Thursday, November 20, 2014

Book Review: Alienated (Alienated #1) by Melissa Landers

Release Date: April 4, 2014
Info about the author: Goodreads - Twitter - Website
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Age group: YA
Pages: 352 (kindle edition)
Buy the book: Amazon - Book Depository

Description (from Goodreads):

Two years ago, the aliens made contact. Now Cara Sweeney is going to be sharing a bathroom with one of them. 

Handpicked to host the first-ever L’eihr exchange student, Cara thinks her future is set. Not only does she get a free ride to her dream college, she’ll have inside information about the mysterious L’eihrs that every journalist would kill for. Cara’s blog following is about to skyrocket.

Still, Cara isn’t sure what to think when she meets Aelyx. Humans and L’eihrs have nearly identical DNA, but cold, infuriatingly brilliant Aelyx couldn’t seem more alien. She’s certain about one thing, though: no human boy is this good-looking.

But when Cara's classmates get swept up by anti-L'eihr paranoia, Midtown High School suddenly isn't safe anymore. Threatening notes appear in Cara's locker, and a police officer has to escort her and Aelyx to class. 

Cara finds support in the last person she expected. She realizes that Aelyx isn’t just her only friend; she's fallen hard for him. But Aelyx has been hiding the truth about the purpose of his exchange, and its potentially deadly consequences. Soon Cara will be in for the fight of her life—not just for herself and the boy she loves, but for the future of her planet.



MY THOUGHTS:

Alienated is one of those books that kind of came out of nowhere, at least for me. I had not heard anything about it before it's publication. Then I started seeing it on book blogs, BookTube and Goodreads and the reviews for it were generally quite raving. I acquired a copy of my Kindle, thinking that I will give it a chance once I'm in mood for some science fiction.

Oh well, it did not really fill my graving for science fiction, but it did give me a load of high school drama and cute romance in a form of a quick, entertaining read. 

Two years ago, the aliens made contact with the earth. Sharing nearly identical DNA with the humans, the alien race called L'eirhs are like a cold, more intelligent version of the human race. They have been selectively bred and cloned and thus they are in general superior to a ordinary human being. Cara is the Valedictorian and the queen of the debate team, but her school year does not get quite the beginning she expected when she's told that she has been selected to host of the three L'eirh exchange students sent to earth. Though she is not over the moon about babysitting an alien for a year, the scholarship money the exchange brings seems tempting and eventually makes her say yes.

The moment Cara sees Aelyx, she realizes that she has never seen a guy quite as hot as her new exchange student. But the hotness is dampened by the cold and collective behavior of Aelyx who seems more like a robot than a human for most of the time. But when the paranoia of the general public against the aliens and people associated with them increases, Cara and Aelyx end up forming a bond that eventually could become something more than just a forced friendship.

As I said, this book is very DRAMA heavy. It is the general high school backstabbing drama that is oh so entertaining, but also, oh so unrealistic. Cara is the Valedictorian, but to be honest, she does not seem super intelligent or hard-working. When I hear the word 'Valedictorian' in description for a novel,I expect an awesome, nerdy, a bit socially awkward, hardworking character. Cara is not that. I feel like she spends more time drooling after Aelyx than actually working on school assignments. Aelyx, of course, is super hot, but at first does not seem to have the hots for Cara. But he gets  more human side while spending time with humans and realizes that some humans might actually be not that bad. 

I found Alienated to be very entertaining, fast-paced and occasionally quite funny as well. Surprisingly, the author is able to avoid instalove, which was a definite bonus. I was kind of disappointed about the lack of detail that I usually am able to find from science fiction novels, but very quickly I realized that I should probably just treat this as a high school romance type of book rather than a scifi read. I did not really connect with the characters or the events, but despite that, I did find that Alienated was just what I needed - a bit silly, fast-paced romp for the weekend nights.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Book Review: The Year We Fell Down (The Ivy Years #1) by Sarina Bowen

Release date: March 20th, 2014
Info about the author: Goodreads - Twitter - Website
Publisher: Rennie Road Books
Age group: New Adult
Pages: 268
Buy the book: Amazon

Description (from Goodreads):

The sport she loves is out of reach. The boy she loves has someone else.

