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Review: Fruit of the Lemon by Andrea Levy

Title: Fruit of the Lemon
Author: Andrea Levy
Series: Standalone
Genre: Contemporary
Format: Paperback
Source: Personal Purchase
Pub. Year: 2007
Purchase: Amz/ B&N/ TBD

Blurb from Amazon:
Faith Jackson knows little about her parents’ lives before they moved to England. Happy to be starting her first job in the costume department at BBC television, and to be sharing a house with friends, Faith is full of hope and expectation. But when her parents announce that they are moving “home” to Jamaica, Faith’s fragile sense of her identity is threatened. Angry and perplexed as to why her parents would move to a country they so rarely mention, Faith becomes increasingly aware of the covert and public racism of her daily life, at home and at work.

At her parents’ suggestion, in the hope it will help her to understand where she comes from, Faith goes to Jamaica for the first time. There she meets her Aunt Coral, whose storytelling provides Faith with ancestors, whose lives reach from Cuba and Panama to Harlem and Scotland. Branch by branch, story by story, Faith scales the family tree, and discovers her own vibrant heritage, which is far richer and wilder than she could have imagined.

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I was required to read this novel for my British literature class. I’m being honest because let’s face it, I would not have picked this novel up voluntarily.  The blurb doesn’t captivate me and neither did the story.

The main character is Faith Campbell who literally knows nothing about her Jamaican heritage. Adding to her personality is the fact that she is super naïve about racism in England. The fact that people discriminate against her based on skin color is a complete shocker to Faith to the point that it is unrealistic. She is not shelter enough to not have experience it beforehand. She lives in the city and with people who are not her race so she must have experience it.

She does go to Jamaica but how it helps still leaves baffles. Basically, her trip to Jamaica consists of eating sugar cane for the first time and learning about her family through stories. She does not actively participate in her culture nor does she experience it. All she hears are stories about family members that are dead. It’s a really complicated family tree where you literally need the family tree in the back of the book to read it. All of sudden, she understands her heritage and accepts her Jamaica-ness. She has discover herself and accepts herself through stories that don’t directly impact her. If only it was that simple in real life.

The first part of the book which takes place in England, that is where the story is the best. She is experiencing racism first hand and it is emotional turmoil because of it. It would have made her character stronger if she had discovered a Jamaican community in England instead of running away to Jamaica where nothing interesting happens. In England, that’s where the interesting characters are. There is Ruth who is a Jamaican girl raised by white parents and is one the biggest source of discomfort to Faith. Ruth was raised by white parents and she is more Jamaican (in Faith’s view) than Faith who was actually raised by Jamaican parents. That particular relationship would have been wonderful to explore.

This novel is not for me because I could not relate to Faith at all. How can someone be that naïve when people are being racist towards her? I feel Jamaica did nothing for her but Faith learned her lesson. OK…

3 BB-Pretty to look at

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29th in the 150+ Reading Challenge
Also qualifies for: Where are you reading?- Jamaica

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Review: Zero by Tom Leveen

Author: Tom Leveen
Title: Zero
Series: Standalone
Genre: Contemporary
Source: Netgalley
Format: Galley
Pub. Year: April 24, 2012
Purchase: Amazon/ B&N

For aspiring artist Amanda Walsh, who only half-jokingly goes by the nickname Zero, the summer before college was supposed to be fun—plain and simple. Hanging out with her best friend Jenn, going to clubs, painting, and counting down the days until her escape. But when must-have scholarship money doesn’t materialize, and she has a falling out with Jenn that can only be described as majorly awkward, and Zero’s parents relationship goes from tense to relentless fighting, her prospects start looking as bleak and surreal as a painting by her idol Salvador Dali. Will life truly imitate art? Will her new, unexpected relationship with a punk skater boy who seems too good to be real and support from the unlikeliest of sources show Zero that she’s so much more than a name

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Cover Love: I really like the cover because it gives the illusion of punk elements inside the book. How awesome is that Mohawk. I find it a little deceiving since it made me expect a darker type of story and Zero is not a dark story.

It took me awhile to get into the book so I had to read it in three sessions. The first session (one-third of the book) just blasts us with the problems Zero (otherwise known as Amanda Walsh) has. Leveen drop us in the middle on a bad situation and expect us to feel bad for her. She literally has no one to turned to in times of trouble because she no longer has a best friend and what teenager truly talks to their parents (not many of them) yet I couldn’t bring myself to care about her. Maybe it was the whole “woe-is-me” attitude but more importantly, it was where her family alliance was. Zero was hard on her mother for being protective of her and inquiring about her whereabouts  meanwhile,  she was soft on her father who is an alcoholic and constantly instigating verbal fights with his wife. It was hard to relate to her (she is an art major, I prefer music) so I quit reading but before I did that, I did like Mike the drummer and the music elements in the story. A band named Gothic Rainbow is awesome.

