Tag Archives: book report

Book Report – The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

29 Sep

This is one of those topics where I feel a little silly contributing my voice to the discussion. At this point, what is there to say about The Hunger Games that hasn’t already been said?

But contribute I must. Because this book was awesome.

Imagine a future in which the government is so strict that once a year, it hosts a reality television show in which contestants must fight to the death. There can be only one winner. Contestants can be as young as 12. The contest is naturally biased against the impoverished, and contestants have no preparation for whatever challenges may exist within the arena. It’s simple kill or be killed.

When I was younger and fell within the target demographic for young adult fiction, YA novels like this simply didn’t exist. They were all about boys or shopping or social aggression or the various trials and tribulations of high school. I have no problem with books like that, in truth, but I was living it. I didn’t want to read about it too. Back then, there was simply no young adult fiction that was this complex, or this dark… and make no mistake about it, this story is dark. I have frequent nightmares, but they’re usually peculiar things… all my teeth falling out, or Seth Green chasing me with a scythe while spitting bees out of his mouth (seriously). Never before have I had a nightmare due to the book I was reading before bed. And never before have I had a nightmare quite so bone-chillingly awful, might I add. I dreamed I was in The Hunger Games; I dreamed I was losing, and I woke up in a cold sweat.

The one thing that caught me about this book: Toward the end, the remaining two contestants hatch a plot that, had it not been a ruse to begin with, could have devalued The Hunger Games and stopped it in its tracks. It would have come at great personal cost, but it would have been a fantastic coup. However, it would have left little room for a sequel. From what I understand, The Hunger Games is the first in a trilogy. So, while I actually found it a little disappointed that the last two standing didn’t put an end to The Hunger Games once and for all, I also understand that the author has more of a story to tell. I look forward to reading the follow ups.

Buy it, buy it, buy it.

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Book Report – The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

17 Sep

The Art of Racing in the Rain is one of those books that you hear about in passing, and find your interest semi-piqued, so you check it out of the library because you’re not sure you want to spend $20 on a book told from the perspective of a dog. At least, that’s what happened in my case, anyway. As it turns out, I could have just spent the money… but more on that in a bit.

Honestly, from what I knew about it before reading it, this book had a lot working against it. The idea of a story being told from a dog’s perspective is unique, sure… but it’s also a bit gimmicky. And the plot sounds melodramatic at first, involving love and death and custody battles and rampant accusations and court battles. And Ferraris. Because the lead human character is a race car driver. I’m not remotely interested in race cars, and I’m only moderately interested in melodrama. However, I am very, very interested in dogs, so that’s why I gave it a chance.

The story follows wise, charming Enzo, the aforementioned dog, and his master Denny, the aforementioned racecar driver. You learn right away that it will be a sad story, but Enzo sets you up for That Much More of an emotional reaction by detailing happier times first. I feel like I’ve already given away too much of the plot, so I don’t want to risk any serious spoilers… just know that this was a book where I was near tears at some points, laughing out loud at others. At one point, I was so angry with the story that I almost stopped reading the book, thinking that I didn’t like it. After a moment I realized it was the actual story that was provoking such a visceral reaction, not the book itself.

I love dogs. I’ve often looked at them and thought that they have so much to say; they just don’t have a way of communicating it all to us. Sometimes I think they might even be smarter than human beings. I get the impression Garth Stein thinks so too. If you’re looking for a good story that’s a bit of an emotional whirlwind, or you just enjoy reading stories told from unique perspectives, I think you’d probably like The Art of Racing in the Rain. Definitely worth buying.

Book Report – Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

13 Aug

So far, the book reports I’ve written haven’t exactly been raves.

That’s about to change. Welcome to Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher.

image via barnesandnoble.com

image via barnesandnoble.com

Hannah Baker has killed herself (don’t worry, I’m not spoiling anything). However, before her suicide, she sat down and recorded a series of tape cassettes, each detailing a particular event that led her to the decision to take her own life. These tapes were mailed out to the individuals involved in said events, one of whom is Clay Jensen. Clay had a crush on Hannah, and cannot figure out how he could have possibly contributed to her death.

The story is told from two perspectives: The transcript of Hannah’s tapes, and Clay’s reactions to them. It’s a very unique format, in that these trade-offs in perspective do not happen from chapter to chapter (a la Nick and Norah… yeah, it was a book first), but rather from paragraph to paragraph, or even within the same paragraph. It’s a very natural flow. I think it was very smart of Jay Asher to use this format, as well, because had he devoted full chapters to Hannah’s thoughts, I think it would have read too much like a suicide note. Because he got the details so right.

There are people in the world who only read nonfiction, because they don’t feel like there’s anything to be learned from reading fiction. Those people should really read this book. Toward the end, it’s made quite clear that Hannah feels like nobody cares if she’s dead because she made it quite clear what her intentions were, and nobody stopped her. However, from Clay’s perspective, her intentions are only clear in hindsight, and the hints that Hannah considered to be obvious were in actuality quite subtle. I think this reflects reality for a lot of people. When you’re depressed, it can be hard to actually use terms like “depressed,” because there’s still a lot of stigma attached to it, or you might feel like you’re just overreacting to a given situation, or any number of things… but at the same time, you can feel like you’re practically screaming for help without actually saying the words “I need help.” Hannah’s perspective gives the reader insight into the feelings and experiences that a suicidal person may be living through, while Clay’s perspective reminds us not to take seemingly insignificant details for granted.

I also appreciated the fact that Jay Asher cleverly educates the reader about some of the lesser known signs of an impending suicide attempt. For example, he references Hannah giving away a prized possession (her bike), as well as her demeanor improving just before her suicide.

