Jul 12, 2013

(New Feature) Literary Fashion | Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac

I have always loved these kinds of fashion posts and I know my idea isn't original, to combine books with fashion, so I won't take any credit. I just signed up for a Polyvore account one day and decided to create a few sets with books, and I got addicted. I decided to start a new feature to showcase the outfit sets that I've made! I will try to make it a regular feature, but I am pretty bad about keeping features going.



For this first one I decided to start with Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac, which I read and reviewed recently, and liked a lot. I definitely wanted the focus to be on the camera, which is an important part of Naomi, but also wanted there to be some attention given to the typewriter letters on the book.

Jul 11, 2013

Review | Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac by Gabrielle Zevin

317282Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac by Gabrielle Zevin
Series: N/A
Genre: YA - Contemporary
Publication: 08.21.2007 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Format: Audio
Source: Library
Rating: ★★★★
If Naomi had picked tails, she would have won the coin toss. She wouldn’t have had to go back for the yearbook camera, and she wouldn’t have hit her head on the steps. She wouldn’t have woken up in an ambulance with amnesia. She certainly would have remembered her boyfriend, Ace. She might even have remembered why she fell in love with him in the first place. She would understand why her best friend, Will, keeps calling her “Chief.” She’d know about her mom’s new family. She’d know about her dad’s fiancĂ©e. She never would have met James, the boy with the questionable past and the even fuzzier future, who tells her he once wanted to kiss her. She wouldn’t have wanted to kiss him back.

But Naomi picked heads.

I was really excited to pick this up because I had heard great things about Zevin and her writing. Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac was a random pick-up from the library (Are my library picks always spontaneous? Yes.) and I had no idea it was even written by Zevin or knew anything about it. I recognized the title and after reading the summary rather quickly, I decided to give it a go. I wasn’t sure what to expect but I am pleased to say that I really enjoyed Memoirs and am glad I grabbed it.

The story immediately starts with Naomi and a bumped head. She has no idea who she is, what happened to her, and what her life has been like since she was 12 years old (approximately.) We get thrown into the story as confused as she is, and I loved this about the book. It gave me a chance to really connect with Naomi, since she is as lost about what’s going on as I was. Though she does take things rather calmly at first, it becomes obvious that her lack of memories really gets to her, and eventually becomes a struggle to deal with.

Naomi seems like a nice enough girl, but once she starts learning about the person she was, she doesn’t really like herself. I know I wouldn’t have liked her too much either, if we would gotten a glimpse of her before the accident. So in attempts to get her life together, she tries to jump back into her “normal” life, resuming her friendships, relationship with her boyfriend, and classes. Of course, things don’t work out that well since she can’t remember who she was before and kinda doesn’t like the same things now.

I did like Naomi and although sometimes her actions seemed a little selfish or hurtful, I totally understood where she was coming from. Her best friend, Will, is pretty awesome. I don’t know what it is about him (maybe it’s that he writes her letters, or makes her mix tapes, dresses curiously, or always speaks properly) but I really liked him and wanted him in all the pages. Fortunately, he is a huge part of the story, and I was definitely satisfied with the amount of him. James (the love interest,) Ace (the boyfriend,) Naomi’s father and mother, among several other characters are given enough depth to be realistic, and enough pages to show their individual importance in Naomi’s life. I won’t get into too much detail about everyone’s part though, in an attempt to not reveal too much.

I really enjoyed this, and found the author’s writing style made it easy to connect with the characters and ease my way into the story. Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac is about being a teenager and growing up, which is hard enough, but also about re-discovering yourself and changing yourself into someone you want to be. It is definitely a must read and I look forward to reading more books by this author.

★★★★

Jul 4, 2013

Review | Perfect Girl by Mary Hogan

731839Perfect Girl by Mary Hogan
Series: N/A
Genre: YA - Contemporary
Publication:
Format: Audio
Source: Library
Rating: ★½
Ruthie Bayer is stuck. Her mom is totally overprotective, her dad is nonexistent, and her best friends can't help her now when she needs them most: Out of the blue, Ruthie has fallen in love with the boy next door, Perry. Perry has suddenly grown up and made her heart go "thwang," and Ruthie has no idea what to do about it. Then a new girl shows up at school, and Ruthie realizes she has to do "something," and fast. Jenna is perfect, from her perfectly straight hair to her perfectly manicured toes. Perry's noticed her, too, and worse, Jenna has noticed him right back. Ruthie knows she has to call her aunt, New York's "Goddess of Love." If Aunt Marty, romance columnist and woman of the world, can't turn Ruthie into a perfect girl, no one can . . . but she might also turn Ruthie's entire world upside down.

