constantly scared for Alex, yet in this one, the threats just didn’t seem as threatening nor did the danger feel as dangerous. There was honestly no reason for Luis to get jumped into the gang and I felt he completely overreacted when he found out the big “secret”. 

Characters: To be honest, I didn’t really like either Luis or Nikki. The beginning of the book started off with them being 15 and then the book fast forwards to two years later, but it sort of felt like they hadn’t matured or aged at all. I had to remind myself that they were, indeed, 17. And both constantly said one thing and then did the complete opposite which was frustrating. My favorite thing about these Simone Elkeles books is the intense and sexy romances. This book didn’t have either. The romance felt too forced and rushed to me which really took away from my overall enjoyment of the novel. They went from hating each other to loving each other in 2 seconds flat. It was a bit unrealistic because they didn’t even really know each other, I felt. There was a lot more emotional connection with the first two books and I really liked those romances better. 

Cover: Of the three books, this isn’t my favorite cover. I didn’t really understand the whole shower thing, but I do like that all the covers are really similar and that each features the appropriate Fuentes brother.

Overall Impression: Alex and Carlos will forever be my favorites, so if you haven’t at least read the first book in the series, you definitely should. 

Rating: * * *