When You Reach Me by rebecca Stead book review

When you reach me book

When You Reach Me

Rebecca Stead

Mystery/Science Fiction

197 Pages

 

I picked up this book after a recommendation from a friend of mine.  I had never heard of Rebecca Stead or the book itself previously.  I’ll be honest: it took me quite a while to get into.  The timeline of the book was somewhat choppy to follow at times and it seemed like not a whole lot was going on.  For a good portion of the book, I was wondering what the story was and where it was going, and it took me a while to start to care about the characters, which is something that is important to me when reading a book.  However, as I got to probably the halfway point or so, my interest was piqued and I was excited to see what happened.

 

This book is about a girl named Miranda who lives with her mom.  The book takes place in the late 1970’s in New York.  Miranda receives a mysterious note that begins with:

“I am coming to save your friend’s life, and my own.”

She doesn’t know who the letter is from or what it means.  The letter asks her to write a letter back, explaining everything from the beginning, which is what becomes the book.  She isn’t sure what to do or what the “beginning” even is, but it becomes clearer to her later on.  Miranda kind of loses her best friend at the beginning of the book, for reasons she doesn’t understand.  That leaves her alone for a while, until she starts making new friends, they even find a job to work together.  Plus, her mom is going to have the chance to compete on a game show, the $20,000 Pyramid, so, her life could be looking up.

The notes keep coming to Miranda, and things are getting weirder with their content.  As the book went on, and as I started to see what was happening, there were some good foreshadowing elements in the novel that I picked up on.  Although I didn’t see how everything would play out, I was able to make some accurate guesses about events and the ending.  As I reached the end and was able to look back on everything, it was actually a very good book.  It is set in the past, in normal life, but has elements of science fiction you don’t even notice right away.  It was unique from any book I’ve read, and although it took me a while to get into, I really enjoyed the conclusion.  Miranda is able to figure out where the notes are coming from, and some of the other things that come together in the novel are very thought-provoking and carry good messages as well.  This book is worth a read if you are looking for something different and interesting.

I am a SEAL Team Six Warrior by Howard E. Wasdin book review

 

I am a SEAL Team Six Warrior

Howard E. Wasdin

Nonfiction/War

192 pages

 

This was a really interesting book for me to read.  I generally read fiction books, but this one is a nonfiction, a collection of memoirs from Howard Wasdin, an American Soldier who works his way through to be one of the elite warriors of SEAL Team Six.  He covers a necessary amount of his childhood and rocky relationship with his parents, and the circumstances that led him to join the Navy.  He talks about the different trainings that he went through in detail, and all of them sound terrible to me.  He does things that most ordinary people could never do; that I know I could never do.  Wasdin writes about all the preparation that he goes through to become a sniper on the Team he wanted to be on: Hell Week, SEAL Team Two, SEAL Team Six, and Marine Corps Scout Sniper School.

 

Early on, he remembers a mantra that the SEALs live by.  “The more you sweat in peacetime, the less you bleed in war” (4).  The SEALs are all about training.  He talked about practicing during his free time or down time to get better at the things he felt he needed to.  This tight knit group of SEALs working together formed bonds that were, admittedly to Wasdin, more important than his marriage, which always took a backseat to his job.

 

These memoirs cover a few different missions that Wasdin was present during, but much of it takes place in Mogadishu, Somalia.  He recalls his own realization that the men he is fighting against are human, like him.  “Whether you’re winning or losing, war is hell.  It’s important to understand that our enemies are human” (60).  I think war is often glamourized, in video games and such, and this book certainly shows the horrific sides of it.  He said something else that really made me think, “Most Americans don’t realize how blessed we are – we need to be more thankful” (102).  Compared to the lives he described in Somalia, we have it pretty good elsewhere and it makes me sad for people living in other countries under those terrible conditions.

 

One last quote I really liked was toward the end, when Wasdin was recounting the day he was injured multiple times and almost died in battle.  “Anyone who says he wasn’t scared in combat is either an idiot or a liar.  Everyone becomes scared.  It’s a healthy fear.  I’d never want to go into combat with someone who wasn’t a little afraid” (137).

 

I thought this was a really good book, very interesting with a lot of terrifying information.  And it was cool to get a deep look into the training that the SEALs in particular go through.  One issue I had with the book was the typos.  I don’t usually even catch them when I’m reading, but I noticed quite a few in this that bothered me.  However, that didn’t outweigh my liking for the book near enough to not recommend it.  If you are interested in war, military, nonfiction in general, I think you will really enjoy this book.

