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Monday, December 29, 2014

Things I've Read Recently (14)

If you're new around here or I just haven't done one in a while, Things I've Read Recently is a series of posts I do that are basically mini-reviews of books that I either forgot to review or didn't have enough to say for a full review or had to return to the library because they were overdue, that kind of thing.

Undercurrent by Paul Blackwell

Published: July 23rd, 2013 by DoubleDay Canada
Genre: YA Science-Fiction
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: I have 312 written down, but Goodreads has 320
Part of a series? Nope.
Got via: I took it out of the library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Sixteen-year-old Callum Harris never wanted to move to Crystal Falls. Neither did Cole, his brawny and fearless older brother. With the recent separation of their parents, the brothers have had quite enough change of late.

But the move turns out to be only the first of many changes in Callum's life. After he plunges headlong over the falls, he wakes up in the hospital to find that life is no longer what it once was: his squabbling parents appear to have reconciled; his brother, an unrepentant jock and serial dater, is paralyzed and bed-ridden in a makeshift hospital room at home; and even Callum himself, always studious and unpopular, is now the object of desire for the two hottest girls in school.

As he adjusts to this surreal new life--a life both exhilarating and terrifying--Callum struggles to reconcile his past memories with a dangerous and uncertain present. Who is he? Where is he? And what, exactly, has he become?

Thoughts: This isn't actually my normal sort of thing. I'm not a huge sci-fi reader (is it still cool to say sci-fi?) reader. This does lean much more to science fiction than paranormal or anything as far as I can tell. It kind of makes me think of Human.4. Not because they're super similiar in premise, but because I have read both and they would probably appeal to similar audiences. I actually bought Human.4 for my cousin last year for Christmas and this would be something I'd consider buying him, too. I do kind of wonder if the cover might turn some readers off, but eh, it's neat anyways.

Hopefully not, though because it's a good book. The premise, now that I'm thinking about books I've read, reminds me a little of Rosebush which I didn't like much but has the same wake up in the hospital not remembering things deal, only this is very much not a straight-forward mystery. I don't want to spoil the plot so that's about all I'm going to say about that. ;)

All in all, I thought the plot was cool and a little surprising considering the back didn't give away anything. I basically read it all in one sitting. It didn't amaze me for some reason that I can't really finger, but was well-written, nothing really bothered me, and I can see a lot of people liking it. This is more of a me thing than a book thing and I'd probably give it a solid three and a half. Recommend.

Let me see... what else do I wanna put here? Eh, you guys probably don't want to hear about my random Christmas books... how about this little cutie?

Queen of the World (Babymouse #1) by Jennifer Holm, illustrated by Matthew Holm

Published: December 2005 by Random House Books for Young Readers
Genre: Middle Grade Contemporary Graphic Novel
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: Goodreads says 96; I've long sinced returned the book
Part of a series? Yes, there are 18 out, and one coming out in 2015
Got via: The library again.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): It’s the same thing every day for Babymouse. Where is the glamour? The excitement? The adventure? Nothing ever changes, until... Babymouse hears about Felicia Furrypaws’s exclusive slumber party. Will Babymouse get invited? Will her best friend, Wilson, forgive her if she misses their monster movie marathon? Find out in Babymouse: Queen of the World, a graphic novel with attitude!

Thoughts: I actually got this for an ex-Storytime kid (she grew up on me!) who likes longer books, is a strong reader, but still likes pictures. She's fun :P (She's a wonderful kid, actually.) I try to always pre-read books I send home for her, so I read this, and I'm really glad I did, actually. It's really cute. I love Babymouse's little imagination tangents, and the wonderful writing, and, really, I just liked it a lot. I was very charmed, and I would readily recommend this to kids. Reluctant readers especially would probably like these, too, as would fans of pink. Also I found it a really enjoyable read. The writing was super strong, no dragging like some chapter books can do, and I really just liked it.

Hmm, what now? No, I'll put that one in a different post... oh, I know.

Heidi by Johanna Spyri

Published: It was originally published in 1889, and I'm not going into all the details.
Genre: Children's Classics/Historical I guess
Binding: Mine was an ebook
Page Count: Again, ebook. Different bindings run from 250-350 pages.
Part of a series? Not really, but there are two "sequels" that were written by one of the translators after the author's death
Got via: A free public domain copy on Amazon, which you can get here.
Or you can buy it from this Amazon listing / Book Depository (I think I have Anne of Green Gables from this collection, and how cute is that?? And it has an introduction by Eva Ibbotson! I want that!) / Indiebound

Summary (from this random goodreads copy that I thought had a cute cover): Heidi, a lively orphan girl, goes to live with her cranky grandfather in a little hut high in the Alps. Soon she is happy and healthy, leading a carefree life with her grandfather, her new friend, Peter, and the goats on the Alm.

But Heidi's happiness is short-lived when she is sent to stay with a rich city family as a companion for a sick girl, Clara. Although she grows fond of the older girl, Heidi is terribly homesick. She eventually returns to the Alps and finds happiness once again in the clean, pure natural mountain setting.

Thoughts: So I was talking about Hello Kitty one evening, as you do,, and I started thinking about the show that was on in the 90s, and looked up a couple episodes, but one that I loved as a kid was the Heidi episode, and I could not find that one to save my life. But thinking about it made me want to read Heidi, so I blew off my homework for a night, and spent an exciting Friday night reading Heidi.

I found a free copy of this on Amazon and just read it on my kindle app on my laptop. I rarely read ebooks, but this was available, and I didn't want to wait, so I read it like that, and it was fine. The Kindle App is pretty neat (and great for homework). The public domain version doesn't have any kind of photo, and the fomatting sometimes is a little wonky, but, again, free.

I owned a copy of Heidi when I was a kid, and read it several times, so this wasn't new to me. Obviously the book from 1889 is a bit dated, and it was a touch more religious than I remembered, but I enjoyed it. It was very nostaligic, and it reminded me of my childhood.

Okay, what else can I stick here... eh, let's go with this:

Don't Pigeonhole Me! by Mo Willems

Published: June 18th, 2013 by Disney Editions
Genre: Adult Non-Fiction
Binding: A giant, heavy, wonderful hardcover
Page Count: Goodreads says 288, but this is like the size of a textbook, so that's a lot of book
Part of a series? Not really.
Got via: I borrowed it from the library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): In Don't Pigeonhole Me! Two Decades of the Mo Willems Sketchbook, readers are given a rare glimpse into the mind of the man the New York Times described as "The biggest new talent to emerge thus far in the '00s." Since he was a teenager, Mo has been creating characters and scribbling ideas in the pages of sketchbooks. In the early 1990s, he started self-publishing collections of his drawings, and The Mo Willems Sketchbook was created. What began as a calling card for his work has morphed over the years from a form of therapy, to an opportunity to explore and experiment, to a gift for friends and loved ones. But these sketchbooks have always been (and continue to be) the well from which Mo draws ideas and inspiration.

Want to know where ideas come from? Look inside.

Thoughts: I love Mo Willems' books. I read them at Storytime, I give them to people, I am responsible for our library's collection because I talked so highly of them (no joke), and they just make me so happy. He's awesome.

Now, this is not a book aimed at kids, because his career is not solely about children. He's an artist, and has been for decades, so his work is not just in one genre. So you need to keep in mind that this is a book for adults. Some of it can be shared with kids, but some of it is probably not super appropriate.

However, I found it fascinating to read, and at times, absolutely hilarious. I liked the little glimpses into his life and his creative processes, and I enjoyed watching the evolution of the art. I would definitely recommend this one, and in fact, I gave it to a Storytime parent as soon as I was done it, because she loves his work, too, and I thought she'd like it.

