Recollections: Reviews by a Book Lover


Review: Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

Me and Earl

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
By Jesse Andrews

 

What it’s about: Greg Gaines is just trying to get through high school by flying under the radar. Earl Jackson is Greg’s only friend (although he prefers to refer to him as a coworker), and together they make movies they never let anyone else watch. Greg is very satisfied with the way his senior of high school is going, he has no real friends but he is friendly to everyone and therefore no one actively dislikes him or makes fun of him. But as mothers will often do, Greg’s mother puts a kink in his high school plans to have no friends. A girl Greg knew in middle school (and kind of dated but didn’t because his intention in talking to her had been to make another girl jealous) is diagnosed with leukemia. Greg’s mom tells him he has to hang out with her because he was so good at making her laugh when they used to hangout.

 

What I thought: Greg tells you right away that this book is not a romance nor is it a book in which he learns some great life lesson from hanging out with the dying girl. I appreciated the honesty. And he is honest about it not being a romance. Whether he learned anything from it is up for debate. Greg visits Rachel and tries to cheer her up. Sometimes his attempts are successful, other times they’re not. Then one day Earl brings some of their movies to the hospital for Rachel to watch. Greg is extremely annoyed with him, but Earl puts him in his place. Rachel’s cancer seems to hit Earl harder and in a different way than it affects Greg. Despite what Greg thinks Rachel loves the movies and so Earl brings her different ones to watch. She respects that Greg doesn’t want anyone to see them and she never shows anyone. Greg has no real plans for his future. He avoids the topic of college with his parents, saying he would just go to Pitt. He’s grades end up suffering though because of the time he is spending with Rachel, and also because of how his mother ruined his life (that’s all I’ll say because I don’t want to ruin it for you). Rachel wants Greg to apply to film school, he thinks it’s a terrible idea, but maybe in the end Greg did learn something from his time with Rachel.

 

I highly recommend Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. I’ve heard if you like The Fault in our Stars than read this when I’ve read stuff about Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. While I think those who love TFIOS will love this book as well, it isn’t exactly like TFIOS.

 

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Let’s Get Graphic

I’ve been reading a lot of graphic novels lately.  Here are some short reviews of my favorites:

 

Friends

Friends with Boys by Faith Erin Hicks

Maggie is about to start high school after being homeschooled her whole life.  Maggie’s mom left her and her three brothers and nothing has been the same since.  Maggie’s brothers have been her only friends until she meets Alistair and Lucy. 

I love this book because it’s all about friendship, growing up, learning to forgive and move on.  I almost forgot to mention, Maggie is haunted.  While trying to deal with her brothers and her new friends, she is also trying to figure why she is being haunted and how she can help the ghost. 

 

Page

Page by Paige by Laura Lee Gulledge

Paige Turner just moved to New York.  She is trying to adjust to the big city while making friends and her sketchbook is helping her do just that.

This is a great book because Paige is in her head so much, and her sketchbook helps her get it all out there.  She learns to open up and share her sketchbook and thoughts/feelings with others.   It’s about finding yourself and learning to be comfortable enough with that self to share it with the world. 

 

 Will

Will & Whit by Laura Lee Gulledge

Will lost her parents in an accident and now she lives with her aunt.  She has two best friends and loves to make lamps.  She is also afraid of the dark. 

Will’s lamps help her deal with her fear of the dark, but she hasn’t come to terms with the loss of her family.  She tries to avoid it, but when a storm knocks out all the power in town, Will can’t hide from the dark anymore.  This is a story about coming to terms with loss and your fears.  Will is lucky because she has her friends to help her. 

 

Amulet

Amulet Volume 1: The Stonekeeper by Kazu Kibuishi

Emily and Navin move into their great-grandfather’s house with their mother after their father dies.  However, this house proves to have dangerous secrets and soon Emily and Navin are on journey to save their mother after she is taken by monsters to an underground world.  Soon siblings meet others and find allies. 

I love the storyline and the characters are great.  I love Miskit the mechanical rabbit, and all the other friends Emily and Navin make along the way.  Emily lost her father, but she isn’t going to let her mother be taken away from her.  She will do anything to protect what is left of her family, something we can all relate to.

 

 

Astonishing X-Men (volumes 1-9) 

The first four volumes were written by Joss Whedon, and I loved them.  The story arc was fantastic.  Cyclops and Emma Frost have reformed the X-men, but something threatens the existence of mutants, and it is up to them to stop it.  Out of the 9 volumes I’ve read so far this was my favorite story arc.  The other arcs include ghost boxes, parallel universes, the brood, and Monster Island.  Some arcs are better than others, but all have kept me reading. 

