Friday, March 29, 2013

Beta - Rachel Cohn

In the city of Demesne on Io everything is perfect, including the clones made to serve the humans living there.  Elysia is a teen beta, cloned from her firsts DNA.  The first is a human that died so the beta could be born.  Mrs. Bratton comes into a boutique looking for someone to take the place of her daughter.  Astrid has gone to college and wants nothing to do with the family.  As soon as Mrs. Bratton sees Elysia she buys her immediately.  Mrs. Bratton comes home with Elysia and introduces her to Ivan and Liesel, Elysia's new siblings.  Mr. Bratton, a.k.a. The Governor, is not happy with Mrs. Bratton buying Elysia, but accepts her as part of the family.  Elysia trains with Ivan, who is going to join the military.  She also comforts Liesel at night after she has nightmares, just like a big sister would.  She spends most of her time with Mrs. Bratton, but does hang out with Ivan and his friends as the swim or take drugs to get high.  Whenever she is swimming she sees visions of a beautiful guy, which she concludes it is a memory of someone her first of knew.  The only nutrition she needs is a strawberry shake once a day, but Elysia sits down with the Bratton's and eats the food.  She especially takes a liking to chocolate.  The thing is betas aren't supposed to remember the lives of their first, or have enjoyment from food.  If the betas do they are considered rogue and are dispensed with.  There have been rumors lately of the clones wanting to rebel against their human masters.  When Ivan's friend, Tahir, comes back after recovering from a really bad surfing accident, everyone sees he is different.  When Elysia spends a week at his home she discovers that he too is a beta, and only a few people know what he truly is.  During this week there is a bombing which is blamed on the other beta Elysia was with in the boutique.   After she returns to the Bratton's one of the other clones goes rogue, jumps off a cliff and dies.  Elysia can no longer hide the fact she is a rogue.  One night when Ivan tries to have sex with her, Elysia kills him and runs away.  With everyone in pursuit she jumps off a cliff into the water below. 

This was a really good book.  It kept me wanting to turn the page to find out what was going to happen next, especially when the plot line of the rebellion of the clones came into the storyline.  No matter how perfect something is on the outside there is always something hidding that shatters the perfection.  I'm glad this is the first book of a series because after I finished it I wanted more.  The ending also brought up questions that readers will want answers to.  I can't wait until the next book comes out. 

T.B. 3/28/13

Friday, March 22, 2013

The 39 deaths of Adam Strand - Gregory Galloay

Adam has died 39 times.  He has jumped 18 times, asphyxiated 5 times, drowned 5 times, poisoned/overdosed 4 times, hung himself 3 times, once each by fire, gun, chain saw, and train.  He has come back to life after each death.  He's seen doctors and psychiatrists, but no one can figure out why he comes back to life.  All of this started when Adam was 10.  His mom, brother, and him were in the car stopped at a bridge that was up to let barge traffic through.  All of the sudden he felt this pull in him to jump off the bridge.  He jumped off the bridge and died.  He came back to life a few days later.  Adam began to be know as the freak around town because he kept on killing himself.  His friends accepted that this was part of him.  As the school year comes to an end the only thing he'll miss is his English class and his teacher.  It was the only thing worth going to school for in Adam's view.  As the summer comes Adam hangs out with his friends and gets drunk most of the time.  He looks back at some different times he's killed himself.  He is seeing a new doctor who is trying to understand why Adam kills himself over and over.  He also falls in love with his longtime friend Jodi.  When he takes too long to tell her how he feels Tony swoops in and starts going out with her.  Adam and Jodi are still friends, but things have changed between them.  Tony keeps nagging him to kill himself whenever they hang out.  Adam keeps telling him that he can't just do it on command.  Tony thinks Adam is trying to prove something, but Adam is what he is.  The night of Adam's birthday he's hanging out with his friends and Tony shows up.  Tony and Adam begin to argue and Tony stabs Adam in the chest.  He's in the hospital for five days and in those days he looks back at everything that has happened in the last few years.  Is Adam doomed to keep on killing himself over and over?  Does he have the strength in him to fight whatever this is and become a better person?

I really enjoyed this book.  You got into Adam's head and saw how he thinks when he kills himself.  I did like the ending of the book too.  It gave the idea of hope that Adam could over come whatever this is and become a person who doesn't feel the need to kill himself over and over.

