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Four great kids’ reads

Adventures oThe Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friendf Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend by Dan Santat

This is a story that begins in a land where imaginary friends wait to be imagined by boys and girls. All the friends get imagined…except for Beekle. But Beekle gets so anxious to have a friend of his own, he decides to go searching for him. He looks everywhere; in the park, in a tree but his friend is nowhere to be found. But when all seems lost, Beekle becomes imagined.

Santat’s illustrations are beyond adorable. During Beekle’s search, the reader comes across the other imaginary friends and their kids. It’s a great story, not just about friendship, but also the creative power of a child’s mind.

Here Comes the Easter CatHere Comes the Easter Cat! By Deborah Underwood

Cat wants to take over the Easter Bunny’s job. But there’s a problem: Cat doesn’t realize all the responsibilities that come with the job. But Cat has a solution for all but one and it’s a bit of a deal-breaker. Before Cat can think of a solution, the Easter Bunny comes by and he is so tired from all of the work. Now is the time for cat to take over and become the Easter Cat! Will he do it or will he let the Easter Bunny keep the job?

The writing style of this book is different from most picture books. The reader becomes the narrator and interacts directly with Cat. The illustrations are also well done with soft lines and colors. Each page has the minimal illustrations needed to get the story, and its humor, across.

Puddle PugPuddle Pug by Kim Norman

Pug loves all kinds of puddles – big, small, deep, shallow, and so much more. Pug knows where all his favorite puddles are. One day he comes across the perfect puddle. The only thing is, the puddle is home to Pig and her three piglets. Pig does not want Pug in her puddle. But then something horrible happens to the piglets. Can Pig and Pug forget their differences and work together to find the piglets?

This is a sweet story told in rhyme and the illustrations capture the playful and caring soul of a dog perfectly.

FoundFound by Salina Yoon

A young bear finds a stuffed rabbit. Waning to make sure it gets back home, Bear makes a “Found” flier and hangs it all over the forest. Bear finally finds the rabbit’s owner, who has a surprise reward for Bear.

Yoon’s illustrations are simple, but adorable with bold colors and broad lines. The part of the book I liked best was when Bear posted his flier to a community board that was filled with other lost and found fliers. The fliers are mostly common sayings, like “Lost: My Mind”. There’s even one flier that tips its hat to another beloved children’s book. But I won’t spoil it for you here – just go pick up a copy of Found (and all the other books) today!

 
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Posted by on May 13, 2014 in Literature

 

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Quick read

The Last Girlfriend on EarthI just finished a short story collection titled The Last Girlfriend on Earth and Other Love Stories by Simon Rich. It was a quick read; 24 hours didn’t even pass between the time I picked it up and the time I put it down. The stories were quirky and most were hilarious. The first one got me right laughing out loud on the airplane while I was sandwiched in between two older men. Once you figure out who the narrator is for that one, you won’t stop laughing (I’m not going to spoil it for you here). The next few stories that followed were okay, but the ones that got me were a little further in. There’s one where Seth meets his ex’s new boyfriend, Adolf Hitler, one where God’s girlfriend demands attention while he’s trying to create the universe on schedule, and one where a priest is asked to exorcise the ghost of an ex-girlfriend from an apartment, just to name a few. There are 31 stories in all, most of them funny, though one of them was sad (thankfully the collection didn’t end on this story or my feelings might have turned out differently). It’s difficult to put into words exactly why this collection was so good; I think the best thing I can say about it is that Rich has a way of thinking of situations, turning them on their heads, and making the best out of said situation. This collection is a must-read for anyone who’s ever been in a relationship.

 
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Posted by on March 16, 2013 in Literature

 

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Books I think everyone should read (part 2)

(Continued from Part 1)

These are feminist and women’s history books. I believe both men and women should read these. If you don’t believe in feminism, or think it’s a bad word, all the more reason to read them. Also, women have been forced to read about men’s history – or, “history” as it is commonly known – for years. It’s time to give some of the love back, guys.

FlowFlow: The Cultural Story of Menstruation by Elissa Stein and Susan Kim

The book takes the reader through an intense and confusing journey of womanhood from the ancient world to today’s society. Stein and Kim show how society views of menstruation have changed (and not changed) over the course of time, as well as the products and marketing that go along with many female “problems”. The book is littered with colorful (and rather eye-opening) advertisements for women’s products from the 1950s and 60s. They’re a lot like car wrecks – horrible to witness but you can’t take your eyes off them.

The Purity MythPurity Myth by Jessica Valenti

Many of us have heard about purity pledges (not having sex until married) and may have even signed one when in high school. But have you ever witnessed a purity ball? Valenti describes them in full detail, which I recounted and reacted to on my blog post Purity Balls and Sexy Virgins. But there is more to the book than the “rituals” people partake in. Valenti drives home the point that women are self-standing humans. We do not need men to take care of us or give their permission to live our lives. Valenti argues, and backs up her argument with many detailed examples, that expecting young women to stay “pure” until marriage is a damaging concept.