Second half of the book was more interesting. We finally learn why Zero is not talking to her best friend, Jenn. I’m not going to spoil it but I will say that I would not have stopped talking to my best friend if that happen. I would have laughed it off as a joke and sure, it would have been awkward for a little while but nothing that I couldn’t live with. Jenn was an interesting character, she was the rich girl who was emotionally abandoned by her parents yet she finally has realized she is worth more than what she is, so we see her grow up (from her perspective).  We also meet Sybil the Art teacher at the community college, she is an eccentric character that I like and boy, was I wrong about her. I thought she was going to be a light beacon for Zero but she turns out to be that type of person that puts a kitty on top of a tree and then forgets about it so she is a bit thoughtless about the effects of her actions. She still rocks though.

The final part of this book really save the book for me. Everything just falls into place and it is so fast paced. Zero finally stops calling herself Zero and starts to realize she can control the reins of her life instead of just going with the flow. Amanda/Zero stands up to her father about the problems he is bringing to the family. Her relationship with Mike really helped her grow from an indecisive 17 year old to a more secure version of herself.

What I really like about this book are the quotes by Salvador Dali at the start of every chapter. My favorite one was at the start of Chapter 3.

I do not paint a portrait to look like the subject. Rather the person grow to look like his portrait.

It sums up the overall story of Zero. It is a coming of age story. It is a good book but just not memorable enough for me.

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3.5 BB-Pretty to look at, maybe capture

22nd in the 150+ Reading Challenge

Review: Guy Langman: Crime Scene Procrastinator by Josh Berk

Title: Guy Langman, Crime Scene Procrastinator
Author: Josh Berk
Series: Standalone
Genre: YA Contemporary
Format: Galley
Source: Netgalley
Pub Year: 2/13/2012
Purchase: Amazon/B&N

I received this book free of charge from Netgalley in exchange for an honest opinion.

Blurb from Goodreads:
Guy Langman can’t be bothered with much. But when his friend Anoop wants Guy to join the forensics club with him in the (possibly misguided) hopes of impressing some girls, Guy thinks why not.

They certainly aren’t expecting to find a real dead body on the simulated crime scene they’re assigned to collect evidence from. But after some girlish, undignified screaming, the two realize it is indeed a body. Which means they have stumbled across a real, dead murder victim.

Meanwhile, Guy has been looking into the past of his father—a larger-than-life character who recently passed away. He was much older than Guy’s mom, and had a whole past Guy never even knew about. Could his father’s past and the dead body be linked? Does Guy want to know? He’s going to need all his newfound forensics skills to find out . . .

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I really wanted to read this book. I love CSI and forensic science so the title alone capture me. That being said, it was just a little disappointing to read. Honestly, when I read “dead body” and his father’s past, I thought they were going to be tightly connected. Instead, everything in the book is loosely connected.

Guy Langman is the main character and I’m not liking Guy at all. He has no ambition and is very superficial. He likes Rachel, the pretty girl, only because she is beautiful in his eyes yet I really can’t picture her. He judges Maurice based on her clothing. She is dressing up in black and immediately says she is trying too hard and no one buys into her new gothic look because she is too chipper at times. To me, that is WTF. Just because a person is gothic, doesn’t mean a person can’t be happy; goths are not depressing people, they may enjoyed the morbid aspects of life though. Abby from NCIS is a very happy goth and no one questions whether she is goth or not. She is. Guy grew on me after 150 pages of reading. He became funny and more relatable but still, not the guy for me.

The minor characters are the ones I’m more interested such as Maurice and TK who is constantly doing research. On what? No one really knows but he is doing research. He is just an eccentric guy. Anoop is the best friend of Guy, not a real interesting character. Hairston Danforth III, I felt so bad for him being treated so badly by people. I would have like to know about him but what little I know is enough to captivate me. Jacques Langman, the half-brother of Guy, is someone I wonder if Guy will keep contact with. There was a huge fuss made about him and yet when the truth is revealed, it’s a letdown and kind of sad. I wish he had a bigger role in the book.

WHERE IS MY DEAD BODY? The blurb of this book promised me a dead body during an excursion and it’s not here. Wait, I finally have my dead body on page 139 (Divide 139 by 228 pages, makes it 61 %). At  61% of  the book, it’s really late for a dead body to drop. (And this alone drops the book 1 whole butterfly, normally, it’s always half a butterfly that I drop but not this time)

The book is divided into two parts- 1) The Forensic Squad and Guy dealing with his father’s death and 2) Murder and missing treasure coins. To me, there are not jiving together but I guess they do go together by very thin lines. What I did like was the burning of the book Guy was writing. The book seemed more in touch with what Guy was feeling and more connective to him. It was a nice touch to end up burning it for his father.

Not much I can tell you about it. There is a lot of Mom jokes ( that’s not what your mom said last night or that’s what your mom said), boobs, boners, and really horrible jokes that have be explained so they are no longer funny. Guy is sarcastic and he does grow on you (if you don’t like him at first).

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3 BB-Pretty to look at

5th book in the 150+ Reading Challenge
Also qualifies for: E-Book, Cupcake War, Where are you reading?-New Jersey