Book Review–After by Amy Efaw

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This is the 37th book from my 114 in 2014 Reading Challenge.

 

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

After by Amy Efaw
Published August 11th 2009 by Viking Juvenile

 

An infant left in the trash to die. A teenage mother who never knew she was pregnant . . .

Before That Morning, these were the words most often used to describe straight-A student and star soccer player Devon Davenport: responsible, hardworking, mature. But all that changes when the police find Devon home sick from school as they investigate the case of an abandoned baby. Soon the connection is made. Devon has just given birth; the baby in the trash is hers. After That Morning, there’s only one way to define Devon: attempted murderer.

And yet gifted author Amy Efaw does the impossible. She turns Devon into an empathetic character, a girl who was in such deep denial that she refused to believe she was pregnant. Through airtight writing and fast-paced, gripping storytelling, Ms. Efaw takes the reader on Devon’s unforgettable journey toward clarity, acceptance, and redemption.

 

——

After is one of the most intriguing reads that I’ve come across in a long time. The subject itself is controversial–women who abandon their babies in dumpsters and other such places. While it is very tragic, I have always felt that the majority of these women did so because they were desperate. It’s very easy to judge when you haven’t been in a desperate situation. I’m not excusing the actions, but it is a valid concern.

The author did a superb job of making this book feel realistic. Even though there were times I found myself annoyed with Devon and her inability to sometimes react, it felt real. I felt bad for Devon, and also her baby. Devon hasn’t had an easy life and it was sad at how she had to take care of herself and how everything she’s strived for might be gone because of a really bad decision.

The settings, characters, and plot seemed realistic. This book made me feel so many different emotions–shock, horror, sadness, sympathy, etc. There was a scene in which people in Devon’s life made it known that they would have supported her that especially almost brought me to tears.

I recommend this book for everyone. Too often I see people react to these stories without knowing the full story. Yes, it is terrible. No, I don’t think women in these situations should all serve the same sentence.

Stories like this make me realize how much our society needs to be aware of Safe Havens and where they exist. While it may not keep this from happening all the time, I believe awareness would help these desperate women and their babies. I’ve encountered many people who didn’t even know what a Safe Haven was and that’s sad in itself.

The only thing I didn’t like about this book was the ending. After all Devon has put me through as a reader, I just felt like she didn’t deserve what she thinks she does. I really hope the author has plans to continue this story because I’m dying to know what comes next. While I don’t believe she should go without some kind of sentence, I am also not in favor of her being charged with intent to murder because I don’t feel she intended that at all.

This is one of those books that is going to stay in my mind. There’s so much to consider that I’m not even sure I can wrap my mind around what all I’m thinking, but definitely check this one out.

 

 

 

4halfstars

 

 

jncname

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Book Review–Petals on the Wind by V.C. Andrews

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This is the 36th book from my 114 in 2014 Reading Challenge.

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Petals on the Wind by V.C. Andrews
Published 1980 by Pocket

 

They were such brave children to withstand such suffering. Such clever children to escape such terror!

For Carrie, Chris and Cathy, the attic was a dark horror that would not leave their minds, even while they built bright, promising new lives. Of course mother had to pretend they didn’t exist.

And Grandmother was convinced they had the devil in them.

But that wasn’t their fault. Was it? Cathy knew what to do.

She now had the powers she had learned from her beautiful mother. She knew it in the way her brother still yearned for her, in the way her guardian touched her, in the way all men looked at her.

She knew it was time to put what she knew to the test. To show her mother and grandmother that the pain and terror of the attic could not be forgotten… Show them.

Show them—once and for all.

 

 

——

***The below may contain spoilers. Please read at your own risk***

 

With Lifetime releasing the sequel to the Flowers in the Attic movie, I decided to re-read the book again.

Petals on the Wind has always been one of my favorites. I think no matter how much I change, I will still have a secure place for it in my heart. Is the book perfect? Far from it. Yet even after all this time, I am still drawn to it despite its flaws. It kind of hurt to not have the same feelings toward the book that I originally did, but I was young (14!) when I first read this. It’s been over ten years and I’ve become less naive and more mature.

In a way, I think the original is the best book of the series. Even at a young age, I found Cathy to be a tiring narrator. I especially got annoyed with her during this re-reading. While I admire her strength at times, for the majority of the book she lets others, particularly men, step all over her. She is also so hell bent on her revenge that it seems to be the only thing she can think of. Maybe that’s the point–to show Cathy becoming more like her mother.

I didn’t really care for any of the men in Cathy’s life. They are all abusive or controlling in one way or another. I know the book is set in the 60s/70s and feminism was just starting, but the rape/abuse apologetic kind of drove me crazy at times. For example, pretty much every man Cathy falls for (or vice versa) blames her for turning them on and making them do things they claim they normally wouldn’t. That just doesn’t sit well with me.

I wish there had been at least one romantic partner I could have totally rooted for. While I liked certain qualities in some of the romantic leads, they were all terrible overall. Rape and/or abuse isn’t something I take lightly, and since pretty much all the men commit either one or both, it’s hard to completely like any of them.

