Thursday, September 1, 2016

Girls & Sex: Navigating the Complicated New Landscape

Book: Girls & Sex: Navigating the Complicated New Landscape
Author: Peggy Orenstein

With casual hookups and campus rape relentlessly in the news, parents can be forgiven for feeling anxious about their young daughters. They’re also fearful about opening up a dialog. Not Orenstein. A contributing writer to the New York Times Magazine and the New York Times best-selling author of books like Cinderella Ate My Daughter, Orenstein spoke to psychologists, academics, and other experts in the field and yes, 70 young women, to offer an in-depth picture of “girls and sex” today.-Goodreads

Review: This was a book club read from a few months ago that I finally got to and I really wish I had been able to read it sooner and attend the meeting, because this is a good book to spark conversation. I went to middle school and high school in upstate NY in the mid-90s. I've never thought of my hometown as particularly liberal by any stretch, but we did had sex education starting in 6th grade and it went through high school. I'm not sure what is taught now, but I understood how my body worked, what sex was, std's, etc. From the girls interviewed in this book, I was shocked at their lack of sex education. I would say my primary takeaways were:
*there is a major lack of sex education in school and rarely open dialogue at home
*teens are going online to learn about their bodies and sex, which apparently means watching a lot of porn
*girls are giving a lot of blow jobs while they are rarely on the receiving of oral play
*the definition of 'sex' and 'virgin' are not clear
*girls have been so ingrained to be 'people pleasers' many partake in activities they aren't even interested in to make guys happy

I have an eight year old daughter and another one on the way (due today and late...arg) so this book definitely made me think about our communication and how to handle certain situations when they are teenagers. I also have spoken to several friends after reading this to discuss what kind of education they received and their experiences. We've had some interesting discussions to say the least. 

Now, a two major things that bothered me about this book were the lack of references. Yes, there is a huge list at the end but it would have been nice if studies were footnoted when statistics were thrown out there. Next, in several cases Orenstein often seemed to take one person's story and use that to generalize a whole topic with a broad stroke. I also wish she had focused more on the consent chapter. 

 Overall-an interesting yet alarming book. Parents of teens should def read it. 

Grade: 3.5/5

Lilac Girls

Book: Lilac Girls
Author: Martha Hall Kelly

New York socialite Caroline Ferriday has her hands full with her post at the French consulate and a new love on the horizon. But Caroline’s world is forever changed when Hitler’s army invades Poland in September 1939—and then sets its sights on France.

An ocean away from Caroline, Kasia Kuzmerick, a Polish teenager, senses her carefree youth disappearing as she is drawn deeper into her role as courier for the underground resistance movement. In a tense atmosphere of watchful eyes and suspecting neighbors, one false move can have dire consequences.

For the ambitious young German doctor, Herta Oberheuser, an ad for a government medical position seems her ticket out of a desolate life. Once hired, though, she finds herself trapped in a male-dominated realm of Nazi secrets and power.

The lives of these three women are set on a collision course when the unthinkable happens and Kasia is sent to Ravensbrück, the notorious Nazi concentration camp for women. Their stories cross continents—from New York to Paris, Germany, and Poland—as Caroline and Kasia strive to bring justice to those whom history has forgotten. -Goodreads

Review: Lilac Girls is a WWII historical fiction novel which follows three women: Caroline Ferriday, a retired actress and NY socialite who does a lot of work for French orphans, Kasia Kuzmerick, a Polish teen working with the resistance movement and Herta Oberheuser, the only female Nazi medical doctor. Kasia eventually finds herself imprisoned at Ravensbruck where she becomes a 'rabbit.' Rabbits were subjected to horrifying surgeries in the name of medical research, while Herta was one of the doctors within the camp. 

I read another book that incorporated the abject horror of what the rabbits were subjected to and it was no less horrifying here. While I found all of the narratives interesting and the book well written, I felt no emotional connection to any of the characters (there were no tears shed). Upon finishing the book, I read the author's note and was shocked to find out that Caroline Ferriday and Herta Oberheuser were real people. And the character of Kasia was based off of a real rabbit, Nina Ivanska. This lead me to pull up articles on the actual people and read up on them. 

Overall-this was a well written, interesting and horrifying read yet I lacked a connection to the characters. 

