Tag: young adult

Jun 30

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Audio Books, Coming of Age, Young Adult Fiction 22

My Dearest Bookworms,

You know how I really love audio books? And how I also really love Hamilton, and by extension, Lin-Manuel Miranda? I’m actually considering writing an entire post on the subject because I haven’t been THIS fangirly since high school. Because I’m fangirling so hard, I was checking Lin-Manuel’s IMDB just to see if he’d been in stuff I’d seen without me realizing it (which yes, yes that definitely happened.) BUT THEN. I saw that he was credited as having narrated some audio books. I remember seeing Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz floating around the blogosphere and thinking that I should read it one of these days, but when I saw that LMM narrated? It jumped straight to the top of the list.

aristotleanddanteI’m just going to give you the abstract from Goodreads because I can’t form a coherent synopsis of this book:

Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.

Holy crap. Holy freaking crap, you guys. How do I love this book? Let me count the ways! First, Sáenz absolutely NAILS teenagerdom. That summertime listless boredom? It brought me back in a big way. Second, I absolutely adored these kids’ parents. They’re not perfect by any means, but both sets are so loving and compassionate. I don’t know why that struck me as so rare in a YA novel, but I wanted to give everyone a big fat hug. I can’t really tell you some of the other reasons I loved the book so so so much because they’d be spoilers, so you’re just going to have to trust me here. THEY ARE EXCELLENT REASONS.

I would have loved this book even if I’d read it with my eyeballs, but the fact that Lin-Manuel Miranda read me a story? Incredible. You guys! He casually dropped at least two mentions of Alexander Hamilton, which were written into the book and in no way referencing Hamilton the musical. It was so meta. LMM is a fantastic narrator (no surprise) and you could tell he adored the words he was reading which made it that much better. Although, he seems to adore a lot of things. Because he is basically the best humanity has to offer. Like, if aliens wanted to exterminate us? I think LMM could talk them out of it. (I pray nightly that he doesn’t end up having some hideous dark secret or massive scandal somewhere down the line, because I just don’t think I could handle having my heart broken like that. No pressure, Lin. But behave yourself… Mostly.)

Wow. It’s been a while since I’ve been this gushy about a book. Fittingly, I’m wearing a t-shirt that says “hyperbole” with an exclamation mark graphic. I am VERY EXCITED about this one. Go forth and read Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. Or have Lin-Manuel Miranda read it to you. If you ask really nicely, maybe I’ll do an interpretive dance of it for you. I hope you like tap!

Whew. Time to chat, Bookworms. What’s the last book you were ridiculously enthusiastic about? 

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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Dec 22

The Chaos Walking Trilogy by Patrick Ness

Dystopian, Science, Young Adult Fiction 19

Greetings Bookworms!

I love y’all. Have I mentioned that? I love the book blogosphere, too. It’s where I get most of my book recommendations. Sometimes it takes me a while to get around to reading something, but there are some bloggers (and generally awesome human beings) who never steer me wrong. My girl Heather at The Capricious Reader thought the Chaos Walking Trilogy by Patrick Ness was amazing and, as usual, she was right. I’m going to talk about the books The Knife of Never Letting Go, The Ask and the Answer, and Monsters of Men as a unit (a spoiler-free unit) because it’s making me think all the thoughts. This one’s for you, Ethel!

chaoswalkingWhat would you do if all your thoughts were suddenly audible? Every secret, every desire, every flash of anger and inappropriate thought broadcast for the world to hear. THAT is the world Todd Hewitt lives in. Todd is coming of age in a place called Prentisstown, a place full of angry men and their angrier Noise. All animals have Noise, too (and lemme tell you, dogs in Prentisstown think EXACTLY the way I believe actual dogs think.) One day Todd and his dog Manchee stumble across a shockingly quiet area in the swamp. With men and animals constantly broadcasting their thoughts, there’s no escape from the relentless Noise. Until now. Of course, mysterious silence comes with secrets, revelations, and the need to run for their lives.

