Friday, January 25, 2013

Review: Going Vintage by Lindsey Leavitt

Going VintageBook: Going Vintage
Author: Lindsey Leavitt
Publication Date: March 26th, 2013
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Rating: 4 Stars

When Mallory discovers that her boyfriend, Jeremy, is cheating on her with an online girlfriend, she swears off boys. She also swears off modern technology. Inspired by a list of goals her grandmother made in 1962, Mallory decides to "go vintage" and return to a simpler time (when boyfriends couldn't cheat on you online). She sets out to complete grandma's list: run for pep club secretary, host a dinner party, sew a homecoming dress, find a steady, do something dangerous. But the list is trickier than it looks. And obviously finding a steady is out . . . no matter how good Oliver (Jeremy's cousin) smells. But with the help of her sister, she'll get it done. Somehow. 
This book caught my interest the moment I learned that the main character had a certain violent streak and a love for chips with salsa and cream cheese. Also, there's apparently this thing called milk toast, and it sounds so disgustingly DELICIOUS.

Anyway, back to the book. It's exactly like the summary says. A girl finds out that her boyfriend's been cheating on her with an internet chick named, of all things, BubbleYum. How do you take someone with a name like that seriously? Mallory finds out about BubbleYum, she gets mad while her boyfriend is in the kitchen (where he belongs, sexists), and she throws a virtual book at his virtual icon and makes him bleed. Then she posts on his Friendspace that he's a massive tool and runs out of the house.

Of all the dramatic exits in the world, that is probably one of the best. Just leaving your boyfriend to see that you've told all his friends he's a massive tool on a social network. Imagine the look on that guy's face! It probably looked something like this:

I have to say, I admire Mallory for her courage. There were a lot of times that I thought she'd crack and go back to Jeremy, but she never did. And nothing about her experience is contrived. It does take her a while to get over him and move on, but it feels natural when it happens. 

Example: He looks marginally tortured. Before I can let pity creep in, I have to remind myself that his torture is self-inflicted and only .083 percent of what I feel. 

Yeah, Jeremy's kind of a douche. I don't know what else I learned from this book about him except that he's half Asian and a douche. I hope those two aren't related. Speaking of relations, let's talk about his cousin, Oliver. Actually, I'll just show you guys some quotes spoken by him or about him.

"Five minutes of talking to you is more entertaining than a lifetime knowing Jeremy. So either you came to your senses, or he did something stupid." 

 He's written an extensive list in tiny, slanted caps. No writing tablet or smartphone. He's a pen-and-paper lister, a beautiful and dying breed. 

I've seen people laugh at funerals, so why not be giddy post-breakup? Especially around a guy who makes life feel so effortless, like a meteor could crash into his car and we would just shrug and take the bus.

What really stands out about Oliver is his sincerity. A lot of the guys from YA novels are now too cool and too disdainful, relying on their looks to get all the girls drooling after them, so I liked that Oliver was so effortlessly hip. In the beginning, he seemed like another stereotype, but I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of dedication he put into the pep club and the way he goes about pursuing Mallory. The moment she observes that he's only perceived as a hipster because he doesn't hold back with his thoughts was the moment I loved him. With Oliver, I totally wouldn't have minded if he wasn't as hot as Mallory said he was. His personality more than makes up for any appearance defects.

The plot itself is interesting, and it hops along pretty quickly. I loved Mallory's sister, Ginny, and how easily she jumps into the List. Lots of sisterly love in this book. Her character isn't explored too deeply, but I wasn't expecting much from that aspect of the relationship. The List itself poses an interesting challenge, and it reminded me a lot of how technology is making us dumber. I mean, when's the last time one of us went to the library to research? And did MLA citations the right way? I've been inputting those suckers into the laptop ever since I discovered and copy-paste. It was fun to watch Mallory dodge the hurdles of technology while avoiding her ex and any possible feelings for adorable Oliver at the same time. Quite a task. 

I've mentioned before that Mallory is a pretty strong girl, especially when it comes to staving off Jeremy and his desperation to have a homecoming date (ugh). But I don't really appreciate her flakiness, especially when she just decided to blow off Oliver. She says she's a flaky person, but there was no need to add an irrelevant character flaw where it wasn't needed. I do like that for a long time, she made her life revolve around Jeremy and ignored extracurriculars and everything else. It's a good lesson, especially since many girls (probably boys, too) try to find an identity through having a significant other.

There were a lot of issues in this book that I didn't anticipate, like the conflict between past and present, the way we like to romanticize the past and say the present is never as great as what happened before (Midnight in Paris, anyone?), and the mistakes we've all made and how we try to go about solving them. There were multiple storylines with Mallory's mother, father, grandmother, and sister. As a result, each problem is solved quickly with a messy resolution. However, this could also be because the problems were too deep to be solved with a simple hug or a family sit-down.

All in all, I loved the concept behind the book and reliving the vintage era. So much fun. While the whole thing about technology warping our lives and making us forget ourselves tends towards overexaggerated sometimes, it's to be expected when you're reading from the eyes of a teenage girl. Very adorable book if you feel like feeling happy.

