Feb 20, 2014

#HubChallenge: Maggot Moon

I'm starting off my Hub Reading Challenge! If you want to follow my progress, I'm compiling all of the entries over here and if you want to read more about the Challenge, you can do so over at The Hub.

Title: Maggot Moon
Author: Sally Gardner
Award/List: Printz Honor

This is going to sound weird, but I really wanted to read this book and get it out of the way.  I hate the word maggot.  So much.  It's bizarre.  Growing up, it was very difficult to watch Cadet Kelly when it aired (all of the time) on Disney.

Sadly, I read this as an ebook and for some reason it did not contain the illustrations that accompany the story.  I actually didn't even realize there were illustrations until I looked at the ALA description of the book.  I did enjoy the story without them, but now I'm worried that I missed a lot of insight and story. But, I did jump into this book blindly and was pleasantly surprised.

The story as I read it: Standish and his grandfather live in the lowest of the sectors of a totalitarian Motherland, just barely getting by. Oppression surrounds Standish at home, school and the playground. After being subjected to extreme violence on an almost daily basis, Standish and his grandfather take action to shine a light of truth on the Motherland's projection of reality. Soon everyone will know what's beyond the wall.

It's a story about friendship, trust, and rebellion.  Definitely worth picking up.  It was a fast read, but then again, I read it without the pictures which I'm really sad about! Has anyone read it with the pictures? AKA how it's supposed to be read? Should I stumble into a bookstore and flip through a book?

Feb 4, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Books That Will Make You Cry

How fitting that this week's Top Ten Tuesday is books that will make you cry, because I was holding back tears this morning on the commute to work.  It was only partly because the train was grossly overheated and stuffed with people refusing to acknowledge that my lap was an inappropriate place to put their foot.  I wasn't even seated.  No, I was finishing a tearjerker this morning so I will use that to start my

Top Ten Books That Will Make You Cry:

1. If I Stay, by Gayle Forman

Mia and her family are in a fatal car crash. While the rest of her family dies on impact, Mia is the only one still holding on. Mia's spirit moves outside her body, wandering the hospital where doctors struggle to save her life and watching her remaining loved ones try to cope with the huge loss.  She struggles with the decision to continue her life without her family or move on to be alongside them.  A film version is being released later this year.

2. The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green

This is the book that everyone says makes them cry.  I wanted to prove everyone wrong and not cry when I read it last year, but it was absolutely impossible.  Again, the film version is out later this year (YA lit is pretty trendy, eh?)

3. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, by JK Rowling

Dobby.  That is all.

4. Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher

Hannah committed suicide two weeks ago and left behind thirteen cassette tapes detailing the reasons why she decided to end her life. The tapes are passed from one person to another, so they can listen to what they did that resulted in her ultimate decision.

5. The Book Thief, Markus Zusak

Set during the Holocaust, Liesel shares the books she steals with her neighbors and the Jewish man her family is helping to hide.  Narrated by death, it's a very powerful book that offers a new perspective on a terrible time in history.  I know a movie was released last year (again, trend), and it is still upsetting to me to this day.

6. Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson

When my 7th grade teacher read the first page aloud to us in an effort to booktalk it, it came across as an hilarious book. And while it is humorous at times, it doesn't shield the reader from the horrific experiences Melinda goes through in one year of high school.

7. Where the Red Fern Grows, by Wilson Rawls

I read this for class in 5th grade.  I believe it's my first encounter with the phenomenon of "dogs on the cover usually die inside the book."

8. The Five People You Meet In Heaven, by Mitch Albom

I mean, this book is designed for that purpose, no?

9. Charlotte's Web, by E.B. White

The message of this book, as so delicately put by Phoebe from Friends: "The spider, she dies, she dies. She has babies and dies. It's like, you know: Hey, welcome home from the hospital. Thud."  Okay, not the message, but it definitely brings on the heartache.

10. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chobsky

I didn't actually cry the first time I read this novel.  The second time through, though, I started picking up all of the clues foreshadowing the ending and it really had an emotional impact on me.  Such a great book. 

Check out more tearjerker lists over at The Broke and the Bookish!

Jan 26, 2014

Review: Bumped

Before I get into my feelings on Megan McCafferty's dystopia Bumped, I'm working at the library right now and the teens here just taught me a neat trick. If you smash your phone's touchscreen, something many people are prone to do, you can put tape over the crack and the touchscreen will still function.  As someone who fears breaking touchscreens, this is fantastic information.

Moving along.

Bumped. A dystopia where teen pregnancy is a blessing, even encouraged by the adult population.  Why? Because due to a virus, practically no one over the age of 18 can procreate. As soon as a teen girl becomes fertile, she is to get pregnant ASAP and hand over the baby to the highest bidder. Teens are even hired as "pros" and essentially pimped out for their highly esteemed genetic qualities. Within this universe, there lies a religious community who is against this way of life, preferring their infants to be born into families. Identical twins Melody and Harmony were separated at birth, each living in a different area.  When they meet, the entire "bumping" system is set to come crashing down around them.