The books themselves provide a good adventure story, great world building, and funky science fiction elements. My heart was SHATTERED several times, but I could not stop reading. I just couldn’t. There were all sorts of moral dilemmas and discussions of war, empathy, forgiveness, and the inner workings of animal minds that provide plenty for any brain to chew on. But what really blew my mind? The idea of a world where thoughts are audible. It has my mental wheels spinning and they will not stop.

heartbreakpenguin

I have uncharitable thoughts ALL THE TIME, usually in the grocery store. I don’t know what it is about shopping carts and aisles and checkout lines, but they turn my inner monologue into an aggressive, nasty place. After reading books featuring telepaths (this is the fault of Sookie Stackhouse, obviously) I’ve occasionally been extremely grateful that nobody actually can read my thoughts. The idea that EVERYONE could hear them (including Office Beagle!) was seriously disturbing.

Talk to me Bookworms. How would you feel if everyone around you knew exactly what you were thinking? How would you feel if you could hear everyone else’s thoughts? Am I the only person who turns into a raging lunatic at the grocery store?!

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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Sep 25

Banned Books Week & Diversiverse: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

Banned Books, Young Adult Fiction 27

Hey There, Bookworms!

It’s still Banned Books Week, and I’m still celebrating Diversiverse. Today’s book has popped up on the list of Top Ten Banned Books over and over again in recent years, so OF COURSE I had to find out what all the fuss was about. I picked up a copy of Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian and started reading.
BBWDiversiverse

Frankly, I’m having a heck of a time figuring out why everyone is so worked up about this book. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is the semi-autobiographical tale of Sherman Alexie’s first year in an all white high school. The main character, Arnold “Junior” Spirit, is a brilliant kid living on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Confronted with the daily frustrations of life and the limited opportunities on the reservation (and, well, an incident involving the violent flinging of a textbook) Arnold decides to leave the high school on the reservation to attend the school of a nearby farming community. I’m going to list some objections from book banners and challengers, then discuss why I think they’re wrong. Cool?

theabsolutelytruediaryofaparttimeindianObjection the First: The language in the book is rather colorful. Then again, I’ve yet to meet a 14 year old who is scandalized by profanity.

Objection the Second: Arnold has a penchant for, uh, self pleasure. But dude. He’s a 14 year old boy. That’s a pretty universal 14 year old boy experience. Virtually all the sexual encounters in this book (aside from a few fairly chaste kisses) are done solo. No underage sex. No teen pregnancy. No STDs.

Objection the Third: This book deals with racism, head on. Pretending racism doesn’t exist doesn’t make it go away. Getting inside the head of someone different than you might make a difference though.

Objection the Fourth: There’s also quite a lot of discussion of the rampant alcoholism that plagues the reservation. I don’t think anybody is really thrilled to think their kids might take up drinking at a tender age, but this book makes one of the strongest anti-alcohol cases I’ve ever read. If anything, I think it would prevent kids from touching the stuff.

In short, SERIOUSLY, YOU GUYS?! Don’t ban this book. It’s a fantastic coming-of-age story. It is tragic and heartbreaking and wonderful and difficult- just like being a teenager. It’s also got some killer illustrations which offers a little extra something to the reluctant reader crowd. Everybody likes a cartoon, I tell you! Although, maybe y’all should keep banning it. Nothing will get teenagers to read something faster than hearing adults tell them they can’t! Here’s a bio of the mastermind behind the controversy:

Sherman J. Alexie, Jr., was born in October 1966. A Spokane/Coeur d’Alene Indian, he grew up on the Spokane Indian Reservation in Wellpinit, WA, about 50 miles northwest of Spokane, WA. Alexie has published 18 books to date. Alexie is an award-winning and prolific author and occasional comedian. Much of his writing draws on his experiences as a modern Native American. Sherman’s best known works include The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, Smoke Signals, and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. He lives in Seattle, Washington.

