Posted in Young Adult Nonfiction

The Burn Journals, by Brent Runyon

216196The Burn Journals
Brent Runyon
2005 Vintage
ISBN – 9781400096428
Genre – Nonfiction, Memoir
Age – High School
4.2 Stars

When Brent gets in trouble at his middle school for setting a fire in the locker room, he decides that killing himself would be the easiest route to take. When he gets home from school he undresses, douses his robe in gasoline, puts it on, and lights himself on fire. He immediately realizes his mistake, but by the time paramedics come he has third-degree burns on over 85% of his body. This book tells the true story of his intensive recovery over the next year.

Burn Journals is a very intense read. The descriptions of the events and recovery, of pain and fear made me cringe and brought me to tears all at the same time. Brent Runyon is able to capture his feelings of helplessness and thoughts that no one will ever love him again. I like that he does realize that life is worth living, no matter how bad it seems. He does, however, get a slight bit preachy in the end. That’s really just me nitpicking. I listened to this on audiobook, and I must say kudos to the reader. He was fantastic. I thought he captured the emotion or lack there of at times in different situations. I also appreciated that he actually sang when Brent was supposed to be singing. That is pretty rare. Overall, I thought this was an intimate and valuable look into the mind of someone who had little to no hope for life, that was able to learn and grow from their actions.

Posted in Young Adult Nonfiction

Branded by the Pink Triangle, by Ken Setterington

17076450Branded by the Pink Triangle
Ken Setterington
2013 Second Story Press
ISBN – 9781926920962
Genre – Nonfiction
Age – High School
4.7 Stars

Many people know the story of the utter discrimination and attempted extermination of different populations, especially Jewish people, during the Nazi power in Germany. Less is known about the persecution of homosexuals during the Nazi reign. Just a few years before World War II, Germany was one of the most tolerant locations for homosexuality. However, just before and during the war, gay people were arrested, tortured, and sent to concentration camps as well. This book tells their side of the story.

This book was sad, very sad, but also very informative. It is admitted that there has not been an overwhelming amount of research in this specific aspect of WWII, and it is evident in the short and succinct stories in this book. I appreciated that the author worked hard to find personal stories from people who were affected. Although I knew that homosexuals were persecuted, I did not know the horrible way they were treated after the war. As the many Jewish prisoners were released and treated well, gays were forced back into prisons, as it was still illegal in Germany. I also found it horrifying that it was not until the 1980’s that their suffering was even recognized. This was definitely a heart breaking and eye opening book.

Posted in Picture Books

Thank You, Octopus, by Darren Farrell

18315128Thanks You, Octopus
Darrel Farrell
2014 Dial Books for Young Readers
ISBN – 9780803734388
Genre – Picture Book
Age – Toddler, Preschool
4 Stars

An octopus wants to put his boy to bed, in all of the wrong ways. First he offers to draw him a bath, and when the boy thanks him, he reveals that it is a bath of egg salad! Other tricks include helping him dry off with a tuba, and put his PJ’s on…The Statue of Liberty! I love that they boy always says thank you. This book is full of zany juxtapositions. Kids will love to point out how silly and of course how wrong you are! They will also laugh at the fun illustrations. This one will be great for story time.

Posted in Children's Lit, Young Adult Lit

The Month of June

Due to unforeseen circumstances, I have been unable to keep up with my reviews. So instead of feeling massively overwhelmed by the amount, I am going to toss them into one post. So please excuse the mini reviews, I will do my best to stay caught up now.

11861815Winger, by Andrew Smith
Age – High School
Genre Realistic Fiction
2.8 Stars

Ryan Dean West is fourteen years old and a junior at a boarding high school. He has recently been moved into the dorm for trouble makers after an incident the year before. He plays on the varsity Rugby team and is in love with his best friend who treats him like a little brother. The year is full of tumultuous ups and downs, and Ryan Dean must weather the storm. I was not a huge fan of this book. None of the characters were likeable. Ninety percent of it was about absolutely nothing, and then in the last twenty pages it becomes a book. It is too little, too late in my mind.

