Book Review: True Letters from a Fictional Life by Kenneth Logan

24485772True Letters from a Fictional Life by Kenneth Logan

Publisher: HarperTeen

Genre: Contemporary and Young Adult

Release Date: June 7, 2016

Pages: 336 (Hardcover)

good good

If you asked anyone in his small Vermont town, they’d tell you the facts: James Liddell, star athlete, decent student and sort-of boyfriend to cute, peppy Theresa, is a happy, funny, carefree guy.

But whenever James sits down at his desk to write, he tells a different story. As he fills his drawers with letters to the people in his world–letters he never intends to send–he spills the truth: he’s trying hard, but he just isn’t into Theresa. It’s a boy who lingers in his thoughts.

He feels trapped by his parents, his teammates, and the lies they’ve helped him tell, and he has no idea how to escape. Is he destined to live a life of fiction?

First of all, I would like to thank the publisher, HarperTeen for giving me an ARC of this book to review. Thank you so much! Really appreciate it! All right, now for my review.

opinion

I’m really glad this got to be one of my first summer reads. It’s fairly light yet a solid novel. With great characters and a steady plot, Kenneth Logan delivers a lovely coming of age story. Although I didn’t absolutely love James, the secondary characters are the ones who really had me. Derek, Hawken, Topher, and the parents. They kept me lightly on my toes by not being the predictable supporting characters that I assumed they would be and I really enjoyed that.

Despite the high rating I’m giving it, there are some flaws. One of them being the intense info-dumping in the very beginning. During the first chapter, readers are handed an essay long description on characters that have yet been introduced. A prime example of this is with Theresa, where James explains their long history and feelings. This could have been easily handled with showing us the friction of their relationship rather than telling us because I started to quickly lose interest. The book, for that matter, is mostly telling rather than showing like from the letters and how James writes them to how he speaks and thinks of his friends. Instead of being put in his shoes, understanding his pain and struggle, I just felt as if I was reading a very personal, extremely distant essay (sorry for the contradiction but it’s the only way I could really explain it. Like a cold ‘I love you’). The whole book is surrounded by the letters and how they make him feel and transform him as a person but I felt this part of the novel was poorly executed because I couldn’t connect with it as I was being told about it instead of showed it. More is written about the letter than what is actually in them. Which is really sad as the letters are his way of expressing himself.

Nonetheless, I enjoyed True Letter from a Fictional Life. it’s straightforward plot wise, it contains plenty of twists, and holds some sad truths about the world we live in. I’m glad Logan made the characters different, especially with Derek because of course there are more issues outside of the LGBT community and just even shining a small light on those issues like race and religion is always appreciated. Moreover, I still liked the idea of writing letters, as a strong believer in this approach to dealing with anger (I’ve been writing letters to people since I was in grade two, I swear) I could connect with where James was coming from. looking past all of the telling and lengthy explanations, the writing itself is quite smooth. It’s easy to lose yourself in the story and keep on reading until everything gets resolved.

You should read this. It’s not a heavy book, definitely finish it within a day, no more than a week. The writing style although not unique, has a one-of-a-kind approach to a popular topic and I loved reading about it. There’s more to this novel than what one read will tell you.

4 Dreamy Clouds

Book Review: Not Otherwise Specified by Hannah Moskowitz

22456945Not Otherwise Specified by Hannah Moskowitz

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Genre:Contemporary and Young Adult

Release Date: March 3, 2015

Pages: 304 (Hardcover)

good good

Etta is tired of dealing with all of the labels and categories that seem so important to everyone else in her small Nebraska hometown.