If I didn't already know this before, I certainly know it now. I am officially tired of the dystopia trend.  Having thoroughly enjoyed McCafferty's Jessica Darling series, I assumed that I would enjoy her dystopia.  I was wrong.

There's a chance that my overexposure to dystopias is what caused me to dislike this novel so much, especially because there are positives to consider.  For instance, the reader is immediately thrown into the universe. There's no long explanation of how the nation got to this point (as evident in dystopias like The Hunger Games and Divergent - where it's even more out of place as their first person narration should deem the background unnecessary).  Instead, the Bumped reader dives right into the strange lingo and new concepts and must fill in the blanks as they progress through the story.

Unfortunately, the plot not only tends to run in place to fill up pages, but also relies on cliche characterizations of religious people to forward the action. It was a struggle for me to get through the entire novel and I think I may just read a summary of the sequel (because even when I dislike a series book, I still need to know what happens).

If you're interested in a dystopia that focuses on reproductive rights, I would suggest that you instead try Neal Shusterman's Unwind or Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale.

Jan 17, 2014

Review: A Mango-Shaped Space

A Mango-Shaped Space, by Wendy Mass, is a title that I have consistently recommended to students but, as of December 2013, had never read myself.  I knew that it was realistic fiction about a girl who saw letters and numbers in color (synesthesia), that the novel made many people cry, and that there was a cat named Mango (three guesses as to why everyone cries; hint: my theory about books with dogs on the cover).

After recommending it so many times and consistently getting positive feedback from the readers, I decided it was time to actually read it myself. I loved it.

At the start of the novel, Mia reflects on a traumatizing third grade experience when she tried to explain the proper colors for each number to her math class.  Ridiculed by her teacher and classmates when they did not follow along, Mia was forced to keep her visions a secret. But when she starts algebra, the combination of numbers and letters makes her secret too much to bear. Mia learns that her condition has a name, synesthesia, and dives into a world of information.  Mia must balance her new appreciation of her colorful life with her classwork, friends, family, and her cat Mango, whom she believes contains a piece of her grandfather's soul, a man who had always understood her in more ways than she could have known. 

I really welcome stories that offer new perspectives.  You can never really see what another person sees, especially in Mia's case. What I enjoyed most about this novel was the emphasis on trust.  Mia experiences so much disbelief from others: her teachers, classmates, parents, even her best friend, that it's heartwarming to see her remain so trusting as she works to educate both herself and others about her condition. It's also important for the child and young adult readers to experience the distrust and teasing that Mia encounters in her quest for the truth.

I think the only aspect of the novel that bothered me was the fact that she never got caught for falsely going to acupuncture to heighten her synesthesia. If you've read it, did that bother you?

Jan 10, 2014

Happy (Belated) New Year!!

Happy New Year! I hope you're all having a great start to this year.  It's been quite an interesting start to my 2014, book wise. 

For starters, I rang in the new year in Las Vegas of all places with Britney Spears of all people (and it was no less than fantastic!) Now I know that Vegas doesn't seem like a bookish place, but for this non-gambler it was a great chance to fly through a bunch of books (reviews on those later). 

Secondly, a pipe burst above my apartment in the middle of a blizzard.  I woke up at the wonderous hour that is 5:30 a.m. to a waterfall in my bedroom, closet, and bathroom.  After moving my possessions out of harm's way, yet another waterfall burst through the ceiling just one inch from my bed.  I kid you not, I turned to my roommate, shrieked "WE HAVE TO GET EVERYTHING OUT OF HERE!," grabbed all of my Harry Potter books and ran down the hall.  Then I returned for my library books.  I think the TV was the last thing I removed.  Priorities!!

Lastly, a group of students recently noticed my Shelfari and have become obsessed with creating their own to-read-lists.  In their efforts to come up with lists, they've started a new game called "Miss P. what is this book about?" At first it was an honest attempt at creating lists, but when I kept knocking quick book talks out of the park, it became their quest to find a book I couldn't describe off the top of my head.  It's actually a lot of fun and thanks to this new game, I've added books to my list!

Now for my bookish resolutions:

1. Read more books that I'm unfamiliar with.  Last year was full of me catching up on series that I had never finished.  While I still plan on pursuing finishing various series, I want to explore more, especially in graphic novels.

2. Be better about blogging!

3. Read recommended titles faster.

4. Read at least one "adult" book a month.  Maybe.  We'll see about that.  I do love living in the world of children's and YA literature, but sometimes it's nice to know what the grown-ups are talking about. Plus,v many teens have a taste for the older books.