Monthly Archives: July 2010

The touch, the feel, the books of our lives

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With the prices of e-books dropping almost every week, bloggers, journalists, bookworms and booksellers from around the world debate, discuss and analyze the “future of books.”

One of the major arguments that I hear in the e-book v. real book debate is “I like the feel of a real book in my hands.” That makes complete sense and is justifiable for every person in my generation and those generations prior. a millennial (born 1983 thank you very much), I didn’t grow up with as much exposure to technology as today’s children do. Access the Internet on your phone? The Internet wasn’t even available for consumer use on computers before I turned 13. I saw and experienced first hand the evolution of music downloads from Napster, to LimeWire, to Bit Torrents while in college.

When I was growing up, I had no choice but to turn to the tangible books. Books  that I could check out from the library, read on the way home, smell, touch and toss around. Today’s children have too many options. They are already assimilating their minds to small screens with massive amounts of information. Most progressive libraries have toddler computers in the children’s room, where kids as young as 6 months old can already start learning how to use a keyboard and maneuver a mouse to change the screen. Parents can plop their kids in front of the computer on websites like TumbleBooks and have the computer read and flip through the pages of picture books. Kids are growing up with so much new information thrown at them, what’s to say that they will develop the same love of real books that my generation does?

Maybe the current generation will still appreciate books they hold in their hands, chew on or carry home. What about the next generations? Will the children of the future care as much for non-electronic books?

Or maybe the issue isn’t even about the format of the written word. Literacy is literacy, whether its in a real book or an e-book.  Shouldn’t educators be accepting of any new resource that promotes convenient access to classic and contemporary books? Libraries go out of their way to embrace new technology, to learn about, to learn from it and to figure out how and why it can best benefit the community.

Its equivalent to the date of MP3s versus cds. With music streaming online, people are listening to more of a diverse collection of musicians and genres than ever before, despite the slipping sales of music cds. It doesn’t seem like books are far from following in the footpaths of the music cds.

Is the value for the love of a real book more than the value of literacy itself? Do the two cancel each other out, and as long as kids are reading something, everything is OK? Can e-books and real books live happily along side each other and does it even matter if one dominates over the other?

The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives – Review

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The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives by Lola Shoneyin

Age: Adult

The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives takes place in modern day Nigeria and is the story of one man, his four wives and seven children. In a land where a man is determined by virility and a woman is determined by her children. Although the perspective of the story alternates between Baba Segi and his four wives each chapter, the youngest and newest Bolanle is the more frequent narrator. She is also the most educated of the entire family with a University degree. It is the inability of Bolanle to get pregnant that sparks the novel, and the trip to the doctor that soon sets off a domino effect of jealousy, betrayal, lies and ill-will in the Alao household.

Despite much of the violent subject matter, I really enjoyed this book. Lola Shoneyin did a fantastic job integrating modern elements with a very traditional African culture. Although the story takes place in Nigeria, Shoneyin makes sure the reader is still connected to all the characters. She takes the time to give each wife a back-story, which explains how each woman ended up with Baba Segi. I was curious as to how different wives in an American polygamous household would act. Bolanle’s entrance into the household stirred up a lot of tensions and caused a great deal of upheaval. The wives take their anger against Bolanle’s presence to a very graphic and malicious extent, displaying violence in their household, even involving the children in the matter. Despite it all, Bolanle’s story, her visit to the doctor to find out why after four years she has not gotten pregnant, is the catalyst for a slew of violence, betrayals and lies that finally come to light in the Alao household.

The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives
by Lola Shoneyin
William Morrow, 2010
ISBN 9780061946370
280 pages
sent for review by publisher


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The secret lives of Baba Segi's wives

The Adoration of Jenna Fox – Review

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The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson
Age: YA
Genre: Sci-Fi
Location: Los Angeles/Boston

When seventeen year old Jenna Fox wakes up from her year long coma, she is still recovering from the accident that caused it, the accident that she wasn’t supposed to survive. Despite the large memory gaps, Jenn is now filled with questions that she can’t ask, and her parents won’t answer, Jenna sets out to discover who the real Jenna Fox is, and what happened to her in that accident.

First of all, I really enjoyed this book. It is well written and the topic is clever and interesting. I think young readers who enjoy this book will eventually move onto read Phillip K. Dick or any of the other authors in the cyberpunk genre.

The Adoration of Jenna Fox covers a lot of hot topic issues; medical ethics, friendship, identity, cloning, truth, the list keeps going. As Jenna awakes from the coma, she is slowly trying to piece together the puzzle of her life. She lived in Boston, but now she’s been moved to California. She had friends and went to school, now she is all alone. She forgets simple words and has to constantly look them up in the dictionary. The secondary characters, Jenna’s schoolmates when she does finally go to school, were somewhat lacking. There was a lot of build-up for the dark pasts of the other students, but for whatever reason, the author didn’t pursue it. I think all of the characters and the storyline could have been fleshed out more had it been a longer book. Its a short read, only 265 pages, so a lot of information, conflict, climax and resolution is crammed in there. I’m still not sure how I feel about the ending. It felt too…neat? expected?

