Everyone has read Jenny’s blog, The Bloggess (and if you haven’t, why the hell not?), and her debut memoir is just like it, full of crazy things she does, awkward conversations she has, crazy texts she shares with Victor or sometimes, dark places she finds herself when her anxiety or depression take hold. The chapters are individual stories, told in chronological order.
Jenny states in the beginning that most of the stories are true, and even though she says only names and dates have been changed, you have to wonder if everything else could really be true. If so, she’s had quite the life! There were a few stories or mentions that I recall from reading her blog, but most everything in the book was new to me.
The way she deals with the setbacks and disappointments in her life are wonderful; she is a great example of how humor can make most anything better. There are some truly sad parts, like her many miscarriages, but she continues on. Though it’s sad at the time, she can look back later and find the funny. She talks a lot about her husband, Victor, and I just adore him. He has (almost) the same sense of humor as Jenny, and he has the patience and understanding of a saint.
My only complaint is the audiobook. I adore Jenny Lawson, but her voice grates on my nerves. A lot of the time, she spoke in a monotone, with hardly any inflection. Several times, she would read a long paragraph or story (in a monotone), and her voice would get this gravelly sound. It got so bad I wanted to say “Clear your throat already!” And for some strange reason, she sang the chapter titles. Not very well. For those reasons alone, I would suggest going for the print version instead of the audio version.
If you like The Bloggess, or awkwardly funny situations, check this one. Beware the salty language.
Where do I start with this one? Will Grayson, Will Grayson is a lot of things: funny, sad, heartbreaking, true, romantic, sweet, loud, and so much more. Let me start by saying I had no idea what the story was about. That’s right, I went into the book without knowing anything about it. It’s gotten fantastic reviews, and I just finished something by David Levithan that I really liked, so I figured that was good enough for me.
So the bad thing is, when I started, I didn’t realize it was told from two different point of views. And I also didn’t realize that it was narrated by two different people, so when the second chapter started, I thought “Wow, Will sure did change all of the sudden. And why does the narrator’s voice sound so different?” (Yeah, I’m not so swift.) So, after finally reading the book description, I realized what was going on and could actually enjoy the story. And boy did I.
I liked the two Will Graysons as characters, though I preferred WG#1. He was kinder than WG#2, who had a bad attitude and was especially vicious to his mother for no clear reason. WG#1′s bestie, Tiny Cooper, was something, he was practically the star of the book. He was big, loud and proud. He was self-centered and completely unapologetic about it.
"Tiny is talking about his blinding light spiritual awakening in a way that, nothing against Tiny, kind of implies that maybe Tiny has not fully internalized the idea that the earth does not spin around the axis of Tiny Cooper."
He was hard to like at first, but he eventually grew on me. All of the other characters were unique and interesting. No one-dimensional people here. They all had their own flaws and personality traits that made them so believable. Nobody was perfect or flawless or always said and did the right thing. The dialogue was full of cussing, and some of it felt unnecessary, but otherwise, I liked the way the kids talked to each other. They were real and (most of the time) honest. The story was full of one-liners and sarcasm that made me happy. There were several occasions where I laughed out loud and even once or twice I had to replay something I had missed because I was laughing too loud to hear it.
The plot was interesting; it focused mostly on the Wills (and Tiny), but also their friends, school, partying, and the choices they made in all of those areas. It really flew by, although there were maybe one or two spots I thought could have been whittled down for a more streamlined story. There was also a bit at the end I didn’t feel added anything to the story or the characters. It was supposed to be a big learning moment for Tiny, but I didn’t get it. It just seemed silly and pointless to me.
The narrators were amazing. They sounded similar, but once you know there are two different Wills (duh, Andrea), they were easy to tell apart and the two voices make it easy to know which Will was speaking in that chapter. They became the Wills so perfectly and completely, I can’t imagine anyone else playing those parts.
