Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Review: The Waiting Tree

The Waiting TreeAuthor: Lindsay Moynihan
Pages: 224
Publisher: Amazon Children's Publishing
Source: Review copy- thank you
Synopsis: Eighteen-year-old Simon Peters wants to stand up for the truth about who he is. His love for Stephen is unwavering, but does he have the courage to defend it when his entire church community, including his eldest brother has ostracized him? Trapped in a cashier's job he hates, struggling to maintain peace with his brothers after their parents have died, and determined to look after his mute brother, Simon puts everyone else's needs before his own. It takes a courageous act of self-sacrifice on Jude's part to change both of their lives forever. Jude, who knew that when the fig tree in their yard began to bloom, it was his time to finally be heard and to set Simon free.

Simon is gay in a small town where being different is enough to have you shunned from society. When he's caught with Stephen by Stephen's dad, Simon's life changes in the worst way. Even his brother Paul has a hard time accepting him.

Let's be real: Simon's life sucks. It actually depressed me a little because I couldn't see very much of a bright side to the story. Simon has an awful job, didn't finish high school, his parents are dead, his brother is an idiot, his twin brother needs extra help and attention that Simon's unable to completely provide and his best friend has been sent away. The whole situation was uninspiring because it just seems to get worse every day.

I couldn't connect with Simon because our lives are so different. So much of the racist and homophobic crap he has to deal with doesn't exist where I live, at least so blatantly. I have no doubt that there are garbage people who say garbage things but living in possibly one of the most multicultural communities in the world where there are so many religions, ethnicities, and cultures, I couldn't believe the way they treated Simon. If anyone has to experience that I feel for them but there's a better world out there; they just need to find it.

Simon himself was meant to be someone I sympathized and I did, but I didn't connect with him. I have never experienced the influence of a church or felt ostracized for any reason. I also couldn't get a grip on Simon's character. The one trait that defined him was that he cared more about others than himself and that trait was a little bit forcefully fed to the reader as the supporting characters kept saying it. I didn't feel like Simon had much of a personality. Those little details that make people real— maybe they listen to a certain type of music, watch TV or have an online life— just weren't there.

That's something I wondered a lot when reading The Waiting Tree. Where was the technology? This book was written with the intention of being gritty and realistic so does it take place a while ago? The reason I ask is that technology is integrated to the life of every teen. Even if you can't afford internet there is WiFi. Libraries offer free internet access and through the internet there are communities and resources that could have been beneficial to Simon. If there isn't a group you feel you relate with in reality, you can hang out with one online. So that bugged me just because I wanted this story to be realistic not just in the bad ways but the good ways too and I don't feel like that happened.

The other thing to consider is this is not my usual type of book so I wasn't very into it. It never drew me in and that's because I don't usually read these types of books for a reason. I rarely read contemporary that isn't intensely tragic; life lessons aren't my thing. Life in jeopardy is. That's just the type of reader I am. I didn't enjoy reading The Waiting Tree and I felt like the ending was abrupt and not as enlightening as it was meant to be.

So, this book gets 1 star. It just wasn't my type of read because I couldn't relate to it. I wouldn't discourage anyone from trying The Waiting Tree if it seems like the type of book you'd enjoy.

1 star,


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Review: Crash and Burn

Crash and Burn

Author: Michael Hassan
Pages: 532
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Source: Library
Synopsis: On April 21, 2008, Steven "Crash" Crashinsky saved more than a thousand people when he stopped his classmate David Burnett from taking their high school hostage armed with assault weapons and high-powered explosives. You likely already know what came after for Crash: the nationwide notoriety, the college recruitment, and, of course, the book deal. What you might not know is what came before: a story of two teens whose lives have been inextricably linked since grade school, who were destined, some say, to meet that day in the teachers' lounge of Meadows High. And what you definitely don't know are the words that Burn whispered to Crash right as the siege was ending, a secret that Crash has never revealed.

Until now.

Michael Hassan's shattering novel is a tale of first love and first hate, the story of two high school seniors and the morning that changed their lives forever. It's a portrait of the modern American teenage male, in all his brash, disillusioned, oversexed, schizophrenic, drunk, nihilistic, hopeful, ADHD-diagnosed glory. And it's a powerful meditation on how normal it is to be screwed up, and how screwed up it is to be normal.

I've given Crash and Burn some honest thought, and I think I love it. The operative word being "think" because there's a lot to hate too, and I can see why some people didn't enjoy this book.