The other concern with this book, was basically the concept. The premise of this book is virtually exactly the same as another teen book, called Skinned by Robin Wasserman.

The Adoration of Jenna Fox: 16 year old girl is in a terrible car accident that she wasn’t supposed to survive, her body burned so badly. To save her, her parents upload her brain into another version, a clone.

Skinned: 16 year old girl is in a terrible car accident that she wasn’t supposed to survive, her body burned so badly. To save her, her parents upload her brain into another version, a clone.

The really funny thing is that both books were published virtually a month away from each other, so they were written around the same time, presumably. I only read a third of Skinned, and Jenna Fox is a much better written telling of the tale. Skinned seems to pick up where Jenna Fox left off and continue the saga, the ethics and the morals of medical ethics in regards to cloning and playing God.

I’m glad to see an emergence of this type of sci-fi in teen literature though, I devoured Phillip K. Dick’s books all through my senior year of high school.

The Adoration of Jenna Fox
by Mary E. Pearson
Square Fish, 2009
ISBN 0312594411
265 pages


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The adoration of Jenna Fox

Thwonk – Review

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Thwonk by Joan Bauer

Age: Teen

Be careful what you wish for is the theme of this teen-lit tale of a Valentine’s Day romance. Allison Jean (aka A.J.) McCreary is a lovestruck girl with an artistic (photographic) eye for beauty and truth. Desperately in love with the school’s most popular senior Peter Terris have A.J. not thinking clearly when a cupid suddenly appears in her life. The cupid, Jonathon, offers to grant one of three types of wishes; school, photography and romance. Despite his warnings, A.J. choices romance, wishing for Peter to fall madly in love with her. What happens next is not your typical happily ever after ending.

This is my first Joan Bauer book, and I am very pleased. Its a very light and fluffy piece on teen romance. The teenage chick-lit beach read, I would say. A large portion of the book reminded me of old episodes of Sabrina the Teenage Witch, when Sabrina was in love with Harvey and tried all sorts of spells to woo him. This book is a cute love story with a fantasy twist. Initially I wasn’t loving the book. I thought A.J. was very jumpy and overly dramatic and the storyline was a very traditional “geek-girl hearts popular-boy.” By the middle of the book, I was more attached to A.J. and the story had really picked up as well. Although the ending was predictable and somewhat sugary, I liked the conclusion. Despite all the faults with this book, I still really enjoyed it. There are lessons of being true to yourself, accepting reality, and loyalty and friendships.

I like that A.J. is not a complete geek stereotype. She is a healthy, happy and smart girl, with decent looks who has dated in the past, just with very bad luck. This book reaches out to the uncategorized type of high schoolers. The non-geek and non-jock. The chameleons that just drift through the flow of high school hallways.

by Joan Bauer
Speak, 1995
ISBN 0142404292
215 pages


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Half Read Books

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It seems like lately I haven’t been able to keep an interest in many of the books I’ve picked up to read since A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Normally when I give up on a book, it is either returned to the library shelves, or donated to the library for a future booksale.

However, since I’ve been coming across so many books that I just really don’t like, I figure I might as well share my thoughts on these books, especially when these were very hyped and very popular with most other readers out there.

1. Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World by Vicki Myron

Dewey : a small-town library cat who touched the world I only read about a third of this book, and I had to force myself to get that far. I never fully understood why a book about a cat who lived in a library required over 250 pages. I love cats and I’m a librarian, but this book did not tug on my heart strings. I felt that the author was very preachy about how small-towns are more superior than large cities. Although the chapters on the community and history of Spencer were meant to give Dewey’s existance more substance, I still didn’t feel any connection to the town, the library or Dewey. I felt that although Dewey was probably an adorable and friendly cat, I didn’t really understand how he was different or more special from any other cat out there. The prose is too flowery and it just didn’t capture my interest.   

2. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa SeeLisa See has garnered some fantastic reviews for her books, particularly Geisha Girls. I picked up Snow Flower and the Secret Fan at a library booksale, because it was highly recommended across the book blog-o-sphere. I didn’t dislike the book. I connected and sympathized with the main character right away, and found the entire foot binding sections to be horrendous and heart breaking. I think in another time in my life, I would have really enjoy this book more. My only complaint, and the biggest, is that I found the pace to be really slow going. Although I cared about the characters, I didn’t have the patience to keep reading this book.

3. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara KingsolverI had heard really good things about this book and how inspirational it was towards promoting a healthier lifestyle. This is the story of how Kingsolver and her family moved from the big city to a small farm where they lived on an almost entirely organic diet of food grown on their homesoil. I even chose this book as a book club selection for July. One week into reading this book, all 5 girls in the book club decided to stop reading this book because none of us liked it. I read about 4 chapters and found Kingsolver to be incredibly preachy and self-congratulary. I think one of the major problems is that I am not the target audience for this book. I already shop for produce at the local farmer’s market every Sunday morning. I don’t buy fast food or junk food except on rare occasions. I tried to grow my own plants, but not everyone is born with a green thumb. I ended up killing my plants. I tried, I failed, I shouldn’t be made to feel as if I’m soley responible for global warming because I can’t garden.

