Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Eleventh Plague by Jeff Hirsch




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Goodreads: In an America devastated by war and plague, the only way to survive is to keep moving.

In the aftermath of a war, America’s landscape has been ravaged and two-thirds of the population left dead from a vicious strain of influenza. Fifteen-year-old Stephen Quinn and his family were among the few that survived and became salvagers, roaming the country in search of material to trade. But when Stephen’s grandfather dies and his father falls into a coma after an accident, Stephen finds his way to Settler’s Landing, a community that seems too good to be true. Then Stephen meets strong, defiant, mischievous Jenny, who refuses to accept things as they are. And when they play a prank that goes horribly wrong, chaos erupts, and they find themselves in the midst of a battle that will change Settler’s Landing--and their lives--forever.








Special Word: Ominous
Level of Amazing: 68%
Book Cover: I thought the cover was interesting. It made me wonder why the specific objects on it, though, such as the car and Ferris wheel. Was this book going to take place in a specific place where all this was related? [8/10]

First Thoughts: Interesting stuff going on in the beginning, lots of emotions, and questions thrown at you. I could really get into this book. [8/10]

First Impression: I didn’t like the idea of the grandfather. Stephen tries very hard to connect dots and stuff about how life was with his grandfather, and how things would be if he was alive, but I didn’t find it necessary. Only because I never met the grandfather, and that didn’t allow me to connect to his character, so I was always wondering why Stephen felt like he needed his grandfather one moment, and was glad he was gone the next one. [6/10]

The Good: It is fast-paced. If you start reading it, you might finish it, because the language is simple. I like the flow of it, though at times it feels like it moves too fast, and you wish it could slow down and explain more in details things that one might find interesting. Too fast, maybe? [8/10]

The Boring: The story falls short in many places. Like you get to a place with Stephen and his father, but then suddenly you have no idea what is going on, or why. There is not enough drama, but the characters try very hard to make it seem like there is, and it doesn’t make you feel like. It’s almost like the characters are teasing you with things they do just to see how you react as the reader. It wasn’t extremely boring, but Stephen not knowing stuff and always doing things to find the answers came out as slow, and sometimes desperate to move the plot forward. [5/10]

The Exciting: There are a few scenes I enjoyed, where there is action, and things you don’t see coming. In the beginning, there is a scene where you actually feel desperate for the characters, and I loved that. I wanted more of that. [8/10]

The Confusing: Stephen’s decisions to get out of Settler’s Landing. Why would he try so hard when those people where obviously just trying to help him and his father? I found his thinking unnecessary at times, and I was always questioning WHY ARE YOU DOING THAT…WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT? WHY? WHY? I get that you’re a teenager and desperate, but why? [6/10]

The OMG: The scene when they are in the carcasses of the plane. Thumbs up. [10/10]

The Bad: I GAVE UP. I got to page 190/278 (chapter 24) and gave up, after all the other books I want to read began screaming at me madly. I just found the prank Stephen and Jenny did very stupid, and I have no idea how it got to that, but it made me roll my eyes and close the book, especially after the fire at the barn starts. Like, I had no idea what was going on or why, and neither did Stephen. If he was confused, I was drowning. [4/10]

The Horrible: Everything burns. [5/10]

Final Thoughts: The Eleventh Plague is a well-written book that has some good moments where your heart starts beating fast. After a few events and the characters start facing danger, you crave for more, but the plot of the story takes a sour turn, and you end up hoping to end the book faster than you originally thought. We follow the story of Stephen and his father, who have been traveling the country since Stephen can remember. There is not a lot of background on them, but Stephen occasionally reaches for the past and allows you to peek into it, without slowing down the present. This story was not for me, and I was really looking forward to it, since one of my favorite authors (Suzanne Collins) quoted on it. If you enjoy stories where love is almost forced, you’re confused a lot, and want to finish the book by throwing it against a wall, this one is for you.





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Here are some things about me.

I live in an extremely Brazilian section of an extremely Greek neighborhood—Astoria, Queens, which is just to the right of Manhattan. (That's as you face Manhattan. If you were, say, lying on your back in the middle of Central Park with your head in a northerly position, we would be to your left) I live there with my wife who has a blog and our two cats who do not. One day I hope to have a very large dog that I can name Jerry Lee Lewis.


I used to write plays (I actually have an MFA in it, which is currently number 8 on US News and World Report's annual list of the top twenty most useless masters degrees) and now I write books for teens. I've written two. One was about a girl who wanted to be a rock star and could graciously be called a learning experience.