What now?


She expected to start Harkness College as a varsity ice hockey player. But a serious accident means that Corey Callahan will start school in a wheelchair instead.

Across the hall, in the other handicapped-accessible dorm room, lives the too-delicious-to-be real Adam Hartley, another would-be hockey star with his leg broken in two places. He’s way out of Corey’s league.

Also, he’s taken.

Nevertheless, an unlikely alliance blooms between Corey and Hartley in the “gimp ghetto” of McHerrin Hall. Over tequila, perilously balanced dining hall trays, and video games, the two cope with disappointments that nobody else understands.

They’re just friends, of course, until one night when things fall apart. Or fall together. All Corey knows is that she’s falling. Hard.

But will Hartley set aside his trophy girl to love someone as broken as Corey? If he won’t, she will need to find the courage to make a life for herself at Harkness — one which does not revolve around the sport she can no longer play, or the brown-eyed boy who’s afraid to love her back.



MY THOUGHTS:

Corey Callahan loves ice hockey. Since she was child it has been major part of her life - her brother used to play, her father used to coach and she herself also spent all the free time she had on ice. In high school she was the captain of the ice hockey team on her way to college hockey teams. Then she got injured and EVERYTHING changed. She had to switch her skates to a wheelchair and her dreams of playing college hockey went down the toilet. But she's not ready to give up her dreams of going to the school her brother used to go to, Harkness College.

Despite her fussing parents, Corey's college experience starts well. The room that she has at the dorm is big and beautiful and she instantly feels like she has won in the roommate lottery when she meets Dana, a girl who has spent her high school years in Japan. And then she meets Adam Hartley, her neighbor and one of the stars of the college's ice-hockey team, relaying on crutches with a big cast on his leg. Corey and Hartley connect instantly - they both understand how it feels not to be able to do something they love (play hockey). Hartley does not treat Corey like she's a cripple and completely helpless, but rather challenges her in more than one way. They play video games, watch films and confine in each other and very quickly Corey realizes that she is falling for Hartley... Too bad that he has a girlfriend who's doing a foreign exchange in France.

I really liked Corey. She is strong and independent and though she is in a situation she did not expect to find herself in she does not give up. Yes, she might whine occasionally, but who wouldn't? She's also funny and extremely likable, which made it easy to connect with her and to feel for her. I love ice hockey myself and though I've never played competitively, I totally got her love for the sport. Hartley is totally swoon worthy (duh, he's a hockey player) and though there were so things he did that I did not fully understand and support, I did end up liking him.

There's sort of a love triangle in the story, but it is clear right away what the "right" pairing is. Hartley's girlfriend Stacia is snobby, bitchy rich girl who mostly just thinks of herself. She's kind of a cliche and maybe a bit too much Corey's opposite. The author does not really give any humanity to Stacia, which occasionally feels like the easy way out; she makes her so unlikable that there's no way you could think that Hartley should stay with her. But her does, for a way too long and Hartley ends up doing something which I do not accept myself from someone who's in a relationship. Yes, he is with the wrong person, but that does not justify it, at least not in my opinion. 

Also, one little thing that kind of annoyed me was this "hope fairy" Corey keeps talking about. Basically, it is the voice inside her head that keeps telling her that maybe she has a chance with Hartley and that maybe he's as into her as she's to him. At first this did not really bother me, but then this weird "fairy" is mentioned again and again and I kind of started to feel like the author repeats it way too many times. I feel like this might be just me though and in no way did this little glitch take the enjoyment out of the story.

