Review: Awaken by Katie Kacvinsky

Book: Awaken by Katie Kacvinsky
Published: May 2011, Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
Genre: YA
Pages: 320 pages
Where I got it: received as an e-book from NetGalley
Buy It: Amazon

Summary (from Goodreads): Maddie lives in a world where everything is done on the computer. Whether it’s to go to school or on a date, people don’t venture out of their home. There’s really no need. For the most part, Maddie’s okay with the solitary, digital life—until she meets Justin. Justin likes being with people. He enjoys the physical closeness of face-to-face interactions. People aren’t meant to be alone, he tells her.
Suddenly, Maddie feels something awakening inside her—a feeling that maybe there is a different, better way to live. But with society and her parents telling her otherwise, Maddie is going to have to learn to stand up for herself if she wants to change the path her life is taking.
In this not-so-brave new world, two young people struggle to carve out their own space.

My thoughts: I began reading Awaken back in the early spring but because I'm a butthead sometimes, my NetGalley copy expired before I could finish. Then it took me a few months to get a copy to finish reading it. Once I was able to pick it back up, I was mad at myself for not getting my hands on it earlier. Maddie's world was so interesting! She is pretty much the first daughter of the new education system. In the year 2060, the world is pretty much all computerized. Want to hang out with your friends? Hop on the internet and virtual chat with everyone in a coffee shop setting. Even exercising is computerized. Having a father who is the head of digital school put a lot of pressure on Maddie to follow the rules. When we find out that she had something to do with a huge security breach years ago, it's easy to see that she doesn't necessarily believe in what her family is responsible for.

Awaken is about much more than just teenage rebellion. It's about standing up for what you believe in despite how much it might effect your life as you know it. Maddie chooses her beliefs over her family, which is something that only the strongest willed person would be able to do. However, the story was almost too unbelievable for me. I have been on this earth for almost 26 years now and I don't feel like the world has changed too drastically. It's very hard for me to believe that a world would be so different in my lifetime. I enjoy technology as much as the next nerd, but I could not wrap my head around how life could change so much in 50 years. The people in Maddie's world were so connected in the digital sense, but I couldn't help thinking it was more like they were disconnected. They were giving up real human interaction. It just seems so lonely to me and I was glad that Maddie was able to recognize that she was unhappy with that way of life.

Sadly, I was disappointed in Justin's character as her love interest. I felt that it was unfair of him to ask her to betray her family and expect her to do what she ultimately ended up doing by choosing his side. He seemed like a total toolbag and I just couldn't understand why Maddie was attracted to him, other than for his mysterious ways.

I don't usually talk about covers, but I will admit that I am one of those people that judges a book by it's cover. This cover is what initially attracted me but I was glad to discover that the story was worthy of such an awesome cover. While there were certain things that I didn't like about Awaken, I enjoyed the concept and reading about a character who was able to fight for what she believed in despite being in such a tough spot.

My rating: 3.5 stars 


Review: Then We Came To The End by Joshua Ferris

Book: Then We Came To The End by Joshua Ferris
Published: 2007, Little Brown & Company
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 387 pages
Where I got it: received as a Secret Santa gift a couple years ago
Buy It: Amazon

Brief Summary (from Goodreads): For anyone who has ever worked in an office, hating everything and everyone in it, yet fell apart when it was time to leave -- this book is for you. Heartbreaking, yet hysterically funny, Then We Came to the End is the definitive novel about the contemporary American workplace.

My thoughts: Then We Came To The End has been on my to read list pretty much since it's release but for some reason it took me almost 4 years to actually pull it off my shelf. With any book that I wait that long to read, there was a huge amount of hype leading up to it for me. There was nothing that wowed me about this novel, but I found it to be an entertaining read that was very relatable for anyone who has ever worked in your typical office environment. There were many points where I was laughing out loud because I could picture some of the events happening in my own office. There were a lot of things that were a little outrageous but they still were so funny to picture. It's easy to see that author Joshua Ferris' view of corporate America is a bitter one, but he's able to poke fun at that in his debut novel.