Alrighty, that's a glimpse of what I've been reading lately!

I'm really squeezing this post in because I like to have these up on Mondays and I'm finishing it at nearly 4 in the morning (so pardon my spelling/typing - let me know if you spot typos), but posting this means I posted at least once every month of the year! That's pretty good for me, huh?

We're almost in 2015! I'm going to at the very least try and keep up that schedule of one post a month. I am in school now so that's taking a lot of time, but I will keep trying! Thanks for hanging around another year, guys!

Peace and cookies,

Monday, November 10, 2014

YA Review: An Off Year

An Off Year by Claire Zulkey

Published: August 29th, 2009 by Dutton books
Genre: Contemporary YA
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 213
Part of a series? Nope, it's a standalone.
Got via: I bought it off Amazon for like 4 dollars which was a great price for a hardcover, right???
Amazon / Book Depository / IndieBound

Summary (from goodreads): Cecily has always done everything as she was supposed to: taken the right classes, gotten the right grades, applied to the right colleges. But after a lifetime of following the rules, she surprises everyone by arriving for her freshman year of college . . . and turning around. There are infinite possibilities for Cecily's unexpected gap year. She could volunteer, or travel around the world - but, for now, Cecily is content to do absolutely nothing.

What follows is a year of snarkily observed self-doubt and self-discovery during which Cecily must ask herself, for the first time, what does she really want to do with her life?

Review: Well, I learned one thing reading this - reading 3 and a half books in a day makes my vision really bad, and I have to put my glasses on to feel halfway normal. Which has very little to do with this review besides that I look adorable right now!

Right before this, I read My Sister's Keeper and bawled like a baby through like three quarters of it, so I kind of needed something a little fluffy to make me feel better and not cry into my pillow for the rest of the night. Now, I know you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but what with the whole pink shag carpet and bunny slippers thing this has going on, I just had a feeling this one would do the job.

Which is not to say this is completely super fluffy. It does actually tackle some pretty big issues and it does it well while sometimes making things really funny. It was a good read. I had a few things that annoyed me, but for the most part, it was an enjoyable way to recover from emotional devastation.

Plot Talk: Basically, Cecily gets to college, then "Nopes" herself right out of there, goes home and spends the next year trying to figure out what she wants to do and why she "Noped" in the first place. The summary says it prettier, though.

Characters: Cecily is a really enjoyable average person. She did well in school, but didn't try especially hard as it was all just easy for her. Had a best friend and didn't try that hard at making other friends. Never made trouble. Right up until she, as previously stated, "nopes" away from college and can't explain why or what she wants to do next. She's so normal and I liked that a lot.

I actually really liked that her dad took her home when she decided it wasn't happening, that he was supportive, that when his kid did something massively out of character and then did absolutely nothing for like a month, he did make her go to therapy. I didn't like when he got really passive-aggressive about college, though.

Most of the characters were pretty solid. A lot of the book is about how people change and grow and that's neat.

PG-13 stuff: Language decently heavily, ableism, talk about sex, slutshaming, sizeism, big scary life decisions.

Cons, complaints, bad stuff, etc.: There's a fair amount of grossness about weight. At one point, Cecily's sister says she couldn't be that scared of college because she's not fat. Apparently fat girls don't go to college? At another, Cecily is "relieved that somehow my sporadic attempts at exercise were keeping me from getting fat". Because in the middle of causing chaos to your family and being a bit of a mess in general, heaven forbid you get fat! Weight loss is used twice to indicate happiness/success.

It's irritating to read that kind of stuff.

Also I didn't like the slutshaming, honestly, and I couldn't figure out why it took until page 117 to even mention that not everyone goes to college. Why was it never discussed an option that Cecily might decide that she just didn't want to go to college?

Cover comments: It's super cute. Cute bunny slippers, the carpet that actually makes an appearance in the book. It fits the book. And I like that the book is pink with white letters and when you remove the dust jacket, the book is plain white, but with pink letters on the spine. Things like that please me.

Conclusion: This is exactly the kind of book I needed. Nothing to make me cry! And I think this kind of book is really important. Too many YA books, as far as I'm concerned, TV shows, movies, they all act like college is an inevitable conclusion, and it's not.

While there were things that annoyed me, most people probably wouldn't notice them and for the most part, I enjoyed it. I especially liked that Cecily went through a year of therapy. You guys know I like therapy in books. And this one featured cognitive behavioural therapy versus talk therapy, which is what I've seen much more often.

I have not really read any New Adult, but I do like the idea of this kind of book - not just college-set romance or YA with sex or however people describe NA when they don't know what they're talking about, like me - but stuff that explores what happens after high school, what if you're scared, that kind of stuff. This is pretty darn good at filling that gap. (Heh. Gap year. Gap. Get it?)

So, I think this one will get three and a half roses from me. (Points off for slutshaming and the gross attitude about weight.)

Peace and cookies,

Monday, October 6, 2014

Things I've Read Recently (13) Older MG edition!

So if you're new around here, Things I've Read Recently is a series of blog posts I do that are basically mini-reviews for whatever reason. I think I'm scheduling this for October! It's only July! I'm actually really proud of that!

Alice Whipple, Fifth-Grade Detective by Laurie Adams and Allison Coudert

Published: 1987 by Bantom-Skylark
Genre: MG Mystery
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 102 pages
Part of a series? It's apparently the 3rd book of a 5 book series, but it functions fine as a standalone
RL: 4
Got via: I think it came from a library sale, but I'm not sure. It has library stamps, but no bar code and it doesn't have my library stamped on it
Amazon / Abebooks

Summary (from goodreads): Alice Whipple's English class essay on "My Future Career" is due tomorrow! All her friends at Miss Barton's School for Girls know exactly what they want to be when they grow up, but Alice doesn't have a clue. Finally, she decides she'll be a painter, and offers to help her art teacher, Miss Slade. One day, Alice sees the teacher doing some very suspicious things with owls, small packages, and a gold necklace. Could Miss Slade be a jewel thief? Even though her friends think she's being silly, Alice decides to investigate. And that's when Alice discovers her true career - as a world-famous detective!

Review: I decided since I had no computer again (yeah, so much fun) and I was averaging at least two books a day that I'd switch it up a little and also read some older books. So I went onto my bookshelf and since I didn't want to really bend over and dig through a bunch of books, I ended up with 4 books out of the A's and B's that fit together quite nicely into a little themed post. Neato.

Anyways, this is super cute. It is a third book, but it wasn't a big deal. Kids are great at reading random books sometimes with absolutely no respect for how a series should go (hooligans), and it doesn't rely heavily on the reader having too much knowledge of previous books.

Obviously this is dated. The idea of kids having this much freedom in New York City at the age they are is adorable. The computer Alice has and is pretty unique among her friends in having is an Apple IIe which I've never even heard of and the programs are laughably simple compared to nowadays. There are mild 'isms (although it's better than some things these days - the worst is probably using a rude word for little people/dwarfs).

But it's cute. As a kid, I loved mysteries and actually the kid I used to baby-sit would have liked this. There was a hilarious moment talking about bras and in general, it was funny. It's out of print, but as I already own it, I'll keep it, and if you ever found a cheap used copy, totally check it out if you're looking for kid books. It gets to keep its spot on my shelf.

Also I don't know if my copy like never got read or something, but it only has one due-date stamp (from August 25th, 1987!!) and our system generally stopped doing stamps around... maybe eight years ago? Anyways, my copy is like brand new. There's next to no wear and tear. So that's neat. Oh, and I think the cover's cute. It's not WOW, but it's okay and the fashion isn't terrible, plus I like that it shows a scene from the book.

