Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Book Review: Someone Like You by Sarah Dessen

Title: Someone Like You
Author: Sarah Dessen
Publisher: Penguin
Publication Date: May 1, 2004
Source: won in a giveaway

Summary from Goodreads

Halley has always followed in the wake of her best friend, Scarlett. But when Scarlett learns that her boyfriend has been killed in a motorcycle accident, and that she's carrying his baby, she was devastated. For the first time ever, Scarlett really needs Halley. Their friendship may bend under the weight, but it'll never break--because a true friendship is a promise you keep forever.

My Review:

I won this book in a giveaway sometime last year, and I profusely apologize to the blogger who sent it to me (along with another Dessen novel)...because I didn't make a note of it, and I haven't a clue who it was at this point.  Sorry, fellow blogger!  Please reveal yourself if you happen to read this!  :)

This review will be rather short, because Someone Like You struck me as very run-of-the-mill, cliche young adult lit.  That's not to say that it's a bad book.  I think it will appeal to YA audiences, especially the younger age groups in that market (late middle school/early high school).  But there's nothing unique or memorable here--I will likely forget this book within a couple of months.  (I will put money on it, especially because I've read two other Dessen books in the past--This Lullaby and Lock and Key--and couldn't tell you the faintest detail about them.)

Wow, that's not really the best way to get you interested in this novel, is it?  Like I said, despite it's blase feel as a whole, I still had fun reading it.  Halley is negotiating relationships with a lot of different people here--her mother, her best friend, her boyfriend, etc.  I liked that Dessen didn't always make Halley the "good guy" (and conversely, her antagonists were not always the "bad guys").  Halley screwed up just as much as they did.  Lots of teachable moments here for the teen audience.

That said, the ultimate outcomes were very predictable, and the ending was rather disappointing.  I felt like it ended a bit too early--the characters all went through a rather momentous event, and then it just ended.  I don't mind open-ended conclusions (as you all know), but this one was too clunky, not purposeful.

Overall: a nice way to pass the time, but Someone Like You isn't anything to write home about.

This was my fourth pick from the TBR Book Baggie! My next pick from the baggie is:

The Memory of Love by Linda Olsson!

I have no idea how I got this book on my shelf.  I think it was from a publisher, long ago?  But it's not an ARC, so I'm not entirely sure.  Ah well, looks interesting anyway...

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Apparently I'm a fickle mistress. E-Books vs. Paper!

Happy Sunday, reader friends!  I have a small point of discussion that I'd like to bat around with you today.

I've been reading The Blonde by Anna Godbersen for a couple of weeks now.  Usually, it would be odd for a relatively short novel such as this to be taking so much time for me to read.  Especially an ARC copy that I specifically requested through Edelweiss (which I don't often do).  But despite my best efforts, I am positively slogging through this thing.  Only 30% complete in the last two weeks, and it's looking more and more like this could be a DNF.

What's that, you say??  Kelly might have her SECOND DNF of the year?  I know, you're beside yourself with the horror.  I'm just far too type-A to not finish books most of the time, but I do feel like this might be the second case in recent months.

That said, part of me is starting to suspect that my disappointment in both this novel and June's The Hollow Ground can't be entirely attributed to the contents of the books themselves.  It's still primarily that, but...perhaps a little bit of it is influenced by the format.  Because you see, these two books were the last two that I read in Kindle format.

That's right.  I'm afraid I might be practicing Kindle discrimination.  Kindle-ism?  Whatever.  Either way, it's no good.

I know I often sing the praises of my Kindle, especially the Paperwhite.  The back light!  The "time left to read" counter!  The 3G capabilities!  And it absolutely helped me survive late-night feedings when Tater Tot was a newborn.
Totally me 6 months ago.
However, I think I reached a stage of Kindle burnout a few months back.  Early in the summer, I went to the library for the first time in a while, and took out a stack of real, honest-to-goodness, PAPER books.  And you know what?  IT FELT AWESOME.  A real book in my hand!  Using a bookmark again!  And of course, BOOK SMELL!  Yes, they're unwieldy at times, and they make night reading a challenge if you forget your book light, but this summer has been one of happy paper book reading for me.
True dat.
Due to this shift in preference, I've found it much harder to read on my Kindle lately.  It just doesn't hold my attention the way a paper book does, if that makes any sense at all.  And while I don't think this means the two recent DNF novels were actually amazing and their electronic format was all to blame, I do think it made an already mediocre novel feel even worse.

