Recollections: Reviews by a Book Lover


Review: Fat Boy vs. the Cheerleaders

Fat Boy vs. the Cheerleaders by Geoff Herbach

Picture from goodreads

Picture from goodreads

My copy is an Advanced Reader Copy from the publisher.

What it’s about: Gabe (aka Chunk) has a rule he learned from an old woman who used to clean his house, “Better laugh than cry.” For most of high school he has pretty much lived by that rule. Someone is making fun of him for being fat? Then do a dance and make everyone laugh. But when the soda machine money (to which Gabe has given a lot of money) stops going to the band, and starts going to the cheerleaders’ dance squad, well, Gabe is done laughing. It is an all-out war between the band Geekers and anyone who gets in their way, and Gabe is the unlikely leader.
What I thought: I loved this book. I was laughing out loud throughout – which for me is always a sign of a good book. I love how much Gabe grows and changes as the story goes on. Gabe’s friends call him Chunk (yes that is a Goonies reference for all you who know great movies ) and other kids (like the Jocks) choose other words to describe Gabe’s size which are much harsher. So Gabe gets called names a lot, and with his anger over the soda pop money comes the realization he doesn’t like being called fat. Gabe is no longer laughing because the only time it’s better to laugh than cry is when you can’t do anything about it. Gabe can do something about it, and he does. He starts working out with his Grandfather (you’ll love his grandfather) and eating healthier; he isn’t going to let food and soda control him, or use it as a way to deal with how he feels. Gabe starts to take control of his life health wise. He also starts to realize he also calls people names, and maybe the jocks, cheer bitches, and Goth, may not like those names any more than he likes being called fat. As for the war over the vending machine funds, well Gabe learns what it means to be a leader. He also learns a lot about his fellow classmates and friends.
I love Fat Boy vs the Cheerleaders because I was laughing throughout, but also because I saw Gabe grow. As you read the book, you see as Gabe realizes, yes he is picked on but he is also the one who picks on others too. He just never realized he was name calling too. Gabe realizes a lot and you can’t help but cheer him on.
I highly recommend this book.

 

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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.


Review: Struck by Lightning

Struck by Lightning: The Carson Phillips Journal by Chris Colfer
Why I picked up this book: I saw a trailer for the movie and I wanted to see it. Unfortunately the theaters by me are not playing it 😦 So I did the next best thing…I went to Barnes & Noble and bought the book. Here is the movie trailer:

What it’s about: “Carson Phillips is at the bottom of the food chain in a high school filled with people he hates, stuck living with his depressed single mother in a small-minded town at the corner of nothing and nowhere. He has just one goal: escape to Northwestern University and a career as a hard-hitting journalist. His guidance counselor tells him that he needs to bolster his application by creating a literary magazine. Which means he needs submissions. From other students. Carson resorts to the only thing he can think of: blackmail.”–Jacket flyleaf. (Summary from Worldcat.org)

What I thought: I really enjoyed this book. It was a quick read for me. Carson is filled with teenage angst. He hates high school, and while he is very hard on his fellow students, you feel for him because he is stuck in a small town with its narrow view points. School isn’t a happy place for him and his home life is even worse.

The majority of the teens in this book are stereotyped…dumb jocks & stuck up cheerleaders, so you’ve been warned. While I didn’t hate high school anywhere as much as Carson does, Colfer does touch on some aspects of high school which are universal for us all. The parking lot of every high school is a dangerous place, the hallways do tend to smell, and students can be mean to those who are different. Why is Carson so different? He’s smart, and yes there are other smart students, but Carson can’t help but question things, he isn’t happy just going all with every stupid rule. He also tends to be a smart ass.

Carson wants into Northwestern more than anything else, and honestly I don’t blame him for wanting out of his town. He resorts to blackmail to get the submissions he needs for his magazine. While that isn’t the best way to get submissions, he has forced his fellow classmates to write and writing can be cathartic. I like to think that Carson may have inspired one of his fellow students in the end.

Like I said earlier I really enjoyed reading this book. Carson’s quips at his fellow students and faculty made me laugh out loud at points. It may not be the greatest work of literature, but it brought back the teenage angst of high school for me. It succeeded in making me feel for the character, and I enjoyed hearing Carson’s story. There are times when we all want to get away; when we can’t wait for the next chapter of our lives to begin. Some of us are lucky and we get out, but sometimes the obstacles can feel overwhelming. I will also say this…I wish the book ended differently. If you read the book, you’ll know why.

“Life comes at you fast. It hits you and tries to escape and be expressed in any way possible. In a way, it’s a lot like…lightning.” -Struck by Lightning


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: Looking for Alaska

Next Up:   Looking for Alaska by John Green

This is now the third book by John Green I’ve read, and my love for John Green’s work has not decreased.

I’m going to quote the goodreads summary because it sums it up really well:

Miles Halter is fascinated by famous last words and tired of his safe life at home. He leaves for boarding school to seek what the dying poet Francois Rabelais called the “Great Perhaps.” Much awaits Miles at Culver Creek, including Alaska Young. Clever, funny, screwed-up, and dead sexy, Alaska will pull Miles into her labyrinth and catapult him into the Great Perhaps.  (goodreads.com)

 

What I Thought:

I love Miles’ love for famous last quotes and his quest for the “Great Perhaps”.  Rather than being okay with the monotony of his life at home he chooses to try to find something more.  I can really respect that decision: to look for something more.  Miles makes the friends he never had before when he gets to Culver Creek.  The fact he now has friends is a big step up for Miles’ quest.  Unfortunately Miles also learns what having friends entails.  People impact each other’s lives.   Your friends help make you into who you are, and in turn you help shape your friends.  Friendship in short is an important responsibility.

The book also touches on the meaning of life.  Miles is taking a religious studies class, so this understanding of suffering, life, and what happens when we die, all comes from the perspective of many different religions.  I enjoyed looking at the question of life’s meaning through this perspective versus one narrow religious view.

 

I look forward to reading more of John Green’s books in the future.