Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Mainstream Review: Love Letters to the Dead By Ava Dellaira

Love Letters to the Dead By Ava Dellaira
Published April 1st 2014 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux

"It begins as an assignment for English class: 
Write a letter to a dead person."

Laurel chooses Kurt Cobain because her sister, May, loved him. And he died young, just like May. Soon, Laurel has a notebook full of letters to the dead—to people like Janis Joplin, Heath Ledger, Amelia Earhart, and Amy Winehouse—though she never gives a single one of them to her teacher. She writes about starting high school, navigating the choppy waters of new friendships, learning to live with her splintering family, falling in love for the first time, and, most important, trying to grieve for May. But how do you mourn for someone you haven't forgiven?

It's not until Laurel has written the truth about what happened to herself that she can finally accept what happened to May. And only when Laurel has begun to see her sister as the person she was—lovely and amazing and deeply flawed—can she truly start to discover her own path.

In a voice that's as lyrical and as true as a favorite song, Ava Dellaira writes about one girl's journey through life's challenges with a haunting and often heartbreaking beauty.

My Review

I wanted so, so much to be a fan of Love Letters to the Dead. The title implied an interesting and thought provoking read. A girl's coming of age story while dealing with tragedy. And the cover ... it's awesome. Simple, yet the soft pallet of colors and image of the girl perched on the text makes it very pleasing to the eye. I sought this book out, picked it as the first read out of my library haul. This is Ava Dellaira's debut novel, and I always have high hopes for new authors. But is it possible that she took too many risks with this one?
I AM DISAPPOINTED. Even a bit irritated. It is so rare that I consider DNF'ing a book. But I did. Love Letters and I just did not click. I stuck it out though, the author deserved that much from me. I think the thing about this book is that it is an obvious attempt to produce a cacophony of feelings. In that aspect it succeeds. However, experiencing strong emotions is not enough for me to deem this book heart-wrenching or even likable. This story is compared to the ever popular, Perks of Being a Wallflower. A book I found to be beautiful and raw. But everything that Perks is, Love Letters to the Dead is NOT. I do not even want to get into how against this comparison I am, so I won't.

A very short background: The MC's family has suffered a loss. One that has left all three remaining family members unable to truly cope. The MC is socially inept. The friends she does make are not even in the realm of someone you would bring home to mom. She falls into insta-love with a boy. The entirety of her story is given in the form of letters to the most obvious and stereotypical dead people she could think of. She succumbs to mass amounts of peer pressure. Finally the MC realizes she is growing up, so she writes a bad poem. THE END. (OK. So, I could have been a bit nicer. I'm sure many of you would find this plot-line... good?)

Let's talk about Laurel. This girl. Oh my lordy. She is just the most malleable and desperate little thing. Her desperation to have a friend(s) and be like her sister floored me. Not to mention her naivety. She views her sister, (and states it multiple times,) as a model of perfection. Someone who has done no wrong and can do no wrong. No, Laurel. Your thinking is WRONG. It is obvious from page one that in reality May is a rule breaker. She sleeps around, parties and engages in "recreational activities." I swear. Laurel must live in the clouds. May has used her sister and enabled Laurel's continued denial. 
SIDE NOTE: (She took her LITTLE sister with her so she could go have sex with a guy who is years older. Then leaves her LITTLE sister with one of this guys friends, ALONE. As if nothing bad would happen. YEA. But then again, Laurel is so desperate to have her sister love her that she allows this guy to do "things" to her repeatedly and doesn't even attempt to put an end to it... OMG. It is just so fricken SAD and DESPERATE. I can't wrap my head around it.) :END SIDE NOTE
Regardless of the tragedy in her life, this girl takes her immaturity and--have I mentioned--DESPERATION to a whole other level. She allows herself to be pushed around by friends and almost raped. All to what? Prove herself? I don't think so. No one has this little of self respect. Even the boy she falls into insta-love with doesn't want to be with her if she can't stop pretending to be someone else. I guess I can't adequately put into words all the things that were wrong with this MC. She drove me nuts. 

How about the other characters? Your thinking there has to be a redeeming one in the book. WRONG. Her "best friends" are ridiculous and almost as desperate as Laurel. I guess that's why they are all friends. Sky is her love interest. He is broken too. But at least he has the sense to break up with her, at least for a while. Laurel's family makes me sputter. Her dad is forlorn and totally blind when it comes to his children. The mother I guess is no better. She abandons both Laurel and the dad after May dies to live in CA and become a hippy/floozy thing. Aunt Amy is supposedly a Jesus freak, but allows herself to be manipulated by men. Have I covered them all? If I haven't it doesn't matter.