 

The artwork in all these graphic novels is amazing.  Gulledge’s art is black and white (which I normal don’t care for, I love color!), but she is such a great artist I hardly notice the absence of color.  The X-men volumes have different artists and writers, some artists are better than others.  A few of the volumes felt a little dark, and I didn’t like how some of the artists drew certain characters. 


Review: Catch & Release

catch

Catch & Release by Blyth Woolston

What it is about:  Polly Furnas had The Plan for the future. Get married to Bridger Morgan, for one. College, career, babies. Etc. All the important choices were made.  It was all happily-ever-after as a diamond-ring commercial.  But The Plan did not include a lethal drug-resistant infection. It did not include “some more reconstruction and scar revision in the future.” And it certainly did not include Odd Estes, a trip to Portland in an ancient Cadillac to “tear Bridger a new one,” fly fishing, marshmallows, Crisco, or a loaded gun.  But plans change. Stories get revised and new choices must be made.

Polly and Odd have choices: Survival or not. Catch or release.  (Summary from Goodreads.com)

What I thought:  This book got really good reviews on the book blogs I read when it first came out (2012), and I had been planning on reading it but things kept getting in the way.  I finally picked it up when it turned up on a list at my library of books which have never circulated.  And I’m really glad I did.  This is one of the best books I’ve read this year.

Polly and Odd are suffering from loss.  They are mourning.  It’s not just the physical loss of Polly’s eye or Odd’s leg.  It’s also the loss of the futures they had planned out.  When you expect your life to go one way, and everything changes you have to say goodbye to the life you imagined.  It is a real loss and it hurts to have to give up the future you dreamed of.

Polly thinks Odd is the one with the problems but her road trip with him forces her to come to realizations about herself.  In the end the road trip with Odd was the best thing for Polly.  It forces her to confront her loss, both physical and emotional, and start to move on.  Odd pushes Polly but it is because he sees what’s going on with her better than she does.  And Odd is working through his own stuff too.

I was worried about the fact Polly and Odd are going on a fishing trip.  I don’t have any interest in fishing and was afraid it could get boring.  This book is so much more than fishing though.  It uses the metaphor of catch and release (a great one I may add), and Polly does fish, but you won’t get bogged down in the fishing aspect.

And what’s more….this isn’t a love story.  Yes, it is about a guy and a girl who go on a fishing trip turned road trip together.  Yes, Polly learns to like Odd and gets to know and understand him better by the end.  But this is NOT a love story.   They don’t fall in love, they never kiss, nothing, because it is about so much more than love.  It is about acceptance.  Learning to accept what has happened to you and learning to move on and build a new future for yourself.  The old future may be gone, but you can create a new and better future.

I recommend picking up a copy of Catch & Release.


Review: Doll Bones by Holly Black

Doll Bones

Doll Bones by Holly Black

What it’s about:  Poppy, Zach, and Alice have been friends forever, and for almost as long they have been playing a continuous game with pirates, mermaids, and the Queen.  One day everything changes when Zach has to give up playing the game, but he doesn’t explain to Poppy and Alice why he has to stop.  Poppy and Alice are afraid Zach is moving on from them.  Then one night Poppy tells Zach and Alice the Queen (a bone china doll) is actually made from the bones of a little girl, and now her ghost is haunting Poppy.  Poppy tells them they have to go on a quest to find the girl’s grave and put her spirit to rest.

What I thought:  Everyone loves a quest, and everyone understands a quest.  So I understood why Poppy had to do this, and why despite the trouble they could get in Alice and Zach decided to go with her. Like all quests, things don’t go according to plan.  Thus a lot of adventure occurs as they try to find the grave.  But I’m not going to talk about that because you have to go on their adventure yourself.

Is the doll really haunting Poppy?  That’s something you will have to decide for yourself in the end.  I’d like to believe the ghost was real.  Don’t worry Holly Black does a great job in providing just enough creepy, it isn’t too much to really scare kids but it’s enough to give you goose bumps.

I really liked Doll Bones because besides the creepy it also addresses growing up.  How everything changes, not just physically but emotionally and mentally.  How sometimes we feel like our friends are changing and we are going to be left behind.  It’s hard to watch the people you have known all your life change, but it’s not necessarily bad.  We all grow up but that doesn’t mean we have to grow apart or that we have to stop playing.


Audiobook Review: An Abundance of Katherines

Image

An Abundance of Katherines

By John Green

What it’s about:  When it comes to relationships, Colin Singleton’s type happens to be girls named Katherine. And when it comes to girls named Katherine, Colin is always getting dumped. Nineteen times, to be exact.