Created by Cindy Hogan book review

Created (Watched, #3)
Created
Cindy M. Hogan
Genre
336 pages
The exciting conclusion of the Watched series.  This book kind of worked out like I had been anticipating, with Christy, or Ari, as she is known throughout most of this book, training to become a spy.  Until the terrorist threat can be eradicated for good, Ari and most of her original group from D.C. are moved to Belgium, to a secret spy training school.  Here, they are placed into groups according to their strengths so that they can train to become spies.  With all of her previous training, Ari scores too high to be placed in a group at this school and is kind of teamed up with the class about to graduate.  She begins going on missions, that are designed to apply the training to real life applications and scenarios.  They are dangerous and scary to her, but she has come a long way from being “Christy” that she was a year ago, and is excited about the challenge.
Through all this, she is still working to try to win back the love of Rick, or Reese, as he has become in this novel.  Reese is hurt over everything that has happened, especially between Ari and Alex, as well as the fact that her death was faked and he mourned for her.  He is in a different group, so it is hard to find time to even talk to him, but Ari develops real feelings for him and knows that he is who she wants at her side wherever her new life takes her.  Their time together is cut even shorter than they thought, as a real life spy mission that Ari is suited for perfectly comes up, and Ari has the chance to take it.
Now, she is thrown head first into the life of a spy, where any mistake could cost her her life.  She needs to befriend the daughter of a brilliant scientist who intelligence fears is up to no good.  She remains in her “Ari” character to do so, and fits the bill for the job perfectly.  If she can just make this mission work, she will be a full-fledged spy!  I don’t want to give away important details or spoilers about the novel, but it is very entertaining and exciting to see what Ari gets herself into and how she works to get her mission completed.  Especially once she went on the mission, I had a hard time putting the book down and just wanted to finish it to see what happened.  The terrorist threat was finally cleared up, and when most of her group decided to go home to their families, Ari realized that she couldn’t go back to her old life and grabbed the reigns of a new spy life that awaited her.
Throughout this whole trilogy, one thing I’ve been really impressed with was that anyone could read these.  And I mean that in the sense that there was no swearing, crudeness, or anything offensive to anyone of any age.  It is great to sometimes see a book not riddles with things like that that often don’t even add anything to the story.  The series as a whole was a very enjoyable read.  I liked the way it ended, because it left the door wide open for future adventures with Christy, or whomever she becomes from here on out.  I enjoyed my first series from and contact with Hogan, and I will actively be watching for her in the future and following her career as she continues to write.

Protected by Cindy Hogan book review

Protected book

Protected

Cindy M. Hogan

Suspense/Thriller

341 pages

 

 

Here is the second installment of Hogan’s first series. Christy is back home in Montana, and back to her normal life, basically as a loser at her school. Although it’s depressing to be back on the bottom, she assumes that all the excitement from D.C. is over, and wants to move on from that. Then, unexpectedly, Alex shows up again in her life by surprising her at her school. She had promised herself she was done with him and would choose Rick, but can’t keep herself from him. She takes him out on a tour of her town, and that is when things take a turn for the worse.

 

Apparently the terrorists have tracked Christy down and come to settle the score. They come for Christy and Alex and take them hostage. Without giving away any exciting details, the manage to escape, but now it’s clear that Christy can’t return to her old life. She will have to enter the witness protection program and start a new life under a false identity. Although her life was difficult for her, she finds it hard to say good-bye and leave everything behind. With no other choice, she finds herself training for a life she never thought she would have, as a popular cheerleader at a new school across the country.

 

It is hard on her, and takes some time to get used to, but Christy falls into her new life and is happy. During her months of training before beginning her new life, Christy learns how to look for attackers and hide from them, even how to fight them off. In her new life, she is able to adapt to her newfound popularity, although everything is completely new to her. One thing that is especially hard for Christy is remaining true to her values and ideals while she seems to be the only one in her new life that has them. She is forbidden to go to her old church, as that is part of her old life, which she must leave behind. She faces an internal struggle often, just as she is facing very real external ones. However, she must always remain alert and on her toes, never knowing when or how danger will come.

