Sunday, 3 September 2017

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher


Published: 2007
Publisher: Razorbill
Website: http://www.thirteenreasonswhy.com/

Introduction

Hannah Baker has committed suicide. In the wake of her sudden departure, the people who knew her get a set of tapes with a map. On the tapes is the voice of Hannah narrating the thirteen reasons why she chose to kill herself. Nice guy Clay receives his and he listens to the harrowing story that was her life; one event after another. Everyone who contributed to her decision is on the tapes, and they have, or will have, their chance to listen. Clay is eager to know, yet terrified - why is he on the tapes? What did he do to her?

Themes


This book is like rubbernecking a highway traffic accident. I don’t want to spoil anything, but it gets dark. If you’re sensitive to uncomfortable topics such as the obvious suicide, bullying, sexual situations, etc., stay clear. Some people just don’t want to read about that, and that’s fine. However, I don’t advocate that this book be kept from teens or adults who wants to read it just because of its content. If you are alright with tougher subjects, go ahead and read it. If you don’t think your kid is up to the challenge, talk with them.

Also, you can write some amazing essays with this book. Comparing it to other books, or talk about glorification of suicide, bullying, sexual assault/consent, or the reality of suicides, or how the media handled it (sensationalized).

Hannah’s Character
Got this from here.
She comes off more of a psychopath to me. Clever like Jigsaw or Grandpa Rick, but not something glamourous. At many points in the book she seems to be more of a monster. Not because she has killed herself, but because she tries to drag everyone down to the hell she experienced. Her suicide was her escape, but the tapes were to punish those left behind. She's an emotional blackmailer.

The Courtney Character

Oh, hey, what a surprise, another smear on my name. Her last name is pretty cool though.

My Regular Person Opinion on the Book

Don’t give me that OMG think of the children! overreacting. Teens, adults, seniors, children - they are all capable of committing suicide, and they do. Copycat suicides? Sure, but you can get inspiration from anywhere if you are already in the mindset. The news, the bible, children’s fairy tales, urban legends, history, etc. all have instances of suicide and/or violence towards others. (Of course, video games get a lot of the flak nowadays.)

Thing is, it’s well-written. The voices are spot on, the characters are strong, which surprised me because there are so many. Aside from being on the Jigsaw spectrum, it’s story is unique. Dark, yes, and I don’t believe shielding the masses from stuff that might trigger them will help anyone. Parents should be talking with their kids - it shouldn't take a controversial book in the media to make you parent.

The End

I did love the end, and it’s exactly as I hoped it would be. The circle is broken. I’ll watch the Netflix series and report back, though they have a second season already lined up, which confuses me. It’s done, isn’t it? It’s over. Go home.  

Although I do have to say something about Clay’s tape, and a few of the other tapes. You can click right here and you’ll be directed to a page on this blog that will have spoilers and what I think is a major flaw in this book.

Suitability in a Library

Should you carry this book in your library? Depends. How’s your collection development policy? How do you handle book challenges? Personally, I’d put it in, but that’s just me and my (mostly) irrelevant opinion. Whose opinion counts, might you ask? The heads of your library that have to write policies and procedures, and then implement said policies and procedures, that’s who.

And if you start banning now, you set a precedent, and you'll be having everyone on Harry Potter and Jane Eyre and 1984 and Brave New World and The Complete Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm and Fahrenheit 451 and Hamlet and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and... 

I recently read this book and it was great - Intellectual Freedom for Teens: A Practical Guide for YA & School Librarians. I recommend it if you're an advocate for intellectual freedom.

Final Verdict

It’s a good book. Well-written with the integration of the story on the tapes, what’s happening to Clay as he listens to the tapes, and what Clay remembers. Due to the themes, it’s not for everyone - and that’s fine. If a reader is good with dark themes, I recommend this book.

I think there’s too much that happened to Hannah, though, to the point that it becomes unbelievable. I can see that might be annoying to some people. The media attention is unfortunate, but it will subside eventually and we can go back to reading instead of attending all these mandatory book burnings.

