Saturday, March 31, 2012

REVIEW: Growing Pains

Title: Growing Pains (Kendra's Diaries #1)
Author: K.P. Smith
Source: Sent for Review by Author
Grade: A-

Summery from Amazon
Growing Pains; Kendras Dairies is the first book in the series chronicling the journey of Kendra Foster from adolescence to adulthood. I aspire to encourage, entertain, and inspire young adults. Life has its ups and downs, its bumps and its bruises. But with perseverance, determination, and faith you can be all you were born to be. Never Give Up.

Growing Pains follows Kendra and her family during Kendra's 8th grade school year. This year presents many challenges for Kendra. Her parents fight constantly, Kendra must pick a high school, and Kendra is trying out for cheerleading after a disastrous for tryout in 6th grade. She also must navigate through making and keeping friends and a possible new boyfriend, all while dealing with her pesky little sister Patrice.

I am a college graduate, so it has been awhile since I have been in 8th grade. I went to a small parochial school, just like Kendra so I could relate to the closeness she feels with her classmates and school. My parents were not divorced, but this book shows me how difficult it is for a child to be in the midst of her parents separating. I think this is a great book for anyone in middle school, especially girls. Middle school girls will find it easy to relate to Kendra and the triumphs and trials she goes through. Unlike a lot of characters in middle grade books, Kendra is not the most popular girl with the perfect life. She worries about her clothes, grades, impressing her crush, and keeping old friends while making new friends. It was very refreshing to read! I gave it an A- because it is a fun, relateable, read, but does not transition between scenes very well. The next book in the series will be out in the fall of 2012, and I definitely plan on checking it out! You can learn more about the series and author by visiting the Kendra's Diaries website!

Happy Reading!

*I was sent this book for review. All opinions are my own and not influenced by others.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Guest Post by Valerie Estelle Frankel

I recently reviewed Katniss the Cattail by Valerie Estelle Frankel, which is a guide to the names and symbols in The Hunger Games trilogy. I, like most of America, saw The Hunger Games movie this week. After seeing the movie and reading Valerie's book, I was curious on her reaction to the movie vs. the book. She has kindly written a guest post!

The Hunger Games has arrived in the third largest opening weekend ever—first largest that wasn’t a sequel or starring a male lead. It seems, following the successes of strong girls in the Narnia franchise and the charm of stand-alone movies like Coraline, (we won’t discuss a certain vampire series), girls have finally conquered the big screen. The fan community is building up like Harry Potter’s, but all at once—conferences, costumes, fan art, fanfiction, and websites have taken over. The merchandising is everywhere—companion books, replica backpacks, and of course, the mockingjay pin. But is the movie worthy of all this hype? Like most fans, I loved the first person, action-packed prose of the book, but the emotions on screen became wonderfully real (as did the special effects and fashions of course). Since we had to lose the prose and prune some characters, I think they did more than a decent job bringing our favorite book to life.

Many new to the story winced at the blatantly teenagerish Romeo-and-Juliet style mutual suicide attempt. But Katniss is no clingy Bella Swan. She’s not in a typical teen romance, but a ploy to stay alive by appearing likeable, something Haymitch stresses in a few pithy phrases. Katniss shoots, plans, and takes care of herself. She makes herself a wonderful girl-power icon, though casting Donald Sutherland as her archnemesis is an interesting twist, considering that a decade ago, we watched him sacrifice his life to protect Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Some emotional things are brought home more strongly in the movie--the youth of all the tributes who die at the cornucopia. The career tributes are such a contrast--they laugh and joke as they walk, clearly afraid of nothing including killing others. I was touched by how open Josh Hutcherson as Peeta was—he went from crying when he was chosen as a tribute to boyishly earnest, amazed by the Capitol, puzzled by the showers, and many more endearing emotions. Meanwhile, the movie made it so clear that Haymitch and Cinna really get it--that the kids are condemned to death--while Effie with her "manners" remains oblivious, like the other Capitol citizens.

Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss likewise does a fine job making single lines count for a lot—her mimicking Effie’s “may the odds be ever in your favor” and her casual “I’ll still cook you” to Buttercup the cat are perfect.

