Uglies

Book: Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

Publishing Info: Published by Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing; 425 pages in paperback

Goodreads Summary:

Everybody gets to be supermodel gorgeous. What could be wrong with that? Tally is about to turn sixteen, and she can’t wait. Not for her license — for turning pretty. In Tally’s world, your sixteenth birthday brings an operation that turns you from a repellent ugly into a stunningly attractive pretty and catapults you into a high-tech paradise where your only job is to have a really great time. In just a few weeks Tally will be there.

But Tally’s new friend Shay isn’t sure she wants to be pretty. She’d rather risk life on the outside. When Shay runs away, Tally learns about a whole new side of the pretty world and it isn’t very pretty. The authorities offer Tally the worst choice she can imagine: find her friend and turn her in, or never turn pretty at all. The choice Tally makes changes her world forever.

This is such an interesting book, and I love the premise.  A society where people get surgery at 16 so that they can look pretty?  It’s somewhat scary, but also interesting.

I loved the world that Westerfeld built.  The places were interesting, as were the people.  I definitely could imagine the events of Uglies happening in the near future.

I found Tally very easy to relate to.  Her horror at Shay wanting to be ugly, and wanting to be pretty.  It got me thinking about conformity and beauty standards.  Staying an ugly is a bad thing, and it seems pretty unimaginable to Tally that anyone would choose to be ugly.  And it’s not just one surgery, but several over the course of their lives.  As they hit certain stages in life, they go through another surgery.  It turns out that having the 1st surgery causes legions, and those legions change people.  And only a handful of jobs make them go away.

It says a lot about the society, that a lot of importance is placed on beauty.  And that Maddie and Az, who discovered the surgeries caused legions, had to flee or pretend that they don’t exist.  The outside world is bad, and undergoing surgery solved world peace and anorexia, among other things.

It makes you think beauty, and what it means to be pretty.  It’s interesting to see how beauty standards do (or do not) change over time.  In the book, there’s a Pretty Committee that decides what is considered beautiful for the next generation.  It’s very readable, and beauty isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.

I also like that the book seems to stand on its own fairly well.  It’s the first of 3, and while there are some loose ends that weren’t tied up, things were resolved enough so that you don’t need to continue the series.

I give it a 4 out of 5.  It really does make you think, and his world-building is pretty good.

A Mighty Long Way

Book: A Mighty Long Way by Carlotta Walls LaNier

Publishing Info: Published by One World/Ballantine; 304 pages in hardcover

GoodReads Summary: When fourteen-year-old Carlotta Walls walked up the stairs of Little Rock Central High School on September 25, 1957, she and eight other black students only wanted to make it to class. But the journey of the “Little Rock Nine,” as they came to be known, would lead the nation on an even longer and much more turbulent path, one that would challenge prevailing attitudes, break down barriers, and forever change the landscape of America.

Descended from a line of proud black landowners and businessmen, Carlotta was raised to believe that education was the key to success. She embraced learning and excelled in her studies at the black schools she attended throughout the 1950s. With Brown v. Board of Education erasing the color divide in classrooms across the country, the teenager volunteered to be among the first black students–of whom she was the youngest–to integrate nearby Central High School, considered one of the nation’s best academic institutions.

But for Carlotta and her eight comrades, simply getting through the door was the first of many trials. Angry mobs of white students and their parents hurled taunts, insults, and threats. Arkansas’s governor used the National Guard to bar the black students from entering the school. Finally, President Dwight D. Eisenhower was forced to send in the 101st Airborne to establish order and escort the Nine into the building. That was just the start of a heartbreaking three-year journey for Carlotta, who would see her home bombed, a crime for which her own father was a suspect and for which a friend of Carlotta’s was ultimately jailed–albeit wrongly, in Carlotta’s eyes. But she persevered to the victorious end: her graduation from Central.

This was such a wonderful book!  And add it to the very short list of books that have made me cry.

This is the 2nd book I’ve read that was written by someone who attended Little Rock Central High- the other one was Warriors Don’t Cry.

