Review: Getting the Girl (Wolfe Brothers #3) by Markus Zusak

Brothers Cameron and Ruben Wolfe have always been loyal to each other – even when Rube goes through dating girls he has no intention of being serious with. Until Cameron meets and falls in love with Rube’s latest girlfriend, Octavia. Already struggling to not hide under Rube’s shadow, Cameron isn’t even sure if a beautiful girl like Octavia would go for a guy like him. And even if she was, would it be worth breaking the brotherly bond between him and Rube?

Personal Take: After being given an amazing spoonful of such good, emotional writing in the second installment of this series, I had high expectations for the last book, specifically when it came to Cameron’s personal growth. There was growth, but not the “awakening” kind I was expecting.

But before I go into that, I want to point out one thing I noticed was that Zusak approached this book without referencing a lot from events in the previous book Fighting Ruben Wolfe, which was weird, as it was a turning point for both brothers. In Getting the Girl, it felt like Rube was the one that found his ground, while poor Cameron had maybe a semblance of a foundation (and there were plenty!), but not enough to prop him up.

Having said that, the self-discovery and struggle Cameron goes through is still emotional and heartfelt (and sometimes quite shitty, actually), and the beautiful prose keeps blossoming as he finds his ground. For the romance though, it was eh. It was too fast, and it didn’t feel like Octavia was much of a character. I think that, along with the constant awkwardness of Cameron, were the two only downsides.

While this series doesn’t show the best of Markus Zusak’s writing, it’s still brimming with his talent of writing.

Audience: I’d stay older teens for a few choice words.

Rating:

Other recommendations: I’ve read and reviewed the first two books in this series; Underdog and Fighting Ruben Wolfe. Also read the much critically acclaimed The Book Thief, and I Am the Messenger.

Review: Underdog (Wolfe Brothers #1) by Markus Zusak

 

Cameron and his brother Ruben are hopeless. Not quite sure how to fill their time, the two get into quite a lot of trouble– needless violence, humiliating moments, and making up robbery plans that never take place. But then Cam falls for a girl, and suddenly things aren’t quite so simple. While Cameron hangs his heart on his sleeve, he isn’t too sure about how to approach her. After all, who could ever fall for an underdog like Cam?

Personal Take: This is quite a different tone from Zusak’s other books. Not quite a masterpiece like I Am The Messenger, but it still packs a little rawness. The setting Zusak paints for his characters is quite bleak, and yet, they fit so well in it. Cameron, his family and friends, the people he interacts with– it’s all so well crafted into this short story that I was still captivated by it. The format was also interesting, ending each chapter with a little of Cameron’s dream that feeds into his reality somehow. This is the first of three books, and while it doesn’t delve too deep into Cameron’s life yet, I enjoyed reading about his “beginnings”.

It’s a little rough around the edges compared to his other works, but it’s still a page-turner.

Audience: Older teens and adults.

Rating:

Recommendations: Markus Zusak is well known for two major works: The Book Thief and I Am the Messenger (which is my personal favorite). He also wrote The Wolfe Brothers trilogy.

 

Review: The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

As Charlie begins his year as a freshman, he recounts his ordeals about himself, his new friends, and his observations about his family to an anonymous friend. Careful to reveal more than is needed, Charlie shares his world, his blooming first love, and surprising and unexpected rites of passage. Through it all, Charlie is aware of a strangeness in him that he cannot place.

Personal Take: This book surprised me. I had this on my list for so long, and in my mind I built it up to be this beautiful writing that carried a monumental sort of story. While it wasn’t the beautiful writing I imagined, there is definitely something raw and beautiful in the way Charlie’s voice comes off the pages. Clever, only slightly objective, but still deeply entrenched in his reality, Charlie takes readers through a journey that is both wild and mundane, enlightening and disturbing. And still, his account cuts clear with the intent of his honestly.