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Beyond Falling Stars By Sherry Soule

Starlight Saga

*Honest Review Requested by Author in Exchange for Free eBook
Published: April 2017
Publisher: Disenchanted Publishing
Series: Starlight Saga #3
Website: Author’s blog
She’s Also on Wattpad
Amazon: Here
Goodreads: Here


Story

Get in the spaceship, we’re going to Reticuli.

Sloane and the gang have been through a lot. During all their troubles, they get news that the Lancasters are going to the alien planet Reticuli. It also just makes sense that everyone else can go too, so the whole cast goes to the two-sun beach planet. Once there, not much goes in Sloane’s favor - attempts on her life, a war with her new mother-in-law, and Hayden’s ex just not letting go.

Mystery

We have another round of trying to figure out a who is the person behind some nefarious deeds. In the last book I didn’t see it coming and I felt amazing at the reveal. This time, I thought, It’s definitely not X. Though wouldn’t it be funny if it is X? And…turns out that it is X, and it was still another awesome moment for me (NOOOOOO WAAAAAY!), especially because it’s a little more complicated than it seems.

Flow

For me, it wasn’t as fast of a read as the previous two in the series, but it still had that easy flow and nail-biting what will happen next anticipation. I haven’t had much time on my lunch break to read, so I’d get a few pages read and have to stop, and that was agonizing. The way it’s written keeps you hooked - I think it has something to do with the lack of purple prose and superfluous description, so the plot and general excitement keeps going.

Final Verdict

The whole series was fantastic. Alien-human hybrids, romance, action, a few mysteries - everything to keep you interested. This book did not disappoint and I highly recommend it along with the other two books. I have some more thoughts below if anyone wants to read them, but they contain spoilers.








I didn't make this.

SPOILERS

End of the Series

I have a few thoughts about how the end wrapped everything up.

The “Let’s not do it until marriage” message is a good message. Not one that I agree with, but for a YA audience it’s good. And they seem to be sticking it out, which I think fits better with the story. It's not controlling like Twilight, it's just what they have agreed to.

I didn’t always like Hayden. Maybe for a sixteen-year-old he’s a hotbad-boy, but I couldn’t get past his communication issues. I liked how he ended up though. Looks like no more communication issues by the end scene.

Writing about a girl’s weight is difficult, as we are currently in a difficult cultural climate about women’s body image. Do you celebrate loving your body no matter what the size, or do you advocate for health and therefore a smaller size? I like how Soule handled Sloane’s struggle. Most importantly, Sloane’s happy with herself. The fact that Hayden loves her is just icing on the cake. With her new life she seems to be more active, and she tries not to overindulge, and she is losing weight without making it an unhealthy obsession. On a personal note, I am a huge horror film, video game, novel, and art nerd. Along with my librarianship and writing jobs, I (and most people) have a largely sedentary lifestyle. It’s really easy to gain weight, and I totally did during high school and university. I had to take up running and exercising a dog every day to balance this out (lol). It's just one of those common things about life that happens and it's nice that there's at least one book out there that address it without making it the focus of the book (e.g. a book about a girl's weight loss journey or anorexia).

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Library and Reading Stories from the Internet

(For some reason I had this in draft for several weeks. Opps.)

Just in case anyone is interested, here are some news articles regarding libraries, reading, and schools.


Conservative summer reading list at Alabama high school stirs attention


With a title like that, I thought it was for a standard English class, but no, it's for an "advanced-placement government class". While the reading list arguably shouldn't be so biased, having conservative material isn't necessarily bad. The teacher just should have tried a little harder to be inclusive.





These are some amazing librarians!

Friday, 9 June 2017

Under Sunless Skies by Sherry Soule


*Honest Review Requested by Author in Exchange for Free eBook
Published: July 14, 2016/April 2017
Publisher: Disenchanted Publishing
Series: Starlight Saga #2
Website: Author’s blog
She’s Also on Wattpad
Amazon: Here
Goodreads: Here

Introduction

A few weeks ago I was wondering if Sherry Soule wrote the sequel to Lost in Starlight, as I was thinking about what will happen to Sloane. Then, BAM, I get the news that the author is looking to get reviewers for the THIRD book in the series. I was floored! I know I’m in the running for the slowest writer ever, but she works fast, AND look at her goodreads listing of all the books she has authored (https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4925996.Sherry_Soule).  