Everywhere she turns, someone feels she’s too fringe for the fringe. Not gay enough for the Dykes, her ex-clique, thanks to a recent relationship with a boy; not tiny and white enough for ballet, her first passion; and not sick enough to look anorexic (partially thanks to recovery). Etta doesn’t fit anywhere— until she meets Bianca, the straight, white, Christian, and seriously sick girl in Etta’s therapy group. Both girls are auditioning for Brentwood, a prestigious New York theater academy that is so not Nebraska. Bianca seems like Etta’s salvation, but how can Etta be saved by a girl who needs saving herself?

opinion

I’m in love with Hannah Moskowitz. I love her writing, her characters, the way that I feel like I personally know her solely from reading her books. I feel like she puts a lot of herself into her stories. Not Otherwise Specified isn’t… a bad book by any means. But it is a what the fuck just happened ? kind of book. From the setting to the dialogue, all the way to the fucking cover I just…

I don’t think I ever encountered a book by an author I loved that has had info-dumping, but Not Otherwise Specified has it to the max. I’m not even kidding. Sure there are a lot of witty comments that make some of the several info-dumping parts bearable but just barely. Also, the dialogue is really bad. It’s all cookie cutter edge with ‘he says’ or ‘I say’ ‘she says’. They say a lot of shit, I get it. Now make it interesting by adding actions. And I don’t know if it’s just me but all anyone talks about are eating disorders and theater and a dash of the LGBT community thus making the characters not as fleshed out as I would have liked. I got bored quite easily reading this one because I was waiting for something out of the ordinary. It didn’t really come. Anyway, the relationship between Bianca and Etta is so crazy and unbelievable that I had a hard time taking to it. Bianca barely talks and somehow, she’s clinging to Etta for dear life after like a month? Of course these scenarios happen, but I’m sorry there’s just so much planning that could have made it seem realistic. Bianca has too much to lose (I think) to just allow Etta into her life instantly.

Still, this is Hannah Moskowitz and after a while, the random-all-over-the-place-but-not-really-I-don’t-know writing didn’t stand out so much to me. In addition to this, Etta is such a handful, not only for the secondary characters but for readers as well but I liked her for the most part. She’s loud, confused, happy, and pissed off. I liked her because of how strong she is and how strong she makes the other characters. The struggle that goes on in the story is so true.  She tries so hard to work on herself, so hard to get her old friends back, to get healthy, to get in really that I felt for her. It’s so hard to really ‘fit’ in somewhere and I felt as if Etta is the memory for all of us, because I’m sure that everyone has felt like a sore thumb at least once in their life.

Let me say it again: I love Hannah Moskowitz and I believe that this love for her has made me second guess my thoughts on the book. I really want to believe that I got a faulty copy because it just didn’t work for me. Especially the cover, just looking at it makes me mad not because of the person on it, but just the fact that the publisher probably paid a lot of money for something that looks thrown together in ten minutes. It’s poorly photoshoped, poorly lighted, and just all around, poor colour choices. I know for a fact, they could have done better. But anyway, yes, I think I would still recommend it solely because it is Hannah Moskowitz and she’s awesome but Not Otherwise Specified is not that great. It’s a solid, ‘meh’ book with ‘meh’ characters and a ‘meh’ setting.

3 Mediocre Clouds

3 Mediocre Clouds

Book review: No Parking at the End Times by Bryan Bliss

22403036No Parking at the End Times by Bryan Bliss

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Genre:Contemporary and Young Adult

Release Date: February 24, 2015

Pages: 272 (Hardcover)

good good

Abigail’s parents have made mistake after mistake, and now they’ve lost everything. She’s left to decide: Does she still believe in them? Or is it time to believe in herself? Fans of Sara Zarr, David Levithan, and Rainbow Rowell will connect with this moving debut.

Abigail doesn’t know how her dad found Brother John. Maybe it was the billboards. Or the radio. What she does know is that he never should have made that first donation. Or the next, or the next. Her parents shouldn’t have sold their house. Or packed Abigail and her twin brother, Aaron, into their old van to drive across the country to San Francisco, to be there with Brother John for the “end of the world.” Because of course the end didn’t come. And now they’re living in their van. And Aaron’s disappearing to who-knows-where every night. Their family is falling apart. All Abigail wants is to hold them together, to get them back to the place where things were right. But maybe it’s too big a task for one teenage girl.

opinionLook, let’s just get straight to the point. Was I made by the end of this book? Not quite. Did I still have a lot of questions, like how some loser conned more than two dozen people into giving him pretty much everything? Fuck yes. But more than that, I was disappointed. I felt so underwhelmed by every aspect of No Parking at the End Times, even during the parts where there should have been a lot of religious insight,fuck, any kind of insight, I got nothing. You’re better off skimming a pamphlet on the ‘New World’ rather than read this book.

