Sunday, January 30, 2011

006.>> BOOK REVIEW: Something Like Hope by Shawn Goodman

Title: Something Like Hope
Author: Shawn Goodman
Format: Book (hardcover from library)
Genre: Contemporary YA
Synopsis: Shavonne is a fierce and desperate seventeen year-old who finds herself in a large juvenile lockup hundreds of miles from home. She wants to turn her life around before she turns eighteen, but her problems seem too big, and time is running out. Amidst corrupt guards, out-of-control girls, and shadows from her past, Shanvonne must find the courage to fight for a redemption she’s not sure she deserves. (Summary From Goodreads)


If I could describe this book in one word it would be riveting. This was a book that grabbed my by the throat and wouldn't let me go until I finished. I haven't experienced a book like that in a long time. I finished it in a few hours where there was nothing but me and the story unfolding in front of me on the pages.

The novel isn't long. It's less than 200 hundred pages. The chapters are short, many less than a few pages. But it's so dense that the length doesn't matter. Shavonne's world, her life and her words, are deep within the pages and they don't leave your mind once you've closed the book.

In some ways this is a terrifying book. The conditions of Shavonne's juvenile detention center are deplorable, almost too awful to imagine but there is a strong authority in the voice of this novel. You can tell this story comes from somebody's heart and true experiences because the story doesn't pull any punches. The author, Shawn Goodman, worked in juvenile detention facilities like the one he describes in the story. I hope that not even one awful thing that the guards do to the girls in there really happen in real life but I think I have to accept the fact that it does.

I just opened the book right now to the back jacket and looked at Goodman's picture in the back. I was honestly surprised to see that there wasn't a young black woman staring at me but an older white man who looks very serene. Like I said, the voice was very authentic. I was swept up by Shavonne's voice and her story and most of all, her pain. It was very vivd, almost overwhelming, just like it felt to her. But the intensity kept me flying through the pages. I had to see how Shavonne was going to push through, how she was going to get her life back together. What I found was that there were no easy solutions.

Despite Shavonne's actions she easily rises as a character you need to root for. It's because below the violence and profanity you can see that's she's just a victim of a very awful life and this is apparent early on. Even Shavonne doesn't understand why she acts the way she does. So instead of being angry with her you want to sympathize with her and senf her the hope and love she so desperately needs.

My other favorite character was Mr. Delpopolo who seemed just as broken and sad and lost as Shavonne at sometimes. But he's also strong in his own way and he's one of the few adults in the novel that's actually likeable. The other adults such as the guards, the ones in charge, are everyone's enemy. It's hard to understand some of the incidents that go down in the Center because told through Shavonne's eyes everything is unsurprising even though to the outsider these actions seem pretty horrific.

It's an intense novel, full of all the emotions that Shavonne will and will not let herself feel. When I got the end I didn't want to turn the last page. I needed to keep going with Shavonne on her journey. There was so much more to learn. It ended all too soon. That's my only concern about the novel.

This isn't an easy story to read. It might leave you angry with the world or wondering about the things that happened in your own life and how they can haunt your past and your future but I recommend this book to you because once you finish you will be glad you read it. It'll show you a different side to life whether you've experienced something like this or not. Maybe you'll relate to Shavonne's story more than you think.

So go get Something Like Hope and read it as soon as you can. I know when I go to sleep tonight that Shavonne's words will still be on my mind.


Friday, January 28, 2011

005. >> BOOK REVIEW: Scars by Cheryl Rainfield

Title: Scars
Author: Cheryl Rainfield
Format: Book (hardcover from library)
Genre: Contemporary YA
Synopsis: Kendra is a talented artist but behind ever painting of a happy face there is a hidden corner of pain lurking in the shadows, ready to strike. She's not exactly sure what happened to her when she was younger but she knows it was bad and her rapist is still out there, reminding her that the abuse hasn't truly ended. As Kendra struggles to find her strength her life threatens to crumble around her unless she can figure out the truth...


Intense isn't quite the right word for this book. It's more than that. It's an emotional punch that's hard to believe except somewhere deep inside you know that Kendra's situation is not unique.

