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Review: Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour

Epic Detour Cover

Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson

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Release Date:May 4th 2010

Publisher:Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing

Rating: ★★★★☆

Goodreads description:Amy Curry thinks her life sucks. Her mom decides to move from California to Connecticut to start anew—just in time for Amy’s senior year. Her dad recently died in a car accident. So Amy embarks on a road trip to escape from it all, driving cross-country from the home she’s always known toward her new life. Joining Amy on the road trip is Roger, the son of Amy’s mother’s old friend. Amy hasn’t seen him in years, and she is less than thrilled to be driving across the country with a guy she barely knows. So she’s surprised to find that she is developing a crush on him. At the same time, she’s coming to terms with her father’s death and how to put her own life back together after the accident. Told in traditional narrative as well as scraps from the road—diner napkins, motel receipts, postcards—this is the story of one girl’s journey to find herself.

The summer before her senior year, Amy is trying to cope with her father’s death. For a month, her mom has lived across the country in Connecticut and Amy has lived alone in her childhood home. She went to school, was in the school musical, and fed herself-if only barely. Her mom has planned for her to make the trip to Connecticut from California with Roger, the son of a family friend. Amy is not excited about spending that much time in the car or taking a trip with a guy she barely knows.

Surprised to discover that college student Roger is very friendly and attractive, Amy finds a friend in him. Instead of following the strict itinerary Amy’s mom gave them, they decide to make an adventure out of the road trip. With a scrapbook, an iPod full of music and an adventurous attitude, the pair sets off.

The road trip themed scrapbook is a gift from her mom, and the pictures of it in the book are so much fun. Amy writes down information on states they visit, like the motto and size and her own opinion. Also included are receipts, photos and mementos, along fun playlists Roger creates for them with great illustrations. I loved this aspect of the book, it was really fun to look at all the different stuff they accumulated and the playlists were really great to look at-plus it was fun to see some of my favorite bands on them!

On the trip, they get to know each other and become friends, and you can feel the chemistry growing. Amy’s dealing with the loss of her father and Roger has his own issues. They share details about their lives and make memories together. I think both of them grow on the trip, but Amy seems to come to terms with how she’s been reacting to the accident and how she’s dealt with her family after it.

I really liked Amy and Roger. Amy was sweet and strong. I felt like her feelings of loss and guilt were realistic. Amy’s pain how she reacted to it was believable. I liked seeing her progress as she figured out how to talk about things she was feeling. Roger was also fun, even if I would’ve liked to know more about him.

Some of the resolution felt a little rushed, but the story and characters were fun. The details of the places they stopped were enjoyable. I liked the hopeful ending. This story deals with some heavy issues, but manages to stay upbeat and enjoyable. I think it’s worth giving a shot!

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Review: The Help

The Help bookcover
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
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Release Date: February 10th 2009
Publisher: Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam
Rating: ★★★☆☆

Goodreads description: Three ordinary women are about to take one extraordinary step.

Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone.

Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken.

Minny, Aibileen’s best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody’s business, but she can’t mind her tongue, so she’s lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own.

Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed.

In pitch-perfect voices, Kathryn Stockett creates three extraordinary women whose determination to start a movement of their own forever changes a town, and the way women—mothers, daughters, caregivers, friends—view one another. A deeply moving novel filled with poignancy, humor, and hope, The Help is a timeless and universal story about the lines we abide by, and the ones we don’t.

Set in the midst of the Civil Rights movement, Aibileen works for a well-to-do Leefolt family with status but not wealth, basically raising their child, Mae Mobley. She cooks, she cleans, she hears most of the town’s gossip and scandal through her employer, Elizabeth’s bridge club. Elizabeth is best friend to Hilly, president of the Junior League. She also hears and witnesses Hilly’s racism, in the form of an initiative for families to install a separate bathroom outside the house for “the help.”

Aibileen’s friend Minny is a sassy maid with troubles keeping her opinions to herself and a knack for finding herself in trouble. She finds herself out of work and unable to find a job because of Hilly’s lies. The helpless and clueless Celia Foote is uninformed and hires Minny, luckily for both.

Skeeter has dreams of writing and Hilly’s racist agenda doesn’t sit right with her. She takes a stand and decides to stop being a follower. At risk to herself and the maids involved, she writes a book describing the real lives of black maids and the families they work for, filled with juicy and true details. Aibileen and Minny, along with the other maids Skeeter interviews, risk so much to tell their story. They take a stand and do something that’s difficult and potentially dangerous just to show the world how “the help” is treated.

I love that Skeeter turns against everything she knows and really stands up for what she believes in. It would be easy for her to conform and just get married and have a maid raise kids for her, to do what her mom and society expects of her. However, she’s strong and sticks to her convictions, even when her closest friendships and her reputation is on the line. Writing the book was tense for everyone involved, and I loved that she bonded with Aibileen and some of the other maids.