Why? Because nothing happens. And when something does happen, it’s 77% into the book, where no shits are given anymore. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good build-up, leaving room for nothing but suspense however this is ridiculous. And when you pair a boring book and awkward writing that’s full of unnecessary words, well, the outcome isn’t pretty. Moreover, for a novel that has so much on the Now, there’s almost nothing on the Then part. The book is mostly surrounded on the decisions that Abigail’s father has made and still making, how his mistakes have caused the family to lose greatly. So when I was reading and found close to nothing, honest to God, nothing on what made him switch gears and decide to listen to Brother John, I couldn’t help but scream. Adding onto this, the characters aren’t fleshed out. Abigail, I could understand for the most part because I could relate to her but only to a point. Halfway done, I stopped caring about her as well as the other characters. They just don’t stick out, especially Brother John, who is supposed to be this magnificent man sent down from God. Obviously he’s not but I did not see the appeal of him. He always gave generic answers, didn’t read any fucking verses from the Bible despite always having it on hand, and all around, didn’t even act like he was really into it. As a con artist you have to at least fake to have your heart in it, this guy gave no fucks. Now, does that sound like a man two relatively responsible adults with two children would give everything to? It doesn’t to me, I still don’t understand where Bliss was going with him.

Nonetheless, there are some mediocre things that I didn’t mind. One of them being the Before chapters albeit short and mostly pointless because they tell only snippets of what happened, of how they got to California rather than giving the whole picture.

No Parking at the End Times might have been great since most books about the Rapture don’t really go into after the ‘event’, only about two weeks later. What made me even more disappointed is the fact that the beginning is so good. Like, guys, it’s so good. It’s intense, mysterious, and exciting. I was giddy with pleasure (that died like two or three chapters later). Would I recommend this novel? No, like I said before, I got more information from a pamphlet, hell, even the damn internet than I did on the actual Rapture, or on anything religious. This should tell you something about how badly this book is written when I have to complain multiple times about the religion aspect of it. And I don’t even like religion.

1.5 Odd Clouds

1.5 Odd Clouds

Book Review: This is How it Ends by Jen Nadol

20759561This is How it Ends by Jen Nadol

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Genre: Contemporary and Young Adult

Release Date: October 7, 2014

Pages: 320 (Hardcover)

good good

 If you could see the future, would you want to? After the disturbing visions Riley and his friends see turn out to be more than hallucinations, fate takes a dangerous twist in this dark and suspenseful page-turner.

Riley and his friends are gearing up for their senior year by spending one last night hanging out in the woods, drinking a few beers, and playing Truth or Dare. But what starts out as a good time turns sinister when they find a mysterious pair of binoculars. Those who dare to look through them see strange visions, which they brush off as hallucinations. Why else would Riley see himself in bed with his best friend’s girlfriend—a girl he’s had a secret crush on for years?

In the weeks that follow, the visions begin to come true…including a gruesome murder. One of Riley’s closest friends is now the prime suspect. But who is the murderer? Have Riley and his friends really seen the future through those mysterious binoculars? And what if they are powerless to change the course of events?

First of all, I would like to thank the publisher, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers for giving me an ARC of this book to review. Thank you so much! Really appreciate it! All right, now for my review.

opinion

Not a bad book at all! I really liked it, especially because of the characters that are well-developed. All in all, great start however, it could have been better if the story was scarier.

This is How it Ends is described as a suspenseful thriller with a bit of mystery. It’s supposed to be scarier, not romantic. Don’t get me wrong, I liked the story, it’s great and really held my attention but I was expecting something other than what I got. Adding onto this, I wanted more, I wanted the woods to be freakier instead of just there. I wanted the relationship between Riley and Trip also. They’re friends, best friends and I never really got the feel for it. The explanation for the binoculars is really bad and felt rushed. Nadol has a knack for putting things in a fresh light but not when it comes down to the ending.

