Michelle’s Review: September Girls by Bennett Madison

Michelle’s Review: September Girls by Bennett MadisonSeptember Girls by Bennett Madison
Published by HarperCollins on 2013-05-21
Genres: Adaptations, Dating & Sex, Fairy Tales & Folklore, General, Legends, Myths, Fables, Social Issues, Young Adult
Pages: 352
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
In September Girls, Sam is spending the summer in a beach town filled with beautiful blond girls who all seem inexplicably attracted to him. But that’s not the only reason why he thinks the Girls are strange. They only wear flats because heels make their feet bleed. They never go swimming in the water. And they all want something from him. Sam finds himself in an unexpected summer romance when he falls for one of the Girls, DeeDee. But as they get closer, she pulls away without explanation. Sam knows that if he is going to win her back, he’ll have to learn the Girls’ secret. Bennett Madison, author of The Blonde of the Joke, brings a mix of lyrical writing, psychologically complex characters, and sardonic humor to this YA coming-of-age novel about first love…and mermaids.

How I came to own and read this book: I went to a local author event, where there was a panel of four authors. Bennett Madison was one of the authors. I was interested in all the authors’ works so I bought one copy of each of their books. I got them personally signed. They then sat on my shelf for almost two years for no good reason. I have finally started reading them, with varying levels of enjoyment.

What I thought before I started: I had thought the premise sounded interesting during the author event, but then when I went on Goodreads and saw some of the reviews of other friends and readers, I was shocked. Many did not enjoy the book at all, not finishing it, critiquing it harshly for being misogynistic, too crude, etc. I was dismayed that I had already bought the book and had it signed because after those reviews, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to read it. However, I decided to go into with as much of an open mind as I could given that I had already read other reviews.

What I thought after I finished: It has been so cold that it was nice to escape to the beach. I could really picture the beach, the weather, the sense of summer. It was fantastic.

I was at first very shocked by the presence and sheer quantity of curse words in the book, but decided that it was authentic given the point of view. However, I would say that while authenticity creates an original voice in a book, perhaps the cursing could have been less dramatic. While it is completely common for others to curse as much as Sam, the main character did, it’s not really that fun to read.

While I understand people’s thoughts on the misogyny or the cursing in this book, neither bothered me. I didn’t quite agree with the former and the latter felt realistic to me. Now whether it was necessary or appropriate for a book that was pitched as young adult is another question, one I don’t have an answer to myself.

The main character is a young adult, but I don’t think it’s a young adult book in the way that others are. It is perhaps better suited for ‘new adult’ or whatever.

My main complaints are not related to either of the above points. I just wanted to understand what was going on. Who were The Girls? What was the curse? What happened to Kristle? What happened to DeeDee? I read it all, and perhaps there were explanations within some of the more poetic pieces, but I couldn’t grasp at it myself. Which is unfortunate because I did want to like it more.

pj - michelle

Michelle’s Review: Evil Under the Sun by Agatha Christie

Michelle’s Review: Evil Under the Sun by Agatha ChristieEvil Under the Sun by Agatha Christie
Published by HarperCollins on 2011-08-30
Genres: Fiction, Mystery & Detective, Traditional British
Pages: 272
Format: Audiobook
Source: Public Library
The beautiful bronzed body of Arlena Stuart lay facedown on the beach. But strangely, there was no sun and Arlena was not sunbathing…she had been strangled. Ever since Arlena’s arrival the air had been thick with sexual tension. Each of the guests had a motive to kill her, including Arlena’s new husband. But Hercule Poirot suspects that this apparent “crime of passion” conceals something much more evil.

In a summer where I have yet to go on to the beach, pool, or equal body of water, Evil Under the Sun was the perfect summer getaway mystery. Hercule Poirot is not able to vacation for long at a Cornish beach resort when one of the resort’s guests is found strangled on the beach.

I listened to this audiobook and it was wonderful. Having the actor who plays Hercule Poirot in the television series was sucg a lovely bonus. And man, can he act! The different voices and accents he put on for the different characters was so engaging. When a character sneezed, he sneezed. It really brought the book more alive than other audiobook narrators.

There was something absolutely idyllic about the setting of this book (despite the murder) that really made me long for a similar vacation. Sailing, rowing, tennis, the pool, the ocean, books, food, caves, cliffs, and company…it really was the perfect book for summer (or when you’re longing for a real summer).

The plot itself was standard Christie. Not sure I quite understand its conclusion (I certainly didn’t see it coming) but it in no way took away any of my enjoyment of the book.

pj - michelle

Michelle’s Review: The One by Kiera Cass

Michelle’s Review: The One by Kiera CassThe One by Kiera Cass
Published by HarperCollins on 2014-05-06
Genres: Dystopian, Girls & Women, Love & Romance, Royalty, Young Adult
Pages: 336
Format: eBook
The highly anticipated third book in Kiera Cass's #1 New York Times bestselling Selection series, The One will captivate readers who love dystopian YA fiction and fairy tales. The One is perfect for the fans who have followed America's whirlwind romance since it began—and a swoon-worthy read for teens who have devoured Veronica Roth's Divergent, Ally Condie's Matched, or Lauren Oliver's Delirium.The Selection changed America Singer's life in ways she never could have imagined. Since she entered the competition to become the next princess of Illéa, America has struggled with her feelings for her first love, Aspen—and her growing attraction to Prince Maxon. Now she's made her choice . . . and she's prepared to fight for the future she wants.Find out who America will choose in The One, the enchanting, beautifully romantic third book in the Selection series!