The first thing I want to say about this book is not so good: Perfect Girl is forgettable. As I am typing up this review, I am having a hard time remembering the book. I picked it expecting a quick, cute read but it turned out to be rather bland. And though I can’t seem to pinpoint why I didn’t really like Perfect Girl, I know that I hard time getting into the story from the start.

Ruthie has just fallen in love with her best friend and neighbor Perry. This seems like a cliched storyline, but the author had the opportunity to make it unique, yet failed to do so. Perry is actually a unique sort of guy that I would’ve liked, but I never got why Ruthie even liked him. There wasn’t anything particularly special about her feelings for him or their relationship as far as I could tell, and there was no defining moment when she “fell” in love with him. They were just sort of hanging out and she suddenly decided she was in love. It was rather awkward.

While the characters were okay, their personalities were sorta meh and their actions totally predictable. From Ruthie’s conversations with her friends, to her arguments with her mother, and even her reactions to Perry being near, everything sort of fell flat. The only time I was really engaged in the story was when her aunt, “The Goddess of Love,” is introduced into the story. We get a quick glimpse at this stranger several years prior, before she is dragged into the present day story unexpectedly, and then also falls into a cliched role.

From the synopsis, this sounds like a fun romance, but that’s kind of misleading. While the story does focus a bit on Ruthie and Perry’s relationship, it doesn’t play such an important role in the actual story as it might seem to. Perfect Girl was about Ruthie’s strained relationship with her mother, and how her aunt ends up getting involved. When a tragic event takes place towards the end of the book, the three are sort of forced to get along, which in turn makes the entire “love story” take the backseat. Perry and Ruthie interact only a handful of times in the book and that was disappointing (because that’s what I expected.)

Overall Perfect Girl had the potential to be a sweet story about a girl growing up and learning how important family is, but instead was attempted to be told as a love story, which threw me off. If the author would have focused her energy into making this a coming of age book, instead of throwing in the awkward friendship-turns-romance part, this could have turned out better. Instead, everything felt forced and the characters were cliche. All in all, I was pretty disappointed.

★½

Jul 3, 2013

Review | Carpe Diem by Autumn Cornwell

1663664Carpe Diem by Autumn Cornwell
Series: N/A
Genre: Contemporary
Publication: 08.21.2007 by Feiwel & Friends
Format: Audio
Source: Library
Rating: ★★★★
“I've got my entire life planned out for the next ten years — including my PhD and Pulitzer Prize,” claims 16-year-old overachiever Vassar Spore, daughter of overachiever parents, who in true overachiever fashion named her after an elite women’s college. Vassar expects her sophomore summer to include AP and AAP (Advanced Advanced Placement) classes. Surprise! Enter a world-traveling relative who sends her plans into a tailspin when she blackmails Vassar’s parents into forcing their only child to backpack with her through Southeast Asia.

On a journey from Malaysia to Cambodia to the remote jungles of Laos, Vassar sweats, falls in love, hones her outdoor survival skills — and uncovers a family secret that turns her whole world upside-down.

Vassar Spore can plan on one thing: she’ll never be the same again.

Carpe Diem was one of those spontaneous choices from the library because it was on audio. I hadn’t heard of it before, but when I checked out the reviews, I saw that it had a good rating and from the summary it sounded quite interesting. While Vassar is a little difficult to like at first, she definitely does grow up, as she gets herself in and out of crazy situations that had me rushing through the book to find out what she got into next.

Vassar has her life planned out every step of the way, following her parents’ wishes, who only want her to focus on her academics. Of course, her plan is to spend her summer taking more classes so she can get that 5.3 GPA that she needs to be valedictorian. What she doesn't have planned is for her Grandmother Gerd (who she's never met) to buy her a plane ticket and expenses paid trip through Southeast Asia (which she doesn't want to go to.) Shocked when her parents accepted (or are blackmailed to accept, since she overhears their phone conversation) Vassar is pretty much forced to take the trip.

