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Review: The Silver Star

silver starTitle: The Silver Star
Author: Jeanette Walls
Release Date: June 11, 2013
Pages: 288

First Line: “My sister saved my life when I was just a baby.”

“‘Bean’ Holladay is twelve and her sister, Liz, is fifteen when their artistic mother, Charlotte, a woman who ‘found something wrong with every place she ever lived,’ takes off to find herself, leaving her girls enough money to last a month or two. When Bean returns from school one day and sees a police car outside the house, she and Liz decide to take the bus to Virginia, where their Uncle Tinsley lives in the decaying mansion that’s been in Charlotte’s family for generations.” – from Goodreads

My thoughts: This book was a quick and easy read, though it did deal with some uncomfortable situations as Jeannette Walls’s books always do. I did like Bean’s character, but I grew more and more disappointed with Liz. Not that Liz needed to be more mature because she was still a child as well, but Liz took care of Bean without complaint at the beginning of the book so I thought that would continue throughout the story. Instead Bean ended up taking care of Liz, even before the trauma Liz had to go through. It was just kind of a weird change of characters I guess, but I still enjoyed the story. I just wish we got a little more out of the other characters. I think they all could have had more to say, including the girls’ uncle and Bean’s cousin and aunt.

My Ratings:
Writing: 3/5
Characters: 2/5
Subject: 3/5
Originality:3/5
Kept me interested: 3/5
Overall rating: 3/5

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Review: If You Find Me

find meTitle: If You Find Me
Author: Emily Murdoch
Release Date: March 26, 2013
Pages: 256

First line: “Mama says no matter how poor folks are, whether you’re a have, a have-not, or break your mama’s back on the cracks in between, the world gives away the best stuff on the cheap.”

“A broken-down camper hidden deep in a national forest is the only home fifteen year-old Carey can remember. The trees keep guard over her threadbare existence, with the one bright spot being Carey’s younger sister, Jenessa, who depends on Carey for her very survival. All they have is each other, as their mentally ill mother comes and goes with greater frequency. Until that one fateful day their mother disappears for good, and two strangers arrive. Suddenly, the girls are taken from the woods and thrust into a bright and perplexing new world of high school, clothes and boys.

Now, Carey must face the truth of why her mother abducted her ten years ago, while haunted by a past that won’t let her go… a dark past that hides many a secret, including the reason Jenessa hasn’t spoken a word in over a year. Carey knows she must keep her sister close, and her secrets even closer, or risk watching her new life come crashing down.” – from the book jacket

My thoughts: There are some very uncomfortable situations to read through in this book, but I think Murdock did it in a way to minimize that discomfort as much as possible while still giving the reader the full impact of what happened. I found it interesting how the places of the parents change as you figure out just how sick Carey’s mother really is, and how much she has been lied to throughout her entire life. I’m glad that Murdoch allowed her and Janessa to find some peace in a family that was entirely normal after the horrible way they had been living for years. As the revelations came to light bit by bit about just how sickening their mother had treated them, it was a relief as the reader to feel trust for the adults now in their lives.

This book is a difficult read in some parts, but it manages to be a beautiful story of strength and family while at the same time being a horrifying story of abuse and neglect. It definitely reminded me how grateful I am for the parents I have.

My ratings:
Writing: 4/5
Characters: 5/5
Subject: 5/5
Originality: 4/5
Kept me interested: 5/5
Overall rating: 4/5

Review: A Tale for the Time Being

taleTitle: A Tale for the Time Being
Author: Ruth Ozeki
Publisher: Viking Penguin
Release Date: March 12, 2013
Pages: 418
First Line: “Hi!”

“In Tokyo, sixteen-year-old Nao has decided there’s only one escape from her aching loneliness and her classmates’ bullying. But before she ends it all, Nao first plans to document the life of her great grandmother, a Buddhist nun who’s lived more than a century. A diary is Nao’s only solace—and will touch lives in ways she can scarcely imagine.

Across the Pacific, we meet Ruth, a novelist living on a remote island who discovers a collection of artifacts washed ashore in a Hello Kitty lunchbox—possibly debris from the devastating 2011 tsunami. As the mystery of its contents unfolds, Ruth is pulled into the past, into Nao’s drama and her unknown fate, and forward into her own future.” – from goodreads.com

My Thoughts: (Very slight spoilers ahead)

I had a hard time trying to rate this book. On the one hand, I found Nao’s diary to be very interesting, and I did enjoy Ruth and her husband’s philosophical musings as well as the little magical elements the book had to offer. But at the same time, I think Ms. Ozeki may have taken on a little too much. The insight into a suicidal dad and daughter, I found interesting. Even most of the bullying, I understood and it made me wonder if bullying is really that bad in other parts of the world (and other parts of the U.S.?)

However the attempted rape, I felt was little unrealistic (I hope anyway), especially as they were posting the videos on the internet. And, even more disconnecting for me, was when Nao seemingly randomly became a child prostitute. I didn’t really see it coming, even if I should have, and although we had access to Nao’s deepest inner-thoughts through her diary, I didn’t at all understand her decision to enter that life-style. It was totally unbelievable to me for her character that I felt I had gotten to know, and so it took me out of the story completely. It’s not that I don’t think that could be an important issue to address. It’s just that after getting to know Nao, it didn’t suit her, no matter how nice her “recruiter” was. I don’t believe Nao’s character would have fallen into that, especially with her experience as to how fake and cruel people could be. I think that could have been a whole separate book, with a different kid if Ozeki really wanted to bring up that issue. It also just kind of happened and then wasn’t really resolved in my opinion.

Okay, I’ll stop ranting on that point. All in all, I still think it’s worth reading, but obviously I did have a few issues with it. 😉

My Ratings:
Writing: 4/5
Characters: 3.5/5
Subject: 3.5/5
Originality: 4/5
Kept me interested: 4/5
Overall Rating: 3/5