Grade: 3/5

The Knife of Never Letting Go

Book: The Knife of Never Letting Go
Series: Chaos Walking #1
Author: Patrick Ness

Prentisstown isn't like other towns. Everyone can hear everyone else's thoughts in an overwhelming, never-ending stream of Noise. Just a month away from the birthday that will make him a man, Todd and his dog, Manchee -- whose thoughts Todd can hear too, whether he wants to or not -- stumble upon an area of complete silence. They find that in a town where privacy is impossible, something terrible has been hidden -- a secret so awful that Todd and Manchee must run for their lives.-Goodreads

Review: I absolutely loved A Monster Calls (loved loved loved, cannot recommend that book enough) so I was really expecting to love this. The world itself is interesting here-humans have gone to a new planet and find that the men can hear each other's thoughts (this includes animals as well). Clearly, this makes life difficult. The main protagonist is Todd, the youngest boy in town who is a month away from being 'a man.' His life changes quickly when he finds himself on the run with his loyal dog and a young girl. 

This book is narrated from Todd's point of view and written without proper punctuation or spelling. It was incredibly annoying at first but I did get used to it. While I like the 'idea' of this book, the execution didn't work for me. The villains were one dimensional and so over-the top ridiculously evil (for example, Brother Aaron). There was no nuance and the 'reasoning' for their behavior was frankly stupid. The 'big reveal' about Prentisstown was clear very early on in the story. This book was also so repetitive, I feel like at least 100+ pages could have been edited out. 

Overall-I didn't enjoy this read but I did enjoy Manchee the dog, which earns this 1 extra star. 

Grade: 2/5

Three Wishes

Book: Three Wishes
Author: Liane Moriarty

Lyn, Cat, and Gemma Kettle, beautiful thirty-three-year-old triplets, seem to attract attention everywhere they go. Together, laughter, drama, and mayhem seem to follow them. But apart, each is dealing with her own share of ups and downs. Lyn has organized her life into one big checklist, Cat has just learned a startling secret about her marriage, and Gemma, who bolts every time a relationship hits the six-month mark, holds out hope for lasting love. In this wise, witty, and hilarious novel, we follow the Kettle sisters through their tumultuous thirty-third year as they deal with sibling rivalry and secrets, revelations and relationships, unfaithful husbands and unthinkable decisions, and the fabulous, frustrating life of forever being part of a trio.-Goodreads

Review: Similar to Big Little Lies, Three Wishes opens with a 'scene' and then goes back in time working toward the event. Unlike BLL, the event here wasn't as shocking as a murder. It was a set of triplets fighting at a birthday celebration. The book basically follows a set of triplets as they navigate family, friendship and life. Moriarty is a skilled writer and definitely kept me engaged and interested in the story. While I was interested in the triplets, I couldn't help feeling like that plot itself was a little thin. 

Overall-this was a fun read and would be perfect for the beach or vacation. 

Grade: 3/5

The Sword of Summer

Book: The Sword of Summer
Series: Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard #1
Author: Rick Riodan

Magnus Chase has always been a troubled kid. Since his mother’s mysterious death, he’s lived alone on the streets of Boston, surviving by his wits, keeping one step ahead of the police and the truant officers.

One day, he’s tracked down by a man he’s never met—a man his mother claimed was dangerous. The man tells him an impossible secret: Magnus is the son of a Norse god.

The Viking myths are true. The gods of Asgard are preparing for war. Trolls, giants and worse monsters are stirring for doomsday. To prevent Ragnarok, Magnus must search the Nine Worlds for a weapon that has been lost for thousands of years.

When an attack by fire giants forces him to choose between his own safety and the lives of hundreds of innocents, Magnus makes a fatal decision.

Sometimes, the only way to start a new life is to die . . -Goodreads

Review:  I'm sorry friends-this is another book that everyone loved and I didn't. For a book about Viking myths, goods and epic adventures I found this to be incredibly boring. I actually considered not finishing it, but pushed through and finally did after a month. A month! For a middle grade book which I should have finished in a night or two. 

Not my cup of tea but many readers will probably love it. Be warned though-Magnus Chase and Percy Jackson could almost be the same person. 

Grade: 2/5

Broken Prince

Book: Broken Prince

Series: The Royals #2
Author: Erin Watt

These Royals will ruin you…

From wharf fights and school brawls to crumbling lives inside glittery mansions, one guy tries to save himself.

Reed Royal has it all—looks, status, money. The girls at his elite prep school line up to date him, the guys want to be him, but Reed never gave a damn about anyone but his family until Ella Harper walked into his life.

