The Green Hornet (an original poem by me)

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A change of pace for once: a friend of mine suggested I post original pieces in between book reviews to create variety. I have decided to try that today. Here’s one called “The Green Hornet”

A 1980’s Buick Century, an ordinary car in a light green color
With one horizontal red stripe as a taillight
The last thing I would see as my dad drove down on the street on his way to work
He called it the Green Hornet
Bringing home my brother when he was just a newborn
Lasting almost a quarter of a million miles
The rust spots, a symbol of the trek
Covered up with a can of touch-up paint
Knocked over by a 2-year-old boy, that forever left a green splotch in the driveway
Bringing my mom to the hospital to have me

Replacements
A gas tank to fuel its energy, new brakes to help it stop
Both came in handy when it ran out of gas one day coming back from Corning in the morning,
Just a green speck in the middle of the highway
When the day finally came
It broke down in the middle of the street, with my dad and a 7-year-old in the backseat
In 1996
A myriad of memories in one simple vehicle
It’s successor, a red Volvo station wagon called The Red Baron

Dirty Little Secrets

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The first thing that might come to your mind after reading the title is the All-American Rejects song. But no, this book is not related to the song at all. Instead, it’s describing a book by C.J. Omololu that deals with a literal dirty predicament: hoarding.  Image

Lucy Tompkins, who narrates the story, lives at home with her single mother. At 16, she can’t wait to graduate from high school and move out just like her older siblings, Phillip and Sara. While it may seem like it’s because of typical teenage angst, the actual answer is far from it. It’s because of her mother’s hoarding. Lucy’s become a master at masking her family’s secret, but when she finds herself in a situation that could jeopardize that, she must decide what to do.

To me, this book is brilliant because of the premise. I’ve never read any other book using hoarding as the conflict Although I’m sure people have heard about the habit of hoarding before, probably from those TV shows where professionals help people with those issues, using it as the subject of a novel was a great idea. Omololu chose to offer a fresh synopsis to young adults, setting it apart from most other books in the demographic.

The story is told over the course of one day, with each chapter beginning with a specific time ( 5:30 a.m. and so on.) This heightens the suspense of the book, especially once Lucy realizes she doesn’t have a lot of time left. A series of flashbacks gives a background: what Lucy’s family and friends were like and the events Lucy had to endure after her father left. Additionally, Omololu’s description about the junk and filth in Lucy’s house is strong enough to make you squirm and cringe.

This is a book everyone should read. It takes a hoarding, a relatively obscure habit, and sheds a light on what living in the filth is really like and the psychological effect it can have on people.

The Life of Glass

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The cover of this book is what caught my eye when I saw it displayed at the library. The picture of shattered glass is bound to attract attention from anybody, but inside you’ll find the story behind the title.

14-year-old high school freshmen Melissa McAllister has her typical teenage

probleImagems: an older sister whose popularity and looks make her feel inferior, insecurity about her first year of high school and a mother who’s too preoccupied with her job. Since her father’s death, she’s dealt with her grief by paging through his journal and keeping a journal of her own. But when her mother begins a relationship with a new guy and her only friend Ryan starts dating Courtney, the beautiful new girl, Melissa must navigate her own feelings as she finds herself in a brittle and challenging time; in a life of glass.

Although the plot sounds a bit cliché, Jillian Cantor, the author, adds in some of her own details that make the story unique. First, the setting. Of all places, Cantor chose the Arizona desert, a contrast to the usual urban or suburban settings present in most novels. Her imagery provoked my imagination of what living in the desert must be like. It’s something I had never thought about before and think most people do not, since interpret the desert as a barren place with no civilization.

Second, the subplot about Melissa’s ailing grandmother, who has Alzheimer’s disease. While this detail has been done before, Cantor depicts an honest portrayal of the pain and frustration the illness can cause. She made it an actual part of the story and not some random point that has nothing to do with the plot.

Lastly, the writing style. Of course, I’ve mentioned before how each author has their own writing style and how it makes the story, but I feel as if it’s an important aspect to touch on. Cantor has her own style, but if seems different than most other authors. In most novels, there’s always a chapter, or even multiple chapters, of explanation. Basically, it tells who the protagonist is, what’s going on and any other information the reader needs to know. Instead of bunching all the information together, Cantor spreads it out evenly throughout each chapter, almost on a need-to-know basis. For example, when Melissa is describing her grandmother’s appearance and life details, she does it right when she goes to visit her and not chapters before. This makes the story drag less and gives it more of a flowing style.

I definitely recommend this book. Although a typical story of a high school journey, the unusual elements make it worthwhile.

The Help

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Before becoming known worldwide through the popular movie released last year, the Help originated as a novel by Kathryn Stockett. Published in 2009, the book chronicles the journey of young journalist Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan and her relationship between two black maids in the South. After making a risky decision to write a book exposing the racist treatment by white of black maids, she must deal with the consequences.

The story is told from three different perspectives. Skeeter, Aibileen Clark and Minny Jackson. Skeeter, the 23-year-old college graduate and protagonist, offers a common outlook on ambitions. Aibileen and Minny, two black maids of Skeeter’s friends, serve as her main sources for Skeeter’s book.


