Dark Blue: Color Me Lonely

Dark Blue: Color Me Lonely by Melody CarlsonDark Blue by Melody Carlson
True Colors # 1
Publisher: Th1nk / NavPress
Number of pages:  196
My copy: paperback, bought from Bestsellers

Kara Hendricks and Jordan Ferguson have been best friends since kindergarten. That is until Jordan started hanging out with a new “cool” crowd and decided Kara was a popularity liability.

Devastated, Kara feels betrayed and abandoned by everyone—even God. Yet for all the hurt and insecurity, these dark blue days contain a life-changing secret. Kara has the chance to discover something about herself that she never knew before.

* * *

I’ve been curious about Melody Carlson’s True Colors series back when I first saw them during the Manila International Book Fair. However, because of my series completion compulsion back then, I never got it. For one thing, there are about 12 books in the series, and another, I couldn’t find the first book. Whenever I do find the first book, I feel like maybe I should get the next one too, so I skip on buying it. Until I finally got a copy during one of the sales I went to last year.

The True Colors series is a set of Christian-themed books for teens that tackle issues that teens deal with everyday: family, friendships, drugs, sexuality, body image and more. The stories are ideally written for the Christian market, but it is also supposed to be readable by non-Christians as well. The first book, Dark Blue, talks about friendships, and how Kara Hendricks felt after her best friend Jordan Ferguson joined the cheerleading team and became a part of the popular crowd. Kara starts seeing changes with Jordan and she feels betrayed. Alone and lonely, she finds friends in some of her art class, and ultimately finds her faith amidst this challenge.

So I went into Dark Blue expecting to like it, despite the fact that I am far from my teenage years. Kara and I shared similar experiences about a friend moving on, so I thought I would be able to sympathize with her. The book starts out strong, with Kara introducing Jordan and their friendship, and letting readers understand how they met, what their personalities are and how the cheerleading thing came to be. I really, honestly tried to enjoy it…but I couldn’t.

For one thing, Kara was annoying. I know she was left behind and she was angry and sad but she really grated my nerves with all her weepy-ness and whiny-ness. I wanted to shake her and tell her, “Girl, you have to try something and not just wallow in self pity. Jordan isn’t the only one who can make you happy!” I never even really got the vibe that Jordan left her behind immediately. Jordan tried to keep Kara as a friend but Kara pushed her away. If Jordan was written with more of a mean girl vibe from the start, then I would have found the succeeding events convincing, especially the end. However, it was always Kara who is avoiding her gaze, or Kara trying to disappear, or Kara crying because Jordan left her without even thinking once.

But okay fine, I can forgive that because it really kind of sucks when your best friend has new friends that you can’t fit in with. I can’t say much on the Christian aspect but I might have to agree with what this one review said: Kara’s change was so sudden that it felt a bit unreal. Like she was holding on to Jesus so much that it came off as using it to slap Jordan in the face — as in “Hey, who needs you as a friend now that I have Jesus!” I truly believe that Jesus is enough and He is the best friend we could all ever have, but I also think we are built for community and relationships while we’re here on earth, and taking that away just felt wrong.

I wish I could say more for the writing, but there was more tell than show, and I was terribly bored with the things Kara did everyday. I mean, it’s normal everyday teenage stuff, but why narrate it? It may be to stress her depression, but it didn’t make for a very interesting book, at least for me. I was kind of relieved it was short, so at least I don’t have to plod on reading it. If it was more than 250 pages, I would’ve marked this as DNF.

I really wanted to like Dark Blue, but it kind of fell in the same traps that I thought Miss Match by Erynn Mangum did: annoying characters, too-“mountain-top” spiritual themes, and awkward writing. Maybe if I read this when I was younger, I would have liked it more, but now, I just didn’t like it.