I’m not meaning for this to turn into some creepy rant about how to recognize the signs of a suicidal mentality… I just really want to bring home the point that this book is both highly readable and highly enriching at the same time. It’s one of those books that makes me sad at the end, because I didn’t write it. So it should come as no surprise that I think you should definitely buy it, buy it, buy it.

Book Report – Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson

13 Aug

I think a lot of people will agree with me, summertime is the best time for light reads. I think we’re conditioned for this by the public school system. After being forced to plow our way through thick, dry volumes throughout the school year, we naturally begin to crave something a little more irreverent. For a lot of “grown-ups” like myself, this can boil down to romance novels or fluffy “beach reads”… but for me, it means only one thing: Young Adult fiction.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of truly horrible YA novels out there. I don’t care how well-written it is, I won’t go near the Gossip Girl books, even though I kind of love the show. And although I’m generally against censorship, I do think every copy of Twilight (and all its sequels) should be rounded up and burned straight to hell. But then, there are some novels that are classified as YA, and I can’t really figure out why. To be honest, it seems like the major criteria for calling these books YA is their lack of explicit sexual intercourse. Such are the books of Maureen Johnson.

image via barnesandnoble.com

image via barnesandnoble.com

I put off reading Suite Scarlett for a good, long time, because the plot summary sounded kind of… stupid. Essentially, it’s about a family (the Martins) that owns and lives in a failing hotel in New York. Upon reaching a certain age, each Martin child is given a particular room in the hotel that they, exclusively, are responsible for maintaining. A dramatic guest comes to stay in the room that Scarlett Martin is responsible for, and a slew of wacky hijinks ensue. Oh yeah, and there’s a boy.

With Maureen Johnson books, there’s always a boy.

There are a few drawbacks to Maureen Johnson’s stories in general. For example, they tend to rely a little heavily on the sappy loveydove plot lines. I cringe a little whenever her protagonists get kissed… and they always get kissed… because the descriptions of said kissing tend to go on just a leeeeettle too long for my taste. Also, the conflicts are usually pretty tame (unrequited crushes, family squabbles, etc.), so her books aren’t always page-turners. Lastly… they don’t ever really have endings. Her books just sort of stop.

All of this being said, I definitely still recommend Maureen Johnson’s books. Mostly because she’s funny, and she’s not shy about provocative subject matter (read The Bermudez Triangle for a little taste of that). And while I don’t like every element of her style, her writing is certainly good enough to get me through to the end of the book. Essentially what it comes down to with Suite Scarlett is that I enjoyed reading it… I just wouldn’t read it again. But the other great thing about YA novels? They tend to be cheap, so if even you hate this one, at least you’re only out about 10 bucks, instead of 20 or 30.

Still, 10 bucks is 10 bucks, so I say: borrow it.

Book Report – Epilogue: A Memoir by Anne Roiphe

15 Jul

Welcome to the first installment of what I hope will become a regular feature here on Kisses Are Delicious… Book Reports! 

When I was little, I loved reading. I loved to escape into the world of the Wakefield sisters from Sweet Valley Twins (never got into the Sweet Valley High series, I have to say) or The Babysitter’s Club (I may or may not have unsuccessfully tried to start my own branch). Somewhere along the line, I stopped reading quite so much… maybe because school started demanding that I slog through pre-approved texts, picking them over with a fine-toothed comb for symbolism, breaking things down to the point that they were no longer escapist or enjoyable, but were just… work. Now that nobody forces me to read anything, I want to get back into the habit of reading for pleasure. Book Reports are intended to help keep me on track with that, as well as providing you with book reviews. In every review I will talk briefly about the book itself, and then discuss my personal reaction to it. Each review will leave you with one of two conclusions: Buy It or Borrow It. Now, on with the first review!

 

 

image via barnesandnoble.com

image via barnesandnoble.com

I’ve been slowly working my way through Epilogue: A Memoir by Anne Roiphe for awhile now. This memoir details events in the author’s life that occur after the death of her husband… her emotions, her beliefs about the afterlife (or lack thereof), her memories, her experiences with online dating. I purchased it expecting it to be the sort of story that sucks you in and really makes you feel for the narrator, being that the topic at hand is rather a sad one. I expected it to be terribly romantic, and even a little bit depressing.

Ultimately, I’m sorry to say, this book was something of a let down for me. Anne Roiphe’s “voice” in the book just didn’t pull me in. Over the course of the book, it is made clear that she and her late husband have a very scientific point of view regarding the world, and unfortunately I think this memoir suffers for that. While she occasionally refers to the concept of “soul mates,” all in all, the whole story comes across as terribly unromantic. Ms. Roiphe and “H.,” as her husband was referred to throughout the book, struck me as being excellent companions, but there was no clear element of true love shining through to really hook me.

Personally, I would have preferred more details. I would have liked to know more about how Anne Roiphe met H. I would have liked to hear about their courtship and their wedding day. I would have liked to hear about young love blooming and growing in addition to longtime love coming apart due to one partner’s death and the subsequent aftermath. I understand the title is “Epilogue” and thus the story is intended to focus on the aftermath, but it really is hard to care about what comes after when you have no sense of what went on before. This memoir reads a little bit like a personal log of events, which is a shame, because I’m sure there is a great love story in there that just wasn’t allowed out for whatever reason.

All things considered, with the price of admission for a hardcover book hovering around $35 these days, I say skip this one  if it’s a love story you’re after. If a factual recanting of events after a loved one’s death sounds like something you would enjoy reading, then you might want to borrow it from your local library first, to make sure you enjoy the author’s style. 

Bottom line: Borrow It.