The Copy Cat Mystery by Carol Adorjan

Published: February 1990 by Avon Camelot
Genre: MG Mystery
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 119
Part of a series? It's a sequel to The Cat Sitter Mystery
Got via: My library weeded it. Our weeded books get sold. I bought it.
RL: 5
Amazon / Book Depository / IndieBound / AbeBooks

Summary (from goodreads): As far as Beth Carew was concerned, this summer was a major BOMB - and it was only just getting started. First her friend Paul backed out of their pet-sitting business. Next the sweet old Goodalls next door moved away with their five cats - including Copy, Beth's favourite feline in the whole world.

And then some really creepy things started happening - strange noises in the night, toys starting up all by themselves. Not to mention the mysterious appearance of a stray that looks exactly like Copy Cat. Maybe obnoxious Tiffany Tanner was right. Maybe Mrs. Goodall was a witch who had left a ghost-cat behind to guard her house. And to Beth, that could mean only one thing - cat-astrophe!

Review: This is another cute book. Like I've said, totally loved mysteries as a kid and the animal lovers would like this. It's a little dated (check out the jeans on that cover, baha), but not too bad. It reminds me a little bit of Anastasia At Your Service (and those are all wonderful books, by the way). Beth is clever and responsible and it was an enjoyable read.

It is definitely cute and the writing is solid. I'm totally keeping this one.

(Also I totally cheated and added stuff to goodreads. I couldn't find a picture of the old cover anyways so that's why you get my very bad one. Sorry! Just had to show you those jeans!)

Just As Long As We're Together by Judy Blume

Published: 1987 by Bantam Doubleday Dell Books for Young Readers (for this edition, there are lots)
Genre: Contemporary MG
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 296
Part of a series? Yes, there's a companian novel
Got via: Garage sale, I think
RL: 4.9
Amazon / Book Depository / IndieBound

Summary (goodreads): Rachel is Stephanie's best friend. Since the second grade they have shared all their secrets, good and bad. So when Alison moves in, Stephanie hopes that the three of them can be best friends because Stephanie really likes Alison. After all, they have even more to share now, including seventh grade and Jeremy Dragon, the cutest boy in junior high.

Even though the three of them live in a quiet Connecticut neighborhood, there's a lot going on in their lives. Stephanie wishes her father didn't have to work so far from home and she worries that Rachel's talents will get in the way of their friendship. Rachel and Alison have to deal with the changes in their own lives, yet Stephanie is sure everything will work out fine - just as long as they're together.

Review: I never read this one as a kid. I read every Judy Blume book my school had, but it basically stopped buying books in 1985 (well, not really, but it sure feels that way looking back!) and I just never read this one. So I figured since I had this and the sequel and I had no computer, I'd go for it!

This was really sweet. It's Judy Blume, after all, which says a lot of what you need to know. They're classics for a reason. The things that happen in the book are very realistic. New friends, old friendships changing, parents having marriage problems.

I do think that it kind of fails on the weight front, though. Stephanie is a chubby kid. When her parents tell her they're having a "trial separation", she begins emotionally eating, sometimes to the point of feeling sick. She gains some weight. And the book does not handle it well. A kid in her class calls her "El Chunko" and her mom's response is "You have gained weight". That's not right! When your kid is being bullied, you don't side with the bully.

And then her mom puts her on a "sensible diet" which means cleaning all the cookies, chips, pretzels, etc., out of the house and gives it to Stephanie's cousin Howard. When Stephanie questions since this is about her "health", doesn't her mom care about Howard's health? Well, "Howard is as thin as a flagpole" and that is a direct quote. Later, Stephanie gets a school lunch packed by her mom made of, wait for it, a hardboiled egg and carrot sticks. Sounds incredibly healthy to me!

Need I remind you this is a 12-turning-13-year-old girl? During the book, she gets her first period. Kids going through puberty gain weight. It's normal. You know what isn't normal? Fatshaming your growing daughter and putting her on a super restricted diet.

Here's a quote that really illustrates how infuriating it is. Steph's dad has been away on business/separation in California. Steph and her brother visit him at Christmas, the first time they've seen him since Thanksgiving (American, not Canadian) when they found out that their parents had separated. This is the first day they're there.
Before we went out to dinner that night Dad looked me over and said, "Wow, Steph... you've really been putting it on."
I was hoping he would add something else. Something like, But you still look great to me! When he didn't, I said, "I haven't gained an ounce. You've just forgotten what I look like."

Way to make your daughter feel more self-conscious about her growing and changing body. Not to even mention that tons of kids gain weight right before a growth spurt.

And then when Steph does lose weight after getting her first period, she says she's not as hungry as she used to be and "Mom says my hormones are adjusting." GEE YOU THINK? But congratulations on punishing your kid for growing!

A lot of you probably think this is nitpicking, but this is a RL 4.9. That means that kids in 4th grade, 5th grade, sometimes even younger, are reading this. Those kids are entering puberty. They're most likely going to gain weight as their bodies change to an adult's. Most of them will probably have a growth spurt and as they're starting to grow so fast, they'll need to eat more and they'll probably gain weight from that. It's normal.

If they read this, are they going to come away with the message that their bodies are bad, that they're doing something wrong by eating when they're hungry? By growing? And what about the kids that don't lose weight? That can't? Should they live on carrot sticks and hardboiled eggs for the rest of their lives, never daring to think about a doughnut again, crash dieting, or be condemned to binging out of guilt after not being "good" enough at eating "right?"

The rates of eating disorders in kids are terrifying, and the ages are younger and younger. Things like that quite honestly terrify me. And ideas like this, as far as I'm concerned, don't exactly help.

I love Judy Blume. I thought this book was super sweet and very realistic. And I'll keep it, for sure, but I don't know if I'd recommend it, or, especially, give it to kids because they don't really have the capacity to realize when something like this isn't okay.

The rest of the book is somewhat dated, too. Stephanie wants a phone with a long cord for her room for her birthday. Her house doesn't have cable. "The Orient" is mentioned. Her mom "forgets" that their separation is hard on her (seriously???). Steph has an allergic reaction to a bee sting pre-book and gets 3 pills to put in a locket on a necklace. She has a poster of a young Richard Gere in her room.

Judy Blume books are always very well-loved. In my experience, by the time they're weeded, they're just falling apart. But this one does feel dated in both some of the references and the attitude to some of the issues in the book. Between all of that, I just don't think I would give this to a kid nowadays. It's really more of a nostalgic than anything. I love Judy Blume and I really thought the book was adorable and charming, but it's not... current, I guess. Now, there have been editions released in recent years and I don't know if they updated anything as I do only have my edition. OH WAIT LET ME TRY SOMETHING.

Oh, I can totally do this! Okay, hold on, my library has an ebook copy of this! Okay, the ebook that we have was only released in 2012, so that's great. Okay, I checked a bunch of things and none of them were changed, not even the Richard Gere poster (I'm having a hard time believing kids know who Richard Gere is these days). Well, now that I know that it has not been edited, then I maintain that it's dated and I would not feel comfortable recommending it to a kid this days. Shame, because I am glad I read it and I will keep it on shelves for my personal library, but not to give to kids in my care, say.

Man, this is supposed to be mini! I've had, through it, a doctor's appointment (I'm healthy! B12 deficient, apparently, so I have shiny new pills. But otherwise I'm fine. My cholesterol even went down.), went to the grocery store, got mail, ran out of notebook pages, and my pen died and I had to look through four places to find one I liked. While not wearing pants. As you do.

Moving right along!

