Monday, March 25, 2013

A Review of 'Hourglass' by Myra McEntire

"One hour to rewrite the past...

For seventeen-year-old Emerson Cole, life is about seeing what isn't there: swooning Southern Belles; soldiers long forgotten; a haunting jazz trio that vanishes in an instant.  Plagued by phantoms since her parents' death, she just wants the apparitions to stop so she can be normal.  She's tried everything, but the visions keep coming back.

So when her well-meaning brother brings in a consultant from a secretive organization called the Hourglass, Emerson's willing to try one last cure.  But meeting Michael Weaver may not only change her future, it may also change her past.

Who is this dark, mysterious, sympathetic guy, barely older than Emerson herself, who seems to believe every crazy word she says?  Why does an electric charge seem to run through the room whenever he's around?  And why is he so insistent that he needs her help to prevent a death that never should have happened?"

I've finally finished this one!  I've been working through it for months, but it's finally done!

I'm not sure how to feel about this book.  As per usual, we'll start with things I didn't like and work into the things that I thought worked quite well for this book.

What bothered me the most about this book was Emerson.  It's terrible, I mean, she's the main character!  What I didn't like about this character is that right away, she was a tough character, but then a few pages afterwards, it felt like she was a forced version of sensitive.  I say forced because the author was doing more telling than showing.  That is, Emerson was saying things that were horribly painful to read like, "That's not me, I'm not really like that."  That's not a direct quote, by the way.  I think I understand the effect that McEntire was going for, but it was really aggravating that I wasn't allowed to draw my own conclusions about Emerson.

Another thing I didn't like was the cliches.  Maybe they weren't really cliches, but they certainly felt like it.  This was mainly a problem towards the end of the book and it really started to grate on me because it just made the book drag out more.  Plus, it just made things cheesier and it was hard to take the story seriously.

Another thing that I didn't like was that it didn't feel like the author gave her audience enough clues to figure out what might happen in the story.  That really bothered me because you'd think one thing was going on and then, without warning, things would really turn out to be another way.

What I did like though was the overall plot.  I think the story has a lot of potential.  There's time travel, there's a bad guy (who could appear to be much more evil, in my opinion), it's complicated because there are so many layers to it.

Another thing that I liked was the amount of detail that was included.  This is a pretty average-sized young adult novel, but the details were rich.  I especially appreciated the ending where Emerson was experiencing "unexperienced" (that's complicated to explain without giving everything away) memories and to read about the taste of blood in her mouth as the bus wrapped itself around a tree... they're gruesome and horrifying details, but they were good and they really fit.

Overall, this was an okay read.  I wish that McEntire would give her readers a little more credit, but she has a generally interesting story to tell.  I might have to give the sequel a shot.  Overall, I give 'Hourglass':
Thanks for Reading!


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Midterms Week

As I'm typing this, I'm laying in bed watching (listening) to a documentary called "A Kalahari Family" because I need to watch it for my anthropology class.  It's very interesting, but I really wish that I was watching this because I want to and not because I have to.  I also wish that I wasn't so tired... I don't know what has been different about this week compared to the last midterm/finals weeks that I went through.  I don't remember being very tired the first time.  Maybe because I have months of college under my belt this time and it's finally beginning to weigh in on me.  Maybe because I've been going and going and going almost non-stop this year.

This school year I sort of hit the ground running.  The first week of college was busy and absolutely packed, filled with different activities to get to know the people who were in my orientation group and also to get to the know my campus and the surrounding neighborhood.  Once classes started, there were things to go to every day of the week and work to do afterwards.  Weekends were filled with work and socializing.  I was constantly looking for jobs, and when I finally found one, my busy-ness sky-rocketed.  I had little to no time for myself, so I decided a few months later that I needed to get out of that job and just slow down.  During the month of January, I volunteered in a fifth grade classroom and really got to know the kids there and I felt helpful.  It was wonderful.  Once February started, so did my classes and the work returned, though I think it's a little more manageable for me.  I only have class two full days a week plus one class in the morning on Fridays and that's it.  I'm still volunteering during the week and I no longer have to truly scramble to get my work done.  I'm able to get plenty of sleep.  I love the set up that I have.

I'm ready for spring break.  I need that week to slow down even more.  I might look busy during that week, but I'll be doing things that I want to do.  I'll be reading, I'll be making birthday presents for a few friends, I'll be visiting friends and family... I'll be sleeping in as much as I possibly can.  I'll be looking for summer jobs.

