Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Good Braider

A review in 10 words (or thereabouts):  A beautiful story on becoming a child of two worlds.

Author: Terry Farish
Info:  Marshall Cavendish, copyright 2012, 213 pages

In spare free verse laced with unforgettable images, Viola’s strikingly original voice sings out the story of her family s journey from war-torn Sudan, to Cairo, and finally to Portland, Maine. Here, in the sometimes too close embrace of the local Southern Sudanese Community, she dreams of South Sudan while she tries to navigate the strange world of America a world where a girl can wear a short skirt, get a tattoo or even date a boy; a world that puts her into sharp conflict with her traditional mother who, like Viola, is struggling to braid together the strands of a displaced life.

~Goodreads Description~

The Awesome
The book is divided into parts which really help expand on Viola's experience.  In the first part, we see her life in Juba.  We come to understand the struggle for survival, the constant fear of soldiers, the desperate need to escape, and the communication with loved ones who have already left the country.  Then we're on the road with Viola and her mother and brother, fleeing their country to the unknown, scraping for food, desperate for information and guidance.  Once in Cairo, the story shifts to one of waiting.  Long waiting.  We see the relationship between  Viola and her mother strengthen, and we come to respect Viola's passion for education and understanding.  Finally, our heroine makes it to America, but without all of the context before, the reader couldn't fully appreciate the struggle between culture, heritage, and family relationships.  By the end we see a young woman who has overcome immense obstacles to be a strong, independent African and American.

No "not awesome" today.  I really enjoyed the book.  I'm really starting to come around to novels-in-verse.  At first I was intimidated because they remind me too much of poetry, but the free verse allows for a great emotional impact.  I really liked Viola and wanted to see her succeed, and to see her life from then until now really allowed for a better understanding and respect for refugees.



Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Catastrophic History of You and Me

A review in 10 words (or thereabouts): "Would you know my name, if I saw you in heaven?"

Author: Jess Rothenberg
Info: Penguin Young Readers Group, copyright 2012, 375 pages


Dying of a broken heart is just the beginning.... Welcome to forever.

BRIE'S LIFE ENDS AT SIXTEEN: Her boyfriend tells her he doesn't love her, and the news breaks her heart—literally.

But now that she's D&G (dead and gone), Brie is about to discover that love is way more complicated than she ever imagined. Back in Half Moon Bay, her family has begun to unravel. Her best friend has been keeping a secret about Jacob, the boy she loved and lost—and the truth behind his shattering betrayal. And then there's Patrick, Brie's mysterious new guide and resident Lost Soul . . . who just might hold the key to her forever after.

With Patrick's help, Brie will have to pass through the five stages of grief before she's ready to move on. But how do you begin again, when your heart is still in pieces?


~Goodreads Description~

I SO wanted to like this book.  I mean, I really wanted to like it.  The chapter titles are song lyrics for goodness sakes...one of my favorite guilty pleasure book elements.  But I didn't like the book.  I didn't hate it.  It didn't make me angry or bitter.  It just wasn't very good.  Which I hate...and I would love for you to read The Catastrophic History of You and Me and prove me wrong, because I REALLY wanted to like this book.

The Awesome
Did I mention the song lyric chapter titles?  There are also a great number of cheese related jokes and nicknames which, quite frankly, is pure awesome.  Because cheese is amazing.  Especially a nice sharp cheddar.  But I'm getting off point.

The Not So Awesome
I know the author was trying for something very particular here, but she just didn't pull it off.  The book was a bit of a mess.  The main character, Brie, wasn't very likable, the plot skipped around, there was incessant whining, bad cliched teen moments, and a twist that was borderline ridiculous.  I just didn't care, and for a book about death and acceptance, I feel like I really should have cared at some point. 

As I'm looking back what I've written so far, I feel this review is very harsh.  Rothenberg isn't a bad writer.  I just think she was trying to pull too much off, have too much going on that book kind of fell a part for me.  Maybe the focus should have been on one thing in particular and not a slathering of things that didn't really seem to go together.








Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Top 10 Favorite Movies

Top Ten Favorite Movies
(Feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish)

Today is a freebie list!  I'll be honest...one of the joys of participating in the Top Ten list over at The Broke and the Bookish is that I don't have to come up with a topic for the list.  It's handed to me, taking away the stress of having to come up with a topic.  So on this day when I have to do some thinking for myself, I've decided to take a left turn, away from books, and into the movies.  That's right, Emily's Top Ten favorite movies.

What's on your list?
1) The Princess Bride

 
2) Sixteen Candles

3) Stranger Than Fiction

4) L.A. Story

5) Moonstruck

6) Where the Boys Are

7) Ghostbusters

8) Galaxy Quest

9) The Muppets Take Manhattan

10) Raiders of the Lost Ark

But there's always The Labyrinth, The Goonies, Young Frankenstein, Beauty and the Beast,
Casino Royale, Arsenic and Old Lace, and just about every movie musical :)

Happy watching!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Getting rid of the white picket fence

Watch out internet...I'm about to get all thoughtful on you.  And chances it are it won't be pretty, and it most likely will not make a lot of sense, but it's Memorial Day, a day of reflection and thankfulness, so I'm doing this thing.

Today I took down my white picket fence.  Literally. The wood was rotting, the paint was chipped, and it was obvious that it was just a matter of time before my dog broke free of the yard or something bigger than a rabbit found its way on to my property.

During the demolition (which was actually pretty fun, smashing things with a sledge hammer :), I couldn't help but think that it was a bit ironic that I was officially ridding myself of something that has loaded connotations...the white picket fence, the American dream, an ideal and expectation.


I'm a single girl in her thirties, and I feel like I've been waiting a long time for my life to start.  I've been waiting to grow up because of a predetermined definition of what it means to be an adult.  Sure, the dream of the white picket fence makes me smile, and I pray to have some version of it one day, but over the last few years I've realized that I can be happy with whatever fence life gives me.  I get to decide what my future holds, where I go, who I meet, and how I spend my time.  I can sit around waiting for my white picket fence, or I can go out and build a fence of my own, or no fence, a world of endless opportunities.

So here's to being happy with what you have, blessed for the graces you've been given, and thankful for the right to choose.  And also, here's to family who will lend you their day to knock down a fence and save you $1,000.  Love you guys!

Happy Memorial Day!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Books to Movies


We're talking books to movies today! Let's face it, it's a trend in Hollywood to bring teen books to the silver screen.  What have you seen lately that you loved?  Or what do you wish they had left alone?  Join the conversation!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Bluffton

A review in 10 words (or thereabouts): A tale of growing up with Buster Keaton.

Author: Matt Phelan
Info: Candlewick Press, copyright 2013, 240 pages

In the summer of 1908, in Muskegon, Michigan, a visiting troupe of vaudeville performers is about the most exciting thing since baseball. They’re summering in nearby Bluffton, so Henry has a few months to ogle the elephant and the zebra, the tightrope walkers and — lo and behold — a slapstick actor his own age named Buster Keaton. The show folk say Buster is indestructible; his father throws him around as part of the act and the audience roars, while Buster never cracks a smile. Henry longs to learn to take a fall like Buster, "the human mop," but Buster just wants to play ball with Henry and his friends. With signature nostalgia, Scott O’Dell Award–winning graphic novelist Matt Phelan visualizes a bygone era with lustrous color, dynamic lines, and flawless dramatic pacing.

~Goodreads Description~

I wish I could go back to the days when my summers were free.  I look fondly on the times when my days were my own.  I could explore, play games, get into good-natured mischief from dusk until dawn.

Henry has an epic summer.  Not only does he get to run around his small town to his heart's content, he also gets to hang out with a troupe of performers, from comedians to acrobats, riding elephants and causing trouble.  It just so happens that one of the performers is the young and talented Buster Keaton.  He was infamous even at a young age, and his carefree personality immediately draws Henry in the summer they first arrive.  It's just that things aren't quite the same when they leave...

