Monday, May 25, 2015

We'll Always Have Summer

We'll Always Have Summer We'll Always Have Summer by Jenny Han
My rating: 3 of 5 stars


This one was hard to read sometimes. Part of me felt like if Belly was going to end up with Conrad, they should have just let her be with Conrad without dragging Jeremiah into it. Belly kept pushing Conrad away, and Conrad kept encouraging her to, until the very end when he finally told her the truth and tried to get her back. And Jeremiah knew the whole time how Belly would always feel about Conrad. I'm annoyed he ignored that for 2 years, and annoyed that he kept pushing their relationship forward while knowing that, but I guess I should he relieved that he finally said enough is enough. Took him long enough.

Conrad. Ugh. This noble idiot stuff really bugs me, especially when it's about a girl who ends up being treated like a possession who is passed back and forth. I get that Conrad was messed up after his mom's death and thought that Jeremiah would be the better, more stable option for Belly, but he didn't have the right to make that decision for her.

I guess you could argue that they needed to go through this horrible and uncomfortable situation to grow up, mature, and truly appreciate one another, but what a painful process. Did Conrad need to see Belly nearly marry his brother in order for him to treasure her? And I still don't get how Belly can go from being let's-break-up angry with Jeremiah to let's-get-married so quickly. That wedding was seriously the worst idea ever.

As for the epilogue, while I appreciate that Belly and Conrad ended up together, it felt like we missed out on the most important part of their story -- how did they get back together? How did they learn to trust and rely on one another? And how in the world was Jeremiah ok with it all? We'll never know, since that was all skimmed over.

I appreciated the Conrad-narrated chapters this time around, since he is such an enigma, and it was always hard to tell how he really felt about Belly.

The main thing I did like about this book was the female relationships. Belly spent so much time in the previous two books obsessing over her relationships with the boys, to the detriment of her development of her female relationships. It was a relief in this book to see her friends with Taylor again and building a new friendship with Anika.

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Saturday, May 23, 2015

It's Not Summer Without You

It's Not Summer Without You It's Not Summer Without You by Jenny Han
My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Another sad, sad book, but one that also had a lot of hope. Susannah was really the heart of this book, even though she is not physically present for most of the book. Everyone is reacting to her absence, in both negative and positive ways. People say things they don't mean, and then hold on to their hurt and regret.

When the air finally clears, it's like a cloud had lifted. Everyone can breathe, and be honest with one another, and start to deal with how wrecked they have been. It clearly wasn't working to deal with anything on their own, so when they could finally lean on each other, it was a relief.

Of course, this book once again danced around Belly's relationships with both Conrad and Jeremiah. We jump into the action after Susannah's death and after Something Major had happened to not only break up Belly and Conrad, but completely separate them. It actually was a little disappointing to eventually find out that there wasn't some sort of big blow out, there was just disappointment and hurt feelings and no communication.

I was also disappointed that Belly and Jeremiah let whatever was going on with Conrad, in addition to the overwhelming sadness of Susannah's death, keep them apart as well. As much as Belly should have called and gone to see him, he could have reached out to her, too.

As for the romance stuff, I'm not convinced Belly is really ready to move on from Conrad. She's said that before and gone back to him. Granted, she did seem to feel something when kissing Jeremiah that she'd never felt before, but is that enough to make a difference? I really hope so, because having chapters from Jeremiah's perspective this book made me realize how strongly he has cared for Belly, and made my heart ache for him. Conrad may love Belly, too, but when he won't even admit it to anyone, it's not actually real.

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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Review: The Summer I Turned Pretty

The Summer I Turned Pretty The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han
My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Jenny Han once again does such a fabulous job expressing the complex emotions of youth. Even when you take out the sadness and tragedy of someone dying of cancer, which always takes emotions to a new level, the confusion of young love can be overwhelming.

I’m the youngest of all of my siblings, and the youngest of all of my cousins, so I know what it’s like to be excluded just for being the baby of the family. It never bothered me as much as it bothered Belly, but I get why she would be upset. Even though Belly’s not that much younger than Jeremiah, Stephen, and Conrad, because she is also a girl, she has always been a little excluded, a little separate from their fun and camaraderie. Yes, she has her own relationships that she’s built with each one, but it’s not the same as being one of the gang.

The title "The Summer I Turned Pretty" makes you think that everything really happens during this summer: the boys suddenly realize she is a girl and boom – they like her. I’d like to think, though, that, like Cam, they had noticed and liked her all along. Part of me feels bad for Cameron – he was a genuinely nice guy who was kind to Belly and made her feel more special than anyone else. It could be that they might have been able to have a great, lasting relationship, since they had so much in common and got along so naturally. Unfortunately (for Cam), he was not the boy that Belly had loved all her life. Had Conrad made it clear that he had no romantic interest in Belly and never would, I really think that Belly would have been able to move on, either with Cam or Jeremiah or someone else down the line. Yes, a part of her would always love him, but there’s nothing wrong with that providing you can truly move on.

I definitely feel bad for Jeremiah – he was in a similar situation with his mother being sick and his father maybe sort-of abandoning her while she’s dying, but he was still able to keep it mostly together. I guess the main difference between his reaction and Conrad’s is that Jeremiah never thought of his father as a God, a perfect being who could do no wrong, and Conrad did. It doesn’t help that Jeremiah has long felt second best to Conrad, first in his father’s eyes, and then to Belly, too.

Clearly Belly and Conrad’s story isn’t done. We all know this is just the first book in a trilogy, and when book one ends with Belly and Conrad apparently running off together or something, there’s bound to be a twisty tale to read about in book 2. I’m still not convinced I love them together. It’s not like Conrad needs to prove himself worthy of Belly, it’s just that, at this point, it feels like he holds more power in their relationship. She’s loved him for years, and he knows it. He is older than her, and more experienced (I’m assuming). Of course, we live in Belly’s head, and see everything from her perspective, so we’re biased to be on her side. I’m hoping in book 2 that we get more honesty and openness from Conrad, because without that, it’s hard not to doubt the strength of his feelings for Belly. And I want to believe.

Most of all, I’m hoping that the four of them can stay friends as time passes. Belly might not have any girl friends that she loves and trusts the way her mom and Susannah love and trust one another, but she has her boys: Conrad, Jeremiah, and even her obnoxious brother Stephen. I’m hoping they can follow their mothers’ examples and really treasure their friendships with each other. I have a feeling that Jeremiah and Belly’s friendship will be particularly important, especially if her relationship with Conrad continues to develop romantically.

And I hope they can return to the beach house every summer.

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Friday, May 15, 2015

William Shakespeare's Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope

William Shakespeare's Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope William Shakespeare's Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope by Ian Doescher
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When I went to Star Wars Celebration this year in Anaheim (my first!), the only panel I went to was a live reading from these audio books, and it was so entertaining and excellent -- the actors switched hats/robes/etc when changing between roles! -- that I knew I had to find this right away.

I cannot fully express how utterly AMAZING this book is. If you're a fan of Shakespeare or Star Wars, you should definitely pick this up, but I would recommend this to absolutely EVERYONE, it is so good. Also, do yourself a favor, don't just read this book, but listen to the audiobook! It's not simply the book just being read, but the production quality is so excellent, it's actually more like an audio performance than anything else. There are multiple voice actors performing, many of whom each play multiple roles and do the voices and everything. These people are truly talented, and a joy to listen to. Characters like Darth Vader, Luke, and C-3PO sounds exactly like they do in the movies -- except them are saying things in a very Shakespearean way.

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