I'm studying for those tests right now, some classes more than others, but I really can't wait to stop and breathe out, even if that time only lasts a week.

Friday, March 15, 2013

A Review of 'Pictures of Hollis Woods' by Patricia Reilly Giff

"Hollis Woods
is the place where a baby was abandoned
is the baby's name
is an artist
is now a twelve-year-old girl
who's been in so many foster homes she can hardly remember them all.  Hollis Woods is a mountain of trouble.  She runs away even from the Regans, the one family who offers her a home.

When Hollis is sent to Josie, an elderly artist who is quirky and affectionate, she wants to stay.  But Josie is growing more forgetful every day.  If Social Services finds out, they'll take Hollis away and move Josie into a home.  Well, Hollis Woods won't let anyone separate them.  She's escaped the system before; this time, she's taking Josie with her.

Still, even as she plans her future with Josie, Hollis dreams of the past summer with the Regans, fixing each special moment of her days with them in pictures she'll never forget.

Patricia Reilly Giff captures the yearning for a place to belong in this warmhearted story, which stresses the importance of artistic vision, creativity, and above all, family."

This is another book that I read for my YA Lit class.  I'm sad that it is coming to a close very soon...

It's a very quick read.  I finished it in 2-3 days without losing sleep over trying to finish it (day three consisted of over a hundred of those pages read).  Patricia Reilly Giff has a very easy-to-read writing style and I think that that really helped the story move along.

What was really frustrating for me was the fact that certain things weren't explained or shown in the book, or at least it felt that way.  For example, the author keeps saying that Hollis is mean and that no one likes her, but she gives us no evidence to support this.  It's beyond me why no one likes Hollis.  Sure, she's snotty sometimes, but what twelve-year-old isn't?  It is beyond me why she has no friends.  It frustrates me when authors think that just because they say something is so in their story that it is so.  In a way, that's true, but then you have to convince your readers that what you're saying is truth.

I also hate it when Hollis keeps saying that the accident is her fault.  I don't think that this is her fault and I don't think this is Steven's fault.  Sure, Hollis probably shouldn't have been on top of the mountain and Steven shouldn't have been driving at age twelve or thirteen, but in the end, neither of the two had any intention of this accident happening.  No one pushed the car over the side of the mountain.  I'm struggling to place blame on either of these characters because I'm not convinced that either are completely responsible.

Maybe these are things that I wouldn't think about or wasn't supposed to think about in middle school... (this is a middle school-level read).

Luckily, there are some redeeming features that made this book less annoying.

For example, the Regan family.  They were so loving and forgiving of Hollis.  We know that from the beginning of the book all Hollis really desires is a family.  And the Regans are just perfect for her.

Overall, this book is definitely meant for a younger audience, so if you're in middle school or are simply looking for a book with a happy ending, this would be a good read for you.

I give 'Pictures of Hollis Woods':
Thanks for Reading!


Thursday, March 14, 2013

Living Life Like Henry David Thoreau

I'm taking a philosophy class this semester and it has been one of the greatest experiences I've ever had.  It's so interesting!  No matter how warm that classroom has gotten (and it's gotten pretty warm in there), I have never felt the urge to take a nap!

For the past 2-3 weeks we've been talking about Henry David Thoreau (we've since moved on to Tolstoy).  I'm writing a paper on him right now (I'm taking a break from that paper to continue writing about him here, I guess.  Interesting distraction method, Jude!) where I'm being asked to explain what his version of a philosopher looks like.  It looks a lot like Socrates' version of a philosopher, but it has been modernized (relatively).  But that's not what I wanted to tell you about.  I want to talk to you about the wee crush I have on him.

As we read a few chapters of his book Walden, we've been learning that he believes we aren't nearly present enough in our lives.  Sure, we're physically present, but how often are we truly aware that we are alive?  In class, we talked about moments when we truly knew that we were alive.  I could think of two moments right away.

I have this vague memory of when I was between the ages of six and eight when I stopped, looked around the room, and realized that everything was real and that I was alive-- a living, breathing, human being.  If I remember correctly, up until that point I thought it was just one long movie.

The second memory is in the more recent past.  It was when I was standing on top of the Eiffel Tower about a year ago and I was looking out over Paris, having just walked up as much of the Eiffel Tower that we could (which is two levels, and then if you want to get to the very top, you need to take an elevator).  Even though it was a little bit foggy, the sun was still a burst of light through the clouds and I could look down and see herds of Parisians and tourists, just mere ants below my feet.  That's when I had that moment of clarity: I am here.  I am in France, on top of the Eiffel Tower, hundreds of miles away from home.  I am on the cusp of starting the next chapter in my life and I can't think of a better way to ring it in.  I am truly alive!