Here's to You, Rachel Robinson by Judy Blume

Published: 1993 by Bantom Doubleday Dell Books for Young Readers
Genre: Contemporary MG
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 196 pages
Part of a series? Yeah, it's the sequel. Well, they throw around the word companian a lot, but this one is chronologically later than JALAWT
Got via: I think a yard sale, but I've had it forever so I'm not sure
RL: 4.5
Amazon / Book Depository / IndieBound

OKAY I'M TOTALLY CHEATING WITH THE COVER. My version is actually this one, with the blue cover with the three girls on it, but I can't find a decent picture of it, so I'm just going to go with something cute. And it's blue, that counts, right?

But while we're talking covers, can we talk about this one?

This kid is supposed to be like thirteen. That model looks like she's twenty five! What were they thinking? *cackles*

Summary (from... the back of the book because I like that one better than any of the goodreads ones, but they're all pretty similar): Rachel's a straight-A student, on every teacher's wish list for Natural Helpers. She practices the flute forty-five minutes a day. But she grinds her teeth at night and dreads dinnertime now that her troublemaker brother, Charles, has been expelled from boarding school and is back home, acting up to get attention from Rachel's parents.

It's the end of seventh grade and the stress of trying to be perfect is getting to Rachel. Plus she's busy dealing with her sister's acne problem, enjoying her secret crush on her brother's tutor, going on a surprise date with the gorgeous Jeremy Dragon, and keeping her friendship with Stephanie and Allison strong. Could it be that real life is much more interesting than perfect life?

Review: I find it amusing that this is on a lower reading level than the first one, but it handles a lot of much more intense things. There's underage drinking and drug use (like 14 and 15 year olds!), talking about how Accutane can cause birth defects and that, you know, pregnancy is a thing, Rachel's brother making a crack that he could be a lot worse, be a rapist or a serial killer... oh and there's an F-bomb! What a difference six years can make, huh?

I liked this one better, honestly. I think the massive amounts of anxiety Rachel was dealing with between her problem brother, being in advanced classes, extracurriculars, pushing herself to get straight A's, and just in general feeling she needed to be perfect. She grinds her teeth at night and also at one point has an episode that really reads like a panic attack. I honestly think a ton of kids these days could understand that.

But nobody ever seems to realize how stressed Rachel is. They tell her to relax, but the only techniques she has are from a Psychology Today article, and they keep pushing more and more things on her while telling her to relax. At one point, her family starts going to a family counsellor and I love therapy in books, but it's focused on Rachel's brother, really. And at the end of the book, she doesn't have new coping methods for dealing with stress. No one's said, "Hey, you okay?" Even her friends just say she's weird or not normal. She's added at least one more extracurricular for the next school year and is thinking about going for much harder school courses. The book basically ends with her running away to music camp.

It feels unfinished. And honestly, it feels like the kid's going to have a breakdown by fourteen. And she's only thirteen! That's scary and a little sad, frankly.

If this was written now, I think it'd be a much different book. As it is, JALAWT and HTYRR are very different with the six year gap between them. They don't really feel like they really match, either. While I still love Judy Blume books, and this one doesn't have the same dated references as the first, it still does seem somewhat dated. More importantly, I think these two just aren't as relevant today as others of hers can be.

Also through both of these books, there's a character they refer to as "the eighth grade slut". Really, Judy? That more than anything, I think, disappoints me. It's never corrected. The girls never think, "Hey, this is mean." Do we really need to teach kids to slut shame this young? They have the rest of their lives for that.

I will keep this and the other, but again, not one I'd recommend to kids. I also wish there had been an Allison book. This would have made a fun trilogy to have one book from each girls' POV. It's a bummer there never was.

Alright! This got long, wow! Hope you enjoyed it anyways!

Peace and cookies,

Monday, September 29, 2014

Adult Review: Kissing Games of the World

Kissing Games of the World by Sandi Kahn Shelton

Published: 2008 but my edition was 2009 by Random House
Genre: Adult... fiction? Contemporary? I personally don't think it's romance but some people have it shelved as that. Maybe Women's Fiction? I'm not good at grown up books XD
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 383 in my edition
Part of a series? No, it's a standalone.
Got via: For review, I think from the publisher. Possibly in 2009 - WAIT I'll check and see if I did an IMM... yes, I did. So January 2010. Which was, uh, four and a half years ago. Um. Sorry about that. I've been working on it!
Amazon / Book Depository / IndieBound

Summary (from goodreads): Jamie is a free-spirited artist and devoted single mom with a slightly unorthodox living situation: in exchange for free rent, she looks after the grandson of her much older landlord. But when Harris Goddard dies of a heart attack–naked and splayed out in Jamie’s bed–nobody believes that he and Jamie were just roommates.

With the rumor mill buzzing and two small children to care for, Jamie’s life is further upended when Harris’s handsome son, Nate, a charismatic jet-setting salesman, shows up unannounced at his childhood home to settle the estate and reclaim the five-year-old son he left behind.

As Jamie’s and Nate’s highly guarded worlds collide, can these two damaged souls manage to see the good in each other... and maybe more?

Review: I don't know if you've noticed, but lately, I haven't really read a lot of adult fiction. Besides that whole thing where I read several hundred picture books a year for my job, I've been going through a definite YA/MG streak, especially since I've been trying to read through my review stack. My tastes in adult books do tend to lean more romance, as well. So writing this kind of review is a little hard for me. Hang in with me, okay?

First things first, I liked it. Quite honestly, I kinda love stories with kids. I'm a little bit of a wuss that way. Blame all those romances my mom let me read while my brain was still developing or something. And kids are hard to write so they sound like actually children and not mini-adults. Definitely not an easy task.

I personally am not fond of cheating in romance. I don't really think this is strictly a romance, mind you. I think it breaks some of the "rules" of the romance genre. But the romance is a big part of the book. You're supoosed to be rooting for these two characters to be together and meanwhile he's spending the whole time cheating on his fianceé. Because he was engaged. Not that he or Jamie seemed to have any problem with that. It kinda ruins the likability of Nate, and, a little, Jamie.

The book is definitely charming, though. It has a "small town" feel. I really did like the kids. But the cheating thing turned me off the book a lot.

Plot Talk: This one's pretty simple. Grandpa dies, kid's not happy about getting stuck with the dad he doesn't know, everything explodes a little. You know, the usual. It's not action-packed or anything, but it works with the timing and feel of the book for it to be more character-driven than anything.

Characters: However, I didn't like all those characters. I liked Jamie. She had the hippy dippy artist thing going on and I liked all her little quirky art things. She was a great mom and even a great surrogate mom to Christoper, Harris' grandson/Nate's son. She was definitely a survivor and I liked that.

Nate... Nate, I did not like much. I'm not into Disappeared Dad arcs as a rule. Nate walks out of his kid's life and only comes back when he's forced to. If Harris hadn't died, he would have spent the rest of his life with no contact with his kid at all. He completely abandoned him and then basically expects to be given a medal when he comes back and uproots the kid's entire life taking him away from the only home he's ever known. And then when you get into the cheaitng thing... I just wasn't impressed.

I loved the kids best, honestly. Mostly because of the wuss thing XD I just like kids in books. But they were also very cute and added a nice sweetness to the story.

PG-13 stuff: Well, it is an adult novel. There's some language, "adult themes", sex, some ableist language. And, obviously, the infidelity.

Cons, complaints, bad stuff, etc: Well, you can tell I didn't much like the cheating. It really ruins romance for me. Who's to say in two years Nate won't "fall in love" with someone else and cheat on Jamie?? And yes, it's set up that he never really loved his fianceé or whatever, but he proposed. She expected him to be faithful, and apparently he didn't even respect her enough to give her the courtesty of keeping it in his pants! What if he'd caught something and she didn't think to get tested because she thought they were monogamous?

