Dealing with the loss of the ability to pitch as well as the onset of Alheimers for his grandfather, Peter's freshman year is full of obstacles and ch...moreDealing with the loss of the ability to pitch as well as the onset of Alheimers for his grandfather, Peter's freshman year is full of obstacles and challenges to overcome. But with a new love interest and a push to follow his grandfather's photography footsteps, Peter realizes that real life doesn't always have to be picture perfect.
This is the second book I have read by Sonnenblick, the first being "Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie," and this work follows his familiar blend of humor and heartstrings and fans of his work will enjoy this narrative. Peter's grandfather's slow deterioration is tough to read and Sonnenblick does a great job highlighting the sense of helplessness love ones experience when someone close to them suffers in this way.
Outside of this plotline though, there wasn't alot that wowed me. Peter and Angelika are a solid leading couple(even though their eventual courtship feels very predictable), but none of the other characters really stood out as anything memorable. I was also a little disappointed in the way Peter's arc involving his elbow injury and forced retirement with baseball went. While it is clear that he feels the loss, more tension seems to be drawn towards his hesitation with admitting to his best friend and catcher that he won't be playing again. AJ, the friend, just felt a little cookie-cutter best friend and I didn't understand what Peter was so scared of with telling him the truth.
Overall, Curveball is a solid read and a can't miss if you enjoyed Sonnenblick's other work or if your interested in a YA story involving photography and Alzheimer's disease. But if you are looking for something spectacular, I'm not quite sure I would say it's there to be found.(less)
I was privileged enough to speak with MT Anderson at a writing conference and he mentioned Tan as one of his favorites, so I naturally rushed rushed t...moreI was privileged enough to speak with MT Anderson at a writing conference and he mentioned Tan as one of his favorites, so I naturally rushed rushed to read some of his work. Needless to say, as you can see from the rating, I was not disappointed.
A merging of the supernatural and mundane, Shaun Tan's "Tales from Outer Suburbia" is a superb collection of illustrated short stories designed to enthrall and fascinate readers both young and old. Tan takes the ideal world of suburbia and turns it on its head, weaving stories that include whales falling from the sky, giant balls of poetry so large that they block out the sky, and lost undersea divers wondering the streets, along with poignant messages and themes involving everything from life to death and everything in between. Accompanied by some truly breathing illustrations, and this is a simple picture book that will stay with me for a long time. A must read for those looking for an unconventional read.(less)
William Kamkwamba, a boy from a small village in Malawi, and his entire village are struck with poverty and famine as the weather turns against their...moreWilliam Kamkwamba, a boy from a small village in Malawi, and his entire village are struck with poverty and famine as the weather turns against their farm. And despite no schooling and few resources available, William is able to teach himself how to build a windmill from a tattered old textbook.
Inspiring to its very core, William's story is one that I will never forget. Although you know that his accomplishment of building the windmill is coming, he spends more than half of the book recounting the time before which really helps to portray what an amazing accomplishment William's windmill really is. William's village is indeed very poor and survives solely on the crops they are able to grow. When a bad season rolls around, everything seemingly goes to hell, where survival, let alone schooling, is the basic desire. Yet, despite all of this, William perseveres and is able to build what many college educated adults couldn't do.
Humbling, authentic, and memorable, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind is a fantastic read. It really puts into prospective how lucky most of us are and, truly, how great feats can be accomplished with hope and desire. (less)
In line with his massive social experiments, A.J. Jacobs sets his sights on health and takes in all that he can to becomes the healthiest man alive. I...moreIn line with his massive social experiments, A.J. Jacobs sets his sights on health and takes in all that he can to becomes the healthiest man alive. If you've read anything by him before, this book will instantly feel familiar as his Jacobs' patented meld of humor and reporting tell his tale of trying to figure out how to be healthy, body part by body part. Health has always been an interest for me and, while laughing out loud, there is a lot of excellent tips and information that can actually be taken away after reading. It doesn't hit the greatness of his journey through the encyclopedia, but definitely an entertaining and informative read that any fan of Jacobs' work should check out.(less)
Without really realizing it, I've always been obsessed with the hero's quest. From humble beginnings, the young man leaving home and heading into an m...moreWithout really realizing it, I've always been obsessed with the hero's quest. From humble beginnings, the young man leaving home and heading into an mysterious future, armed with the sword to fight back the trials and tribulations ahead. While every hero's quest has its own nuances, Campbell outlines the essentials of the journey, borrowing from various pieces of literature throughout time to act as examples.
Very much an educational read, this text is thick and extremely detailed. It had been awhile since I read such a literary analysis so it took me awhile to get back into the swing of reading something so detailed, but by the end of the first 100 pages, I felt right at home. Campbell really does a fantastic job at painting the full picture of the idea of the hero's quest and, while definitely not a light and breezy read, made me feel that much smarter by the end of it.(less)
A week after the suicide of his Hannah Baker, Clay Jensen returns home to find a shoebox in front of his house filled with tapes from his dead classma...moreA week after the suicide of his Hannah Baker, Clay Jensen returns home to find a shoebox in front of his house filled with tapes from his dead classmate. An explanation and conviction of the 13 people who lead her down this path, Clay must follow in Hannah's footsteps and begin to understand his role in her demise. Spoilers will be included, be forewarned.