What started off as burning resentment and the need to make his father’s new ward suffer turned into something else entirely—keep Ella close. Keep Ella safe. But when one foolish mistake drives her out of Reed’s arms and brings chaos to the Royal household, Reed’s entire world begins to fall apart around him.

Ella doesn’t want him anymore. She says they’ll only destroy each other.

She might be right.

Secrets. Betrayal. Enemies. It’s like nothing Reed has ever dealt with before, and if he’s going to win back his princess, he’ll need to prove himself Royally worthy.-Goodreads

Review: You may be thinking-if you didn't love the first book, why did you read the next one? Well, I happened to buy them together so I felt like I had to read it. I also rarely ever buy books (I get 99% of them from the library) so I wanted my $$ worth (glutton for punishment). This book started right up where the last one ended. We do get some of Reed's perspective which made him a tad more sympathetic, but ultimately a lot of this book was also filled with teenage angst and high school shenanigans. It was a very fast read and once again a page turner, but I just can't muster my emotion toward any of the characters or plot lines. 

Grade: 2/5

Paper Princess

Book: Paper Princess
Series: The Royals #1
Author: Erin Watt

From strip clubs and truck stops to southern coast mansions and prep schools, one girl tries to stay true to herself.

These Royals will ruin you…

Ella Harper is a survivor—a pragmatic optimist. She’s spent her whole life moving from town to town with her flighty mother, struggling to make ends meet and believing that someday she’ll climb out of the gutter. After her mother’s death, Ella is truly alone.

Until Callum Royal appears, plucking Ella out of poverty and tossing her into his posh mansion among his five sons who all hate her. Each Royal boy is more magnetic than the last, but none as captivating as Reed Royal, the boy who is determined to send her back to the slums she came from.

Reed doesn’t want her. He says she doesn’t belong with the Royals.

He might be right.

Wealth. Excess. Deception. It’s like nothing Ella has ever experienced, and if she’s going to survive her time in the Royal palace, she’ll need to learn to issue her own Royal decrees.-Goodreads

Review:  Okay, let me first apologize to all my Goodreads friends because I've read a lot of books that people rated highly in the last month and I don't think I loved any of them. It may be because I'm 9-months pregnant, tired and constantly sick-and thus find myself way more picky than usual. 

So-here we go. First things first-even though the main characters are high school students, this book is new adult, not young adult. I would not recommend this for young teens or tweens. Ella Harper is high school student secretly working as a stripper to make ends meet and wait for it....of course she is sexually inexperienced and a virgin. A man shows up one day telling her he's her legal guardian and she finds herself living in his mansion with his asshole sons who treat her like dirt. Not surprisingly, she falls for one of these assholes. I found her feelings and reactions to him actually very true and 'real.' The asshole in question, Reed, did absolutely nothing for me. I just could not get behind them as a couple. I'll refrain from spoilers, but there was a scene between the two of them, after something happened at a party, that didn't sit well with me. This book also had a lot of teenage drama at school with stereotypical mean kids and I just had to skim those parts, I just didn't find it believable that the queen bee at the school would feel threatened by Ella. 

Now-all that being said, this book is very 'readable' and sucks you in. It's a page turner. 

Grade: 2/5

The Faerie Guardian

Book: The Faerie Guardian
Series: Creepy Hollow #1
Author: Rachel Morgan

Protecting humans from dangerous magical creatures is all in a day’s work for a faerie training to be a guardian. Seventeen-year-old Violet Fairdale knows this better than anyone—she’s about to become the best guardian the Guild has seen in years. That is, until a cute human boy who can somehow see through her faerie glamor follows her into the Fae realm. Now she’s broken Guild Law, a crime that could lead to her expulsion.

The last thing Vi wants to do is spend any more time with the boy who got her into this mess, but the Guild requires that she return Nate to his home and make him forget everything he’s discovered of the Fae realm. Easy, right? Not when you factor in evil faeries, long-lost family members, and inconvenient feelings of the romantic kind. Vi is about to find herself tangled up in a dangerous plot—and it’ll take all her training to get out alive.-Goodreads

Review: This was a quick YA fantasy read with an engaging heroine. Although the book started slow, I really enjoyed Violet and the world that Morgan has created here. The last third of the book really picked up the pace and I found this to be an overall fun read. I definitely plan to continue with the series. 

Grade: 3/5