I'm not sure what to think of this.  Is my Kindle-averse tendency just a temporary thing?  Will I get my electronic mojo back soon?  Or is it a matter of circumstance--when I'm in a place where the Kindle will help me read easier, perhaps that's when I'll fall in love again?

What say you, readers?  What are your thoughts on ebook vs. paper formats?  Do you prefer one over the other, or does your love flipflop in both directions?  Do you feel like book format influences your feelings about a novel?

*Many other bloggers have tackled this issue as well!  One post that comes to mind is Rinn's over at Rinn Reads.  Any other bloggers have a post that they've contributed to this topic?

Monday, September 8, 2014

Book Review: The Three by Sarah Lotz

Title: The Three
Author: Sarah Lotz
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publication Date: May 20, 2014
Source: borrowed from the good ol' public library

Summary from Goodreads

The world is stunned when four commuter planes crash within hours of each other on different continents. Facing global panic, officials are under pressure to find the causes. With terrorist attacks and environmental factors ruled out, there doesn't appear to be a correlation between the crashes, except that in three of the four air disasters a child survivor is found in the wreckage.

Dubbed 'The Three' by the international press, the children all exhibit disturbing behavioural problems, presumably caused by the horror they lived through and the unrelenting press attention. This attention becomes more than just intrusive when a rapture cult led by a charismatic evangelical minister insists that the survivors are three of the four harbingers of the apocalypse. The Three are forced to go into hiding, but as the children's behaviour becomes increasingly disturbing, even their guardians begin to question their miraculous survival.

My Review:

I first heard about The Three a few weeks ago from Julie over at Book Hooked Blog.  She posted about it on Instagram, and I was like, "A book about plane crashes and conspiracy! Count me in!" (I'm so morbid.)  My interest was piqued though, so I ran off to the library for a copy.  I was NOT disappointed.  This is potentially one of my favorite reads of 2014.

The Three utilizes a lot of varied literary elements that, when put together, create a unique novel that is fast-paced, suspenseful, and thought-provoking.  Unusual format + suspense/horror + political unrest + open-ended conclusion = this book.

The first thing you'll notice is the journalistic format (similar to World War Z).  The story is told through news articles, interviews, chat room transcripts, etc.  This is responsible for the fast pace, as each "chapter" is quite short, and you've got a steady stream of new information coming at you all the time, not to mention a wide variety of different perspectives to draw from.

Genre-wise, this book melts into several different categories.  I've heard some say horror, but I didn't find the material "horrific" enough to fully justify that description.  However, it is definitely suspenseful and creepy, because disturbing children are ALWAYS creepy (a la The Uninvited by Liz Jensen).  Alongside those eerie details, you also have a conspiracy going on that brings in political, religious, and moral questions, so you have to be ready to take your sinister leanings with a side of philosophical arguing.  This is what makes the book into more of a "literary thriller" and really got my wheels turning as I was reading it.

Finally, you've got the ending.  Based on the commentary I've seen on Goodreads, this is arguably the make-or-break issue for a lot of readers of The Three.  For me, it definitely MADE the book.  Yes, it is open-ended, and every little detail is not neatly wrapped up.  However, I don't think this novel was ever meant to end that way.  It was making me think from the very beginning, so why wouldn't it keep that up at the end?  Lotz gives you just enough detail in the final pages to allow you to extrapolate your own conclusions, and leave you thinking about the what-ifs for a good long while afterwards.  Honestly, I STILL have no freaking clue what happened, but I have a lot of ideas rolling around in my head, and the time I'm taking to agonize over all of them is entertainment enough.

Simply put, The Three was a truly impressive read.  I couldn't read it fast enough, it was creepy creepy creepy, and I loved the moral questions that were posed throughout.  MORE LIKE THIS, PLEASE.

What say you, readers: do you like an open-ended conclusion to a novel?  Or does that just drive you batty?

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Small Fry Saturday #24: My Bus by Byron Barton

Hey there readers!  Small Fry Saturday is back!  WOOOOOO!!

As you may remember, Small-Fry Saturday is a when-I-feel-like-it meme to showcase some of books that my 3-year-old Small Fry is currently reading.  Feel free to do a SFS post on your blog (with the graphic above) or leave a comment below about your favorite kiddie reads.

This week's selection is...

My Bus by Byron Barton

Small Fry Saturday should now probably be called "Potato Product Saturday", because I'm considering the reading needs of both 3-year-old Small Fry AND 9-month-old Tater Tot.  This is tough to do, because I like to read to them at the same time, but Small Fry is able to sit through a lot of lengthier picture books now, while Tater Tot is decidedly...not.

However, Barton's My Bus has proven to be a great option for both kiddos.  Small Fry loves it because he is straight-up obsessed with anything bus/truck/car related (he actually picked this one out from the library on his own).  And Tater Tot's attention was held because the book is short, and the pictures are big and bright (perfect for little wandering baby eyes).  I like it because in addition to meeting Small Fry's requirement for involving something with wheels, it also teaches a lot about numbers as the passengers get on and off the bus.

A bonus is that the Goodreads summary for this book describes it as a "preschool tour-de-force".  Summary writer WIN.

Barton has a similar book called My Car that the kids were equally delighted with.  I think it might be time to buy these, rather than just continually borrowing from the library!

Do you have any favorite kids' books that work well for both babies and preschoolers?

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

August 2014 in Review

Ah, September.  That means 2 things:

1. Summer is nearly over, but that's okay because
2. September is my birthday and our wedding anniversary.  Woohoo!

Yes indeed, September is one of my very favorite months.  Not only for the two reasons listed above, but because I do love the onset of fall.  Cuz let's face it: warm weather is awesome, but sometimes it's nice when the weather gets cooler, you can wear jeans, and you don't have to shave your legs every five seconds. #realtalk

This summer has been pretty great though.  We went to our friends' camp in the Adirondacks a couple weeks ago with the kids, and it was a blast.  Bonfires, smores, kayaking, fishing, boat rides on the lake...YES PLEASE.  It was an awesome way to cap off a summer full of outdoorsy goodness.
Kayaking with mah boy
Plus, I somehow managed to be more present on the blog!  Let's recap August...

In August I read 3 books:
Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl

I also talked about books that I kinda sorta don't want to read, and celebrated my 2 year blogoversary.  WOOP.

September will be crazy, because Small Fry is starting preschool (somebody get me my fainting couch), I have the two super-fun "holidays" that I mentioned above, and I'm running my half marathon.  (Related: if there are no posts here after September 21st, please begin a search for my sore, creaky-kneed body somewhere on the half marathon race course.)  All joking aside though, I'm pretty stoked for it.  Stay tuned for a race report!

Bookishly, I'm planning to read my next TBR Book Baggie pick (Someone Like You by Sarah Dessen), and...I have no idea what else.  Isn't that lovely??  Perhaps I'll attack something on my 30 before 35's in need of some attention.

How was your summer, friends?  What's up next on your reading list?

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Book Review: Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl

Title: Special Topics in Calamity Physics
Author: Marisha Pessl
Publisher: Penguin
Publication Date: August 3, 2006
Source: borrowed from the good ol' public library

Summary from Goodreads

Marisha Pessl's mesmerizing debut has critics raving and heralds the arrival of a vibrant new voice in American fiction. At the center of this "cracking good read" is clever, deadpan Blue van Meer, who has a head full of literary, philosophical, scientific, and cinematic knowledge. But she could use some friends. Upon entering the elite St. Gallway school, she finds some--a clique of eccentrics known as the Bluebloods. One drowning and one hanging later, Blue finds herself puzzling out a byzantine murder mystery. Nabokov meets Donna Tartt (then invites the rest of the Western Canon to the party) in this novel-with "visual aids" drawn by the author-that has won over readers of all ages.