 

The ending of the book is great, packed with action and excitement, with a clear opening into the third novel in the series. I really enjoyed reading it and one thing that I’m really impressed with is the lack of offensive language or content. This really is a book that someone of any age could read. I’m excited to finish the series and see what will happen to Christy and who she will become in the next step of her life. The title of the next book, Created, leads me to believe that Christy will face even more changes and that the danger and excitement she never expected will continue to follow her wherever she goes.

Watched by Cindy Hogan book review

Watched book

Watched

Cindy M. Hogan

Suspense/Thriller/Romance

332 pages

 

I’ve been meaning to pick up Watched and read it for over a year now, so when I actually met Cindy Hogan, I finally decided to check it out. Just based on the book jacket, I was expecting a suspense about a young girl who witnesses a murder, and that’s exactly what I got. I thought that the adventure in the book started out pretty early, which is something that is important to me. Something exciting has to happen pretty early on to grab my attention, and within the first few pages of the novel, Christy has witnessed a murder that will change her life. She has gone to D.C. to try to reinvent herself and become a new person, but she had no idea how much the trip would change her.

 

Christy and her friends are in immediate danger after witnessing the murder, and decide they need to get a message to the FBI about what they saw. They come up with a plan and the FBI contacts Christy directly, telling her they will watch her and protect her, but she has to help them as well. Chisty does the best she can, but is a small town girl from Montana, and this is all very scary to her, if not a little bit exciting. On the trip, she also cathes the attention of the two most attractive guys there with her. On top of everything else, she has a love triangle to try to sort out, which is as new an experience to her as witnessing a murder.

 

Trying to divide her time between Alex and Rick, it’s confusing enough for her to try to figure out her feelings for them herself, as well as dealing with trying to just stay safe. She knows that she is being watched, by the FBI as well as the bad guys that are now after her. She doesn’t know who is a real friend and who she can trust. She never feels safe, and doesn’t know where she can turn. I thought Hogan did a great job with Christy’s interior dialogue as well as the dialogue present in the rest of the book. You could really feel the different struggles she was going through and it was easy to see how she was feeling.

 

There is quite a few spots of action in the novel, although, at times, I would have liked a little more detail in the fighting scenarios. The love triangle was an interesting ingredient in the book, and one that I think helped move the plot line along as well. You always seem to pick a side, and I couldn’t help rooting for one of the guys vying for Christy’s attention. Overall, I thought it was a really good read. The plot wasn’t the most intricate of anything I’ve ever read, but it was certainly enjoyable, and I think would be easily followed and liked, especially by the intended audience, which is young adult. I am excited to continue on with the series and read more of what happens next to Christy and see what trouble she gets herself into next. The next book in the series is Protected, followed by the third in the trillogy, Created. They are all published and available now.

 

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton book review

The Outsiders

The Outsiders

S.E. Hinton

Gang Violence/Realistic Fiction

180 pages

 

I’m sure many of you have read this book previously, but for me, this was a first time. And, I know there is a movie, and I plan to see it as well, but as of yet, I have not had the opportunity. One thing I thought was interesting that I found in the back of book in an interview from the author is that her publisher thought that people wouldn’t believe a girl could write this book, which was why it was published under the anonymity of S. E. Hinton. I couldn’t care less whether a book is written be a girl or a boy, and I thought it was a great read.

 

The novel doesn’t say an exact date in it, but it seems to take place sometime in the 60’s. It was published in 1967, if that is any indication. 14-year-old Ponyboy and his gang are in constant conflict and trouble with the Socs, a rival gang of well-off kids. The Greasers always seem to be on the losing end of the battle, and are the frequent victims of jumpings from the Socs. After a Soc is accidentally killed during a scuffle, Ponyboy finds himself on the run to hide out with just one other member of his gang.

 

Events lead them on an adventure that eventually returns Ponyboy back home, but now he faces new problems. Will he be able to stay with his two brothers or be sent to a home for orphans? The story reaches a climax when the Greasers and Socs get together for one final winner-take-all rumble. Will Ponyboy stay in the slums and be like the rest of his gang or will he rise above the odds and make something of himself?

 

I thought that it was really interesting to read about the gang life during this time period, although I’m sure things are very different nowadays. It kind of reminded me of the movie Grease, but without all the singing. Ponyboy got to a point where he could see the Socs’ point-of’-view and it changed the way that he looked at things himself. I think overall it would be appropriate for just about anyone to read, and it has been around for a long time, so it is a well-respected novel.