The artwork is fantastic, transporting you back in time to a small town and the joys of summer.  The water color approach was definitely pleasing to the eye, and the historical elements really pulled the whole story together.  This is a great read for kids and adults.


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Top Ten Books About Friendship

Top Ten Books About Friendship
(Feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish)

At first I took this list too literally and really tried to think of books specifically about friendship.  Then I got over that and realized just about every teen book deals with friendship in one fashion or another.  So I racked my brain for some titles and authors that understand the importance of a good friend.  Especially the unlikely ones...


1) Lemonade Mouth by Mark Peter Hughes

2) Two Parties, One Tux, and a Very Short Film About the Grapes of Wrath by Steven Goldman

3) Harry Potter and the... by J.K. Rowling

4) The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

5) Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

6) The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

7) Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

8) Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

9) How to Say Goodbye in Robot by Natalie Standiford

10) Heist Society by Ally Carter

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Winner's Curse

A review in 10 words (or thereabouts): Winning doesn't always get you what you want.

Author: Marie Rutkoski
Info: Farrar Straus Giroux, copyright 2014, 355 pages

As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions.

One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction. Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him—with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin.

But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined. 


~Goodreads Description~

The Awesome
Kestrel is smart.  She's, like, really smart.  She assess situations, strategizes results, and uses her cunning to keep herself safe.  Kestrel is also wickedly stubborn, unbelievable talented, and terrifyingly cunning.  She has sharp wit and fierce tongue.  Don't mess with Kestrel.

Then there's Arin.  Angry, handsome, equally stubborn Arin who wants a better life for his people, but lacks the vicious nature that would make him the leader.  Arin muddles everything up.  You want to trust him, but you don't know if you can.

I kept expecting something supernatural to happen.  I kept waiting for Kestrel to discover a power, or a dragon to sweep down from the sky...but it didn't, and that made this book especially awesome.  It almost reads like historical fiction, if you lived in this imagined land of warriors and workers.  The story rests on excellent character development and world building, not cheap tricks.

The Not So Awesome
Not applicable :)

A great read.  Really, Marie Rutkoski hit it out of the park.  The ending is espescially harsh (why oh why didn't I wait for the second to come out before tackling the first!)  If you're a fan of strong female characters, military strategy, forbidden love, and a good old fashioned duel, check out The Winner's Curse.


Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Two Boys Kissing

A review in 10 words (or thereabouts):  A story about the present told by those who came before.

Author: David Levithan
Info: Knopf Books for Young Readers, copyright 2013, 208 pages

Hub Challenge Read - #hubchallenge

New York Times  bestselling author David Levithan tells the based-on-true-events story of Harry and Craig, two 17-year-olds who are about to take part in a 32-hour marathon of kissing to set a new Guinness World Record—all of which is narrated by a Greek Chorus of the generation of gay men lost to AIDS. 

While the two increasingly dehydrated and sleep-deprived boys are locking lips, they become a focal point in the lives of other teen boys dealing with languishing long-term relationships, coming out, navigating gender identity, and falling deeper into the digital rabbit hole of gay hookup sites—all while the kissing former couple tries to figure out their own feelings for each other.

~Goodreads Description~

I'm hesitant to write this review because this is David Levithan.  I understand he is revered, admired, and adored for his writing talents.  But I'm not a David Levithan fan.  I don't know him personally, and I'd absolutely like to pick his brain.  I just don't like his books, at least his solo efforts.  And I fully accept  that I'm not really the intended audience.  I just don't fully appreciate his voice. Putting that out there...

The Not So Awesome
(Have to work backwards on this one.)  If you read my review for The Impossible Knife of Memory, you know how I feel about issue books.  This one beats you over the head.  It's most definitely a soap box book that tries so hard to be profound that it just becomes terribly obnoxious.  Again, I understand I'm not the intended audience, so much of this is lost on me.  And I know that there are teens navigating young adulthood looking for answers and understanding that can fully embrace what this book is about, but the heavy handed approach was just too much for me.