Her reason for going to Central High was because she wanted to go to one of the top high schools in the country, and not because of the history it would make.  It was clear throughout the whole book that education was important to her and her family.  Some of the events of the book were very familiar because of Warriors Don’t Cry, but it was very interesting to see a different perspective of what it was like.

I can’t even begin to imagine what it was really like for her.  All the comments, insults, and other things that happened…I can read about it all I want, but it’s just so hard to believe that she made it through to her graduation.  If that isn’t courage, perseverance, and willingness to complete her education, I don’t what is.  It’s hard to believe that, like, 55 years ago, integrating schools was a huge thing.  I know it happened and all, but it’s not something I think about very often…if at all.

Most of all, this book is a good reminder of the past, that not too long ago, things were different but that things can change.

There were 2 things that really stuck out.  One, she could have gone to college after her junior year in high school, and even got accepted to a university.  But she made the decision to go back to Central High, because she had gone through so much just to graduate from there.  And two, the fact that she did her best to put that time of her life behind her.  I don’t blame her at all, and remembering her high school years must have been hard.  But it seems like she’s made peace with it, and wants to make sure that people don’t forget that things were once different.

I give it a 5 out of 5.  It’s a must-read.

Heartless

Book: Heartless by Sara Shepard

Pages: 274, Hardcover

Oh.  My.  God.  By the end of the book, I was speechless, and utterly confused.  Just when you think the girls are going to jail, charges against them are dropped.  They go home to find that Jenna Cavanaugh was killed…just like Ali was years earlier. 

After the fire, no one believes them when they all insist that they saw Ali.  Emily gets sent to Lancaster, where she discovers that Officer Wilden was a part of the Amish community, and that a girl named Leah disappeared around the time of Ali’s death.  She thinks he killed her and that he can’t be trusted. 

Aria goes to a seance, but learns nothing.  She sees another medium, who says that Ali killed Ali.  Hanna gets sent to a clinic by her father because he doesn’t want her eating disorder to appear after everything that’s happened.  She meets Iris, who Hanna comes to think is involved with Ali’s murder.

Spencer, on the other hand, finds out that her dad had an affair with Ali’s mom, and tries to comes to terms with the idea that Jason and Ali might have been her half-siblings.  Her mom finds out about it for the first time, and thinks her mother might have killed Ali because of it. 

They get sent to jail, like I mentioned earlier, and then they get released, because Billy Ford, someone who was working on a gazebo at Ali’s old house, is now a suspect.

So there’s a lot going on, and I was kept interested the whole time.  I didn’t want to put it down, and when I was finished, I was in disbelief.  I didn’t see any of this coming, and if there’s anything Shepard is good at, it’s keeping reader’s guessing. 

I think this is my favorite of the 7, because there’s so much going on and I was kept guessing the whole time.  It gets a 5 out of 5!

Mockingjay

Book: Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Pages: 390 (Hardcover)

Mockingjay is the final book in the Hunger Games trilogy.  I wasn’t sure what to expect, since a few reviews I saw for The Hunger Games and Catching Fire said that Mockingjay was a big letdown.

I didn’t find that at all.  It is a lot different than the other 2 books, especially since Katniss and several other characters from the 1st two books are now living in District 13.  Katniss is very different than she was in the first 2 books.  She definitely seemed to be more reflective, and things seemed to weigh more heavily on her, at least a little, and mostly towards the end.  It’s much more emotional, because we see the things that have been set in motion come to fruition.

I knew there wasn’t going to be a traditional happy ending.  How could there be, when the trilogy has been about the government knowing how fragile they really are, and sending kids to fight each other to the death to keep the entire country in line?  There is definitely a lot to think about, not just with this book, but with the entire series.  I think Mockingjay, more than either of the previous books, has a lot of questions to be answered.  Where do you draw the line in war?  It’s can be an awfully thin line between justice and vengeance.  Do you give back what you received?  Do you show mercy to people who you know wouldn’t return the favor?  Do you kill innocent people on the other side because those leaders killed innocent people on your side?