I also didn't like the fact that the book implied Jamie's son Arley was going to be massively malajusted because he was growing up not knowing his father. Like, single parents happen. The kids survive it. Kids don't need a mom and a dad. They need a loving family *mutters*

Cover comments: I think it's really pretty. I don't know if it really "fits" or whatever, but it's definitely pretty. The filter and the colour scheme and everything are really nice. There's also this cover which is almost the same, but slightly different and I have to say I like this one better. It's better centered and things are just arranged better. In real life, this cover is still pretty much the same colours, not quite as intense as the picture from goodreads.

Conclusion: I didn't like the cheating, obviously. I don't really like romanticized infidelity. It's just one of those things I can't get into.

But I did like the book. I liked the kids, I mostly liked the story, I liked the atmosphere. The writing was good. I loved the house, how it seemed like it had a personality of its own, how it was almost a character unto itself, it seemed at times. We definitely had our differences, but shall we say, but this was still an enjoyable read. I'm just not fond of the cheating and the Disappeared Dad arc. Three roses.

Peace and cookies,

Monday, September 22, 2014

YA Review: The Disunited States of America

The Disunited States of America by Harry Turtledove

Published: First published in 2006 by Tor Books. This review is not that late (I only started my blog in 2008!). The edition I have was published in May 2011 by Tor For Teen
Genre: YA Science Fiction
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 285 in my copy
Part of a series: Apparently it's book 4! I think they work as self-contained books, though. I certainly didn't realize until I looked it up on goodreads and saw the four, honestly
Got via: Um, it's kind of been a while and I'm not entirely sure. I think Tor might have sent it to me? I know I didn't buy it, and it was in my review stack so I'm assuming it's a review book. I can't find anything about it in my email, either. Oh, well, here's the review if you sent me this!
Amazon / Book Depository / IndieBound

Summary (from goodreads): Time travel doesn't work. You can't go backward or forward; you're stuck at "now". What you can do is travel sideways, to the same "now" in another timeline where history turned out differently.

So far, only our home timeline has figured out how to do that. We use Crosstime Traffic to conduct discreet trading operations in less advanced timelines, selling goods just a little bit better than the locals can make. It's profitable, but families who work as Time Traders have to be careful to fit in, lest the locals become suspicious.

Justin's family are Time Traders. The summer before he's due to start college, he goes with them to a different Virginia, in a timeline where the American states never became a single country, and American history has consisted of a series of small wars. Despite his unease, he accompanies Randolph Brooks, another Time Trader, on a visit to the tiny upland town of Elizabeth, Virginia. He'll only be away from his parents for a few days.

Beckie Royer thanks her stars that she's from California, the most prosperous and advanced country in North America. But just now she's in Virginia with her grandmother, who wants to revisit the tiny mountain town where she grew up. The only interesting thing there is a boy named Justin--and he'll be gone soon.

Then war between Virginia and Ohio breaks out anew. Ohio sets a tailored virus loose on Virginia. Virginia swiftly imposes a quarantine, trapping Becky and Justin and Randolph Brooks in Elizabeth. Even Crosstime Traffic can't help. All the three of them can do is watch as plague and violence take over the town.

Review: I have to say, I'm not the biggest science fiction reader. It's just not usually my thing. I don't really have a mind for science and I struggled a bit with it as a kid. And I can tell a lot of that kind of affected my experience reading thing. The kind of writing it was, and sometimes the world-building, was sometimes hard for me to get into and follow. A lot of it just wasn't my cup of tea, but sometimes it was kind of slow, too.

I do think it could be a good book for those kids who tend to skip YA, and go straight to adult ones. Knowing hooligans these days, they'd probably be better able to follow it than me!

Plot Talk: Me trying to describe the plot and world-building of this is why I don't write sci-fi. How about, especially since when I read the first few chapters of this, I was feeling gross and today I've been fighting a headache for like 6 hours, you just read the summary while I smile and nod? I used the longer, more detailed one so you could understand the world-building and everything a little better.

Characters: The book alternates between the third person POVs of Beckie and Justin. Since the book opens with Beckie, I'll start with her. Beckie is from the "alternate" world where each state is like a country. She's terrified, but she's also brave and clever and I liked her. I really liked that she didn't get whiny about being stuck in Virginia, where she definitely did not want to be, especially considering the whole war thing going on. But to be honest, sometimes she didn't sound like a teenaged girl.

The other narrating character was Justin, who came from the "home" timeline which basically seems to be, like, the 2090s of "our" world, with his mom. He was a fine character. I didn't really connect with him as much, and he maybe could have been a little deeper, but he was fine.

Most of the other characters were also fine. Nobody was amazing, but they were all interesting enough. I don't think the characters, however, were the strongest part of the book. Especially the female characters. Most of the women did very little in this book to advance the plot.

PG-13 stuff: There were a lot of adult themes. Racism, most heavily, violence, murder, gore. Being as it's a war-themed book, it's not surprising, but knowing what you're going into is good.

Cons complaints, bad stuff, etc.: I'm not super into war books, honestly. It's just not my thing at all. Sometimes it was kind of slow and sometimes the voices didn't really seem like teenagers.

And then there was this bit that I kinda just facepalmed:
"Okay, the good news is, he didn't go off somewhere and then come down with the disease. The g**sies didn't steal him, either - though right now, they're welcome to him." Mr. Brooks didn't sound as though he was joking. "The bad news is, he doesn't know one thing about what being a soldier means."
- pg. 199

Which was shortly followed by this:
He didn't really say people. The word he used was one nobody in the U.S.A. in the home timeline could say without proving he was a disgusting racist. People in the home timeline cussed a lot more casually than they did here. But words that showed you were a racist or a religious bigot or a homophobe... Nobody in the home timeline, not even people who were really racists or fanatics or homophobes, used those words in public. The taboos were different, but they were still taboos.
- pgs. 201-202 

Now the reason I censored that word up there? That word is a racial slur for Romani people. Brooks is supposed to be from the home timeline. If you're going to talk about nobody using racial slurs, maybe you shouldn't do so after having used one three pages earlier.

Also. I'm a white chick here, so I don't feel 100% comfortable talking about racism as though my opinion matters, but I can pretty well tell when things aren't quite right. And maybe if you're writing a book that focuses so heavily on racism, maybe you could, you know, have more than one character who isn't white.

And has a name. And doesn't die.

Just a thought.

Cover comments: I like the cover. It's neat and it just looks good. Eye-catching. I think kids would like it.

Conclusion: Gosh, this review sounds critical. I'm sorry! It was interesting enough. I did realize I know very little about US history, ha. (I'm not great at history in general and, you know, I'm Canadian.) I liked the idea of it. I just think the execution wasn't always the best. I did enjoy a lot of the story, but some of it was slow, and some of the bad things really made me headscratch. (We have a world free of racism and sexism and homophobia! But most of the action and plot will be driven by straight white dudes, we don't have a single POC character with a name who lives, and everyone's straight. Wtheck?)

I do, however, think there's a definite audience for this kind of book. I also thought the Reader's Guide and Discussion Questions are a nice touch. This would probably be great for those young readers who don't want to be seen reading "girly" books (and the romance is minimal) and those who need a challenge.

In the end, there were things I didn't like, but for the most part, I think I was not the right audience for this one. So I'm going to have to give this one a three, honestly.

Other Notes:

- I wrote "The Disgruntled States" THREE times and insisted that this author was actually named Henry. Twice. That's gotta be a new record for me.