Despite the little issues I had with this book, in general I enjoyed it. It did not change my life, but it was entertaining, fast-paced and cute. The author does not shy away from the seriousness of Corey's incident and its aftermath, but she also doesn't dwell on it either. The likable female protagonist and a hot love interest who's ready to admit his wrongdoings definitely make it worth a read for all fans of new adult fiction. 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Book Review: Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

Release date: January 5, 2012
Info about the author: Goodreads - Twitter - Website
Publisher: Michael Joseph/Penguin
Age group: Adult
Pages: 480 (paperback)
Buy the book: Amazon - Book Depository

Description (from Goodreads):

Lou Clark knows lots of things. She knows how many footsteps there are between the bus stop and home. She knows she likes working in The Buttered Bun tea shop and she knows she might not love her boyfriend Patrick.
What Lou doesn't know is she's about to lose her job or that knowing what's coming is what keeps her sane.
Will Traynor knows his motorcycle accident took away his desire to live. He knows everything feels very small and rather joyless now and he knows exactly how he's going to put a stop to that.
What Will doesn't know is that Lou is about to burst into his world in a riot of colour. And neither of them knows they're going to change the other for all time.


MY THOUGHTS:

I had heard A LOT of things about this book before reading it. I actually bought a copy of it already during the spring of this year, thinking that I would read it during the summer. But then someone told me that it is super sad and should not be read during the summer time... So I left it in Edinburgh for summer when I traveled home. Later on, I heard that it is really difficult to put down. I heard that the characters are great and that the expectations for the movie adaptation are super high

From the synopsis to the novel I made my own deductions. I thought Lou is a bit OCD because of the whole "she knows how many steps there are between the bus stop and home." After reference to the motorcycle accident, I knew that Will would somehow be disabled, but I did not expect the level of disablement that actually happens. I read adult "romance" novels so rarely I kind of expected his injury would be more on the mental side (stripping of his pride) and that there would be a really cliche recovery moment that just happens out of the blue. So yes, I was expecting for a cliche, syrupy story. I got something completely different....

At the age of 26/27 (she has her birthday during the timeline of the book), Lou as never left her little hometown. She works in a cafe, still lives with her parents and seems to be stuck in a relationship with a guy who she does not seem to have anything in common with anymore. She dresses differently than the people around her and she is constantly ridiculed by her family (though this is apparently done in a humoristic manner), and when the cafe she has been working in for over 6 years suddenly closes down, she finds herself in a situation she has never faced before - 26, unemployed, expected to be the breadwinner for the whole family. After some failed attempts with jobs given by the job centre, Lou is directed towards a job as a personal carer for a disabled man... That is how she meets Will.

Will used to be a big deal. He lived in London, had a successful job, beautiful women around him, the money to travel around the world. He I lived in a world of luxury and excess. But one faithful morning he is injured in a motorcycle accident and everything changes. He becomes a quadriplegic, meaning that he loses control of most of his limbs and his everyday tasks and actions become dependent on other people. He is put in a wheelchair and wheeled away from London to live with his parents in a small English town that feels very small and claustrophobic to him. He loses all hope and just want to die. And then he meets Lou...

In a cliche Nicholas Sparks type of romance these characters would first hate each other, then suddenly fall in love and in the end Will would either go through a miraculous recovery or he would die, but it would be in this very grand manner after everything they have ever wanted to say to each other. His last words would probably be "I love you" and then Lou, in a 10 years later chapter, would still hold on to him and no one else. But as I said, this was not what I expected. Lou and Will do hate each other first and the process of actually getting to a point that they can stand each other even a little takes time. Will is stubborn, depressed and ready to give up. Lou finds herself in a situation in which her optimism and open personality suddenly do not take effect. As Will realizes that there really is no other option than to try and get through the days with Lou, he starts to open up and gradually they start to realize that they actually like spending time together. Will talks about his life before the accident and Lou talks about her family. They start to take small trips together and Lou starts to spend more time at Will's that was specified in the job agreement. 

Though the two characters find a connection, it feels like there is a quiet time bomb ticking in the background. Lou has been given a 6 month contract to the job and it has been agreed that if the mood of Will does not change, something else has to be tried after that. Lou desperately wants to make Will happy, but as time goes by, she starts to realize there might not be anything that can make this man happy, not after what he has left behind due to the accident. 

