#bookvacations

cheap vacation

Oh, how I would love to go to the beach for a weekend, visit Disney World (my favorite place on the planet), or hop a plane over to Europe to see London, Ireland, and Rome. But sadly, I cannot. Therefore I live vicariously through the characters in the books I read.

And that will have to do for now 🙂

“How to Save a Life”—A Book Review

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How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr was a very absorbing read. This tale was very different from the stuff that I normally read, so I kind of surprised myself by how much I enjoyed it.

Jill hasn’t been the same since her dad passed away, and now her mom has decided to adopt a baby. But as if that idea, in and of itself, isn’t hard enough, it’s not a typical adoption. Mandy, the young pregnant girl wants to live with the family before she gives birth. Weird as it sounds, Jill’s mom agrees to Mandy’s terms. And so Mandy comes to live with Jill and her mom in the months leading up to the birth of the baby.

This book is told in alternate narratives from Jill and Mandy’s points of view. It was very intriguing hearing the dramatic difference in the voices of these two teens, even though they are roughly the same age. While Jill is very closed off and pissed at the world, damaging any relationship that comes her way, Mandy is extremely naïve and almost childlike. Along the way you find out that Mandy has not had a very pleasant childhood, being brought up by a mother that has made it clear all of her life that she never wanted a child. And while Mandy was exposed to some pretty harsh truths at a very young age, her intellectual growth seems to be stuck somewhere around middle school.

Jill doesn’t trust Mandy, and is a total bitch to her from the start. Mandy is a compulsive liar, feeling like she has to keep the truth of herself and her past hidden. Mandy feels that if Jill’s mom knows the truth, she won’t go through with the adoption, and Mandy wants her baby to have a good life and a good mom, but the reality is…Mandy really just needs a mom herself. And Mandy not only lies to Jill’s mom…she seems to lie to everyone in order to receive attention, and struggles with the boundaries of real and fantasized relationships.

I’m telling you, even though Mandy seems like a complete dumbass and I just wanted to reach through the pages and strangle her most of the time, I could not put this book down. The dynamics between the characters were simply riveting. And of course, the more you read on, the more the story pulls you in. Will these girls learn how to let go and when to hold on?

I give this book four out of five stars. Definitely worth the read.

“The Future of Us”—A Book Review

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The Future of Us written by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler was kind of a letdown for me.

I won’t say it was horrible, because it wasn’t. It was really well written and smart, but all-in-all I just felt kind of “meh” about it.

The setting is the year 1996, when the internet is just becoming prominent and not many people have their own computer in their home. Emma received a computer from her dad for her birthday (sort of a guilt gift since they don’t see each other often since the divorce) and she uses her neighbor Josh’s AOL CD to create an email address. Then a mysterious website pops up on her computer prompting her to enter her email address and password.

The website is facebook, which wasn’t founded until the year 2004. On facebook, Emma sees the profile and constant status updates of her future self. She gets excited and wigged out by this all at the same time and soon calls Josh over for examination. The two quickly become obsessed with their future selves’ profiles and constant status updates and changes.

The thing is, Josh future is pretty ideal and awesome. Emma’s, not so much.

The duo soon discover that they can change their future statuses by making minute and resolute decisions in their current lives. Emma keeps doing things or making mental decisions NOT to do something so that her future status will change. Josh gets kind of annoyed at this, because he doesn’t want the decisions that Emma is making to affect his seemingly perfect future. This goes back and forth in switching narrations from Josh and Emma’s points of view for the entire novel.

It was weird (and kind of surreal) to hear all of the 90’s references in the books about things that children of the 90’s grew up with (like walkmans, for example). But truthfully, I think the references are way lost on today’s generation of young adults. The people most likely to pick up and read this book are teenagers—since this is a teen book—and they were mostly raised in the 21st century, which is rapidly becoming overcome with the latest technological advances.

Like I said, the book wasn’t complete crap, but it just didn’t “wow” me. I guess my standards were set pretty high for Jay Asher after reading his debut novel, 13 Reasons Why. I give this book 3 out of five stars, mostly just for the fact that it was well written.

 

I did find this to be a very amusing quote, because it helps to paint the picture of how diluted and relevant personal connections have become.