Rating:

2011 Challenge Status:
Required Reading – July

Other reviews:
Goodreads
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A Peek at My Bookshelf


Miss Match

Miss Match by Erynn MangumMiss Match by Erynn Mangum
NavPress, 336 pages

Lauren Holbrook has found her life’s calling: matchmaking for the romantically challenged. And with the eclectic cast of characters in her world, there’s tons of potential to play “connect the friends.” Inspired by the recent success of matching her sister and new husband, Lauren sets out to introduce Nick, her carefree singles’ pastor, to Ruby, her neurotic coworker who plans every second of every day. What could possibly go wrong? Just about everything. When Lauren’s foolproof plan begins to unravel, she learns that a simple introduction between friends can bring about complicated results. And as she reconsiders her new role as Cupid (as well as her vow to stay single forever), will Lauren finally decide that God’s plan is always good enough?

I have seen Miss Match first on my friend’s bookshelf when she got back from her trip from the USA. I have been meaning to borrow it for the longest time but I always forget to ask about it when we see each other. Then when I got my Kindle, I have been eying the book in the store, thinking if it was worth the splurge. Come Christmas, I saw it went down to less than $2 and so I finally got it for myself. I started reading it soon after I finished the creeps-inducing read that is Choker.

Miss Match sounds and looks like everything there is to your typical chick lit. The pink cover with a girl and coffee cup is just the icing on the cake. Miss Match tells the story 23-year-old Laurie Holbrook who spends her free time making matches for her friends and family. Declaring herself to be single forever, she’s decided instead to match her friends, particularly Nick, their singles pastor and Ruby, her time-conscious Type-A co-worker. As Laurie works her “magic”, she makes new friends, learns a bit about how tricky relationships can be, and learns about God’s sovereignty along the way.

Wow, when I wrote it that way, it sounds like a book that I would pick up, read, enjoy all throughout and pick up life and faith lessons afterward. It sounds like a book that I would write a long thoughtful review of, pointing out the things I would like to remember as a mental note. When I put it that way, it sounds like something I would thoroughly enjoy and recommend to all my other girl friends.

But.

As much as I wished I could say I enjoyed Miss Match…it saddens me to say that I did not.

I’m not one to give up reading books easily, especially ones I paid for myself. Miss Match really proved to be a big challenge — a first for a Christian chick lit novel. I liked the premise of the story, and I was curious enough to see how the author would make Laurie and her matchmaking connect with God’s sovereignty. As a whole, I liked sort of romantic aspect and the relationships of the characters in the book. I liked most of the supporting characters, particularly Laurie’s sisters and her co-workers. But as much as I liked the others, I must say this: I really, really disliked Laurie.

It’s hard to like a book when you don’t like the heroine, especially if you spend 100% of the book inside their head. Laurie first seemed like a nice person, but after a few chapters, I was getting sick of her. She’s bratty, almost self-centered. Her initially witty quips became annoying soon after you get past the first few chapters. It makes me wonder sometimes if I said the same things when I was 23 and if I was that annoying, too. Her characterization felt horribly inconsistent, like she was spouting random facts about herself as a reaction to the things people are doing around her and it seemed so abrupt that I never really had a clear picture of who Laurie was as a person. The only thing I really knew about her in the story was her fondness addiction to chocolates and coffee. The amount of chocolate and coffee that Laurie consumed in this novel almost made me want to check out the top ten diet pills because I know I’d blow up like a balloon if I ate like her. I also find her lack of ambition particularly disturbing at her age, too. At 23, I was already somewhat going through some major career and life decisions, while she’s perfectly normal about her being where she was. She didn’t seem to act her age — she seemed more suitable as a high school student.

Okay, maybe her being annoying may be on purpose, but I found Laurie extremely manipulative, too, and it was probably the thing that had me shaking my head most while reading the novel. Sure, she was being a matchmaker, and true to form, she was being meddlesome. I kind of had a problem with the way her being meddlesome was justified by how she understood God’s sovereignty. Case in point (spoiler warning ahead):

My father once told me there comes a time in every woman’s life when she desperately desires to be married.

No offense, Dad, but I think you were wrong.

I think there’s more. Most women desire matrimony — but with the guys God has created for them. My job is to be still and wait, knowing He is God.

And occasionally pushing a couple together. Just now and then of course…

What does that verse in Colossians say? “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to god the Father through him.”

