Category Archives: Teen Books

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

court

‘Had I but known, Tam-Lin, she said
What defeat this night I’d see
I’d’ve stolen both thine eyes
and changed thee fast into a tree.

‘Had I but known, Tam-lin, she said
before we left this night to roam,
I’d’ve et thy heart of flesh
and left thee with a heart of stone!’ -Tam Lin

 

Tam-Lin is a beautiful ballad that describes a teenage girl facing off against the Queen of the Faeries as she claims her inheritance of Cartenhaugh manor and her love for captive Tam-Lin.  I still have a beautiful picture book version of this tale that I would bring out each year on Halloween, aka the night that the Fairy Court allegedly rides out into the human world.

Anyone who knows me even the slightest is aware that my favorite Disney movie and fairy tale is Beauty and the Beast.  Stockholm Syndrome be damned, I think it is a lovely tale of learning to accept others for who they are, being ok with who you are, and that beauty is only skin deep.

This all ties into A Court of Thorns and Roses because the book is essentially a reimaginig of Beauty and the Beast with overtones of Tam-Lin.  In this case, the protagonist Feyre is held captive in the fairy world by a High Fae Lord named Tamlin after she unknowingly kills his friend while hunting.  Feyre, like Belle, is an outcast in her village.  Her family is impoverished, her mother had long ago passed away, and she is responsible for supporting her family.  Tamlin appears as a beast, but later transforms into a man, but with a mask that he cannot take off.  In fact, everyone in his court is stuck wearing masks, because of a blight that was cast long ago.

I bet you can imagine where this is going.  Feyre hates Tamlin at first for taking her away from her family and everything she has known, but as they become acquainted, save each others lives on several occasions, and Tamlin offers her an art gallery (unlike Belle, she’s an artist not a reader), their relationship gets steamy.  As a side note, I could not believe this book is considered “teen” fiction but perhaps I am becoming more sensitive in my (26 years) old age.  Anyways, this book is full of romance, adventure, fairies, an evil Queen, and pretty much everything fans of the fantasy genre will love.  While there are a lot of familiar elements in this book, it manages to be unique enough to create an engaging tale.  It’s passionate, it’s fast-paced, it’s the perfect summer escapist book.  If you haven’t read the ballad of Tam-Lin, I recommend doing so before starting this novel.

If I haven’t convinced you enough how enjoyable this book is, I just found out it’s a series and as much as I hate getting roped into them, I have to find out what happens next!

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Fiction, Romance, Sci-fi/Fantasy, Teen Books

2014 Books: A Summary

tumblr_m9obouverk1rroz62o1_1280

My failure to post for the past several months is a result of moving to Turkey and being too busy getting acclimated to my new environment and reading to write.  Though my blogging has been scarce, I have gotten more reading done in the past four months than I’ve ever had the chance to do in my life.  I love my host city in Turkey, but there’s not a lot to do so I’ve been walking a lot and have discovered the wonder of audio books.  Get exercise and read at the same time?  Why haven’t I jumped on this bandwagon before?

Anyways, it would be a ridiculously long post if I wrote a review of every book I’ve read recently.  Instead, I will group them together into categories, and share my favorite book from each.

1) Dean Koontz books

Life Expectancy

Sole Survivor

Velocity

Innocence

Strange Highways

Favorite: Life Expectancy.  It’s a classic Dean Koontz novel that contains suspense, elements of science fiction, but the characters are particularly well developed in this novel.  I thought the ending was perfect as it tied up loose ends but left the reader questioning what would happen if there was a sequel.  The book had you guessing the entire time, but Koontz revealed answers slowly in a way that keeps the reader from getting too frustrated.

2) A Song of Ice and Fire Series by George R.R. Martin

A Storm of Swords

A Feast for Crows

A Dance with Dragons (started)

Favorite: it’s a tie because these books tend to run together and it’s been awhile ago since I’ve read them so I’ll just say that as a series, I’m hooked. I want to finish the latest book so I can look up fan theories without worrying about spoilers, but the next book won’t come out for at least another year.  Oye, the annoyance of being addicted to a series! It’s like Harry Potter all over again, but Mr. Martin is taking his sweet time.

