Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby [book review]

Juliet, Naked coverJuliet, Naked by Nick Hornby
Goodreads | Book Depository | Amazon
Release Date: September 29th 2009
Publisher: Riverhead Hardcover
Series: n/a

Goodreads description: Annie loves Duncan — or thinks she does. Duncan loves Annie, but then, all of a sudden, he doesn’t. Duncan really loves Tucker Crowe, a reclusive Dylanish singer-songwriter who stopped making music ten years ago. Annie stops loving Duncan, and starts getting her own life.

In doing so, she initiates an e-mail correspondence with Tucker, and a connection is forged between two lonely people who are looking for more out of what they’ve got. Tucker’s been languishing (and he’s unnervingly aware of it), living in rural Pennsylvania with what he sees as his one hope for redemption amid a life of emotional and artistic ruin-his young son, Jackson. But then there’s also the new material he’s about to release to the world: an acoustic, stripped-down version of his greatest album, Juliet — entitled, Juliet, Naked.

What happens when a washed-up musician looks for another chance? And miles away, a restless, childless woman looks for a change? Juliet, Naked is a powerfully engrossing, humblingly humorous novel about music, love, loneliness, and the struggle to live up to one’s promise.

So, I had absolutely no idea what Juliet, Naked was about when I picked it out. I have heard generally positive things about Nick Hornby’s work and this book. I was browsing the shelves and picked it up. The spine was pretty and colorful! I did skim the jacket, and it wasn’t what I expected at all.

Juliet, Naked was hard for me to put down! I wasn’t even sure I was enjoying it, but I couldn’t set it down for long. It isn’t unusual for me to pick up my book if my computer is taking too long to load or something, and with this book, I couldn’t focus on much else. It wasn’t really that I loved it or was enthusiastically wanting to know what happened next, I just had that itchy feeling where I needed to keep reading. I read it all in one day, on Labor Day actually (my reviews are really backed up, in case you couldn’t tell).

Juliet, Naked is not a story about anyone named Juliet! If you read the description, you know that, but I don’t always read descriptions so I thought I’d mention it! Tucker Crowe was a semi-popular musician in the past (I can’t remember the years, I think early 90’s) and Juliet was an album and claim to fame. He mysteriously quit playing and making music in the middle of a tour, which led to a lot of questions among diehard fans. Duncan is a diehard fan. He is active on a website dedicated to Tucker. He, along with Annie (his partner/girlfriend), even went on a tour of places that were “meaningful” to Tucker Crowe fans. When a new, stripped version of Juliet is released, Duncan is obsessed and thinks it’s better than the original. Annie disagrees, which causes a huge row between Annie and Duncan, and leads her to contact with Tucker himself.

The book is told in the third person, and it’s mainly Annie and Tucker, with some Duncan. For me, it was the Annie show, she was definitely my favorite character. She and Duncan are in a relationship of convenience. He was always more interested in a retired musician than Annie. Annie works at a small museum in a small English town. She expected more from life and isn’t really sure how she ended up in the middle of this weird relationship with a huge focus on Tucker Crowe. Duncan is ridiculous and a bit pathetic. I was continuously frustrated with him, and I wanted to push Annie away from him! I think the description is really misleading because I’m pretty sure they mention how they weren’t really in love, they just had the kind of love that came from being with each other. They never had passion for each other.

Duncan and Annie’s relationship is just sad. I couldn’t really feel anything for Duncan. Annie wanted things like a family, which are not aligned with what I want at all, but I definitely empathized with her. Duncan more or less scorned her opinion about music and then treated her pretty badly. When Annie “meets” and starts emailing with Tucker, it’s something different and exciting. Plus, she knows it would drive Duncan crazy. She has some appreciation for Tucker as a musician, but she starts to actually get to know him and like him as a person.

Tucker was really fascinating. He was never a huge star, but people knew him. He had some fame. Once he stopped making music, he had to reevaluate a lot of his life. He’s in his fifties, and he’s attempting to cope with getting older. He has a lot of family issues. He lives with one of his sons, but he has a few other children, all from different mothers. He has to address his mortality and creativity. He shuns his past and doesn’t like diehard fans that spend a lot of time focused on him. When the new version comes out, he’s happily surprised to see someone call it like it is and responds to the review, which happens to be Annie’s.

