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You Got This!

Call # 650.1 PEN

Call # 650.1 PEN

OK, the 2016-2017 school year is going to be my year! I’m going to be all about reading and my goal is to spread my love of reading and great writing. Instead of being lazy after I read a book I’m going to immediately add it to my blog, whether I loved it or not (although the books I love I will talk about at length!) A book I just finished that I absolutely loved is You Got This! by Maya S. Penn. The first thing that drew me to the book was the subtitle: “Unleash your awesomeness, find your path, and change your world.” Mr. Vallee and I are all about the awesome, so of course I had to read it. The second thing I noticed is the cover; the author is wearing a crocheted scarf/necklace combination, a scarflace, I thought that this girl has style! I was doubly intrigued! Well, when I opened the book I was not disappointed. At the age of fifteen Maya has already accomplished tons of things. She began her own Etsy business when she was eight, making and selling headbands and hats. Her store has since expanded to include hats, t-shirts and jewelry and she started a nonprofit to help kids all over the world. Maya is also the youngest female to do back-to-back TED talks.

You Got This! is all about finding what inspires you and following your dreams. The book is broken down into three parts: “Unleash Your Awesomeness,” “Find Your Path,” and “Change Your World.” In the first part Maya talks about figuring out what makes you you; she talks about making a dream board to discover what inspires you and finding what interests you may want to pursue in the future. Then in the second section Maya talks about how to implement an idea you may have. The third part consists of interviews with young people ranging in age from nine to 24 who have done really cool things to help people, from starting recycling programs in their school districts to founding nonprofits.

I read this book the week before school started and it turned out to be the perfect inspiration for the new year. I was so excited to make the library the coolest place ever that I was on Pinterest every day finding tons of amazing ideas for displays, books clubs and various projects; I got so overwhelmed that I never actually did anything. In the book Maya talks about different kinds of thinkers and according to her I’m a “flip-flopper,” meaning I keep discovering new things I want to do, but I never settle down enough to actually accomplish anything. Thanks to Maya’s advice I’ve narrowed down the things that I want to focus on this year and I’m really excited about the year ahead!

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The Anatomy of Curiosity by Maggie Stiefvater, Tessa Gratton & Brenna Yovanoff

Call #FIC GRA

Great writers amaze me. Sometimes I finish a book like Bone Gap by Laura Ruby, which was my favorite book of last year, and I’m just speechless because I can’t imagine how anyone can come up with such amazing, lyrical language. I didn’t even write a blog post about Bone Gap because I knew I couldn’t do the novel justice. I’ve decided, however, that from now on I’m not going to let being intimidated by an awesome book stop me from writing about it. I think the way I have to look at it is that there have to be people like me to appreciate others’ work.

Anyway, on to the book that is currently amazing me: The Anatomy of Curiosity by Maggie Stiefvater, Tessa Gratton and Brenna Yovanoff. A couple of years ago I read their short story compilation, The Curiosities (see my review here), and while I don’t usually care for short stories, I really enjoyed this collection. What I liked even more than the fiction, though, was the fact that the writers spent a lot of time explaining their craft and commenting on their own stories, as well as each others’. This time out the trio presents three novellas, one by each of them. I liked Anatomy even more than their last outing. I absolutely adored Tessa Gratton’s story, “Desert Canticle”; it is beautifully written and manages to combine the themes of gender roles and equality with a story about a team of soldiers diffusing magical flower land mines in the desert. I also enjoyed Yovanoff’s selection, “Drowning Variations,” because she writes a story, is incredibly dissatisfied with it, and then reworks it. I think aspiring writers would really appreciate seeing Yovanoff take the bare bones of her story and rework it until it makes for a compelling read. I think my very favorite part of the book, though, is that the authors make notes in the margins of their novellas, which are really fun to read.

 

 

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Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke by Anne Blankman

Call # FIC BLA

I always scold people for starting with the second book in a series; I just think that is so wrong! However, I just did it myself and I’m glad I did! I usually refuse to read anything about World War II or the Holocaust, but a book that Mr. Vallee ordered just caught my eye and I just started it. The book is called Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke and the author is Anne Blankman. I think the book caught my eye because the cover photo reminds me of a gothic novel and in November I’m drawn to atmospheric books like that. Well, as soon as I opened the book I realized that it was not in fact a gothic novel. Instead, it’s about Gretchen Whitestone, who is living and going to school in Oxford, England in the 1930s; she lives with a family who loves her and has an adoring boyfriend named Daniel. Whitestone is not Gretchen’s last name; she and Daniel have escaped Germany, where Adolf Hitler was a close friend of Gretchen’s father and his mistress Eva Braun was her best friend.  This is when I realized that this is a sequel. The first book is called Prisoner of Night and Fog and I think it’s about Gretchen’s original escape from Germany.

