April 4, 2014

Dented Cans by Heather Walsh

Dented Cans is the story of Hannah Sampson’s functionally dysfunctional family.

Her father is an accountant. Despite making a fair amount of money, he was very cheap. He also buys dented cans because the prices on they are always marked down, and it gives them a cheaper meal than they would have had before. His is a bit OCD and makes sure everything is spotless. Even the phones are basically soaked in Lysol.

Her mother worked at her little brother’s school. She is very serious. She doesn’t laugh at jokes much, and always seems to have on a straight face.

Hannah’s first mission is to buy a car. She reads the car ads religiously trying to find the right car at the right price to fit her budget. Once she finds one, she must try to talk her parents into letting her buy one. This is no simple task because of how cheap they are with their money.

One dilemma hanging in the air is the family trip to Disney World. The idea is brought up at the beginning of the book, and the two oldest kids – Hannah and Ryan – are not too thrilled about going. They have already been there, but their youngest brother, Ben, was too young to remember.

Ben is now eight years old, but he is different from other kids. He makes a lot of sound effects and doesn’t talk much.

Ryan seems to be a normal teenager, but he is the complete opposite of Hannah academically. Hannah strives for perfect grades, and just getting a B on her report card upsets her. Ryan scrapes by with lower grades and isn’t too concerned when he winds up with a D in Spanish. He claims that the teacher sucks and everyone else got bad grades as well.

They are definitely not a normal family, but they get by.

Then the trip to Disney World finally happens.
Hannah and Ryan do not want to be there. They would rather be off doing their own thing: Ryan – playing some video game, Hannah – studying her SAT vocabulary words.

Ben is sort of indifferent to the whole trip. He enjoys some of it, but most of the time he is off in his own little world.

On the way home, Hannah’s mother reveals a family secret that changes the way the kids view their parents. It is a pretty touching scene but also very sad at the same time.

I enjoyed reading this novel. It made me laugh at times. Hannah’s personality was entertaining at parts, and her conversations with Ryan added some humor as well.

It was a pretty easy read. The chapters were a little lengthy, but they seemed to go by fairly quick.

I could see there being a sequel to this.

4/5 Stars

April 1, 2014

The Contaminants by Devin K. Smyth

When the American Government plans for a global purification of sorts, it sets of a chain of events resulting in a nuclear holocaust.

They had ships set in place to take people into space, but only this one survived. Jessil was forced to leave her father behind, and only has her two brothers – Ben and Lo.

The Contaminants is told through the eyes of the two protagonists Raj and Jessil.

Raj’s father is a scientists that works in the laboratory trying to regenerate part of the Earth’s surface to make it safe for their ship to land. They are naming this new area New Dakota and they only have about six months left to orbit the Earth before they run out of fuel.

Then they discover something amazing. It appears as if there is grass growing back on Earth, and after further examining the camera feed from New Dakota, they see a human. A human that Jessil believes is her father.

Was he actually able to survive the nuclear holocaust on Earth?

This is a very character-driven book. The characters are all really strong, and a lot of effort has been put into creating them.
That being said, I didn’t necessarily like all of them. My least favorite characters were Lo and Jessil.

Lo was a whiney little brat throughout the book, and I didn’t feel there was really a need for him to be there. He didn’t add anything to the story for me. The fact that he was adopted didn’t really matter to me either.

Jessil seemed like a know-it-all that didn’t want to listen to others. Her personality was a little too strong, and it took away from the plot at times. Being strong-willed obviously led to getting her way, but I would rather have read some dialogue about making decisions rather than her bossing people around and going off by herself.

Raj was sort of a redeeming character. He is very smart, yet he is able to put up with Jessil and tries to cancel out her overbearing self at times. He was probably the best character in my eyes. 

This book was pretty easy to not put down. The chapters I guess you could call them were pretty short so it was easy for my mind not to wander. There was plenty of action to hold my attention, and the flow of the book allowed for a lot of pages to be read without realizing it.
For a genre of fantasy/sci-fi that I don’t dive into as much, I wasn’t disappointed with this one.

3/5 stars

March 31, 2014

Memoir March Wrap-Up/ YA April

Memoir March was a great month! I loved reading all of the exciting journeys in the books that were given to me. 

I greatly enjoyed them all and would recommend them all to any reader who enjoys a good memoir from time-to-time. 

They were all very different in their own ways, and that is what made them exciting! My month never got boring, and I would like to thank these great authors for that!

Next up is Young Adult April! I have a lot of books set to be reviewed this month. It is going to be a busy one for sure. I have four reviews waiting to be posted already!

I don't normally ready much YA, but I am excited to see what is in store here! I will begin posting the reviews tomorrow afternoon, and I hope you are all as excited as I am!

Thank you everyone!


March 30, 2014

Follow the Joy: A Memoir by Jason Scott Kurtz

Unhappy with his job and life in the States, Jason makes the decision to buy a one-way ticket to India in hopes to find himself and find spirituality.
He doesn’t have a travel plan, and comes as prepared as he can be. But, even with all the advice and preparation, nothing can help him with what he encounters.

Harassed by beggars and over-priced cab rides, Jason makes his way to different parts of India. It is a beautiful place, but it is filled with things unimaginable by people who have never been there.
During his trip, he decides to take a course in meditation. Going for days without talking ends up being difficult, but he comes out the other side hoping to become a new person.

