2011 November

November 21, 2011

Review: Sweethearts by Sara Zarr

At it’s core, Sara Zarr’s novel, Sweethearts, is about friendship. In elementary school, Jennifer Harris and Cameron Quick were outcasts and each other’s only friends. So Jennifer is devastated when Cameron mysteriously disappears and she thinks she’ll never see him again. Fast forward to senior year of high school. Jennifer is no longer fat and has a group of friends. She has a new home, a new stepfather and has changed her name to Jenna Vaughn. Yet, Jenna continues to think about Cameron, especially on her birthday. When Cameron suddenly and unexpectedly reappears, the pair finds themselves dealing with some unresolved business. I really enjoyed Zarr’s book Story of a Girl, so I was looking forward to reading more of her work. I was expecting to enjoy Sweethearts. What I wasn’t expecting was the issue of Jenna/Jennifer’s weight. In fact, Zarr seemed to want to emphasize this aspect of Jenna’s transformation: there was what seemed to be constant mention of what Jenna had for lunch or that Jenna frequently goes to the gym. “Dear God, please don’t make this a book about how she lost a ton of weight and now she’s so much happier with herself and her life,” Continue reading →

November 14, 2011

Review: Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins

Sixteen-year-old Sophie Mercer has a pretty big secret: she’s a witch. Since her human mother raised her, she doesn’t know as much about how her powers work as she would if another witch raised her. When a spell goes wrong, she’s sentenced to two years at Hectate Hall. Hectate Hall (also known as Hex Hall by students) is a reformatory school for Prodigium (witches, shape shifters, fairies and the like). At Hectate, Sophie learns about the father she never met and about her powers. Hex Hall is the first installment in Rachel Hawkins’ Hex Hall series. If I could sum up my feelings about Hex Hall in one word, it would be “eh” (wait, is that an actual word? For the purposes of this post, let’s just pretend it is). I’d been meaning to read Hawkins’ book for a while and to be honest, I really thought I’d enjoy it more than I did. The plot is pretty formulaic and predictable: you send an outcast girl to a new school where she’s pretty much automatically shunned by everyone except for one friend who’s also an outcast; she develops a crush on the hottest guy in school who’s already taken. For Continue reading →

November 2, 2011

When You Read a Book You Don’t Think You’d Like

I have a confession to make: sometimes I read books I don’t think I’ll like. I’m sure that surprises some of you. After all, life is short and there are already so many books out there and so little time with which to read them. Why waste time on something I don’t think I’d like? I know, I know. I get it to a degree. Here’s my thing: have you ever read a book you thought you’d love only to be disappointed? I’m sure you have, we’ve all been there. And it sucks every single time. I ask you: why is it impossible for the reverse to be true? I’ve had plenty of experiences where I’ve enjoyed a book much more than I expected. It’s easy to say “I’d never read that; I know I’d hate it.” How can you possibly “know” you’d hate something if you’ve never tried it? Yes, I know, you have every right to make your own decisions regarding what you read. I’m not trying to suggest you throw whatever tools you use to decide what to read and read books you don’t think you’d like. I have no desire to judge the decisions other people Continue reading →

November 1, 2011

Adventures with Audiobooks: Unfamiliar Fishes by Sarah Vowell

“Adventures with audiobooks” is a series in which I explore and experiment with audiobooks. What do I like or dislike about them? What kinds of narrators work for me? What kinds of books do I prefer on audio? I hope to answer these questions and more with this series. Since I really enjoyed listening to the audiobook of Tina Fey’s Bossypants, I thought I’d try another audiobook read by the author. Yes, I realized that Unfamiliar Fishes has very little in common with Bossypants other than the fact the audiobooks were read by their respective authors and that they’re both non-fiction. That was the point of the experiment: I wanted to read listen to an audiobook that was read by the author but otherwise drastically different from Bossypants in order to get a sense of how it worked for me. I had had absolutely zero experience with any of Sarah Vowell’s work. I had heard that her narration was something that people either really loved or really hated. And I was curious about Vowel’s books and about an audiobook read by her. Reading/listening to a Vowell book seemed like a good idea, especially considering my background in history (that’s what Continue reading →

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