One of the plot lines involved Tiny and the musical he created. Throughout the novel, and at the end, songs were performed by the students. The narrators did such a fabulous job of bringing those songs to life, I can’t imagine reading the novel and not knowing how the songs sound “in real life.”
Funny and touching, this is a one-of-a-kind gem. I highly recommend the audio version, you would be missing out on a lot if you skipped it.
Alex had a brain tumor (which she called ‘the monster’) and knew she didn’t have a lot of time left, so she headed up to a special place in the mountains to say goodbye to her parents and dispose of their ashes. While there, she ran into a young girl and the girl’s grandfather. After an unexplained “attack” left Alex able to smell (something the tumor had taken away) and Ellie’s grandfather dead, they struck out on their own to find out what happened.
I really liked Alex. She was a strong protagonist, not your basic clichéd damsel-in-distress. She didn’t need, or want, anyone to take care of her, she’d been doing just fine on her own ever since her parents died. Good grief, Ellie was annoying. She was a child, yes, but her complaining and whining seemed far too young for someone her age. Tom, whom the two ended up running into and sticking with, was another strong character. He had some secrets and wasn’t upfront about his reasons for being on the mountain, but immediately was willing to do whatever he could to protect Alex and Ellie. If I were ever in a zombie apocalypse, I would want him on my side. (As an aside, if the zombie apocalypse were to actually take place, I would hightail it over to Ashley’s house first.)
We met more characters as the trio journeyed to seek answers and some of those characters were more developed than others, though I found one or two to be on the clichéd side. Especially at the end, some were downright regressive in their thinking and they pissed me off.
There was an element of mystery in Ashes, not only in what exactly the attack was and how it happened, but why did it bring back Alex’s olfactory sense, and why did it give her the ability to smell other things, like lies and personalities?
I didn’t like the second half of the novel, as the world learned to move on and survive, as much as I did the first, but it was still enjoyable. There was a change in the novel’s setting and I missed Tom (and yes, even the ultra-annoying Ellie) and thought the story was better when the three of them were together.
The audio was a trainwreck. I don’t know if that’s how Katherine Kellgran narrates all of her books, but I will be avoiding anything narrated by her at all costs in the future. In the beginning, she made Ellie into a LOUD whiny brat. I don’t think she would have been that annoying as a character without Katherine’s narration. She screamed the exciting parts and I ended up turning my volume down several times.
The cover is creepy, and gives a hint at what the book may be about (electromagnetic waves?). Though I don’t like it as a general book cover, it fits the novel perfectly.
Taut and exciting. Avoid the audio version at all costs.
The follow up to Uglies, Pretties takes place after Tally has had the surgery and is loving life as a Pretty. After she receives a message from the Uglies she used to live with, she tries to shake off the juju that’s making her feel like she’s missing something. It’s not quite as simple as the book’s blurb makes it sound, though. She doesn’t just “wake up.” She has to decide if she wants to, then she has to fight hard to do it.
The writing was similar to Uglies, so Pretties felt familiar. There were new words (balance missing, mili helens, pretty making, crim) and I eventually tired of their repetitiveness (especially combined with the narrator’s gravelly voice). If I never hear the word ‘bubbly’ again in my lifetime, it will be too soon. The same world-building was there, and expanded upon. We learned quite a bit more about the Specials and their role in society and the different technological ways the Pretties can play around with their appearances, and I have to say, most of them were darn weird.
The same characters were back with a few more thrown in. We got to know Shay more (and it turns out she’s darn weird, too) and we were introduced to Zane, meant to form a love triangle with Tally and David. Maybe it’s just me, but I couldn’t get behind Zane. He was okay, but he was Pretty, you know? In my mind, he was no match for the Ugly David. Dr. Cable made several appearances and she was just as freaky and sneaky as ever.
The narrator does a fine job, nothing spectacular. The cover is okay, a bit generic for me. There’s a girl with red hair (did Tally ever have red hair? I can’t remember) and a boy trying to push his way into the picture. Meh.
An acceptable follow-up to Uglies, but not outstanding in its own right.
