Monday, January 21, 2013

Four for the Price of One

I really like to read, but this doing book reviews all the time thing is killing me. I still have 20 books left to review from 2012.'s executive decision time. I have GOT to finish these by the end of the month. From here out, 2013 BOTY rules apply. Books with three or fewer stars get grouped with surrounding books in a review of 2-5 books per post. Four or five stars and the book gets it's very own review - except for the case where there are two or more books in a row of the same series; those may be grouped together. There. Much simpler.

So today...four books. Ha.

I'll be reviewing :

1. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
2. A Room Swept White by Sophie Hannah
3. Bitter is the New Black by Jen Lancaster
4. The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson on.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky has become some sort of pop culture explosion. It's been turned into a movie with everyone singing its praises, saying how wonderful it all is. Hmm. I don't know about all that.

Perks is the story of Charlie, a 15-year-old boy whose best friend has committed suicide. Now he feels alone and confused as he goes back to school, trying to find out where he fits in. Charlie is shy and introverted - not sure of himself in any way.

Though he is awkward and quiet, Charlie winds up becoming friends with Sam and her stepbrother, Patrick. Sam and Patrick are both seniors, hanging out with a much different crowd than Charlie has been around in the past. Being with Sam and Patrick begins to expose him to a whole other world, one he has never been a part of before. He goes to parties, learns about drugs and more about dating and girls than he ever knew before. He begins to develop feelings for Sam, but hides them because he feels that he isn't good enough for her.

More or less, this is a coming of age story. It's just an updated version of any other coming of age story, really. It deals with introverts, parties, sex, drugs, and peer pressure, but also adds in the "new" issue of dealing with sexual identity. Sure, maybe it's an instruction booklet for the young teen, but it just seems quirky and over the top. Who really deals with all of these issues in such a short amount of time?? 

I tried to like this book, I really did. I'd read so many positive reviews and heard so many great things about it. the end, it just wasn't for me. It was just weird. Charlie was odd and hard to identify with. Though it becomes obvious why he is as quirky as he acts throughout the book, his odd behavior just made it more difficult to read and become involved in. It kind of put me off a little.

Don't get me wrong, it wasn't horrible. It has good points and I can see how other people might like it. It just wasn't something to catch and hold my attention. The Perks of Being a Wallflower was one of those books that you just read to say that you read it. Not impressive. So, I wound up giving it 3 out of 5 stars.

A Room Swept White was actually a semi-accidental read. I got started reading it before I realized that it was the wrong author. I had actually meant to read something by Kristin Hannah. Oops. Oh well.

In A Room Swept White, Fliss Benson is a TV producer who gets roped into working on a documentary about mothers who have been (supposedly) wrongly convicted of killing their children. She is less than thrilled to be working on the project, but must focus on interviewing three of the primary women involved. 

She receives and odd anonymous letter at work containing nothing but a series of numbers. She is confused by the meaning and thinks little of the odd little note...until one of the three women she is set to interview winds up dead, with an identical card in her pocket. Gripped with the fear of a potential serial killer, Fliss sets out to see what she can discover regarding the three odd cases.

Since this wasn't the book I meant to read, obviously I wasn't prepared for what it was about. And even better? Apparently this book is the fifth in a series. Yup. I can occasionally be a complete dunce. the time I realized all of this I was already a good chunk of the way into the, I decided to finish it. 

The writing was actually rather good and I did like her primary characters. I was flying right along and enjoying the plot until about 3/4 of the way through the book. However, at the point when things really started to happen and stories were starting to connect, I got seriously tangled up in the supporting characters and started to confuse who was who and what had happened to which person. It was rather frustrating and I did consider at one point quitting the book since it was giving me a headache to try and figure it out.

I stuck it out since I was so far in. I honestly am still confused about some things. I'd have to reread the book to figure it all out. I don't think I will. I didn't like it enough to go back and do it again. I may try another Sophie Hannah novel at another time (and hope that I can better keep her characters straight), but for this one I gave a rating of 3 out of 5 stars.

I don't remember exactly how I decided to read Jen Lancaster's novels, but I know that I read (either on one of the blogs I read or on someone's post on Pinterest...behold, the power of social media) that she was supposed to be entertaining and irreverently funny. Well...we all know how I love irreverent humor. I decided that I had to give her a try.

Bitter is the New Black tells the story of how Jen lost her job and found herself struggling to find a new one in the current craps shoot economy. She loses her high society life style and can't afford the things that she once found necessary for life. The intention of the book is to show how Jen struggled through her years of unemployment and how she transformed herself through adversity in order to become a more generous, understanding, and realistic person. Ya...I think the whole thing failed miserably.

To be brutally honest, I didn't like her. That's right, I did not like Jen Lancaster one bit. I found her to be insincere, rude and a flake. I wanted to slap her square across the face on several occasions and I did a large amount of head shaking throughout the book. It was fairly unreal. I don't know how anyone like that would even have friends, let alone a live-in boyfriend. She was horrible.

As for her supposed reinvention of self, bah. I don't think she really changed at all. I held out hope, and there were a few glimmers here and there, but in the last chapter of the book I found her to be just as selfish, materialistic, and rude as I did in the first.

The only thing that kept this book from dipping down into the 1-star category, was that she did manage to be funny now and then. I didn't end up abandoning the book. I guess that says something. However, it certainly earned its 2 star rating. Bitter is the New Black was occasionally painful to read and I will not be torturing myself by reading it again.

Hey...remember back at the beginning of 2012 when I got suckered into a crummy book by a pretty cover picture of a butterfly and then wound up wasting a pile of time reading a bound version of crap? Ya...I almost did it again. 

It wasn't nearly as bad, but once again the butterfly was a problem. The Adoration of Jenna Fox did not live up to the expectations that were put upon it because of the etymological cover art. Damn the butterflies!

The Adoration of Jenna Fox is a futuristic novel about a teenage girl who is in a terrible car accident and winds up in a coma. When she awakens a year later, her family has moved across the country to a secluded area of California and she appears to have amnesia. Though she can recall facts, math and other book knowledge, she can't seem to remember much of anything about herself. She is being "helped" to remember by watching old family videos of herself.

Jenna feels a disconnect from her life. She doesn't feel like Jenna. She doesn't feel like she moves right, talks right, or that her past is her own. She can't understand why things don't feel like they should.

Unfortunately, that's all I can really tell you without totally ruining the book. I was confused for about the first thirty to forty pages, but it wasn't in a way that made me want to give up. It was frustrating, but I knew I wanted to know how things ended up. Luckily, the plot moved quickly and the reading was rather easy. 

The plot was strange and not at all what I expected, but it worked. In fact, this is actually the first in a series of three books (of course they haven't all been released yet, when have I ever not totally screwed that up?). I will be reading the other two books.

I admit that I probably would've rated this book higher if the beginning hadn't been so frustrating and confusing. But, at the same time, I can't really think of a way that the plot could've worked in the way it did without keeping the reader in Jenna's shoes. She's confused, so you're confused. That's just how it has to work.

In the end, I was torn. I'd really say that The Adoration of Jenna Fox deserves to be somewhere between a three and a four. But, as with all of the other "in-betweeners", I had to round down. I gave The Adoration of Jenna Fox 3 out of 5 stars.


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