In the depths of this book are some pretty compelling stories.  Maybe a few too many stories, but compelling none the less.  Harry and Craig, former boyfriends, attempt to break the Guinness World Record for longest kiss.  Their story is one of friendship, family, and courage.  Then there is Ryan and Avery, two young men who meet at prom and are enjoying the sparks of new love.  Their story is one of acceptance, forgiveness, and trust.  Then there is Cooper, the lonely, lost teen who is looking for a way out.  His story is one of self-loathing, disillusionment, and fear.  Then there is Peter and Neil, long time boyfriends comfortable in the life they are making together.  Then there is Tariq, the victim who doesn't want to be a victim.  There are WAY too many stories!  And you don't really get to know any of the characters because the book is dominated by the narration of a Greek Chorus that attempts to be understanding and compassionate but just comes off as overwrought and overbearing.

The Awesome
There are the stories.  And that is where this book excels, and that is what made me finish.  Each story gives the reader a new perspective, a different ideal, a reason for hope.

I look forward to the day when LGBT isn't a theme.  An issue.  When a character being gay doesn't define the character.  That's one thing I really appreciated about Alaya Dawn Johnson's The Summer Prince. Love didn't know gender, and when it came to sexuality, the characters had nothing to prove.  Until that time, I'll make sure books like this are on my library's shelves.  While I didn't care for it, this is definitely a book that some of my teen patrons would enjoy and appreciate.


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

10 Books I Almost Put Down, But Didn't


Ten Books I Almost Put Down But Didn't
(Feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish)

I very rarely fail to finish a book.  I think it might be a librarian thing...plus, I like to finish what I've started.  In my older age, I've come to terms with the fact that I don't have to like every book, and life is too short to read something you don't like.  Here are a few that I really wanted to return to the library, but I didn't it.  And there were a few that I was glad I stuck with until the end.

1) Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan
My review is coming tomorrow, but I've come to realize that I'm just not a David Levithan fan. 
I know that's blasphemy for some, and while I appreciate his unique voice, it's just not for me.
This particular title made my crazy.

2) The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
So...I kind of liked the movie WAY more than I liked the book.
Everyone kept saying it would change my life...and it didn't...which made me made.

3) Juliet Immortal by Stacey Jay
Not what I expected, and definitely not my favorite retelling.

4) Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick (My review)
Say what?  No, really.  What just happened in this book?

5) Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
So boring and frustrating at the beginning, but redeemed itself in the end.

6) Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shepard
Cheesy ridiculousness.

7) The Best Night of Our (Pathetic) Life by Tara Altebrando (My review)
Awesome premise, mediocre delivery that ruined it for me.

8) Life of Pi by Yann Martel
My least favorite book.  Ever.  All a dream!  Carnivorous island inhabited by Meerkats!

9) The Chaos by Nalo Hopkinson (My review)
I didn't get it, and that made me crazy.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Q & A: We're back!


So...it's been awhile, but we're excited to be back for another video.  Fingers crossed, there will be another next week!  So what have you been up to?

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Top Ten Book Covers I'd Frame As Pieces of Art

Top Ten Book Covers I'd Frame As Pieces of Art
(Feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish)

While we're talking covers...here's one of my reading pet peeves.  What's up with changing to the style of perfectly good covers?  Book one in a series...awesome cover.  Book two?  What just happened?  Or republishing with terrible cover art so that when you purchase the series it doesn't look like a cohesive whole on your bookshelf.  Anyone else find this terribly irritating?  Geez oh pete.

Anyhoo, here are a few covers that I would most definitely frame and hang on my wall.  Some are for sentimental reasons because I heart the books sooo much.  And then there are a few that I just find fantastically amusing (Mothership :)  What's on your list?









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