Peace and cookies,

Monday, September 15, 2014

YA Review: Love You Hate You Miss You

Love You Hate You Miss You by Elizabeth Scott

Published: May 26th, 2009 by HarperTeen
Genre: Contemporary YA
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 276 pages
Part of a series? Nope
Got via: I bought it off Amazon for like 4 dollars - great deal
Amazon / Book Depository / IndieBound

Summary (from goodreads): It's been seventy-five days. Amy's sick of her parents suddenly taking an interest in her.

And she's really sick of people asking her about Julia. Julia's gone now, and she doesn't want to talk about it. They wouldn't get it, anyway. They wouldn't understand what it feels like to have your best friend ripped away from you.

They wouldn't understand what it feels like to know it's your fault.

Amy's shrink thinks it would help to start a diary. Instead, Amy starts writing letters to Julia.

But as she writes letter after letter, she begins to realize that the past wasn't as perfect as she thought it was—and the present deserves a chance too.

Review: Whooboy, this is a hard one. This is not an easy book to read. It is a very good book, but it's not an easy book. It's painful and emotional and really freaking good. I have so much trouble writing about these kinds of books because it's so hard to describe the whole emotional devastation thing.

So let's just jump into it!

Plot Talk: The summary is pretty good at describing it, really. Amy's fresh out of rehab and starts writing letters to her dead best friend. It's not an action-based plot, you know? And, no, it's not the most unique plot in the world. But I think as a character-based plot, it works well.

Characters: Speaking of characters... our main character is Amy. The book alternates between diary entries addressed at Julia and regular 1st person chapters. It makes it so it doesn't get too angry. Amy is still very broken and grieving through much of the book, but it works. Amy is not exactly likable. She's grieving and guilty and angry and sometimes she's mean. But gosh, she's a darn good character to read about. She's compelling and sympathetic (sometimes) and her voice is great.

Basically the second most important character is, obviously, Julia. She's obviously gone, but Amy is still mourning her death so strongly that she's still vivid to the point where it almost still seems like she's there. She's a tricky character since she's, you know, dead, and Amy won't hear anything bad about her. So Amy's process of grieving her, of realizing maybe she wasn't perfect, it works really well.

I did quite like the other characters, too. The thing is, the huge bad thing has already happened. So the book ends up being more about the healing and growth and the characters end up really shining. And I have to say, this is the only Elizabeth Scott book I've read so far, but I think she writes very strong characters.

Also, I really liked the romance. I loved that it was slow and gradual. They talked in a way that was wonderful and honestly, I loved the way sex was handled and talked about. Very well done, and very good romance overall.

PG-13 stuff: It's a mature book for sure. I think usually a book like this gets something like a 14+ rating when they put ages on them, but it really depends on the reader. There are definite "adult themes", language, sex is talked about a lot, there's underage drinking and drug use. Trigger warnings for non-consensual alcohol use (that's a mouthful, but basically one character turns down a guy at a party and he switched her drink with much stronger grain alcohol and she ends up in the hospital - that's actually a date rape method, by the way), suicidal thoughts, and, obviously, grief.

Cons, complaints, bad stuff, etc.: I actually don't have any? The only thing I really have is that her parents take away her cell phone and then tell her she can call if she needs anything when she goes to the movies with friends. Were payphones really that common in 2009???

But that's more silly than anything. I don't have anything else I can think of.

Cover comments: I think it's really pretty. Is it super unique? Nah, but it's pretty and it works for the book. If I saw it, I'd pick it up and at the end of things, that's what a cover is supposed to do, isn't it?

Conclusion: I have to say, the more I think about it, the more I like these sort of "after the event" type stories. Addicts aren't my favourite people to read about, honestly, and the healing journey is much more interesting to me. You guys also know I like therapy in books and this one is one of the ones that show that it might not be easy, but it can definitely help - if you want it to help. This book in general just works especially well. It reminds me somewhat of Cracked Up To Be which I loved and maybe a little of Jumping Off Swings and 34 Pieces of You both of which I liked. If you like this kind of book, basically the ones that make you cry? (And yes, I did.) You'll like this one. I very much did. Four roses.

Other Notes:

- There's a character named Caro who Amy calls Corn Syrup because of, you know, Karo Corn Syrup. Which made me realize that I don't say Karo right because every single time I read her name, I read it as Cairo, like rhymes with Pyro, not Caro. My brain is weird sometimes.

Peace and cookies,

Monday, September 8, 2014

YA Review: The Downside of Being Charlie

Actually, before you read this one, maybe hit the PG-13 section first and read the trigger warnings. Be kind to yourself, you know?

Also, if you argue with me about this by offering any kind of weight loss "advice" or diet talk - I will delete your comments without any hesitation. This isn't up for debate.

The Downside of Being Charlie by Jenny Torres Sanchez

Published: May 22nd, 2012 by Running Press Teens
Genre: Contemporary YA
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 266 pages
Part of a series? Nope
Got via: I was sent it to review
Amazon / Book Depository / IndieBound

Summary (from goodreads): Charlie is handed a crappy senior year. Despite losing thirty pounds over the summer, he still gets called “Chunks” Grisner. What’s worse, he has to share a locker with the biggest Lord of the Rings freak his school has ever seen. He also can’t figure out whether Charlotte VanderKleaton, the beautiful strawberry lip-glossed new girl, likes him the way he likes her. Oh, and then there’s his mom. She’s disappeared—again—and his dad won’t talk about it.

Somewhere between the madness, Charlie can at least find comfort in his one and only talent that just might get him out of this life-sucking place. But will he be able to hold his head above water in the meantime?

Review: This is kind of hard to write. Mostly because... I hated this book for a good hundred pages. I don't know if you know this, but for a long time, there was kind of a trend of "fat camp" or "fat kid" books where it was always FACT that the only reason that a kid was fat was because of course they ate massive amounts of junk food. Because only fat kids eat junk food. Then the fat kid would get sent away to fat camp where they'd eat meals like a half cup of cottage cheese and a lettuce leaf. Because that seems so healthy and not at all borderline-starvation and nutritionally deficent.

And, yes, you can argue that books exagerate and it was "comedy", but as a fat kid? I was literally terrified of being sent away to fat camp. So as an adult, I don't really find it that funny. Kids should not have to worry about that. Ever.

So when the book opened with Charlie having just come back from fat camp (it's called Camp Fit, but Charlie knew and we all know it was fat camp) and having lost thirty pounds, I honestly almost quit reading. Especially when the book proceeded to talk about Charlie eating huge amounts of food, because it was so exagerated, like three helpings of spaghetti followed by two of ice cream. Let's be real - almost no one eats like that. Well, I mean. I have a cousin who kinda does, but he grew literally a foot taller in a year and also was/is kind of a stoner, so he doesn't count. Plus he's not fat. The point is, fat people, on average, don't eat that different from thin people. (Citation.)

You have what seems like stereotypes about fat people stuffing themselves constantly, fat camp, Charlie calling other fat people rejects and freaks, and then the really fun part where he talks about how huge he was at 265 pounds and almost six feet and how shocked he was to be obese. (Let's not talk about how BMI means basically nothing besides how tall you are and how much you weigh. It was not invented to have anything to do with health. The guy who invented it wanted to use it to classify bodies as "normal" and "deviant". Citation. Citation 2. AND while we're at it, maybe the reason he was shocked to find out he was obese was because he had no idea what really looks like. This guy is just shy of obese. This guy is obese. So is this guy. And this guy almost is. And, surprise, THIS guy is obese.)

You really can't blame me for almost giving up, right?

And then things got a little better, by which I mean they got a lot worse for Charlie. He started gaining weight back ('cause that's what happens, almost all of the time, and those lost pounds bring friends, too - citation, citation, citation, citation, citation, citation) and finds out that, surprise, when your life is messed up, losing weight doesn't fit it. Your life is still messed up and now everyone expects the weight lost to have fixed it. Except now you have no way to cope and you have to fight your body which desperately does not want to be starved, for some reason.