 Let’s chat, Bookworms. You remember being a teenager, surely? Was there any activity made more appealing to you by the fact that your parents or other authority figures didn’t want you to do it? I’m curious, really, because I was really rather dull and my parents didn’t make any attempts to restrict my reading material…

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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Jul 21

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction 10

Zdravsvtvuyte Bookworms!
That was a Russian greeting, because I’m all about setting the scene, and I recently finished reading Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo. I’m not hugely into YA fiction, but I read an article on Book Riot last year and the series landed on my radar. Kit Steckliener wrote the piece, and I typically trust her opinion. I figured if anyone was going to steer me toward YA that I’d enjoy, Kit would be a good bet.

shadow-and-bone_hi-res-677x1024 Shadow and Bone is set in Ravka, which has a Russian vibe about it. The country has been divide in half by something called a Shadow Fold, which is dark and full of man-eating creatures who take large chunks out of those who would try to pass. Alina Starkov is a bit of a misfit- an orphan with no discernible talents. She’s serving in the army with her BFF (who happens to be a super handsome boy she’s a little bit in love with) when she’s required to cross the Fold. In the midst of the chaos, she busts out with some magical skills she was unaware she had, and is swept into the world of the mysterious Grisha. The Grisha are people with magical talents who get to wear these sweet robes and live in a castle. Swank digs and duds aside, Alina has to navigate this new world and, you know, try to save the world while she’s at it.

There were some elements of Shadow and Bone I really liked. I thought the whole Grisha concept was pretty cool. I don’t run into a lot with a Russian folklore twist to it (though, I really have no idea if this is based on folklore at all, being unfamiliar with Slavic mythology, but it feels sort of fairy tale-ish.) I’m down with magic. I like dark and mysterious. I like cool outfits. I wish I could keep it positive, but I had some issues with this book, too…

The way the Grisha do magic reminded me a LOT of The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss (review). Only… The Name of the Wind did it better. Plus there was a love triangle, and now that I am a grumpy, jaded old person, I have no patience of love triangles. Sadly, for me the bad outweighed the good. I don’t know if I’ll bother with the rest of the series. Sad trombone.

Tell me something, Bookworms. Have you ever run across two similar story lines but thought one was done much better than the other? 

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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Apr 24

Give Me a Head of Hair, Long, Beautiful Hair: Cress by Marissa Meyer

Fairy Tales, Young Adult Fiction 16

Hello Bookity Bookworms!

You know I dig a fractured fairy tale, right? I just finished up the latest installment of Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles by reading Cress. If you’re interested, I read and reviewed both Cinder (review) and Scarlet (review) once upon a time as well. Re-reading those posts, I don’t think they reflect how much I really enjoyed these books. I’m going to try to be better this time! Obviously, this is the third book in the series, so talking about it might be a little SPOILERY for the preceding books, and maybe a tiny bit spoilery for Cress  (but only if you can’t guess at super obvious things.) Of course, the books are all based on fairy tales, so you probably know where it’s going anyway. Still. Warning.

cressCress is a retelling of Rapunzel. Cress was born on the moon, but since the Lunars are all evil and stuff, she was sent to die when it was discovered she was a “shell” (that’s the equivalent of a Squib to you Potterheads.) Instead of being killed, Cress was raised in some creepy moon tunnels and imprisoned in a satellite when her talent for computer programming and hacking was discerned. She was stuck in the satellite (er, “tower”) and her hair grew super long. Then, you know, Cinder and Scarlet and the gang are chilling in their spaceship and decide to rescue Cress. Only, things go wrong, adventure ensues. Adventure with androids and spaceships and crashes and deserts and wicked Lunars, naturally.

I think this series is a blast- it’s a lot of fun to toy around with fairy tales and give them new life. As far as Cress goes, I liked that Meyer didn’t fixate on the whole hair thing overmuch, and used some of the elements of the Rapunzel legend that people tend to forget about. Thorne as a character reminds me a LOT of the dashing Flynn Rider (or Eugene Fitzherbert, as it were) from Disney’s Tangled. The thing is, it felt a little too borrowed maybe, because in old school Rapunzel, the handsome prince was just a plain old prince, not a bad boy gone good. That said, I still totally would have fallen for a smolder look from Thorne.

And because I’m nitpicking, Wolf’s ongoing obsession with Scarlet felt very Twilight to me— the fixation seemed a lot like the whole “imprinting” thing. Then again, wolves do have their alphas, so maybe that’s more a wolf trait than a Twilight trait? I don’t know. I’m pretty sure if it came to a wolf fight, Wolf the mutant super soldier could kick Jacob Black’s furry backside. I’m pretty stoked for the final installment, because it’s based on Snow White , and I’m anticipating the mother of all happily ever afters!