I love that the book gives you a look into each lady’s life, I really enjoyed all three narrators. I loved reading about Aibileen and Mae Mobley, their bond broke my heart. And seeing into Minny’s home life along with all she dealt with at work is incredible. I loved seeing Skeeter take steps away from her friends and learn more about the world outside of Jackson. I love that Aibileen, Minny, and Skeeter were strong women who didn’t give up and didn’t take the easy way out. I love the worry and excitement they all felt while writing and waiting for news about the book, and I felt it with them.

The story was touching, but it read a little slow for me. I know some people have had issues with the voice of the maids since the author is white, but she talks about that in the book’s afterword and she obviously cares a lot about the subject if she took the time to write it. I really liked the story, but I still felt some sort of disconnect with it. I did enjoy it and would recommend it, but I didn’t love it.

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review: Anna and The French Kiss

Anna and The French Kissby Stephanie Perkins
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Release Date:December 2nd 2010
Publisher: Dutton
Rating: ★★★★☆

Goodreads description: Anna is looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. Which is why she is less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris—until she meets Étienne St. Claire: perfect, Parisian (and English and American, which makes for a swoon-worthy accent), and utterly irresistible. The only problem is that he’s taken, and Anna might be, too, if anything comes of her almost-relationship back home.

As winter melts into spring, will a year of romantic near-misses end with the French kiss Anna—and readers—have long awaited?

Okay, get ready for gushing! In fact, I think it deserves 4.5 stars! This book is adorable. I started reading it on my iPhone when I couldn’t get to sleep, then read it off and on the next day while I packed up my apartment. I probably took a lot more breaks than I should have just so I could read more about Anna! I read most of it in one day, then saved the rest for the next day and savored it. I loved it.

Anna is a high school senior, sent to a boarding school for Americans in France by her famous author father. Anna starts a new school in a new country, without knowing a soul or any French. Understandably, she’s not very happy to leave her family, her best friend Bridgette, or her crush. However, on her first night there her dorm neighbor, Meredith, befriends her and she meets the attractive and accented Etienne St. Clair. Even though she misses home, with the help of new friends and the charming St. Clair, she begins to enjoy Paris.

I love how realistic this book is! Anna is lovely–she is clever and adorable, but she didn’t seem too amazing. She is girl-next-door without being boring or flashy. Her feelings are so genuine, I felt so much of the story with her. She’s a strong character and I loved seeing how she stuck up for her friends and ventured out in Paris alone. Plus, she owns up to mistakes she makes, which is always admirable. She’s probably one of my favorite teen girl characters now! Her friend and crush Etienne St. Clair is such a realistic depiction of a teenage boy, I loved him. He is sweet, enthusiastic and witty. He isn’t perfect, but he’s so enjoyable. Being earnest about wishes and liking history are just two of the many things I found endearing about him!  It didn’t take long for me to develop a crush on him right with Anna. Even secondary characters are believable, with typical friend group squabbles and a couple that is always making out and arguing.

Another thing that is realistic about this book is the dialog. So much dialog in the YA genre doesn’t feel real, with characters saying things that just don’t sound like teenagers. However, everything from the flirty back-and-forth to the heated arguments is realistic, which made the story easier to be involved in. The emotions of the book are true and made me remember a lot about high school times.

The story has highs and lows, but the highs are incredibly sweet, and even some of the lows are sweet, too. There are typical high school jealousies, spats, breakups, hookups, and plenty of misunderstandings and miscommunication. It also includes some delicious descriptions of French cuisine! If you like cute, flirty interaction with believable characters, then this is definitely a book for you.

Also:: The author has a twitter, which is fun and a nifty website.  She has two companion books scheduled to come out and I’ll be excited to read both Lola and the Boy Next Door (to be released September 29, 2011) and Isla and the Happily Ever After (expected out in late 2012)!

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Review: April and Oliver

April and Oliverby Tess Callahan and Abby Craden
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Release Date: June 3rd 2009
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Rating: ★★★★☆

Goodreads description: Best friends since childhood, the sexual tension between April and Oliver has always been palpable. Years after being completely inseparable, they become strangers, but the wildly different paths of their lives cross once again with the sudden death of April’s brother. Oliver, the responsible, newly engaged law student finds himself drawn more than ever to the reckless, mystifying April – and cracks begin to appear in his carefully constructed life. Even as Oliver attempts to “save” his childhood friend from her grief, her menacing boyfriend and herself, it soon becomes apparent that Oliver has some secrets of his own–secrets he hasn’t shared with anyone, even his fiance. But April knows, and her reappearance in his life derails him. Is it really April’s life that is unraveling, or is it his own? The answer awaits at the end of a downward spiral…towards salvation.