Belly and Jeremiah are in college together, trying to act like Belly really wants to be with Jeremiah instead of his brother. Since Conrad made it clear he wouldn’t choose her, she’s convinced herself that she’s content with Jeremiah, though she still has a special place in her heart for Conrad. They’ve managed to make it into something special and Belly’s sure he’s the one. Until he does the unthinkable.
I love the characters in this series, especially in the latter part of the final book. You could really see how they’d all grown over the years, as they’d gotten older and wiser (in most cases). They still made stupid mistakes, but they learned from them. They still had their flaws, of course; Belly was still whiny about Conrad not loving her, Jeremiah was still whiny about Conrad getting all the love and Conrad was still an asshat.
One thing I didn’t like was the direction Jeremiah’s character went. We’ve known him for years, and I felt like his betrayal was completely out of character. He had his reasons (aka his excuses), but it still didn’t feel like something the Jeremiah we know and love would do. There were several chapters told from Conrad’s POV which I think were meant to portray him as a long-suffering good guy caught in a bad situation. While I appreciated finally seeing things the way he did, it was too little, too late. I understand he had problems and issues, but that was no excuse for treating Belly like he did.
Just like the first 2 books, We’ll Always Have Summer was entertaining and fun. I wasn’t expecting the ending, and I can’t say I’m exactly happy with it. But it made sense for the characters and felt true to them.
Though I’m sad it’s over, this was a satisfying conclusion to the series.
One of my favorite fictional couples is back. Cabel (swoon) and Janie are still in school, still (secretly) together and still dealing with Janie’s unusual ability. This time, the Captain offers Janie a position with the undercover team. There’s a sexual predator on the loose in their school, and the Captain thinks Janie can use her special talent to help suss out the guilty party. Though Cabel protests (he wants to keep her out of harm’s way), Janie convinces him that this is something she has to do. She wants to use her power for good. He relents and they join forces to take down the bad guy. Only Janie ends up in some dangerous situations they weren’t prepared for.
Once again, Janie was a strong, confident woman stuck in an unenviable position. She was learning to control the basics of her dream jumping with Mrs. Stuben’s help and Caleb’s support. Though Janie was unhappy with her dream-jumping (and her mother’s continued mental absence), she never complained. She just kept on doing her thing while staying focused on her future college plans. Cabel is still one of my top literary crushes. He had his flaws, of course: he was overprotective (in Janie’s opinion, not mine) and he had a hard time letting her make her own decisions. But he truly cared about her and only wanted her to stay safe. Nothing wrong with that as far as I’m concerned. It turned out Mrs. Stuben had quite a few secrets she was hiding from Janie in Wake. I enjoyed learning about her past and how she handled the same ability that Janie was now dealing with. Some of the things Janie learned were sad and heartbreaking, and I really felt for her.
The plot was a bit farfetched (I really doubt a police force would leave so much of the actual police work up to a pair of teenagers), but I enjoyed it anyway. If you can suspend your belief and just go with it, you’ll like the ride much more. I liked that Cabel and Janie didn’t have an easy relationship, where everything worked out perfect right from the get-go. They both had their issues, and both had to learn to give as well as take. It was nice to see such a realistic relationship in a YA book.
There was cussing and drug and alcohol use. There were also sexual situations, including the topic of rape, though they were handled realistically and honestly. The plot moved along at a quick pace, as did the writing. No extraneous subplots or prose. Simple and to-the-point writing really worked with this story, with Janie’s frame of mind. Again, as with Wake, I think this type of writing worked better in the audio version than it would in print.
Another intense story in the series, Fade sets the scene for the final book and I can’t wait to read how everything turns out. And also, more Cabel, please.
What an amazing story. This would be a great fiction story, but the fact that it’s true makes it all the more incredible.
