Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Review: Rival by Sara Bennett Wealer*

What if your worst enemy turned out to be the best friend you ever had?
Meet Brooke: Popular, powerful and hating every minute of it, she’s the “It” girl at Douglas High in Lake Champion, Minnesota. Her real ambition? Using her operatic mezzo as a ticket back to NYC, where her family lived before her dad ran off with an up and coming male movie star.
Now meet Kathryn: An overachieving soprano with an underachieving savings account, she’s been a leper ever since Brooke punched her at a party junior year. For Kath, music is the key to a much-needed college scholarship.
The stage is set for a high-stakes duet between the two seniors as they prepare for the prestigious Blackmore competition. Brooke and Kathryn work toward the Blackmore with eyes not just on first prize but on one another, each still stinging from a past that started with friendship and ended in betrayal. With competition day nearing, Brooke dreams of escaping the in-crowd for life as a professional singer, but her scheming BFF Chloe has other plans. And when Kathryn gets an unlikely invitation to Homecoming, she suspects Brooke of trying to sabotage her with one last public humiliation.
As pressures mount, Brooke starts to sense that the person she hates most might just be the best friend she ever had. But Kathryn has a decision to make. Can she forgive? Or are some rivalries for life?
The Good Reads Summery is better than any I could come up with.

1. This is a simple story about friendship; how they begin, why they get messed up, and if they can be repaired. There is no big revelation, just the gentle passing of time beautifully told.

2. Amazingly, this first time author accomplished four fully formed voices in this debut. Her characters were unique from one another and their pasts selves had no seeping knowledge from the present. The story telling, with the exception of the ending chapters, was fluid and engaging. The characters embedded themselves in me, girls I feel I could know, could connect with, and could miss.

What happened to the end of this story?! All the build-up, the beautiful character growth, and flash-backs for developing history. All this slow reveal. Then it just ends flat… everything is over.

Spoiler Spoiler Spoiler !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

After all the build up and getting to know these girls and their feud and their past the book draws to a quick end. “I’m so sorry.” “No, you deserve your success. I’m not mad anymore.” “Awesome! See you at the diner after this?” “Yeah? sure.” The End.

What kind of ending is that?

Spoiler over!!!!!!! Spoiler over!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

3. This book had such wonderful set-up, beautiful blending of past and present even with two voices switching every other chapter. The writing was precise and intriguing. The story made opera** so enticing I found myself looking up performances of mentioned pieces on YOUTUBE.

4. I don’t know who to recommend this to. The Book was so great I wanted to recommend it to everyone… then I hit that last section. Those five short chapters were such a let down. So I guess, I recommend it to people with excess time. Anyone with sparse time, that can only pick a few books a year maybe skip this one. Unfortunately, no matter how beautiful a writer without a conclusion this is not a story.

* This is a 2011 Debut Author Challenge book, go to http://www.thestorysiren.com/2011/03/2011-debut-author-challenge-march.html for more information about Debut Authors in 2011.

** Not a previous passion of mine.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Review: The Latte Rebellion By Sarah Jamila Stevenson*

Asha is a mixed-race high school senior with creative ambitions. When she is insulted at an Asian- American pool party she remembers all the times people have blindly mistaken her for anything but her mutt mix of Irish, Mexican, and Indian. She realizes she doesn’t feel comfortable identifying with any one part of her heritage, and more than that her heritage is just a small part of her.

Asha sparks on an idea. She, and many of her friends, are all mixed up. They are just like Asha’s favorite drink; they are lattes. Asha enlists the help of her best friend to start a business selling a t-shirt to the lattes of the world that unites people in a new way. The money is to be used for a well deserved break between high school and college.

Asha never could have predicted it but her t-shirts open the door for something so much bigger than sharing a little awareness with the world while making a few bucks. It turns out many mixed race Americans needed an outlet to let their voices be heard. Lattes are the present, Lattes are strong, and Lattes are mixed up to be more than the sum of their parts, and they come in endless blends. The Lattes are tired of being dismissed as less, or addressed as diluted, when they offer so much more. A mix of cultural backgrounds, and a heightened social awareness, put Lattes in the position to be huge contributors to society and they want to make themselves known with The Latte Rebellion.

1. This is a coming of age story with a feminine point of view. It has all the elements, growing up, giving up some things from childhood, self-realization, and a little love-interest. With the added bonus of it being wrapped in social awareness, involvement, and making a positive difference.

2. The writing seems young like the author’s style is still evolving. But the story is engaging. It builds and grows along with the main character, Asha.

3. The author makes her character realistic. She shows a girl getting ready for college. She doesn’t concentrate much on the setting, which is California, but rather the things that come up in Asha’s world. As this story is about a college bound young woman, with a lot on her plate (and, as humans we can become quite self centered.), the true setting is Asha’s mind. This is very realistic and executed beautifully; I didn’t miss not connecting with a world because I felt very connected to Asha.

4. This story is wonderful. It starts off a little silly, then journeys through some hardships, and ends up giving great example of how to handle the unexpected. I recommend it to anyone who is going through a big life change; such as starting college or leaving college for their “first real job”. Also to anyone who likes stories about young women growing into themselves and realizing their strength and potential.

*This is a 2011 Debut Author Challenge book, go to http://www.thestorysiren.com/2011/03/2011-debut-author-challenge-march.html for more information about Debut Authors in 2011.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Review: Fairyopolis Presented By Frederick Warner and Co

Fairyopolis is a cute little book full of tiny treasures and fairy lore.

1. This is an interactive journal with tiny notes to discover and pretty watercolor paintings and sketches.

2. The writing is very simple and strait forward. This makes the journal seem very real.

3. This is a very short book, but the pictures are beautiful and so is the fairy inquiry.

4. This book is great for people who want to know more about fairy lore. This book has great tidbits from theories and sightings around the world. Good for anyone who loves fairies and mythology.

Book Reviews

I have realized over and over again in my life how powerful words can be. I use this realization to encourage myself to read as much as I can in my spare time. And I don’t have a lot of free time. But I have challenged myself to read two books a month this year. To some this may seem like a lot of books, but to look at the span of intriguing summaries that cross my path , 24 books in a year is a small feat*.
This discovery led to another. This next discovery was slightly more disheartening. I discovered I don’t know a single person, blogger, reviewer, or author who tells me what I would like to know about potential reads. There are reviewers who just state a synopsis and how much they enjoyed the read, and there are reviewers that ruin the story by giving away the juiciest bits, most annoyingly there are reviewers who only offer a English Literature analysis of how the author’s writing does not compare to Dante or Hemingway or whoever their professors tell them is the MOST PROLIFIC WRITER EVER. Also a friend of mine mentioned a growing catastrophe - book reviews by people who have not read the book yet, they just like the summery or the cover art – these make me feel a little violent.
So as great minds say, if you want something that hasn’t been invented you must create it yourself. I will be submitting reviews that include the things I wish I saw in reviews:  
            What it’s all about (Summery) PLUS
            1. Type of story
            2. Quality of writing
            3. Imagery (Does the author make the world real)
            4. Story Worth (And who should read it)
Hopefully someone will find this helpful and help them discover some great stories or ignore some less than hot ones.
*Yet I guarantee I didn’t finish that many titles last year.