Bang

Read Crash, the first book in Lisa McMann’s Visions series, before proceeding. These are definitely not stand-alone books. The second book, Bang, will be extremely confusing if you haven’t read book one.

I’m not going to give much of a prelude to Bang, the second book in the Visions trilogy. (I just closed a book fair–which I unknowingly scheduled during the full moon–and I’m so far beyond tired that I can barely think straight.) If you enjoyed the first book, I think you’ll love Bang just as much…if not more.

In Crash, we met Jules DeMarco, a sixteen-year-old plagued by disturbing visions of the future. She saw a truck crashing into a rival Italian restaurant and exploding, killing up to nine people. Thanks to lots of investigating and a bit of luck, Jules was able to prevent a horrible tragedy. One of the lives she saved was Sawyer Angotti, the son of her father’s most hated enemy.

Now, Jules and Sawyer are a couple, but this couple is facing something that most don’t. It seems that Sawyer is now having visions of the future. Jules doesn’t know how or why this mess was passed along to Sawyer, but she’s determined to help him figure things out and do whatever she can to stop another tragedy from occurring.

While Jules saw visions of a truck running into a restaurant, Sawyer sees something very different, and he’s having trouble coping with his visions and how he can possibly turn things around. He sees what appears to be a classroom, a gunman in black, and bodies piled all around. Yes, his vision seems to be pointing to an eminent school shooting, and the thought that it’s up to Sawyer to stop it is enough to send him into a panic.

Jules knows how Sawyer feels, but she’s also frustrated that she can’t see the visions herself. All she can do is guide him as best she can and trust in this boy who has come to mean so much to her.

Even though they have the odds stacked against them–visions of a disturbing future, a family feud, abusive parents, etc.–Jules and Sawyer do what they must to be together…and to stop a lunatic from taking innocent lives. Will they be able to solve this mystery before tragedy strikes again, or will they get embroiled in a situation so dangerous that they are caught in the crossfire? Read Bang by Lisa McMann to discover the truth for yourself!

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If possible, I think I enjoyed Bang even more than I did Crash. I liked seeing how the relationship between Jules and Sawyer developed. Things were quite steamy at times, but I honestly believe this was a realistic depiction of two teenagers in love, especially when the relationship is essentially forbidden by their parents. (There’s definitely a Romeo and Juliet vibe here…but, you know, without the senseless suicide.) They had to sneak around to be together, lie to the people around them, and take whatever time they could get. I think all the secrecy added yet another element of danger to their relationship–because the terrible visions weren’t enough–that made their being together even more appealing.

*Note: The “sexy times” in this book, while not terribly graphic, are frank. Jules, the book’s narrator, doesn’t hold her feelings back, and the reader sees just how Jules feels about her first foray into a romantic relationship. Some middle grade readers–I hope–are probably not ready for this, so use caution when recommending this book to tweens and younger teens.*

Another thing I appreciated about this book and its predecessor was how close Jules was with her siblings, Trey and Rowan. That closeness extended to Sawyer when he was experiencing the lowest of lows in his life. These kids had to deal with more than most their age, and they did it with maturity. Sure, they had to break some rules, lie, and sneak around, but what do you expect when their parents are unreasonable, crazy, and even downright abusive?! I’d probably do the same thing! Through everything, though, they stuck together and presented a united front. I find that admirable.

I am looking forward to Gasp, the next book in this series. Given that these strange visions are seemingly passed from person to person, I’m curious to see who will be cursed with this “ability” in the next book. I guess I’ll find out on June 3rd!

If you can’t wait until June 3rd to learn more about Bang, Crash, and more from author Lisa McMann, check out the author’s website, Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.

Published in: on May 16, 2014 at 2:39 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Comeback Season

A couple of days ago, I finished reading The Comeback Season by Jennifer E. Smith.  (If that name rings a bell, it’s probably because she also wrote The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight…which I reviewed in March of this year.)  As a baseball fan, I was intrigued with the idea of a love story that essentially centered on a baseball team—even one that I’m not crazy about.  (The Chicago Cubs are featured in this book.  I’m a life-long Atlanta Braves fan.  Sadly, fans of both teams have grown accustomed to disappointment.)

Anyhoo, I was prepared for a light, fun read with lots of sports metaphors and a couple growing closer through their love of the game.  In one sense, I got what I was expecting.  In another, however, I got so much more.  The Comeback Season is much more than a love story.  Yes, there’s a tale of young love, but it’s also a book about moving forward and surviving…even when all hope is seemingly lost.

Ryan Walsh loves the Chicago Cubs.  It’s something she shared with her dad.  She loves the Cubs so much that she’s skipping school to catch opening day at Wrigley Field…on the tenth anniversary of her dad’s death.  (She’ll probably have more fun there anyway, even if the Cubs lose as they so often do, and even if this day brings back some pretty painful memories.  School is not exactly a good experience for Ryan.)  She doesn’t know what to think, though, when she runs into Nick, the new kid in school, also trying to score a ticket to watch the Cubs play.  Sadly, neither Ryan nor Nick gets a ticket to the game, but they do strike up a tentative friendship based on their mutual love for the Chicago Cubs.

When Ryan returns to school the next morning, she’s not quite sure how to act around Nick.  Are they school friends or baseball friends?  Will he be like every other person in school—even people Ryan once considered friends—and act like she’s invisible?  Much to Ryan’s surprise, Nick acknowledges her existence and seems to not care that she’s an outcast.  Their mutual love for the Cubs—and the hope that the team will have a good year—brings them together like nothing else could.

