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September 2017
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My First Short Story! – The Pink Sweater

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Welcome to My Book Blog!

Hey there! My name is Bri. I’m eighteen and a senior in high school. I’m copy editor for my school newspaper and an aspiring author/journalist.
In my reviews of young adult novels, you’ll find my rating (five stars is the highest, one is the lowest), a summary and my opinion of the book that was read. Reviews of movies, tv shows, and music can also be found here.
You can follow booknerdblog.com on Facebook and on Twitter and read my short story ebook “The Pink Sweater” on Amazon Kindle or Barnes and Noble Nook.

Perfect Escape by Jennifer Brown

My rating: 5 stars

Kendra has always felt overshadowed by her brother’s OCD. Her family’s life was always centered around Grayson, while he was always focused on carefully coordinated routines. The only way Kendra could creep out from under her brother’s shadow is to be perfect – which she had down to an art, until a cheating scandal ruins her perfect reputation and threatens her academics.
When the moment is right, Kendra seizes the opportunity – with her brother asleep in the passenger seat, she decides to drive away from it all. She believes that with enough distance she can figure everything out and maybe even “fix” her brother along the way. Though, after driving halfway across the country, Kendra realizes her perfect escape is about so much more than getting away from her mistake at school and her painful family dynamic. Eventually Kendra must stop running away and come to terms with herself, her brother and family, and her past.
Perfect Escape is just the right blend of happy and sad. Right from the beginning, I was hooked. Brown’s writing style and plot and character development constantly had me wanting more and more and more. I just had to keep reading to find out what happened next. Then again, that desire to keep reading is a constant for Brown’s novels. Also, like her other novels, this one is a young adult novel very unlike the others out there – it is a novel about something very real, something very deep and personal. This novel is a candid portrayal of very important issues – sibling relationships, family dynamics, and mental illnesses. Reading the story from Kendra’s point of view and seeing how her brother’s OCD altered and affected her life and the lives of both of her parents was very eye-opening. Kendra’s emotions were raw and touching and sometimes even frustrating, but that just added to the thrill of reading the novel.
Also, this book is about much more than a cheating scandal and OCD. Besides the adventurous road trip across nearly seven states, Kendra always takes the time to reminisce on the past and delves into many stories of her childhood. By the end of the novel I was very attached to both Kendra and Grayson and can only imagine how their lives and stories continue.
Once again, Jennifer Brown wrote an incredibly gripping and enjoyable novel that is truly and simply so much more than it seems.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

My rating: 4 stars

Disclaimer: This is not the book for you if you are interested in a quick, easy, lighthearted read.
Also, The Book Thief will tragically break your heart into pieces – in the best way.

Liesel Meminger is an orphan and her brother dies on the train on the way to her new foster parents’ home. Her brother’s death is not the only one she will experience in her new life on Himmel Street with her foster parents Hans and Rosa Hubermann, unfortunately. As soon as she picks up a single object, a book, her life changes forever. Her first act of accidental book thievery begins her love affair with books and words during such a cruel and dark time in our world’s history.
I could never describe the main plot of this book shortly, for throughout the novel there are many, many twists and turns and subplots. Markus Zusak writes with eloquence and his characters and their plotlines are so well-developed, they seem like real people by the time the book is finished. And not only are the main characters well-developed, but the side characters as well. Even characters that were merely mentioned once or twice for a minor side story had a background and their own life story.
Zusak also manages quite ingeniously to blends first and third person omniscient narrators by making Death the main narrator. Death was originally intrigued by Liesel when he first encountered her as she sat beside her deceased brother on the train. He follows along her life as he collects souls during the war. Through Death, we not only get Liesel’s thoughts, feelings, and actions, but also his own. Death becomes a realistic person – we see how much he hates his job, how he reacts when he collects his quarry, and we get to know some of his quirky personality traits. And though this novel is narrated by Death, and subsequently about war and a very terrible part of history, it is never morbid – more so a soft, eloquent, poetic sadness. At times, through Death, the story takes on a lively humor (Death is quite sarcastic). This novel is not about the war, it is about a bunch of unique people and how they lived their lives during the war.
Though the characters personalities, backgrounds, and personal plotlines were all superb and incredibly well-developed, the overall plot of the book was lacking in such excellence. There were some points while I was reading when I just wanted the book to be finished, I just wanted to read the ending and be done with it. Now, though, I think Zusak’s phenomenal characters really make up for the small struggle I had to finish the book.
The Book Thief was quite a great read and a lot better than I expected it to be – actually it is nothing like I predicted. Though it took a while to finish, it was definitely worth it.