Despite those things, I loved the writing. It’s fresh and smooth and goes well with Riley’s character. Moreover, Riley himself, is a great character that I could easily connect with. All of the other characters are well planned and thought out too. The visions are also cool! They could have been a bit creepier but I loved them. They’re all different and mysterious, Nadol keeps the readers in the dark especially when it comes to one of the characters.

This is How it Ends is pretty awesome. The characters and setting are well described and I could picture it all. However, and this might not be the author’s fault, the pitch to readers is all wrong and I have to deduct points because of that. Still, I recommend this book to anyone looking for something to read and love realistic characters.

3.5 Interesting Clouds

3.5 Interesting Clouds

Album Review: Tancred by Tancred

Tancred-300x300Tancred by Tancred

Record Label: Topshelf Records

Genre: Indie/Pop

Release Date: October 15, 2013

Songs: 11
good good

Jess Abbott is the lead singer of Now and Tancred is her solo project. Jess is from New England and has had this solo project in the works for quite a few years now. Tancred is her first album.

opinion

Growing up as a kid, I was influenced by singers like Fefe Dobson, Skye Sweetnam, and Demi Lovato. Their music, passion, and just attitudes were things that I wanted to gain once I became a teen. Now that I am one, listening to their songs remind me of all of the dreams my fickle heart had. Tancred also does this for me. Her songs remind me of just how much I wanted to be the troublemaker growing up and have that great group of ‘misfit’ friends. Of course I’ve grown up since then but listening to this reminds me of what every little kid wanted–to grow up.

The album starts off quite nicely and even though I adore her unique voice and her attitude I feel like it clashes with the tempo of the songs badly. What makes things worse is that most of the songs are really short so they don’t feel complete, instead they just feel as though Jess Abbott couldn’t come up with anything more and decided to leave it at that. In Hard to Leave, it drags on a bit with the drumming being repetitive and boring. Abbott could have added some solos to help it.

But, like I said before, I absolutely love her voice because it’s so unique and enchanting. The way she draws out her notes and adds in random high notes is great. There is also quite a heavy bass in just about the song, especially in The Ring and Allston that catches the listener’s attention. Twelve has an awesome beginning and build-up that is executed beautifully with the sudden stops and goes.

Overall, This self-titled album has brought back quite a few memories for me and because of that I really enjoy this album. I can’t wait to see what else she brings to this table and I recommend this to anyone who also grew up listening to artists like Fefe Dobson and Skye Sweetnam because man, the good old days seem to be long gone! My favourite songs on this album are: Allston, Creases, Twelve, and The Worst Kind.

3 Sexy Treble Clefs

3 Sexy Treble Clefs

Songs on the Album (Click on the title to listen to the song!)

1. The Ring-2:19

2. Allston-2:01

3. Creases-2:00

4. Radio-2:25

5. Twelve-2:49

6. In the Night-3:23

7. Indiana-2:37

8. Hard to Leave-3:34

9. Thicker Than Blood-1:54

10. When You’re Weak-3:09

11. The Worst Kind-2:40

Album Review: The Blessed Unrest by Sara Bareilles

The_blessed_unrest_coverThe Blessed Unrest by Sara Bareilles 

Record Label: Epic Records

Genre: Pop

Release Date: July 12, 2013

Songs: 13
good good

Sara Bareilles is an American musician, singer-songwriter and pianist. She has been releasing music since 2002 and has released four albums-Careful Confessions, Little Voice, Kaleidoscope Heart, and The Blessed Unrest.

opinion

Sara Bareilles has come a long way from her hit, Love Song.  Since then, I think that everyone has succumbed to her beautiful voice and songs about love–broken and new ones. I, for one, have always turned to her when in the need for something poppy and uplifting. But after listening to this album I’m a little angry with it and definitely disappointed.