I couldnt’ get enough of Charlie’s story, or of his family or friends. I feel like I’ve left behind people that I know so well to continue living their stories after the last page, and I love that feeling.

It is definitely a must-read.

Audience: Older teens and adults for sexual themes.

Rating:

Other recommendations: This is the only novel published by Chboksy, while he edited Pieces, a collection of short stories by budding writers.

Review: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

 

After enjoying quite a bit of publishing success, Juliet Ashton can’t think of what her next work should be about. Out of the blue, she receives a letter from a resident of Guernsey, Dawson Adams, who’s acquired a book of hers by chance. Through their correspondence, Juliet discovers that he belongs to a unique society on the small island– the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Intrigued, Juliet carries on a wider correspondence with the residence of Guernsey, allowing her to discover slivers of their lives during the Nazi occupation.

Personal Take: I can’t say enough how much I enjoyed reading this book. Written in epistolary form, the characters came alive in their correspondence to each other. The description of the time after the war, the people’s lives, Juliet and her life– they all came alive for me. At first, I thought there were too many characters, but soon, it became easy to see how each stood out in their own way, each with their own stories to tell. Juliet herself was a lovable character, a young woman with a lofty sense of humor, who knows her mind, and who loves a good mystery. But really, what blew me away is the level of research that went into this, especially accounts during the war, and even after it. In such delicate details, both Shaffer and Barrows paint a horrific smear in humanity’s history, one that can’t ever be forgotten, but also how the survivors recovered from such a horror.

Easily, this book has become one of my favorites of all time.

Audience: Older teens, adults, especially those who enjoy periodic dramas like Downton Abbey.

Rating:

Other recommendations: For Mary Shaffer, this was the first and only novel to be published. For her niece Annie Barrows, she’s published a few children books.

Review: Soundless by Richelle Mead

Soundless

 

Fei and her people have lived without sound for most of their lives. Living an Isolated life at the top of the mountain, the village depends on the food and other limited supplies sent up to them through a line from the bottom of the mountain in exchange for precious stones from their mines; a perilous job that is killing desperate villagers with no means to live. But everything changes when Fei wakes up one night with her hearing restored. She questions the timing of such a gift, especially when a few of the villagers begin loosing their vision. Determined to find the answers of what is happening to her people, Fei sets off on a journey to seek the truth behind her people’s accursed lives.

Personal Take: I’m a huge fan of Richelle Mead, and I was excited to read this book, as it felt like a new direction to what she usually writes. It was an interesting premise. The world she created was curious, but I felt was only half-heartedly done. There wasn’t enough details to help hold it together. The story itself was alright, but not amazing or memorable.  The characters themselves didn’t make an impression on me either– they didn’t stand out much; not Fei nor the rest of the characters that appeared. More than anything, it felt like checking off a story formula, and I couldn’t get invested in it.

It was a quick read, with a passable story, but wasn’t the profound adventure I was looking for.

Audience: Teens of all ages.

Rating:

threestars

Other recommendations: I’ve read and reviewed Mead’s Vampire Academy series (Vampire Academy, Frostbite, Shadow Kiss, Blood Promise, Spirit Bound and Last Sacrifice), Bloodlines series (Bloodlines, The Golden Lily, The Indigo Spell, The Fiery Heart, Silver Shadows, and The Ruby Circle) and Dark Swan series (Storm Born, Thorn Queen, Iron Crowned and Shadow Heir). I also can’t wait to read her new book, The Glittering Court, among others!

Review: Arabian Love Poems by Nizar Qabbani

 

This translation of Nizar Kabbani’s poetry is accompanied by the striking Arabic texts of the poems, penned by Kabbani especially for this collection. Kabbani was a poet of great simplicity – direct, spontaneous, musical, using the language of everyday life. He was a ceasless campaigner for women’s rights, and his verses praise the beauty of the female body, and of love. He was an Arab nationalist, yet he criticized Arab dictators and the lack of freedom in the Arab world. (From Goodreads.)