“Why does it say she has three hundred and twenty friends?” Josh asks. “Who has that many friends?”

“The Ruining”—A Book Review

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If you like psychological thrillers, The Ruining by Anna Collomore is definitely a tale for you!

Annie takes a nannying job for the seemingly perfect Cohen family on the outskirts of San Francisco.  This seems like the perfect start for her: get away from her drunk mother, repugnant stepdad, and leave behind the plaguing nightmares of the little sister that died while Annie “should have been watching her” (even though Annie was just a child herself and their mom was home). Now Annie can move far away, go to college (funded by her perfect new job), and maybe even start up a romantic relationship with the hottie neighbor boy.

Annie bonds instantly with the adorable three-year-old Zoe (her new charge) and she idolizes Libby (Mrs. Cohen). Libby immediately takes Annie under her wing, giving her hand-me-downs (which are practically brand new and expensive as hell), telling her she knows all about her past and telling her she can trust her; they will be great friends. And everything seems to be going fine…for a little while.

Annie tries to ignore Libby’s weird mood swings and the fact that she never really goes near Zoe, but never lets her infant son out of her sight. And she still tries to defend Libby and rationalize her mistreatments, such as when Libby starts asking her to skip classes to babysit, work on her days off, and not to mention her erratic tendencies to snap for no reason, accusing Annie of things she didn’t do.

But when Libby’s controlling behaviors start to build to a crescendo, even to the point of trying to keep Annie away from the neighbor (perfect gentleman Owen), she starts to question things a bit more:

“Why did Libby have her eyes trained on me? There was something odd about the way she took an interest in me, the way she vacillated from concerned and caring to cold and disapproving. And the way my happiness in Marin County hinged on her approval wasn’t right. I knew it. I wouldn’t go as far as to call it pathological, but I had to get a grip, to form a social life outside of the Cohen family.”

This book takes you through a psychological journey of manipulation and exploitation at its finest. It felt like I was trapped in a horror movie, right in the walls of my own head—I wanted to scream at the victim “No, don’t go up the stairs, you crazy girl! RUN!” This book is definitely a pulse-hammering, edge-of-you-seat kind of read that fans of Sara Shepard’s popular Pretty Little Liars series are sure to enjoy.

Five stars for making my head whirl and making me question my own sanity at times!

(No, but seriously, I could hear the *screech screech screech * noise from Psycho in my head while I read most of this book.)

“Pretty Girl 13”—A Book Review

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Pretty Girl 13 by Liz Coley is a haunting tale, indeed.

Angie was taken at the age of 13 while on a Girl Scout camping trip. Three years later she finds herself walking home with no recollection of what happened. In her head, she’s still 13 and is just returning home from said camping trip.

Through therapy, it is discovered that in order to cope with her situation, Angie’s brain has created alternate personalities to individually deal with certain situations—her physiologist refers to them as “Alters.” The insane part is, Angie has no idea who these alternate personalities are or how to control them. Certain situations and triggers cause one of her Alters to take over. When this happens, Angie basically blacks out and loses periods of time, having no memory of what went on when an Alter “took the wheel.”

Through hypnosis, her therapist helps draw each Alter out in turn to hear their story, unraveling the mysteries in Angie’s past. The ultimate goal is figuring out how to essentially make Angie whole again.

This sounds stressful enough to deal with, but on top of the whole “Alter” fiasco, Angie must try to rebuild her life again—a difficult enough task for any kidnapped victim, but doubly so for a sixteen-year-old still stuck inside of a thirteen-year-old’s head.

Assimilating back into to school proves to be a special challenge, taking classes several years lower than her peers, and having any given Alter take control without warning, causing Angie to do things she wouldn’t normally do and can’t remember afterward. The actions of one particular Alter even causes Angie to become the target of school bullying. This poor girl cannot seem to catch a break.

But Angie is strong. She is a survivor. One step and one day at a time, she slowly but surely begins to take back control of her own life. Angie is a literary heroine to be admired and applauded. I give this valiant tale five stars!

*warning, some of the descriptions from her time in captivity are pretty graphic and a little hard to stomach.

 

“She noticed that she’s automatically used the past tense, like she was getting a sense of time—a then and a now. She didn’t feel thirteen anymore. She felt—undefined. “