3) Non-fiction books

Jesus Freaks (true crime book about the Family cult) by Don Lattin

Life After College (self help) by Jenny Blake

Wild (memoir/travelogue) by Cheryl Strayed

Hallucinations (science) by Oliver Sacks

The Good Nurse (true crime) by Charles Graeber

In Defense of Food (science) by Michael Pollan

The Red Queen (genetics, currently reading) by Matt Ridley

Favorite: In Defense of Food.  Michael Pollan strikes again with a well-researched book that makes you question your food culture.  I enjoyed The Omnivore’s Dilemma years ago and have watched many documentaries on the food industry in America, but this book offered a fresh look at the issues in the US.  What I like best about Pollan’s writing is that he bases his arguments on facts and research, not his hidden political agenda. In science writing, it’s easy to pick out certain studies and use them to promote veganism or animal rights, etc, but Pollan is clearly interested in the food industry because he is inspired by the science behind it, not the social issues (although his research leads to social issues that are easily ignored).

4) Books related to Turkey that I read right before coming, or during orientation

The Yogurt Man Cometh by Kevin Revolinski

Tulipomania by Mike Dash

An Ongoing Affair: Turkey and I by Heath W. Lowry

Favorite: The Yogurt Man Cometh.  It’s a short and snappy travelogue about one man (from my home state Wisconsin!) who teaches in Turkey and shares his misadventures.  I enjoyed reading the book while in Turkey because I could relate to some of his experiences.  His book also inspired me to be more persistent in blogging regularly.

5) Teen Books

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Favorite: The Fault in Our Stars.  I cried. So much.  Then because I loved the book so much and am an emotional masochist, I immediately went and saw the movie.  And ugly cried some more into my popcorn; the tears upping the salt content; giving me temporary hypertension.  Before reading The Fault in Our Stars, I had a bad taste in my mouth about teen books after the poorly edited, meaningless sack of literary garbage that is The Hunger Games.  The Fault in Our Stars restored my faith in the teen lit genre and hope for the future generation.  It’s a book that’s destined to be a classic.

6) Books written by celebrities that, upon looking back, I’m not sure why I read them

Is Everyone Hanging out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling

Bossypants by Tina Fey

Favorite: Neither.  I think I was sucked into exploring this genre while working at BookPeople because these books were flying off the shelf like hotcakes.  Moral of the story: when it comes to bestsellers, the customer is not always right.

7) Classic novels

Little Birds by Anais Nin

Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks

Dracula by Bram Stoker

Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson

The Crucible by Arthur Miller

Siddhartha by Herman Hesse

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving

The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Frankenstein by Mary Shelly

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

The Secret History by Donna Tratt

Favorite: It’s a tie between A Clockwork Orange and The Secret History.  Both were very disturbing books, but they had strong messages and are guaranteed to haunt you.  The Secret History had well developed characters and was impossible to put down.  A Clockwork Orange is a classic book, but is definitely worth reading.

As a side note, The Wasp Factory is probably one of the most messed up books I’ve ever read.  I finished it in one night and immediately took a long shower afterwards.  It’s not a bad book, it’s actually quite brilliant.  But you will feel like the world is a horrible place afterwards.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

As another side note, I was very disappointed by two books. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was the first.  It’s no fault of Mr. Stevenson though.  It was incredibly well written, but the success of the book depended on the reader not knowing the big punch line.  Everyone today knows that Jekyll and Hyde are the same person, so it ruins the whole book.  The whodunnit question that I’m sure was trailing readers along eagerly over a hundred years ago is now common knowledge.  Poor Mr. Stevenson.

The other book that I may be criticized for hating is Little Women.  All the characters were so annoying.  I thought they were all spoiled, self centered, shallow, and weak.  Jo was the only character with any sort of complexity, but oh boy she learns her place in the end when she finally settles down and adheres to expectations of society.  Furthermore, I found all of the girls’ “problems” to be incredibly petty.  Beth had the best idea, which was to just sorta check out of life before she ended up living as a housewife whose only excitement would be something like her dear husband bringing her silk gloves but she, being humble and pious, would sell them to buy poor children some bread.