I found this book really intriguing; I love it when an author thinks about what it might be like for an average teenager during a particular time in history. Of course, Gretchen isn’t really an average teenager since she used to call Hitler “Uncle Dolf.” I get the feeling from Conspiracy that the first book shows how Gretchen comes to see how evil Hitler is; she also falls in love with Daniel, who is Jewish. In Conspiracy Gretchen follows Daniel back to Germany when he receives word that his cousin has been attacked. Gretchen must help Daniel find out what happened to his cousin and then escape Germany again. In the meantime she must face Uncle Dolf one more time. That is the most powerful scene in a book filled with them. There is a lot to think about in Conspiracy, most notably what happens when your childhood beliefs have been turned upside-down. Now I can’t wait to read Prisoner of Night and Fog.

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Golden by Jessi Kirby

Call # FIC KIR

I am so tired of winter that I decided for the month of March I will only read books with covers that remind me of spring or summer.  I started with Golden by Jessi Kirby, which worked out perfectly because this is an amazing novel about new beginnings.  It is about Parker Frost, who is about to graduate from high school as the class valedictorian and is heading to Stanford University as a pre-med student.  She has worked extremely hard to be in this position, but now that she’s here she’s beginning to realize that she’s following her mother’s dream for her and not her own.  Parker’s best friend Kat tells her that she has to do something fun and unexpected before school is over.  She ponders this one morning as she works on a project for her English teacher. Every year Mr. Kinney has his seniors write journals that he seals up on the last day of school and then sends to them ten years later.  As Parker prepares the envelopes to be mailed she notices that one of the names is Julianna Farnetti, which shocks her because Julianna and her boyfriend went missing and were presumed dead right after they graduated.  The story of their disappearance has become a town legend and the scholarship that Parker is in the running is named for them.  Parker is drawn to Julianna’s journal because she wants to find out what the girl behind all if the stories was actually like.  As she begins to read the journal Parker finds that she can relate to Julianna, who had similar feelings as her own graduation neared.  At the same time Parker stumbles on a mystery which leads her to the unexpected journey that Kat wanted her to experience.  Helped along by Kat and Trevor, the guy she has liked forever, Parker steps out of her shell and takes a chance on something new.

I can’t tell you how much I loved this book.  Jessi Kirby takes characters that could be one-dimensional, like a boy-crazy best friend, and shows many facets of their personalities.  She also has a beautiful style of writing and she incorporates two really wonderful elements into the book; Julianna’s journal entries create a story-within-a-story and Kirby starts every chapter with a line from a Robert Frost poem.  This is a novel that I won’t be able to stop raving about.  Since Golden is all about inspirations and fresh starts, it is the perfect spring book.

 

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Just One Day by Gail Forman

Call # FIC FOR

There is nothing better than the right book coming along at the right time.  Just when I was contemplating my New Year’s resolutions I read a book with some of the things I had been thinking about.  I had wanted to read Gayle Forman’s Just One Day since Jacqui told me that it was wonderful.  I was not the least bit disappointed after reading the book; I was amazed and inspired and I absolutely cannot wait to read the sequel.

Just One Day opens in Stratford-Upon-Avon, the latest stop on the Teen Tour! (complete with exclamation point) of Europe that Allyson and her best friend Melanie are on.  While the group is standing in line for a production of Hamlet Allyson and Melanie are handed a flyer for a performance of Twelfth Night by a travelling troupe and decide to sneak off to that instead.  Melanie is thrilled that Allyson is finally ready to shake things up after playing it safe for the entire trip.  She can’t believe it the next morning, though, when Allyson agrees to go to Paris for the day with Willem, one of the young members of the acting troupe.  Allyson can’t quite believe it, either, and she’s so shocked at this new side of her personality that she calls herself Lulu.  Allyson as Lulu has an exciting, eventful day and night in Paris.  The next morning, though, when Willem has disappeared Allyson abandons her Lulu persona and becomes her timid, uncertain self again.  Allyson is safely reunited with her tour group, but she is forever changed by her one day in Paris and she can’t help wondering what happened to Willem.  She starts college in a daze, dutifully attending her pre-med classes and avoiding her enthusiastic roommates, who try valiantly to get Allyson involved in student life.