Thank you Netgalley and Bloomsbury for giving me the chance to read and review this book!
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Sunday, January 6, 2013

Review: Such a Rush by Jennifer Echols

Such a RushBook: Such a Rush
Author: Jennifer Echols
Publication Date: July 10th, 2012
Publisher: MTV Books
Rating: 2 Stars

A sexy and poignant romantic tale of a young daredevil pilot caught between two brothers.

When I was fourteen, I made a decision. If I was doomed to live in a trailer park next to an airport, I could complain about the smell of the jet fuel like my mom, I could drink myself to death over the noise like everybody else, or I could learn to fly.

Heaven Beach, South Carolina, is anything but, if you live at the low-rent end of town. All her life, Leah Jones has been the grown-up in her family, while her mother moves from boyfriend to boyfriend, letting any available money slip out of her hands. At school, they may diss Leah as trash, but she’s the one who negotiates with the landlord when the rent’s not paid. At fourteen, she’s the one who gets a job at the nearby airstrip.

But there’s one way Leah can escape reality. Saving every penny she can, she begs quiet Mr. Hall, who runs an aerial banner-advertising business at the airstrip and also offers flight lessons, to take her up just once. Leaving the trailer park far beneath her and swooping out over the sea is a rush greater than anything she’s ever experienced, and when Mr. Hall offers to give her cut-rate flight lessons, she feels ready to touch the sky.

By the time she’s a high school senior, Leah has become a good enough pilot that Mr. Hall offers her a job flying a banner plane. It seems like a dream come true . . . but turns out to be just as fleeting as any dream. Mr. Hall dies suddenly, leaving everything he owned in the hands of his teenage sons: golden boy Alec and adrenaline junkie Grayson. And they’re determined to keep the banner planes flying.

Though Leah has crushed on Grayson for years, she’s leery of getting involved in what now seems like a doomed business—until Grayson betrays her by digging up her most damning secret. Holding it over her head, he forces her to fly for secret reasons of his own, reasons involving Alec. Now Leah finds herself drawn into a battle between brothers—and the consequences could be deadly.
I like all the different ways you can spin a contemporary novel. You can focus on only characters, and the setting doesn't matter. You can focus on an idea, like a girl pretending to date someone else, and that idea is the overriding aspect of a story. Or you can focus on the way characters travel through a setting. I especially like ones that incorporate something new, be it a traveling circus, a different country, or a high school with strange traditions. The novelty always gives me a rush (haha). And I thought I'd find the same thing with Such a Rush. Sadly, that didn't happen.

I don't have much experience with Jennifer Echols's writing; this is my first glimpse at one of her books. However, I do compartmentalize her with the period of life that I spent reading about melodramatic relationships and sex between teenagers that seemed too fake and too fast. I'm talking books like The Other Boy by Hailey Abbott and The Au Pairs. I didn't read many of those kinds of books, just because I found the material extremely repetitive and shallow. Such a Rush didn't seem like that kind of book, and I found the concept of a girl learning to be a pilot really interesting. It's definitely something you don't regularly see in a book. Also, I can't say no to a sexy bad boy, which is what Grayson is, supposedly.

In the beginning, I got into this book with all the excitement that Leah has on her first flying lesson. I've never read anything that depicted life in a trailer park to the extent that this book did, so it was a harsh glimpse into the way life is for people. However, I did feel that sometimes it was portrayed to the point of overkill because of the number of times Leah mentions the "whores on the beach" or the pitbull. Although Leah says time and time again that she isn't bitter about people having more than she does, the way she flies off the handle every time somebody questions her about her life makes those statements hypocritical. I can't hate her entirely, though; she takes what she has and runs with it. She's exceptionally driven, and I never wanted to strangle her at any time through the book, except maybe when she did that cutting at the throat motion, just because it seemed like a rude and random thing to do.

Now, the other characters. Grayson is a bipolar douchebag. He keeps assuming Leah is a whore, blackmails her into dating his brother for his own purposes, and despite all his sweet words, he still wants her to continue doing what he tells her to do. Alright, he's muscular, has curly blond hair, and always wears aviators and a cowboy hat. That's all really great, but not exactly a good reason for a person to fall in love with him. There is some depth to him, considering how he changes after he almost crashes his plane and after his father's death, but that could have been explored further instead of just being used as an excuse for his assholery. Alec and Molly are equally infuriating. I probably hated Molly most because she dragged Leah to a party even when Leah explicitly did not want to go. Molly is selfish and bitchy, a classic rich girl who puts herself first. Alec is one-dimensional and vindictive. The conflict in the book wasn't much of a conflict, since everybody seemed to already know what the problem was.