Vassar is totally a Type A personality that I didn't like at all at first, and she complained so much! Of course if I had been her age and made to do something I thought ruined my plans completely, I would've complained a lot too. Vassar definitely did grow on me, even though her personality remained pretty much the same. She goes through a heck of a lot but manages to come out with a positive outlook. She also does a lot of growing up herself, even though she was already mature, and eventually learns to LIM (live in the moment!)

Grandma Gerd is something else, with her trash collection (for her art) and her attempts at trying to make Vassar loosen up as much as possible. She’s wild, and fun, but pretty crazy too. Hanks is also something else. I mean a Malaysian wanna-be cowboy? He's sweet but so cocky sometimes I wanted to smack him! Vassar’s parents and friends, while not exactly main characters, still stay connected to the story through various emails to Vassar throughout her trip.

Carpe Diem is definitely a fun adventure. Vassar struggles to adjust to a foreign country with a strange person and tries to figure out how she managed to blackmail her parents, and then she eventually learns to live a little. She manages to get herself in trouble, not only in wacky situations but also into dangerous scenarios that add some suspense to the story as it develops. While the ending (as well as “the big secret”) were a bit obvious to me several pages before the ending, I still enjoyed reading how everything would be revealed and concluded. I thought Carpe Diem was humorous, entertaining, and overall, and great read that I am sure others who enjoy teen books about travel will enjoy as well.

★★★★

Jul 1, 2013

Review | Mad World: Sanctuary by Samaire Provost

Title: Mad World: Sanctuary by Samaire Provost
Series: Mad World #2
Genre: YA - Horror
Publication: August 30th 2012 by Creatspace
Format: E-book
Source: Chick Lit Plus
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Synopsis: The year is 2017, and the Black Plague infection has swept across most of the United States, leaving death and chaos in its wake. Martial law is the rule rather than the exception, with outbreaks cropping up when they're least expected. Alyssa and her friends must not only battle outbreaks of the disease, but also find themselves pursued by government agents – men and women determined to track them down at any cost.

Fleeing north to the fabled Sanctuary, Alyssa, Jacob, DeAndre, Caitlyn, Risa and Luke face disturbing ordeals and terrible tragedy as they encounter unbelievable situations in their struggle to reach safety. Using their skills and wits in their fight to survive against ever worsening odds, they weather hardship, betrayal, and the ever-present specter of death as they flee north, all the while vowing to protect one another – and most of all their precious 5-year-old Luke, from a world gone mad.

Sanctuary, the second installment in the Mad World series, is a heart-rending adventure of astonishing revelations, tragic discoveries, agonizing separations and devastating losses that test these friends to their limits. With heart-pounding, edge-of-your-seat suspense at every turn, this is a story you will not be able to put down.


Thoughts: After finishing off the first book in this series, Mad World: Epidemic, I was excited to see the story continued, especially since I don't usually read books from a series right after another. Even though the story took place several years later, Mad World: Sanctuary turned out to be disappointing, enough that I am not sure if I want to continue the series after all.

At the beginning, we are tossed back into the story, with a few reminders here and there about the previous book that I felt were more awkward than necessary. The story picks up five years later with the same characters and a few changes in their lives. They are now traveling with a five year old boy who is half zombie (or something) and they have all paired up as couples except for the youngest girl. Also, they have to constantly hide from the government in order to keep Luke (the zombie-child.) While I expected some more action packed events full of zombies, now that the outbreak was five years + in, the amount of zombies was about the same as in the first book. While one scene does stand out because there are numerous zombies involved, the horror scenes were more of the same and not really exciting or creepy.

The story doesn't develop much either, since the characters spend the book just re-locating from one place to another. Instead we get similar fight scenes, a lot of driving around in a van (and only having energy drinks or soda, which was also something that bugged me about the first one but I failed to mention in my review) and constantly being followed, although they don't come across anyone until the last third of the book. They manage to meet some new people but the predicaments sounded way too familiar (almost like some of the volumes of The Walking Dead, actually) so I wasn't really entertained.

The only thing that redeemed this book for me, in fact, was the ending because there is a twist I didn't see coming, which turns into a cliffhanger of an ending. So if I want to know what's in store for these characters, I would have to read the next book and I am just not interested. Overall, I found this to be a weak filler of a book to continue the series without adding anything significant to the story until the very end.