Tricks by Ellen Hopkins

Usually I enjoy Hopkin’s novels. The poetic prose manages to tackle drug use and other difficult topics in a way that seems but frightening — incredibly frightening — and beautiful at the same time. Her novels make me thankful for the life I lead and aware that one wrong turn could have sent me spiraling out of control  like the characters in her novels. That’s how real her characters are.

However, I just could not get into her latest novel that follows the lives of five teenagers — three girls, two guys; four straight, one gay; some with good families and some with no one at all — as they discover the wrong kind of “I Love You”. The kind of “I Love You” sends you spiraling into the world of prostitution and drug addiction.

Maybe it’s because there were five characters, which made it difficult to follow along as the stories don’t interconnect until near the end of the novel. I felt like I was forcing myself to read some of the characters stories rather than enjoying them, and there wasn’t enough about the characters I was interested in. There are a lot of salacious details in this novel, and very little time is spent talking about the consequences of her characters’ actions, which is very different from her other novels were her characters do face consequences (pregnancy, disease, inability to beat their addiction).

So, no, I did not enjoy reading this one. And I suggest skipping this one in favor of her other novels.

Book Mentioned:

  • Hopkins, Ellen. Tricks. New York, NY: Margaret K. McElderry, 2009. Print. 627 pgs. ISBN: 9781416950073. Source: PaperBackSwap.
Book Cover © Margaret K. McElderry. Retrieved: October 28, 2010.

A Gift of Grace by Amy Clipston

Unable to conceive, Rebecca Kauffman has given up on filling her and her husband Daniel’s Old Order Amish home will children. When her older sister, Grace, who left the Amish community for the modern world, dies in an automobile accident, Rebecca is left custody of her two teenage nieces, Jessica and Lindsay. Raising her two English teenage nieces proves to be a bigger challenge than Rebecca anticipated and the task begins to cause a rift between Rebecca and Daniel and the community the Kauffmans live in.

I’ve read a different novel about the Amish dealing with a similar topic, The Redemption of Sarah Cain (Beverly Lewis), and they both end much in the same way. However, I enjoyed this novel quite a bit more than Lewis’ novel. I wouldn’t say Clipston’s novel is better written as I think they’re about the same in terms of writing quality; it’s just that Clipston’s novel has much more likable characters particularly Jessica and Rebecca.

One of the things that stood out to me where how harshly the Amish community acts towards Jessica, especially when she is caught wearing shorts and a bathing suit. Both Rebecca and Daniel (along with the rest of their family) work with tourist day in and day out, and I find it hard to believe that the family would be so harsh towards Jessica for listening to her iPod, wearing shorts, and using a cell phone. That’s a lot of judgment.

Not exactly the best representation of Amish culture, but not a terrible Amish novel either. I wasn’t trilled with the ending, although I’ve kind of come to expect it with this type of novel. They’re always setting the reader up for the next one in the series.

Book Mentioned:

  • Clipston, Amy. A Gift of Grace. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009. Print. 323 pgs. ISBN: 9780310289838. Source: PaperBackSwap.
Book Cover © Zondervan. Retrieved: October 26, 2010.

The Smoke Jumper by Nicholas Evans

Connor Ford and Ed Tully jump from airplanes and fight fires side by side in Montana’s mountains. This fateful summer, though, Ed brings his girlfriend, Julia Bishop, along with him and Connor finds himself braving the flames to save the woman he loves but knows he cannot have. After the fire’s disastrous path through their lives, Connor leaves the land he loves and travels around the world taking photos of the world’s worst wars. The photographs brings him fame, but never happiness while Julia struggles to balance the happiness she has and the happiness she knows she could have had.

There’s a lot of guilt in this novel. So much guilt that guilt almost becomes the only two things holding these separate tales together. One tale is about smoke jumpers and their struggles; the other book is about a man who travels the world to forget the women he loves but cannot have. Because of this, the book seemed to drag on forever.