Susannah takes us on the journey she took as she fell ill to the mysterious illness. The book starts at the first sign that something is wrong and takes us through her time in the hospital, her diagnosis, treatment and the follow-up care and research. Even though she can’t remember anything from that time, she has pulled together doctor’s notes, videos and interviews to create a thorough timeline that makes the reader fell like they’re living through it with her.
And it was scary. One minute she was an outgoing, confident young woman and the next she was a paranoid, delusional mess. It came on so suddenly and there were only a few signs that something was wrong before she ended up in the hospital. The tests and incorrect diagnoses she went through before they ever discovered her problem were immense and I’m impressed that her family didn’t give up on her. Their persistence is a testament of their love. Also? I think she might have the best real-life boyfriend ever.
You know it’s going to end well (she did write the book, after all) but the writing is so immersive and intense, that you wonder how it will all work out. This could have had a very different outcome, and Susannah is very lucky that the right doctor found the right test at the right time.
The last section of the book deals with the aftermath – how Susannah continues to be affected and the research and development that have gone into the disease since her diagnosis. That section wasn’t as intense as the earlier parts, but it was interesting. In fact, there are interesting facts and tidbits throughout the book, which were especially useful so we would know exactly how Susannah’s brain was misfiring.
The narrator did a great job, she had the moods and affectations down perfectly. When combined with the fabulous writing, I really felt like I was there in Susannah’s head while she was going through this.
An intriguing story made even better by the tight writing. Susannah is a gifted writer and I’m amazed this is her first book. Don’t miss it.
After reading Katie’s review of Drowning Instinct over at Blook Girl, I picked up the audio version, and I’m so glad I did.
Jenna is rescued from a near-drowning and while in the hospital, an officer gives her a tape recorder and asks her to record what happened, how she ended up in the frozen lake. So she starts at the beginning: her troubled home life, her arrival at a new school and everything that happens after. She pulls no punches and spares no details.
Jenna is a hot mess. She’s had an unfortunate upbringing which includes a fire that nearly killed her, being molested, living with a drunk mother and a super controlling father, being abandoned by her military-bound brother and self cutting. Unsurprisingly, she has some issues. She was a likable character, though. She had her moments of whining or brattiness, but she deserves some slack.
The infamous teacher, Mitch, well… I had some issues. He’s relatable and nice enough, and I understand he has his own issues, but he’s an adult. I’ve seen many reviews that say this story shows it’s not all black and white, that there are some gray areas, but I disagree. An adult is an adult is an adult. He should know better, no matter what’s going on in his life. But, let’s put that aside for now and just go with it, for the sake of this review. As a general character, I did like Mitch. He was kind and friendly and I think he truly wanted to be there for Jenna, who clearly needed someone to be on her side.
The other characters were there to be mean or bad to our 2 main characters, so we’d feel sorry for them. And they succeeded. They weren’t full characters, more like caricatures of people. But that’s okay, they served their purpose and I really just wanted to spend more time with Mitch and Jenna. Because even though I would oppose such a relationship in real life, I loved reading about it! They had some great scenes together, very sweet and romantic (if maybe a bit clinical).
Ilsa J. Bick has a way with words (not a surprise to me, having read her book Ashes), but I was still impressed with the way she weaved the story together. There was a bit of action, a lot of mystery, some romance and even witty dialogue. Several times I found myself anxious to know what happened next, and this was the only frustrating part about listening to the audio version – where I would normally skip a bit to get to the next scene, because I just couldn’t wait, I was forced to wait for the narrator to get there.
Speaking of the narrator, Kathleen McInerney did a fabulous job of bringing the story to life. At first I thought she sounded too young, but it worked and she soon became Jenna. Also, since the entire story is Jenna speaking into a microphone, there was a certain “rightness” of listening to the story, as opposed to reading it.
This is sometimes a hard story, for the subject matter, but it’s an interesting one. The writing is taut and kept me on the edge of my seat many times. And you know that bit from the book’s summary:
"There are stories where the girl gets her prince, and they live happily ever after. (This is not one of those stories.)"
Keep that bit in mind.
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