Friday, October 30, 2015

Impulse and Perfect

Hopkins, Ellen. Impulse. New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2007. Print.
Hopkins, Ellen. Perfect. New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2011. Print.

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My Thoughts
These are companion books. While Impulse tells Conner's, Tony's and Vanessa's stories, Perfect tells the stories of what's happening "back home" while Conner is at Aspen Springs. It was interesting when the two stories "merged."

In Impulse, Conner tries to commit suicide. This brings him to Aspen Springs where he meets Tony, a gay boy with a drug problem, and Vanessa, a girl who cuts herself to cope with her life.

True to Hopkins' books, these three characters' stories are not always easy to read. Hopkins uses the novel in verse format to relate the stories. Once the layers begin peeling away, the reader understands why these three have ended up in Aspen Springs. It reinforces the idea that appearances are not always as they seem, and judgments should not be assumed.

Late in the book, during a segment of Tony's story, he describes Vanessa, "She's incredible, not that she's perfect. But you once said imperfections create character" (Hopkins 607). I thought this was not only foreshadowing the next book (and at the time, I thought the sequel would be more about Tony's and Vanessa's emerging love story), but a good life mantra.

I was shocked at the end of Conner's story and couldn't wait to start reading Perfect.

When I began reading this "other side of the story," I realized that the timeline is concurrent with Impulse. 

In this installment, we meet Cara, Conner's (perfect) twin. Her boyfriend Sean is addicted to steroids and her best friend Kendra is starving herself to become "perfect." Kendra's sister Jenna has wild behavior, including dating Andre a rich, black kid who wants to dance (thereby upsetting his parents' expectations).

The title reference of this book appears many times, as each character is striving to become "perfect." I liked that Andre realizes what being perfect really is. "She is pretty, and perfect in her own way, because she knows who she is and doesn't pretend to be anyone else. Doesn't care who she pleases, as long as she is good with herself, and what else really matters? (Hopkins 598).

I noticed that Sean's poems were like a double poem. The first column created its own poem. This fits as he's struggling with who he is and who he is while doping. Then I noticed that Andre's and Kendra's stories also did this double poem effect. Very clever, Ellen Hopkins!  I also saw a pattern that sometimes one character's ending lines is how the next character's story began.

Again, these characters' stories are not always easy to read. There are two rapes in this book; one resulting in a stalking situation and the other resulting in a horrific beating and the girl being left to die. However, I also think there's a thread of hope in all these stories. I hope teenagers will see themselves and try to learn from these fictional characters' experiences instead of having their own similar experiences.

These characters are real with real struggles. I'm glad that Hopkins tackles this true life scenarios without judgement. Her author's note at the end of the book should reach kids.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015


Stoker, Bram. Dracula. Read by David Horovitch, Jamie Parker, Joseph Kloska and Alison Pettitt.
Naxos Audiobooks. 2015. Audiobook.

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Dracula (unabridged)

My Thoughts
I started listening to this book during a full moon. When the narrator describes the full moon in the story, as Jonathan first sets out to the Count's home, I thought that was eerie.

The story's pace is slow. The description is superb. The violence is hardly there by modern standards. I was so proud to finally have this "classic" story read (even if I actually listened to it). I made connections about who Van Helsing is and now know the "rules" of vampires. I kept thinking about how popular "vampire stories" are now, and in part, without Stoker's story, I'm not sure we'd even have the genre.

Chapter Two gives a vivid description of Dracula. I could see him in my mind throughout the story. He is not the Count from Sesame Street! HA!

When the other characters' stories began, I wondered why we were going off in another direction with the story and not staying with the Count and Jonathan. Listening to Mina & Lucy's letters back and forth made progress in the story slow for me, but then they finally connected to the Count.

I liked Van Helsing's role in the story. I was amazed at how fast he could travel from England to Amsterdam, so I wondered for awhile if he was "inflicted" or not.

There was a reference to a character being a "stranger in a strange land." I wondered if that is where Robert Heinlein got the title for his book.

I'm glad that Mina was a strong, female character. She played a crucial role in helping make the connections to hunt down Dracula.


Pratchett, Terry. Dodger. Read by Stephen Briggs. Harper Audio. 2012. Audiobook.

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My Thoughts
As I listened to this book, I kept thinking of Charles' Dickens' Great Expectations. In fact, "Charlie" Dickens is even mentioned in this story.

Dodger is a tosher-a person who goes through the sewers of London looking for lost/valuable things. When he stops a lady from being abducted, his fortune changes. Several important people enter his life to help this young lady (who turns out to be someone of prominence herself).

I enjoyed the narrator's voice in this book. At first, I wasn't sure if I'd like to listen to a story set in England, but the narrator (and Pratchett's writing), made it work for me. The story has mystery (who is this girl and why are people after her?). The story has political & socio-economic issues (Dodger's upbringing) as well as a romance. There is subtle humor and even murder.

Dodger's friend becomes a moral compass and guide for living like a gentleman. Again, this reminded me of Pip in Great Expectations.

As it has been a few months since listening to the book and writing this post, I can't remember all of the book, but I do still think about Dodger toshing in the sewers and that made me think of "Dirty Jobs" with Mike Rowe.

Beautiful Creatures

Garcia, Kami and Margaret Stohl. Beautiful Creatures. Read by Kevin T. Collins with Eve Bianco. Hachette Audio. 2012. Audiobook.

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Beautiful Creatures

Plot summary (from the publisher)
Lena Duchannes is unlike anyone the small Southern town of Gatlin has ever seen, and she's struggling to conceal her power, and a curse that has haunted her family for generations. But even within the overgrown gardens, murky swamps and crumbling graveyards of the forgotten South, a secret cannot stay hidden forever.

Ethan Wate, who has been counting the months until he can escape from Gatlin, is haunted by dreams of a beautiful girl he has never met. When Lena moves into the town's oldest and most infamous plantation, Ethan is inexplicably drawn to her and determined to uncover the connection between them.

In a town with no surprises, one secret could change everything. - 

My Thoughts
I've seen this book come across the counter many times, so I put it in my mental "to read someday" pile. When I got the opportunity to get a free audiobook, I was excited. I began listening and found it easy to keep up with the many characters (and there are many!). I also found that I enjoyed the music that accompanied certain scenes, and wondered how that music looked in the print source (was it there or just something added for the audiobook?).

I liked the tie-in and references to Harper Lee's novel, To Kill a Mockingbird (which I'm seeing now as a coincidental pattern for the year). For example, the dog's name is Boo.

The story itself is a teenage love story, with some mystery and rushed drama.There is humor. There is rushed and contrived plot. When, as a listener, I was questioning something, it was if the narrator heard me and then answered.

The readers in the story did not have consistent dialects, and I wondered if there were just too many characters for two people to "voice." [This is a complaint against the audiobook, not the story].

I LOVED that there was a secret library in the real library. YEA!

Uncle Macon refers to mortals as "Beautiful Creatures" hence, the book title.

Even though I know there are several books in the series, I do like that Book 1 ends with the song changing from "16 moons" to "17 moons"--a sure clue to the reader/listener there is more story. I will probably pick up the second book, but not immediately.

After the story, there was a lengthy interview of the authors included in the audiofile. I enjoyed hearing their process of co-writing this book and how their own personal lives are included in the story.

After I listened to the book (which I enjoyed), I watched the movie. I know that liberties must be taken and that a movie is never as good as the book, but honestly, I thought the movie was HORRIBLE! I'd read the book and was lost while watching the movie. I guess some of the explanation is left on the cutting floor.