I don’t mind when artists like to dabble into different things especially with the world of music constantly changing but I hate it when they go full-out in a direction that just doesn’t complement their sound. Brave and Eden are examples of this with the use of techno beats that for one, distracted me from the song and two, didn’t go well with the song (mostly for Eden). Satellite Calls is a slow song that also includes echoed vocals to make it unbearable. Some of these songs are all over the place with only the piano keeping things barely coherent.

The piano is still heavily woven into each and every song that Bareilles creates. They still have that sweet rhythmic tune that so many love her for. Manhattan is sweet and gentle with lyrics about going back to a place. I love it when songs include different types of instruments especially with Little Black Dress because it has a cool saxophone part that adds to an already fun and poppy song. It can easily be the second part to her other song, King of Anything. 

The Blessed Unrest isn’t all bad by any means. The vocals are a lot stronger this time around and there is a bigger variety of notes that catches listeners attentions. Bareilles still sings about heartbreak and being your own person even if it hurts to be alone, I just found this one lacking and poorly executed where she adds in a new twist to her sound. Still, I recommend this album to people who don’t mind all those techno beats and will forever love Sara Bareilles no matter what. But be sure to check out Manhattan, Little Black Dress, and I Choose You before listening to anything else.

Two Boring Treble Clefs

Two Boring Treble Clefs

Songs on the Album (Click on the title to listen to the song!)

1. Brave-3:41

2. Chasing the Sun-4:27

3. Hercules-4:24

4. Manhattan-4:38

5. Satellite Calls-4:52

6. Little Black Dress-3:35

7. Cassiopeia-3:34

8. 1000 Times-4:30

9. I Choose You-3:39

10. Eden-4:06

11. Islands-4:21

12. December-5:01

13. I Wanna Be like Me

Album Review: Home is Where You Make it by The Masquerades

Home Is Where You Make It

Home is Where You Make it by The Masquerades 

Record Label: Independent

Genre: Pop Punk

Release Date: June 18, 2013

Songs: 5
good

The Masquerade is a Pop Punk band from Erie, Pennsylvania formed in 2013. The band is composed of Geo Martinez, Brandon Eaton, TJ Hess and Dakota Valerio.

First of all, I would like to thank the Publicist, Umusicians for giving me a copy of this cd to review. Thank you so much! Really appreciate it! All right, now for my review.

opinion

The Masquerades are a tricky band to talk about since this is their début and I’d hate to believe that this is the best music they can produce.  I can see that they have a lot of potential and enthusiasm for what they do. Unfortunately, I can’t say that I feel more than admiration for them when I listen to this album that displays everything boring with pop punk and why it’s so hard to stay in this type of genre. At no point could I fully or even partially connect with this band on a personal level which plays a huge part on how I rate their product.

The lyrics are all so generic and simple. I couldn’t relate to them nor did they seem special for the band either, they just sound like the same songs that have been played over and over again but other bands only with a different band name. With song titles that are extremely straight up and sum up the lyrics like for Best Day of my Life, the Weekend, and All my Life, it’s no wonder that I couldn’t bring myself to like them. I also don’t like the guitar bits and riffs because they sound a bit too strong for the songs and feel odd.

With what I said before, I admire their dedication and their enthusiasm but I just wished that it was put to better use and worked on their sound, making it smoother and a lot more relatable.

Overall, Home is Where You Make it is an album I was expecting a lot more from. I think that they have a very long way to go and that they need to take a few steps out f the generically produced music pool and start coming out with songs that actually hold meaning without so much repetition and sameness. Still, I’ll be looking out for this band and hoping that they come out with something  a lot smoother and well finished than this debut. After all, EPs are not the same as albums for a reason.

Two Boring Treble Clefs

Two Boring Treble Clefs

Songs on the Album

1. The Weekend*

2. Best Day of my Life-3:16

3. Back Up Plan*

4. Set Your Mind to it-4:02

5. All my Life*

*Song couldn’t be found on YouTube, sorry!