My greatest problem with this book is that it seemed supremely unrealistic, both in the way the plot unfolds and in the way the characters treat each other. Sure, Leah might be desperate, but it doesn't make sense that she would befriend people who treat her like trash and rub their richness in her face. There were also periods that Grayson or Leah would say something that was supposedly profound but sounded more like a preachy let-me-rub-a-moral-lesson-in-your-face line. I couldn't connect to any of the characters because I didn't find any of them that likable, and none of them possessed much depth. Also, why is the cover (gorgeous as it is) of a girl with straight hair when Leah harps so much over her curly hair?
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Friday, January 4, 2013

Feature & Follow Friday (10)

Follow Friday is a meme hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read. Basically, follow me and say hi in the comments, and I'll follow you back!  

This week's features are: Galavanting Girl Books and Lost in Thought.

Q: What New Years Blogging or Writing resolution have you placed on yourself?

A: I'm not too sure about blogging; I'm pretty happy doing what I do, and I think that's all the time I have. Since I'm going off to college soon, I'll have even less time, but I do want to keep reading as much as I can (100 books goal this year), since there are tons of interesting books that are coming out in 2013 (refer to my New Year's Readsolution!).

I also write on the side, and I just want to finish something of all the works in progress I have clogging up my files. I'm this close to wrapping up almost three of my stories, but I just haven't been able to sit down and finish.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Review: Lovely, Dark and Deep by Amy McNamara

Lovely, Dark and DeepBook: Lovely, Dark and Deep
Author: Amy McNamara
Publication Date: October 16th, 2012
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Rating: 3 Stars

Since the night of the crash, Wren Wells has been running away. Though she lived through the accident that killed her boyfriend Patrick, the girl she used to be didn’t survive. Instead of heading off to college as planned, Wren retreats to her father’s studio in the far-north woods of Maine. Somewhere she can be alone.

Then she meets Cal Owen. Dealing with his own troubles, Cal’s hiding out too. When the chemistry between them threatens to pull Wren from her hard-won isolation, Wren has to choose: risk opening her broken heart to the world again, or join the ghosts who haunt her.
Before this book, if someone had approached me and said that it was possible to write a 350 page novel that basically revolves around a teenage girl angsting in a forest, I would've called bullshit. But this book proved me wrong. Apparently, teenagers can have a lot of angst. Enough to fill 350 pages. I don't want to blaspheme Lovely, Dark and Deep though, because at its heart, it's a beautifully written book. The writing is poetic and conjures up images in a way that a regularly written script of dialogue and hasty descriptions can't. One of the first things that clued me into the prose was the quote on the front jacket flap:
I came here because it's pine-dark and the ocean is wild. The kind of quiet-noise you need when there's too much going on in your head. Like the water and the woods are doing all the feeling, and I can hang out, quiet as a headstone, in a between place. A blank I can bear.
I still can't believe she compared herself to a headstone. She's basically saying her life is a cemetery. This should have been enough of a clue that I was about to venture into depression-land, but apparently it wasn't enough to drive me away.

The entire time I was reading, I kept imagining myself in this silent forest, the kind of forest you find in the east. The trees have heavy snow-covered boughs, and the only sound is silence. Other times, it seemed that this book had submerged me like a rock in the ocean, where everything is muffled but in clarity. This is the world that Wren seems to move through. After her car accident, when she sees her boyfriend die before her eyes, she's lost and can't seem to find meaning in normalcy anymore. The grief in this book is potent, and I had to take breaks from the book because there were times when I thought it would take me under and not let go.

Wren is a tormented character; she takes midnight jogs in the forest and basically wanders around, oblivious to everything around her. It wasn't so bad in the beginning, but as the book went on, I found it really hard to like her. There's an amount of grief that i can deal with, but the way she treated the people around her seemed too harsh. Her decisions were so childish, especially when she decides that she hates Nick, that I couldn't feel sorry for her. She hates quickly and falls in love equally quickly. Cal remains two-dimensional; although his illness gives him character, I never felt like I truly understood him or what he and Wren found in each other beyond their mutual knowledge of what grief feels like.

What I did like, besides the writing, were the side characters, like her father, Mary, and Zara. Although there's not enough exploration into each, their personalities are warm and offset the coldness that seems to surround Wren. When they appear in the book, despite Wren's sulky responses to their attempts to help, they seem to be beacons of hope and recovery. The normalcy they provide becomes more frequent, and I think McNamara did a good job of inserting them into Wren's life slowly but surely. I would've liked her to come to terms with her mother in some sort of way, but I guess the point of that and what happens to her and Meredith are both evidence that there are some circumstances in life that change everything, and there's not much we can do to change it back.

Lovely, Dark and Deep is a heavy novel, but it doesn't have enough momentum. As I mentioned in my introduction, it's 350 pages of teenage angst. The end didn't seem like an end because the story cuts off, and maybe McNamara intends for us to imagine the rest of Wren's life, now that she's learned to care about others again. At any rate, the story just seems like one prolonged moment, and I have a hard time finding a plot in it. It could have been cut down a lot more so that the sadness was more profound and seemed less like it was dragging on. Also, the fragmented sentences sometimes interrupted the flow of things, especially since the rest of the writing was poetic and smooth.

Well, that's that. I'm exhausted from this book. Time for some Julia Quinn! 
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