It sounds so cliche, but I feel like this information was presented to me in such a way that it wasn't.  It was just about the coolest thing I've ever learned in a classroom setting.  I felt like I was falling in love again.

I want to live my life more like Thoreau.  That's the point I wanted to make with this post.

So now, I'm eager to read more Thoreau and keep delving into philosophy (I have to take either one theology class and two philosophy classes or two theology classes and one philosophy class as my core requirement for school, so I think I will take another philosophy class... but I'll save it for study abroad!).  I'm  considering doing a philosophy minor, just because it's so darn interesting.  And I have two "useful" majors, so ha!

Any way... Thanks for Reading!


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

A Review of 'American Born Chinese' by Gene Luen Yang

"Three very different characters.

One simple goal:

To fit in.

Jin Wang starts at a new school where he's the only Chinese-American student.  When a boy from Taiwan joins his class, Jin doesn't want to be associated with an FOB (Fresh Off the Boat) like him.  Jin just wants to be an all-American boy, because he's in love with an all-American girl.  Danny is an all-American boy: great at basketball, popular with the girls.  But his obnoxious Chinese cousin Chin-Kee's annual visit is such a disaster that it ruins Danny's reputation at school, leaving him with no choice but to transfer somewhere he can start all over again.  The Monkey King has lived for thousands of years and mastered the arts of kung fu and the heavenly disciplines.  He's ready to join the ranks of the immortal gods in heaven.  But there's no place in heaven for a monkey.  Each of these characters cannot help himself alone, but how can they possibly help each other?  They're going to have to find a way-- if they want to fix the disasters their lives have become."

I haven't been terribly interested in graphic novels in the past, but lately, they've been super cool and I've wanted to read more of them.  I'm currently in the middle of Watchmen by Alan Moore, but that'll be a review for another time.  I just finished this book, which was another book for my YA Lit class.  May I just say, I love how much of a variety of reads we've been assigned!

I had heard of this book prior to this class, but I think I blew it off because it was a graphic novel.  I would not recommend that you do that.  It's really a great read!  It's uses a different kind of brain power than it does to read your average novel, since you have to take in both words and pictures simultaneously.

I really liked that there were three distinct story lines and I like that they were each told in a different way.  One plot line revolved around Chin-Kee, a very obnoxious cousin of the character named Danny.  Another revolved around the Monkey King, who masters all forms of Kung Fu and believes that he is better than the creator.  The last plot centers on Gin, who tries to find his place in both Chinese and American culture.  All of these plots come together by the end of the book and it makes for a really cool ending!

There is very little that I didn't like about this book.  I didn't like Chin-Kee, for example, but you're not supposed to like him.  Not really...

Overall, I thought the book was creative, well-written, and well-choreographed (if books can be choreographed).

I give 'American Born Chinese':
Thanks for Reading!


Friday, March 8, 2013

Follow Friday and Blog Hop!

So, I haven't done one of these in a while, but I thought that I'd do one for this weekend, just for fun!

Follow Friday is brought to you by Parajunkee and Alison at Alison Can Read and the Blog Hop is now (as of 15 February) brought to you by Billy at Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer.  Alright then, let's get to it!

What is a book that you didn't like that all of your friends raved about or what book did you love that wasn't popular?

I remember reading two books entitled 'The People in Pineapple Place' and 'Ghost Boy.'  Each of these books I remember reading years and years ago and only once, I think.  But I remember them.  They've stuck with me all this time.  I think I need to find these books.  I'd like to become reacquainted, plus they are two books that I would like to review and share with the world.  Here's what they look like:

"The People in Pineapple Place" by Anne Lindbergh

"Ghost Boy" by Iain Lawrence

(Click the links above to go to their Good Reads pages!)

What is your favorite book set in a different country than the one you live in?

Immediately, I think of Harry Potter (as Billy did) but let me see if I can think of another... well, right now I'm reading and really enjoying a book called "Cinder" which takes place in New Beijing, so I can only assume that this book takes place in China (in the future, no less).  I don't know if it's my favorite yet, but I'm really enjoying it now!

What are your answers to these questions?  Feel free to leave a comment down below with the address to your blog and I will try my best to come and visit you this weekend!

Thanks for Reading!