Kendra is strong and talented 15 year old who treasures the things that make her feel safe and happy and tries to cope with everything that doesn't. Her biggest source of support is her therapist, Carolyn. But she can't be with Carolyn all the time. When she's not at therapy she has to deal with annoying classmates, a mom who won't get off her back about everything, and the emerging memories of a long personal history of sexual abuse. When it becomes too much for her Kendra turns to cutting, which is graphically but accurately described in one scene. Along with all of this, Kendra is also dealing with being a lesbian, which she accepts but her family does not.

There are a lot of issues in this book but they don't become overwhelming. It's refreshing to see that Kendra is comfortable with her sexuality even if her parents aren't. Despite all of her traumas Kendra handles herself very maturely. All of the characters in the book talk about their feelings directly and succinctly. Sometimes it's a little jarring because these are conversations that not most people will have in their lives. However, it's essential to the emotional heart of this novel. If Kendra wasn't able to share herself with the important players in her life then there would be nowhere for this story to go.

The whole time I was reading I was eager to find out if everything Kendra was experiencing and remembering was actually real. It kept me pushing forward, even as the impossible seemed to become more and more real. The chapters are short. This took a little getting used to. Usually when I get to the end of a chapter I feel like the scene is over and I close my eyes and open them up to find myself in another place. However, with this book I would close my eyes and open them in the new chapter and find myself in the same room. But the short chapters were necessary to take a break from the emotional punches that were all throughout the book.

The real gem of this novel is the sense of hope that rings true throughout Kendra's story. She never stops reaching out and striving for something better. I think that's very important in a book as heavy and dire as this book could be if there wasn't that sense that things could work out eventually.

The ending is fast paced and unexpected but not entirely surprising. Rainfield is not afraid to push the stakes higher and higher. Fortunately her characters and her writing can handle this incredibly emotional story.

This is a novel that makes you think about all the horrible things that can happen in the world and the different ways that people get through it. This is not a casual read but it's an important one. It goes quickly but doesn't leave your mind once your finished. I'm glad Rainfield included a list of websites in the back for further exploration because my mind is still spinning from everything that happened in this book.

If you're looking for something deep and fast paced and realistic and raw yet heartfelt and ultimately uplifting, this is a book you need to read.

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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

004. >> Idol Ideation [Week 2]

Two hours jam pack full of Idol tonight. Let's go!

Idol is my fave show so I'm going to try to blog about it when I can. Unfortunately I do karate on Thursday nights and I don't get home before 9. Looks like I'll be missing Idol those nights. AI is a show I can only watch live. If I miss it I just read the recaps on the web. But Wednesday nights are a good night for me to chill with my couch, my TV, Fox and Ryan Seacrest.

I’m a big American Idol fan by trade. I love to watch the show, get involved, snark on it, vote for my fave. I know it’s a big deal to have a dream and go for it! That’s why I like American Idol. It gives people the platform to start living the life they always wanted to lead. But American Idol is also a TV show. That means it’s mostly for our entertainment so I laugh and get offended and root for people and cringe with embarrassment. When it comes to judging the talent I’m not exactly as harsh as Simon but I’m not a push-over either. I live blogged my thoughts during the show.

1. 16 year old Country Deep Throat

I seem to be the minority with this one but I didn’t like him. He’s just not my style. I love deep voices, but on grown men. And I don’t like country music. I can only tolerate like two Carrie Underwood songs and Need You Now by Lady Antebellum. Now find me a 27 year old handsome guy singing some deep Barry White tunes... hell yeah. Bring it on, please. But it would be nice to have a lot of musical diversity this season.

2. Joe Repka

The 19 year old who literally looks 40. The K-100 shtick is not that funny. You can tell they are making fun of him but it’s a lot more funny when the person is in on the joke. I’m not sure this guy is self-aware and I’m scared to hear him sing. He’s not as bad as you’d expect. It’s kinda funny he’s singing like an acapella group, like all the parts. It’s not amusing. NEXT!

3. Emma something

The 15 year old drove most of the 12+ hr drive to Milwaukee... sounds like hell. The problem with 15 year olds are... you can’t really make fun of them. Because they are so sincere and innocent and bright faced and cute. That’s why I don’t want them on the show. You want to root for them but then when they suck you can’t and you feel like a bad person. Why put me through that Idol? She needs work. She needs practice. She’s not ready yet. There’s no reason for the age to start at 15! Raise the age to 30. She’s a sweet girl but it’s a no. Unfortunately, Steven Tyler screwed it up. I don’t think she’ll last in Hollywood.