Full Frontal FeminismFull Frontal Feminism by Jessica Valenti

Do you live in an anti-vibrator state?* Yes, there are states that have “anti-erotic massager” laws on the books. If you think this is absurd, then this book is definitely for you.

Full Frontal Feminism is aimed at young women, with a chapter geared specifically for young men as well. The word “feminist” can draw many images to one’s mind so a lot of women (and men) don’t identify themselves as a feminist. Take this little test to see if you’re a feminist: What are the worst names you could call a woman? Perhaps you thought of slut, bitch, whore or something along those lines. Now, what are the worst names you could call a man? Did you think of pussy? Bitch? Nancy-boy or girly man? Final question: Do you think that it’s really fucked up that the biggest insults to both men and women are a derogatory terms for a woman? If you just answered yes, then congratulations. You are a feminist. Anyone who thinks that the way women are treated is sexist and unfair is, in the truest sense, a feminist. So what should young feminist women and men do? Valenti offers advice in all kinds of scenarios, along with shocking examples of the way women are treated and viewed in modern society.**

*Turn to page 39 to find out if you do.

**I emphasize modern society because some of the acts are so barbaric, one may mistake the scenario as happening in the ancient world.

 
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Posted by on July 2, 2012 in Literature

 

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Disappointment and aggravation

I finished two books this year that were both second installments of trilogies: Crossed by Ally Condie and A Million Suns by Beth Revis*. The first books in each series (Matched and Across the Universe, respectively) had the same effect on me. I didn’t want to put either down and I was excited and anxious as the release dates for the sequels drew nearer. Crossed came out first, in November of 2011. I asked for the day off work so I could download and read it without interruption. Like most books, I knew I wouldn’t be able to finish it in a single day, but I figured I would get a good chunk read.

How wrong I was.

Matched was told entirely by Cassia’s point of view but Crossed took on a different format. Chapters alternated between Cassia and Ky’s points of view. Each chapter was marked by who was speaking, as books with alternating storytellers often do, but other than that, there was nothing to distinguish who was speaking. I found myself often flipping back several pages to find whose chapter it was that I was reading. The characters didn’t have their own voices. It all sounded like Cassia’s from Matched.

Then there was the action – or lack thereof. The mystery and intrigue that Matched had (who put Ky’s name in the system? Why did Grandpa have forbidden poetry? etc.) were missing largely for Crossed. Cassia and Ky are in search of each other, far from the Society where they first met. About half the book is taken up by this search, which is a lot of walking in deserts and hiding from Society spy planes. Once they find each other, the search continues for the Rising. It wasn’t until about 75 pages from the end that I started to feel that grip of intrigue pull me into the story. Something interesting was finally happening.

Despite taking the release day off to read it, I didn’t finish the book for three months. I didn’t feel the pull to not put it down. Instead, I felt the dredge of picking it up again. I had very little interest in it to keep me going. What would have taken me about a week to read took me months instead and that says a lot about the content.

But there’s still one more book in the trilogy, set to come out this November. And even though I was disappointed in Crossed, I am still curious to see what happens to Ky and Cassia and, therefore, will still download a copy of Reached. I just won’t bother taking a day off work so I can read it.

*Stay tuned for a review of A Million Suns.

 
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Posted by on June 27, 2012 in Literature, Rants

 

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My utopia is dystopia (part 3)

The third and final book in my dystopian review is Across the Universe by Beth Revis.

The book opens as Amy prepares to be cryogenically frozen, along with her parents and many others.  They are set aboard a spaceship (aptly named Godspeed) bound for a planet that humans will inhabit.  Amy and the others are expected to be thawed 300 years in the future when the ship reaches the planet.

Elder is aboard the ship, years after Amy and her parents have been put aboard.  He is second-in-command, learning from Eldest how to one day run the ship.  However, Eldest has been holding back information because of a rogue Elder from the previous generation.  This doesn’t stop Elder, though, as he sneaks around the ship trying to find out as much information as possible.  For the first time in his young life, he comes across the part of the ship where the frozen bodies are stored.  He comes across Amy, though he doesn’t know her name, and he is instantly fascinated by her bright red hair (after generations aboard the ship, people have become ethnically monotonous).

Amy’s mind continues to be active as she sleeps, bringing up memories of life on Earth.  She is unaware of how much time has passed, yet is conscious that her brain is being active when it shouldn’t be.  At one point she starts hearing voices talking about the thawing process, right before she feels warmth.  Someone is thawing her!  Though complications arise, she makes it out alive, but only to find out that the reason she was thawed was to be killed.

Soon Amy and Elder meet and Amy tries to understand why society on the ship operates as it does.  It’s vastly different from life on Earth.  Not only are the people of one ethnicity (brown eyes, tan skin), they have limited knowledge of history, have sex in the fields during the Season (purely for procreation, though), and lock up the crazy (aka creative) people.  Elder and the people aboard the ship know no different, but to Amy, it is a nightmare.  She is anxious to get to the new planet and see her parents again, but as she and Elder later find out, the ship is still 100 years from its destination.  Amy will long be dead before her parents are woken up.