So, Love Letters to the Dead obviously wouldn't make sense without some letters to dead people right? This is what attracted me to this book in the first place. I wanted to see what this MC had to say, and who she would write to. Unfortunately, she has picked the most obvious people to write to. I will preface this by saying that I am not a fan of any of these people. Especially Kurt Cobain... But OF COURSE someone like Laurel would be in love with Kurt and others like him. OF FRICKEN COURSE. And this book spends too much time talking about music and how the lives of these artists has altered the world or something. I just can't relate. 

I feel bad having dumped all over this book. It is sad. I feel for people who have gone through things like those displayed in this book. But the author went about constructing a story that dealt with hard topics in a juvenile way. Picture a scale where at one end you have the best scenarios and at the other you have the worst. She made her characters practically slide off the end of the worst side, making them unbelievable. It makes me wonder what this author had happen in her life, to feel the need to write this book the way she did. 

Because it never happens that I rate a book so low... I don't even have a graphic made for a two rat rating. But that is what I have to give this...

Monday, January 26, 2015

A look into the New Year & Blogging Resolutions

Welcome to a new year of blogging, aka 2015!
(And yes I know, this post is a bit late!)
I am really excited about this year. A lot of things will be changing for me. 
I am starting school! And book events look especially promising.
I have also been thinking a lot about my blog-olutions.

2014 was a hard year for me. I can't really go into detail here, but let's just say that the year was bad. Not having internet in my apartment played a big role in my limited online presence. I wanted to blog regularly, but I was constantly defeated in my attempts. My participation in the blogging community was practically zero. Blogging in 2014 began to feel like a chore, (when I was able to throw up a post here and there.) I read like 100 books less than both 2012 & 2013. My strongest emotion to this is disappointment. Reading has always been my passion, and when I found book blogging I was thrilled. I could share my opinions and connect with  like-minded people. Not being able to keep up with the blog and connections I worked so hard to make is a terrible thing. And I want to get back to the reason I started blogging. So, that being said, 2015 will be better. It has to be. 

For starters I will be starting nursing school, again. I am saying goodbye to dreams of editing and publishing and refocusing on my second passion, caring for the elderly. 2015 will be full of school, blogging and book events. This is the biggest resolution I am making! 

Here are my "blog-olutions" for 2015:

1) Post at least three reviews a week. (This is mandatory!)

2) Be active in the community by participating in blog events, hops and challenges.

3) Read & Review all ARCs from ALAAC 14 by May. (I know this is so late, and I apologize! But I go back in June, so at least I will not have overlap.)

4) Be diligent about cross-posting my reviews to Goodreads, Amazon and B&N.

5) Have 4 posts on the blog a week. (Minus crazy studying weeks.)

6) Clean up and organize my shelves on Goodreads as well as keep the blog tidy and up to date.

Phewww! Ok, well as of right now I am super determined and I think I will be making a good start on the year. But let's talk about the fun and exciting things! I have set up my calendar for the year already. The major players are: 

I attended ALA's Annual Conference in 2014 and LOVED it, so I will going back this year! I lucked out again that it will be held in my home state, California! It will be my first time really spending time in San Fran too, so I have planned plenty of eating and seeing as well as bookishness.

Vegas Valley Book Festival 2015
October 15 - 17

I love Vegas, and typically go every year. This year I decided to make it out there for the book festival! As well as a birthday trip for myself.

YALSA Symposium 2015
Portland, OR November 6 - 8 

This symposium focuses on young adult literature! I enjoyed ALA so much why not, right? Plus, Portland has been on my travel list for some time and this year just seemed like a perfect opportunity.

(SAT-SUN) APRIL 18 & 19

This is my second time volunteering!
Last year was super fun, and the authors and events look just as good this year!

SUNDAY October 4th, 2015! 

This will be my first time as a volunteer, but third time in attendance!

What did I say. Great year for books, or what? :D
In addition to the big events, there are tons of signings that made their way on to my calendar as well. I am hoping some tours come at least in my vicinity, too. Fierce Reads is never close enough though :/
What is your year looking like? Will I be seeing anyone at ALA??