It is a heavy book, but I thought it was a fitting end to the trilogy.  The death of certain characters, like Prim and Finnick, were sad.  Katniss didn’t dwell on those 2 particular deaths, but maybe she shouldn’t at the time.  Death is hard, especially when you feel like it was your fault that they died.  There was a little happiness at the very end, but then again, this series isn’t meant to be a happy one.

In the end, I’m glad Peeta and Katniss ended up together.  I’m certainly glad there were only hints of romance in the series, and in the end, I think it was always supposed to be Katniss and Peeta.  Who else could understand what the other went through since the start of The Hunger Games?

All in all, it gets a 5 out of 5.  The Hunger Games is a great trilogy, and Mockingjay was a great ending to a great series.

Unbelievable

Book: Unbelievable by Sara Shepard

Pages: 352, Hardcover

 Summary and Review: In Unbelievable, #4 in the Pretty Little Liars series, Hanna survives being run over by A but doesn’t remember who A is.  Emily gets sent to Iowa to live with relatives after catching her with Maya at a party.  Emily runs away, but goes back home to her parents when they tell her they accept her sexuality.  Aria has to move in with her father and with Meredith, who announces she’s pregnant and getting married to Aria’s father.  As for Spencer, she tells her parents that she cheated on her Golden Orchid essay, but they want to keep it quiet.  Spencer admits that she’s scared she killed Alison.  We also learn that Jenna and Alison plotted to get rid of Jenna’s brother Toby.  As for the mysterious A, we finally learn that it is Mona, Hanna’s best friend and a girl that the 4 plus Alison used to pick on before Alison’s death.  Mona found Alison’s diary and used it against the 4 girls, and she also knows the truth about the Jenna thing because she and Jenna used to be friends.  Spencer accuses Mona of killing Alison, but she denies it.  She also says it’s Ian, because he was afraid the Alison would reveal it to Melissa, Spencer’s older sister.  Spencer and Mona get into a fight, and Spencer accidentally kills Mona.  There’s also a scene where Ian pleads not guilty to killing Alison at his court hearing.

There’s a lot that happened in the book, and I thought a lot of the loose ends were tied up really well.  I enjoyed it a lot, and things were definitely changing for the girls and in Rosewood.  It was pretty hard to put down, because I wanted to know what was going on.  In fact, I think it might be my favorite out of the four.  As for A, I didn’t see it coming AT ALL, and yet it wasn’t a surprise to me.  It could have been a number of people, but Mona as A made a lot of sense. 

Rating: 4 out of 5.  It did seem a little rushed, but apparently it was supposed to be the last one in the series.

Book #100: Catching Fire

Book: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

Pages: 391 Pages (Hardcover)

What Did I Think? Catching Fire is the 2nd book in the Hunger Games trilogy, and I was as impressed with this one as I was with The Hunger Games.  In Catching Fire, Katniss and Peeta go on the Victory Tour that all previous Hunger Games winners go on, and they are forced to participate in the Quell Games.  The Quell Games are a special version of the Hunger Games that are done every 25 years.  There are hints of a rebellion until the end, when we learn District 12 (the district Katniss hails from) is completely destroyed- but her mom and sister manage to escape, as does her friend Gale. 

It wasn’t as striking as the first book, but I still found myself wanting to see what happens next.  Much like The Hunger Games, there were issues with the global economy, and how District 12 teaches it’s trade of coal mining in comparison to the other districts.  I still found myself slightly disturbed by the idea of the Hunger Games, but there was hope that things would get better and that the districts would band together and overthrow the Capitol. 

President Snow was creepy, with breath that smells like blood and roses.  And the arena for the Quell Games was interesting, with a clock and the same things happening at specific times.  And the symbol for the rebellion being the Mockingjay, and Katniss being the face of the rebellion- as long as she’s alive, the rebellion lives on. 

The pacing was great, I loved the characters, and there’s something about this book that fascinated me.  The cliffhanger…I have no idea what to say, but I want to know more about District 12 being destroyed, and how Prim and Kat’s mom managed to get out.  Are they in District 13, which we now know exists?  Are they on their way to District 13?  Will Peeta be okay and be able to get away from the Capitol?  This was a hard book to put down, and I can’t wait to read the 3rd book!