On a road trip miles from home, this anagram-happy, washed-up child prodigy has ten thousand dollars in his pocket, a bloodthirsty feral hog on his trail, and an overweight, Judge Judy-loving best friend riding shotgun–but no Katherines. Colin is on a mission to prove The Theorem of Underlying Katherine Predictability, which he hopes will predict the future of any relationship, avenge Dumpees everywhere, and finally win him the girl. Love, friendship, and a dead Austro-Hungarian archduke add up to surprising and heart-changing conclusions in this ingeniously layered comic novel about reinventing oneself. (Summary from Goodreads.com)

What I Thought:  I didn’t actually read this book; rather I listened to the audiobook.  I really enjoyed this book.  It made me laugh out loud several times.  Colin is a child prodigy with no hope of becoming a genius who has just been dumped by the 19th girl named Katherine, so he is whiney.  And can you blame him?  A washed up child prodigy who has just been dumped being annoying…expected.  So while others have complained about how much they hate Colin, I don’t hate him.  He is smart, he can’t help that he is going to have annoyingly smart tendencies, and he has been dumped so he is sad and moody.  I have to say I’m sorry I didn’t read the book because the book has graphs and footnotes, so I’m sorry I missed out on the fun formatting. 

As far as the audio went: I loved the narrator!  He had amazing voices for each character.  I’ve had negative experiences in the past with audiobooks putting me to sleep, but that was not the case with An Abundance of Katherines

I love John Green’s humor, and I was not disappointed by this book. 


Review: Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares

DashDash & Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan

What it is about:  Lily has left a red notebook full of challenges on a favorite bookstore shelf, waiting for just the right guy to come along and accept its dares. But is Dash that right guy? Or are Dash and Lily only destined to trade dares, dreams, and desires in the notebook they pass back and forth at locations across New York? Could their in-person selves possibly connect as well as their notebook versions? Or will they be a comic mismatch of disastrous proportions?
Rachel Cohn and David Levithan have written a love story that will have readers perusing bookstore shelves, looking and longing for a love (and a red notebook) of their own. (Summary from Goodreads.com).

What I Liked:

Lily and Dash are two very different people. They meet because of the red moleskin notebook.  Dash decides to see where the notebook will lead him, and in turn he makes the writer of the notebook go on an adventure too.  Lily and Dash are both alone for the holidays, because their parents have gone away (yes the convenient no parental figures around so you can get away with things you normally wouldn’t is in effect).  I like how both Lily and Dash take a chance on a stranger.  Lily does have precautions put in place though by having Dash hand off the notebook to a family member, so they know Dash is a teenage boy.

Dash & Lily’s adventure starts off when the red moleskin notebook is left on a shelf in the Strand.  I’m not going to lie here, the main reason I wanted to read Dash & Lily was because I knew the Strand played a part in the book.  Have you ever been to the Strand?  If you answered no to the previous question, are a lover of books, and live anywhere near NYC, then you need to make visiting the Strand a must!  The Strand is pure booklover bliss.

This book takes place over Dash & Lily’s Christmas break.  It was recommended I read it around that time of year, so I started it a few days before Christmas and finished it around New Years.  I discovered this really is the best time to read the book!  You’re in the Christmas mood, Lily is in the Christmas mood, and Dash, well, Dash can’t wait for the Christmas season to end.

 

 


Review: Diary of a Wimpy Kid

Picture from Goodreads.com

Picture from Goodreads.com

Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney

As I’ve mentioned before I was temping in the children’s department of my local library.  While there I was able to read some picture books, and some juvenile fiction.  Since Diary of a Wimpy Kid has been the rage for a while I figured it was time I read the first in the series.

What it is about:  Middle school for Greg Heffley has its twists and turns.  In this novel we follow Greg through his mishaps and adventures as he writes in his diary.  We learn about the cheese touch, how Greg feels about his family, and friends, and how he deals with middle school.

What I like:  Diary of a Wimpy Kid is full of funny boy humor.  Will girls get a kick out of it too? Of course! We all lived through middle school, or are currently navigating through it, and therefore we can relate.  Greg makes some pretty terrible decisions, and is often very selfish in his actions.  While Greg may think he has gotten away with something, he soon gets bite in the butt for his choices.  There are tons of drawings to compliment the storyline, and these are also hilarious.

If you are currently in middle school, or just what to remember trying to navigate life while that age, then I recommend you pick up Diary of a Wimpy Kid.


Let’s Get Graphic! Zita the Spacegirl and Legends of Zita

Review: Zita the Spacegirl and Legends of Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke

I have wanted to read Zita since I saw its sequel in a webinar a while back.  I finally got around to it while temping in the children’s department of a local library.