Sloane and Hayden have broken up, she gets a bombshell of news from her own family, and intergalactical organizations are causing her grief. This time around, Sloane has some mysteries to solve. First and foremost, she has a mysterious blackmailer threatening to leak her secrets, putting her and her family in danger.

Story

I was hooked on this book! I couldn’t stop reading because I NEEDED to know who the blackmailer was. I know some books make it obvious who the blackmailer is, and I DID NOT see this one coming. Everyone was acting so suspicious I couldn’t fathom who was behind it. It was an awesome experience that I haven’t felt in a while. There was also the aspect of will they/won't they get back together going on.  

This book feels to be more paranormal romance, with a light layer of sci-fi, and I enjoyed the atmosphere. The sci-fi is a backdrop and it’s unobtrusive. There's no attempt to explain crazy futuristic technology or science and I appreciate that.

Characters

Once again, I really like Sloane. I see her as the kind of girl that gets things done. She's a journalist for her school’s newspaper, a blogger, she has too many mysteries to count to figure out, and she still makes time for her friends. She pines over a boy and that drives me crazy, but in the end, she’s still just a teen. She has problems that are both relatable and paranormal, and the mix is perfect. The book is from her perspective and you get more of her interesting lines and thoughts.    

Two of my favourite quotes are:
If you stabbed me, I’d probably bleed frosting.
I’ll stop wearing black when they make a darker color.

Hayden angered me for about 70% of the book. LISTEN TO SLOANE SHE HAS SOMETHING IMPORTANT TO TELL YOU. I hate reading about on and off again relationships because I also hate them in real life. When an ex comes back after treating your heart like a cigarette butt and is like, hey, let’s get back together! Sure, entertain the idea. Then tell him it’s a good thinking point, as is the idea of setting him on fire.

It is realistic though. It happens all the time. A guy breaks up with you and you’re still totally in love, and you’re like I’M FINE, but secretly you hope he’ll take you back. As an adult I was screaming in my head that she needed to leave him be. He’s being a few shades of Edward Cullen/Christian Gray creepy. I wanted her to be the best kind of awesome she can be without him, and she was, though she was still pining for him. She was chasing him, which I hate, but this is a fictional character...and real people do this too. They do things we don’t like. It just made me want to shake her because she’s better than that, and punch him because he’s being mean and she deserves better.  

As for chasing boys:
(With the exception of the two with text denoting the possible creators at the bottom of the images, I have no idea who made these originally.)



Final Verdict

I highly recommend this book, and the first one in the series, for older teens who are looking for a fun romp with romance and sci-fi. Even if sci-fi isn't your thing, give these a try. These two books were written in an easy flowing way that are easy to get lost in. I have only read the first two books from this series, I am interested in checking out some of the author’s other books because I like the writing style.  

Fun (Maybe) and (Definitely Pointless) Fact:

I wore a lot of black back in the day. Then my mother told me to stop buying black clothes. So I switched to shades of darker blue...then she asked if I was in a blue cult. I know it’s more of a generational thing, but I would love to have Sloane as a daughter, as I know that there’s nothing inherently wrong with looking a bit different. But her mom seems pretty awesome too, even when she wants her daughter to be a little more “normal”. (Side note: Normal people worry me.)  I would have loved to read this as a teenager, and I would have been drooling over all the cool stuff Sloane has.   






Thursday, 9 February 2017

Teens' Vandalism Charges Receive "Read Diverse Books" Sentence

I know I haven't been posting but I'd like to post that CNN reported some teens vandalized the Ashburn Colored School back in September. Their punishment? Read diverse books.

If you just do a quick Google search you'll see the benefits of reading fiction, and the one that always sticks out to me is that it builds your ability to be empathetic. Empathy is something I think society is lacking.

As for the books they need to read? The article only lists a few, but they have to read and report on one book a month with the possibility of some films too. I wish I could see the whole list. Personally, I've only read To Kill a Mockingbird and I've seen (and recently rewatched) Schindler's List.

I love this punishment and it is something I could definitely employ in the future. Punishment for demonic offspring? Read this book and write a report. Maybe they would be grounded until they do.

As for the teens here? I also like this punishment. However, they should be responsible for the clean up of their damages, both financially and helping with the physical cleaning.