Reached by Ally Condie book review

Reached book

Reached

Ally Condie

Dystopian Fiction/Romance

512 Pages

Finally, the conclusion of the Matched series! I was excited to get this book and finish the series to see how Ally Condie decided to end everything. I have to say, I was pleased overall. I believe I’ve said before, and I’ll say again, the whole series has kind of a Farhenheit 451 mixed with a Hunger Games feel to me, and I like it. I like that there is a message behind the novels as well as just the entertainment. This was a really fun series to read, especially if you are into the ever-growing popularity of dystopian scenarios.

The series began with Matched, where we just heard from Cassia’s point-of-view throughout the entire novel. Then came Crossed, where it switched back and forth between Cassia and Ky. In the conclusion, we get inside the minds of not only Cassia and Ky, but Xander as well, so the reader can know what they are all thinking and feeling. I was impressed with Condie’s ability to distinguish clearly between the characters in her series, keeping their feelings, tones, and ideas seperated completely and soundine like three different voices.

The Rising is finally set to take over in this novel, and makes the move to do so. The takeover goes smoothly; almost too smoothly. The Pilot assumes position as the leader and overseer of the people, helping them to get out of the mess that they are in. The characters in the book all seem to be struggling with where their allegiance lies; not necessarily to the Society over the Rising, but to their friends and what is truly right. Cassia, Ky, and Xander are apart from each other for much of the book, and facing struggles on their own.

Although there is a very obvious and, at times a problematic love triangle scenario, it is clear to see the connection between the three main characters. They are bound together and must act together in order to accomplish the greater good and do their part. It becomes more or less up to the trio to save the world, which is to be somewhat expected in a series like this. They all have an important role to play in which they need to come together to find a solution before all is lost. When they finally do all come together, there is both joy and sadness in their reunion. Cassia must finaly make her choice between Ky and Xander. The people need to choose between The Rising and The Society; between a sense of freedom or a feeling of oppression. This novel is a battle of the intellect and emotions.

There wasn’t as much action or adventure in this one as in the last installment, but it kept me thoroughly entertained and engaged until the end. I think that Condie did a great job of wrapping everything up in a pleasing way. It wasn’t the best ending to a series I’ve ever read, but it was put together nicely in a way that leaves hope for humanity and the future of mankind foloowing the conclusion. If you read the first two in the series, which I assume you did if you are reading this, I think you need to pick this one up and finish it off. Overall, I loved the series and if you are into this genre, I think that you will as well. It was a great job by Condie and I look forward to seeing what else she comes out with in the future.

Crossed by Ally Condie book review

Crossed book

Crossed

Ally Condie

Dystopian Fiction/Romance

367 Pages

 

This book, for me, took on an entirely different feel to it than did the first one, Matched. There is more excitement, danger, and adventure. Also, a big difference between the two books is that the narration gets split up evenly between Cassia and Ky, so we get to hear from both of their points of view. Ky has been sent away to the Outer Provinces and Cassia is on a seemingly impossible journey to find him. Separately, both Ky and Cassia make their way into a dangerous canyon where there are rumors of the rebellion being headquartered.

 

There is still a love story in this second novel, as well as Cassia still feeling torn between Xander and Ky, but it felt less prevalent to me than in Matched. There was more excitement and physical danger than was in the first book as well. The feel of this book changed a lot for me, because the setting was so different and the story was really maturing. We got to learn more about Ky’s past and also about other people we meet in the book, and see what it is like for them living under the Society’s rule. The rebellion, or at least the idea of one, really took a bigger spotlight in this book as Cassia desperately wants to find the source of it, almost as much as she wants to find Ky.

 

If you liked Matched, you definitely have to continue on with the trilogy. The love triangle continues, the uprising continues, and Condie’s writing is getting better. I’m excited to see how she ends the trilogy and if the third book will be as different from the second one as it was to the first. Again, this series shows the importance of literature and being able to make our own choices. This book serves as a warning as to what could happen if our choices and rights get taken away from us. Another book that I would recommend to anyone; there is nothing inappropriate or offensive in the novel, just a great read for anybody! I’m excited for the third book!

Josh Edwards Snowboarding Edit 2012/13 Season

I’ve always kept my book review blog separate from my  snowboarding life, but I just finished up my edit from this past season, and I”m excited about it, so I wanted to share it!  It’s just a couple minutes long so if you have a second to spare, please check it out.  I think it turned out really well and I appreciate anyone who takes the time to watch it!  Let me know what you think!  Thanks a lot!!

https://vimeo.com/67349906