 

Zita1What it’s about:  One day while playing in the woods with her friend Joseph, Zita comes across an object in what appears to be a meteoroid crater.  Naturally Zita has to push the big red button (even though we all know not to hit the big red button!).  A portal is opened and Joseph gets sucked through.  Zita then pushes the button again in order to rescue Joseph.  Thus begins Zita’s adventures in space, which then continue on in the Legends of Zita.

What I liked:  Zita is scared to death to push the red button again, but she does so in order to save Joseph.  Once she lands on the planet, Zita does everything to find Joseph and refuses to leave until she has rescued him.  Along the way Zita makes some friends.  Strong Strong, One, Mouse and Randy are fiercely loyal to Zita, and help her in her quest to find Joseph.  The group looks after one another and Zita saves them as much as they save her.  Do they become loyal friends unrealistically fast? Yes, but I’m okay with that because it’s a cute story which shows the importance of friendship.  I love Zita because she fights for her friends and for what she believes is right.  She is scared and in a strange place filled with strange creatures, and yet she doesn’t give up on her friend. Zita2

Zita’s adventures are far from over at the end of Legends of Zita.  I for one will definitely be getting the next book when it comes out.  If you love graphic novels, and are looking for a cute strong, with a loveable group of characters then check out Zita the Spacegirl.

 


Review: Wonder

Wonder by R. J. Palacio

What it’s about:  Middle school is hard for every kid, but for Auggie, who is about to attend school for the first time, middle school will an even greater challenge.  Auggie has had a facial deformity since he was born.  While he has undergone many surgeries his face still doesn’t look like your average face.  As Auggie puts it “I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.”  Other than his facial deformity Auggie is an ordinary kid, he has no learning disabilities or special needs.  But can he convince the other kids in school that he is just like them?

What I Like:  This really is a heartwarming story.  Auggie is a very likeable character, and you feel for what he has to go through.  It is amazing how accepting and understanding Auggie is, especially given all he has been through.  Let’s be honest though, almost all of us have gone to middle school, and it is no picnic even when you look like everyone else.  Kids can be cruel.  There are those who are more accepting, so I believe Auggie would have friends.  I also believe other kids would be cruel to Auggie and his friends.  And it isn’t just the kids, but Wonder proves that some parents can be just as ignorant.

I like how the book changes character point of views with each part.  It is nice to see how his sister Via feels, because while she loves her brother it would be a difficult situation for her too.   We also get to see why those who befriend Auggie do so.

 

People fear what they are scared of, and people who look or act different scare people.  Sadly this is a fact which will not change anytime soon.  Those who are willing to look past Auggie’s looks are rewarded with getting know a great kid.

I really enjoyed this story.  I just wish kids really would learn to look past how someone looks and get to know them for who they are.  But like how we judge books by their covers, we also judge people by how they look.  Wonder teaches us that we must be tolerant of those who are different and teach our children to be accepting also.


Review: Edgewood by Karen McQuestion

Edgewood by Karen McQuestion

I’m going to start off this review by letting you know I received my copy of Edgewood through a GoodReads First Reads giveaway.

 

What’s it about:  The night Russ Becker witnesses a strange astronomical event, his world changes forever. Before long Russ discovers he’s developed incredible superpowers, and he’s not the only one. Three other young people—beautiful Mallory, arrogant Jameson, and mysterious Nadia—have had the same experience and all of them now have powers of their own.  At first the four relish their newfound gifts, but things become serious when they learn they are being hunted by an organization that wants them for its own nefarious purposes. When Russ’s family is threatened, he’s forced into action. What transpires will change all of them in ways they never imagined. (Summary from goodreads.com)

 

What I Liked:  I love the idea of teens with superpowers. (I want superpowers!).   I like how they developed the powers due to an astronomical event, and I love how all their superpowers are connected to energy in some way.  This fact lends some stability to how the event affected all of them, and why it can differ but still be similar.  I also love Russ Becker’s voice.  While there were times where I didn’t necessary feel some of his lines fit a teenage boy, he did feel authentic overall.  I will mention there were times when I got really frustrated with Russ and the choices he was making.  He did not seem to understand the dangers involved in telling others about his powers in the beginning, and even after being warned he made some poor decisions.

For me Edgewood was a page turner, and I look forward to reading the sequel.  There are questions left open for the sequel, which I look forward to finding out the answers to.  Also a romance seems to be budding, so those of you who love a little romance thrown in, have no fear.  Although the romance isn’t really in the first book, I think (hope) the second will capture it more.