Also: Zusak confirmed the Book Thief movie will be out in theaters November 15th this year.

The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick

My rating: 5 stars

After his release from a mental institution – the “bad place” – Pat Peoples, former history teacher, is left in the care of his mother and aloof father. Pat believes he was in the “bad place” for a handful of months rather than four years. Also, he has a theory: his life is a movie produced by God. And he believes it is his God-given mission to become physically fit and emotionally literate, to transform into the man Nikki, his estranged wife, would want. He is convinced God with ensure him a happy ending.
Pat makes a friend in Tiffany, the mentally unstable, widowed sister-in-law of his best friend, Ronnie. Each day Pat heads out for his ten-mile run and Tiffany silently trails him. The odd pair tries to navigate a timid friendship, but as Pat is unable to discern friend from foe and reality from deranged optimism, every day proves to be an adventure.
Pat Peoples had me from page one. He is a wide-eyed, innocent puppy dog that is only sure about two things: he never wants to go back to the “bad place” and he will do anything to get Nikki back. His extreme optimism fuels his actions and he is always looking for a silver lining. Matthew Quick’s simple and fast-paced writing style reflects Pat’s personality. Important factors of the story and plotline were never revealed too quickly; the novel leaves the reader questioning – what will happen next? – and always wanting more. Silver Linings Playbook was incredibly easy to read and was never boring.
This novel centers around Collingswood, New Jersey, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – which may be one of the reasons I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. The majority of my family was from Philadelphia, and nearly all of them are fans of the Philadelphia Eagles football team. It was nice to read a book that took place in places that are just merely thirty minutes away from my home.
Okay, I admit it: the main reason I even picked up this novel was because of the great reviews (and many Grammys) the movie received. And when I first started reading, I did not expect to enjoy it as much as I did. Now I understand why the movie was so popular! Aside from the gripping plotline, I found the characters incredibly interesting. Silver Linings Playbook offers an honest look inside the lives of two mentally ill people, without romanticizing or over-exaggerating any of the details. I found Pat and Tiffany’s stories to be refreshing and overall heartwarming. I can’t wait to see the movie!

The Contortionist’s Handbook by Craig Clevenger

My Rating: 5 stars

After an overdose of painkillers, Daniel Fletcher wakes up in a Los Angeles trauma center and is detained for psychiatric evaluation. Again. Except his name isn’t really Daniel Fletcher. Or Eric Bishop. Or Christopher Thorne. All of these names belong to one man – John Dolan Vincent – an intelligent and talented young forger who continually reinvents himself to escape the legal and mental health authorities, which saves him from a lifetime of imprisonment. While John creates another façade for his evaluator in the trauma center, he reveals his true past to the reader, which includes a misdiagnosed mental illness as a child, jail time, emergence as a mathematics prodigy, and his overall disconnection from life, though it all comes down to the only person who is in as much danger as him – the woman who knows his real name.
I originally started to read this novel because my Writing for TV & Film teacher recommended it. He knew of my love of Chuck Palahniuk and thought Craig Clevenger and Palahniuk’s writing styles were similar. (He was correct…but I’ll discuss that later.) Not only that, but on the front cover of the novel is a quote from Palahniuk: “I swear to God this is the best book I have read in easily five years. Easily. Maybe ten years.” Okay. This is actually a huge deal….because, well, Chuck Palahniuk is a big deal. Palahniuk is an extremely incredible writer and virtually isn’t one to go around and promote other novels. So, that was one of the factors as to why I started reading The Contortionist’s Handbook in the first place.
The plotline of this book was extremely fascinating. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of or read anything quite like this book. A forger who continually overdoses and then recreates himself with a new identity isn’t something one stumbles across often. Also, John is an exceptionally intelligent character. I think there’s something very captivating about a character that is much more intellectual than the average human/more intelligent than I will ever be. Most of the time I just couldn’t wrap my head around the things he was saying or what he was doing (which is not a bad thing!), which also reminded me of Palahniuk’s characters in Invisible Monsters and Fight Club. I just wanted him to keep talking, to keep describing his intricate lifestyle and dark past. With every new identity, John Dolan Vincent became more and more interesting.
Craig Clevenger’s writing style is, too keep it short, very beautiful. I don’t think I could even begin to describe it or adequately give it justice. Clevenger can describe something average and make it sound extraordinary. Once I started reading, I wanted more and more and more. At times it really was difficult to put the book down. (Okay, I started reading this book around two months ago and didn’t pick it up for about a month once I was halfway through…I was busy, I swear.) I usually don’t compare authors because most of them (that I’ve read, at least) are vastly different, but the similarities between Palahniuk and Clevenger is uncanny. Their outlandish, intricate plotlines and characters fueled by their unique writing styles are extremely similar, but I’m sure if they were compared side-by-side, there would be many definitive differences.
Overall, I really enjoyed The Contortionist’s Handbook. The combination of a gripping plotline, beautiful writing style, and fascinating characters really won me over. If you are a fan of any Chuck Palahniuk novel, or are simply interested in an out of the ordinary story, you will love this novel.