Stockett made a wise decision to use multiple points of view to tell the story. Although first person narratives are more common, they only offer a limited amount of knowledge. Multiple narratives create more layers in the plot and offer more background on each character. In this particular book, it’s displayed through the different language each character uses. Aibileen’s parts are especially a little harder to understand due to her short, clipped sentences and scattered grammar. However, it displays Stockett’s effective writing skills. Her choice to employ different  writing styles makes the story more interesting and illustrates the great effort that went into writing it.

This book not only is inspiring, it teaches readers an important decade in history without sounding too much like a textbook.

That Summer

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Today, I’m going to review the novel That Summer by Sarah Dessen. This is a big shift from Jeannette Walls, but like I said in my first post, there will be some variety.

That Summer, published in 1996, was Sarah DImageessen’s first novel. It follows 15-year-old Haven McPhail’s tumultuous summer (hence the title) as she copes with changes in her life. With both her sister, Ashley, and divorced father getting married, she feels as if there is not place for her in anybody’s life. However, she finds some relief when one of Ashley’s old boyfriends, Sumner Lee, reappears. I won’t give away he rest of the story, but it’s not that exciting.

The flaw in this story deals with the climax. Normally, in a story, a climactic moment drives the rest of plot to the conclusion. There was no climax to pivot the story. The closest to a climax came when Haven runs through the forest and bumps into somebody near the conclusion. Despite being a slight peak in the story, it falls short of what a climax should be.

It’s easy to tell this is a Sarah Dessen novel because of her signature characters and plot. In each of her novels, there is always a young girl dealing with some sort of problem in her family and a guy who is there to save the day. Although she uses this cliché in each novel, Dessen does explore important issues in each one, such as divorce, drugs, pregnancy, alcoholism and more.

Another consistency in Dessen’s novels is her apparent fascination with unique names. Each one of her characters in her novels has a different sort of name. Haven and Sumner are the two examples in this book.

Overall, I’m glad this was Dessen’s first novel, because it illustrates how she improved her plot development when compared to her later books. It’s a solid effort to create a story but lacks some ingredients to make it complete. I wouldn’t recommend reading this Dessen novel, but instead reading another one of hers, such as Lock and Key or Someone Like You.

The Glass Castle

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Could you imagine having lived in more than 15 different places by the time you were ten years old?

This is the basis of The Glass Castle, a memoir by American author Jeannette Walls. In it, she documents her life from age three up until her early twenties, telling the story about her dysfunctional family.

As a child, Walls, her two sisters and her brother, along with their father and mother, lived life like nomads. They constantly moved from place to place all over the Western United States, living in everything from their car to hotels and even an old railroad depot. With each new place, the Walls children had adventures that made life fun for them at times. However, it was their parents that made life difficult. Their father, who worked as an engineer and entrepreneur, was an intelligent and inspiring person who cared for his children, but had a drinking and gambling problem. Their mother, an artist, took little responsibility in providing for her family at times and disapproved of society, depriving the development of her children. Combined, the two would constantly fight and create an unstable atmosphere for her family.

Through all of this, Walls and her siblings became self-sufficient and eventually escaped to New York City, putting their rough past behind them.

I found this memoir especially engaging because of Walls’ writing structure and content. Instead of inserting dates at the beginning of each chapter, such as “June 23, 1967,” Walls instead chose to divide her book into five sections, with each section having a certain number of chapters. By doing this, she made the memoir feel more like a novel and less like a map of her early life. Also, unlike most memoirs, she refrained from jumping around in time with each chapter, keeping the time frame consistent. This made it a lot easier to read.

Her content is another story. Walls’ writing has extensive detail and precise description. Although her sentences can be a little long and wordy, it works because each word has a meaning. There is no filler whatsoever.

Walls uses dialogue the right way. Each situation has dialogue in it and creates a better understanding for the reader. Instead of telling, it’s showing the magnitude of problems. It’s amazing how Walls is able to recall all these events with such clarity You feel as if you’re right there with her, seeing everything that’s happening.

Lastly, I admire Walls because of her courage  it took to write this book. Not everybody is willing to write down their personal history, including dark details about their family’s problems, and put it out there for the world to see. I recommend reading it and seeing what I mean. And, you’ll find out the background behind the title.

Introduction

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Hello there. My name is Betsy and this is my blog. It will mainly be book reviews, hence the name, because I like to read and would like to share my opinion and recommend certain reads to anybody who reads this. Also, I like writing and am studying journalism in college, so why not combine my two interests?

So, I’ll be posting a book review on here as often as I can. I have eclectic taste when it comes to genres, so there will be some variety in here.

In regards to books, I read hard copies. Yes, that means I still go to the library or bookstore and borrow or buy real books. No online interaction there. I don’t have a kindle or nook and don’t plan to get one, because it’s much easier to flip through a real book rather than having to “flip” through the electronic pages of a kindle or nook and trying to find your favorite part. Also, it’s much less expensive. The library is free and all you need is a library card.