Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Into The Wild Nerd Yonder

Into The Wild Nerd Yonder, Julie Halpern
At 5:30 this Saturday, I walked upstairs and asked the Dude "How do you know when a book was great?" He smirked at me and answered "I'm guessing it's when you just read the whole thing in two hours." He was right. I sat down Saturday afternoon with Into the Wild Nerd Yonder, not knowing what to expect, and was immediately drawn in. The book chronicles' Jessie's sophomore year of high school, when the two best friends she has had since she was a toddler decide they want to become punks and Jessie isn't sure where she fits in any more. Based on that sentence, I'm sure you can tell that this could be just another teen coming of age story, but Julie's character is so clever, funny, and real that it loses any concerns about being cheesy. It is made stronger by the great supporting cast, including her older brother Barrett and her quirky parents. Jessie is smart and enjoys school, but worries about being nerdy, something I could definitely relate to. Is it better to be lonely and unlabeled or throw yourself in with a fun group that others call nerdy? I absolutely adored this book as it is just plain fun. I'll definitely be looking into Halpern's other novels even as I'm busy harassing all of you to read this book!

Borrowed from the library

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Have You Ever Wondered?

The Guinea Pig Diaries, AJ Jacobs
Since I really enjoyed AJ Jacobs' previous books, The Know-It-All and The Year of Living Biblically, I was really looking forward to The Guinea Pig Diaries. Unfortunately it didn't live up to all of my expectations. Unlike the previous books, this is a compilation of shorter experiences and experiments Jacobs has undertaken over the years. I missed the depth Jacobs reached in his other books, which took a year or more. That said, I still enjoyed The Guinea Pig Diaries, whose chapters ranged from the cringe inducing (his experiment with Radical Honesty), to the thought provoking (a piece on nude photos) and all the way to the humorous (his month doing everything his wife asked). If you haven't read his other books yet, I'd recommend those first. If you have, check this out from the library but don't spend your hard earned cash.

Borrowed from the library

Friday, June 24, 2011

Save the Library

Behind every bill and budget decision is a lobbying campaign. Some are richly funded and others are grassroots and led by just a few people who are most affected. I think this one proves that how much money you have doesn't guarantee how effective you are; after all, who can resist a child whose threat is "or else"?

Save the Library!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Unexpected Heroines

Among Others, Jo Walton
I decided to read Among Others after about the third time I saw it on a "must read" list, and I agree completely with its inclusion. Among Others is a haunting young adult fantasy/science fiction book which will appeal even to those who aren't as interested in genre books. It tells the story of Mori, whose backstory is revealed slowly throughout the book. She lives in what appears at first to be standard 1979 England but turns out to be a much more deeply inhabited world, shared with fairies and witches. The world is described so well that I was surprised to find myself in Houston sun and not in rainy Wales when I finished. Mori is a fanatical reader, which I loved seeing in a fictional character. I also enjoyed the way she could be an extremely strong and mature character yet still dealt with many of the everyday social concerns of the average teenage girl. I cannot recommend this book strongly enough due to its nuanced characters and broad appeal.

Purchased for Kindle

The False Princess, Eilis O'Neal
This young adult novel generated a lot of buzz and it's easy to see why. The story is a familiar one: a young woman who, at 16, learns that she is not the princess she was raised as but a changeling brought in to subvert a prophecy. Sinda is thrust into a new life as a peasant, but she soon finds that even though she isn't a princess, she is still special. She has to try to learn where she fits in, which is not an easy task. It's rare for me to recommend this, but I think this is a book that could have a great sequel. That said, the book stands wonderfully on its own and should appeal to adults of all ages.

Borrowed from the library

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

An Adult's Book

The Children's Book, A. S. Byatt
At 896 pages, this may be titled The Children's Book but not many children could read it. The title refers to books that Olive Wellwood, an author of children's fairy tales, wrote for each of her children. The story as a whole refers around the Wellwoods (both adults and children), their extended family, and the many people in their orbit. I found the novel strongest when it focused on the characters and their interactions, but it stumbled when Byatt dove too deeply in explaining the political movements of the time. Often chapters felt like excerpts from a history book rather than a novel. However, as long as the action focused on the characters themselves, I was intrigued. I'd recommend this, with the caution to push through the tedious background sections.

Note: This book is one that counts toward my efforts in the Chunkster Challenge. My goal was the "Mor-book-ly Obese" level, which requires 8 books of at least 450 pages, of which at least three are over 750 pages. So far I have read four over 450 (and reviewed two of them here and here) and this one is my second 750+ (review of the first one here). If you're interested in a long read, check out some of the other reviews!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Lightning Strikes Twice

Once again, Erik Larson has written an excellent non-fiction book which reads like a novel. I had planned to review it for you, but Melissa did such an excellent job that I think you should go read her review! Once you've finished that, go out and read the book!

I ordered Larson's next book, In The Garden of Beasts, which tells the story of the American ambassador as the Nazi party rises to power in Germany. It looks fantastic.