I spent the time after finishing this book lying awake writing a blog post in my mind about it. Now that it is the morning after, my emotions have stabilized, but my thoughts have remained the same. I would say that I really enjoyed this book, but I think in some ways it was the suspense fooling me a little. I did like it, but I’m not sure if it was a truly magical experience for me.

So really, this is between a 3 star (I liked it) and a four star (I really liked it): a 3.5.

I’ve been very honest in my reviews for The Selection and The Elite about how I believe these books (I think) were only ever meant to be fun and enjoyable reads. Light, kind of shallow, and still suspenseful.

I could, in fact, quote from my review of The Elite and have it completely apply to my feelings about The One:

I kept reading this book to see if America would make a decision. And each chapter added a new revelation about either the history of Illea or some new event that made me want to immediately know the outcome. I was increasingly frustrated by America’s indecisiveness and lack of a spine…it seemed like any decision was open to be immediately changed by a single event. I am still not sure I really understand the presence of the dystopian elements. The rebel attacks, the increasing tension between the castes…I kept feeling like either more attention needs to be paid to that side of things or just leave it. The series is at its core a romance story. While that plot seems less ‘important’ than a government struggle, time and again the focus is brought back to the romance. The dystopian parts of the story are definitely political at their core, or so I felt.

The things that differed with The One:

  • The dystopian elements were hashed out more, but still almost superfluous to the main plot. In some ways, it felt like it was just there to explain the type of society that would have The Selection. I wish that there had been more depth to that part of the story if it was going to be there.
  • America actually makes decisions! Though, no one could ever exactly call her ‘decisive’. ‘Impulsive’ definitely. Though perhaps as she moves out of her teenage years, she’d mature into more of a decisive woman.

All that said, I still enjoyed the story. I stayed up late to finish it and was either shouting at America or giggling throughout it. I did grow increasingly frustrated this time around with the characters’ immaturity but I think that’s more because this is -perhaps- a younger, young adult. I wouldn’t recommend this book to anyone who does not have a tolerance or enjoy young adult, but for those looking for a fun summer read, this fits that billet!

pj - michelle

Christina’s Review: Delirium by Lauren Oliver

Christina’s Review: Delirium by Lauren OliverDelirium by Lauren Oliver
Published by HarperCollins on 2012-02-06
Genres: Dystopian, Emotions & Feelings, General, Love & Romance, Science Fiction, Social Issues, Young Adult
Pages: 480
Format: eBook
Before scientists found the cure, people thought love was a good thing. They didnt understand that once love - the deliria - blooms in your blood, there is no escaping its hold. Things are different now. Scientists are able to eradicate love and the government demands that all citizens recieve the cure upon turning eightteen. Lena Holoway has always looked forward to the day when she will be cured. A life without love is a life without pain: safe, measured, predicable and happy. But with ninety- five days left until her treatment, Lena does the unthinkable: she falls in love.

Delirium was another book club book selected for June’s read based off popular vote. This book sounded more interesting than I thought it was. As I first started reading the book, I loved how it started. The book read quick and sparked my interest from the first few chapters. However, as I continued through Delirium, the book began to read tediously. It felt like the same content being repeated with little progression. The theme became old and the book felt longer than the start. This book is definitely meant for the young adult audience, however, I felt the basic concept behind the book was one that was tiresomely overdone.

The book sets place in a world where love is a disease that has a cure. Readings are designed to illuminate the terrible side effects this “disease” can have on individuals. People fear love and look forward to the disease, just like the main character of Delirium, Lena. Lena was counting down the days until she was cured from this disease, that was until she met a boy that captivated her emotions… The story goes on following through the encounters Lena has with this boy as she gets closer to receiving the cure. She has a best friend brought into the mix, whom she fights on and off with and carries on with. These two characters are relatable for many teenagers going through high school and preparing for college. As the book continues, Lena is faced with the struggle of what is real and what individuals are brainwashed to think is real. The question persists throughout the book, “What will Lena do when the time comes for her to receive her cure?”

My problem with the book was that it read like every other teenage heart-throb book. The subject is getting old… will love conquer all? One of the members of our book club mentioned she felt the characters were hard to connect with in the book… that their personality didn’t really shine through. After thinking about that, I agreed with what she said. The characters weren’t predictable in the sense that you really got to know them. They were predictable because they followed the persona of other characters in the same genre of books. This teenage first love fate is starting to get old and is not realistic… Delirium read like other books and movies of similar topic. I was hoping for something new, but this book did not finish meeting my expectations it started to produce.

Overall, I did not HATE this book. I give it three starts out of five because it was still written well. While the subject is old, unrealistic, and over-played, the author’s style is unique and well-composed. This would make a good beach or casual read if one had time to spare.

pj - christina