Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Twilight Series by Stephanie Meyer

From book one to book four, the titles are as follows: Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse, and Breaking Dawn.

Plot: Bella, a regular teenage girl, falls in love with a vampire named Edward. She thinks he's perfect, but he's worried that he's dangerous to be around. These are stories about love, sacrifice, guilt, and jealousy.

Comments: The first time I read these books (rather long after they had been discovered and became popular), I really liked the first book, I kind of liked the second and third books, and I really liked the fourth book. However, upon rereading them recently, I thought the first book was okay, I really didn't like the second and third books, and the fourth book was still pretty good. All in all, the series was mediocre, definitely aimed at teenage girls rather than the judges for the Pulitzer Prize.

The plot and the idea are both great, and I like the way the stories twist and turn. There are so many different characters you need to remember, all very different and easy to imagine (though after seeing so many movie trailers for the first three movies, all I see are the actors' faces, which really annoys me). I liked Bella the first time I read these books. She's practical, clumsy, slightly self-doubting; nothing special, or so she thinks. Edward is incredibly handsome, talented, protective - and immortal - and he is completely in love with Bella. I really liked that he didn't fall in love with a popular girl, like a stereotypical blond, thin cheerleader.

However, when I reread the books, I found parts where Bella just annoyed me. She allowed Edward to make decisions for her and wouldn't or couldn't hold a grudge against him for any period of time, even if he did something really irritating. I would be yelling at her in my head to "stand up for yourself, don't just let him push you around! Who cares how pretty he is, you aren't his property!" Sometimes I didn't understand why they were in love - or even that they were in love; a lot of the time it didn't show. I also didn't like the Bella cried a lot and was kind of a wimp.

This is definitely a light-read, because it's almost like a fairy-tale, even though it's set in modern day. It's sappy and reminds me of a soap opera in book form. Ye be warned.

Rating: I rate the whole series a five out of ten. The writing is okay, if repetitive, the idea is good, if a little unbelievable, but the characters are just irritating. Although maybe you aren't supposed to like them.

Notes From the Teenage Underground by Simmone Howell

Plot: three girls decide to make an "underground" film as their summer project. But when the unofficial group leader Lo, and pretty, boy-crazy Mira start to take over, Gem, sensitive and lacking in self-confidence, feels left out. As Lo and Mira's friendship grows, Gem meets her long-lost father and tries to catch the eye of her crush.

Comments: this book was a pretty good read. I liked Gem's character because she was practical and clear-headed. I thought her crush on her co-worker was cute, but not when she resorted to extra measures to attract his attention. I didn't understand why she was friends with Lo and Mira, however. Mira was the dim-witted giggling type, and was only interested in boys, boys, and more boys. Lo was controlling and a self-proclaimed queen of everyone, and was never contributing anything to her "friendship" with Gem. I guess Gem was, in a way, desperate to have friends.

I liked the sound of the film Gem ends up making, but it's pretty hard to imagine. I thought it fit the definition of "underground"; different, thought-provoking, and maybe slightly rebellious. Gem's character developed well, and I liked her a lot better towards the end than in the beginning. She changed into a self-dependant, strong young woman. Still a little hesitant and self-doubting, but much better than before.

Rating: I rate this book a six out of ten.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Shine, Coconut Moon by Neesha Meminger

Plot: Sam doesn't know much about her Indian heritage, and she'd never really thought about it. But one day, a man in a turban shows up at her house claiming to be her uncle. Suddenly Sam realizes what she's been missing. She wants to learn about the Sikh religion, meet her grandparents - the only problem is her mother, who is determined to keep Sam away from her ancestry.

Comments: I enjoyed this book. I learned about the Sikh religion (which, I'm afraid, I'd never heard of before) and about Indian culture. I couldn't relate very well to the book, but I thought it was very well-written, and I really liked Sam (her real name is Samar). Sam's unique, protective, and loyal, and she made the story really interesting. It was fun to tag along as she entered a new part of her life. This story takes place soon after 9/11, which makes racism and prejudice dominant parts of the book. Even though I wasn't the one being racist, I felt ashamed and embarrassed for those who were. This book reminded me not to judge anyone by their looks, and that's something everyone needs to remember.

Rating: I rate this book a six and a half out of ten. It was a good read. Not exactly light-hearted, but not deep and profound either. Somewhere in between.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Slam by Nick Hornby

Plot: teenager Sam is an ordinary guy: he's okay in school, he loves to skate (that's skateboard, FYI)... But then he meets Alicia, a gorgeous girl who ends up becoming his girlfriend. Everything's great until Alicia gets pregnant. She refuses to have an abortion, but Sam doesn't feel ready to be a father. He turns to his idol, Tony Hawk, for help, but talking to a poster doesn't yield much advice. What now?

Comments: This book was okay. I liked it at first, the way Sam narrated the whole thing, because I liked his way of talking. Casual, with slang and opinions; it sounded like a teenage boy. I liked Sam and the relationship he had with his young mom (she had become pregnant as a teenager). I didn't like Alicia, because she was really rude to Sam in the beginning, but she got better, and I thought it would be a pretty good book. But then the book started to fast-forward to the future and it got confusing and slightly boring.

