Thursday, August 17, 2017

Review: Night

Night Night by Elie Wiesel
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A short read.... but who ever said short couldn't be powerful?

My God.... this was on the summer reading list for my senior year of high school and I see why now. Looking back on it, I probably would have related to this more than the book I chose. At least I've read it now, ironically for school, although I'm at university level now. There's no "good" moment in this book, but given the subject matter that shouldn't be too much of a surprise. And, even when the story moved at breakneck speed, I was still looking for some semblance of a happy ending for the author. This must have been so hard to write, because that search for a happy ending was a wild goose chase for me.
I'm happy that Wiesel lived to tell his story, but I feel horrible that he went through all that he describes in the book. I could see the ending coming and I imagine he saw how his story would end, too, what the personal climax of this terrible time would be for him.
This story, like The Terrorist's Son by Zak Ebrahim, shows how religion can be used as a weapon if twisted and perverted enough. In the right hands, religion can be a beautiful diamond; in the wrong hands, it may as well be the burning ember that sets the forest around it ablaze. I say this because even today there are people who use religion as a way to achieve their own selfish or destructive ends instead of using it to better themselves, as I believe it could best be used.
Overall, a very short story with an extremely powerful punch. It well deserves to be taught in the schools and its message should never be forgotten!

May Elie Wiesel rest in peace....

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Thursday, August 10, 2017

Review: The Crossover

The Crossover The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

So.... I will admit that I have a love/hate relationship with this book.
I've never been into sports, mainly because most of them I'm not able to play, and I never got into watching them or reading about them. I just couldn't relate.
That said, this book had a message to convey that was so much more important than just the joy of playing basketball. Life, the main character Josh learns, doesn't come with a playbook and sometimes things change suddenly, they come out of left field (pun totally intended here).
I saw the climax of the book coming a mile away, and I just remember thinking, "Okay, when is (view spoiler) going to die, already?"
I know this sounds insensitive of me, but the truth is is that because of the verse narrative, I found it difficult to really form any attachment to any of the characters. Unfortunately, I wasn't fazed by what happened to the others. The only character I really felt much sympathy for was Josh, mainly because he lamented about how things were changing and he felt miles away from his own family. He's human, and he's made mistakes out of fear of things changing, something every adolescent can relate to.
Because of the way the book was written, things just moved too damn quickly, and while it meant that the story was a relatively quick read, there wasn't that much emotional payoff.
That being said, what little emotional payoff there was was very well done. It was fulfilling to see Josh ultimately reconnect with everyone after everything the family went through. The book's final scene was touching, moving, and left things on a hopeful note.
No matter how bad things get, there is always hope, and I enjoyed seeing that message.
Despite the book not being entirely to my taste, it conveys a very great message, so I'm awarding it 2.5 stars, rounded up to three.

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Thursday, August 3, 2017

Review: Looking for Alaska

Looking for Alaska Looking for Alaska by John Green
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I woke up sick, so I apologize if this review is a little disorganized....

Well, this book was not what I expected. I expected a romance story with both Alaska and the main character Pudge. The first half of the story was long and, quite frankly, not holding my interest. I did wonder what the "Before" and "After" stuff was about, and it was handled nicely. In the back of my mind, I knew what was going to happen, but I was still shocked when (view spoiler) but, after all she'd been through, I didn't blame her. I liked the Colonel, he was a pleasant surprise - I honestly expected him to be the stereotypical bully!
And, also to my surprise, the novel raised important points about Alaska's actions and what drove them. That was nice to see, but it bothered me at the time, because I know what it's like to lose someone and it was reminding me of the person I lost.
I didn't love the way the book was written. Like I fear with most YA novels, the writing felt somewhat dry, although, as I said, it did pick up in the second half.
Although it wasn't perfect, it was honestly better than I expected.... you just have to be patient with it.

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Saturday, July 29, 2017

Review: The Devil's Arithmetic

The Devil's Arithmetic The Devil's Arithmetic by Jane Yolen
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When I was fourteen years old, I was nominated by my school district to receive an award known as the Raoul Wallenberg award. This honor was given to one kid from each school district in the state, and less than twenty kids per school are nominated to be considered for the honors program. The award was given to those whom school officials believed to emulate the spirit of Raoul Wallenberg, who selflessly saved hundreds of thousands of Jews from Nazi death camps in Budapest.
Fast-forward five, six years later, and I've picked up this book for Yearning for YA. The writing just felt okay to me, and the first few chapters are by no means the most thrilling, but once this story got going it really began to click with me.
I honestly felt genuine fear and frustration throughout the story, and that tells me that the author did a really nice job capturing the fear and uncertainty for the people in the death camps. I liked how both present and past came together in this story to show the main protagonist the true significance of the persecution of the Jews in the WWII period, so she better understood why her family in the present came together and gave thanks for the life they live in the present.
After all, the people in power during that time, toward the end of the war, tried to clean up their mess, but it still remains a stain on world history, and there is a reason we will never forget it. And the author illustrated that perfectly.
There is one small thing that bothers me, though. As I said, present and past connect in this story. The main character gets transported to the 1940s by opening a door in the present day and suddenly the present day is gone and she lives in the WWII era and it's as if the present hadn't occurred yet. This bothered me because it is never explained how she ended up in the 1940s, not to mention how she returned to her present family. I wanted a solid explanation for that, and I felt cheated.
Otherwise, though, it was a pretty nice little story with a very profound message to give.
Honestly, back when I received the Wallenberg award, I didn't understand what the big deal was about what he'd done. But with this little peek into the history for the Jewish people, I feel like I finally understand why people like him are so honored and remembered.
Heroes don't just exist in storybooks, after all....

