Saturday, June 28, 2014

Me & YA

There's been a lot of talk lately in the book blogging community about YA and the adults that read it thanks to this article on Slate. A lot of book blogs I read tend to focus around YA books, and a majority of the people who write those blogs are older than the intended audience for these reads. It had me thinking a lot about my own relationship with YA and how it has changed over the years and my thoughts and feelings on it now. So let's talk...

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I did not read YA hardly ever as a teenager. Occasionally I would pick up a Meg Cabot or Sarah Dessen book and I devoured the Gossip Girl series, but for the most part I thought that YA was really corny and I had a hard time relating to it. Most of the books I checked out from the library as a teenager came from the fiction section and was primarily geared towards adults. I was more drawn to 'adult' books because, like most teenage girls, I thought I was 'mature,' dammit. High school was also the time when the Twilight series started gaining popularity, and I did not want to be lumped in with the Team Edward and Team Jacob hoard of teenage girls. I also liked the stories in fiction a lot more, they were more intense and gripping for me, and I liked that more than boy problems.

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About two years into college, I started reading a few YA books. Mostly of the John Green variety that came as recommendations from my sister. One day, in a reading slump, I picked up I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone by Stephanie Kuehnert and loved it. It was exactly a book I would have loved as a teenager. It was gritty and filled with punk rock. After reading what YA had the potential of being (aka: not just boyfriend dramas), I signed up for her YA writing class at my college. In her class, her reading list exposed me to gems such as The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. These books turned me into a believer. They were written as if for adults, and had the types of hard hitting subjects that I loved in literary fiction as a high schooler. Reading these books then got me into reading Goodreads reviews of them, and finding booktube videos about them, blogs about them, and eventually inspired me to start my own blog (this one, duh!)
Am I embarrassed about reading YA as an adult? Hell naw! There are so many things to love about YA. They are easier and quicker to read than a lot of other fiction. Because publishing companies are in the push to get teenagers to want to read, a lot of YA books are publicized heavily and come with a lot of fun promotional items. When Since You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson came out, people were getting heart shaped sunglasses with their pre-orders. At BEA, people were getting hoodies along with the release of City of Heavenly Fire by Cassandra Clare. Etcetera. There is a lot of fun opportunities for promoting and enticing teens to read, and there's a ton of build up for new releases. Adult fiction usually comes with less fanfare, and honestly I barely know what the new releases are unless it's by an author I've established a love for (Wally Lamb, JK Rowling, Rainbow Rowell, etc). I also love the discussion that surrounds YA novels. People create fan art for their favorite characters, playlists for their favorite books, and so on. I know that if I'm flailing over a new John Green book or something, there are a thousand other people doing the same thing and we connect over that. The fan art and fun extras is also not something that happens regularly in literary fiction unless it becomes a TV show or movie. 
Over-saturation? Is that a thing? This almost contradicts what I love about YA, too. I wish that literary fiction came with the same fanfare as YA, and that it got as much credit and exposure. I watched a thing on TV about TFIOS, and it showed John Green walking outside of a building, and there was a HUGE crowd of screaming girls begging for autographs and selfies. YA authors have more exposure and celebrity, and literary fiction authors are still thought of as heavy drinking hermits without faces and don't get that same kind of attention even though they are just as worthy. It is also very hard for me to find blogs and YouTube channels that review literary fiction because of the intense popularity of the genre. Which is great, but at the same time I start to see the same handful of books and new releases over and over again. Also, I've noticed that, mostly in BookTube videos, when a reviewer branches out from YA, they are 'shocked' and 'uncomfortable' by average sex scenes in books, even though they are adults? Sometimes married ones? 
When I first started The Lit Girl, my goal was to make literary fiction and classics seem more fun to my age group. The handful of blogs reviewing literary fiction that I found were very drab and unappealing in design, or the reviews were very educated and not the kind of quick or engaging read that is often found on blogs that review YA. If anyone has been here for the last year and a half, you'll remember I launched this blog in the middle of a two month long read of Cancer Ward by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. I also reviewed or talked about the memoirs and fiction I was reading for fun, and the classics I was reading for school. As I became more interested in YA, I started watching more videos and reading more blogs and eventually I became more drawn to the books that everyone else was talking about and recommending. After all, a lot of reviewers are awesome and I'm fans of so many of them, and I trust their recommendations so I became like a moth to the flame! YA is quicker for me to read, which means my review turn around becomes much faster if I read YA instead of literary fiction all the time. Also, the majority of the galleys I'm approved for are in the YA genre. 
Lately I've found myself wanting to get back to my original goals with The Lit Girl, and try to create more excitement around literary fiction in the book blogging world. I want to make these books seem more enticing and less daunting or intimidating. BUT I still want to read YA and get sucked into their stories and fandoms. I've been reading more literary fiction lately, but there are tons of new YA releases that I am excited about, and still plan on reading and maybe reviewing. Expect to see more books for adults though, and my attempts to hype them up a lot more, and maybe some older or lesser discussed YA books that seem to be forgotten about these days.

What is your relationship with YA like? Would you be interested in reading more literary fiction reviews?

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Review: The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson

The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson
Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Publication Date: January 7, 2014
Page Count: 391
Source/Format: Library book!
Keywords: mental illness, PTSD, soldier

After too many tours overseas, Hayley's father Andy returns with a bad leg and the incapability to stay in one place for to long. To escape the demons that have followed him back to American soil, he takes her with him around the country in a big rig. Five years later, he decides it's finally time to settle into a normal life. It's hard to be "normal" with Hayley's life. Years on the road have stripped her knowledge of 'The Rules' with her peers, and she is more of a parent to her father than her father is to her. She is the only one that's there to stand by him as he suffers through intense night terrors and when his temper goes sour. As he turns to drugs and alcohol, she starts to wonder how much a daughter is supposed to be able to take from her father, and at what price?
A few days after we moved in, Daddy got unstuck from time again, like the Pilgrim guy in Slaughterhouse. The past took over. All he heard were exploding IEDs and incoming mortar rounds; all he saw were body fragments, like an unattached leg still wearing its boot, and shards of shiny bones, sharp as spears. All he tasted was blood.
These attacks (he'd have killed me if I used that work in front of him, but it was the only one that fit) had been getting worse for months. They were the only reason I went along with his ridiculous plan to quit trucking and settle down into a so-called "normal life." I let him think that he was right, that spending my senior year in a high school instead of riding shotgun in his big rig was a practical and exciting idea.
Truth? I was terrified.
So far I've only read two of Laurie Halse Anderson's novels, and it's been a mixed bag. I loved the powerful and emotional Speak, but was kinda sorta disappointed by Prom. Before The Impossible Knife of Memory came out, there was a lot of hype surrounding it, and it definitely seemed like it was more in the vein of her book that I loved so much. When I saw it at the library a couple of weeks ago, I HAD to give it a try. I started it last night and finished it this morning. With both of her books before, regardless of my feelings about them, I was able to fly through them, and this was the same. Anderson's novels just have a great flow to them and perfect pacing that makes them hard to put down. Even in moments where something dramatic wasn't happening, there was some engaging dialogue to pull the story along. And after reading the clunky dialogue in The Whole Golden World, I appreciated the witty and natural dialogue between the characters in this story. I was also happy that we were carried through a range of emotions, and didn't linger too hard or too long on intense moments. For every scene that made my eyes prick with tears, there was a scene that made me laugh out loud. Sometimes in the thick of an emotional scene, there would be something or a remark from someone that would make me chuckle or roll my eyes before I went back to wanting to cry.
"No!" I stood up. "And now you're all 'I'm the dad' but it doesn't mean anything because all you do is sit on your ass and drink. You're not a after, you're--"
He grabbed the front of my sweatshirt. I gasped. His jaw was clenched tight. The bonfire danced in his eyes. I had to say something to calm him down, but he looked so far gone I wasn't sure he'd hear me. He tightened his grip, pulling me up on my tiptoes. His free hand was balled into a fist. He had never hit me before, not once.
The wind shifted, swirling the smoke around us.
I braced myself. 
For the first little while, I really liked our narrator Hayley. A lot of the time she is closed off or cruel, but we can definitely understand where she is coming from. Her mother died when she was a baby, leaving her to be raised by her grandmother and her father's girlfriend, an alcoholic named Trish who eventually splits and fills Hayley with distrust and hostility. I appreciated Hayley's witty remarks and sometimes playful cruelty, because I knew there was a reason behind it. About halfway through the book, I started to see that she has a lot of misplaced anger. At one point, in the school parking lot, her love interest, Finn, blatantly ogles a girl in a miniskirt, with Hayley and their friends right next to him. Their friend is quick to defend Finn by saying that he was "thinking with his other head." The defense was unnecessary, though, because instead of being mad at her boyfriend's wandering eye, she gets pissed at the girl for having the audacity to wear a miniskirt to school and being a slutty bitch. Then there's Trish. SPOILERS AHEAD!!: Trish is Hayley's father's ex-girlfriend, and the target for a lot of her hatred. Even her name and the thought of her influence over her father is enough to send Hayley into a panic attack. We learn that Trish was an alcoholic and a cheater who left during a particularly awful argument with Hayley's father. As Andy's mental health deteriorates in the present, Trish makes a reappearance to try and help Andy heal. Trish admits her wrong doing to Hayley, apologizes, and the progress in her life is evident. She's sober now and has a degree and a job. After all of this, and all of the help Trish offers to Hayley and her father, Hayley still saves her number in her phone as 'Bitch.' It took too long for her relationship with Trish to evolve into something positive. END SPOILERS.
Things were complicated even more by the fact that there was something weird about Finn. Not zombie weird. He was more of a cyborg with a vivid imagination. But he'd spent enough time around the zombies to adopt some of their ways. He knew The Rules. I didn't. 
The love interest, Finn, left a lot of mixed feelings. His entrance into Hayley's world was very sudden. It was like he just showed up one day and decided he wanted to be her boyfriend pretty quickly. There was no build-up to his dedication to her. He met her, and then was relentless in his attempts to get her attention or spend time with her. Especially with her unique (read: closed-off) way of dealing with people that aren't her father or her best friend Gracie, I was surprised that there was something about her that hooked him right away. Once he was there though, I appreciated his presence. Besides the mini-skirt incidence. He tells funny calculus jokes. He gives her opportunities to trust him, and his loyalty is unwavering. Even more, he has several run-in's with Andy when he is in the middle of a breakdown and is undeterred. He challenged Hayley and pushed her out of her comfort zone, and I thought that was important given the fact that she walks on egg shells at home.
One side of my heart tha-thumped like I was a little kid and he'd just come home and I could run across the hangar floor when the order releasing the troops was shouted, and Daddy would pick me up so I could hug him around the neck and, nose to nose, look into his sky-colored eyes and tell him that I missed him so much. The other side of my heart froze in panic because now I was old enough to understand where he got that limp and why he screamed in his sleep and that something inside him was broken. I didn't know how to fix it or if it could be fixed.
Andy was the perfect example of being able to like unlikeable character's. I feared him throughout the majority of this novel. We witness several times his intense mood swings, and the delicate way that Hayley has to choose her words around him. He's prone to violence and indulges himself in heavy drinking and marijuana. Throughout the book, there are snippets told from Andy's perspective. These illustrate the things he saw when he was overseas fighting in the war, and helps us gain extra insight as to how deep his PTSD goes. Anderson's use of a returned soldier was timely and eye-opening. We see him at his high moments and at his very, very low moments, and even though I was terrified of him, I was rooting for him to pull through and get the help he needed to carry out a productive life.

The Impossible Knife of Memory was timely and intense. Anderson does not shy away from showing how Andy's PTSD affects Hayley, and how deep and bad it can get. I thoroughly enjoyed the witty banter between Hayley and her friends, but Hayley's misplaced anger and hostility in a couple of scenes turned me off to her. Anderson's pacing in this novel was brilliant, and she perfectly layered scene's to give us an even mix of emotions, which made this book unputdownable.
Have you read this yet? What did you think? 

What TFIOS means to me.

I've written a few times on here how hard The Fault in Our Stars by John Green hit home for me as a thyroid cancer survivor. Of course, with the movie coming out, there is a lot of new discussions about the book, and the fact that John Green used cancer patients as the stars of a romance story. The criticisms about a fiction story revolving around two kids with cancer really got me thinking, and what came out of it was this piece. Writing has always been my therapy, and I sat down one night and hammered out my story, and tried to articulate why this novel, and consequently the film, have had such a positive influence on me and my recovery. I'm so grateful wanted to publish my piece on their site, and have been overwhelmed by the feedback I've received so far from people who are fighting cancer, have overcome cancer, or who haven't had cancer, but gained a new perspective on what this story could mean to someone. I've been walking on clouds the past couple of days.
If you would like to read the story, please click here!

Thank you for reading! I hope you are all having an A+ weekend!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Fault in Our Stars Movie Thoughts!

To say I was nervous about seeing the movie adaptation of The Fault in Our Stars is an understatement. This book was very special to me when it came out because our main girl, Hazel, suffers from thyroid cancer like I did when I was her age! I prepared myself by re-reading the book before the movie came out, and when I started crying at the end, I knew that I was in for a 2 hour block of chest pains in the theater. Naturally, I rounded up my boyfriend and warned him that he should be ready to cry. I also gathered my tissues because duh. The two hours of the movie went exactly as I expected. A lot of tears slipping loose, and a sore jaw from clenching my teeth so I wouldn't bust out into ugly cries in public.

What I Loved: 
1) This adaptation stayed so faithful to the book it's insane. I was super surprised by how on point this movie was compared to the book. Since I had just re-read the book, I had all of Augustus' witty remarks fresh in my brain, and I embarrassingly found myself whispering along when he said, "I'm on a roller coaster that only goes up, my friend." A lot of the dialogue was quoted word for word from the book, which was fabulous because there's a lot of good stuff in the book.

2) Ansel Elgort. The last time I did a movie thoughts post, it was on Divergent and the most I had to say about Ansel Elgort was that I appreciated his awkward running. Given the fact that Augustus has a prosthetic leg, there was no awkward running, but Elgort gave much more to appreciate in this role. I was charmed by him. Not only is he super cute, he delivered Augustus' musings and flirtations perfectly. He made me laugh multiple times, swoon multiple times, and cry over his heartbreaking acting during the G-Tube incident. Shailene Woodley was also a wonderful Hazel. She's very expressive, and sometimes her face said more than her words.

3) The inclusion of technology. A lot of Gus and Hazel's conversations happen via text message in the book, and there are the e-mails exchanged between Van Houten and the two of them. I thought the little pop-ups were totally cute and a fun way to include the technological aspect of their relationship into the movie.

4) Like the book, I like the way the film realistically approaches teens with cancer/going through tough shit in general. One of my favorite parts about TFIOS is that it's a story about teens with cancer that can be loved by teens who have/had cancer. I liked that the movie included real life cancer survivors in the support group, and how Hazel and Augustus don't always feel like they have to put on a strong face, which is something that's typically expected of people dealing with cancer. I also really, really loved seeing Isaac's character come to life. His heartbroken trophy breaking was spot on, and I felt super triumphant when he nails his ex-girlfriends car with a bunch of eggs!

What I Didn't Love As Much [SPOILERS AHEAD]: 

  • A lot of Augustus' illness was greatly condensed. In the book, we see a lot of really rough moments. The showed the G-Tube infection, which was perfectly executed. We don't see him piss the bed or watch his sense of humor go dark. I liked that the book went there, and was slightly disappointed that the movie didn't take us to that place either. Hollywood probably figured that if they included any more TOUGH STUFF, theaters all across America would be flooded with tears. 
  • I didn't hate Van Houten in the movie as much as I did in the book. This is another moment where the film was trying to protect the viewers, I think, as Van Houten says some truly despicable things when Hazel and Gus go to meet him. He gets a couple jabs in, but not as much as in the book. Also, I really like seeing his assistant RESIGN, and then take Gus and Hazel to the Anne Frank house. In the film, his assistant is clearly flustered, but does not take that extra step. 
  • No scars. After reading the book, where Hazel mentions having a radical neck dissection, I always pictured her having scars similar to mine. I won't tell you to Google image search it, because it's pretty gnarly, but thyroid surgery almost always leaves a scar, at least a little one. I do think it's awesome that she has her nasal cannula, but I was disappointed at the lack of scars for largely personal reasons. 

So yeah, I was super freaking happy with how The Fault in Our Stars was adapted to the big screen. It was practically quoted word for word, and Ansel Elgort nearly charmed the pants off of me with his brilliant portrayal of Augustus Waters. Shailene Woodley also broke my heart and made me laugh and I cried so many tears. LUCKILY, I was able to contain my ugly cry, and when I peeked over at my boyfriend, I definitely noticed some misty eyes. This movie made a grown man with a big ol' beard cry, so I think that's saying something :) 

Have you seen TFIOS yet? Are you planning on? 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Review: The Whole Golden World by Kirstina Riggle

The Whole Golden World by Kristina Riggle
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Publication Date: November 5, 2013
Page Count: 419
Source/Format: Library book!
Keywords: family drama, student-teacher relationship, marriage

Seventeen year old Morgan starts talking to TJ Hill after class one day. She likes that he treats her like the mature adult she believes she is. He likes that she sees him as some sort of hero. Their relationship slowly evolves into something more, testing the boundaries of what they each view a healthy relationship to be. The issue? Morgan is TJ's student, and he is a thirty year old married man. Their secret relationship depends on the women in each of their lives remaining oblivious. Morgan's mother, Dinah, is too wrapped up in her small business, rebellious twin son's, and a dissolving marriage to pay attention to the comings and goings of her honor student daughter. TJ's wife, Rain, hinges her happiness on ovulation cycles and TJ's ability to help her create a baby. When their case comes to trial, matters are made even more complicated when Morgan sit's on TJ's side, as a willing woman in love with an older man, instead of a victimized student. Told from the perspective of the three women, Morgan, Rain, and Dinah, all sides of this relationship are shown, and the different ways one relationship can shatter a community.
That quick, sad smile told her all she needed to know. Despite the courts saying it was a crime, despite her parents locking her down like she herself was a criminal, despite the gossip and vandals and spewing hate from random strangers...he loved her anyway. Against the odds and against all sense. She lifted her chin and straightened her shoulders, as if the orchestra conductor had just raised her baton.
The judge cleared his throat and the air in the room seemed to freeze, as everyone waited for it all to begin. 
I used to be a big Jodi Picoult fan in high school. I was always sucked into her highly dramatic novels that made me question my morals and her ability to create multiple sides to a story that mixes her readers up so they don't even know what they want to think until the very end. When I read the plot overview of The Whole Golden World by Kristina Riggle, I knew that this was something that was right up my alley. I was greatly intrigued by the three perspectives that we get to see this story unwind in. The perspective I was most looking forward to was Morgan's, since she is the one going through this affair with her teacher. I was actually kind of disappointed. We get snippets into her life. She writes dark poetry that she keeps secret from everyone else. She is an honor student. She plays the cello. She is like a second mom to her prematurely born twin brothers. She's an insomniac. Her ex-boyfriend is in TJ Hill's class with her. She has a scar that she is deeply self-conscious about. Yet, many details does not a round character make, and unfortunately I think she fell victim to her author trying to do too much with her. Why does she play cello and does she actually like it? Why is she still upset about her ex-boyfriend that dumped her quite a while ago and seemed to treat her like dirt? WHAT DOES HER SCAR LOOK LIKE? One thing that irked me was the fact that this facial scar is mentioned many times, is the subject of a lot of her poetry, and the source of her nightmares, yet we don't know what it looks like. We see where her scar comes from, and we know that she cakes it in makeup, but we don't know what it looks like. Everyone tells her that the scar isn't that bad, so I started to learn not to trust Morgan. That distrust grows stronger when she admits that much of her attraction to Mr. Hill is based on the fact that he treats her like an adult. Yet, with her mother pushing her to act like a second mother to her twin brothers, and her constant studying and amount of responsibility, I was surprised that this was something that she needed validation for. Her mood swings are often misguided, too. At one point, she gets in an argument with her best friend Ethan when he makes her feel like a fool over something that (to me) was fairly small. Yet she holds an intense grudge against her best friend that spans months. I was thinking that by the end of the novel I would have figured her out, but I didn't. My confusion over her motives and desires made it hard for me to care and feel sorry for her when the slander starts rolling in and things started falling apart.
She turned in the circle of his arms and tossed away her hairbrush, fitting herself to him. Lucky girl, her mother had said the day she got married, and Rain had agreed, that day and every day hence. I'm a lucky girl indeed.She reminded herself how exhausting it was for TJ to be the "fun teacher," the role he had chosen for himself. All day, every day, he had to be on, and up, and dialed "all the way up to eleven" as he put it, all the while maintaining a tricky balance between allowing just enough jovial fun without letting the classroom unravel into chaos.
My favorite character to follow along with was TJ's wife, Rain. Her character is an example in this novel where less is more. She is a yoga teacher, born from free-spirit parents, yet finds it hard to believe in the typical yogi rhetoric. And she desperately wants to be a mother. She struggles with her stubborn fertility and puts all of her energy into creating a baby with her husband. Rain isn't clouded by as many details as Morgan, and it was much easier for me to sympathize with her. We see her patience with TJ, and the hope she clings to when it comes to conceiving. While I was questioning why Morgan felt the need to pursue a teacher, I had no problems seeing how Rain was able to remain somewhat oblivious to her husband's infidelity. Rain was also on one of the bigger emotional rollercoasters in this book. Because her focus was so concentrated on becoming a mother, I felt more connected to her pursuit. Even though Rain does not realize her husband's affair until later on in the book, little hints from TJ were laced into her narrative, so we could see what was going on, but she couldn't yet bring herself to think the worst.
When Dinah flinched away from Morgan and stared at her own clenched hands, she began to picture herself as she must appear to everyone else: the failed mother, whose golden child turned out to be just another girl gone bad. Schadenfreude was already in full effect, Dinah knew, from the way the other mothers feel silent when she dared step into their presence, looking at her sideways from wary, skeptical eyes.
Her own mother had exclaimed, "How could you let this happen?" when she first heard, as if Dinah had mistakenly let Morgan off her leash.
Dinah had been outraged at the time and railed at her mother for the lack of support. But in the darkest hours of the night, Dinah continued to ask herself the very same question. 
Dinah fell into the same trap that her daughter did. She is surrounded by a lot of drama that I had a hard time letting myself get interested in. The main story at the heart of The Whole Golden World, is the affair between Morgan and TJ. Unlike in Rain's narrative, pieces of this affair were not sprinkled into Dinah's, which made her Call to Action come fairly late in the game. Up until she finds out about her daughter's illegal affair, we don't see anything about the story at hand. Instead we see her struggles as the business owner of a small cafe that is popular with the high school students. We watch her marriage with her husband, the assistant principal of Morgan's school, fall apart. And we watch as she flounders to keep control of her twin son's who have entered their first year of mainstream high school. I liked that Dinah owned a cafe, which put her in the heart of high school gossip, but it failed to serve any purpose until it becomes a place of slanderous vandalism. It would've been more effective for gossip about her daughter to bubble up in the cafe and trigger Dinah's hovering parental style to see what Morgan was up to. Her crumbling marriage also seemed more like  an attempt from Riggle to add more drama and stakes to the story, but it comes off as a cliche. They don't have as much fun as they used to. She fears infidelity on his end. She is jealous. Her marriage to a person of power within the high school where this affair unfolds also held a lot of potential, but even that was anti-climatic to me, because besides him coming home late and drinking a lot of beer, we really don't see much of him! A lot of Dinah's dialogue was clunky and unnatural, like she was giving a quotable speech every time she spoke. She did have a lot of passion, though, so I will have to give her a thumbs up for that.
It was all going exactly according to plan.
He leaned in for a kiss, and this time she dodged his morning breath but covered by tilting her head to kiss his neck next to his Adam's apple. A groan rumbled in his throat, and he briefly grabbed her hair.
Then he released her. "Bye, I'll get in touch when I can." He opened the door, and she stepped into the chilly garage.
One word rang in her mind as he swung the door shut behind her: dismissed
So if you quickly scrolled to the bottom of this (pretty lengthy) review to see my rating, you are probably wondering, "so why the 4 crystal rating?!" After all, I really only liked one of the three main narrators. Strangely enough, I really enjoyed reading any part that contained TJ Hill, even though we are supposed to view him as a predator, or at the very least, an adulterer. His character evolves so much. He is originally painted as the teacher you could only hope to have in high school. He's young and attractive, lends a helpful hand, and allows a hearty amount of fun in his classroom. I knew for a fact that I wasn't supposed to trust TJ, I just had to think about why. Was it because he was engaging in this relationship with a student, or was it because he was a dirty liar? My distrust in him was entrancing and interesting for me to read. I definitely got a Jodi Picoult-esque fix by reading this novel, because there were so many sides presented. The failed mother, the hopeful wife, and the dying-to-be-adult teen girl participating in this affair. Not only was I trying to figure out my distrust on TJ, I was also debating over whether or not Morgan deserved to be shamed as much as she was. The affair happens between two consensual adults, the complications come in with the fact that he's married. And her teacher. I also greatly enjoyed, as I mentioned, the complexity of TJ's character. I would've rather had his perspective instead of Dinah's. The debates inspired by this book would make it an A+ pick for a book club!

The Whole Golden World is a mixed bag. Two of the three perspectives were muddled by irrelevant drama and details that made it hard for me to feel for the characters. The affair between this well-loved teacher and his student, and the questions I asked myself while reading this novel made it unputdownable for the last half of this novel. I was desperate to see how this played out for each character, and I was making new assumptions at every turn of the page.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

How I Rate

Hola! I'm sorry for the little unannounced break I took around here, but things have been mildly chaotic. After reading so much for the Bout of Books readathon, I think I fell into a bit of a slump. I started reading The Wolf of Wall Street by Jordan Belfort, and it is taking me forever to slog through the 500+ page book (hellooo overwriting). Boyfriend and I then traveled up to Michigan for my baby brothers high school graduation on Thursday evening. I was expecting to do a ton of reading on the 5 hour train ride, but napping and instagram seemed more important, and I read nothing save for a few pages when I had zero cell phone service. Once we arrived to my hometown of Alpena, we jumped full-swing into graduation party preparation. All day Friday was spent chopping, mixing, and cooking. Friday evening was spent decorating the party haul. All day Saturday was finishing up the food, and hosting the party at the haul. Then Sunday was his commencement ceremonies, a pit-stop at Dairy Queen, and some family time. Phew. My mom drove all the way back yesterday afternoon, and now I'm spending some quality time with her before she makes the long drive back, and I return to work.

She's getting ready, so I wanted to write up a quick post of how I rate. I don't think I've ever fully discussed this before, and I know every blogger is different. Plus, I'm planning on reading a butt load this summer, so a lot more reviews will be popping up on here. As you've noticed, I use a pretty little crystal-rating system, instead of stars. Fun Fact: I have a tattoo of this same design on my wrist (the tattoo came first LOL). Here is the basics of how I lay it down for rating:
1 Crystal: This book should've stayed in the rough. If I didn't have a heart, it would've been DNF'd. Very few redeeming qualities that kept me reading to the end. Would only recommend to worst enemies or people who enjoy cringing a whole lot. This also translates to: don't waste your time.
2 Crystals: This is a gem that has been unearthed but is pretty tarnished. Despite the scratches, though, there are some glimmers of potential that kept me reading until the end. I wouldn't fully recommend this to anyone unless the book was in a genre or about a subject that someone really enjoyed, but I don't regret picking it up. This is a book that would be best to get from your library.
3 Crystals: This one is neither here nor there. This one has about equal parts of hiccups in the writing, and really brilliant aspects. I would recommend this one to certain people, but steer other people clear away. A three crystal rating is just one that I didn't love, but didn't hate either. This is a book that you should also get from your library, but if it's in a subject or genre you really enjoy, buy it!
4 Crystals: Ahh, this one sparkles and shines, but it is not a perfect crystal! This is usually for a book that I super enjoyed, but maybe had one or two flaws that kind of threw me within the book. I will recommend a four crystal book to just about anyone. More than likely this book is worth the purchase, and is one that a lot of people will enjoy.
5 Crystals: THE PERFECT CRYSTAL! This one sparkles, shines, and is 99% flaw free (to me at least.) This rating usually goes to books that can make me cry, that leaves me flailing and obsessed, and is one that I recommend to anyone who ever asks for a book recommendation, no matter who they are. This is a book that I would wholeheartedly recommend purchasing and adding to your collection. Basically: if I tumblr/twitter/goodreads search this book to connect with other people who also loved it, it's a 5 crystal FO SHO.

BUT, like every rating system there are some variables! By this I mean that every book and author is written with a different objective. A contemporary author has different goals and guidelines than a dystopian author which has different goals and guidelines than a horror author. Therefore, I rate each book according to the genre/category it is in, and not according to every other book written in history of books I've read before. For instance, I rated A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess 5 stars, and I also rated Jenna Jameson's autobiography, How to Make Love Like A Porn Star the same. Clockwork Orange is a modern classic, that just about everyone has read, and is on a lot of required reading lists for classes. At the very least, most people have heard of it. Jenna Jameson's autobiography is maybe not as well known, and is definitely not on the same literary scale as Clockwork, BUT her autobiography was entertaining and engaging, which is what I think all memoirs/autobiographies should be.

Hopefully that makes sense. Of course, my rating system is not the most precise, but so far it's been working out pretty well ;)

If you review books, how do you rate? Do you prefer to use a star rating system or other?