I’m not really sure I get this book. I feel like some of it went over my head, and I didn’t really want to hash it out. I think it touches on figuring out how to be happy with your life when it isn’t what you expected. All three of the main characters go through pretty large changes in their life and have to adapt in ways they never really expected. I think that was interesting. There was some scrambling, along with some hits and misses. I was more or less happy (it was going to be 3 stars) with the book until the end, when something really weird happens. I’m not sure what the general take on this move is, but it was ridiculous in my opinion, and made me question Hornby’s writing and how much he cared about a certain character.

two star rating

Juliet, Naked is a tough book for me to review. It was a quick read, but I’m not sure it was for me. I was disappointed by the characters and the ending. I wouldn’t read it again, but I am interested in reading more of Nick Hornby’s work. I think it might appeal to some readers, and maybe the big problem I had with it wouldn’t bother everyone. If you like challenging characters coming to terms with reality, characters making big life changes, and music related books, Juliet, Naked might be the book for you!

Check out Nick Hornby’s website!

Pushing the Limits cover

Odd Reader Out: Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry

Odd Reader Out: That book everyone but me loves.

Pushing the Limits coverPushing the Limits by Katie McGarry
Goodreads | Book Depository | Amazon
Release Date: July 31st 2012
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Series: Pushing the Limits #1

Goodreads description:No one knows what happened the night Echo Emerson went from popular girl with jock boyfriend to gossiped-about outsider with “freaky” scars on her arms. Even Echo can’t remember the whole truth of that horrible night. All she knows is that she wants everything to go back to normal.But when Noah Hutchins, the smoking-hot, girl-using loner in the black leather jacket, explodes into her life with his tough attitude and surprising understanding, Echo’s world shifts in ways she could never have imagined. They should have nothing in common. And with the secrets they both keep, being together is pretty much impossible.

Yet the crazy attraction between them refuses to go away. And Echo has to ask herself just how far they can push the limits and what she’ll risk for the one guy who might teach her how to love again.

Lately I’ve seen a lot of people reading and talking about Dare You To, so I thought I’d check out the first book in the series. I feel like the only person that didn’t connect with this book! I know I’m not the only one, but I do feel like I’m in the minority here.

This book centers on two troubled teens: Noah and Echo. Noah is a known bad boy at their high school, who only has one-night stands and is a known stoner. Echo is from a wealthy family and has good grades but people think she tried to kill herself. The reality is that Noah is in foster care and used to have a nice family and Echo didn’t cut herself but repressed the memory of what really happened. They meet through the school counselor because Noah needs tutoring and Echo needs money.

I disliked most of the characters in this book except for the main characters, and I didn’t love either of them. I don’t understand any of Echo’s friends and family. I know that there are horrible people in the world, but this made me so thankful for the people I have in my life. Even Echo’s best friend, who defends Echo from other horrible friends, doesn’t seem to really want to help her. Echo is going through so much and she seems so alone. It might be realistic, but good friends can be realistic, too.

I’m not sure about how they handled her repressed memories. I don’t know a lot about the subject, but everything that happens in the book seems so shady. The school counselor, Ms. Collins, at least wanted to help Echo. Her father didn’t tell her anything and I think he is one of the worst characters of the book. He just wanted to keep her in the dark, and even if he was doing it to protect her, it didn’t seem very healthy. The way the book regarded Echo’s mom’s bi-polar disorder seemed wrong, too.

While I did think there was some cuteness and hot scenes, Noah was so weird! Everything he thought and said about Echo was just cheesy. Calling her a siren and a nymph? What guy thinks like that? “I could think of plenty of things to do with Echo in a house alone. Hell, I’d fantasized about moments like this, but damn if she didn’t make me want to be a better man” – a quote from Noah’s mind, that just doesn’t feel realistic to me. I’m not trying to say all guys are dogs and no guy could ever genuinely want to be better for a girl, but his incredibly quick change from one-nighters to total devotion seems unrealistic. There was also some contrived conflict between Echo and Noah that can only be described as tired.