The somewhat 1940s clothes in District 12 were interesting—as the District was occupied by soldiers and its citizens lined up, the place got a real World War II refugee camp vibe. The propaganda film likewise helped set the scene. The moviemakers also did a good example of showing the widespread hunger—clean picked bones and despair in District 12, Katniss’s amazement at bakery bread. At the same time, they failed to indicate this was earth’s future, rather than an alternate reality or alien colony. A few words in the typed introduction would have cleared that up.

Switching out of Katniss’s limited perspective gave the film a bit more scope with which to experiment. We now have new scenes—Haymitch’s determination to charm the sponsors, Seneca Crane and President Snow planning their strategy. We even see Haymitch approach Crane to suggest the star crossed lovers concept. And the gamemakers seem like bullies throwing obstacles at computer game characters to make them squirm: No sympathy, no heart, just cruel constructions. Since we can no longer access Katniss’s thoughts, Haymitch’s snarky written notes are perfect as he tells her how to survive. While Katniss is naive about any rebellion or political influence she’s staring in book one (and two for that matter), we see her having a larger impact on the world as she salutes the camera and district eleven responds with an uprising.

So did The Hunger Games movie do a decent job as an adaptation? It did. The costumes and special effects were well-thought out and appropriate, bringing a foreign world to life and yet echoing our own in the book’s disturbing metaphor that the uncaring, wasteful Capitol citizens are really ourselves. We had clever moments not in the book that successfully transferred Katniss’s thoughts to screen, as Haymitch writes “Call that a kiss?” and Peeta hilariously offers to go hunting. As a racially diverse show with a powerful independent butt kicking heroine, it beats Twilight, Harry Potter, and most other franchises by a lot.

You can visit Valerie's website for more information on her book! I highly recommend Katniss the Cattail for all Hunger Games fans! Thank you so much Valerie!!

Happy Reading!


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

REVIEW: Ashes, Ashes

Title: Ashes, Ashes
Author: Jo Treggiari
Source: Library
Grade: A-

Summery from Amazon:
Epidemics, floods, droughts--for sixteen-year-old Lucy, the end of the world came and went, taking 99% of the population with it. As the weather continues to rage out of control, and Sweepers clean the streets of plague victims, Lucy survives alone in the wilds of Central Park. But when she's rescued from a pack of hunting dogs by a mysterious boy named Aidan, she reluctantly realizes she can't continue on her own. She joins his band of survivors, yet, a new danger awaits her: the Sweepers are looking for her. There's something special about Lucy, and they will stop at nothing to have her.

Ashes, Ashes begins with Lucy trying to survive in the wilds of destroyed New York City. The population has been destroyed by a massive plague, and there are few that have survived. Lucy is one of the "lucky" ones. All is going well (as can be expected when you are surviving on your own), until wild dogs begin to chase Lucy. She is saved by a boy named Aidan, who is also a "lucky" survivor. He tells her about a commune of other survivors that he is living with. After some very unfortunate situations, Lucy decides to find the commune. When she arrives, things start to go down hill. The commune is attacked and it is found that they are searching for Lucy because some doctors and researchers want her blood. She is the only person alive that was not vaccinated against the plague, but has survived. The race to keep Lucy safe falls on the other survivors, whether they like it or not.

My very favorite genre is dystopian books and Ashes, Ashes, is a very typical dystopian novel-the world is destroyed and there are few people that have to fight to survive. I really loved this book but I can see why people would be bored with it. Amazon had mixed reviews for this book. Many of the reviews see it as a a small book in a huge dystopian fish pond. It just doesn't stand out to others, such as The Maze Runner, or The Hunger Games, and is predictable along the lines of a dystopian novel. I really, really enjoyed reading the book and it kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time I was reading it, but I can see why some avid readers would not be completely taken with it. I suggest it to all readers out there! But, if you are a dystopian book fan, this could be a book that you could skip. You won't be missing anything outstanding.

Happy Reading!