But in this review, mine is the only opinion that matters and I'll do my best to explain why this book messed me up so bad.

See, I thought the writing was refreshing. It's not artistic and pretty. It's not stupidly plain. The writing has a voice and so when I read this book, I could imagine Crash talking. There was credibility because Crash had such attitude and it was all there. There is swearing but the real, natural kind. Nobody was trying too hard. There were pop culture references which I totally understood although Crash is a few years older than me. There was rambles which made sense since Crash is not a professional writer. He's kind of self absorbed and this is his book and he'll put whatever he wants in it.

The most endearing quality of Crash and Burn is the believability. Crash is a believable character. Getting to know him is unreal because there are so many layers and parts to his life that he's almost tangible. I can see him. I can imagine him. It's like one of my wishes when I was a kid, to be able to live as someone else, came true because I got to experience the world through the eyes of Stephen Crashinsky, a messed up and real kid.

The most interesting thing is that I don't even know if I like Crash. I don't know if I don't. It doesn't seem to matter because Crash is Crash. There are times he disgusted me, like all the stupid times he lit up and how he was such a manwhore who treated girls like crap. Maybe if I met him for real, I would hate him because he is a jerk. I know I wouldn't like him.


There's more to people than what you see, and this holds true with Crash. He's an asshole and makes some baaad decisions, but there are some moments where I want to hug him because he's real. He's screwing up and dealing with what everybody feels in his own way. From his protectiveness of his sister, to his relationship with his asshole of a father, to his brutal honesty, Crash won me over. He's a tool; a jerk. But I can't say I don't hate him. It's not even about like or hate; Crash feels real to me in a way you never see people or books.

He has all these messed up thoughts in his head, all these awkward moments full of attitude and uncertainty that are fundamental to life. I was never bored with this book. I was completely and utterly engrossed in Crash's story.

And it was a long book. Like, over 500 pages of emotional, real, funny, disgusting shit and it kind of messed with me. It was a real and unfiltered account of Crash's life with hardships and success. The story wasn't chronological and jumped from scene to scene. I loved it because it brought so much insight to Crash's world. There were so many different themes going on; so many storylines that flowed in and out. Recurring characters, fading characters, and new characters. So much about life as a teenager in this time period, and responsibility, and not knowing who to be and how to act. There were surprisingly emotional stories because I could connect. My life isn't like Crash's at all, but the basic feelings are there. I even feel like I went on a bit of a journey with the main character. This book is one of those books.

What originally drew me into the story was the concept: school shooting, who did it and why? I was curious about Burn and I was not expecting too much from this book. I was surprised at how layered the story was. Especially the characters: there's so much to them. Burn was supposed to be a draw although this story really is about Crash. Their relationship was fascinating.

We all have that friend we've known since forever. The ones we don't really consider friends but were a part of our childhood. Maybe our parents hung out together and we hated them. We grew up together though and this is a link that, no matter what happens in the future, will always exist. That is Crash and Burn. They have a bond. It's weird and messed up and you can't even explain it properly because it is constantly evolving. Crash owes a lot to Burn. Crash also hates Burn. Crash feels bad for Burn. Watching the way their lives are linked is so fascinating if not disturbing. Burn is a genius although screwed up. He's vengeful and smart. Actually, there's really no way to describe Burn beyond that he is. Somehow, Burn's actions make sense in some twisted way when considering his character.

That's what I think needs to be said about this book. While Burn's actions are the premise, the story really didn't need things to go so extreme to draw you in. It's a book about people and the stuff that defines them. It is not a feel good story. It doesn't try to be inspiring. It doesn't leave with a happy ending. It is the story of one dude's life to this point, and somehow it is one of the best books I've ever read. I want to reread this book. I want to buy it (I previously got it from the library).

Crash and Burn makes me think and feel. I don't normally write reviews this long, but this book has inspired me in some ways. To do what I want to do. To listen to myself. To realize that even the stupidest little things like some random beans can save someone's life, but at the same time how can beans really save a life?

5 stars.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

It's happening on Goodreads!

I've obviously neglected this blog, but that doesn't mean I've stopped reading and reviewing. I'm on Goodreads and I review & talk books there! So in case you still want to follow along with my reading adventures (and it would be sweet if you did!) you can follow me on Twitter  or friend me on Goodreads! I'll still keep this blog around and I think I will post reviews, although they will be select reviews from Goodreads and kinda sporadic. I appreciate the support either way.

It's been great and if you're reading this, it means a lot to me. Thank you!
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