Book Review–His First, Her Last: The Incredible True Story of an American Lost in the Philippines by Jonathan Sturak

brotw

This is the 93rd book from my 200 Book Reading Challenge.

Picture Source: Goodreads.com
Picture Source: Goodreads.com

His First, Her Last: The Incredible True Story of an American
Lost in the Philippines by Jonathan Sturak
Published September 3rd, 2013

 

Engaged couple Jason and Hazel travel across the world to meet her family in this true story of love and adventure. The moment Jason steps off the plane in the Philippines, an exotic island caught between the East and the West, the past and the present, grabs hold of this naive American and seduces him with its beauty, its places, and its people. Temptation looms as the best friend of Hazel tests their relationship and touches their souls.

A deeply personal account of the conflict of culture between American excess and Philippine poverty, His First, Her Last explores the ability of love to transcend two worlds apart. But after an accident spills blood on the streets of a remote village, the lives of this couple flash before their eyes. Will he escape? Will she survive? Will his first trip be her last?

—-

I won a copy of this book from the Goodreads First Reads Giveaway program. Many thanks to the publisher/author for giving me the chance to read and review this book from the Goodreads First Reads program.

This was a really hard book for me to get into. It ended up being a slow, kind of painful read. Maybe the writing style just doesn’t appeal to me. I liked that the story was so in-depth, but it also tended to drag at times.

I’m never been to the Philippines, nor do I know much about it, but the author did a good job with the details and descriptions. It almost made me feel like I was there. However, even though I believe it’s great to be saved, the constant checking of the hand sanitizer got a little annoying.

This is marketed as a romance as well as a true story, but I didn’t really get the romance vibe. At least not until near the end, and somewhat in the beginning. The rest of the book has the main character thinking about other women, and that made me like the book even less. I’m not a man, but it didn’t seem right for the main character to come to the Philippines with his fiancee’ and then think about her female family and friends–or buying them “secret” presents.

It ended much differently than I expected, but I didn’t really care enough about anyone to feel too sad, though I am sorry for the real tragedy that the author experienced. (view spoiler)

This book just wasn’t for me. Not bad, but I’d never pick this one up again. Maybe I can find someone to give it to who will appreciate it more than I currently do.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher for this review. These opinions are my own; I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated for this review.

2stars

jncname

Advertisements

Book Review–The Predator (Animorphs #5) by Katherine Applegate

brotw

This is the 92nd book from my 200 Book Reading Challenge.

Picture Source: Goodreads.com
Picture Source: Goodreads.com

The Predator (Animorphs #5) by Katherine Applegate
Published December 1996

 

Marco never wanted to be an Animorph. He never wanted the ability to change into any animal he touches. He just wants to chill. Whatever happens, happens.

Jake, Rachel, Cassie, and Tobias know why Marco feels the way he does. He’s worried about his dad — the only family Marco has left. And if anything happens to him, his father will be all alone.

But something is about to change Marco’s mind. It seems the Yeerks have a little surprise waiting for him. And it’s definitely not nice. Now Marco has a reason to fight…

—-

***The following contains minor spoilers. You’ve been warned.***

I liked getting to see Marco’s POV in this one. It helped me to understand him and his situation better. Really liked the opening scene and the intent behind it. I wasn’t so crazy about the plot, but I did like that they had some interesting morphs like the lobsters and the ants. The morphs seemed pretty realistic and I liked the end results of the lobster one.

Not my favorite of the Animorphs series, but I still enjoyed it. The twist toward the end was a surprise and I’m intrigued on how it will affect the rest of the series. I’m also enjoying the budding of Cassie and Jake’s “romance.”

3stars

jncname

Book Review–Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

brotw

This is the 91st book from my 200 Book Reading Challenge.

Picture Source: Goodreads.com
Picture Source: Goodreads.com

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
Published January 1st, 2011

 

Lina is just like any other fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl in 1941. She paints, she draws, she gets crushes on boys. Until one night when Soviet officers barge into her home, tearing her family from the comfortable life they’ve known. Separated from her father, forced onto a crowded and dirty train car, Lina, her mother, and her young brother slowly make their way north, crossing the Arctic Circle, to a work camp in the coldest reaches of Siberia. Here they are forced, under Stalin’s orders, to dig for beets and fight for their lives under the cruelest of conditions.

