Friday, July 17, 2009

Ballads of Suburbia

By: Stephanie Kuehnert

Release Date: July 21, 2009

Summary (from Amazon):
Kara hasn't been back to Oak Park since the end of junior year, when a heroin overdose nearly killed her and sirens heralded her exit. Four years later, she returns to face the music. Her life changed forever back in high school: her family disintegrated, she ran around with a whole new crowd of friends, she partied a little too hard, and she fell in love with gorgeous bad-boy Adrian, who left her to die that day in Scoville Park....

Amid the music, the booze, the drugs, and the drama, her friends filled a notebook with heartbreakingly honest confessions of the moments that defined and shattered their young lives. Now, finally, Kara is ready to write her own.

Character Development: 9/10
Originality: 10/10
Plot/Storyline: 10/10
Ending: 8/10
Voice: 10/10
Recommendation: 10/10
Total Score: 57
Grade: A+

Age Appropriate Rating:
Cussing: 9/10
Drugs, alcohol, etc.: 20/10
Sexual Content: 8/10

Written Review:

This novel was brilliant. It was difficult to read at times. It had raw characters in harsh situations. It depicted a scene I was rather unfamiliar with; drugs, alcohol, self abuse, partying, suicides, overdosing, and even the family dynamics seemed strange to me. Normally these things would make me hate a book but this one was different. It was just real. Obviously not my “real” but the reality of the stories (or ballads) in this novel represented so many nameless people. It opened my eyes up to an unseen world.

The characters were great. I hated them and loved them and wished I could help them in some way. I did not relate to anyone directly but each one of them moved me in such a profound way. Their ballads are what really made each character come alive because they were in that character’s POV about the one moment that impacted them the most. It really made you look through their eyes and really see the stair step of events that lead to their downfall of decisions (but it in no way justified the drug usage!).

It goes without saying that the voice was great. It kept me hooked from the beginning with such a nice flow to it. It was interesting how it was placed like a song. The parts were verses or choruses that took place during a certain time. It was also interesting how Stephanie could find one song lyric to represent the entire part or ballad so perfectly. That's definitely a unique talent!

Emotion poured off the page. I cried and laughed. I was shocked and disappointed. I felt each characters struggles and triumph. I was there, in that town, with those people, feeling awful and happy and worried. Emotion is most definitley not lacking in this novel.

The only thing I had a problem with (and it was very minor) was that at times the pacing could get confusing. Some chapters were only a day and others a month. Besides the timeframe in the beginning of the part, the date was based purely on your own assumption. I think it would have been helpful with a date at the beginning of each chapter but I can also realize how Kara wouldn’t realize the exact date if she was writing this 4 or 5 years in the future. Overall I think that’s my own personality getting in the way since I have to have times and dates and plans to keep from getting too stressed so ignore this if you must.

This novel was addicting. It was harsh, raw, cruel, sad, and painful but the scariest of all is that this is real. In one powerful novel whole worlds are exposed. I recommend this novel to anyone ready to see the truth.

Don’t expect a happily ever after. This isn’t that story. This is the ballad of an awful truth, hidden and ignored in our society, which is finally being sung out loud.



Monday, July 13, 2009

Love You, Hate You, Miss You

By: Elizabeth Scott
Release Date: May 26, 2009

Summary (from Barnes and Noble):
Get this, I'm supposed to be starting a journal about "my journey." Please. I can see it now: Dear Diary, As I'm set adrift on this crazy sea called "life" . . . I don't think so.
It's been seventy-five days. Amy's sick of her parents suddenly taking an interest in her.
And she's really sick of people asking her about Julia. Julia's gone now, and she doesn't want to talk about it. They wouldn't get it, anyway. They wouldn't understand what it feels like to have your best friend ripped away from you.
They wouldn't understand what it feels like to know it's your fault.
Amy's shrink thinks it would help to start a diary. Instead, Amy starts writing letters to Julia.
But as she writes letter after letter, she begins to realize that the past wasn't as perfect as she thought it was—and the present deserves a chance too.