…Matchmaking is a deed, right? Thanks God.

I find that particular conclusion a little off-putting, especially since I found everything Laurie did in the book manipulative and self-serving. She pushed the two characters together and would not give up not because she trusted God completely, but because she couldn’t fail this match since she’s never been wrong about her matches. Does that spell God’s sovereignty? It doesn’t seem like it. The rest of the spiritual aspect in the book also felt like it was forced and shallow.

They say it’s based on Jane Austen’s Emma, but since I haven’t read it yet, I can’t say how accurate it is. However, I’d like to believe that Emma wasn’t a Mary Sue, unlike how I found Laurie Holbrook. Nothing sucks the fun out of reading than being in a Mary Sue’s head. So…meh. It’s been five days since I finished reading this book, and I still can’t shake the annoyance I felt over this character. There are two more books in the Laurie Holbrook series and they say it gets better, but I think I’m going to pass for now. Maybe if I read this book before I’ve read some good chick lit with strong, non-Mary Sue characters, I would have liked it more since I didn’t really know better then. Or maybe, if I read this one when I was younger, I would have enjoyed it more. But right now, I just think Miss Match is disappointing.

Rating:

My copy: ebook from Amazon Kindle store

Cover and blurb: Goodreads

Other reviews:
RadiantLit
Coral Rose

More than just a pretty face

Pretty Face by Mary HoganPretty Face by Mary Hogan
Publisher: HarperTeen
Number of pages: 213
My copy: borrowed

That’s what I am. A funny girl. A friend. Nobody’s girlfriend. The girl with the pretty face.

Hayley wishes she could love living in Santa Monica, blocks from the beach, where every day—and everybody—is beautiful and sunny. But she just doesn’t fit in with all the blond, superskinny Southern California girls who have their plastic surgeons on speed dial. Hayley is smart and witty and has such a pretty . . . face. Translation: Don’t even think about putting on a bikini, much less dating superhot Drew Wyler. A bikini will never be flattering, and Drew will never think of her as more than a friend.

Just when Hayley feels doomed to live her life in the fat lane, her parents decide to send her to Italy for the summer—not for school, not for fat camp, just for fun. It’s there, under the Italian sun, that Hayley’s vision of herself starts to change. She’s curvy, not fat. Pizza isn’t evil. And life is so much more than one-size-fits-all. Who knows? Once Hayley sees herself in a new light, maybe the girl with the pretty face will finally find true amore.

* * *

I used to be fat. I won’t sugarcoat it: I was fat. I wasn’t obese, but I was about 40 lbs overweight. See for yourself:

I tried not to mind my being overweight, and try to follow those “love yourself” mantras to make me feel good about myself. No one exactly called me fat to my face, but people joked about it at times, and I often laughed it off. But I knew for myself that I wasn’t thin, and I hated shopping for clothes because I knew I would always have to ask for Large or Extra Large and not all the clothes I want look good on me. I didn’t hate myself for it, but I hated that I wasn’t doing anything about it, at least up until July 2009. That was when I joined the gym, paid a lot for my training fees, and finally started to lose weight properly, through diet, exercise and reading about health stuff (including how to reduce belly fat, which I am still struggling with).

The weight and self-esteem angle was one reason why I picked up Pretty Face. I always liked books that helped protagonists discover their true beauty, just like North of Beautiful. I thought Pretty Face would be like this, but I was kind of disappointed.

People always say Hayley had a pretty face, but it was all they tell her. Hayley knew she was fat, and it didn’t help that her mother kept on giving her grief about her weight after losing much of her own. It also didn’t help that she found out who her crush Drew Wyler really liked and it wasn’t her. After one bad day joining her mother at a weight-loss specialist (?) office, her parents told her that they’d be sending her to Italy for the summer to have some time off. In Italy, Hayley finds an entirely different lifestyle that she gets used to, and she finds herself loving food, herself and even finding a guy who loves her for who she is.

I really wanted to like this novel, but I ended up having too many issues with the story, and how Hayley’s insecurities were dealt with. Spoiler warning starts here.

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