The romance in this book is actually pretty toned down. There are no cliche romantic grand gestures (if you are waiting for a proposal in front of a fountain while there are fireworks in the sky... this book is not for you) and it is actually more of a story about a friendship than a fiery romance. The connection between Lou and Will is tangible and the way it develops is totally worth the read! They both become so real on the pages of the novel that in the end you feel like you actually know them... at least that is what happened to me. I wanted good things for them both, I wanted them to be happy. 

Moyes writes well and though the subject matter of this book is pretty heavy, there are incredibly funny bits in this book as well. When starting with it I did not know that it was set in England (for some reason I expected it to be set in US) and for a while I was not quite sure what to feel about the setting, but eventually I did start to like it and maybe actually got some of the very dry British humor from there. I am used to reading romance novels set in US, but this was a nice breath of fresh air and definitely made me more open to other contemporary stories set in UK. 
The novel is told mostly through the point of view of Lou, but the short chapters that occasionally take place from point of view of the characters around Lou and Will give a new perspective to the bond that is forming between them, opening the story up a bit more. In general, Me Before You was a rather quick read (and indeed, difficult to put down), and though it is sad, there is also a very shining glimpse of hope found from there. I cried, but not all the tears were a result of sadness.

The film adaptation of the novel is expected to come out in 2015 with Emilia Clarke (Game of Thrones) as Lou and the gorgeous Sam Claflin (The Hunger Games films) as Will. The main cast sounds amazing on paper, so my expectations for the adaptation are pretty high. I mean, Sam Claflin... COME ON. 


Monday, November 3, 2014

Book Review: Amy & Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson

Release Date: May 4, 2010
Info about the author: Goodreads - Twitter - Website
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Age group: YA
Pages: 343 (paperback)
Buy the book: Amazon - Book Depository

Description (from Goodreads):

Amy Curry is not looking forward to her summer. Her mother decided to move across the country and now it's Amy's responsibility to get their car from California to Connecticut. The only problem is, since her father died in a car accident, she isn't ready to get behind the wheel. Enter Roger. An old family friend, he also has to make the cross-country trip - and has plenty of baggage of his own. The road home may be unfamiliar - especially with their friendship venturing into uncharted territory - but together, Amy and Roger will figure out how to map their way.



MY THOUGHTS:


I knew that I was right when I decided to save this book for summer because it proved to be the perfect summer book - even though it was read during a cold, rainy day. 

Amy Curry's normal, somewhat boring life ends when her father dies in a car accident  during a normal, boring afternoon. The life she has known - her parents, her brother, he friends and school as well as her home in California - all start to feel very distant suddenly. Her father is gone, her mother does not talk about what happened, her brother is sent to rehab, she does not know how to talk to her friends and on top of everything, her mother decides to sell their house in California and move the family to Connecticut. Amy is too sad and too numb to even complain too much. After a lonely month spent in California, her mother tells her that Amy won't be able to fly to Connecticut after all, but that she would have to drive from there to Connecticut. But since Amy is not ready to drive after the accident, her mother has asked Roger, her friend's son, to drive the car and Amy across the country. So now Amy is not only fatherless and forced to live in a new time, but also forced to take a road trip with a complete stranger. Yay.

Roger has promised to spend the summer at East Coast with his father. But that is not the only reason he wants to hit the road - there is someone he has left things open with, someone he really needs to talk with. When Amy presents him with the detailed plan for the trip, Roger suggests that they take a little detour. Even though Amy is used to being the one who goes by the rules, she agrees. That agreement leads to a wonderful journey filled with important places, several fast food restaurants, the loneliest road in America, new people and most importantly, new friendships and relationships. Both Amy and Roger have something they need to sort out, something they have to go through before they can open up for new possibilities and relationships. 