Personally, I didn’t enjoy this book and it made me feel uncomfortable. I did like Echo, and I felt frustrated on her behalf. I liked Noah, despite his weirdness, and how much he cared for his family. His persistence in getting what he wanted and not thinking out what was best was frustrating, but probably fitted the situation. I know people have difficult lives, but the way the issues were handled in this book made me uneasy. The suddenly happy ending where everyone learns a lesson and gets along didn’t seem to fit the story. I didn’t hate this book, but it wasn’t for me. I didn’t like Beth much but the Dare You To description does sound intriguing, so I’m not sure if I’ll pick it up or not.

two star rating

Dear Reader Friend, just because I didn’t like this book doesn’t mean you won’t love it! Check out Katie McGarry’s website and twitter!

Pushing the Limits cover

Review: Icons by Margaret Stohl

Icons coverIcons by Margaret Stohl
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Release Date: May 7th 2013
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Series: Icons #1

Goodreads description:Your heart beats only with their permission.

Everything changed on The Day. The day the windows shattered. The day the power stopped. The day Dol’s family dropped dead. The day Earth lost a war it didn’t know it was fighting.

Since then, Dol has lived a simple life in the countryside — safe from the shadow of the Icon and its terrifying power. Hiding from the one truth she can’t avoid.

She’s different. She survived. Why?

When Dol and her best friend, Ro, are captured and taken to the Embassy, off the coast of the sprawling metropolis once known as the City of Angels, they find only more questions. While Ro and fellow hostage Tima rage against their captors, Dol finds herself drawn to Lucas, the Ambassador’s privileged son. But the four teens are more alike than they might think, and the timing of their meeting isn’t a coincidence. It’s a conspiracy.

Within the Icon’s reach, Dol, Ro, Tima, and Lucas discover that their uncontrollable emotions — which they’ve always thought to be their greatest weaknesses — may actually be their greatest strengths.

There’s so much about Icons that I wanted to love. The concept is really interesting and aliens are always a plus. Unfortunately, the book felt disconnected and slightly messy to me.

Icons is set in the future and aliens are in charge. They came on 6/6 or “The Day” and dropped Icons into thirteen major cities which killed most of the residents. These cities are now known as Silent Cities. The aliens, known as the House of Lords, are mysterious. Nobody has seen them or knows much about them. They use the Icons to control the earth with electric pulses. Most of the human population lives in a concentrated area surrounding  mega-cities or in the country.

Doloria, also called Dol, was found by Padre in the ruins, a lone survivor in a silent city. Ro, her best friend, was found soon after. For some reason, the alien pulse that killed everyone else didn’t kill them. They both have strange dots on their wrists and strange abilities. Dol knows that she is different, she knows that she can feel things and there’s a reason why she’s still alive when so many aren’t. She knows she’s a Weeper and she can feel what others feel and read their minds. What she doesn’t know is why.

On her 17th birthday, Padre gives her a book. However, as with all stories, when one important thing happens, there’s a domino effect and this is when guards known as Sympas show up. They take Dol and Ro to former LA, now called “the Hole.” Along the way they meet Fortis, a merck/shady guy and Lucas, another dotted survivor who also happens to be the Ambassador’s son. The Ambassador is connected to the House of Lords.. They arrive at ambassador HQ and meet a scarily demented military official that is probably evil and wants to kill them all. There’s also Timora, the final dotted one and Icon Child. 

Our dotted friends have abilities that make them insusceptible to the alien technology. Dol is a Weeper, Ro is a Rager,Ti is a Freak, and  Lucas is a Lover. They all have powerful abilities. The Ambassador has been looking for them, there’s anti-Embassy propaganda about them, and the Rebellion believes they might be the answer to taking back Earth.