I felt like Nick Hornby was trying to advertise abstinence to teenagers, or at least safer habits. I wanted to read a story, not a lecture about teenage relationships and the consequences of early pregnancies. I did finish reading the book, but I skimmed a lot as it got more boring.

Rating: I rate this book a six out of ten. I understand that teenage pregnancies are a serious topic, but I'm rating a book, not a health class lesson.

Suck It Up by Brian Meehl

Plot: a young vampire is chosen to reveal the existance of the ancient race to humans. The public loves him, but he doesn't like the attention and wishes he'd never agreed to it. He meets a teenage girl different from any he's known: she's rude, snappy, and independent, but somehow they become friends. And then...more than friends?

Comments: Personally, I'm sick of the new vampire craze. Tons of new books, TV shows, whatever. But I gave this book a chance, and I loved it! The main character was so innocent and teenager-awkward and sweet! I really liked him, and the teenage girl he meets. I love their interaction, because it is so like real teenagers - I say "real" because one of them is a vampire, forever a teenager.

The plot is completely different from anything I've ever read - and it's not a romance, so don't think it's another Twilight or something (by Stephenie Meyer). This book made me laugh, which I take as a very good sign. I definitely recommend it. It's light-hearted and fun!

Rating: I rate this book a seven and a half out of ten.

Andromeda Klein by Frank Portman

Plot: a teenage girl's story of growing up and surviving among boring and cruel peers.

Comments: I didn't like this book very much. I thought it was interesting when I started reading it because the main character, Andromeda, is different from other people and doesn't care what they think. But as I continued reading, it got kind of boring. Andromeda liked tarrot cards and such, and she would go on and on about what a card meant and different stories about the people on the cards. It got to the point that a page would be about her life, and then two pages would be her considering and pondering mystical legends and deep meanings. It was incredibly boring and annoying, so I stopped reading it.

Rating: I rate this book a five out of ten. Too boring for my taste.

Chasing the Bear by Robert B. Parker

A Young Spenser Novel

Plot: in this book, you learn about how the private detective Spenser was as a teenager. Even then, he was independent, quick-thinking, and protective.

Comments: this book probably wouldn't be all that great if you hadn't already read several Spenser novels and liked them a lot, like I have. By itself, I don't know if it's that great of a story, but I liked learning about the childhood of one of my favorite book characters. It was fun to compare the young Spenser to the older Spenser, because they were so much alike. I liked reading about his father and uncles who raised him, and the lessons they taught him.

Rating: I rate this book a six out of ten.

Burn Notice: The Fix by Tod Goldberg

Note: this is based off the TV series Burn Notice by Matt Nix.

Plot: ex-spy Michael Westen has been living under surveillance in his hometown, Miami, ever since someone burned him. His friend, an ex-navy seal, asks him to help a friend out, which of course leads to a huge undercover mission for which Michael isn't even getting paid. To top it off, an old acquaintance shows up and threatens Michael, basically with death. Another average day in the life of Michael Westen.

Comments: I really like the show, so when I found this book, I was curious as to how similar the two would turn out. I hadn't actually seen this particular episode (I'm assuming this story was based off a real episode), but I thought the characters were portrayed accurately. Though most of the details went over my head (like the details about real estate, money laundering, etc.), because they were a little too detailed for my taste. (Detailed details. I guess that should be a given.) I skimmed through some of the long conversations about real estate and such, but besides all that, I thought the book was pretty good.

I liked the way Tod Goldberg wrote Michael's thoughts and made him so ingenius and meticulous. I thought it fit the TV show character very well. He's not exactly macho, but he's got a kind of power that makes him extremely formidable, and he knows it (and likes it). It's funny how he acts out different people and how no one guesses he's acting. He's that convincing. It makes for a good story. I also like his kind of humor, because it fits the "spy" kind of character (in my mind) and makes the story a little lighter.

Rating: I rate this book a six and a half out of ten.

Handle With Care by Jodi Picoult

Plot: a young girl has a serious medical condition called OI (osteogenesis imperfecta), also called the "brittle bone" disease. Willow's bones can - and do - break when she rolls over in her sleep, when she slips on a napkin, when she sneezes. Her mother's life is centered around Willow, and this becomes a problem as Willow's older sister feels invisible and Willow's father disagrees with the proposed lawsuit to get more money for Willow.

Comments: this is an amazing story about family, sacrifice, and doing what you think is right. It reminds me of My Sister's Keeper, also by Jodi Picoult, because both stories are about families struggling to stay together despite disagreements, and both families center around an ill family member. Handle With Care is a hard book to read. The story is almost painful, and the writing makes you feel what the characters are feeling.

I loved the character Amelia, and though my life is nothing like hers, I somehow relate to her and understand her pain. I also felt sorry for her, because her mother never paid her any attention. Throughout this story, my dislike for Charlotte, the mother, steadily grew to the point that I was disgusted with her. In a way, she is the antagonist in the story. I couldn't believe someone could act the way she did. It was almost despicable. I do think this book is worth reading, however annoying it is to read about the mother. I liked the father, Sean, and I liked Willow, too. None of this was her fault, and she was so sweet and innocent. I finished reading the story hoping for Willow's sake that it would have a happy ending.

Rating: I rate this book a seven out of ten. A good read, but not exactly an uplifting one.