Friday, April 30, 2010

House Rules - Jodi Picoult

In the past, I have sometimes felt like I'm the only person on the planet who hadn't read any of Jodi Picoult's books. I suppose I heard so much about My Sister's Keeper that I had absolutely no interest in reading anything by Picoult. This was my mistake, as I found out after a friend who works in the library recommended House Rules to me.

Jacob Hunt is a eighteen-year-old boy with Asperger's syndrome, and the main character of House Rules. He is incapable of interacting socially in the way that others do--in the book, it's described (roughly; I'm too lazy to look it up) as if everyone else was speaking Farsi and expecting a monolingual English-speaker to understand what was going on. One of the common characteristics of AS is that the person will have a particular area of focus, a sort of obsession. Jacob Hunt's area of focus is forensic analysis. His mother bought him a police scanner for a birthday present, and he often goes to crime scenes to assist the police, usually figuring out what happened far before the police do. But when Jacob's social skills tutor, Jess Ogilvy, is found dead, foul play is suspected, and Jacob becomes a prime suspect.

Jodi Picoult writes in such a way that until page 527 of 532, I was never quite sure what had happened. I don't want to give away any details, but I will say that Picoult uses her words very carefully. The things her characters say and the way they behave made me think, at one time or another, that three different people had killed Jess Ogilvy. But Picoult never spells it out; she writes things that lead to assumptions, and those assumptions (or at least, my assumptions) are continually proved wrong. While I still cannot speak for or against any of Jodi Picoult's other novels, House Rules is a wonderful book, and I highly recommend it.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Amazon Associates

This is just a quick post to let you, my readers, know that in all my review posts starting now will include a link from the Amazon Associates program. If you click this link and buy the book, I will get a small amount of money for referring you. I wanted to write this post to make it clear that I do not expect or request you (AT ALL, IN ANY WAY) to buy the books I link to. But if you would have bought the book anyway, I get something for prompting that purchase. Please, let me know if you have any sort of problem with this, and I will stop linking immediately.

EDIT: Never mind. I decided against it.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Airhead Series - Airhead and Being Nikki - Meg Cabot

The Airhead books are about a girl named Emerson Watts who reluctantly takes her sister to the opening of the new SoHo Stark Megastore. An accident occurs, and Em's body is destroyed by a falling flat-screen television at the same moment supermodel Nikki Howard has an aneurysm. With Em's parent's consent, surgeons paid by Stark Enterprises transfer Em's brain to Nikki's body in order to save her life. But when Em wakes up, she is no longer herself, and how she deals with this is the premise of the series.

In the first book, Airhead, Em Watts begins trying to figure out how to live Nikki Howard's life--a life thousands of girls would die for, but that she doesn't want. In Being Nikki, Em/Nikki begins discovering how Stark manipulated her unfortunate accident in order to cover up facts that would ruin the company, and is forced to do what the company wants. In Runaway, she decides to make a run for it in order to save her and her family.

While I haven't read Runaway yet, as it comes out on April 20, so far I like Airhead best. This is probably because I enjoyed and empathized more with Em as Em and not Nikki, and as Em spends more time in Nikki's body, she becomes more like the "real" Nikki. However, all three books were full of surprises and kept me glued to their pages through the end, and I can't wait until Runaway arrives!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Second Draft of My Life - Sara Lewis

Second Draft of My Life is a book about Charlotte Dearborn, a forty-two year old woman who has written five unsuccessful books, has a boyfriend who could take her or leave her. She ditches both boyfriend and writing career and decides to become an elementary school teacher. (Something her new colleagues laugh at--who ever heard of becoming a teacher for the money?)

On the cover of this book, there's a quote from the San Diego Union-Tribune: "Witty,'ll breeze right through it." I agree wholeheartedly. Lewis's writing is not only this, but also heartfelt, honest and endearing; yet it refrains from being sickeningly sweet. I read this book in about two and a half hours, and I was hooked from the beginning. I never once thought, "Uhmmm, why did I pick this up?" I never drifted away from the book because something else looked vaguely more interesting. I was riveted--in fact, I let the phone go to the answering machine several times without even realizing it had rung.

Charlotte Dearborn is a wonderful main character with a funny, charming story. Of course, her kindergarten students are just as charming, and her various adventures and misadventures demonstrate her to be a real person--not in the sense that she walks around and has breakfast every morning in the same world as you and I, but in the sense that you sometimes forget she isn't physically real and that you can't write her a letter. Second Draft of My Life was, for me, a welcome, though brief, vacation from my own life and into the life of Charlotte Dearborn, and I heartily recommend it.

Ender's Game - Orson Scott Card

Andrew "Ender" Wiggin isn't just playing games at Battle School; he and the other children are being tested and trained for war. Ender is the most talented result of Earth's desperate quest to create the military genius that the planet needs in its struggle against an alien enemy. (This is a portion of the blurb on the back of the book.)

Every time I think of the phrase "Ender's Game" I think of The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, and they're actually rather similar books. Both deal with children being put into situations where they are manipulated and even pitted against each other--the one big difference being that the battles in Ender's Game had an impact outside the group of children and was for a military purpose, while the Hunger Games were a sick kind of entertainment.