Bookworms! I must know. Anybody else out there digging The Lunar Chronicles? Do you love a good fractured fairy tale? What’s your favorite? I’m all ears! (The better to hear you with, of course.)

*If you make a purchase through this site I will receive a small commission. It will be re-invested into books, most likely, because I have a problem.*

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Sep 24

Banned Books Week 2013: Top Ten Tuesday Goes Rogue!

Banned Books, Classics, Coming of Age, Dystopian, Memoirs, Top Ten Tuesday, Young Adult Fiction 49

Howdy Bookworms!

Today is Tuesday and you know how much I love lists. I normally link up with the fantastic ladies at The Broke and the Bookish and participate in their weekly topics, but this week I’m going rogue. In honor of Banned Books Week, I’ve decided to forgo The Broke and Bookish topic this week (although they’re talking about sequels, so I encourage you to take a trip over there and check it out!) Instead, I’m going to continue my celebration of Banned Books Week and list some of my favorite banned books! Ready?!

toptentuesday

1. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. This book has been challenged for its realistic depictions of slavery and the South during the Civil War. There are absolutely elements in this book I can see making people uncomfortable- the attitudes of the characters toward black people are ugly to say the least. HOWEVER, I think it’s important to preserve that history. Understanding how such a hideous institution could have ever been considered acceptable is critical to keeping it from happening again. Sweeping an embarrassing past under the rug doesn’t do anything for anyone. PLUS, this book tells an amazing story. It would be tragic to lose that!

2. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. Ironic much? The book about the dangers of burning books is banned? Apparently at some point a school in California took offense with the language and issued a version to their students with all the “hells” and “damns” blocked out. Because, really?

3. The Color Purple by Alice Walker. This book is often challenged for a myriad of reasons. Profanity, race depiction, and homosexuality only scratch the surface. Whatever, Book Banners. The Color Purple is all kinds of awesome whether you like it or not!

The color purple is totally a metaphor. It's not like they talk about purple stuff all the time. So, if you're just like a purple enthusiast? This might disappoint you.

The color purple is totally a metaphor. It’s not like they talk about purple stuff all the time. So, if you’re just like a purple enthusiast? This might disappoint you.

4. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. The objections to Brave New World are fairly predictable. I mean, okay, so there might be rampant drug usage, casual sex, and the occasional orgy. The thing is, none of those activities are made to sound appealing in the slightest. It’s the ultimate cautionary tale. It’s the stuff dystopian nightmares are made of.

5. Forever by Judy Blume. Oh Judy Blume. How do I love thee? I’ve written before about my unabashed adoration for Are You There God? It’s Me Margaretbut Forever has had it’s share of challenges, too. It’s not surprising, really, this book is about teenagers who have S-E-X. Facts are facts, though. The average person loses his or her virginity at 17. It’s not realistic to pretend that teens in all their hormone riddled glory are all going to remain abstinent. It’s also silly to assume that every kid who reads this sort of book is going to go out and find someone to get naked with. What I love about Forever is that it’s a very realistic story of first love. They talk about the scary stuff- STDs, birth control, emotional investment. It also depicts heartbreak. Honestly, I think this book is more likely to talk teens OUT of having sex than it is to talk them INTO it. 

forever

6. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell. On the off chance you didn’t read my rant on the subject yesterday, please go have a look. Click here!

7. The Giver by Lois Lowry. Seriously, what is there to object to in this one? For heaven’s sake, they all take pills so there’s no sex, no sexual desires, no random make-out sessions- nada. It’s set in a dystopian society in which things are so tightly controlled that even color is forbidden. It’s like Pleasantville. It’s a fabulous book (better than all its sequels) and its a great challenging read for the middle school set.

8. The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls. Yes, yes. Sexual assault, casual profanity, alcoholism. I know. But really, it’s all about overcoming adversity. It has the added benefit of convincing teenagers that they don’t have it so bad. This realization may be fleeting and replaced quickly by more pressing teenage concerns, but learning to think about things from someone else’s perspective is a part of growing up. If a book can help with that? Heck yes, kids should be reading it!

glass castle

9. 1984 by George Orwell. Whaaat? A totalitarian dystopian society raising a ruckus? Why that’s unheard of! Kidding, of course. This book touches on issues of privacy, censorship, sexual repression… It’s sort of the opposite of Brave New World, but terrifying in its own way. I can see why it might freak people out, but censoring a book about censorship? Bad form!

10. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. Huck and Jim’s trick down the mighty Mississippi has landed on the banned books list a time or three. Critics cite racist overtones and language as their major objections. Language complaints cause would-be readers to miss out on one of the greatest classics in American literature, and that would be a travesty. Long live Huck Finn!

Have any of your favorites ended up on a banned list? Any of your beloved tomes being challenged? Tell me about it, Bookworms. Let’s get our rebellion on!

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Jan 02

The Fault In Our Stars (Is That We Haven't Enough Tissues) by John Green

Coming of Age, Family, Psychological, Romance, Tear Jerkers, Young Adult Fiction 33

Good Day My Dear Bookworms,

I typically don’t read a ton of young adult literature, but I’m beginning to branch out into the genre more and more. There’s some amazing stuff out there geared toward teens these days. After seeing this book on a crap ton of “Best  Books of 2012” lists, I decided to read The Fault In Our Stars by John Green.

I started reading this at 11 pm one night. I stopped reading this at 3 am that same night/morning. Why did I stop reading? Because the book was over. Quick synopsis: girl meets boy… At cancer support group meeting. Love blossoms amid oxygen tanks and prosthetic legs. They love books together and music together and fight cancer together… Even when cancer wins. So. Spoiler alert. Have like 10 boxes of tissues on hand. Seriously. I cried through 40% of this book, then I had dreams about my friends getting cancer and sleep cried. I woke up looking God-awful. Yay for vacation days! (No, I didn’t TAKE a vacation day because I looked terrible, I was already on vacation. I wouldn’t have started a book at 11 pm on a work night anyway. It’s past my bedtime, y’all!)

Star crossed teen lovers, and yet, original.

Star crossed teen lovers, and yet, original.

This was a fabulous book, but I have a couple of teeny tiny bones to pick with it. First. When I was in grade school, I went through a Lurlene McDaniel phase. In the mid nineties, Lurlene McDaniel was a staple of the school book order list. All of her books were about terminally ill teenagers. Do you know what happens to a kid who reads too many novels about terminally ill teenagers? She thinks every ache and pain is a tumor. True story. You know what freaked me out even more? The fact that I was taken for head x-rays a couple of years before the McDaniel phase. It occurred to me that they were looking for brain tumors! (Turns out the headaches were sinus headaches, but I really felt like I’d dodged a bullet there.) I am slightly concerned for impressionable young minds with higher than age appropriate reading abilities having their psyches damaged by this book. Who am I kidding? I just wanted to share that story about my hypochondria and Lurlene McDaniel. Because how often do you get to type out Lurlene? Not often enough, in my opinion.

Second bone to pick! This is a legit bone. The dialogue was witty, fast paced, and used astoundingly good vocabulary. Teenagers DO NOT talk like this. Not even the exceptionally smart ones. I was in nerd classes, I was pals with some of the exceptionally smart kids. You know what they did? They drew comics about tapeworms and wrote out song lyrics on the backs of their notebooks. They were infinitely more concerned with the art of the mix tape than with the brilliance of their favorite author. True, none of them were terminally ill, but nobody banters like the kids in this book. Nobody. However, nobody realistically banters like the characters on Gilmore Girls did, but that didn’t stop me from loving them like crazy!

If you plan to read this, have tissues on hand.

If you plan to read this, have tissues on hand.

This was truly a great read. If you are in need of a tear jerker, skip the Lifetime Original Movie and dig into this book. The dialogue, while unrealistic, is charming as heck. You’ll get attached to Hazel and Augustus and Isaac. It’s a delight. A heart-wrenching, tear-jerking delight. Read it!

Maybe it’s a girl thing, but tear jerkers… Why are they so wonderful? What about you, bookworms? Do you enjoy the occasional tear jerker, or do you hate them? Tell me about it. Let’s all gather around the box of kleenex and have us a good share session.

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