Friday, October 4, 2013

Mini Reviews: Being Henry David, Speechless, The Merchant's Daughter

Sometimes, there are just more books that need to be reviewed than is time to write a full review. These are books that still deserve a shout out, but ain't nobody got time for that. Mini reviews are a great way to give that book the recognition it deserves, get it off your conscience, without taking up so much time that you put it off forever.

Title: Being Henry David
Author: Cal Armistead
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Seventeen-year-old "Hank" has found himself at Penn Station in New York City with no memory of anything --who he is, where he came from, why he's running away. His only possession is a worn copy of Walden, by Henry David Thoreau. And so he becomes Henry David-or "Hank" and takes first to the streets, and then to the only destination he can think of--Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts. Cal Armistead's remarkable debut novel is about a teen in search of himself. Hank begins to piece together recollections from his past. The only way Hank can discover his present is to face up to the realities of his grievous memories. He must come to terms with the tragedy of his past, to stop running, and to find his way home.

So a friend told me that it was strange that I picked this up, since I hated Walden with the fire of a thousand suns. And that is true. But I've always liked the premise of Walden. I just hate reading anything by Thoreau. So when I saw this book and read the description, it intrigued me. Someone who depends on Walden as his only source of identity, the only thing he knows when he wakes up in a strange place. That must have been terrifying.
I enjoyed this book a lot. It took the "finding yourself" theme to a whole new level. Hank has no idea who he is, what he did, or any of those things to go on. Which also means he had none of those things holding him back. The simplest of the simplest, which isn't that the entire theme of Walden?
This book is not philosophy-heavy, so thank goodness for that. Thoreau is a big presence in the book: passages are quoted (not going to lie, kind of skipped over these) thanks to Hank's photographic memory; in the hallucinations Hank has; in his hometown of Concord, where Hank ends up. But this isn't so much the philosophy of Walden as much as it is Thoreau being the driving force that for Hank to figure out who he is and what he is running from.
I also enjoyed the secondary characters. There's Jack and Nissa, who he finds on the streets of New York. Thomas, a tattooed motorcycle-riding librarian, who takes Jack in when he finds him homeless in Concord. There is a bit of romance, although I wasn't really a fan. It was cheesy, forced, and I felt like it took away from the plot. But that's just me.
The writing was very well-done. Nothing too overdone or too simplified. There were times when I would just fall into the rhythm of the words. The setting of the woods and small town probably also lent itself to the overall feeling of ambiance this book created.
Overall, this was an excellent debut. I wouldn't say it was too mysterious or anything, but it wasn't as predictable as one might think either. It was a light, fun read with a deeper message, without delving into philosophy. I would definitely recommend it.

This review can also be found on   Rachel Marie's book recommendations, liked quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists (read shelf)

Cal Armistead:

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Title: Speechless
Author: Hannah Harrington
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Everyone knows that Chelsea Knot can't keep a secret
Until now. Because the last secret she shared turned her into a social outcast—and nearly got someone killed.
Now Chelsea has taken a vow of silence—to learn to keep her mouth shut, and to stop hurting anyone else. And if she thinks keeping secrets is hard, not speaking up when she's ignored, ridiculed and even attacked is worse.
But there's strength in silence, and in the new friends who are, shockingly, coming her way—people she never noticed before; a boy she might even fall for. If only her new friends can forgive what she's done. If only she can forgive herself.