Time for the montage of funny/bad auditions. The one who is screaming her way through the audition is particularly tragic. The rest of them were unmemorable. It happened two minutes ago, I already forgot them. Except this exchange.

“That was terrible!”
“What was terrible?”
“Pitch. Tone. Sound. Everything about singing.”
LMAO. Who knew Randy could be funny?

4. Naima Adedapo

She’s got dreads, kids, a sob story and a dream. This better be good you guys. They like her. I didn’t get any sort of reaction or emotion from her, personally. I think she seems sweet. Her voice didn’t make me wanna jump off any tall buildings. So... good for her! But it also didn’t make me wanna vote for her or care if she makes it past Hollywood hour one.

Ryan is looking weird. I’m not sure what it is. I think he’s too skinny. He’s just not in it enough. Show needs more Ryan! Meanwhile there’s more bad auditions and camera dude just got flipped on. He broke the camera. I’d be pissed and also his face is probably broke.

The brush guy was trying to be the new Pants on the Ground but nobody’s got NOTHING on General Larry Platt, yeah boooooooooooooooyyyeeeeeeeeeeeeee.

5. Jerome

I should like this guy. He’s cute, he sings R&B... he has some charisma and moves but... I just feel eh. He screamed too much for me. I’m gonna have to hear him sing something else before I get too excited. He needs to tone down the loudness and show me the real tone of his voice.

6. Thia

Another youngin. She’s pretty. She’s also loud. All these 15 year olds saying “I watched Idol since I was in diapers!” makes anyone feel old. I didn’t really get a sense of her voice since she sang a copycat version of Chasing Pavements and it’s a very stylized song... so I don’t really have any feelings for her. She probably won’t make the cut.

Yay, it’s time for some sore losers! I need a laugh. After the break of course.

7. Nathaniel Jones

He’s a bit awkward but I like his hobby. It takes a lot of passion, I think. There was a civil war reenactment near my school once. It was scary. “No. He’s not a hippie! Hippies believe in SEX!” How do you think you were created Mr. Jones? As expected, this dude sucks. In fact, it’s quite painful to hear him sing with his dead eyes. J Lo can barely keep it together. Steven Tyler is very confusing.

8. Molly Swensen
Harvard and the White House aren’t good enough for this 22 year old. Now she’s going to conquer American Idol. I bet she’s a great singer too. Some people are just good at everything while being tall, blonde, skinny and pretty. This girl is one of them. Maybe she’ll crack under the pressure like Didi Benami. Only time will tell. I think she can get far. Can I take her place at the white house?!

Steven Tyler is the new Paula. I’m convinced. He’ll be the glue that holds the show together. And he’ll be that positive force people need on the judges panel. This was proved to me when he said “That was outstanding!” with no hint of irony or anything less than sincerity after Nathaniel sang.

9. Tiwan Strong

He’s wearing a lot of white! He’s got some old school soul in him. Maybe a little too old school for this show tho. It’ll be interesting to see how he progresses. Put some church into Idol. His gamily already seems cool. I love a good family on Idol.

10. CPA

I didn’t really listen but he sounded okay. I want to see more of him. He seems like he has a great personality waiting to come out.

11. Vernika

It’s not about your looks, honestly. You ruined such a beautiful song. No exit interview with Ryan? That’s the best part of the show! And when you say “I don’t wanna be on camera” that’s why you’re going to be all over the TV show.

12. Scott Dangerfield

This dude reminds me of my fave American Idol contestant of all time Anoop Desai. Because he’s like unassuming, college student looking guy, geeky but he has a great voice that’s unusual and awesome. I definitely want to hear more from him and the Idol makeover is gonna make him hot. This is exciting! I tentatively have someone to root for.

13. Crazy Packer Fan Girl

Bieber in opera? I’m not sure what the joke is supposed to be. She needs to spend some time getting ready for the superbowl and step away from the Idol. I think she thinks she’s funny. She seems like a fun girl. I like her hair but the outfit is awful.

14. Alyson

Steven: “You look like you could be one of my... nope, can’t say it.” LMAO. She says she wants to give Idol an edge but I’ve seen edgier. The rock girl can do well on Idol, I think. She’s nothing special. The thing I like about her is that she wants to be rock and edgy but she’s so giggly and cute. But she’s standing in front of her idol! Steven used pitchy on her. This can’t be good. Plus he was frightened by her singing. Um.... but he put her through. It was sweet.