Character Development: 10/10
Originality: 8/10
Plot/Storyline: 9/10
Ending: 6/10
Voice: 10/10
Recommendation: 9/10
Total Score: 52
Grade: A

Age Appropriate Rating:
Cussing: 6/10
Drugs, alcohol, etc.: 10/10
Sexual Content: 6/10

Written Review:

I adored this novel but I'm pretty much a sucker for any book by Elizabeth Scott. Elizabeth Scott is good at portraying true emotion and this novel didn't disappoint. I felt Amy's anger at Julia for dying and her grieving for the loss of a good friend. I felt her parent's hurt for ignoring the opportunity to learn about their child and I felt their willingness to make it right. I felt like I knew Julia even though we only heard about her through Amy's memories. Every sentence held an almost palpable emotion that really made the novel great.

Though the plot has some cliched points (grief, death, family issues, relationship issues, etc.) the letters to Julia made it really unique. It was interesting to see how Amy related a situation in her normal point of view compared to the letters she wrote to Julia. It also helped to get to know their relationship better by how Amy speaks to her and related stuff back to when Julia was alive (like "remember when....").

We really found out what happened to Julia and why Amy feels so much guilt through the therapy sessions Amy has. That's where all the questions of how and why come into play. The therapist really helped Amy to see that her friendship with Julia wasn't as perfect as she thought.

Amy's recovery as an alcoholic and her grief over losing a best friend were paced in real time which means, as anyone who has lost someone knows you never fully get over the person, you just learn to cope, and throughout the novel Amy learned to do this with the help of newly supportive parents and newly formed relationships.

It was written with evidence to the pains Amy was feeling after losing both things she depends on most--alcohol and her best friend.

But though some of the elements of this story were darker Amy's voice definitely carries loads of sarcastic humor which helped move the story along and keep it light. I think my favorite parts were when Amy was recounting a memory of her and Julia. It really let the reader see inside the friendship from when it started to the tragic end.

Overall, the voice was great, the story was original, the characters were real, and the emotions were raw. This is another poignant novel from a great author. It's worth checking out for anyone wanting a beautiful novel about how learning from the past can help you move towards a better future.




Hey Everybody!

I should be back later today or early tomorrow with a review but for now it's time to announce the winner of the Milestones Contest!

Drumroll please....

And the winner with 36 points is.............


(email me your address within the next 72 hours to claim your prize)

Thank you to all who participated.


Saturday, July 11, 2009

In My Mailbox

inspired by Alea of Pop Culture Junkie

hosted by Kristi of The Story Siren
Its been way too long (like over a month actually) for me to catch up on all of the books I have recieved in that time. (that sounds really bad. Like I've gotten a whole lot. And thats not true. I just don't want to remember what I got in what week and such) so I'll just be mentioning some of the books I've recieved sometime in the last 5-6 weeks.

Here we go....

-The Amanda Project By:Stella Lennon
-Once A Witch By:Carolyn MacCullough

-After By: Amy Efaw

-The Secret Year By: Jennifer R. Hubbard

-Ballads of Suburbia By: Stephanie Kuehnert

-The Espressologist By: Kristina Springer

-How To Say Goodbye In Robot By: Natalie Standiford
-Entrapment By: Michael Spooner

-Hold Still By: Nina LaCour

-Sleepless By: Thomas Fahy

-Never Slow Dance With A Zombie By: E. Van Lowe

-The Real Real By: Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus

-The Lost Summer By: Kathryn Williams
O and I'm sorry for my lack of reviews. I babysit from 8AM - 5PM 5 days a week in the summer so I've been pretty tired. But I have been reading still so I do have reviews to post. This week I only work for 2 days so I'm hoping to catch up on a lot.
The winner of the Milestones contest will be announced tomorrow.

Friday, July 10, 2009

I was interviewed!

Over at Sarah Ockler's site for Flip It Friday.

Go check it out