Rating: 5 out of 5.  I loved it and it definitely made me think.

Wildflower Hill

Book: Wildflower Hill by Kimberley Freeman

Pages: 544 Pages (Paperback)

A Review: This review is based on a copy of Wildflower Hill that was won through a goodreads giveaway.

Wildflower Hill is about the intertwined stories of Beattie and her granddaughter Emma.  Upon Emma’s forced retirement from her career as a ballerina, she returns to Australia, and learns that Beattie left her a farm in Australia.  We learn more about Beattie, and her story unfolds.

I loved it!  There was something compelling about Beattie, and I found myself wanting to skim over Emma’s story just to get to Beattie’s story.  Emma does learn about her grandmother and the life she led before settling down and getting married. 

I don’t want to discount Emma, but she seemed a little cold and her story was a little boring.  This is in comparison to Beattie, whose life had so many hardships and yet she managed to be very successful and happy.

The narrative itself was very strong, and the 2 stories went together so well.  The 2 “voices” were very distinct, and you had no problem knowing who was narrating.  Plus, the weaving of the 2 stories was really well done.  There were several parallels between Beattie and Emma, and there were definitely some issues scattered throughout the book, like being a single parent and racism in Australia in the 1950’s. 

I loved the detail that Freeman put into Wildflower Hill and it was a very vivid and rich book.  The characters were very vivid as well, and I could picture everything so clearly. 

Review: 5 out of 5.  I loved it!

Hate List: A Novel

Book: Hate List: A Novel by Jennifer Brown

Pages: 405 (Hardcover)

My Review: Hate List is about a school shooting and the resulting aftermath.  Valerie and her boyfriend had a “hate list,” which was written in a notebook about everyone they hated. 

I…wow.  There are two books that had me sobbing by the end.  The first one is Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and the other one…is Hate List.  I had to put it down several times just to give myself a break. 

It is a heavy, intense read, and very realistic.  I could picture everything in my mind so well- the descriptions were so vivid.  I felt like I was Valerie, and I found myself getting angry at so many of the people around her, and hoping they would give her a chance.  I get why people ignored her and didn’t want her around, as she helped create the list and was indirectly involved with the school shooting.  But at the same time, she didn’t pull the trigger.  She went running after her boyfriend, and jumped in front of another student to stop it from getting worse. 

I don’t even know where to start.  It’s such an emotional book, and one that could happen anywhere, anytime.  I certainly commend Brown for tackling school shootings.  But it’s not just about school shootings.  It’s also about how words can hurt, and how something that people don’t think matters, can.  It’s about moving on, and struggling with a world in which everything is falling apart. 

Even now, some time after finishing the book, I feel emotional.  Brown did such a good job of portraying everyone and their points of view.  And I really liked how the book was set up.  There are news articles about each of the victims and the events that took place at the high school.  Each chapter number is in a drop of blood- which is weird but cool.  And it jumps around a bit before settling into the present time.  It goes back and forth between present time and the actual shooting.  It was unsettling to watch things unfold…it really felt like it was happening.  I hope no one has a drinking game going for how many times I’m going to say “it felt like it was happening.”  That might come up a lot! 

But it all seriousness, it was a great book.  Definitely powerful, and EVERYONE needs to read this book.  Go get it.  Now.  I don’t think you’ll regret it.  I feel so strongly about this book that I’m posting this review shortly after finishing the book.   

Rating: 5 out of 5.  There are no words to describe how much I liked this book.  It’s definitely an emotional rollercoaster, but it is so worth it!

Hold Still

Book: Hold Still by Nina LaCour

Pages: 230 (Hardcover)

My Review: Hold Still is about 16-year-old Caitlin, who is dealing with the suicide of her best friend Ingrid.

I went through it pretty fast, and it was really hard for me to put it down.  It was hard watching Caitlin struggle with her feelings of anger and guilt, and being the one left behind.  The only thing that Ingrid leaves Caitlin is one of her journals, full of drawings, letters and various journal entries that Caitlin reads over the course of the book.