I loved this book so much. As someone who has also lost her father, I felt such a connection to Amy and what she feels and I honestly found myself crying several times while I was reading this, just because the feelings of Amy where so easy to relate with and they managed to bring up some memories. Amy feels like she hasn't quite been herself since her father died, but as more time goes on and as she opens up for new experiences and possibilities, she sees glimpses of her old self coming back while she is also introduced to a new, better side of herself. Roger is such a sweetheart and I pretty much instantly fell in love with him. Yes, he is hot, but he is so much more than that. He is kind, funny, kind of nerdy, easy to talk with and most importantly, he really seems to care about Amy. The relationship that develops between the two really takes its time, which I really liked, because it makes the story so much more realistic.

I instantly fell in love with Matson's style of writing. She has created characters that are funny and honest, raw and real. The dialogue flows well and you really feel like you're actually there, listening to these people talk. The road trip is well established and the text really takes the reader along on the journey with these characters. I have always wanted to do a road trip in US and it actually almost felt like I was on one, even though in reality I was in my living room in rainy Finland.

One of the things I enjoyed most about this novel where the little scrapbook segments featuring pictures, shop receipts, playlists etc. These little details add so much to the story and they just are super fun to look at. Also the chapter openings with quotations and song lyrics are really well chosen and fit so well to the story. I actually found the some of the playlists from 8tracks - you can access them for here if you are interested. 

I really don't have anything negative to say about this book. I talked about this with a couple of people who have also read it and they said they would have liked maybe a one more chapter to the end, but for me, the final scrapbook item at the last page felt like the perfect finish. This book definitely became one of my favorites of all time and I'm so happy that I own a copy of it so I can reread it whenever I feel like doing so. A wonderful, honest, romantic and funny summer read I want to recommend for EVERYONE!


Thursday, October 30, 2014

Book Review: Pushing the Limits (Pushing the Limits #1) by Katie McGarry

Release date: June 1st, 2012
Info about the author: Goodreads - Twitter- Website
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Age group: YA
Pages: 392 (Kindle edition)
Buy the book: Amazon - Book Depository

Description (from Goodreads):

"I won't tell anyone, Echo. I promise." Noah tucked a curl behind my ear. It had been so long since someone touched me like he did. Why did it have to be Noah Hutchins? His dark brown eyes shifted to my covered arms. "You didn't do that-did you? It was done to you?" No one ever asked that question. They stared. They whispered. They laughed. But they never asked.

So wrong for each other...and yet so right.

No one knows what happened the night Echo Emerson went from popular girl with jock boyfriend to gossiped-about outsider with "freaky" scars on her arms. Even Echo can't remember the whole truth of that horrible night. All she knows is that she wants everything to go back to normal. But when Noah Hutchins, the smoking-hot, girl-using loner in the black leather jacket, explodes into her life with his tough attitude and surprising understanding, Echo's world shifts in ways she could never have imagined. They should have nothing in common. And with the secrets they both keep, being together is pretty much impossible.Yet the crazy attraction between them refuses to go away. And Echo has to ask herself just how far they can push the limits and what she'll risk for the one guy who might teach her how to love again.


MY THOUGHTS:

Back in 2012 when this book was published I probably would have absolutely adored this one. I would have willingly given my soul and body to Noah Hutchins. And I still kind of did occasionally. But unlike the 2012 Milka who would have kept re-reading this book time and time again, the 2014 Milka did enjoy it and liked it, but didn't love it. You might ask why? This review hopefully gives you an answer for that.

Pushing the Limits deals with some pretty gruesome and dark things. Echo is physically and mentally scarred from an event she cannot remember. All she knows that she was found bleeding from her mother's apartment and that at the time her mother was off her bipolar meds. Living with her father and his new wife, Echo is trying to fit it by attempting to be invisible - if no one sees her, she will not have to show her scars and explain what happened to her. She yearns for the normal she was used to before the incident - friends, popularity, boys - but cannot seem to be able to grasp it as hard as she tries. When she is appointed as a tutor for the mysterious Noah who's reputation as a bad boy is not unknown to anyone, things start to change. 