Guys, this is such a good book. And powerful. 
Chelsea is the right hand girl of the most It Girl in school. And she keeps her position by being her source of information. Nothing is safe with Chelsea. Until the day when someone is seriously hurt. In-the-hospital-in-a-coma hurt. And when Chelsea uses her big mouth for good, finally, to turn in the kids who did it, she loses all her friends. Becomes a social pariah. Because the rest of the school? They don't like her either, because of everything she's done to them. And so, Chelsea takes a vow of silence.
This book was very interesting. The girl with the biggest mouth decides to be silent? Everyone is shocked. Chelsea is teased, ridiculed, and bullied by her old friends. She is treated warily but everyone else--except Asha, a freshman who befriends her. I loved Asha. She was so cute, and...young. She seemed younger than a freshman. And she was Indian. Hey, ethnic pride. 
Then, Chelsea gets assigned Sam as her art project partner. Sam, who is Noah's best friend. Noah, the kid in the hospital, thanks to her big mouth. Except, she finds that he doesn't hate her. He doesn't spit on her, humiliate her, hate her. Sam was definitely swoon-worthy. I mean, he may not have been as much as some other swoony boys we've read and loved, but I liked him.
I also loved the character growth. In the beginning, Chelsea is not a likable character. She's petty, shallow, and just plain dumb. But she goes through such a change, into a more mature, considerate, and caring individual. But it was also done in a realistic manner, instead of a forced way to move the plot forward. We are not the person we were in high school (thank goodness for that), and this shows it in a very real manner.
This was a very powerful and emotional book. But although it dealt with serious topics, it also knew when to be light and humorous. The writing was well-done. Harrington also did a very good job of getting into the mind of high schoolers. I would know, I was just there. I would definitely recommend this book for everyone, especially high schoolers.

This review can also be found on   Rachel Marie's book recommendations, liked quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists (read shelf)

Hannah Harrington:

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Title: The Merchant’s Daughter
Author: Melanie Dickerson
Series: Hagenheim #2
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

An unthinkable danger. An unexpected choice. Annabel, once the daughter of a wealthy merchant, is trapped in indentured servitude to Lord Ranulf, a recluse who is rumored to be both terrifying and beastly. Her circumstances are made even worse by the proximity of Lord Ranulf's bailiff---a revolting man who has made unwelcome advances on Annabel in the past. Believing that life in a nunnery is the best way to escape the escalation of the bailiff's vile behavior and to preserve the faith that sustains her, Annabel is surprised to discover a sense of security and joy in her encounters with Lord Ranulf. As Annabel struggles to confront her feelings, she is involved in a situation that could place Ranulf in grave danger. Ranulf's future, and possibly his heart, may rest in her hands, and Annabel must decide whether to follow the plans she has cherished or the calling God has placed on her heart.

This isn't usually the type of book I read, but I pleasantly enjoyed this one. It can't be called a modern version of Beauty and the Beast since it did happen in, like, the 1300s, but it is a...more modern? retelling? adapted? version of Beauty and the Beast. And yes, that is my weakness. I did try to read The Fairest Beauty, a Snow White story, but couldn't get into it. But then, I've never really cared about Snow White. But give me anything Beauty and the Beast and I'm there. (Also, side note, why aren't there as many Rapunzel stories?)
Annabel was lived a luxurious lifestyle, until her father died. Her mother and brothers, however, still feel entitled. They are not well-liked in the village, due to the fact that they haven't had to work or pay their dues to the lord like the rest of the villagers. But when the old lord is replaced by a new one, he collects on their debt. One of them must work in indentured servitude for three years. And since her brothers are worthless, Annabel is left to do so.
This story was cute, a fun read. This is Christian fiction, but wasn't preachy. Annabel's servant heart and desire to read the Bible are just a natural part of who she is. I loved seeing the relationship blossom between Annabel, and the Ranulf. The lord is scarred on the outside, but also on the inside from previous heartache. But once he allowed himself to drop his gruff exterior, he was really a nice guy.
The dramatic part of this--"Annabel is involved in a situation that could place Ranulf in grave danger"--was drawn out and over-the-top. I felt like there were other, better paths it could have taken. It wasn't bad, or a deal-breaker, just a lot of stupid decisions that I couldn't figure out why they were making.
This was a great book, a breath of fresh air in the world of Christian fiction that is all historical or Amish. (Yes, I realize that this is historical, but it's still different.) (And seriously. What is up with Christian fiction and Amish people??) There are religious aspects, so if that's not your cup of tea, then I would not suggest picking it up. However, it isn't overly preachy, so if it's something you can overlook, and you're a Beauty and the Beast fanatic like I am, then I would recommend it. Or if you're looking for something in the Christian genre, then I would definitely recommend this.

This review can also be found on   Rachel Marie's book recommendations, liked quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists (read shelf)

Melanie Dickerson:

Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

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