Carrie is probably my favorite character in the book and her outcome always makes me sad. The big climax at the end is always worth the read. I’m intrigued on how the movie will deal with some of these subjects present in the book. This book is like a really intense soap opera.

Out of pure girlhood nostalgia and because V.C. Andrews can write the most jaw-dropping of books, I will keep the 5 star rating. Despite all the flaws and uncomfortable feelings, it’s just a book I’ll never really be able to look badly on.

 

 

5stars

 

 

 

jncname

Book Review–Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

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This is the 35th book from my 114 in 2014 Reading Challenge.

 

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

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
Published April 12th, 2012 by St. Martin’s Press

 

Two misfits.
One extraordinary love.

Eleanor… Red hair, wrong clothes. Standing behind him until he turns his head. Lying beside him until he wakes up. Making everyone else seem drabber and flatter and never good enough…Eleanor.

Park… He knows she’ll love a song before he plays it for her. He laughs at her jokes before she ever gets to the punch line. There’s a place on his chest, just below his throat, that makes her want to keep promises…Park.

Set over the course of one school year, this is the story of two star-crossed sixteen-year-olds—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try.

 

——

 

This was a hard one to put down once I got to a certain point. At first, I wasn’t sure I was going to like this because Park comes off as somewhat of a jerk in the beginning. But after a while he started to grow on me. Especially when he began acting more kindly toward Eleanor.

I adored the love story. I’ve read some reviews in which people complain about insta-love, but it didn’t feel like that at all to me. Maybe because it took some time for their relationship to start. Things did get seriously quickly once they were together, but I did similar things in the beginning stages of my relationships so it just made me feel more nostalgic than anything.

I was able to connect with Eleanor pretty well. I’m all too familiar with bullying, self-image problems, and having to deal with a terrible step-parent. Her family situation is pretty bad, though, and made me want to hug her.

Park had his own problems, but I guess I couldn’t relate as well to his. I didn’t care much for his dad until the end, when he did a really cool thing. I adored Park’s mom. I think she might be my favorite side character. She cracked me up and I loved how she seemed to run things in her family.

I liked that this was set in the 80s. I’m not too familiar with that time period as I was born during the middle of it, but the setting seemed to fit, especially with the mix tapes. The writing style was super easy to get into. I liked the dual POVs. I’m not sure the story would have worked as well any other way.

This is far from a perfect book, but the few flaws it had weren’t enough to diminish my love for the story. The only thing that really bothered me was toward the end when Park is taking Eleanor somewhere important and she’s so tired that she falls asleep. And he gets annoyed with her for it. I know people are far from perfect, but that part really bothered me.

The only thing that could have really made this story better would be for it to be longer–it seemed to go by much faster than I wanted it to. I’d realistically give this 4.5 stars though I do consider it a new favorite and something I would like to re-read again one day.

 

5stars

 

 

 

jncname

Book Review–Goodbye, Rebel Blue by Shelley Coriell

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This is the 33rd book from my 114 in 2014 Reading Challenge.

 

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Picture Source: Goodreads.com

Goodbye, Rebel Blue by Shelley Coriell
Published October 1st 2013 by Harry N. Abrams

Rebecca Blue is a rebel with an attitude whose life is changed by a chance encounter with a soon-to-be dead girl. Rebel (as she’s known) decides to complete the dead girl’s bucket list to prove that choice, not chance, controls her fate. In doing so, she unexpectedly opens her mind and heart to a world she once dismissed—a world of friendships, family, and faith.

With a shaken sense of self, she must reevaluate her loner philosophy—particularly when she falls for Nate, the golden boy do-gooder who never looks out for himself. Perfect for fans of Jay Asher’s blockbuster hit Thirteen Reasons Why, Coriell’s second novel features her sharp, engaging voice along with realistic drama and unforgettable characters.

 

 

——

 

While this wasn’t a book that was difficult to put down like my last read, I really enjoyed this one and nearly ran over my lunch break trying to finish it.

I admit, the concept of bucket lists have always intrigued me. You can tell a lot about a person from their bucket list. So it was pretty neat reading a book where someone tries to complete another person’s bucket list.

While the plot was fun and the writing was good, it’s really the characters that made the book for me. I loved the characters and all of their little quirks. The relationships between “Rebel” Blue and the other characters were also interesting. I adored the love interest and the fact that the relationship was far from perfect. I’m also a sucker for anyone who likes and does art. The sea-glass frames Rebel makes sounded really cool.

This was a fun yet somewhat deep read. Was a little disappointed with the ending as it felt rushed, but overall I wouldn’t change much about this book. Will definitely be looking into more books by this author.

 

 

4halfstars

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

jncname

Book Review–What Happens Next by Colleen Clayton

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This is the 32nd book from my 114 in 2014 Reading Challenge.

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What Happens Next by Colleen Clayton
Published October 9th 2012 by Poppy (Little Brown Books for Young Readers)

How can you talk about something you can’t remember?