Lina finds solace in her art, meticulously–and at great risk–documenting events by drawing, hoping these messages will make their way to her father’s prison camp to let him know they are still alive. It is a long and harrowing journey, spanning years and covering 6,500 miles, but it is through incredible strength, love, and hope that Lina ultimately survives. Between Shades of Gray is a novel that will steal your breath and capture your heart.

—-

I’ve had this one on my shelf for a while. Now I’m wishing I would have read it sooner, though reading it in the winter was somewhat fitting. This book reminded me of The Book Thief, but it was also very different. This book is about a family from Lithuania who is deported before WW2 begins.

I really liked the main character, Lina. It was easy to relate to her because she is an artist like I am. I also enjoyed her mother, brother, and love interest. The bald man and the man who kept wounding his clock were also interesting characters. I also liked the character development of Nikolai Kretzsky. The other characters definitely grew as well and I like that despite everything she was put though, Lina ended up being a very strong woman.

This book is filled with sadness and hardship, but also has many happy and hopeful moments. I didn’t cry, but I felt very sad for some of the people who didn’t make it. Before reading this book, I knew nothing about Lithuania and that Stalin had deported and caused so many people harm. I truly feel bad for anyone who had to go through this, though I’m glad that their story finally got told.

I enjoyed the writing style and the author did a great job bringing the characters and settings to life. The addition of the Russian words were also a nice touch.

The only thing I didn’t like about this book was the ending–epilogue style. It just seemed a bit out of place, even after reading the explanation afterward in the Author’s Note. It also left the unanswered question of whether Lina’s father made it or not. I did like Lina’s attitude before the Epilogue, though. VERY powerful.

If you liked The Book Thief or are touched by historical fiction during WW2, you’ll probably love this one. I’m sure I will be reading this one again in the future.

4stars

 

jncname

Book Review–How the Grinch Stole Christmas! by Dr. Seuss

brotw

This is the 90th book from my 200 Book Reading Challenge.

113946

How the Grinch Stole Christmas! by Dr. Seuss
Published October 12th, 1957

 

The Grinch, whose heart is two sizes too small, hates Who-ville’s holiday celebrations, and plans to steal all the presents to prevent Christmas from coming. To his amazement, Christmas comes anyway, and the Grinch discovers the true meaning of the holiday.

 

—-

Really easy and short read so I sort of feel like I’m cheating, but I kind of felt in the mood to read this when I came across it. It’s far from my first time reading it, but every once in a while I enjoy re-reading it.

This is a definite Dr. Suess classic with a great message concerning the Christmas season. I recommend it to children of all ages and any adults who have never heard the classic tale as well. The Grinch has always been an endearing character for me.

5stars

 

jncname

Book Review–Where She Went by Gayle Forman

brotw

This is the 89th book from my 200 Book Reading Challenge.

Picture Source: Goodreads.com
Picture Source: Goodreads.com

Where She Went by Gayle Forman
Published April 5th, 2011

 

It’s been three years since Mia walked out of Adam’s life.

And three years he’s spent wondering why.

When their paths cross again in New York City, Adam and Mia are brought back together for one life-changing night.

Adam finally has the opportunity to ask Mia the questions that have been haunting him. But will a few hours in this magical city be enough to lay their past to rest, for good – or can you really have a second chance at first love?

 

—-

After I went back to re-read If I Stay, I read this. This is the sequel and is done from Adam’s POV instead of Mia’s. While Adam’s POV seemed mostly realistic and was interesting to read through, I have to be honest–I liked Mia’s better. I feel bad for Adam, but he was harder to relate to.

I did like the plot in this book as well as the character development. While I hated that Mia and Adam broke up in between the two books, it was an interesting idea for a sequel. It wasn’t as good as the first, but I enjoyed it and was surprised. Some parts of the writing came across as awkward when it wasn’t supposed to be, though.

If the ending had been anything different, I probably wouldn’t have liked this book as much as I did. If you liked the first book, I recommend giving this one a try just to see where the characters end up. I really liked the setting in this one.

 

3stars

 

jncname

Book Review–If I Stay by Gayle Forman

brotw

This is the 88th book from my 200 Book Reading Challenge.

Picture Source: Goodreads.com
Picture Source: Goodreads.com

If I Stay by Gayle Forman
Published April 2nd, 2009

 

On a day that started like any other,

Mia had everything: a loving family, a gorgeous, admiring boyfriend, and a bright future full of music and full of choices. In an instant, almost all of that is taken from her. Caught between life and death, between a happy past and an unknowable future, Mia spends one critical day contemplating the only decision she has left. It is the most important decision she’ll ever make.