Personal Take: Published posthumously, this book is a collection of Qabbani’s love poems, with its pages split in two– one side of the pages had Nizar’s original poetry in Arabic, and on the other side were the English translations. All I can say is that I’m lucky that I can read Arabic, because the English translations did his words no justice. Qabbani was definitely a genius– his Arabic poetry so piercing and straightforward, and yet profound with meaning and emotions with charming, sensual imagery.

As I was reading through his work, I enjoyed getting a glimpse of his personality, and the recurring themes of his writing. Many of the poems I read threatened to made me cry from how perfect it was.

Honestly, I can’t describe it other than that– perfect.

Audience: Older readers, as Qabbani subject matters tend to be sensual.

Rating: 

Other recommendations: Fans of Qabbani can check out his original poetry books published during his time, as well as other separate collections published after his death.

Review: Silver Borne (Mercedes Thompson #5) by Patricia Briggs

silver-borne

 

Mercy Thompson is in new territory- literally. As a coyote, joining a pack of wolves can be stressful, especially when the pack is feeling restless; especially at their pack leader, and Mercy’s mate. She soon learns that being in a pack is more complicated than it seems– and even more deadly as a someone has it in for Mercy. As if that’s not enough, Mercy gets embroiled into fae affairs again when she realizes she has something they badly want, and they’re willing to kill anyone who stands on their way.

Personal Take: If you read my reviews on the previous books in this series, you’ll know that I sing praises for it. I held out hope that the series would continue with portraying Mercy as this flawed, but still beautifully strong woman that is sensible but is caught in the midst of elements beyond her control. But for some reason, I couldn’t feel it that much in this installment. Maybe it’s because not much has really happened in this book– I mean, there was action, but there was also this annoying trend of characters accepting accountability that’s a bit of a stretch just to create tension (I really can’t explain this point without spoiling anything, so I’ll leave at that).

I did enjoy the melding of two different supernatural worlds, and I do appreciate how high the stakes were towards the end.

But it was such a painful revelation that one of my favorite series was loosing its luster. I’m hoping it’s only this installation, and I get to like Mercy, like I used to.

Audience: Older audience for wonderful swear words.

Rating: 

threestars

Other recommendations: So far, I’ve reviewed Moon Called, Blood Bound, Iron Kissed and Bone Crossed. Patricia Briggs is also a write of a slew of books- be sure to check it out!

Review: Shiver (The Wolves of Mercy Falls #1) by Maggie Stiefvater

shiver

 

Grace has always felt a strange affinity to the wolves lurking around Mercy Falls. Especially one particular wolf. However, when a body of a student is found, torn by the wolves, the residents of Mercy Falls take matters into their hands. In a freak incident, a change occurs, and Grace finds herself united with her wolf– except he’s more than just a wolf. In an attempt to seek his humanity, Sam is determined to use every second of his human form to be normal. Even if it means seeking the forbidden.

Personal Take: Maggie Stiefvater blows me away. Her words are so beautiful, so heart wrenching. Even though her characters sometimes come off as jarring, there’s something about them that’s unique, and makes them standout. While I feel like there wasn’t much to the story in Shiver, there were still some interesting questions that I hope gets answered in the series. One thing I wasn’t really impressed with is how Grace and Sam played house for most of the book. While the romance was sweet, it was too fast and easy for me. Dare I say it, it almost felt like a werewolf version of Twilight (I’m sorry, but I’m not a fan of that series).

But again, the writing style of the book was what really pulled me through the whole book.

Also, I still love werewolf stories over vampires– I’d pick one over the other in a heartbeat.

Audience: There are a few choice-y words, so I’d say this is good for older teens.

Rating:

threehalfstars

Other recommendations: Maggie Stievfater is one of my favorite writers, and some of her works that I’ve read include Lament and Ballad. She’s also the author of the popular The Raven Cycle series. You check out what else she wrote here!

