Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Susan's Book Review: All You Get Is Me by Yvonne Prinz


I gave this book a shot because the main character lives on an organic farm (kind of against her will) and is into photography, two things I’m interested in. I almost gave up when I found out her name’s Aurora but everyone calls her Roar. UGH. But I kept reading a little every day during lunch and even though I was never riveted, I did want to see how it ended. That’s because on page 8, as Roar and her father are headed to sell vegetables at a local farmer’s market, an SUV tailgates and then passes them in a no pass zone and hits an oncoming car, killing the other driver. I didn’t see that in the blurb! Turns out the lady who caused the accident lives in a local housing development built where a farm used to be (Roar’s dad hates this) and the woman she hit was in the country illegally, and has a young baby (who was in the car but survived) and a husband who works at a local farm. What makes it even more interesting is before Roar’s dad was a farmer, he was a lawyer. So he helps file a civil suit while Roar secretly falls for the SUV driver’s son, Forest (she feels bad about this, though). This book was an easy read and there were a few beautiful sentences that I read more than once, but I didn’t feel like I got to know any character but Roar and I wanted to. Also, it’s not like I enjoy sad endings, but this ending was unrealistically perfect and the last 12 pages caused me to sarcastically ask “really?” about 20 times because I did not buy what was happening. On a scale from 1-10, I’d give it a 6.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Heather's Book Review: The Book of Awesome by Neil Pasricha

When you have too much homework to do, too many sports or instruments to practice, too much drama to handle, or in general, so much to do that you feel that you can’t enjoy anything in life, your grandma might tell you to stop and smell the roses. Take a break, step back from it all, and enjoy the little things. I always had a problem with this phrase because personally, I am not a fan of roses; you have to go in really deep to smell them in the first place, and then, when that happens, you end up with thorn cuts all over your face, which completely removes any of the relief that is to be had from smelling the flower. I think this might be one of those generation gap things. Our grandparents stop and smell the roses. Our parents take a chill pill. I don’t really know what we under-thirty people use as our “Go take a break!” phrase, except perhaps everything we rant about on Facebook and Twitter, but if I were to have my way, our phrase would be “Go read The Book of Awesome.”

The Book of Awesome by Neil Pasricha is a compilation of informal essays pulled from Pasricha’s website 1000awesomethings.com. This site chronicles essays about, well, things that are awesome. Now, there are lots of things that we can call awesome where the awesomeness is up for debate. You can say “Twilight is awesome!” and draw legions of fangirls and fanmoms all squeeing in jubilant agreement. You’ll also draw just as many who show up with wooden stakes, silver bullets, and everything else that would kill a traditional vampire, werewolf, or vapid accident-prone girl who loves them both. Neil isn’t interested in that kind of iffy awesome. 
Neil is interested in the little awesome things that just about everyone who has had an adventure beyond their front door can relate to. Awesome things like “Bakery Air,” “Wearing sandals when you shouldn’t be wearing sandals,” and “Seeing a cop on the side of the road and realizing you’re going the speed limit anyway” (Yes!) pop up in this book—little things that, though insubstantial, can really make your day when you think about them. 
They’re not all universal; for example, “High-fiving babies” will never be awesome to a person who thinks babies smell too funny to merit touching, even if they “don’t usually leave you hanging,” but even if you don’t agree with some of the awesomeness, chances are, there will be at least one small thing that you wholeheartedly agree with. For me this was “The sound of scissors cutting construction paper,” the essay for which opens with, “When you hear scissors cutting construction paper, you just know fun is about to happen.” As an unabashed lover of cutting things out of construction paper, that was the sentence that proved the book’s validity to me:  Neil Pasricha gets it. He knows what it means to appreciate the little things, even things as little as cutting up some wonderful, colorful paper. 
He also appreciates them in a fun way. Though The Book of Awesome is a book of essays—a word that usually inspires groans of horror and impending procrastination—every essay is written in a fun, conversational voice. Most essays are less than a few pages long, which is truly awesome for the person who likes both an easy and short read. 
But most importantly, this book doesn’t just provide its readers with entertainment. It provides them with a reason to look around their own lives and appreciate the little awesome things that they encounter every day, something that, while it doesn’t finish the homework or practice, or solve the drama, at least makes the day more bearable. And personally, I think “The smell of the coffee aisle in the grocery store” beats smelling a rose any day.
Those who enjoy this book are bound to enjoy its sequel, The Book of Even More Awesome, which comes out April 28!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Tara's Book Review: Across the Universe by Beth Revis

I learned about this book when Publisher’s Weekly sent out the first chapter in an email a few weeks ago, and I was hooked! It’s a futuristic sci-fi thriller, which seems to be my specialty these days. It starts with Amy, who is getting cryogenically frozen with her parents in order to travel 300 years to a new planet and start a colony there—but as she’s going under, Amy hears some surprising news about her voyage. Fast forward many years in the future, where a boy known only as Elder is training to become the next leader of the people on the spaceship Godspeed. Elder doesn’t even know that Amy and hundreds of others are frozen on the bottom level of the ship, but he quickly finds out when someone unplugs Amy from the system and she nearly dies. Amy is appalled to see the world that exists within Godspeed and, with her prompting, Elder starts to question everything Eldest, the current tyrannical leader, tells him about the ship’s history, mission, and inhabitants. This is a fast-paced book that constantly keeps you guessing, with murder, mystery, science, and even a hint of romance. It’s a good read for anyone who likes sci-fi, dystopias, spaceships, or books with twisty plots. I should also mention that the tagline on the front of the book reads: “What does it take to survive aboard a spaceship fueled by lies?” and really, how can you resist something like that?

Monday, April 04, 2011

Lisa's Book Review: I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore

     As I write, I Am Number Four is currently on many bestseller lists, and is also raking in millions at the box office.  Both the book and the movie are guaranteed to deliver an adrenaline rush and appeal to audiences who love action, extraterrestrials, and survival stories.

     The suspenseful premise revolves around the character of John Smith, a high school student who is not quite what he seems. John is actually an alien with powerful gifts who hails from the planet Lorien. In a series of flashbacks throughout the book, we learn that an evil race called the Mogadarians have attacked and decimated John’s home planet. John and eight other children, with their adult guardians, are the only ones to have escaped the violent attack on Lorien. Ten years have passed since they fled, but the Mogadarians have sent assassins to Earth to track down and kill all remaining Loriens.  Due to an enchantment cast by John’s grandfather, the Mogadarians must kill the Lorien children, now teenagers, in sequential order. As the titillating title and book jacket inform us, three have already been killed and John is the fourth target.
     If you have already guessed that Pittacus Lore is a pseudonym, you are correct. This book was actually written by controversial author James Christopher Frey and an up-and-coming young writer named Jobie Hughes. Frey is known for writing a “memoir” of his early life containing several major exaggerations, and veering far enough from the truth that many critics thought it should be classified as fiction. This situation made national news when Oprah angrily accused Frey, on her television show, of purposely misrepresenting his work as a memoir. When I Am Number Four was first published, it immediately gave rise to heated debates over the ethics of Frey’s approach. He oversees a group of young, unknown authors who are under contract to write books based on his ideas, or to share the profits from their original books if they are published due to Frey’s connections in the industry.
           Regardless of all the Hollywood movie hype and publishing shenanigans, I Am Number Four is an entertaining read. “Pittacus Lore” keeps you turning the pages with an intriguing mix of constant commotion, alien superpowers, monsters, friendship and first love.