8) Sci-fi–Fantasy–Horror

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion

The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

I can’t choose a favorite from this list, because all these books were amazing, with the exception of Night Circus.  That book was just, meh.  Warm Bodies was a captivating book that was more than just a zombie novel.  The Girl With All the Gifts was enjoyable because the author put a lot of work into making the science behind a zombie apocalypse make sense.  The two zombie books, along with Never Let Me Go were all thought provoking books that asked the question: what does it mean to be human?  The Ocean at the End of the Lane was a bizarre book, but the fantasy elements were successful in supporting the theme of childhood memories.

9) Stephen King

Christine

The Green Mile

Salem’s Lot

It (Currently reading)

Favorite: Christine.  Wow, this book packed a punch.  The character development is phenomenal, the storytelling is perfection.  The last Stephen King book I read was Carrie, and that was years ago.  This book had me hooked from the beginning.  I can see why King is such a successful writer: he adds so much color and flavor to the characters that you can picture them acting the action out in front of you.  He is also a master of slowly building up suspense.  I enjoyed his other books, but Christine especially stands out, I think because of how Arnie changed so drastically in response to Christine.  Right now, I’m reading It and I think this one will come in a close second, if not I’ll like it as much as Christine.

10) Other novels

The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger

The Goldfinch by Donna Tratt

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

Favorite: It’s a tie between Me Before You and The Goldfinch.

Me Before You is a heartbreaking love story, well written and captivating.  The Goldfinch is an epic Dickens style novel that covers years of one boy’s life.  Both were enjoyable reads in their own way.  I’ve heard that some people don’t like The Goldfinch because they were expecting some sort of art history book or something like The Da Vinci Code.  If you’re going to read it, expect to enter a long, but well written novel with great character development.

According to Goodreads, I’ve read 52 books this year.  Wow.  And most of the books I’ve read this year I’ve finished between September and now.  In a year, I’ve read at least one book from almost every genre in existence.  Some books haunted me, some scared me, some made me laugh, some made me wrap myself in a blanket and go through a box of tissues, some made me question society, and some shattered my ignorance.  Most importantly, they all took me on adventures and returned me as a person changed.

As Stephen King said: “Books are a uniquely portable magic.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Classics, Fiction, horror, Humor, Memoir, Mystery, Non-fiction, Sci-fi/Fantasy, Teen Books

“Thirteen Reasons Why” by Jay Asher

 

Image

 

Being young is hard: your self confidence is at an all time low, and you’re surrounded by similar people who decide to tear you down to make themselves feel better.  I was lucky to have a good high school and college experience overall, but I dealt with my fair share of jerks, snubbing, and rumors.  Until you’re out of college and are primarily worried about paying for food and rent, the way others treat you can be really hurtful.  Wouldn’t it be great to get back at all those people who shunned you, mocked you, whispered behind your back?  I saved my college rejection letters and forgot about the people who did me wrong in high school/college and decided that I would use my life experiences to motivate myself to rise above it all and become successful.  My revenge was knowing that the haters are now stuck with unplanned pregnancies/working menial jobs/etc while I am planning to live in Turkey and do something meaningful with my life.   

But I digress, this post is not about me, but about the book pictured above: Thirteen Reasons Why.  This book was very popular a few years ago so I’m a little late jumping on the bandwagon.  I stumbled across it when I was looking for Warm Bodies, and remembered several people recommended this book to me.  Basic premise: Clay gets a mysterious box of tapes, which he soon finds out are recorded by Hannah, a fellow student who recently committed suicide.  On the tapes she says that there are thirteen people that contributed to her decision to commit suicide, and he is one of them.  After he listens to all the tapes, he must pass them on to the next person on the list.  

Let’s start with what I did like about the book: I think that it’s important to start an open discussion about suicide and the effects bullying has on teens.  Now, I don’t think Hannah was bullied any worse than a normal teenage girl (which is unfortunate that it’s expected that teenage girls are going to face a certain level of harassment and slut shaming, but that’s a whole other issue I won’t get into here), but it’s important for teens to recognize that their actions and words do have consequences.  I sincerely hope that’s the message teens get from this book.  