Even though Ingrid is dead, you really felt her presence through her journal and through Caitlin’s memories, as well as the photographs that Caitlin take, and the photographs that Ingrid leaves behind.

It’s definitely a story of moving on, and that it’s okay to move on.  I thought LaCour did a great job of showing Caitlin’s feelings, and what she was going through.  I’ve never lost anyone to suicide, but I was a mess after my grandpa died.  I can’t imagine losing someone to suicide, but it can’t be easy.  LaCour did an amazing job showing the different emotions someone can feel after losing someone important.

I don’t usually comment on book covers, but I absolutely loved this one!  It has a teen girl on it, with one of the journal entries in the background, with a drawing on the upper left corner.

There was something about the book that reminded me of Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson.  I don’t know if it was the overall tone of the book, or the characters from both books, or what, but almost the whole book, I was reminded of Speak.  If you liked that book, or any other book by Laurie Halse Anderson, you’ll like this one.

Rating: 3.5 of 5.  It was simple, and somewhat fragmented, but overall, I liked it a lot, and found both Ingrid and Caitlin very relateable.  I could picture everything so clearly.

So Many Shows…So Little Time!

What a week for t.v.!  On America’s Next Top Model, the girls got makeovers, which is always one of my favorite episodes.  There was a meltdown, which always seems to happen, and one girl was so happy she cried.  Not much else to report, though, but I’m really glad Kayla didn’t get eliminated.

We also have CSI and Revenge on Wednesday nights.  I was really torn about which one to watch.  A DVR would really come in handy, and I’m not sure if I can convince my grandma to get one.  If I had a way to pay for it myself, I totally give her the money every month for it.  I wasn’t up to going back and forth, so I figured I would watch one and watch the other online.  CSI won out, mostly because it’s the first time I could actually watch it…the only problem is that I have no clue what’s going on, since I’ve only seen the first season in it’s entirety, and random episodes from the subsequent seasons.  On the plus side, though, it’s one of those shows where you can randomly pick up and generally get the gist of what’s going on.

I watched Revenge online, and so far, it’s really good!  It’s definitely something I’m going to keep watching.  I like how it flashed back to her childhood and the present.  You get little bits and pieces of why Emily returned to the Hamptons and what happened, but you don’t get the full story right away.  It’s all very mysterious, and I can’t help but want to know what happened.

And NCIS!  That fanfic I wrote back in July for Camp NaNo?  There was a lot that I unknowingly got right!  It wasn’t E.J., just like I thought, but the microchip she took out of Levin’s arm was definitely connected.  It turned out that it was Cade…but not really.  There’s some guy named Stratton, who said he worked for the FBI, but the FBI has never heard of him, and he’s not showing up in any kind of database.  Another person had the microchip, which I had written back in July, and Tony does disappear for a while, like I had written.  And the FBI is kind of but not really involved in the pilot, while they were featured a lot more in the fanfic.  I definitely need to rewatch it, since it goes back and forth between past and present, which reminded me of the episode where they go looking for Ziva in Somalia.  I feel like I missed a few details, but I can tell you right now that this micro-chip thing is going to be a season-long arc.  It all comes down to something called Phantom 8, which the new SECNAV, Director Vance and this Stratton guy are connected to somehow.  Good lord, everyone being involved in Operation Frankenstein at the end of the last season was enough, do we really need more secret projects that people are involved in?  I don’t trust the new SECNAV at all- he’s definitely up to something.  I really wish they’d go back to the stand-alone episodes- the whole “grab-your-gear, there’s a dead marine” thing.

I’m waiting for House and Once Upon A Time to start.  The season premiere for House is in October as is Once Upon A Time.  I think House is October 3rd, but I’m not sure about the date for Once Upon A Time.  I think it’ll premiere at the end of October.  And Terra Nova starts on Monday, so that’s another one I’ll be recapping.

I watched Grey’s Anatomy yesterday, but I haven’t had a chance to watch Person Of Interest, which was on at the same time, so I’ll give a recap for both tomorrow.