The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

My Rating: 4 stars
In a novel vastly different from the widely known ¬Harry Potter phenomenon, The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling follows the lives of multiple people who live in the small town of Pagford. After the sudden, very shocking death of Barry Fairbrother (that’s Barry, not Harry), a chain reaction travels throughout Pagford. Pagford, outwardly, is seemingly just another small town in England with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but beneath the pretty façade is a town at war.
Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, and teachers at war with their pupils. Pagford definitely is not what it at first seems. And the empty seat Barry Fairbrother left on the parish council becomes the catalyst for the biggest war that the town has seen yet.
Since its publication on September 27, 2012, The Casual Vacancy received a large amount of diverse reviews. This novel is almost the total opposite of the Harry Potter series, which seemed to shock most. I remember when The Casual Vacancy was first announced. Initially, I couldn’t believe J.K. Rowling had moved on from Harry Potter so quickly, because, well, I definitely hadn’t quite yet. I tried not to have high expectations for this novel, though. I prepared myself to take the blank-slate approach and let Rowling start anew.
(I had also told myself that I wouldn’t waste any time comparing The Casual Vacancy to any of the Potter novels, but, well, that seems inevitable at this point…)
In comparison to the Potter novels, the characters in The Casual Vacancy are very one-dimensional and gossipy, much like Harry’s Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia. Also, there are a plethora of them – about a dozen crucial main characters, give or take a few, and at first, they are very difficult to recall and differentiate. Though, one thing I really did enjoy is how all of the characters are intertwined and connected, and in some way, each one of them was affected by the death of Barry Fairbrother.
Drugs, vulgar language, and a pulsating sense of sexuality are very apparent in the characters of this novel as well, which is probably quite unexpected for most of Rowling’s readers. (This is an adult novel, remember?)
Speaking of which, I find the overall topic or theme of this novel: class and other social tensions, to be quite humorous. In the Potter series, which are novels for children, Rowling addresses, what one would consider, quite “mature” topics – such as death, trust, love, and friendship – topics that one would think would be included in an adult novel. The Casual Vacancy practically glides over the aforementioned topics, just barely reaching the tip of the iceberg.
On the other hand, though a lot may disagree, I find Rowling’s drastic change in her novels and writing to be quite admirable. Her versatility is quite impeccable, I think. The fact that she can focus on one series for so long, and then a few years later, write something so totally different is, dare I say, incredible. I think most of Rowling’s readers were so disappointed because they originally had very high expectations for this novel. And I will stand by my belief that if The Casual Vacancy did not say “J.K. Rowling” on its cover, it would have done quite well.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower movie

