22 October 2011

Hereafter by Tara Hudson


Truthfully, I’m about done with teen-angsty books.  And teenage romance?  Ugh.  So when someone recommended Hereafter, I wasn’t terribly excited.  But since the reviews were mixed (book reviews often recommend appropriate ages for books, but they rarely agree) I put the copy at our local library on hold.  And I’ll admit that I didn’t really pay a ton of attention to the description.

I’m glad I didn’t, because I think not knowing what I was getting into when I started the book helped a ton.  The book is told in first person by Amelia, who is a ghost.  She doesn’t remember her life at all, she just remembers her death.  Other than reliving her death as a nightmare, Amelia doesn’t have much of an existence.  Until she sees someone dying in almost the exact same way she did.  As she tries to save him, a connection is made between them, and all of a sudden, someone – the very hunky Joshua she tried to save – can see and hear her.  And the fact that he happens to be attracted to her as well is icing on the cake.  As Amelia and Joshua try to unravel the events of her life and battle Eli – the powerful ghost who seems to have all the answers to Ameila’s past – they find out all kinds of interesting secrets about the town where they live, Joshua’s family, and the bridge where they both almost perished.

I’ll admit that the book is pretty typical in its storyline – boy and girl meet, they can’t be together, they fight of the bad people, blah blah.  What takes Hereafter up a notch is that Hudson keeps the twists coming.  Though I could tell where the book would eventually end up, I truthfully didn’t have the slightest as to how it would get there.  For example (WARNING: slight spoiler alert) I knew from pretty early on that Eli was responsible for Amelia’s death, but when it came down to the how…dang dude, I did NOT see that twist coming (see, slight spoiler alert).

Back to the main reason I read the book, and that is the mixed reviews.  No, the reviews were not mixed about whether or not the book is good, they were mixed as to the age-appropriateness of the book.  In my career as a librarian, I’ve tended to err more on the safe side of things unless a book is extremely well written, or I can name at least 5 low readers who would eat it up.  And though I loved the book, I’m not sure that too many of my low readers would be able to get through it, so I’m not going to buy it for my middle school library.  I think the majority of middle school students could handle it though, despite the alcohol and mild language (which totaled much less than a typical episode of the new 90210).  And yes, anyone who loves a good romance story (ugh) that has some action and intrigue in it would love this book.

Guest Post: Into the Wild by Erin Hunter

My friend Lisa's son Michael is an absolutely avid reader (I'd put money on the fact that he reads more than I do), and since he has read the Warriors series by Erin Hunter and I haven't, I thought it would be AWESOME to have him do a guest review for me!  I was so right!  What a smart kid!

Warriors: Into the Wild
Erin Hunter
In this book, a young cat, named Rusty, is introduced to the life of a wild cat. One day, he was hunting a mouse in the woods behind his house, and runs into some of the wild cats of the forest. They offer him a place in their Clan, ThunderClan. He accepts the offer, and starts training to be a warrior. Rusty has to be an apprentice before he is a warrior. Rusty’s apprentice name was Firepaw. He doesn’t settle in quickly; a lot of the cats teased him because of his kittypet (house cat) roots. He trained hard to become a warrior with his best friend, Graypaw.  In the end, after saving kits from a rival Clan (ShadowClan; there are five Clans total: ThunderClan, WindClan, RiverClan, ShadowClan, and StarClan), Firepaw and Graypaw become warriors, and their names change to Fireheart and Graystripe. Fireheart’s first moons (months) with the Clan are full of adventure, and there is more to come in Warriors: Fire and Ice

The only book I’ve read that is similar to Warriors: Into the Wild is A Dog’s Life by Ann M. Martin. That book is about one stray dog’s journey to try to find a nice home.  I like this book (this series) because it (they) all have a sense of adventure in them. Also, the cats have problems similar to humans* (such as joining a new school, falling in love with the wrong person or being bullied by someone that should just take care of you).  However, in this book (series), I noticed a lot of mistakes. Sometimes, the wrong names were stated or paragraphs were repeated a few pages later. On the Warriors website, the author says this: Since starting the series in 2003, there have been more than forty Warriors and Seekers books, including separate story arcs, mangas, special editions, and field guides. With all of this, you can imagine how many characters and story lines there are to keep track of! While each book is carefully checked and double-checked by the author, the editors, and others, we are only human and sometimes mistakes can slip through. We love your sharp eyes and always listen when you’ve found a mistake so we can be sure to fix it for next time!*

     I would recommend this book to anyone with a taste for cats and/or adventure in 2nd grade and up.  I think any person who likes cats or adventure will really like this book. Before I read the book, I didn’t really have a taste for cats. But now, I would love to have one as a pet.

      If you are wanting to learn more about the “ Warriors “ or the author ( Erin Hunter ), go to the Warrior Website. You can also go to the  HarperCollins Website to learn more about “ Warriors: Into the Wild.

*As cited on the Warriors website.


19 October 2011

My Fair Lazy by Jen Lancaster

My Fair Lazy : One Reality Television Addict's Attempt to Discover if Not Being a Dumb Ass is the New Black, or a Culture-Up Manifesto
Jen Lancaster
New American Library

Jen, if you happen to be reading this review, I heart you, and can we please be best friends?

For the rest of you who lovingly laugh at my stupid jokes and my inability to keep my mouth shut and not say the sarcastic thing I’m thinking about the moron across the room, please go read any of Jen Lancaster’s books.  Why?  For one, she writes like I talk (only much funnier).  But there are many reasons.