 

17288710North of Nowhere, by Liz Kessler
Age – Elementary, Middle School
Genre – Mystery
4 Stars

Mia is prepared for a great spring break with her friends. That is until her grandfather disappears and she rushes to Porthaven with her mother. Mia thinks that this will be a boring a miserable trip. Soon after arriving she makes a couple of friends who try help her uncover the mystery of her grandpa’s disappearance. This book was super sweet and fun. I liked the characters so much. They were strong but realistic. They mystery was fun, although slightly predictable for adults, the kids will feel more suspense. Great setting, and great overall read!

 

11594257Under the Never Sky, by Veronica Rossi
Age – High School
Genre – Dystopian
1 Star

Aria is exiled from her safe home under the dome. She meets an outsider, Perry, and although they seem to clash, they must learn to work together in order to survive. Together they travel through the brutal landscape and unforgiving climate in search of Perry’s nephew and Aria’s mother. I truly thought this book was terrible. The characters were obnoxious, the writing was worse. The plot was formulaic, and the narration of the audiobook left much to be desired.

 

18295852The Geography of You and Me, by Jennifer E. Smith
Age – High School
Genre – Realistic Fiction
3 Stars

During a New York City blackout, Lucy and Owen meet in a stuck elevator. They spend one great (and dark) night together, before life starts to pull them in different directions. Lucy moves to Europe, and Owen embarks on cross country travels with his father. Throughout the next year, something keeps their thoughts on each other. Will they ever find their way back to each other, or is geography too strong of a pull? This book was cute. Smith’s writing is simple and easy to read. I have yet to hate any of her characters, however, they always seem to be missing something, possibly a sense of reality! Even though this did not compare to The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, I am not upset I read it.

 

17185379The Hit, by Melvin Burgess
Age – High School
Genre – Dystopian
2 Stars

The drug death is out. You take it, live the best week of your life, and then you die. Adam feels like his life has been bad enough to take it. Thus begins, the most insane week ever. On top of all this, the government is about to be overthrown and England is in complete chaos. This did not tickle my fancy. I thought the writing was quite dry, and the description didn’t have much to do with the book. The story kept taking the most bizarre turns, so much that I didn’t even want to follow anymore. I also had trouble relating to any part of any character.

 

16139598Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer, by Katie Alender
Age – High School
Genre – Mystery
3 Stars

Colette is going on a class trip to Paris! The only downside is that there have been a recent slew of murders. People are being beheaded. Shortly after arriving she begins having visions of a ghost that looks strikingly similar to Marie Antoinette. She soon learns that her family was connected to the royal family before and during the revolution. This fact could have some seriously negative implications. This book was light-hearted and whimsical. It certainly wasn’t award winning or poignant. It was fairly predictable as well. However, there were important life lessons, a little overseas romance, and well, Paris. Not bad.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Young Adult Lit

Love Letters to the Dead, by Ava Dellaira

18140047Love Letters to the Dead
Ava Dellaira
2014 Farrar, Straus and Giroux
ISBN – 9780374346676
Genre – Realistic Fiction
Age – High School
3.7 Stars

It is the first day of high school, and Laurel has been given an assignment for her English class, she has to write a letter to a dead person. She initially chooses Kurt Cobain, but then picks several others to write to including Janis Joplin, Heath Ledger, Amelia Earhart, and more. Once she starts it seems like she has a lot to say that she can’t tell anyone else. Her letters include a myriad of topic such as dealing with high school, her sister’s death, making friends, and falling in love to list a few.

I liked the honesty of this book. The very idea that you can be honest when you write to someone that will never read your letter seems kind of sad, but it is no different than a diary in my mind. I liked the ways that Laurel related to and admired some of the figures she wrote to. This type of writing allowed her to see the good, the bad, and the ugly in herself through the lives of those who passed before her. Many reviews of this book expressed that Laurel is too cool and pretentious. In some parts of the book she is, but in others she is incredibly vulnerable and admittedly unknowing. Generally I don’t like diary type books, I feel like the entries are short and lead to the book being very choppy. While this book started that way, the letters grew throughout, making the flow much more readable. Overall, I enjoyed the book, it reminded me a  lot of The Perks of Being a Wallflower.