The second, is The Eleventh Plague and it comes out Sept. 1, a fact I still find pretty amazing.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Dr. Bird's Advice for Sad Poets by Evan Roskos






Goodreads: Sixteen-year-old James Whitman has been yawping (à la Whitman) at his abusive father ever since he kicked his beloved older sister, Jorie, out of the house. James’s painful struggle with anxiety and depression—along with his ongoing quest to understand what led to his self-destructive sister’s exile—make for a heart-rending read, but his wild, exuberant Whitmanization of the world and keen sense of humor keep this emotionally charged debut novel buoyant.








Special Word: Serendipity

Level of Amazing: 87%

Book Cover: I must admit that the cover is very simple. When I found this book, I didn’t really know anything about it. No, no one told me about it either, so I had to decide if I should read it. I went ahead and did it. [ 8/10]

First Thoughts: The beginning of the book was funny. It really makes you think about James, who has a very interesting life and doesn’t throw a lot of the bad in his life at you. I knew I’d love something about this book, simply because of the way it started. [9/10]

First Impression: Great book. I read the first few chapters and was hooked on the story. I had too much to look forward to! I had to know what was going on with James’ sister, and his family—his dad (the Brute, and his mom, the Banshee). I could relate in many ways to him. [10/10]

The Good: The spirit! James manages so well to keep you reading. He is funny, smart, and there are tiny moments in the book where you think, is he telling my story? I think his voice is unique, in the sense that you don’t have to think about his life, and realize that it’s fake. All you have to do is see into his life, and you realize that in many ways, it all becomes real. Also, we all know what feeling sad is about. We know the feelings, but in this book, we explore why. I had to keep my eyes from watering a few times, not because anything in it was extremely sad, but because sometimes it felt personal. [10/10]

The Boring: When James yawps. I mean, honestly it wasn’t boring, but I thought I’d become overwhelming. I have to talk about it in this category. It was managed great. Sometimes I noticed the yawps, but they were all worth it and fit perfectly. Yeah, admit it, you don’t want to read a book where the characters have to rely on cursing to make you understand their anger. In this book, James doesn’t reply on yawps for you to understand him. [9/10]

The Exciting: I don’t know if there was anything exciting in Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets. It was probably more suspense. Every time James had to talk to his parents, there was suspense. I also saw that it happened when he would think about his sister, Jorie, who was his inspiration in the book (to not die, or commit suicide). [7/10]

The Confusing: There was nothing confusing in the story. I think everything was well organized. The only thing I noticed was toward the end, when James goes to try to talk to the principal about Jorie. He is trying to get her to go back to school, and people start telling him that sometimes there is no master plot, or plan, or conspiracy, or whatever. That’s when I realized the end was going to be quiet. I don’t think it was confusing, but once you realize this, as excited as you are, you kind of lose hope. [6/10]

The OMG: Every time James talks about being depressed or committing suicide, it is an OMG moment. You don’t want him to do it, but you cheer for him when he tries to find a way around it. You cheer when his sister shows up every time he needs her, without knowing. They are all OMG moments, because it is something a lot of us have in common. Sometimes not because we want to, but because the roads one travels usually look alike. [10/10]

The Bad: The ending. I love a book with a great ending. Not an ending that’s “half-assed” but a good ending, something that is satisfying. I thought it was an okay ending for James’ story. I was hoping Jorie would come home and graduate, but I was okay with her decision to stay away. I wish their parents would see different, that something would change, but it didn’t—Banshee and Brute remained. [8/10]

The Horrible: There was nothing horrible about this book. [10/10]

 
Final Thoughts: Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets is funny, and witty, and sad, and calm, and *insert word*. James, the main character is unique, and he takes you on a ride where anxiety, and depression hit when you least expect them. But nothing stops him to learn to be himself, because he has his sister, Jorie, who got kicked out of their home after being spelled from school. She is the person who has his back. Sending each other emails and pictures of trees, is what keeps James going some days, also love or a strong crush—whatever you want to call it. He teaches us that we all need someone in our life to make us do stupid things, have panic attacks, and run outside to hug trees when we don’t know what else to do— even try to save the life of a bird who might or might not need our help. This book is about being in the dark, going a little deeper into it, and after all, celebrating yourself. Yawp!











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Evan Roskos was born and raised in New Jersey, a state often maligned for its air and politics but rightly praised for its produce. One of Narrative’s Best New Writers, Evan’s fiction has appeared in Granta’s New Voices online feature, as well as in Story Quarterly, The Hummingbird Review, and BestFiction. He earned an MFA from Rutgers University - Newark and teaches literature and writing courses for Rowan University and Rutgers - Camden. His debut novel is Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets.

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