First, she is the master of the footnote.  After finishing my masters, I said something along the lines of “I never want to read another footnote or annotation again!  But Lancaster taught me that footnotes can be fun!
Her sense of humor is sarcastic, pointed and, well, right.  She, like me, says the things the rest of you don’t want to say out loud but think.  She just gets paid for it.  I work for peanuts to “change the future”.  Don’t get me wrong, I love what I do, but sarcasm and middle school students make a fire-y cocktail that usually ends in tears.  But more importantly, she’s real, and her humor is real.  Her books are not fantasy, they are not science fiction, and when you read her books, there is no suspense of reality.  She writes about things that happen to all of us: getting laid off, getting fat and learning that we know nothing.

My Fair Lazy is, as the title explains, a memoir about the quest to move from reality TV to real life.  In the book she realizes that while she is a wealth of TV and movie facts, but when it comes to literature, the theater or anything non-Jersey Shore related, she’s lost.  So she sets out to better herself and its hilarious every step of the way.  While Lancaster is able to find humor in just about every situation, she is also extremely real, and that’s what makes me love her even more.  When I read about her dog getting sick, I teared up and then laughed because she then described the dog’s stench in great detail.
What makes me love her even more is the fact that she realizes how little she knows about the world and chooses to do something about it, without losing who she is.  So many people think that reality TV is real, and…I hate to burst bubbles, but…it’s not.  Reality TV stopped being real before the turn of the century.  It’s still fun to watch, and might be mildly educational (the Amazing Race teaches us about geography and various cultures, and anything on MTV teaches us about drugs and contracting STDs), but to experience life you have to live it, not watch it.  In the end, Lancaster doesn’t become a know-it-all, nor does abandon her television habits.  She just becomes a more well-rounded person.  Which, in this case, is a good thing.  If you want to read about her quest to fight the “roundness” in her life, pick up Such a Pretty Fat.  It’s amazing.

Who would I recommend this book to?  It's difficult to recommend one of Jen's books.  But her books in general?  I'd recommend to anyone who has ever wanted to make a sarcastic remark and hasn't, anyone who has ever realized that they aren't actually perfect but are willing to come to terms with it, or anyone who wants a good belly laugh when they read, I'd highly recommend this book.  And truthfully, if you can get through one of her books without laughing, I will give you $100.

If you need short little doses of hilarity, check out her blog:
It too is quite awesome (though she's working on her newest book, so lately it's been a bit slow).

07 October 2011

Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life by James Patterson

Middle School, the Worst Years of My Life
Little Brown and Company

Being a middle school librarian, I read quite a bit of middle school literature (duh).  For the most part, I enjoy it – not necessarily because the literature “speaks” to me (instert snooty book snob voice), but because when I read it I think of the students I serve who would enjoy, learn from or benefit from reading any given book*.  But I have to admit that I really don’t like reading middle-school-survival books.  As in, I kinda hate it.  Partly because the angst that most middle school students experience didn’t hit me until high school (late bloomer, what can I say), and partly because, to be honest, I’m still getting used to the wee people.  Middle school is a crazy crazy parallel universe where up is down, cool is not and nothing makes sense. Ever.

However I have loved a few middle school books – The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is one of my favorites (Mr. Alexie, feel free to send me the free, autographed copy of your book for that plug).  Since James Patterson is one of the most prolific crossover** authors out there, I figured I should give his book Middle School: the Worst Years of my Life a shot.
And it took me a month and a half to read it.  But I am so glad I did.  I wanted to give up on it multiple times, but as many of you know, once I start a book, it’s nearly impossible for me to not finish it.  I think I expected it to be more like Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Absolutely True Diary, and it’s not.  Regardless, I had to start this book three times before I finally got far enough into it for it to be worthwhile.
And it was.
Rafe Khatchadorian is a 6th grader going through a pretty rough time.  He’s not popular – in fact he only has one friend, Leo the Silent***.  In the beginning, Rafe’s story seems silly and pointless and, well, meh.  He comes across as a kid who just wants to go from a zero to popular for all the wrong reasons and in all the wrong ways.  The book starts out and Rafe hates school so he and Leo create a game – Operation R.A. F.E – that requires Rafe to break every school rule within the school year.  See?  Meh and a little silly. As the book goes along, it’s difficult to see any rhyme or reason to why Rafe keeps doing the things he’s doing – it seems so pointless and juvenile.  And it takes Patterson almost half of the book to show the reader that there is a lot more to the story that Rafe lets on.
In the end, it’s Patterson’s style that made me love the book.  As someone who works with middle school students, I can honestly say that the stuff they do makes no sense whatsoever most of the time.  Having spent the better part of my professional life surrounded by confused, horndog teenagers, I know that ninety percent of the time, their behavior is just as mysterious to them as it is to us. Patterson takes that and shows that though the kids don’t even understand why they do the things they do there’s always a reason, and that reason might not be simple, fixable or pretty.

I would recommend this book to anyone who works (or lives) with middle school students, and any middle school student.  If you’ve ever come across a kid who just doesn’t make sense, Rafe and his adventures (however misguided) and his life story make the confusing world of middle school a bit more clear.  And I beg you, even if you don’t like the beginning of the book, try to stick with it.  Rafe annoyed me to no end for the first, third/half of the book, but in the end, he makes more sense.

*if you haven’t ever tried read a book from someone else’s perspective, I highly recommend it – it gives reading a whole new twist
**Crossover meaning he/she switches between writing books for adults and YA (young adults)
***Without giving anything away, I’ll say that there are many plot twists that include Leo – the first annoyed me and the second about made me cry.