BBAW registration post

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Talk about waiting until the 23rd hour!

This is my formal post for my entry into the BBAW for 2010.

I thouht I fit best in the Most Eclectic Blog Niche and Most Well Written Category. The 5 links below are what I consider my best representation of my broad sense of reading and posting habits. I tried to keep the links present from Sept 2009 until now.

Most Eclectic Niche

What to read next – Reader’s Advisory links

If  A Tree Falls at Lunch Period – Review

This & That – Bookish News

East of Eden Book review + Salinas Field Trip recap

Babysitter’s Club Sitter Spotlight: Stacey Mcgill

Well Written Blog Cateogry

The Hunger Games – Review

Banned Books Week Book Spotlight – I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

My Name is Aram – Review

Dream Girl – Review

Life – A Photo Blog Post

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane – Review

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The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo

Age: 8+

Edward Tulane is a china rabbit doll loved by a little girl named Abilene. On the journey from France to Abilene’s new home in the United States, Edward disappears from Abilene’s life, falling to the depths of the ocean floor. Edward’s journey leads him to new families, new experiences where he learns the meaning of love and loyalty.

This was one of the sweetest books I’ve come across in a long time. Anyone who adored the Velveteen Rabbit will enjoy this quick read. I loved the development and growth of Edward Tulane, as he changed owners throughout the book. Each little child loved him instantly, even though all three lived in completely different environments and circumstances. Some had thoughtful parents, some had cruel parents. Edward learned to love even if the one you love dies, and he learned to love, even if you will never see your friend again. This book incorporates valuable lessons on friendship, appearances, prejudices and more.

The Judith Ivey had a wonderful and even pace with a soft voice that enhances each character Edward comes across. Through accents, and mannerisms, Judith gently reflects how each child fell in love with Edward and how he eventually learned to love back.

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane
by Kate DiCamillo
Read by Judith Ivey
Random House, 2006
ISBN 0307245950
2 discs, 1 hour 56 minutes


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The miraculous journey of Edward Tulane

Boom! – Review

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Boom! by Mark Haddon

Age: Teen

Paranoid by his older sister’s taunts and teasing, Jim and his best friend Charlie spy on the teacher’s meeting one afternoon to see if they are indeed talking about expelling Jim from school. What they discover is a very huge and dangerous secret about two of their teachers, that soon changes their lives and sends the two friends on an adventure that is well…out of this world.

Boom! is a mix of My Teacher is an Alien by Bruce Coville and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. All in all, I found the book to be rather medicore, especially in comparison to Haddon’s other works; The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime and A Spot of Bother. I went into this book expecting more. The book started off strong but then dwindled during the last half. The characters weren’t very original; an angsty older sister dating a punk, a lazy younger brother with a troublesome best friend). The dialog is full of quips and nods to contemporary pop culture references. This book is written for a much younger audience than his first two books, and is more accessible and relatable for the preteens and teens, although it is quite British, so some of the terminology might be a comprehension barrier.

It is a rather quick read/listen, with only three discs on audio. The narrator was well paced, comical with a variety of tones for the different characters. I would recommend this book for any reluctant boy readers that just want something funny and out of the ordinary to read.

by Mark Haddon
Read by Julian Rhind-Tutt
Random House/Listening Library Audio, 2010
ISBN 0739381377
3 discs (3 hours, 46 minutes)


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The Gospel According to Coco Chanel – Review

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The Gospel According to Coco Chanel by Karen Karbo

Age: YA – Adult

Karlo presents a mini biography of the famed fashion designer in this collection of anecdotes set up as a “What would Chanel do?” series of chapters.

I thought this book was sort of fun. Coco Chanel is an incredibly mysterious, and curious figure of the early 20th Century. She was born to poverty, living in an orphanage after her father deserted his children after her mother’s death. Chanel was famous of spreading lies and rumors about herself and never providing accurate information about herself at any given point. She made some very rich and powerful friends and lovers, all who helped propel her simple style and powerhouse personality to mass wealth and fame.

This would be a good beach read for any budding fashionistas. I am not really a fashionista, but I watch Project Runway, so I have a moderate appreciation and interest of the fashion world and those household brand names that are still way out of my price range (and probably always will be). The book also has quite a few typos, missing words and odd run-on sentences.

If anything, this book just makes me want to read a more thorough biography of Chanel, but I wonder at the validity of the information, since Chanel constantly lied about her upbringing and well, everything else about her life. She was incredible workhorse, wore only her own garments and lived below her means. She worked her seamstresses to the bone and had high standards for anyone that she came across.

Karbo did a clever job of mixing in Chanel’s life with life lessons in each chapter on a variety of topics from style to love to money to arch enemies. In her long life, Chanel definitely made it a point to break rules and create her own rules as replacements. She has a fun and clever writing style that makes the more entertaining and less textbook mini bio. This book is not just a collection of quotes that “How to be Lovely” was about Audrey Hepburn. This book actually examines the lifestyle of Coco Chanel and how us normal folks can incorporate her into our lives even if we can’t afford the fashions.

The Gospel According to Coco Chanel
by Karen Karbo
Skirt!, 2009
ISBN 1599215235
229 pages


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