My Rating: 5 stars

I have been waiting for about two and a half years – ever since I first read the book. I was actually quite nervous about how everything would turn out. The Perks of Being a Wallflower holds a special place in my heart, and I don’t think I could handle it being screwed up for the big screen.
Thankfully, I discovered that Stephen Chbosky, the author of Perks, wrote the screenplay and directed the entire film. So, if he was okay with his final product, I’m sure that I would be, too.
First of all, the entire cast for the movie was flawless. Logan Lerman is a flawless Charlie. I was worried that he wouldn’t do the role justice, to be honest. I think he did rather perfectly. He captured Charlie’s awkwardness, shyness, and innocence without over-killing it. Emma Watson and Ezra Miller were both the perfect match as actors for Sam and Patrick. I was also worried that Emma Watson wouldn’t do well, because this is more or less one of her more important roles since Harry Potter. At first, it was a little strange watching her on screen speaking with an American accent. But she did really well. I love how eccentric Sam and Patrick were in the film, though, for some reason I really didn’t picture them that way in the book. I was also very pleased with the people casted as Sam and Patrick’s friends. I really think they all did very well. Other members of the cast included Nina Dobrev, from the Vampire Diaries, as Charlie’s sister, Candace, Paul Rudd as Mr. Anderson, and Dylan McDermott, from American Horror Story, as Charlie’s dad (which I was very, very surprised about).
As for the plotline, almost all the important points were there and most of my favorite quotes were said, which I am very thankful for. The plot was strange, though. All of the events were there, but in somewhat of a different order. Some things that weren’t in the book were included in the movie, which just made Charlie, Sam, and Patrick just appear more realistic than described in the book. Also, Charlie was given a last name in the film, which wasn’t included whatsoever in the novel. Although I understand the purpose of giving him a last name, I just thought it was weird. And I can’t remember exactly what it was or how it would even be spelled. Also, Charlie’s school was given a name, unlike in the novel. The only plot points that were left out, which I thought were significant, were Candace’s pregnancy ordeal, and when Charlie had dinner at his teacher’s house. I think if they were included the film would have been too drawn out and long, though. There are a lot of extra scenes added at the end of the film when Charlie is at the hospital, and I really enjoyed it. Once again, Logan Lerman did fantastic during these scenes. Also, the flashbacks throughout the movie, connecting the present to Charlie’s memories of his Aunt Helen were flawless.
I’m pretty sure I cried on and off throughout the whole movie. I am so glad that Perks is finally a movie, and that it’s so much better than I expected it to be. The actors were perfect. The script was perfect. Overall, it was such an amazing film, and I can’t wait until I can see it again.

Summer Update

Tonight is a school night and tomorrow is my first day of junior year. This summer was definitely one of the best summers I’ve had in a long time and I’m not sure if I’m ready to say goodbye just yet.
Over the summer I was kind of bombarded with school work (three books for AP English, a Spanish packet, an Algebra II packet, and a very extensive seventy-paragraph history project…) and I had something to do almost every day. Between the journalism camp at Penn State, going down the shore with my friends, and then again with my family, I was barely home the month of July.
I can’t believe how long it’s been since I’ve made a proper post on here, and I feel bad for sort of neglecting my reading responsibilities this summer. But I’m glad I focused on my school work and wasn’t stressing over getting everything finished last minute. I think my favorite summer reading book was The Great Gatsby (I loved it so much, really. It’s definitely up there with Harry Potter and The Catcher in the Rye…). And although I’m having trouble putting my love for it in words, I’ll definitely write a review for it eventually. I also read The Color Purple by Alice Walker and The Partly Cloudy Patriot by Sarah Vowell, neither of which I liked.
I always pictured junior year as a school year of importance: PSATs, SATs, HSPAs, AP classes, colleges… it’s a lot and I’m almost positive I won’t be reading as much as I usually do. (I am currently halfway through Insurgent by Veronica Roth and totally loving it!) Also, I still have a stack of new books to read and a craving to visit Barnes and Noble soon, so who knows…

I really hope everyone enjoyed their summer vacation and has a good new year back at school!