Before the ski trip, sixteen-year-old Cassidy “Sid” Murphy was a cheerleader (at the bottom of the pyramid, but still…), a straight-A student, and a member of a solid trio of best friends. When she ends up on a ski lift next to handsome local college boy, Dax Windsor, she’s thrilled; but Dax takes everything from Sid—including a lock of her perfect red curls—and she can’t remember any of it.

Back home and unable to relate to her old friends, Sid drops her college prep classes and takes up residence in the A/V room with only Corey “The Living Stoner” Livingston for company. But as she gets to know Corey (slacker, baker, total dreamboat), Sid finds someone who truly makes her happy. Now, if she can just shake the nightmares and those few extra pounds, everything will be perfect… or so she thinks.

Witty and poignant, Colleen Clayton’s stunning debut is a story about moving on after the unthinkable happens.

 

 

——

 

This book had me hooked almost from page one. It reminds me a lot of Speak, but at the same time is very different. I loved the main character, Sid. She was far from perfect but was really easy to connect to. I ached alongside her and felt my heart warm when good things happened to her. She’s also got a lot of Irish in her, which I can also relate to as my great-grandparents immigrated from Ireland and we still observe several of the traditions.

The topic is handled well throughout the book though I’m undecided on whether or not I like how the secret gets told. It seemed a bit rushed toward the end.

I also really enjoyed the side characters–Sid’s mom, little brother, friends, and lovable dog, Ronan. The love interest won my heart over, though in a lot of ways he’s kind of too perfect. Too understanding. Or maybe guys like this are just extremely rare?

Anyway, the romance melted my heart. The story was good enough without the romance, but very hard to put down once it was added to the story. It’s been a while since I’ve read a book that I’ve had trouble putting down.

Is the book perfect? No. But when I encounter books with great characters, emotion that grabs my heart, an interesting story, a swoon-worthy romance, and good writing, it’s hard to pick out the flaws. Definitely looking into seeing if Colleen Clayton has any other books. If not, she should. And I’d really, really love to hear more about Sid, Corey, and the rest of the characters. Definitely recommend!

 

 

 

5stars

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

jncname

Book Review–The Anti-Prom by Abby McDonald

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This is the 31st book from my 114 in 2014 Reading Challenge.

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

The Anti-Prom by Abby McDonald
Published March 8th 2011 by Candlewick Press

Three unlikely allies team up for a night of rebellion, romance, and revenge in a high-stakes dramedy from acclaimed young author Abby McDonald.

They’ve spent years at the same high school without speaking a word to one another, but that’s all about to change. Popular Bliss was having the perfect prom until she found her BFF and boyfriend making out in the back of a limo. Bad girl Jolene wouldn’t be caught dead at the prom, yet here she is, trussed up in pink ruffles, risking her reputation for some guy – some guy who is forty minutes late. And shy, studious, über-planner Meg never counted on her date’s standing her up and leaving her idling in the parking lot outside the prom. Get ready for The Anti-Prom, Abby McDonald’s hilarious, heart-tugging tale about three girls and one unforgettable prom night.

 

——

 

I wasn’t expecting to like this one as much as I did. Especially after reading the first chapter, which is from Bliss’ POV. While I felt bad for her, I also didn’t really like her too well. But then I met the other two characters, Jolene and Meg, and it started to get better.

Meg is my favorite of the three girls simply because I could relate much better to her. Next I liked Jolene, who was interesting, sassy, and had a big chip on her shoulder. Bliss is my least favorite but I ended up liking her much better toward the end.

This is a fun read with a scavenger-hunt like feel. It’s always impressive to find a book that only takes place within a day or two, and this one did a great job. The plot was fun and fresh. But the girls also had some issues so there was also some emotion to what would have otherwise simply been a “fluff” read.

The romances were really cute, too. At least the two that worked out, anyway. Especially Scott.

If you’re looking for a fun read involving prom, revenge, unlikely girls becoming friends, and a night of wild and possibly illegal activities, this is the book for you. I’d love to see what happens to the girls after the night is over.

 

4halfstars

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

jncname

Book Review–It’s Not the End of the World by Judy Blume

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This is the 30th book from my 114 in 2014 Reading Challenge.

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

It’s Not the End of the World by Judy Blume
Published 1972

I want a mother and a father and I want them to live together-right here-in this house!

Karen Newman can’t believe it when her father moves out.  How could her parents do this?  Don’t they know they belong together?  Somehow Karen has to get her mom and dad to talk to each other face-to-face.  Maybe then they’ll realize divorce is a mistake.  But can she think of a plan soon-and one that works?

 

——

A good middle-grade book for kids who may have parents who are divorcing or separating. While my parents divorced when I was too young to remember, this book was easy to relate to because sometimes there are a lot of questions and what-ifs involved with this situation. It seems more difficult for kids whose parents separate when they are older than it is for those of us whose parents did so earlier.

While not aimed at my audience, I still found myself enjoying this. I even got a bit angry with Karen’s father during one scene so it was easy to get attached to the characters. Definitely recommended for middle-grade/pre-teens.

 

 

3stars

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

jncname