Noah is known was a playboy around the school and he does not really do anything to deny or play down that label. After his parents died, he has been jumping from one foster family to next, which has resulted in him giving up hope for ever finding normal again. The light at the ends of his very dark tunnel are his young brothers and the possibility of re-uniting them after he turns 18 and graduates from high school. But in order to prove himself as fit for becoming practically a parent for two young kids, he needs to get his act together. That's when Echo, the ex-popular girl with mysterious scars and back story shows up in his life and changes everything.

With dual narration, McGarry gives voices to both Echo and Noah. The Echo we first meet is fragile, slightly depressed and extremely confused. She desperately tries to find love from wherever she goes, but fails because she isn't able to open up for the people closest to her. She is scared of fully revealing herself to anyone, mostly because she does not herself know what is buried deep in her mind. Noah is angry and feeds her confusion with rebellion, pot and meaningless hook ups. He loves his brothers and desperately wants to spend time with them, but it seems like the more and more he tries, the more distant his brothers become - they are close, but he is not allowed to see them and to spend time with them. He tries to keep up a facade of toughness and nonchalance, but deep down he desperately misses his parents and just tries to do his best to keep his life together, if not for himself, then for his brothers.

Noah and Echo connect because they both feel broken. They have accepted that the normal they were used to isn't going to come back - though Echo can hide her scars, they are going to stay in her skin for the rest of her life. And though Noah can sleep around and smoke pot in an attempt to make himself feel better, deep down he never can forget what happened to his parents. What happens between them kind of felt like instalove (which probably really would have appealed to the 2012 Milka), but on the other hand I do get why the instant connection between them happen - they understand each other's situations and though they both try to resist the temptation, they can't.

One thing that really made me cringe occasionally while reading this book were some of the side characters, especially Echo's old BFF Grace. For the most of the book she was just this cliche, bitchy girl who cares more about her popularity than her friend. I do get that high school is cruel and that appearances matter a lot, but I think at some level the whole issue was taken to the extreme in this book. I do get that Echo's "image" was partly a result of her own actions (she acts like she has something to hide), but the whole thing of her being a freak and all that got to be a bit too much at points. Also one thing that just in general really annoys me in books is when the male protagonists continually call their significant others "baby" (I have a feeling I have complained about this before too in relation to some YA books). For some reason I just find it REALLY annoying (maybe because I hate that type of pet names) and every time I see it repeated in a book constantly, I usually drop my star rating by one just because of that. I know it sounds silly, but it is just a thing that really irks me, and since my reviews are MY opinion, I am going to say it out loud. 

All in all, Pushing the Limits was just what I needed to give me something else to think about after a day spent reading about the media coverage of school shootings (I am doing a presentation on that for my media events class). Since I really liked how this book ended, I probably won't be picking up the sequels any time soon. I know they (at least the second book) focus on the other characters rather than Echo and Noah, but I have a feeling that they probably will make cameo appearances, like the characters do in the books of Stephanie Perkins. For now, I am happy with how Noah and Echo end up in this book. 

I am probably among the minority of YA contemporary readers who read this quite this late, but really, if you like YA contemporary and haven't read this one, you really should give it a go. It is romantic and sweet, but it also deals with some real issues and problems - like the best kind of contemporary books do!



Friday, October 24, 2014

Book Review: Columbine by Dave Cullen

Release Date: March 1, 2009
Info about the author: Goodreads - Twitter- Website
Publisher: Twelve
Age group: Adult
Pages: 417
Buy the book: Amazon - Book Depository

Description (from Goodreads):

Ten years in the making and a masterpiece of reportage, "Columbine" is an award-winning journalist's definitive account of one of the most shocking massacres in American history.

It is driven by two questions: what drove these killers, and what did they do to this town?

*****

"On April 20, 1999, two boys left an indelible stamp on the American psyche. Their goal was simple: to blow up their school, Oklahoma City-style, and to leave a lasting impression on the world. Their bombs failed, but the ensuing shooting defined a new era of school violence--irrevocably branding every subsequent shooting 'another Columbine.