I wasn't quite sure what I would think of Ender's Game. When I picked it up at the library, I had absolutely no idea what the book was about; I only got it because I'd heard of Orson Scott Card and wanted to read some good sci-fi. Honestly, I probably would have read Ender's Game before now if it weren't for my tendency to shy away from science fiction. This tendency stems from my earliest experiences with science fiction, which led me to believe that the genre was cliched and boring. In reality, I found Ender's Game captivating, well written, and easily relatable (quite a feat, given that I am not a six year old boy put into military training in order to fight against another species of intelligent life). I pitied Ender for having to grow up so fast and, in fact, sometimes forgot how young Ender was because he was forced to think and act like a grown man. Inevitably, the fact that he was a child shone through at moments that were both heartbreaking and rather uncomfortable. Ender is being forced to play a game that never ends--one in which he is expected to be responsible for saving the world and one in which he is depended on by adults nearly ten times his age.

Ultimately, Ender's Game is a compelling, exciting adventure story with a very important human element, and I would recommend it to both science fiction fans (although if you're a sci-fi fan you've probably already read it) and those who just enjoy a good story.

Monday, April 12, 2010

An Award

Chris and Jess from Park Benches and Bookends (which you really must go read; it's a wonderful blog) have given me my first award--the Honest Scrap award. Basically, I am required to list ten facts about myself and then pass the award on to ten more bloggers.

1. I am an absolute slob. I would show you pictures of my room, but then I would have to exile myself from the internet in shame. The only organized part is my books.
2. I'm a junior in high school, and very ready to be done.
3. The television in my house is over twenty years old--my mom worked for Zenith in the eighties, and neither of us particularly want to get a new one. It's one of those with the huge wooden box around the screen and no remote. It's wonderful.
4. I love coffee, but I rarely drink it.
5. When I started reading Harry Potter, I was 7. They were then and are now my favorite books.
6. I design shoes on Zazzle and do DIY/sewing stuff in my very limited free-time-in-which-I-am-not-reading-or-sleeping.
7. I don't particularly enjoy Catcher in the Rye, but it is one of my favorite books. Yes, I know this makes no sense.
8. Canned spinach is, to me, one of the most disgusting foods a person could ever put in their mouth.
9. I hate horror movies and think they are pointless.
10. I've been to Poland and Germany on a choir trip.

I hope that wasn't too terribly, on to the awards. In no particular order:

1. book lovers never go to bed alone (This isn't a book review blog, but it IS a book blog, and one of my favorites.)
2. Trixie's Tomes
3. Offkey
4. Kate's Book Blog
5. 50 Books
6. The Book Owl
7. Beth's Book Review Blog
8. Ramblings of an iDogrocker
9. Babbette's Book Blog
10. Peeking Between the Pages

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Will Grayson, Will Grayson - John Green and David Levithan

I am on a charter bus in Mississippi at the moment, on my way to Atlanta, Georgia for a choir competiton. (I'm typing this on my iPhone.) This means that I have not been able to read as much as I would like in the past couple days because of packing and rehearsals and such. However, this also means that I have had five solid hours to read today, and it's only 10:00. So, naturally, I used my time to finish Will Grayson, Will Grayson, which came out Tuesday.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson (WGWG from now on, because my thumbs are lazy) is a book about two boys named Will Grayson. The chapters alternate between their points of view--David Levithan writing the even chapters, John Green the odd--as the two Wills cross paths, changing each other's lives. I heard about WGWG through YouTube, where John and his brother, Hank, have become semi-famous as the vlogbrothers and started a community of nerds known as the Nerdfighters (of which I am a proud part).

I absolutely loved WGWG. At first, I thought that I wasn't going to enjoy Levithan's Will as much. However, I was gladly mistaken. Both Wills grew extraordinarily, though not unbelievably, through the course of the book. And while each Will got more intertwined in the other's storyline than I had expected, I really liked that aspect. The story is captivating, the characters are real and familiar, and the narration of both Wills were very distinct. I would highly, highly recommend WGWG to anyone--and, in case you're interested, the online Barnes and Noble member price is only $11 for the hardback. Anyway, go read it, and let me know what you think.

Monday, April 5, 2010

The Inheritance - Simon Tolkien

Firstly, I would like to thank St. Martin's Publishing Group for putting up an ARC of The Inheritance as a giveaway on the Goodreads site. The book comes out on April 13, 2010, and I would definitely recommend purchasing it. The Inheritance is a combination of historical novel and mystery. Stephen Cade, son of a famous historian, is accused of murdering his father--all the evidence points to him, and he has motive. But as the book goes on, we find out more about the other characters that were in the manor house that night, and suspicion shifts from one person to the next.

I really enjoyed The Inheritance. It was extremely captivating, and kept me guessing up until the very last chapter. Simon Tolkien writes in an entirely different style than his grandfather J.R.R. Tolkien, but at the same time it is evident that writing must be a family affair among the Tolkiens. Unlike Box 21, the characters in The Inheritance are very relatable (except perhaps Paul...and I don't think he's supposed to be relatable), and Tolkien is very good at shifting the suspicions of his audience from one character to the next as the book progresses. Additionally, Tolkien's background as a lawyer shows through in the plot and writing of The Inheritance.

I would definitely recommend reading The Inheritance if you like mysteries or historical novels, or if you are interested in reading Simon Tolkien's writing because he is related to THE Tolkien. Again, the book comes out on April 13, and the Amazon link is here: