Categotry Archives: Realistic

Like the Moon

Like the Moon Book Cover Like the Moon
Mary Lewis Deans Foote
Realistic Adult Fiction
S&H Publishing, Incorporated
Paperback
206

In this charming novel, Mary Lewis captures the style, rhythm, and heart of a small, rural community in the South. From the first sentence to the last, she draws the reader in with colorful dialect and lovable, eccentric characters. In vibrant hues, Like the Moon weaves the fabric of a community through its oral storytelling traditions.

 

Review:

“Like the Moon”, by Mary Lewis Deans Foote, is what can only be described as a work of love about the daily lives of those born and raised in the south.

From the dialect to the common disagreements (should you break the leaves before or after cooking your collards?), it is a perfect picture about life in a small farming area.  Everyone born and raised in the rural south can probably say they know all of these characters, by different names of course, in their own communities.

The story is told as though you are sitting around the kitchen table with the narrator, listening to what’s been going on while you were away on a trip.  It is all vividly described and characters well-developed, while taking the time to meander through the stories, weaving in and out of memories of the past.  It’s a true slice-of-life tale, and most likely will not be enjoyable for those who want a speedy plot with a lot of action.

If you want to take the time to savor slow southern living, then this is the book for you.  The only reason I gave it four stars, as opposed to five, is that it is most definitely a niche book, and the dialect may be off-putting to those unfamiliar with the southern way of speaking.

This review is based on a complimentary copy provided through the GoodReads First Reads program in exchange for an honest review.

Content Warning:

No content warning, as this is an adult book.

Just Call Me Superhero

Just Call Me Superhero Book Cover Just Call Me Superhero
Alina Bronsky
Fiction
Europa Editions Incorporated
2014-10-07
240

His face disfigured after being attacked by a dog, 17-year-old Marek has a lot to come to terms with. Tricked into attending a support group for teens with disabilities, he is rude and dismissive to the other members, with one exception. An atmospheric evocation of modern Berlin, a vivid portrait of youth under pressure, and a moving story about learning to love oneself and others, Just Call Me a Superhero is destined to consolidate Alina Bronsky's reputation as one of Europe's most wryly entertaining authors.

 

Review:

“Just Call Me Superhero”, by Alina Bronsky, is the story of a young man named Marek, who lives in modern-day Berlin.  Marek was attacked by a rottweiler, leading to facial disfigurement, and is tricked by his mother into attending a support group.  This forms the basis of the story.

Make no mistake about it, Marek is far from a likable character.  He is blunt, homophobic, a jerk to anyone who finds themselves unlucky enough to be in his company, and seems to have no problem with any of it.  However, he is an also extremely well-developed character who shows a wonderful amount of growth by the end of the book.

The wry humor had me literally laughing out loud at times.  Bronsky knows exactly when to insert sarcasm and absurdity to break mounting tension.  It makes what could be an extremely depressing book an enjoyable and somewhat lighthearted one.

The only reason I gave “Just Call Me Superhero” four stars instead of five is the homophobia is very over-the-top.  There is growth and resolution to it, but I believe some of the phrasing may be a result of it being a translation.  As long as you keep this in mind, I recommend “Just Call Me Superhero”.

This review is based on a complimentary copy provided by the publisher through the Goodreads First Reads program in exchange for an honest review.

 

Content Warning:

Language, Sexual Situations

Wildlife

Wildlife Book Cover Wildlife
Fiona Wood
Juvenile Fiction
Poppy
2014-09-16
400

During a semester in the wilderness, sixteen-year-old Sib expects the tough outdoor education program and the horrors of dorm life, but friendship drama and an unexpected romance with popular Ben Capaldi? That will take some navigating. New girl Lou has zero interest in fitting in, or joining in. Still reeling from a loss that occurred almost a year ago, she just wants to be left alone. But as she witnesses a betrayal unfolding around Sib and her best friend Holly, Lou can't help but be drawn back into the land of the living. Fans of Melina Marchetta, Rainbow Rowell, and E. Lockhart will adore this endearing and poignant story of first love, true friendship, and going a little bit wild.

 

Review:

This review is based on a complimentary copy given through Netgalley by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers in exchange for an honest review.

“Wildlife” by Fiona Wood is a book about two vastly different girls coming together during a semester in a wilderness type camp required by their school.  It’s set in Australia, and while the differences are strange at first, I thought it was fun to learn more about the life of teenagers there.

The book is absolutely beautifully written, and takes many twists and turns that I did not expect at all.  The two main characters, along with a secondary character (Michael), were so well-developed that your heart breaks when theirs do, and you laugh when they laugh.  The mood is up and down with the story, ranging from sad to embarrassing to hilarious, and it makes the whole thing realistic.

Speaking of realistic, there is a LOT of strong language and talk of sex in “Wildlife”.  It fits with the story, and I love when authors are brave enough to write how real teenagers speak, but I did want to mention it in case anyone likes to avoid those types of things.

The only reason I gave “Wildlife” four stars instead of five is because the ending felt somewhat rushed.  It was a natural conclusion, but felt like it needed a couple of more chapters to make it seem less jarring.  It was a bit like being on a pleasant drive and then slamming on the brakes.  However, it is not anywhere near enough to ruin a wonderful book.

I highly recommend “Wildlife”.

 

Content Warning:

Language, Sexual Situations, Underage Drinking, Drug Use, Animal Death

 

Love and Other Unknown Variables

Love and Other Unknown Variables Book Cover Love and Other Unknown Variables
Shannon Alexander
Juvenile Fiction
Entangled: Teen
2014-10-07
352

Charlie Hanson has a clear vision of his future. A senior at Brighton School of Mathematics and Science, he knows he’ll graduate, go to MIT, and inevitably discover solutions to the universe’s greatest unanswerable problems. He’s that smart. But Charlie’s future blurs the moment he reaches out to touch the tattoo on a beautiful girl’s neck. The future has never seemed very kind to Charlotte Finch, so she’s counting on the present. She’s not impressed by the strange boy pawing at her—until she learns he’s a student at Brighton where her sister has just taken a job as the English teacher. With her encouragement, Charlie orchestrates the most effective prank campaign in Brighton history. But, in doing so, he puts his own future in jeopardy. By the time he learns she's ill—and that the pranks were a way to distract Ms. Finch from Charlotte’s illness—Charlotte’s gravitational pull is too great to overcome. Soon he must choose between the familiar formulas he’s always relied on or the girl he’s falling for (at far more than 32 feet per second).

 

Review:

This is a review of an ARC provided through Netgalley by Entangled Press in exchange for an honest review.

I don’t even know where to begin with how much I love “Love and Other Unknown Variables.”  Love may not be a strong enough word.  There are so many things about it that make it a breath of fresh air in the Young Adult genre.

Shannon Lee Alexander’s writing seems effortless and flows in a way that pulls you in quickly and keeps you engaged, making it nearly impossible to put it down.  The characters are all intriguing and the dialogue is realistic for teenagers, something not always present, which adds to the relatibility of the characters to the target audience.

I was thrilled to find a coming-of-age romance narrated with such tenderness by a male narrator.  Charlie is flawed but likable, and grows in a way that is inspiring.  It was especially wonderful to see how siblings can grow together and become friends as they age, as well as how those we think we know can be so much more than we give them credit for.

I can’t say much else without spoiling the book, but the themes of difficult choices and thinking outside of the lines, both literally and metaphorically in this case, are explored with an excellent mix of humor and gravity.

I feel privileged for the opportunity to be one of the first to read “Love and Other Unknown Variables.”  My honest opinion is that the book, as well as Shannon Lee Alexander, will become a force to be reckoned with in the world of Young Adult literature, something which is well-deserved.

 

Content Warning:

Language, Sexual Situations

All We Had

All We Had: A Novel Book Cover All We Had: A Novel
Annie Weatherwax
Adult Fiction
Scribner
August 5, 2014
Hardcover
272

For thirteen-year-old Ruthie Carmichael and her mother, Rita, life has never been stable. The only sure thing is their love for each other. Though Rita works more than one job, the pair teeters on the edge of poverty. When their landlord kicks them out, Rita resorts to her movie-star looks and produces carpet-installer Phil, "an instant boyfriend," who takes them in.

Before long, Ruthie convinces her mother to leave and in their battered Ford Escort, they head East in search of a better life. When money runs out and their car breaks down, they find themselves stranded in a small town called Fat River where their luck finally takes a turn. Rita lands a steady job waitressing at Tiny’s, the local diner. With enough money to pay their bills, they rent a house and Fat River becomes the first place they call home.

 

Review:

I received this book for free from Scribner through the Goodreads First Reads program in exchange for an honest review.

“Every character is a protagonist in their own story” is a quote I once heard (apologies, but for the life of me I can’t find the person who actually said it), and on my own attempts at writing, I have always tried to keep it in mind.

“All We Had” is hands-down the greatest example of this concept in action I have ever read.  The heart of the story is Ruthie and her young mother, but every single character has a deep and rich history that is revealed through remarkably little prose.  I found myself wondering what happened to them all after the last page, and I imagine I will do so for quite some time.

This book is a slice-of-life story that is a very easy read about subject matter that is not easy to read about.  Ruthie shares it all with stark realism, zero nostalgia, and brutal honesty.  There are no feelings of self-pity or self-congratulation.  It is what it is, and that is how the story is told.  As such, it feels raw and honest, ultimately leaving an uneasy feeling in the readers about all of the Ruthies that live within our world.

I don’t want to spoil anything, because in this case the journey is the story, so even a summary feels as though it would give away too much.  I can say that it’s on the list of books I will be giving all of the readers in my life this holiday season.  Annie Weatherwax is a wonderful storyteller, and I look forward to many more novels from her.

Five stars.  I wish I could give more.

Content Warning:

“All We Had” is not actually a young adult book, but I feel like it is an excellent choice for more advanced and mature readers.  There is strong language, violence, sexual situations, rape, and animal death, but none of it is gratuitous or presented too graphically.  In my opinion, the contemporary social issues raised are important and present many good talking points.

The Scorch Trials

The Scorch Trials Book Cover The Scorch Trials
The Maze Runner, Book 2
James Dashner
Juvenile Fiction
Random House LLC
2011
361

After surviving horrific conditions in the Maze, Thomas is entrapped, along with nineteen other boys, in an experiment designed to observe their responses and gather data believed to be essential for the survival of the human race.

 

Review:

Once again, there is a second in a series book that I found more enjoyable than the original, though there was more character development and plot in the first, making “The Maze Runner” a better novel all around.  The action is where the appeal is in this one, with “The Scorch Trials” picks up immediately where “The Maze Runner” ended, with the Gladers once again being thrust into a situation they do not understand and have no chance to stop and ponder.

“The Scorch Trials” has action that literally does not stop.  No time is left to think, and the panic felt by the characters becomes very real.  The violence is raised to a higher level than in “The Maze Runner”, so those with weak stomachs should most likely stay away.  In fact, it is taken to a high enough level that the target age group seems to be older.  Gruesome is a good word for it.

The writing is solid and as I said, the plot moves rapidly, making it a good choice for reluctant readers.  There is not much time spent on character development, but it is not neglected, either.  It simply builds naturally on what has already been established in the first book, with a couple of new characters thrown in.  Don’t go in expecting any answers.  “The Scorch Trials” brings nothing but more questions, but it does so in a way that left me eager to find out what is going on, as opposed to frustrated that too much was happening.

A solid read, and I am looking forward to seeing where it all leads.

 

Content Warning:

Language, Violence

Insurgent

Insurgent Book Cover Insurgent
Diverent, Book 2
Veronica Roth
Juvenile Fiction
Katherine Tegen Books
2012-05-01
544

"As war surges in the dystopian society around her, sixteen-year-old Divergent Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves--and herself--while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love"--

 

Review:

I keep trying to write a serious review of “Insurgent”, but I’m finding it nearly impossible, because I can’t even take myself seriously as a book blogger for loving the entire “Divergent” series so much.

The story is a good one, as long as one sets aside their questioning Erudite nature, but my goodness, it is all so ridiculous.  Why can’t people feel more than one way?  How is it even possible NOT to be Divergent?  These are questions that are not answered in “Insurgent”, and probably will not be answered in “Allegiant”, and I suppose we just accept it all.  And eat more Amity toast.

The entire plot can be summed up by saying that Tris and Four argue and then Caleb does some stuff.  Oh, and we meet Four’s mother.  None of it really makes sense, but again, have some more toast.  I can’t even mark this as a spoiler because it reveals nothing, just as the actual plot reveals nothing.

I want to edit the book.  Then I want to edit “Divergent”.  Then I want to read them again because they are still my guilty pleasures.  Life doesn’t always need to make sense.  Sometimes I need a total fluff read.  I would say the author’s age shows in the writing, but who am I to judge?  Nobody has paid me to write a book.  I doubt they ever will, so good for her!

I do wish they would hire a better editor, though.  It would make me feel just a bit better about my life’s choices right about now.

 

Content Warning:

Language, Violence, Sexual Situations, Bad Grammar

 

Eleanor and Park

Eleanor & Park Book Cover Eleanor & Park
Rainbow Rowell
Juvenile Fiction
Macmillan
2013-02-26
328

"Set over the course of one school year in 1986, this is the story of two star-crossed misfits--smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try"--

 

Review:

After reading “Eleanor and Park”, I felt an overwhelming urge to write a love letter to Rainbow Rowell.  It was everything my old, nerdy, hipster heart needed and more.

Make no mistake about it, this book is hipster and nerd to the core.  Everything about the 80s that was amazing in terms of pop-culture is here, and everything that needed some good-natured mocking is mocked.  It’s a book filled with nostalgia that can still be appreciated by the young.  In fact, it should be required reading for the new generation of hipsters.

The writing is sparse, but in a good way.  The facts, and only the important ones, are laid out like an outline to a research paper, softened only by the accompanying thoughts and emotions that can only be found in hormonal teenagers finding love for the first time.  It makes it realistic, and also keeps things from becoming overly romantic.  The heaviness of Eleanor’s situation is never overshadowed by the good, and the good is never completely overshadowed by the bad.  Given the subject matter, that balance being so perfectly accomplished is a testament to the author’s talent.

The only reason I am giving “Eleanor and Park” four stars instead of five is the ending.  It seemed rushed, and while somewhat understandable, almost out of character.  Given the easy flow of the rest of the book, it was a jarring awakening from a literary dream.

The ending was not, however, nearly enough to keep me from recommending it to anyone who is old enough to read it.  It is definitely aimed at older readers, with subject matter that is dark and difficult to read.  If given to a younger reader, I would recommend an adult read it and discuss it with them.

 

Content Warning:

Language, Violence, Sexual Situations, Abuse

Paper Towns

Paper Towns Book Cover Paper Towns
John Green
Juvenile Fiction
Puffin
2009
305

One month before graduating from his Central Florida high school, Quentin "Q" Jacobsen basks in the predictable boringness of his life until the beautiful and exciting Margo Roth Spiegelman, Q's neighbor and classmate, takes him on a midnight adventure and then mysteriously disappears. An ALA Best Book for Young Adults. Reprint.

 

Review:

I love John Green.  No other author can turn a phrase quite like him, and I greatly respect his refusal to create novels that assume teenagers are not capable of reading about real issues they face in a frank manner, even if that includes sex and questionable language.  I expect excellent work from him, and he did not disappoint me with “Paper Towns”.

Part of the brilliance of this novel is that a teenager can read it and get an entirely different story from it than an adult who reads it.  Neither are inferior to the other, it’s simply that some of it is viewed differently when time removes you further from the days of high school.  I literally cried from the overwhelming sense of nostalgia it created.

Quentin Jacobsen is the “every man” of high school.  He is not popular, nor is he quite on the bottom rung of the social ladder.  In short, he is smart, but average.  Then there is Margo Roth Spiegelmen, the girl who was larger than life in Quentin’s mind.  The girl on the pedestal. Haven’t we all had that person in our lives at one point or another?   Of course, eventually we learn that they are just as human and average as the rest of us, and that is the point of the story.

The lessons to be learned in “Paper Towns” are good for teens and adults.  People are not always who they present to the world.  Some are better than they let on and some are worse.  The best memories aren’t what you think they will be.  Everything has a beginning and an end.  All of this is woven into a thoroughly entertaining story that is filled with humor and tenderness.  I highly recommend it for those who like Green’s style of writing.

 

Content Warning:

Language, Brief Sexual Content