That’s not all that Amy has to worry about, though.  After all, someone tried to kill her.  She needs to find out who and why.  Elder continues to search out knowledge about the ship and he finds out secret after secret about how the society upon the ship is run and controlled.

The book was well-written, told from Amy and Elder’s points of view in alternating chapters.  Each chapter was titled with the narrator’s name so it wasn’t confusing.  The descriptions of the ship were so detailed that I had little trouble picturing something I’ve never seen.  It wasn’t until I was done reading the e-book version of it that I looked at a hardcover copy at the bookstore.  Apparently the cover’s reverse was a map of Godspeed.*  I was delighted (after my initial reaction of frustration).  Much of what I’d pictured about the ship’s layout was accurate.  To me, that marks the sign of a talented writer.

Overall, the book had a great amount of conflict, both inner and physical.  There was action, yet not so much that it was tiring and there was enough mystery and intrigue to keep me reading without ever feeling like I was working to get through it.

*I do no know yet if the paperback version will include a map of the ship (the paperback comes out in November).  However, if you read the book and need or are curious about the map, visit the book’s official website here.

 
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Posted by on September 20, 2011 in Literature

 

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My utopia is dystopia (part 1)

One of my favorite genres to read is dystopian fiction. Ever since my eighth grade English teacher recommended The Giver by Lois Lowry, I’ve been hooked.

You’ve probably heard of utopian fiction (ie: Brave New World by Aldus Huxley, Lost Horizon by James Hilton, etc.). Dictionary.com defines dystopia as “a society characterized by human misery, as squalor, oppression, disease, and overcrowding.” So, if a book takes place in this type of setting, it can be considered dystopian fiction. However, there’s a second type of dystopian fiction where a person or persons fight against the utopian society, against control and gentrified society. This is the kind that I like. I think the reason I’m so attracted to these books is that I see myself as the heroine in these stories, that I would be among the first to fight back should an elite group decide what’s best for society (in the most extreme case, that is).

There’s been a plethora of dystopian fiction put out the past few years, at least for teens (although I’ve sold plenty of them to adults). Currently, one of the more popular titles, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, is being made into a movie. While I have a copy of the ebook, I have yet to read it. Instead, I’ll review three other dystopian fiction books, all of which have been published within the past year, over a series of posts. There will be spoilers so don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Matched by Ally Condie (book one of a trilogy)

Cassia does everything the Society tells her, from what music to listen to, to who she’ll marry. But a mistake with her match makes her question if the Society really has her best interests in mind. She starts seeing Ky, a guy from the outside now living in society. He knows and has seen things that Cassia hasn’t even heard of. As they continue to see each other (not in private – nothing is private with the Officials always looking on), her feelings for him grow deeper. Her feelings toward the Society also changes. While on the outside Cassia continues to do as she is told, inside she rages. Once Ky is sent away, though, Cassia decides it’s time to fight harder.

There are many parts in the book that are my favorite. One is where Ky teaches Cassia to write her name. Within the Society, people use electronics for communication so handwriting is not known. Ky, who’s from the outside, learned how to use his hands, not only with handwriting but also with drawing. This especially piqued my interest for two reasons. First, when I write, the process begins with me handwriting a rough draft. The act of physically writing down the words, pen to paper, helps my creative juices flow. I also prefer it to a first draft on a computer because once you erase something on the screen, you can’t get it back again. Sometimes I have the perfect word or phrases and then I decide to cross them out. Later, I can look back on these “deletions” and see if I can use it again in a better place, or something close to it. I can’t do this on a computer. Second, beginning next school year, Indiana will stop teaching cursive writing in its schools. While children will still learn handwriting, they will no longer be required to know cursive. While some may say, “So what?” to me it’s just one step closer to the world turning into one of these gentrified societies.

Another great part of the book is the little bit of interaction between Cassia and her grandfather. Near the beginning of the book, Cassia’s grandfather is about to have his 80th birthday. It’s bittersweet to reach 80 in the Society because while you get to have a party with any food you choose (rather than the regulation food), that is the last time you will see anyone. You are killed off quietly with pills. As Cassia is saying goodbye to her grandfather, he gives her a gift. It is an old compact, or an artifact, as they call it. He shows her a hidden chamber where Cassia’s grandmother had hidden a piece of paper. The paper contains two poems, but not ones that Cassia knows. The are not one of the Hundred Poems the Society kept. Cassia soon memorizes the poems and gets rid of the evidence before getting in trouble.

One of the poems is by Dylan Thomas:

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage, against the dying of the light.
Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked to lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Later, she has an epiphany that the reason this poem had not been kept by the Society was because it told the reader to fight. I must admit that when I read this part, I cheered, and hoped that Cassia would indeed fight.

The book ends with Cassia serving out a punishment for disobeying the Society. But as she works the land on the outside, she plots how to break free and find Ky.

The next book, Crossed, comes out in November.

 
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Posted by on July 15, 2011 in Literature

 

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