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Thursday, July 20, 2017

Review: Hoot

Hoot Hoot by Carl Hiaasen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is listed under Project: Yearning for YA. To learn more about this project, click here.

I've had a love/hate relationship with YA literature in recent years. Depending on the hand writing the story, YA can be good, great, just okay, bad, or absolutely atrocious. I read Hiaasen under Project: Yearning for YA and I'm no expert on the subject, but I think this little story was interesting. The writing wasn't terrible and the story kept me coming back to find out what would happen next. Like most YA novels that I've read, I was thinking the story would end up not telling me everything I wanted to know. Some YA novels have this crutch where they refuse to tell the main protagonist (and therefore the reader) anything specific about the world in which the book is set or certain situations the main character may get tangled up in. I was afraid the story would go that route, but I was pleasantly surprised when we were given answers (even if I didn't understand some of those answers upon first glance).
What Hiaasen has done here is woven a weird little story that did not seem all that big of a deal at the start. But sometimes you have to dig a little deeper to gain the reward the book offers. I found what this book wanted to say touching, deep, and beautiful in its own little way.
Sometimes, YA can be just as profound as the adult novels and classics it rivals.

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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Project: Yearning for YA

So it's been a while since I've posted a review of a novel (besides Journal 3 Special Edition) but I just got Hoot by Carl Hiaasen today and I just finished it a few minutes ago. I should have a review posted either tomorrow or Friday for it.
Anyway, I'm scheduled to take a YA literature course this semester, so I figured why not have a little fun with it? Project: Yearning for YA will cover all of the YA novels I read and how I feel about them, what I like about them, dislike about them, and as the course progresses I'll talk about trends in YA and why there are trends and what they entail. Details to come! 

Thought this was interesting....

Sunday, June 25, 2017

My Review of Journal 3 Special Edition

"Against all odds,"

"I'm Back...."

So it took me some time, but I can finally say that I received my copy of the Gravity Falls Journal 3 Special Edition and read it in full. And all I can say is, "Wow!"

It was so much fun to read, even more fun than the regular edition. The same beautiful story is there, of course, but the additions that were put in made this book even more special than the first edition. Like I've heard many people say, the special edition is really a much higher quality product. I won't go into the story (as I already covered that in my Journal 3 Review), but I will say that I loved how the blacklight messages added a spookier, more melancholy tone to the story than we saw previously. I just felt more of a sense of darkness to the story, especially with how the Author was the only person to use the invisible ink, adding to the paranoia and fear he showcases through the pages. 
And I just have to say that the blacklight illustrations are gorgeous. They really added this invisible beauty to the overall book that was just amazing to see. 
And I loved the edition number idea. Since there were only 10,000 copies of this book available, it was kind of fun to see what number you got out of the overall batch of books. I personally don't care about the number itself, but I think putting the numbers on the books really helped to showcase how special each copy was. 
I really adored how each book came with a letter signed by the creator of Gravity Falls and how the photos in the book were removable. I think it really helped to foster in me, and perhaps others, a sense that being a nerd is okay. I like that message, that it's nothing to be ashamed of and knowing the edition numbers and seeing the creator's signature reminded me that I'm not the only one who enjoys this show. 
Children's show or not, I honestly couldn't care less. It was a fantastic show that more than deserved to receive all the attention it did. The Journal, to me, was a wonderful way to remind people of one of the show's main messages: that it's okay to be who you are, it's okay to be a nerd about things and geek out over whatever you feel is worth geeking out over. That's what makes it so special. 

Oh, and before I forget, I did take some blacklight photos. Let me apologize in advance for the poor quality of some of them (I'm not very good at taking photos to begin with, but being in the dark made it even harder), but I wanted to take some of my own instead of stealing someone else's. 

                   The package the Journal came in. Mine was #21

                                        The cover of the Journal moments after opening it. I can't even begin to explain how I felt!

             One of my favorite illustrations. This photo doesn't even do it justice - it is so pretty!

                  I just like how badass this illustration is. Brings me right back to that exact moment in Not What He Seems. 

                  Probably the best photo I took. As horrible as the situation the illustration depicts is, there's a beauty to this illustration that I was somehow able to capture. 

                     Heard about this one - honestly thought it was a joke until I saw it for myself. I think it was perfect, given that it's one of the last things seen on the show, so it's the last thing seen in the Journal. 

                        The best thing in this image is the winding staircase. I just wish the tree had invisible ink so it would have shown up on camera. 

                      I just like that the skeleton of the Author's hand glows like that. It looks really cool. 


                         The Author's hand under the "Property Of" piece. I didn't want to remove the entire thing, because I was afraid I wouldn't be able to get it back on right. The "SIXER" underneath the hand is my favorite part of the illustration. 

So, that's my review of Journal 3 Special Edition. And, as pricey as it was, it was so worth buying. It's something that I think I'll treasure for a very long time, just as I will the show that started it all: Gravity Falls