One thing that really bothered me was the timeline. I had no idea how much time passed in this book. I felt like Dol left and got to the Embassy then they were leaving and I never realized a day had passed. I didn’t really buy into any of the connections in the book, romantic or friendship. Dol and Ro grew up together, so it made sense that they were friends. The same goes with Ti and Lucas. At first Ti hates the new kids, but Lucas and Dol are drawn to each other. Dol doesn’t like Ti, but later, for no real reason, Dol and Ti are friends. They want the same things, but there wasn’t anything that helped them bond. The romance felt empty to me and in my opinion, there were more reasons against it than for it.

The girl examines me, up and down. “Start with her criminal record, Orwell. I’m guessing it’s lengthy.”
“I’ll start now.”
“Ti-mo-ra? I see why you’re so sensitive about names.” I shrug. I can’t resist
-Harsh burns between Icon girls.

There is so much going on in this book, but it kind of felt like nothing actually happened. It felt like a lot of setup. I didn’t love any of the characters, but I probably liked Ro the most. Out of everyone, he seemed the most honest. I wasn’t inspired by the resistance. I was interested in the Icon Children’s actual abilities and the aliens, but there wasn’t much information about either of those things. I understand the (silly) need to withhold details so you can spring them at readers later on in the series, but there wasn’t enough in book one to make me care about finding out later. I wouldn’t say this book was a complete waste of time, but I wouldn’t recommend it and I don’t plan on reading the rest of the series.

two star rating

Check out Margaret Stohl’s website and twitter!

Book Review: Going Vintage by Lindsey Leavitt

Going Vintage coverGoing Vintage by Lindsey Leavitt
Goodreads | Amazon
Release Date: March 26th 2013
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Series: n/a

Goodreads description:When Mallory’s boyfriend, Jeremy, cheats on her with an online girlfriend, Mallory decides the best way to de-Jeremy her life is to de-modernize things too. Inspired by a list of goals her grandmother made in1962, Mallory swears off technology and returns to a simpler time (when boyfriends couldn’t cheat with computer avatars). The List:
1. Run for pep club secretary
2. Host a fancy dinner party/soiree
3. Sew a dress for Homecoming
4. Find a steady
5. Do something dangerous
But simple proves to be crazy-complicated, and the details of the past begin to change Mallory’s present. Add in a too-busy grandmother, a sassy sister, and the cute pep-club president–who just happens to be her ex’s cousin–and soon Mallory begins to wonder if going vintage is going too far

Mallory is a junior. She’s got a boyfriend named Jeremy. They make out so much that she has to come up with excuses to take breaks. During one of these breaks she discovers something bad about her boyfriend on Friendspace (read: basically Facebook). He is a cyberscum cheater. While playing a game, he made a “deep connection” to another player. He exchanges sweet words with said player and talks of love. Mallory is filled with rage and jealousy. She defames him on his own page, for all their mutual friends and cyber acquaintances to see, then she ditches him.

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Book Review: Choker by Elizabeth Woods

Choker coverChoker by Elizabeth Woods
Release Date:January 4th 2011
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing
Series: N/A
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Goodreads description:Sixteen-year-old Cara Lange has been a loner ever since she moved away from her best and only friend, Zoe, years ago. She eats lunch with the other girls from the track team, but they’re not really her friends. Mostly she spends her time watching Ethan Gray from a distance, wishing he would finally notice her, and avoiding the popular girls who call her “Choker” after a humiliating incident in the cafeteria.

Then one day Cara comes home to find Zoe waiting for her. Zoe’s on the run from problems at home, and Cara agrees to help her hide. With her best friend back, Cara’s life changes overnight. Zoe gives her a new look and new confidence, and next thing she knows, she’s getting invited to parties and flirting with Ethan. Best of all, she has her BFF there to confide in.

But just as quickly as Cara’s life came together, it starts to unravel. A girl goes missing in her town, and everyone is a suspect—including Ethan. Worse still, Zoe starts behaving strangely, and Cara begins to wonder what exactly her friend does all day when she’s at school. You’re supposed to trust your best friend no matter what, but what if she turns into a total stranger?

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