15. Chris Medina

The biggest sob story of the night. His fiance was in a big accident with a traumatic brain injury and now she’s... brain damaged. Anyway, he has a great story but it’s just not something for you to use to get ahead in AI. I’m not a fan of sob stories. I just wanna hear people sing. But Idol has really cut back on the sob stories so far. So just one big story for the night is understandable. But it doesn’t sit right with me how he’s parading her around when she obviously has no idea what’s going on. It doesn’t sit right at all. She can’t consent to being on TV. It made me feel gross, frankly. She has no control over her life. Why put her on TV like that in front of 30 million people? I just didn’t like it. It wasn’t right, even with the best of intentions and I don’t believe anyone had the best of intentions for her in that moment.

Final Thoughts:

Not much to be excited about this week. I feel like we’re really going to be slogging through auditions. I can’t wait for Hollywood week. That’s when the real excitement starts, when we get to really start to know the contestants and pick our favorites. My early fave is Scott Dangerfield and I’m hoping he makes it to the semi-finals. I still have faith this season of idol can pick up. It’s an addiction. I’m going to stick with it.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

003. >> The Green Hornet: A Review

Title: The Green Hornet
Format: Movie (in theaters)
Release Date: January 14th, 2011
Rating: PG-13
Synopsis: Party Boy Britt Reid's life suddenly changes when his media mogul father suddenly dies from a bizarre bee allergy. Finding himself bored with his life, Britt decides to make a difference in the world by fighting crime. The catch? He's going to pretend to be a bad guy. So he creates the Green Hornet.


I was excited to see this movie because I'm a big fan of both Seth Rogen and Jay Chou so I wanted to see how they would both come together. The movie trailers promised a lot of action and snappy dialogue. Unfortunately, the movie didn't quite deliver.

I watched the movie in 2D format and I could definitely tell that it was made for 3D. The fight scenes were exaggerated so 3D viewers could enjoy objects and people flying at them. There was a lot of action but it all blended together. Some scenes didn't seem to have much of a point other than to show off fancy explosions and karate moves. It made the movie disjointed and somewhat boring because there was nothing to be invested in.

With most movies you are invested in the main character. However, I found Britt pretty insufferable for most of the movie. He was selfish, even when trying to save people, apparently. He was dumb. He was terrible about being a super hero, even with all the fancy gadgets. I guess that was the point but his path to redemption took way too long. The movie is nearly two hours and it really shows.

The plot is thin at best, especially when they come up with their great idea to fight crime while they are drunk. Then escaping a police chase after they caused the police car to crash into a bus and flip over while going like 100 miles per hour is just so cool. I didn't quite buy that. I thought too many innocent people were hurt or put in the path of danger for a superhero movie.

The bright spot of the movie was Kato. Despite Jay Chou's clearly tenuous grasp on the English language I thought he did very well with his lines and his reaction shots were very amusing. Although his martial arts skills were a little hard to swallow they were mostly fun. I liked how Kato was unapologetic about being the brains of the operation. Kato provided a lot of energy and spirit to the movie. He was the highlight for me.

Cameron Diaz was also in the movie. She was looking kind of old when compared to her younger co-stars. That was my main impression of her.

My favorite part was when Kato and Britt got drunk together and then Kato was like *mumble mumble mumble* and Britt said, "Dude, you're speaking Chinese." lmao, I thought it was funny.
Bottom Line: Wait for the dollar theater or Netflix Instant View for this one!


Jay Chou learned English in one month. What?! That's amazing!

002. >> The 2011 Debut Author Challenge

Hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren, the 2011 Debut Author Challenge is a challenge to read at least 12 YA or Middle Grade books by debut authors in the year 2011. This sounds great to me because I always love reading fresh fiction, especially by new authors. It serves as inspiration for my own work! Plus this challenge will keep me up with all the new releases. Hopefully many of them will be available for purchase on my Kindle! If not, I'll just have to go to Borders before it closes forever. Or to the library!

If you're interested in joining sign up here!

001. >> Introduction

I have five main hobbies.

1. Karate
2. Shopping
3. Watching TV
4. Reading/Writing (mostly YA plus I have a brand new Kindle)
5. Music (pop/R&B)

This blog will be a little bit of everything I like. And if you like that, great! If you don't... sorry about that. Feel free to click along now. Deuces!