Review: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

storied-life-of-aj-fikry

Life is pretty quiet on Alice Island, but Amelia doesn’t mind making her rounds there to sell what her publishers are releasing. It doesn’t help that the only bookstore on Alice Island is owned by a bitter book seller; A.J Fikry. Bookseller A.J. Fikry hasn’t had the best year. His wife had passed away, his bookshop is failing, and his prized possession of a rare and valuable book is stolen. And then one night, he returns home to find a baby at his doorstep, with only a note. The baby, Maya, has no way of knowing the change she brings along with her and the people around her, starting with the bitter-hearted A.J. Fikry.

Personal Take: I cannot explain how much I LOVED THIS BOOK. If this book were a person, I would give it a hug. A tight, long, hug, because it is amazing and poignant and real in so many ways. Maybe it’s because I’m a book lover that I found this appealing to me, but really, with the love of books and reading, this story is gold because of the astounding characters. And the beautifully simple writing style.

Honestly, this book is laced with so much natural humor, I kept thinking how does Zevin do it? The characters were so alive, and charming and sad and complicated.And it goes without saying that while it made me laugh hard, it also crushed me hard.

But I cannot recommend it enough. It’s short and sweet and worth reading. Hell, it’s worth re-reading too.

Audience: Older teens and readers for some select word choices.

Rating:

5stars

Other recommendations: Another favorite sweetheart of a book by Zevin is Elsewhere, which I really recommend. She is also the author of Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac and the Birthright series. Be sure to check out the rest of her work.

Review: How to Buy a Love of Reading by Tanya Egan Gibson

How-To-Buy-a-Love-of-Reading

When Carley Wells admits she’s never read a book she liked, her parents take it upon themselves to enlighten their daughter on the beauty of literature and reading. And what better way than to commission a writer to write Carley’s story for her sixteenth birthday?

But it takes more than just moving Bree McEnroy, failed meta-novelist, into their home to get Carley to love reading. Carley’s only consolation is Hunter’s fascination with the project. Hunter, party boy and mister popular. Hunter, who loves reading and writing stories, and who’s slowly, and not-so-secretly destroying himself.

Personal Take: From the title and the book description, I thought this was going to be a cute, sweet read. It had the makings of it, at least, and maybe it was my mistake to assume that. I think I would have enjoyed it if it wasn’t a light read either, but the issue I had with the book was that, I wasn’t sure what it was.

The book switched between multiple points of view, from both adults and teens, which is fine, except I didn’t think some of the POVs were that relevant to the story. The characters, while sometimes I felt for them, didn’t feel real to me. Their motivations didn’t feel real, their behaviors (excessive as the teens on Gossip Girl) didn’t click with me. There were times were I did sympathize with the young characters, but they switched behaviors so suddenly, sympathy is out the window and the reasons are not clear to why this sudden incident happened.

For most of the book, I felt that Gibson tried to show depth in her shallow characters, which I wasn’t sure if this was intentional or not. The set up and beginning of the novel alone was brutal to get through; to understand who’s who, and why were they important. Sometimes, charaterization was great, but I didn’t see how the development took place. Supposedly, through dialogue, it’s hinted that there is a “change”, but how did that happen?

It was when characters interacted among each other that it felt stinted the most. For a book that’s almost 400 pages long, it felt like it skimmed on the emotions and pivotal points for a character’s growth,, because I couldn’t understand how the characters got to their next conclusion.

I tried to like this book, because it had potential, but I just couldn’t help being frustrated towards the end.

There is no denying that Gibson’s writing is sumptuous and beautiful, but I came to the conclusion that this book just wasn’t for me.

Audience: I’d say older teens and adults, for sexual themes and…weird perversions.

Rating:

2stars

Other recommendations: As far as I know (from Goodreads), this is the only book written by Gibson, but she’s was the editor of a book on digital photography.