My Review:

In case you haven't noticed, it's become a bit of a pet project of mine to read through the books listed in this article that I mentioned a few weeks ago: 'We Were Liars' and 8 Other Books You'll Love if you Were Shocked By The Twist in 'Gone Girl'.  Because who wasn't shocked by the twist in Gone Girl?  I've had more than my share of "blah" reads this year, and I figured this list would be a good pick-me-up.  So far, I've not been disappointed.

Special Topics in Calamity Physics is a one-of-a-kind read.  The novel opens with our protagonist, Blue Van Meer, informing us of her teacher's suicide.  Blue formats her narrative like a college syllabus for an English class, largely due to the influence of her father (a professor).  As we go through each literature-inspired chapter, Blue attempts to discover the truth behind her teacher's suicide, but ends up with much more than she bargained for.

There's so much that I love about this novel, but I feel like each stellar point comes with a caveat.  For example: I loved Blue's character.  She has a great way with words, a nearly photographic memory, and is hilarious (often without meaning to be).  She's wise beyond her years, but still struggles with a typical high school need to fit in.  However, despite my love of Blue, I continually felt annoyed by the verbosity of her narrative.  She uses 10 words (or 10 paragraphs from a classic novel) when one would do.  But I TOTALLY GET why she is so wordy.  She's brilliant, she's memorized nearly every book she's ever read, and the writing style reflects that.  If it didn't, you'd have a completely different character.  But even though I completely understand why that was necessary, it was just too much at times, as I felt myself going cross-eyed at her long-winded explanations.  Appreciating it doesn't mean that I always enjoyed it, I suppose.

Similarly, we have the central mystery of the story.  In the end, I was astounded with how well everything came together.  This book is CHOCK FULL of details...really, really minute details (see above paragraph).  Given that, it is impressive how cohesively Pessl was able to wrap them up at the end of the book.  (There is even a "Final Exam" in the last chapter that leaves you with a few interesting points to ponder.)

However, despite the awesomeness of how the ending was crafted, I was a little bit annoyed with the specifics of the conclusion.  The background of the big "reveal" is something that is not alluded to at all earlier in the book, so much so that Blue spends many pages filling us in on historical details late in the novel that are relevant to this game changer.  I get a tad irked when a mystery novel takes such a drastic turn that it starts to feel like something got unnecessarily dropped on me out of left field.  Twists are a good thing, but completely out-of-the-blue plot details that require enormous explanations towards the end of the book?  The story starts to lose its seamless feel when that happens.

Apparently I shouldn't complain about Blue being too wordy, because I'm fairly guilty of that myself in this review.  But my final verdict is this: Special Topics in Calamity Physics is immersive.  Blue's tendency to ramble may make you leery in the first chapter or two, but push through that introduction, and I promise you'll be in for quite the ride.  Despite my misgivings about the direction the novel took in the last 150-ish pages, there are some great twists here, and it will most definitely keep you up til the wee hours wanting to see how it ends.

What was the last good mystery you enjoyed, friends?

Sunday, August 24, 2014

My 2nd Blogoversary! Giveaway! WHOOP WHOOP

Good day to you, reader friends!  Yes, it has been two whole years since I started this bookish adventure at The Well-Read Redhead.  CELEBRATION TIME, YO!

In the last year, I've posted 53 book reviews...not as good as the 98 of my first year, but I'll still pat myself on the back, considering that I've moved (twice), left my job, and had baby #2 within the last 365 days.  Thanks for tagging along for one of the craziest years of my life!

I know things slowed a lot around here lately, but I SO appreciate all of my readers, and I hope you have as much fun in my literary corner of the internet as I do.  I'm looking forward to more good times in year 3...who's with me??

In honor of all my wonderful followers, I am offering a giveaway.  And it's INTERNATIONAL!  Just fill out the Rafflecopter below, and you'll be entered to win $10 from Amazon to use towards the book of your choosing.  I know, controversy with authors etc etc etc, but whatever.  Don't look a gift horse in the mouth, peeps!

If the winner is from the US, I will also throw in 2-3 books off my shelves that I'm looking to give away.  Except I haven't decided which ones are going yet, so it will be a glorious surprise for the winner!
Your face if you win the surprise box of books.  YUP.
Thanks again all...and keep on reading with me!
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