There may be something else, though, with the power to tear Ryan and Nick apart.  Something that neither of them knows how to fight.  Something that makes them question everything they’ve ever known or hoped for.  Nick is hiding a big secret, and when Ryan discovers what’s going on, she begins to lose faith in everything…including the baseball team that’s carried her through some of her toughest moments.

Ryan doesn’t think the Cubs will be enough this time, and she doesn’t know how to deal with the turmoil that is sure to come.  Ryan is losing the hope that is a part of every Cubs fan’s world, and she’s not sure how to get it back…or if she can, especially when it becomes clear that Nick—her only friend in the world and the boy who’s stolen her heart—is about to face something much more difficult than a baseball game.  Will this be a losing season for Ryan and Nick, or will they be able to come back from the biggest slump either of them has ever faced?  Read The Comeback Season by Jennifer E. Smith to learn how true Cubs fans hold onto hope even in the toughest of times.

I did enjoy this book, even though I was less than thrilled with the ending.  I hate to say this, but The Comeback Season reminded me a little of John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars (probably the best book I’ve read so far this year).  I didn’t like this because, even at the beginning of this book, I had a feeling that I knew what was coming…and how I was going to react to it.  (I was right.)  Now, The Comeback Season, in my opinion, wasn’t nearly as good as The Fault in Our Stars, but the trials of at least one of the characters were similar to what happened in TFiOS.  Do with that what you will.

For more information on The Comeback Season and other books by Jennifer E. Smith, visit her website at http://www.jenniferesmith.com/, or follow her on Twitter @JenESmith.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson

Before I begin delving into the wonder that is Will Grayson, Will Grayson, let me preface things by saying that I strongly feel that this book is for more mature readers.  It deals quite candidly with issues of homosexuality, friendship, depression, and everything that might go along with those issues.  The authors, John Green and David Levithan, really don’t hold anything back, and some readers may not be able to handle that.  So…make sure you can deal with the issues presented in this book before you pick it up.

Okay. Disclaimer over.  On to the fun part.

Even though they live mere miles apart, Will Grayson and will grayson have never met.  (The capitalization, or lack thereof, is intentional.  This is often how the two Wills are distinguished in the book.)  That’s all about to change.  On a weird night in Chicago that is fraught with disappointment for both of our boys, Will meets will in a rather odd location, and worlds collide.  Both Wills are dealing with their own issues, some serious, some not-so-much, and their lives begin to intertwine on this cold Chicago night.

Will Grayson’s best friend is the large and fabulously gay Tiny Cooper.  Tiny is a star football player and musical theater enthusiast.  When will grayson comes face to face with Tiny, sparks ignite, and life for both Wills gets a little complicated.  Will’s best friend, Tiny, is now involved with will.  (Confused yet?)  Now Will Grayson is a little jealous that Tiny is spending so much time with will grayson.  Relationships are changing, and neither Will is really comfortable with this.  On top of all of this, Tiny Cooper is trying to write, produce, direct, and star in the most fabulously wonderful high school musical in history, and, of course, it’s based on his life (and the lives of those around him).  What will happen to Will Grayson, will grayson, and the force of nature that is Tiny Cooper?  I’ll leave that for you to find out.

I am fully aware that this post has not even come close to doing justice to this book.  I truly loved this book, but it’s really difficult to describe Will Grayson, Will Grayson in just a couple hundred words.  John Green and David Levithan have done a wonderful job of showing how two boys’ lives can intersect and how one person can impact them so dramatically.  Sensitive subjects are dealt with frankly and with humor.  Some novels fall short on this, but Will Grayson, Will Grayson excels in giving most, if not all, readers someone to relate to.  Highly recommended.

Ten Cents a Dance

Christine Fletcher’s novel, Ten Cents a Dance, explores the world of taxi dancing in Chicago around the time of World War II.  The book follows Ruby Jacinski, a poor sixteen-year-old girl, who is sick and tired of working in the slaughterhouse for next to nothing.  Her mother has rheumatoid arthritis and cannot work, so Ruby has to quit school to earn money for the family.  She eventually comes across what she believes is a solution to her financial woes:  taxi dancing at the Starlight Dance Academy.  Men would pay her ten cents a dance.  The Starlight would get half, and she’d take a nickel for every dance.  Add tips in, and Ruby thinks she’s rolling in dough.  Soon, though, the money begins to run out.  It just never seems to be enough.

After a scary run-in with a customer who loaned her some money, Ruby thinks she’s got a handle on things.  Her mother thinks she’s a telephone operator, and her sister doesn’t seem to know what’s going on.  Ruby’s also got a serious boyfriend, local ne’er-do-well, Paulie Suelze.  He’s helped her out of a few jams, and he always seems to know when she needs a little help.  If only he wouldn’t keep pressuring her to do things she’s really not ready for.

Ruby soon realizes that her world is slowly unraveling.  Her new life has lost some of its luster, she’s lying to nearly everyone, Paulie is not the guy she thought he was, and the world is at war.  Can she straighten things out before her life is destroyed completely?  How is it even possible that she’s sunk so far so fast?  Read Ten Cents a Dance to learn what one girl will do to escape a life she’s not sure she ever wanted.

As someone who is fascinated with the WWII era, I really enjoyed Ten Cents a Dance.  I knew a little about taxi dancing, but this book shed new light on it.  I knew this “occupation” began in the speak-easies of the 1920’s and continued through WWII.  I didn’t know, however, that there are still taxi dancers in some major cities today.  Through this novel, it is easy to see how quickly girls could be drawn in by the money and attention and how easily things could also go horribly wrong.  Readers will root for Ruby to clean her life up and become the person she should be.

Published in: on October 26, 2009 at 1:00 pm  Leave a Comment  
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