Penn State’s multimedia and broadcast journalism summer camp

The five days I spent at Penn State University was definitely an exciting, exhausting, and informative experience. And I really, really did enjoy the time I spent there.
Luckily, a friend of mine came along with me, so I didn’t have to share a room with someone I didn’t know. There were people from all over Pennsylvania, New Jersey, even Maryland and Massachusetts. Also, someone from Poland and India attended.
Every day we’d wake up, get ready and go to breakfast, then head over to a building down the street for two back to back sessions, which we learned about various things each day. Some days we practice news writing and reporting and some days we watched some Penn State student’s photojournalism projects. Then, after lunch, we’d journey off somewhere around the campus to find something to write about. Over the week we went to the Penn State Sports Museum, the Daily Collegian newsroom (which is an independent, student run newspaper), AccuWeather headquarters, a Penn State Spikes baseball game, and the Pennsylvania art festival. Then at night time after dinner, we’d either edit the photos we took throughout the day, or write a story (usually either news/reporting or a features article) centered on somewhere we went that day. Throughout the week I wrote about the Daily Collegian, featured a stand at the art festival, took photos at AccuWeather, and wrote a feature on an elderly couple that worked together as ushers at the Spikes baseball field.
To me, it seemed that there was a big focus on news, reporting, and broadcast at this camp. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that the camp was entitled so, etc, etc, but there really was no focus on writing at all. Sure, we’d all practice how to write news story when our instructor gave us a fake topic and quotes and stuff, but there wasn’t much instruction on how to write, or any helpful pointers/tips. The first night, when I wrote about the Collegian newspaper, I was so stressed because there was no guidance whatsoever and not much help either. There were a few “instructors” in the room with us, all with different backgrounds (one a features writer, news reporter, two of the student counselors…) and when I’d ask for opinions on what I was writing, I got something different out of every person. Someone would say I was reporting, the next would say I was writing a features story. It was very stressful and confusing and I felt very unproductive.
Besides that, I did have a very good time at Penn State. The next few nights I felt a lot better with my writing. (I think I just didn’t have enough information to create a story the first night…) I had a lot of new experiences and did a lot of new things. I learned that I am not a news reporter nor do I want to be in broadcast journalism. I love writing, not reporting. It definitely helped me with my choices for college and so on. If I had to rate my time at Penn State, I’d give it a four out of five stars.

Divergent by Veronica Roth

My Rating: 5 stars

In Beatrice’s world, when one turns sixteen, the ultimate choice is made. One choice decides your future, your friends, and your values. At sixteen you must choose your faction: Abnegation, the selfless; Amity, the peaceful; Candor, the honest; Dauntless, the brave; or Erudite, the intelligent. From that choice on, you leave your home, family, and past behind to create a new life within your faction.
Beatrice makes a choice that genuinely shocks everyone – even herself. She leaves her mother, father, and brother behind, departing from the world of Abnegation into the lives of the Dauntless. She shortens her name to Tris, and makes a few friends, a quite a number of enemies. After a while, Tris begins to notice that everything really isn’t what it seems, and the lies and corruption begin to show through the façade of perfection.
I am a sucker for dystopian societies. All dystopian books are so great and so different, that I could never pick a favorite, but Divergent is definitely up there. Divergent really just ruined my life in the best way possible, if that makes any sense). I really don’t want to give much away because it will ruin the reading experience but every chapter held something new and there were thousands of twists and turns that I would have never predicted. The whole plot is so original and unique and it still continues to amaze me. The whole time I was reading, I kept trying to decide what faction I would choose. (I have yet to actually make a choice – when I think about it too much I become extremely stressed and then give up.) I really love how this novel is not just about the choice that must be made. It’s mostly about the corruption of the factions separately and as a whole. I think Tris is an excellent main character. I love her mind and her way of thinking. She’s really strong and she always seems to try to do what she thinks is right. And when I say that Divergent ruined my life – I mean it. There were actually a few times I had to put the book down and just take a break. I became way too attached to the characters and the plot became too much for me to handle at some points. When I had reached the last few chapters, I actually avoided reading for a day because I needed time to prepare myself. Honestly. I need to order the sequel, Insurgent ………..now.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower Official Trailer

The Perks of Being a Wallflower first official trailer premiered last night during the MTV Movie Awards pre-show. I have been waiting so long to see this. The Perks of Being a Wallflower is one of my all-time favorite novels and I know it is so important to not only me, but millions of other people across the world.
Although I would not have picked Perks to be adapted into a film, I will not deny my excitement to see it. I think there’s something really magical about seeing some of my favorite characters that were merely constructed through variations of twenty-six letters portrayed on the big screen. The main characters of Perks, especially Charlie, Sam, and Patrick, are really special to me. I am beyond thrilled to see Emma Watson as Sam in this film. It is definitely so different from her role in the Harry Potter movies. We will definitely be seeing a whole new side of her. At first, I wasn’t too sure about how I felt about Logan Lerman as Charlie. I mean, I thought he looked the part, but I wasn’t sure if he could act the part. From what I have seen from the trailer, I actually think Logan will do a good job.
The trailer said Perks will be out in theaters this fall at an unspecified date, and fall cannot come soon enough.

Watch the trailer here.