This book was definitely a challenging read, but I’m so glad I read it. It’s intense and heavy–certainly not a light read. Sometimes while I was reading it, I didn’t like it. Sometimes I didn’t even want to like it. However, when I finished it there was no way I could say I didn’t like it. Somehow, I really enjoyed it. This book probably isn’t for everyone, and it deals with some dark themes. Please be ready for that if you decide to read it.

The main characters April and Oliver grew up as close friends, just on the verge of more. The story begins with April’s brother dying and Oliver and April talking at the funeral after years of no contact. Oliver is moving back after years of being away and his fiance is with him. Immediately there’s a wall of conflict between them. Throughout the story they cope with the death and many other family hardships, and try to figure out how to be around each other again. A lot of the time, it isn’t easy for them.

Sometimes these characters made decisions that I really hated and didn’t agree with at all. They were difficult and combative, and sometimes it was pretty ugly. But life is ugly sometimes, isn’t it? Their problems seemed realistic and their confusion and mistakes did, too. Even when they did horrible things, they still held some likability (although I’ve read reviews by readers that didn’t like any of the characters). April isn’t the type of character I usually enjoy at all, but I was surprised to discover that I actually did like her. She is a dichotomy of strong and weak, and while she is surrounded by tragedy and made mistakes, I ended up liking her a lot. She made some really unfortunate choices and she suffered for them, but I do believed she grew and changed by the end of the book. I liked Oliver a lot, too. He was clearly confused by what his family and the world expected of him versus what he wanted. He had to make tough decisions about what he wanted from life. He also made some really stupid decisions, but I think in the end he grew a lot, too. Their chemistry is complicated, intense and sometimes downright uncomfortable. They clash and argue and get pretty harsh with each other. But I still found myself pulling for them.

There were a few things I really wanted to see happen in this book that didn’t. I wanted to see more resolution, but I liked the end anyway. Again, this isn’t a story tied up in a neatly packaged, which is so realistic because honestly, when has life ever been neatly packaged?

Overall, I thought the story was good and the characters were easy to connect to. It wasn’t always easy to read and it wasn’t exactly a fun read, I can see why some people would not like it at all. However, something about the story felt right to me, so I am really glad I read it!

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Book Review: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
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Release Date: April 2006
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Rating: ★★★★☆


Goodreads description: “Jonathan Safran Foer confronts the traumas of our recent history. What he discovers is solace in that most human quality, imagination.” “Meet Oskar Schell, an inventor, Francophile, tambourine player, Shakespearean actor, jeweler, and pacifist. He is nine years old. And he is on an urgent, secret search through the five boroughs of New York. His mission is to find the lock that fits a mysterious key belonging to his father, who died in the World Trade Center on 9/11.” An inspired innocent, Oskar is alternately endearing, exasperating, and hilarious as he careens from Central Park to Coney Island to Harlem on his search. Along the way he is always dreaming up inventions to keep those he loves safe from harm. What about a birdseed shirt to let you fly away? What if you could actually hear everyone’s heartbeat? His goal is hopeful, but the past speaks a loud warning in stories of those who’ve lost loved ones before. As Oskar roams New York, he encounters a motley assortment of humanity who are all survivors in their own way. He befriends a 103-year-old war reporter, a tour guide who never leaves the Empire State Building, and lovers enraptured or scorned. Ultimately, Oskar ends his journey where it began, at his father’s grave. But now he is accompanied by the silent stranger who has been renting the spare room of his grandmother’s apartment. They are there to dig up his father’s empty coffin.

This book obviously isn’t new, but I’ve been wanting to read this book since I read Everything Is Illuminated by Foer. I’m okay with being late and I was glad to like this book as much as it. This book isn’t perfect by any means, but the general feel of it is genuine and likable. The characters have flaws, which is obviously realistic. It doesn’t end in a neatly tied package, which is a popular option for so many authors.

Oskar is an enjoyable narrator, even if he does seem a lot older than 9. He’s pretentious, but I think he’s supposed to be that way. His struggle with loss is heartbreaking. On his journey to learn more about his father, he learns a lot about his grandparents and his mother. Oskar’s inventing is interesting and enjoyable, one of my favorite inventions was the enormous pockets. Oskar understandably goes through a lot of emotions, and I am pleased with his progress at the end. It didn’t end perfectly and not everything is fixed, which made it more believable.

I really enjoyed the storyline about his grandparents, too. It was sad, but it was realistic.Their story is set in and after 1944, in wartime Dresden and in New York a few years after. There are flashbacks to life before the war and memories of bombings and loss. The story is heartbreaking and painful, but wonderful at the same time.

The whole story illustrates surviving grief, even at times when it might be easier or less painful to not survive. The characters give, take and make mistakes–which in my honest opinion, makes them more enjoyable. The words are so pretty and the story is heartbreaking-a lot of loss and regret, a lot of resentment and love. It might not be for everyone, but I would definitely recommend you to give it a shot!

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