And Charlie starts getting attention he doesn't know how to handle from people who used to ignore him. A lot of them aren't great people. And he doesn't know how to handle that because he's used to being invisible. Meanwhile, he's resentful of people who eat normally in front of him, especially his best friend Ahmed who's naturally skinny and eats large amounts of "junk" food without gaining weight. (Funny how that works. Isn't it.) And Charlie sometimes acts as if he's doing it on purpose, because of course it's completely inconsiderate of him to eat in front of Charlie, right? (No.)

Then stuff with his parents starts to go very badly and Charlie begins to deal with it with binging and purging. And that is realistic. Sad, obviously. But realistic. Things get worse with the parents, the eating disorder gets worse. He restricts, then binges and purges. Again, realistic. I don't have any links to the rates of eating disorders in people who used to just be dieters, but information about kids and eating disorders can be found here. Lots of good info there.

Okay, this part got really long... I should probably do the other parts.

Plot Talk: I think we got it from the rambling above, yeah?

Characters: I think you can tell from the previous few (*cough*) paragraphs that I didn't really like Charlie for a good third of the book. He was, quite honestly, kind of a jerk. He had tons of internalized fatphobia and he treated the girl he liked like such a MPDG. At one point, he even says she was supposed to "save" him. He got better as the book goes on, but it's a hard road to get there. And it takes a lot of growth.

His best friend Ahmed was cool. Way into the Rat Pack and that kind of thing. Kind of sexist/gross towards girls, though, but he gets called out on it at the end of the book. And he was a very good friend to Charlie.

Hooboy this review is long.

Okay, so. Charlotte was not my favourite character. But a lot of that is probably deliberate, I will admit, because Charlie only saw her one way with the whole MPDG thing, and it was super idolized and pretty much ignored her as a person. When she was actually allowed to have a personality with, you know, needs and emotions and thoughts, I liked her a whole lot better and she became a much stronger character.

I also really disliked his dad for a lot of the book. His dad was the one who sent Charlie to fat camp and was so food-shamey and fatphobic. He's super gross in treating Charlie like he was wrong for eating. (Newsflash, eating is not a moral act. It's not, like, cocaine or something, for crying out loud.) Literally at one point he said that Charlie needed an "intervention".

And even after Charlie lost weight (which by the way - can we talk about the fact that 30 pounds over one summer is not a healthy weight loss?? Even pro-diet/weight-loss sites like LiveStrong only recommend one to two pounds a week. I don't know about you, but I've never heard of a 30 week summer), his dad was removed, constantly gone, and it's hard for me to like someone who basically abandons his kid. He start to make progress at the end, though. And he was a good character, if he wasn't a likeable one, at least. And boy was he not likeable.

PG-13 stuff: There was a lot of language. A lot. Some underage drug use mentioned and probably some drinking, too. And the subject matter is mature, especially the descriptions of Charlie's eating disorder. They can be very graphic.

So trigger warnings for - suicide, sizeism, eating disorders, attempted non-consensual drug use, bullying, and some ableism. Oh, and emetophobia because, yeah. (If you don't know what that is, Wikipedia it.)

Cons, complaints, bad stuff, etc.: I think we got all my complaints already. Let's move on.

Cover comments: Okay, here's my thing. I actually like the cover. It's neat, lots of personality. But between the cover and the back summary, it comes off way more "quirky comedy" so to be reading along expecting that and be hit BAM in the face with the eating disorder and the rather graphic descriptions of that, it's startling for me and it could easily be very painful for someone to just stumble onto that. Especially, say, a kid who was dealing with that same kind of behaviour themselves. To just get that in your face with no warning isn't a fun experience.

I can kinda understand it, because maybe your average kid who might need this book wouldn't pick it up if it had a more serious cover, but it still just doesn't seem like it fits to me. And then to have no indication of the eating disorder? It feels somewhat irresponsible and I hope no one was hurt by it.

Conclusion: This is ridiculously long and you're probably sick of me talking, so let's try and wrap this up.

Like I said, I very much disliked the first 100 pages or so. It's really hard to like a book that spends a lot of time insulting you. And Charlie does not only talk about his own body. He talks about other fat people being losers, freaks, pathetic, etc. And it's obviously what he's feeling about himself, but that doesn't excuse that he isn't saying those things about himself. He's saying them about other people. Which include me. Fun to read that!

And the book never has one character come out and say, "Hey, Charlie, you're not a pathetic loser because you're fat. It's okay to be fat. You don't need to lose weight." And I have to wonder, what does that say to fat teenagers? Sending you away to fat camp is okay, because you obviously need to lose weight when you're fat, but when it stops working despite you not changing or when an impractical, almost impossible diet becomes too much for you to bear, don't start purging or anything. But restricting's okay!

Obviously that last bit was a little sarcastic and I don't think the author meant to send that message, but I do worry that that would be what a fat kid reading this would absorb. It would not have taken that much for someone to say that being fat is okay. (It is.) Or that, hey, you can be healthy and fat! (You can. Citation. Citation. Citation.) It's almost taken for granted that, yeah, Charlie being fat is terrible.(It's not.)

I definitely think this kind of book is important. There aren't a lot of books, as far as I know, about boys with eating disorders, and the rates are rising. But I personally would not feel comfortable recommending it when I had to struggle through the first 100 pages because they were so full of body hate and it's never negated. Even when Charlie is kinda-dating Charlotte, who's thin and conventionally attractive, there's never even a moment of, "Yeah, she thinks you're hot, dude" or anything that says "hey, it's okay that you're fat" or even "HEY fat people are worthwhile human beings and maybe you shouldn't talk about them like they're scum".

One sentence could have changed how I felt about this book a lot. But there was never that sentence. I thought the second-half was much better written, but it utterly failed in this aspect. And because of that, I can't rate this higher than two roses. And I actually really hate that because boys with eating disorders, that fat people can have eating disorders and still be fat, those are important stories. But I just can't in good faith go higher than that.

I hope you guys can understand why.

Other Notes:

- I couldn't fit it in, but this is a good post about eating while fat. And if you'd like to do more reading, this is a good place to start.

Peace and cookies,

Monday, September 1, 2014

Things I've Read Recently (12)

So if you're new around here, Things I've Read Recently is a series of blog posts I do that are basically mini-reviews for whatever reason. Right now you should be getting one on the first Monday of the month for at least three months. We'll see how I keep that up!

Heartbreak River by Tricia Mills

Published: April 16th, 2009 by Razorbill
Genre: Contemporary YA
Binding: ARC
Page Count: 248 in mine, 256 in the finished copy according to goodreads
Part of a series? Nope
Got via: I won it in a contest. I'm not that late with my reviews
Amazon / Book Depository / IndieBound

Summary (from goodreads): Alex thought she'd be spending the summer focused on her family's rafting business, burying the memories of her father's death last year, and leaving behind all the messes she made in its wake.

But when Sean returns to town, she is forced to reckon with her mixed-up crushy feelings for him - more powerful than ever before. It takes another tragedy to make Alex realize Sean has loved her, and forgiven her, all along.

Review: I hate to say it, but I wasn't wowed by this one. It was fine, but it just didn't do it for me. It was... fine. Just fine. It had some cute moments and it'd probably be a good beach read. But we just never seemed to click. I kept wanting more and it never really got there for me.