Allyson’s life continues on like this until her advisor encourages her to take a Shakespeare class.  At first Allyson refuses because she doesn’t want to be reminded of Willem, but when she gives the class a try she realizes how much she truly enjoys Shakespeare’s writing and she makes a true friend in Dee, who helps her come out of her shell.  Allyson is finally able to be honest with herself and her parents about what she really wants; a career in medicine is what Allyson’s mother has always wanted for her and now Allyson is ready to pursue her own dreams.  She decides that she wants to go back to Europe to find Willem, but it becomes clear that Allyson is really going to find herself.

I liked the romance in Just One Day, but the best part was seeing Allyson’s transformation into the person she truly wants to be.  I love the fact that this change begins in January and that I read the book on New Year’s Day.  Allyson learns so many important lessons, most notably to genuinely appreciate all the amazing people in her life and to have the courage to take advantage of opportunities and pursue her dreams.   I think these are wonderful resolutions and I am grateful to Gayle Forman for giving me these inspirations.  She’s an amazing writer and I can’t wait to read her sequel, Just One Year.

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Moxie and the Art of Rule Breaking by Erin Dionne

Call # FIC DIO

My non-reading New Year’s resolution is to learn new skills, especially ones that will help everyone with projects they’re working on.  The first thing that I wanted to learn was IMovie.  I always include links to book trailers in my reviews, so I thought why not make my own? Erin Dionne’s Moxie and the Art of Rule Breaking was the perfect book to make my first trailer for.  The book has a terrific setting, the city of Boston, and the author puts her own spin on a real-life mystery that took place there.  On March 18, 1990 thirteen pieces of art were stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, including works by Rembrandt and Degas.  Dionne uses this event as the basis for the mystery in her novel.  Although no one in her family will admit it Moxie’s pretty sure her grandfather, Grumps, used to work for the mob.  When she meets a strange woman who wants Moxie to tell Grumps that someone named Sully Cupcakes is looking for him she knows she’s right.  Sully wants to know where Grumps hid his stuff, but Grumps has Alzheimer’s, so Moxie can’t get a straight answer from him.  With the help of her best friend Ollie and a scrapbook of old photos Moxie starts to put the pieces of the puzzle together.  I liked this book a lot; I love that the author takes a real mystery and uses her imagination to “solve” it.  I also really liked Moxie; she’s fresh and energetic and I hope this is the beginning of a series.

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My Adventures as a Young Filmmaker by Andrew Jenks

Call # B JEN

I have always been a huge film buff (and TV, too, for that matter).  I read Entertainment Weekly from cover to cover and I love to read behind the scenes accounts of movies.  Lately I’ve become more interested in documentaries; last year I watched Waiting For Superman, which follows several elementary school students as they await a lottery to see if they will be admitted to a charter school they really want to attend.  I loved that movie and I was struck by how much I came to care about the kids as I watched the film.  At the end I cheered for the kids who made it into the school and felt terrible for the ones who didn’t.  After that I decided to make it a point to watch more documentaries, which led to me to Andrew Jenks’ book My Adventures as a Young Filmmaker.

Andrew Jenks was an unhappy college freshman when he went to visit his grandfather at a nursing home.  He was struck by how different this once vibrant and brilliant physicist seemed and he remembered that in high school he had done a short film about a local nursing home.  Visiting with his grandfather gave Jenks the idea to elaborate on his previous film: he himself would actually move in to a nursing home.  When I read about this movie I couldn’t get over how much I liked the concept of seeing senior citizens through the eyes of a nineteen-year-old.  The movie, Room 335, was shown at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival and was bought by HBO.

When I saw that the guy that had made that movie had written a book I knew that I had to order it for the library.  I’m really glad I did. Jenks starts the book by describing the time his family spent in Belgium when he was nine years old.  He was bored and lonely, so he started to make movies with his parents’ video camera.  That led to a lifelong passion for and interest in film.  When he was in high school he and his friends had their own public access “news program” and he also founded a film festival.  After Room 335 Jenks went to Japan make a movie about baseball manager Bobby Valentine.  All of these experiences with telling people’s stories led Jenks to create a television series for MTV where he explores the worlds of a variety of young people, including a teenager with autism and a young woman who is homeless.  Jenks writes about how much he enjoys meeting and getting to know his subjects and explains that he keeps in touch with them long after the episodes have finished filming.

My Adventures as a Young Filmmaker is a visually appealing book.  Jenks uses a lot of photos and different fonts to tell his story; it was almost as if I was reading a movie.  My favorite thing about the book, though, was how inspirational Andrew Jenks is.  He fuses his love for filmmaking with his love of people.  It’s amazing to see how he has created the perfect job for himself and he really encourages all of us to follow our dreams.

 

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