"When we think of Columbine, we think of the Trench Coat Mafia; we think of Cassie Bernall, the girl we thought professed her faith before she was shot; and we think of the boy pulling himself out of a school window--the whole world was watching him. Now, in a riveting piece of journalism nearly ten years in the making, comes the story none of us knew. In this revelatory book, Dave Cullen has delivered a profile of teenage killers that goes to the heart of psychopathology. He lays bare the callous brutality of mastermind Eric Harris and the quavering, suicidal Dylan Klebold, who went to the prom three days earlier and obsessed about love in his journal.

"The result is an astonishing account of two good students with lots of friends, who were secretly stockpiling a basement cache of weapons, recording their raging hatred, and manipulating every adult who got in their way. They left signs everywhere, described by Cullen with a keen investigative eye and psychological acumen. Drawing on hundreds of interviews, thousands of pages of police files, FBI psychologists, and the boys' tapes and diaries, he gives the best complete account of the Columbine tragedy.



MY THOUGHTS:

After suffering from a reading slump for an extended period of time, I knew that the next book I would pick out would have to be one that would immediately grab my attention in order to keep me interested and pull me away from the dreadful slump caused by university tasks and readings. Knowing myself and my reading habits, I knew that I would need something that would make me think - unlike some people who want to read something fluffy and maybe even silly to balance their studies, I usually try to find something that will keep my mind active, something preferably even a little related to my studies at the moment, if possible. Don't get me wrong - I do love fluff (romance etc.) and read it a lot, but not usually while I am intensively studying at the same time. 

Well, since I am doing a course this semester called media events and since I have to do a presentation for that course about a particular media event, I decided to finally pick out Dave Cullen's Columbine, an account on the school shootings of 1999. 

Dave Cullen was able to pull me in to the book right away. I had some previous knowledge of the case beforehand and while reading the book I realized that most of that knowledge was based on the myths of the case that Cullen tries to break - the Cassie Bernall "martyr" myth, the Trench Coat Mafia, the possible links to Neo-Nazism etc. I had also seen Michael Moore's Bowling for Columbine before, which I absolutely loved (Moore is one of my favorite documentary filmmakers) and I found it extremely interesting to familiarize myself with someone else's account on the happenings. 

The more I read, the more interested I got. The detail in Cullen's book is astonishing (no wonder he worked on this for ten years), factual and well presented. While reading some of the reviews for the book on Goodreads, I noticed some people criticizing that Cullen's writing style lacks humanity due to its very factual explanation of the events. I do agree with that, but I personally did not mind it - I actually quite enjoyed it. Cullen's style is very academic and rationalistic - he states the facts as they are, relying on FBI statements, statements of psychologists and other experts, as well as the statements based on his own process of evidence gathering. There are segments in this book that are absolutely horrifying and miserable, the the things that happened in April 20, 1999. Cullen does not gloss over the corpses, the blood and the horror - he explains the events as they took place. Saying that Cullen's writing lacks humanity is not completely right though - there are segments here and there that give a voice to the victims, their parents and those who were in any way touched by the events that took place.

What I admired about Cullen's writing is the way he approaches the killers. He wants to understand them - he treats them as human beings and tries to open up to the reader their histories and the possible causes for what made them do what they did. Through the analysis of their journals, their friendships and the videos they recorded, Cullen builds up profiles for the killers. I understand why some writers have approached the shooters in a very different way, but I personally found this approach interesting, because it didn't directly got to judgement but tried to achieve understanding. 

I found Cullen's book to be interesting, thoughtful, thorough and extremely well-written. It is sad, violent and gruesome, but deep down, there's some hopefulness found from there from the stories of the people who survived it all - the people who kept going and tried to see past the tragedy. Columbine definitely isn't the easiest book out there to read, but it is completely worth it - I recommend this to everyone who likes non-fiction/true crime books and especially to those who have been interested to venture into non-fiction, but haven't found the title that could grasp their interest.



Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Book Review: My Life Next Door (My Life Next Door #1) by Huntley Fitzpatrick

Release Date: June 14, 2012
Info about the author: Goodreads - Twitter - Website
Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers
Age Group: YA
Pages: 394 (hardcover)
Buy the book: Amazon - Book Depository

Description (from Goodreads):

"One thing my mother never knew, and would disapprove of most of all, was that I watched the Garretts. All the time."

The Garretts are everything the Reeds are not. Loud, messy, affectionate. And every day from her rooftop perch, Samantha Reed wishes she was one of them . . . until one summer evening, Jase Garrett climbs up next to her and changes everything.

As the two fall fiercely for each other, stumbling through the awkwardness and awesomeness of first love, Jase's family embraces Samantha - even as she keeps him a secret from her own. Then something unthinkable happens, and the bottom drops out of Samantha's world. She's suddenly faced with an impossible decision. Which perfect family will save her? Or is it time she saved herself?

A transporting debut about family, friendship, first romance, and how to be true to one person you love without betraying another.



MY THOUGHTS:


Samantha Reed was born to privilege. Though her father left even before she was born, her mother's sizable trust fund and a rich family have guaranteed that Samantha never has had to pinch the penny. To be honest, it seems like Samantha has always got whatever she has wanted. She has worked for some of those things, but despite that, it seems like things come very easy for her. While living her perfect seeming life, Samantha has spent large amounts of time looking to the other side of the fence, to the Garrett family, who from afar seem like a bit of a mess. These are toys all over their yard, the car and the motorcycle are never in the garage, the pool is always occupied and the number of children is ever increasing. Then one day Jase Garrett, one of "those Garrett's" much despised by Samantha's mother, makes contact with Samantha thus changing everything that has been the norm before.

Samantha is an interesting character and one I occasionally had a difficult time to like. As I said, she is extremely privileged, and though she seems like she does not care about it, occasionally it feels like she really does. There is nothing wrong with being privileged, but when it clouds some of your decisions, especially ones that are not so moral or right in any way, I think there's problems arising. When she meets Jase and the rest of the Garrett family, she realizes that her way of life isn't the only one or necessary the best one. Unlike her family, which occasionally is very distant and formal, Jase's family is all over the place, but also extremely loving and comfortable. I liked to see Samantha integrated to that family, but occasionally is just felt too easy. The parents instantly love her, the kids adore her, she has never babysat and feels like natural right away etc. Due to this, I partly felt like Samantha is "too perfect", and that is never easy to identify with.

Jase is nice, honest and loving, but like Samantha, feels too perfect. He is amazing brother, good boyfriend, hardworking son, trustworthy friend... The connection between him and Samantha is there, but it occasionally feels a bit rushed and does not really take that much time to develop. I kept waiting for something to be revealed about Jase's past that would make him a bit more approachable character, but in the end, despite the fact that he is dreamy and all, I felt no connection whatsoever towards him, which kind of took away from my reading experience. 

The one character I desperately wanted to know more about and the one I found to be the most interesting character in the whole book is Tim. He is vulnerable, has a shady past, seems to cover his real feelings with humor and just in general seems a bit lost. Whereas Jase is the perfect boy next door, Tim really is the guy "from the other side of the tracks". He has a past, but it seems like he is ready to leave that behind and look to the future and better himself. You have no idea how happy I was when I realized that Huntley Fitzpatrick is writing the sequel to My Life Next Door about Tim (the book is called The Boy Most Likely). With Tim as a main character and Sam and Jase as side characters, I feel like I will like Fitzpatrick's story way more than I did now.

Don't get me wrong, I did not hate his book or anything. I just did not feel a strong connection towards it, which usually happens with YA contemporary titles I really like. My Life Next Door is cute, quick to read and deals with some real issues from the problems within friendships to problems within families. It is well written and funny and in general very easy to read. Unfortunately it just didn't give me the "feels" I expected it to give.  But despite that, you definitely should check this one out and see what you think.