Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Book Review: Mojo

Title: Mojo
Author: Tim Tharp
Publication Date: April 8, 2014
Publisher: Ember
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 288
Age Rating: Readers over 14
My Opinion: 7/10

Hi, Readers!

       Every once and a while, I enjoy reading a good mystery book.  Trying to figure out the culprit before the main character solves the mystery is a lot of fun.  In the novel Mojo, author Tim Tharp includes a great mix of mystery and comedy to create a lighthearted and entertaining read.  However, some of his characters were not my favorite.

missing girl       Dylan is an ordinary high school boy who enjoys writing for the school newspaper and hanging out with his best friends, Audrey and Randy.  However, when Dylan finds the dead body of his high school classmate discarded in a dumpster, he is worried, to say the least.  Therefore, as soon as a girl from a local private school goes missing, Dylan feels obligated to investigate and he believes the cases may be intertwined.  He starts writing a column in the school newspaper about the disappearance, but he becomes more involved in the case than expected.  His investigation takes him to Gangland, a dangerous club created by students from the private school.  Faced with rich kids, overzealous parents, and the police, Dylan must figure out who he can trust while attempting to solve the mystery of the missing girl.

       The best part about Tim Tharp's writing is that he seamlessly integrates comedy into his storytelling.  Some of the situations that Dylan must face made me laugh out loud.  For instance, Dylan has an obsession with cheeseburgers, so whenever he feels passion for something, he connects it back to his love of burgers.  In addition, Tharp uses his comedic style in order to deeply develop his characters.  He even uses a joking manner when describing characters.  Specifically, Tharp described Randy as "wearing a cheesy collared shirt that was unbuttoned far enough to expose his pale bony chest.  I should also point out that he'd been trying to grow a mustache... which had the texture of armpit hair.  Apparently, he thought it was suave."  Just imagine a whole book filled with descriptions as wacky as these.

       However, one drawback of the novel is that none of the characters really stood out.  Although Tharp made Dylan into a funny character, I did not particularly like him.  Many of his decisions and thoughts made me mad.  For instance, it took Dylan the entire novel to figure out that the 'popular crowd' was using him for their own personal advantage, even though all of the signs were there.  I got frustrated that Dylan was self-centered throughout his search for the missing girl, and it got to the point where I wondered why he was even looking for her in the first place.

       If you are a mystery lover, Mojo would be an entertaining read for you.  I enjoyed reading it and it made me laugh, but the novel lacked a certain something to transform it from good to great.

Happy reading!


Friday, July 18, 2014

Book Review: Loud Awake and Lost

Loud Awake and Lost
Title: Loud Awake and Lost
Author: Adele Griffin
Publication Date: November 12, 2013
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Genre: Realistic fiction
Pages: 304
Age Rating: Readers over 14
My Opinion: 5/10

Hi, Readers!  

       Have you ever read one of those books that just flat out confuses you?  Well, I felt that way about Loud Awake and Lost, by Adele Griffin.  The novel's plot line was so intricate that I lost track of what was going on about about three quarters of the way through.

       After Ember gets in a terrible car accident, she forgets the past two months of her life.  Her doctor believes that she is not ready to handle the trauma and stress of what has occurred and that her amnesia will be temporary.  However, knowing this does not help Ember when she attempts to reintegrate herself into her former lifestyle after eight months in a rehabilitation center.  Ember comes home and is enthusiastically greeted by all of her friends, but she can tell that something is off.  She discovers that she had been acting "differently" before the accident - dressing in grunge clothing, listening to new music, and even sneaking around with a boy.  As Ember attempts to recollect her pre-accident memories, she meets a boy named Kai who seems to hold the key to past secrets that her family is hiding.

Loud Awake and Lost could rival PLL
       When I finished the novel, I sat on my bed for a minute and tried to wrap my head around the ending.  I just couldn't figure out what happened until I went step by step through Ember's story.  I understood the gist of the conclusion, but I was not satisfied and there seemed to be a number of loose ends throughout the novel that were never tied up.  Also, I did not find the characters of Loud Awake and Lost particularly likable.  In particular, Kai seemed like a big jerk because author Adele Griffin tried to make him too mysterious and manly.  

       When I attempted to explain the plot of this novel to a friend, she agreed that it was much too complex to be put in writing.  Instead, she suggested that the plot line would make for an excellent TV show.  Once I heard that idea, I agreed completely.  Loud Awake and Lost would make an amazing ABC Family show that would bring in fans of Pretty Little Liars; it just doesn't flow very well in novel form.