And then there were a few things that bothered me. There were a handful of cultural references that quite dated the book. It's only five years old. It shouldn't have felt as old as it did. There was some slutshaming and a couple of really gross moments of body shaming. One, calling a girl Sean might be dating a "fat ho". The girl, later in the book, is thin. So they're using that as an insult. "Fat" isn't an insult.

And then there was this lovely exchange:
I lifted my snacks. "I tend to eat when I'm upset. It's a wonder I'm not the size of Denmark by now."
"You're a long way from that."
"That's sweet of you to say, but you might want to reserve judgement until after I've scarfed all this."  
- pg. 68 of my ARC. I don't own a finished copy.
And apparently there is not one in EVERY SINGLE LIBRARY IN SASKATCHEWAN.
Anyone have one and could check that for me?

Why is it sweet for him to say she's not fat? What if he agreed, "Yeah, you're looking a little chubby lately"? Would that be an insult? In this book, apparently it is.

I know these aren't huge things to some people, but I find them thoughtless and flat-out rude. You will have fat readers. (Hi.) And now you've told them that looking like them is something insulting. It's probably not on purpose, but it is careless.

Besides really disliking that, I just didn't connect. So if you really wanna read it, go for it (although I just tried to find it on my library's website, thinking I could check an ebook version, maybe, and apparently it just doesn't exist. Not a single copy in all of Saskatchewan. What's up with that???), but honestly, I wouldn't reread it, and I might end up weeding it for the shelf space, honestly.

Oh, and trigger warning for suicide.

Scat by Carl Hiaasen

Published: 2009 by Random House
Genre: MG Contemporary, maybe a bit mystery
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 371 pages
Part of a series? No, but the four kid books he's written would make a great boxed set or combination present if you wanted to give someone a gift
Got via: I bought it locally, actually

Summary (from goodreads): Bunny Starch, the most feared biology teacher ever, is missing. She disappeared after a school field trip to Black Vine Swamp. And, to be honest, the kids in her class are relieved.

But when the principal tries to tell the students that Mrs. Starch has been called away on a "family emergency," Nick and Marta just don't buy it. No, they figure the class delinquent, Smoke, has something to do with her disappearance.

And he does! But not in the way they think. There's a lot more going on in Black Vine Swamp than any one player in this twisted tale can see. And Nick and Marta will have to reckon with an eccentric eco-avenger, a stuffed rat named Chelsea, a wannabe Texas oilman, a singing substitute teacher, and a ticked-off Florida panther before they really begin to see the big picture.

That's life in the swamp, kids.

Review: Let's get this out of the way - I've read Hoot, Flush, and now Scat (there's a sentence) and they all sort of follow the same basic formula. Big business does something for money, threatens animals, kids save the day. But it works, you know? It's funny, it tackles some big issues, they have weird, wonderful characters in a way that works amazingly well in MG and it's just good.

Scat even does something I don't usually like - it uses multiple adult POVs along with Nick's, who is the only kid POV. And it does it really well. I also loved the focus on Nick's dad being a recent amputee due to serving in Iraq. Lots of kids with military parents could probably use this.

I also really like the cover. It's bright and colourful, but simple. I think kids would love it.

Random notes I couldn't fit in:

- Mild ableism
- Do people know how hard rigging is? Like it's really dangerous. That's why you make 25 dollars an hour to do it. It always seems a little weird to me when people use oil drilling as a "get rich quick" scheme
- Also crude oil stinks so it's not the easiest thing to sneak!

True Confessions of a Heartless Girl by Martha Brooks

Published: 2002 by Groundwood Books
Genre: Contemporary YA
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 210 pages
Part of a series? Nope
Got via: It has a library stamp and the copyright date highlighted which means it had been more than 5 years since it was published when it was donated to the library. It was basically new though. But my library won't usually put in books that are over 5 years old, even if they are new

Summary (from goodreads): In the midst of a heaven-rattling summer storm a young stranger blows into a small prairie town. On the run after taking her latest boyfriend’s truck, with a pocketful of stolen money and a heart full of pain, seventeen-year-old Noreen Stall seems to invite trouble. And trouble comes soon enough as Noreen’s new mistakes trigger calamities that shake the lives of the residents of Pembina Lake: Lynda Bradley, a divorced mother and owner of a failing café who’s given up on life and love; Dolores Harper, the village elder who, in spite of her signature sweatshirt that says MEDDLING FOR JESUS, has lost her enthusiasm for helping others; and Del Armstrong, a middle-aged bachelor farmer who is still paying for the tragic events of his own seventeenth summer.

Set against the vast skies of a prairie landscape, with a rich cast of unforgettable characters and an unlikely heroine as endearing as she is tough, this affecting novel reminds readers that it’s never too late for forgiveness – and that sometimes the most unlikely messenger can deliver a small miracle.

Review: I'm kind of meh on this one. I mean, it was fine. But the problem was... it was just fine. I remember reading other books by Martha Brooks that I liked. But I just wasn't wowed. I liked how Canadian it was. There was a Co-op gas station in the town Noreen landed in! And there were a ton of POC which was awesome. Noreen's backstory was told in an interesting way.

But I think there was a little too much focus on adult POVs. I don't mind when they're well-done - and these were fine - but I think there could have been more Noreen POV, frankly. Oh, and warnings for child abuse, implied sexual assault, I guess is how I'll say it, and miscarriage.

All in all, fine book. Not one I'd reread, I think, and considering I only paid a quarter for it, I might just end up weeding this from my collection for the shelf space.

OH and this isn't the cover I have, but I couldn't find a picture online so we'll go with this one. It's close enough.

My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult

Published: 2004 by Washington Square Press
Genre: Adult Contemporary
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 423
Part of a series? Standalone
Got via: Either a library sale or a yard sale, I can't remember which. I think I got it fairly recently, though.

Summary (from goodreads): Anna is not sick, but she might as well be. By age thirteen, she has undergone countless surgeries, transfusions, and shots so that her older sister, Kate, can somehow fight the leukemia that has plagued her since childhood. The product of preimplantation genetic diagnosis, Anna was conceived as a bone marrow match for Kate -- a life and a role that she has never challenged...until now.

Like most teenagers, Anna is beginning to question who she truly is. But unlike most teenagers, she has always been defined in terms of her sister -- and so Anna makes a decision that for most would be unthinkable, a decision that will tear her family apart and have perhaps fatal consequences for the sister she loves.

Review: I knew going into this I was going to cry. And hooboy did I cry. Buckets. Very damp buckets. What I didn't expect was how much I'd like it. I knew it was going to be good, probably. I knew it had sold like six bajillion copies and the movie looked really good and friends had told me they loved Jodi Picoult, that she was one of their favourite authors. But I thought it would be, honestly, dry and kind of boring. *hides* *cough* Stephen King *cough*

Well, I was wrong. It's told in 1st person, which helps for me a lot. A lot of 3rd person novels feel a little removed to me, frankly, especially in adult books. And I can totally understand now why so many younger readers love this book. It almost reads a lot like a YA, doesn't it? Most especially Anna's chapters. The others don't, always, and it kind of illustrates how different Anna's motivations were from everyone else's and also how very young she is.

Anna is such a good thirteen year old, she really is, and I so loved her voice. I just... I wanted to wrap her in blankets and feed her soup.

I won't go into too much of Spoiler Land, but I will talk about the ending a bit. My initial thought was that I hated the ending. That it wasn't fair and it made me cry and it hurt and I didn't like it at all. Having had a little space, I still think it was fair. But there's a QandA with Jodi at the end of the book and she states that this isn't an easy book and there are no easier answers. And I think... I think that's right and I think I'm okay with that.

I'm definitely keeping this one. I'm also excited to read the other Jodi Picoult books I've bought. Love this one, seriously.

Peace and cookies,