What’s more, I had a hard time taking this tale seriously because Evans misspelled the name of both the town I live in and the town next to us.  I know it’s a novel, but it is supposed to take place in real places; real places that I know and loved.

Book Mentioned:

  • Evans, Nicholas. The Smoke Jumper. New York, NY: Dell Book, 2001. Print. 560 pgs. ISBN: 0440235162. Source: Purchased.
Book Cover © Dell Books. Retrieved: October 24, 2010.

All the Shah’s Men by Stephen Kinzer

Subtitled “An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror”, Kinzer’s book details the 1953 coup by the CIA and the British government meant to overthrow overthrow of the government of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh, and as the book claims, meant the end of democracy in Iran. The Shah of Iran ruled as an authoritarian monarch for the next 26 years, until he was overthrown in a popular revolt in 1979 that led to the establishment of an Islamic government led by the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

Kinzer’s novel, however, spends most of the time discussing the nationalization of the nationalized the British-owned Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC) by Mosaddegh in 1951 with near unanimous support of Iran’s parliament. The coup was in response to this action, and Kinzer asserts that it occurs because Britain and the United States wanted to maintain access to Iran’s oil supply for AIOC (i.e. themselves). Interestingly enough, the coup did not occur until Eisenhower became president; Truman was not interested in interfering despite British insistence.

I told my professor this book should have been assigned when we were discussing oil, but I can also see why he would assign it now since we’re discussing Arab nationalism. If you’re at all interested in oil and/or the Middle East, than this is certainly a book for you. I found it to be really interesting and, surprisingly, not dry at all.

Book Mentioned:

  • Kinzer, Stephen. All the Shah’s Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror. Hoboekn, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2008. Print. 258 pgs. ISBN: 9780470185490. Source: Purchased.
Book Cover © John Wiley & Sons. Retrieved: October 18, 2010.

The Plight of the Darcy Brothers by Marsha Altman

Not knowing much about this novel — other than it’s the sequel to The Darcys and the Bingleys — I was puzzled by the title. The Darcys brothers? There’s only one Darcy so I assumed the novel covered Elizabeth and Darcy’s sons since they did have a little boy in the first book of this series, Geoffry. Not quite. Altman has imagined a tale where not only is Wickham the brother of Mr. Darcy, but there is another Darcy son out in the world Elizabeth and Darcy meet as they are attempting to save the Bennett family from shame once again. This time, Mary has done something entirely improper and it’s up to the Darcys to save the whole family from ruin.

I don’t mean to echo the praise for this novel from the back of the book, but the key word here is definitely fun. It’s a bit too over the top, but that’s what made it such an enjoyable escape from the world of exams and papers I’m currently living in. I did have some issues with the book (Mary being the cause of the family’s downfall just the tip of the iceberg), but almost every page had at least one laugh aloud moment.

The rest of the characters are concerned about having babies and not having babies, including Dr. Maddox and Caroline Bingley Maddox (this pairing is very forced, in my opinion), and there is a battle between Darcy and one of his brothers. Poor Georgiana gets the shaft in this book as she is barely mentioned at all. The antics of young Georgiana and her cousin Geoffry certainly make up a large chunk of the book, but the two are enduring and utterly amusing with their utterly unruly behavior.

Like I said in my review of the first book in the series, it’s not the best Pride and Prejudice sequel out there but it’s quite possibly the most amusing.

Others’ Thoughts:

Books Mentioned:

  • Altman, Marsha. The Darcys and the Bingleys: A Tale of Two Gentlemen’s Marriages to Two Most Devoted Sisters. Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks, 2008. Print. 417 pgs. ISBN: 9781402213489. Source: PaperBackSwap.
  • Atlman, Marsh. The Plight of the Darcy Brothers: A Tale of Siblings and Surprises. Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks, 2009. Print. 359 pgs. ISBN: 9781402224294. Source: PaperBackSwap.
Book Cover © Sourcebooks. Retrieved: October 16, 2010.