I enjoyed the use of first person plural and how we never find out who the narrator is. He/she speaks on behalf of the group and refers to all of the employees of the ad agency where this book takes place as the collective "we". The characters were all so entertaining, from the crazy ones, to the slackers to the workaholics. There have been a lot of comparisons to The Office and Office Space in other reviews, and it's definitely very much along those lines but I would say more like if the employees of Dunder Mifflin were all on crack.

While there were plenty of funny moments, there were also a lot of really depressing ones. The characters were waiting with bated breath to find out who would be the next to be laid off. They were all aware that their jobs as advertising creatives basically turned them into soul sucking demons. As someone who goes to work most days dreading what lays ahead, I know how terrible it feels to have a job you absolutely can't stand but you need it to survive. Ferris wrote Then We Came To The End shortly before the economy got really bad, so I imagine that if he had waited to write this just a year or two later, it would be so much worse. There's not much you can do other than to laugh though when you realize you're not the only one who hates their job or works with a bunch of crazies.

My rating: 3 stars


Top Ten Tuesday - Books Every Teen Should Read

Hey guys! This week's TTT over at The Broke and the Bookish is about the books every teenager should read. I feel like there are a bunch of books that I've read lately that I've thought, "man, I wish I read this when I was a teenager!", so this was a fun topic for me to cover.

1. The Catcher In The Rye - one of the first books that I read as a teen that really got me excited about reading again. I know it's typically a love it or hate it book, but as a 14 year old, I really connected with it.
2. To Kill A Mockingbird - I didn't read this until I was in college and remember thinking I missed out by not reading it as a teen.
3. Speak - While I wasn't super crazy about it, I think it deals with some heavy issues that teenagers should be aware of.
4. Fahrenheit 451 - A must-read for anyone interested in the printed word.
5. The Diary of Anne Frank - This book has so much to offer- a history lesson and a connection to another teenager, this is one that young girls especially need to read.
6. The Giver - Another fantastic book that I didn't read until I was in my 20's.
7. Shine - Having just read this, it's still weighing heavily on my mind. It teaches a good lesson about tolerance.
8. The DUFF - an honest book about the pressures of being a teen and discovering yourself.
9. Invisible Man - I first read this book in my AP Lit class and it ended up being one of my favorite books of all time. I don't know if it's because of the great discussions we had, but I think everyone should read it in high school.
10. The Harry Potter series - Because every teen deserves some fun reading! If I hadn't read this series, I don't think my reading habits would be the same today.


In My Mailbox (8)

Hey Guys! It's been awhile since I've done an In My Mailbox post but I went to a book sale yesterday at one of the local libraries and scored some great deals that I wanted to share.

From the library book sale:

Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan (this one is signed!)
Mercy by Jodi Picoult
The Zookeeper's Wife by Diane Ackerman
One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson
Paint It Black by Janet Fitch
Before I Die by Jenny Downham
Not Me by Michael Levine
Snow Flower and The Secret Fan by Lisa See

From BookMooch:

Neither Here Nor There: Travels In Europe by Bill Bryson (I requested this about 8 months ago and forgot about it until it showed up out of nowhere on my doorstep last week)

For review from the publisher:

The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson

From NetGalley:

Tris and Izzy by Mettie Ivey Harrison
After Midnight by Irmgard Keun

And lastly, the Gilmore Girls complete series on DVD! This is not a book but this is what I'm most excited about this week. I have been (impatiently) waiting for Amazon to have this as the deal of the day for at least a year now and finally last week they did. You better believe I scooped that up real fast.

As always, thanks to Kristi from The Story Siren for getting this meme started! What was in your mailbox this week that you're most excited about?