REVIEW: Katniss the Cattail

Title: Katniss the Cattail
Author: Valerie Estelle Frankel
Source: Received from author for review
Grade: B-/A

Synopsis from Amazon:
Who was Cinna? What do the hawthorn and primrose symbolize? Or President Snow’s roses and Peeta’s bread? What about Katniss’s last name? Bringing details from myths, herbal guides, military histories, and the classics, English professor and award-winning pop culture author Valerie Estelle Frankel sheds light on the deeper meanings behind Panem’s heroes and villains in this hottest of YA trilogies. In her series, Collins not only weaves a heroic tale of deep complexity but harnesses the power of Shakespeare and Rome to retell an ancient epic of betrayal, violence, and glory on the stage of an apocalyptic future. The perfect treat for fans of all ages. Everything Hunger Games, packed into one volume. From Alma Coin to Wiress you’ll learn about • Why roses are a flower of death • How eighteen of the characters are used in Shakespeare’s plays • Katniss’s nickname Catnip • The meaning of “The Hanging Tree” • Peeta’s pearl and Katniss’s salvation • Effie the saint and Finnick the Irish hero

Katniss the Cattail is an encyclopedia and guide on names and symbols in The Hunger Games trilogy. Frankel goes through each character's name in great detail and what things influenced the naming and personality of the character. It also goes through the many symbols in the books, such as bread, Snow's roses, and dandelions and what they each represent. Frankel is very detailed with her explanations and touch on various influences from Shakespere to The Wizard of Oz. The majority of the characters are inspired by Shakespeare, which Frankel explains in her book. My favorite section of the book was Frankel's descriptions of the symbols. I learned that nightlock was not a real berry and that Prim's nickname duck, alludes to her being very resourceful. I also liked that Frankel uses many quotes from the three books and other sources to back up her descriptions.

I gave this book two different grades. I gave it a B- for those that are not super fans of The Hunger Games. It was interesting to read, but I can see how non-fans would not enjoy the book. It was very well researched and it was obvious that Frankel had taken a lot of time and effort to write this book. I gave the book an A for Hunger Games fan. This is a must read for those who are obsessed with the trilogy. It gives the reader a new perspective on the characters and the symbols throughout the books. If you have read the trilogy cover to cover, have seen the movie, and are still looking for something to feed your Hunger Games soul, then this is the perfect book for you!

Happy Reading!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

REVIEW: Hollywood Car Wash by Lori Culwell

Title: Hollywood Car Wash
Author: Lori Culwell
Source: Publisher for review
Grade: A+

Summery from Amazon
Amy Spencer is an accidental celebrity. On Monday, she’s a normal college student in Michigan. By the end of the week, she’s in Hollywood, starring in a TV pilot—as a regular girl from Michigan. It’s all fun and games until the show gets picked up and Amy learns the terrible price of stardom—to keep the part she didn't even want at first, she’s going to have to get the Hollywood Car Wash to make her more marketable. First, she’ll have to lose twenty pounds. She’ll also need new teeth, blonder hair, and a megastar boyfriend with a big secret. By changing everything from her weight to her hair to her name, Amy slowly learns that the only way to survive in Hollywood is to lose herself. Inspired by true events, this shockingly accurate novel about the ins and outs of the Hollywood game will leave the reader wondering—who is Star?

This is the second Lori Culwell book I have read and it did not disappoint! I read Culwell's second book, The Dirt, and loved it! I also LOVED this one! It is a quick, fun guilty-pleasure type book. It gives an inside scoop to what it would be like to be thrown into the Hollywood star scene. I have always wanted to be famous, so it was neat to see Amy, an ordinary "citizen" turn into a huge celebrity. The reader is able to see what really goes on at movie sets. Those famous Hollywood couples? Amy finds out that most are paid to pretend to be dating each other. Hollywood Car Wash shows that being a celebrity is not all fun and games. Amy spends most of her days waiting to film her scenes and long 18 hour days on the set. She realizes that maybe being famous is not so fun after all.

Culwell's books remind me of the Shopaholic series: fun, quick reads, that leave me wanting more when they end. I recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a fun, quick read. I also suggest that anyone who is dying to be famous to also check this out. It may show you that the grass may not always be greener on the other side!

Happy reading!

*I was sent this book for review. All opinions are my own and not influenced by others.