Happy reading!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Book Review: An Abundance of Katherines

An Abundance of Katherines
Title: An Abundance of Katherines
Author: John Green
Publication Date: September 21, 2006
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Genre: Realistic fiction
Pages: 229
Age Rating: Readers over 13
My Opinion: 9/10

Hi, Readers!

       Lately, I have been addicted to novels by John Green.  Seriously addicted.  They are the only books that I want to read because Green creates characters that seem to leap off of the pages and come to life.  I just finished reading An Abundance of Katherines, my third John Green novel, and I am yearning for more.

John Green quote       Colin, a washed up child prodigy, only dates girls named Katherine.  Not Catherine, or Cathy, or Katie.  He has dated nineteen Katherines since third grade, and each one has dumped him.  So when Colin's best friend, Hassan, suggests a road trip after the nineteenth break-up, he grudgingly accepts.  The two arrive in a tiny country town, and their lives change completely when they meet Lindsey Lee Wells, a teenager who takes them in and gets them jobs.  All the while, Colin is still smarting from his break-up, so he decides to create a mathematical theorem to predict future relationships.  Colin has to work through his own self-confidence issues as he makes his own way in the world and attempts to figure out who he really is.

       An Abundance of Katherines is absolutely stuffed with quirky characters.  Each and every character has something (or multiple things) about him that makes him unique and interesting to read about.  For instance, Colin is a child prodigy who can anagram anything, so Green explores ideas such as Colin feeling inadequate when he cannot solve a problem.  Also, Green includes flashbacks throughout the novel to Colin's past relationships with Katherines, and they are told in an endearing and funny way.  Each Katherine has affected Colin and he has loved them all, so the break-ups influence who he becomes as a person.

       Although An Abundance of Katherines is not John Green's strongest novel, it is still an excellent book that made me laugh out loud.  It is not as serious as other John Green novels, and it does not deal with as many social issues, but everybody could use a lighthearted read every once and a while.  With such an entertaining plot line and hilarious characters, Green couldn't go wrong.

Happy reading!

Friday, July 4, 2014

Book Review: Safekeeping

Title: Safekeeping
Author: Karen Hesse
Publication Date: September 18, 2012
Publisher: Fiewel & Friends
Genre: Science fiction, dystopian
Pages: 304
Age Rating: Readers over 11
My Opinion: 5/10

Hi, Readers!

       As you can probably tell from the novels I've reviewed previously, I absolutely love dystopian novels.  However, the best part about them is the action - there is always a new adventure or threat to deal with.  Karen Hesse's novel, Safekeeping, is a dystopian novel that seems to be devoid of action.  It has a fantastic cover blurb, but the novel itself is lackluster.

       Radley has spent the past few months volunteering at a children's orphanage in Haiti.  Now that she is ready to return to the United States, she discovers that she has missed a lot while she was gone.  After a number of airport security increases, Radley learns that the American People's Party has taken control of the government and that many "threats to the country" have been arrested.  As soon as she gets home, Radley faces another harsh reality - her parents are gone.  Without any money or safety, she embarks on a journey north to Canada to find shelter and safety.  Along the way, Radley meets a young woman named Celia, and the two travel together.  Radley must come to the realization that her beloved country has taken a turn for the worse, and she cannot trust anyone to help her find her parents.

       Safekeeping is a very unique novel due to the fact that it includes a collection of Karen Hesse's original photography to enhance the writing.  Hesse's photographs are nice to look at, but in my personal opinion, they do not add to the novel in any way.  This is because the pictures were not taken especially for the novel.  Therefore, some of the pictures do not match up with Hesse's setting descriptions.  At times, the large photographs take up room that should be filled with text.  I would have preferred if Hesse would have worked more on her plot development than her illustrative photography.  

       Although the characters in Safekeeping are fairly deep and interesting to read about, the novel has no real plot line except for the fact that Radley takes a journey to Canada.  She faces no intense hardships along the way, and most of the time, she is practically handed food and shelter.  Also, she hardly even searches for her parents.  The novel's ending comes up out of nowhere, and it is tied together too perfectly.

       It seems like Hesse just wanted to jump on the dystopian bandwagon, and her unexciting plot line and irrelevant photographs do not combine for a fun summer read. 

Happy reading!