Review: Shine by Lauren Myracle

Book: Shine by Lauren Myracle
Published: May 1, 2011/Amulet Books
Genre: YA
Pages: 350 pages
Where I got it: Netgalley
Buy It: Amazon

Summary (from Goodreads): When her best guy friend falls victim to a vicious hate crime, sixteen-year-old Cat sets out to discover who in her small town did it. Richly atmospheric, this daring mystery mines the secrets of a tightly knit Southern community and examines the strength of will it takes to go against everyone you know in the name of justice.

My thoughts: Shine is one of those books that will stay with me for a long time. I am loving all of these YA books I've been reading lately that have female protagonists with such strong hearts. Cat was such a likable character because of her perseverance in discovering who hurt her best friend, Patrick. Patrick was a gay teenager who fell victim to the small town's single minded people, put into a coma during an assault involving a baseball bat and a gas pump. Just thinking about it makes my stomach turn. There were a lot of heavy themes presented in this YA book. I've never read any of Myracle's other books but I'm glad I decided to start with this one, as I've heard the others are more chick-lity and not really my style.

Shine reminded me a bit of the movie Winter's Bone in that they both feature a young girl on a personal journey in a small town, searching for answers. I felt like Shine was a journey that I was experiencing right alongside Cat as she went from person to person until she finally discovered the true story. I've never really lived in a small town but I can imagine that this is pretty accurate to how things still are in the South in many places. It's a nice wake up call for the rest of us who don't realize that bigotry is still such a prevalent issue in today's society.

While I enjoyed Shine overall, I felt like a lot of it was just okay for me. It wasn't until the interesting turn of events at the end when we find out who tried to kill Patrick and the motive behind the crime that I felt like the story was redeemed for me. It was such an emotional moment that I had to stop reading for a bit because it weighed so heavy on my heart to think about how there are people out there so twisted. There is a lot of darkness here, but there are also important lessons everyone can learn about betrayal and tolerance.

My rating: 3 stars


Review: Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson

Book: Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson
Published: June 14, 2011/ Harper
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 368 pages
Where I got it: received as an ARC from the publisher
Buy It: Amazon

Brief Summary (from Goodreads): 'As I sleep, my mind will erase everything I did today. I will wake up tomorrow as I did this morning. Thinking I'm still a child. Thinking I have a whole lifetime of choice ahead of me ...' Memories define us. So what if you lost yours every time you went to sleep? Your name, your identity, your past, even the people you love - all forgotten overnight. And the one person you trust may only be telling you half the story. Welcome to Christine's life.

My thoughts: What an exciting page turner Before I Go To Sleep was! I love books that read like a diary but even without that aspect, this would have been just as addicting. I started this on a plane and before I knew it, I had read half of it. Christine suffers from amnesia after an accident that occurred in her twenties and now she can't remember anything about her life. With a little help from her doctor, she begins keeping a journal that helps her remember little pieces about herself and everything she goes through each day. Watson's novel fascinated and terrified me at the same time. I could not imagine what it would be like to wake up every morning and have no idea who I am or where I am.

Christine's relationship with her husband was such a roller coaster ride as she went through the motions of getting to know him and trust him, despite a note in the front of her journal written in her own handwriting telling her not trust him. I felt so bad for her each time she relearned of her son's death and the other misfortunes she had in the past. Even just waking up in the morning, she did not recognize her own body. To her, it seemed as though she had aged 20 years overnight. When I discovered that the author is actually a man, I was very impressed at his ability to write from a female perspective in such an effective manner.

Before I Go To Sleep was a thrilling and fantastic debut novel for newcomer S.J. Watson. There is a twist that I kind of anticipated from the beginning, but Watson did a great job at making me believe it wouldn't actually happen and then BAM! It did (although it wasn't quite what I thought) and I was left stunned. It's hard for me to write this review without giving too much away, so do yourself a favor and go read it! This will be one of those books I recommend a lot this summer to people looking for a thrilling page turner.

My rating: 4 stars