On the opposite end, the message I got from the book was that suicide is a valid form of revenge.  If you end your life, boy will those a-holes feel sorry for all they did to you.  Hannah was clearly thinking this as she recorded her tapes.  I’m sure a lot of suicidal teens feel similar sentiments, but the way Asher glamorized this concept was sickening.  It worked: Hannah’s tapes made everyone on the list feel regretful, even Clay whom Hannah claimed didn’t really play a role in her suicide.  Despite that, Clay ended up at the end of the novel cowering in a park, racked with guilt over how he “wronged” Hannah and could have helped her.  I was furious that Hannah would put all this shame and guilt on a teenage boy that just admired her from afar.  It would have been a better ending if Clay realized that underneath her anger and sadness, Hannah had an underlying mental condition, like depression, that was the ultimate cause of her suicide.  Clay would realize that he wasn’t responsible for the happiness of a mentally unstable person and would come to peace with himself and with Hannah.  Two years ago my brother’s best friend committed suicide and watching my brother deal with the sadness, grief, and guilt that he couldn’t help his friend was heartbreaking.  It took awhile for my brother to realize that there wasn’t anything more he could do as a friend.  When I remember this and read about a vindictive, angsty teen PURPOSELY try to make her fellow classmates carry the burden of her death, I became extremely upset.

All in all, I enjoyed the book, but absolutely despised Hannah.  Additionally, I think Asher could have done more research on suicide to paint a more accurate picture of the complicated intricacies behind it.  Clearly this book was written to start a discussion, so the least he could have done was try to be more accurate.  As an adult, I know that this book is fiction and shouldn’t be taken too seriously, but I think it gives teens the wrong idea of what exactly causes suicide.  In my opinion, it starts with an internal imbalance and is amplified by outside influences, not the other way around.  But I’ll admit, I’m not expert on the topic.

I gave this book 3/5 stars because it was a though provoking book, but had some factual flaws I could not overlook.

Leave a comment

Filed under Fiction, Teen Books

“The Fault in Our Stars” By John Green

Image

Everyone who knows me is aware that I read the Hunger Games and despised it.  Why is that relevent to this post?  Well that was the first teen novel I had read in years and it destroyed my respect of YA fiction.  As a teen, I fully enjoyed reading YA books.  After the horrible reading experience I had with the Hunger Games, i assumed that I was too old for YA books and that they were inferior in quality to adult books. 

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past year, you have heard of The Fault in Our Stars.  You’ve probably already read it.  If you haven’t heard of it or read it, you must have seen the trailer for the movie adaptation coming out in June.  Well I normally avoid best sellers such as these like the plague, but I happened upon this book as I was browsing the free give a book/take a book library at my hotel in Puerto Rico.  There it was, this famous bestseller, just sitting there free for the taking. It was as if the universe was telling me, despite my reservations, I had no reason not to read the book.  So, I started to read it.  The next day on the plane, I finished it between take off and landing. 

Before I give my opinion on this book, I will say that I had the preconceived notion that teen books of this day and age are:

1) Watered down adult themes that barely scratch the surface of the human condition/experience

2) Are poorly written.

3) Include flat characters with little or no depth.

4) Are unoriginal/they take themes from classic novels and do a poor job trying to copy them.

I based all of the above on what I found in The Hunger Games.

Here’s what I thought about The Fault in Our Stars:

1) The themes were universal: death, love, friendship, family.  The characters were struggling to handle issues such as dying that even adults struggle with.

2) It was well written.

3) The characters had a lot of depth.  In such a short book, I felt that I really got to know Hazel and Augustus.

4) While cancer and death aren’t original, the mixture of falling in love, terminal cancer, and trying to understand the meaning of life was original.

I want to thank John Green for restoring my faith in YA books.  If you are an adult reading this novel, you can relate to Hazel and Augustus experiencing falling in love for the first time and trying to understand what life means.  You can also relate to the struggle to understand why bad things happen and comprehending the scary adult world.  If I read this as a teen, I’d be able to relate to Hazel in that I was mature for my age and loved reading like she does. 

For awhile, I wondered why this book was so popular.  I see now that this short novel manages to capture many universal themes that are a part of being human. No matter what age, you can relate to something in this book.  If anything, this book makes you think about life and death from the perspective of teenagers, which is refreshing. 

I recommend this book to anyone looking for a quick read that packs an emotional punch.

Rating: 4/5 stars.

Leave a comment

Filed under Fiction, Teen Books