I finished this book a week ago and am still struggling to figure out how I really feel about it. Teen suicide is not an easy top to write about, and if there's one thing that I can definitely say is that Asher's handling of the issue in this book is extremely well done. Coming off as neither heavy-handed nor overly dramatic, Hannah's story is both realistic and stingily poignant. The pages flew by in a flash and it was all over before I knew it, leaving me now with a lot to stew on, both good and bad.
There's a lot to like about this book. From all the teachers and librarians I've spoken to, this books is one that flies off the shelves and it's easy to see why. All the voices are brutally authentic and the walls that blur character and person are easy to forget. The writing feels a little jarring at first, switching line by line between Hannah's voice on the tapes and Clay's thoughts. I felt a lot of times tempted to just skip by Clay's thoughts to just stay with Hannah's, but they begin to eventually meld, especially when Clay becomes more involved in Hannah's story. The uneasiness I felt, and still feel, regarding this book is centered on Hannah. I find myself torn between these two sides. One is sympathy. As she details her 13 reasons why she decided to end her life, Asher does a good job at connecting the dots, illustrating the snowball effect rather than it feeling like 13 separate and isolated reasons. I hated what happened to her and, like Clay, I wanted to be there for her to talk to, to yell at her thinking she was alone as she felt. Even though the reader knows her ultimate fate, there is this longing to somehow change it. To save her in the end. But like life, endings aren't always happy.
But grinding against this sympathy for her is this anger surrounding her decision to kill herself and decision to make the tapes. From her first words, Hannah feels a bit too cavalier for my taste, giving off this sense of "look at what you people did to me, now it's my turn!" which, for a lot of the 13 people, is simply not fair. The true evil people, in my opinion, are far outnumbered by those whose sins against Hannah were far too light to be left with the sense of guilt these tapes create. Does Courtney really deserve the guilt because she basically just used Hannah for a ride? Does Alex deserve the hate because he made the most hot and not list? Hell, Clay literally doesn't nothing and doesn't belong on the tapes, which even Hannah admits. And there others who are included because they did things to others that were bad, but Hannah felt powerless to stop it.
Thinking about these things is where the adult portion of my brain starts to take over and makes me shake my head. In the end, Hannah was driven to suicide basically because people talk shit. Pardon the language. There are a few exceptions, like Bryce who just needs to get pummeled, and other traumatic events like a rape and vehicular manslaughter that Hannah could have prevented but didn't, but they are given the same amount of weight by Hannah as the previous mentioned shit talkers, which just doesn't seem right. And it would be one thing if this snowball just pushed her over the edge and that was that, but the creation of the tapes which equally condemns them all just doesn't seem fair when the only thing a lot of the 13 are guilt of is just being a teenager. This just doesn't make me like her as a character, which makes it harder to walk away from what happened to her without some things that don't sit right.
Then again, maybe I'm supposed to be angry with Hannah. Maybe I'm supposed to just see how even the most trivial of transgressions can really effect a person and to think twice before doing them. Maybe it's not fair, especially since it wasn't me in those situations, to insist that she could have gone to her parents or talked to Clay again or...just something other than what she did.
Nonetheless, despite these personal conflicts, I think this is an important book for teens to read. And to TALK ABOUT afterwards. The issues that teens face, even if they may appear trivial years later, can bring their worlds down and it's important to know that it's not just them. That, like Hannah, what they were feeling was something that needed to be let out and that there are people out there who will listen. Who will want to listen. Teen suicide is a tough topic to write about and, while my doubts and angers regarding Hannah's actions prevent me from loving this book, I think Asher created something commendable. (less)
Telling the story behind the story, Charles and Emma follows a young Charles Darwin's home life as he studies and writes one of the most influential a...moreTelling the story behind the story, Charles and Emma follows a young Charles Darwin's home life as he studies and writes one of the most influential and important books in history. What makes things interesting is the not widely known fact that his wife was a devout Christian, their viewpoints on the origin of life standing as polar opposites. Yet, they still made it work.
While definitely a historical novel, Heiligman writes this biography with Charles' relationship with his family at its core. She goes into some detail about Charles' work, but never spends too much time discussing its finer points, assuming the reader is familiar with Darwin's work. Instead, the pages are complied of snippets of actual quotes from Darwin and his family, Heiligman filling in the pieces in between to give a entertaining and heartwarming deception of a couple who exhibited the very definition of love and respect for each other. Despite their radically different view points, they made it work through good times and bad, revealing the human side of Darwin in a way I never knew.
Charles and Emma is perfect for those wishing to know about what happened behind closed doors of Darwin's life in a form that is both accessible and not drowned with details. The writing feels a bit constrained with facts at times, but the tale is interesting enough and effective in delivering the imagine of the man behind the legend.(less)