T.B. 3/22/13

Monday, March 18, 2013

Aaliyah (Divine Divas #4) by Victoria Christopher Murray

This particular novel is in a series about four teens in a High School  who are sophomores, who dream about becoming the best Gospel quartet in a competition . The teens, named Diamond, India, Veronique, and Aaliyah are determined to win.  This novel is the fourth book in the series.   Aalijah , who is a straight A student and is an only child living with her Father, who by the way is the Deputy Chief of Police in Los Angeles, California.  Aaliyah is really not interested in singing, but has   a lot of talent in music, since her childhood and a willingness to support her BFFL.
The quartet has won a regional competition and is now preparing to head south for the finals.  Four other groups will be there as well.  Each group was assigned a mentor, who is an established singer, to help the girls get ready and to sing with them.  Aaliyah is horrified when she finds out that her famous mother Xena will be her groups' mentor.  She has always told everyone her mother was dead.  She has not been in contact with Xena since she left home to become a star,when Aaliyah was very young. Aaliyah did know Xena was her mother and did keep track of her.
Now all of a sudden Xena wants to be part of Aaliyah's life, and she wants no part of it.  Her BFFL are thrilled by the chance to meet Xena and sing with her.  They don't understand why Aaliyah kept her a secret all these years or why she is so upset about the situation.
It will take a lot of talking with her dad, pastor, BFFL and Xena before Aaliyah can accept Xena as her mother.  Aaliyah, set aside her feelings so the Divine Divas can be a success in the finals.
It isn't hard to understand the anger and sympathize with Aaliyah.  I am sure I would feel the same way.  This is a fast, and easy read with an uplifting ending.  Recommended.
LD/JW 3/13/13

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Cracked by K.M. Walton

Call me cynical, but when I read a book about hard-hitting themes like bullying and suicide, I don't necessarily want "happily ever after." While this book does a decent job tackling these two serious topics, I felt the rosy ending for these characters didn't jive with reality.

This novel is told through the eyes of two boys - chapters alternating between Victor and William "Bull". Victor is a victim of bullying done by Bull. The bullying has gone on since kindergarten and hasn't improved. At the same time, he's reminded constantly that his parents never wanted him and is repeatedly belittled by their selfishness and egos. While Bull is a bully at school, he is a victim at home to his grandfather's fists and his mother's neglect. Each boy is miserable and desperate for a way out. Victor tries suicide and Bull tries to defend himself from his grandfather with a gun but ends with getting himself shot. Now both boys are roommates in a psych ward, involuntarily committed for five days after "suicide" attempts. Through the people that they meet, the boys discover who they truly are and what's worth living for.

I felt as if this book did a great job of building these characters who you feel sorry for. You completely sympathize with Victor and his horrible parents and the bullying and how his only companion in the world is a dog knocking on death's door. You even feel bad for Bull, despite the fact that he's a bully. All of that works for the story. Then they're committed for five days and after four days they're magically cured? A magic cure is bad enough, but then they both fall in love in this psych ward in four days?  What are the odds? At that point the book starts to lose its realism for me. First off, I find a cure in four days a bit much, especially for Victor. Bull was never suicidal to begin with, so I can believe it for him, but Victor had so much going against him - his parents went to Europe and didn't even come back when he tried to commit suicide. All it took, though, was for him to share his feelings and have a girl say he's worth living and now every thing's peachy keen? Again, maybe I'm just cynical, but it's all too picture book happy for me. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad that things worked out in the end, but it makes it seem too easy. While I don't have any experience with suicide, I've been given the impression that this is a serious struggle for a lot of people. Not everyone has a long-lost relative ready to step in a fight for them. Not everyone is going to meet a girl and want to turn it all around in a day or two. This book would have been more powerful if it was a little bit more realistic in terms of recovery.

Some people like fairy tale endings, but some topics don't lend themselves to that. While I can see this book as inspiration for people not to commit suicide and to stand up for bullies, I felt like it should be more sympathetic to the true struggles that people face in these situations.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

After Hello by Lisa Mangum

Sara goes to NYC with her father. He will be in business meetings then plans to meet his daughter for lunch in Times Square. Instead, he cannot get away and she has a long day ahead, taking photos and eating alone. Except, while wandering with her camera she focuses on Sam who sees her and stops to talk. They connect, he will take her to lunch and she will be on her way. Sam, who is running errands for his brother Paul must just drop off something first. Paul works for an impossible to please celebrity. Sam and Sara arrive while a kinds of drama is going on. Sara bargains with the woman. She will find a one of a kind work of art for her before midnight. Now, committed to the bargain, Sam takes her exploring landmarks, meeting artists, looking for the just right piece of art.

As the day goes on, dad calls saying he cannot meet for dinner either. Sara takes photos everywhere she and Sam go. Sometimes they have conflict. Each has a story to both keep secret and tell. Both, in some way have been left behind by those they love. They finally settle on the exact right art piece and go to an artist loft to make it. While Sam works with his artist friend, Sara creates an amazing collage of the day's photos. Its well past midnight when they finally deliver on their promise and say goodbye. It has been a wondrous journey for both. Where will their life journey's lead now? We are left to wonder and perhaps hope that these two will meet again one day. I would give this to anyone who liked 13 little blue envelopes by Maureen Johnson, another fabulous journey.

JDW 3/13