Simultaneously tragic and hopeful, this is a romantic, riveting, and ultimately uplifting story about memory, music, living, dying, loving.

 

—-

Mia’s morning seems to start out well–a cancellation of school due to a few snowflakes being on the ground (haha, this reminds me of my hometown!) and a trip to see her parent’s friends and her grandparents. Soon Mia’s life goes out of control when her parent’s car ends up crashing.

Mia wakes to discover that her parents are dead, her little brother is missing, and that she’s somehow seeing her own bloodied body in a ditch. How can this be possible? When the ambulance arrives, Mia soon learns that she’s in a coma.

Following her body all the way to the hospital, she’s able to see how her other family members, friends, and even her boyfriend, react to her condition. She then learns that it’s up to her concerning whether she stays . . . or she goes. Will she stay or will she go join her parents in the afterlife?

I felt this was a very emotional read, from the warmth I felt when she was with her family, friends, or boyfriend, or when she was debating on whether to stay or not. The writing style was easy to get swept up into, and Mia was a character I was about to like from the start.

I liked everyone else in the book as well, from her very hip, modern parents to her adorable little brother, her interesting rocker boyfriend, and passionate best friend. Even her grandparents caught my hearts, especially her grandfather. The scene with her and the grandfather is one of the most touching I can remember.

I really enjoyed this story and the emotional roller coaster it took me on. It also makes you wonder what you would do in Mia’s condition if you’d lost the most important people to you–would you stay and live with an empty hole inside yourself, or would you go be with them? I was honestly fine with either choice Mia made in the end because I could see how both options both had their pros and cons to them.

 

4stars

 

jncname

Book Review–The Stone Girl by Alyssa B. Sheinmel

brotw

This is the 87th book from my 200 Book Reading Challenge.

Picture Source: Goodreads.com
Picture Source: Goodreads.com

The Stone Girl by Alyssa B. Sheinmel
Published January 1st, 2012

 

She feels like a creature out of a fairy tale; a girl who discovers that her bones are really made out of stone, that her skin is really as thin as glass, that her hair is brittle as straw, that her tears have dried up so that she cries only salt. Maybe that’s why it doesn’t hurt when she presses hard enough to begin bleeding: it doesn’t hurt, because she’s not real anymore.

Sethie Weiss is hungry, a mean, angry kind of hunger that feels like a piece of glass in her belly. She’s managed to get down to 111 pounds and knows that with a little more hard work—a few more meals skipped, a few more snacks vomited away—she can force the number on the scale even lower. She will work on her body the same way she worked to get her perfect grades, to finish her college applications early, to get her first kiss from Shaw, the boy she loves, the boy who isn’t quite her boyfriend.

Sethie will not allow herself one slip, not one bad day, not one break in concentration. Her body is there for her to work on when everything and everyone else—her best friend, her schoolwork, and Shaw—are gone.

—-

This is probably the best book concerning eating disorders that I’ve ever read. At first, I wasn’t sure if I would like it because the writing style was a little odd. By halfway, I’d actually fallen for the style and thought this was going to be a really good read.

I was wrong. It was an amazing read! The main character, Sethie, is interesting and easy to relate to. I’ve struggled with body image most of my life and a lot of the thoughts she said were much, if not exactly like, my own. I also found she was likable, though I also wanted to give her a huge hug. She goes through a lot of discovery throughout the book and I like the positivity toward the end.

The side characters also made this an awesome read. I loved Janey, the best friend. She was likable, edgy, and helpful. I also really liked Ben, a sweet college boy that Sethie ends up befriending. I didn’t care much for Shaw, Sethie’s boyfriend, but that’s a good thing–we’re not supposed to like him. I would have liked to see the mother get a little more involved, but I also liked how things turned out.

The writing was beautiful and easy to get into. I’m not normally a big fan of third person POV, but the author did a good job with it, though it’s possible the name “Sethie” was a bit overused. The rest was so good that it really didn’t bother me too much, though.

This might be a trigger book for anyone who’s ever (or is currently) anorexic/bulimic/has body image issues, but if you believe you can handle it, I definitely recommend it. Was an awesome and touching read.

5stars

 

jncname