Meeting the locals helps him along. His visit to Nasik opens his eyes to what the Indian spiritual culture is really about. He learns more than he could just traveling around by himself.

After Nasik, Jason makes his may to Calcutta where one could argue is where his journey REALLY begins.
He learns more about himself here than he has anywhere else throughout India. Holding the hand of a dying man, cleaning people who cannot help themselves, and learning that just a simple touch or massage can make a lonely person happier than anything.

His time in Calcutta was probably my favorite section of the book to read. The others kind of had similar themes with them trying to fight off the beggars and trying not to make the cab drivers too mad.
The Calcutta trip was just so real and very emotional in a way. It is fitting that it is the last part of the book. It really ends on a high note. It was what his trip was all about.

If you like travel or spiritual memoirs, this is one to pick up. It has a nice balance of both, and Jason gives you a good amount of details about everything that he is encountering. It is easy to imagine that you are there experiencing it with him.

Jason’s writing style is easy to follow and fun to read. It is filled with both narrative and dialogue so it stays interesting the whole way through.

4/5 stars

March 28, 2014

Daddy Was a Punk Rocker by Adam Sharp

This memoir was extremely emotional: Happy, sad, and everything in between.

Adam was not born into an easy family. His parents were heroin addicts and often seemed to be interested in everything except being around to raise him.

Growing up always trying to get his parents’ attention was hard on Adam and lead to a lot of inner conflict.

Crying when his dad didn’t show up for their scheduled meetings, dealing with his mother’s physical and verbal abuse growing up, Adam did not have it easy, but he still loved his parents.

The one common theme in this book was music. It was sort of all centered around his father’s love for music and how they did not share the same music tastes. Adam felt if he could just listen to the same music as his father, they would have a closer connection, and maybe he would want Adam to stay with him.

As his life progresses and he tries to find himself, he ends up in a bunch of different places with a lot of different people, but it always comes back to his parents. Whether he has talked to them recently or if something reminds him of them while he is away.

This is a memoir of self-discovery. Even if the road to it is difficult, it can be achieved.

Adam's writing style in this memoir is very visual. You can almost feel as though you are in every scene. It adds a nice depth to the story and makes it all the more real as well. 
His descriptions are well done and never drag on for longer than they have to. They are long enough so that you do not feel as though you are missing anything, but they aren't so long that they bore the reader. 
Aside from the actual story itself, that was my favorite part of this one. 

It was really well written, I felt that it flowed nicely together with the use of narrative and dialogue.
I found it hard to put it down at time. It was such an intriguing story that I just wanted to know what was happening next.

Even if you cannot relate to Adam's story, you will be pulled into it, and it is hard to stop reading once you start. 

4/5 stars

Memorable Quotes: 
"I was born healthy and strong. I shouldn’t have been. I’d shared my mother’s poisonous blood for nine months and I was supposed to be born addicted to heroin. I should have spent my first few weeks fighting for my life, suffering from vomiting, shaking, and sweating as I was weaned off my drug dependence with morphine or methadone."

"More important than the adulation was the lesson I’d learnt. I had learnt what could be achieved with the power of the mind, and more specifically, with the power of dreams."

"But sometimes the best way to grow is to stand still for a while. I needed to stop running, to stop trying to become someone new, to stop escaping painful memories and uncomfortable thoughts. It was time I stayed and faced them, worked out who I really was, who I wanted to be. No more pretending."

March 27, 2014

The Girl Who Had No Enemies: And the Man Who Hated Women by Dennis Patrick Fleming

This might be one of the best books I will read all year. 

This memoir was unlike any that I have read so far. It was a mix of a true-crime novel as well as a memoir.

It is a story about the tragic death of Dennis Fleming’s sister Mickey and the man who was messed up enough to cause harm to not only their family, but countless others around the country.

It details the struggles of a hurting family torn apart by not only this tragic incident, but personal relationships and beliefs as well. No family is perfect, but this shows how a family can come together through a tragic incident even if they don’t always see eye-to-eye.

I could not put this one down. From the moment I read page one, I was hooked.

I knew what the book was about before going into it, so the first section was so bittersweet to read. It establishes Dennis’s relationship with his sister and shows the reader who she was.

Knowing that something bad was coming to her and the family made me not want to get attached, but after reading so much about her and the family, you feel like you start to really know them.

Once I got to the section about Mickey’s death, I almost called it quits. I didn’t want to read about what happened because it is just so sad, but as I said before, I was hooked.

I reluctantly turned the page, and even though I may have shed a tear or two, Dennis did such a wonderful job at writing it that I do not regret continuing. You can really just feel his emotion, and it is just heartbreaking to read.

I really liked the parts about LaRette and his past that were inserted to break up the story. It added a certain flow to the book that made the reader aware that something was going to happen, but also kept them informed. It was a nice touch that I don’t see very often. When done wrong, it could completely mess with how the story is read, but Dennis inserted those sections at just the right times and it really added to the whole reading experience.

A must-read for true crime fans.

5/5 Stars

Memorable Quote: "A feeling, pure, and as powerful as the love I felt witnessing my first child enter the world, seeing her face for the first time—a feeling that powerful crystallized like a black diamond in my heart—I had to kill a man."