books and reading

Waiting on Wednesday: The Language Inside by Holly Thompson

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.  Its purpose is to spotlight eagerly-anticipated upcoming releases.

This week I’m eagerly awaiting:

The Language Inside by Holly Thompson

Expected Release Date: May 14, 2013

Emma Karas was raised in Japan; it’s the country she calls home. But when her mother is diagnosed with breast cancer, Emma’s family moves to a town outside Lowell, Massachusetts, to stay with Emma’s grandmother while her mom undergoes treatment.

Emma feels out of place in the United States. She begins to have migraines, and longs to be back in Japan. At her grandmother’s urging, she volunteers in a long-term care center to help Zena, a patient with locked-in syndrome, write down her poems. There, Emma meets Samnang, another volunteer, who assists elderly Cambodian refugees. Weekly visits to the care center, Zena’s poems, dance, and noodle soup bring Emma and Samnang closer, until Emma must make a painful choice: stay in Massachusetts, or return home early to Japan.

(summary via Goodreads)

This one sounds like it’s going to be a great, contemplative contemporary YA novel.  I love the exploration of culture and culture shock, and what it means to be caught between two worlds. I also love the idea of exploring something like locked-in syndrome, because it’s rare and if handled sensitively, it could really be compelling.

As per usual, the cover does nothing for me.  I don’t know what’s with these generic YA covers lately, but this one invokes no reaction from me whatsoever.

What are you waiting on this week?

books and reading · reviews

Book Review: Don’t Breathe a Word by Holly Cupala

Joy Delamere’s asthma has impacted her her entire life.  She feels as though she can’t breathe constantly–and it’s not just the fact that her lungs have a tendency to close up.  Her boyfriend Asher has exerted total control over her to the point where she’s hurting–physically and emotionally.  So Joy makes a drastic decision: she’ll give up her suburban life and attempt to make it on the streets of Seattle.  With the help of a homeless boy named Creed, Joy learns the hard way that being homeless is even harder than she’d ever dreamed.

Cupala’s novel tries to combine two stories: an abusive relationship and a coming-of-age love story.  While Cupala’s writing is fairly compelling and gripping, the two stories don’t entirely come together, making for an uneven read.  However, many readers should be willing to overlook the uneven plotting and enjoy the dark, fast-paced story.

Joy’s narration is authentic and compelling.  Her voice is well-developed from the start, and the quick pacing of the novel should hook even reluctant readers.  The secondary characters vary in terms of development, but there are a few standouts: Creed is gentle and supportive, while Asher’s characterization paints him as a convincing manipulative abuser.

Both of the relationships Joy has with these boys are meant to serve as foil to one another.  While this works for the most part, there’s still the uneasy feeling that Creed’s care of Joy comes from a place of patronizing condescension.  Exciting as the story might be, it’s still the boy who has to continually rescue our heroine.

There’s a lot of interesting stuff here, and some teens will be particularly interested in it because of its accurate portrayal of street life, but the too-tidy ending feels rushed.  Even so, this is likely to be a popular title amongst teens.

Don’t Breathe a Word by Holly Cupala. Harper Teen: 2012. Library copy. Read for 2012 Cybils Round 1 Panel.

books and reading

It’s Monday, What Are You Reading?

It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? is a weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.  The purpose of the meme is to discuss books we are reading this week, as well as books we completed the previous week.

Books I Completed Last Week:
Also Known as Rowan Pohi by Ralph Fletcher: I didn’t care for this one as it felt half-baked, but it might find an audience, especially with teen boys.
The Year of the Beasts by Cecil Castellucci: An interesting premise and intriguing format couldn’t save this one from getting lost in its own message.
The Opposite of Hallelujah by Anna Jarzab: I loved this one: subtle, reflective, and beautifully written.
Endangered by Eliot Schrefer: This one was really riveting and really well done.

Books I’m Reading This Week:
Who I Kissed by Janet Gurtler: I want to like this one, so we’ll see how it goes.
Amplified by Tara Kelly: This seems cute so far.  We’ll see.

What are you reading this week?

pop culture

Viewed this Week (29)

Inspired by Ticket to Anywhere’s What I Watched, I post on Sundays about what movies and/or TV shows I watched the week before.  Some weeks will be epic, and some weeks…won’t be.  Let’s get to it!

Switched at Birth 1×30 – “Streets Noise Invaded the House”
New Girl 2×5 – “Models”
A bunch of The Office Season 2

Thoughts on What I Watched:

What a slow week for me!

The season finale of Switched at Birth felt fairly anticlimactic to me.  While I think that they managed to cover a lot of ground, I didn’t feel anything when things ended badly between Chef Jeff and Daphne.  I wanted to smack Regina for not taking a more active role in what was going on with Bay (this is an ongoing thing that feels very deliberate, but I want them to address it more).  The one thing I loved was Emmett and Bay having a great moment near the end of the episode.  That hinted at some promise there.  Why am I such a fangirl when it comes to those two?   I don’t know.  What I do know is that I hope we’ve seen the last of  Zara–at least for a good long while.

This week’s episode of New Girl was good but not great.  I can’t figure out why I find CeCe’s roommate Nadia so funny and also kind of terrifying, but I do.  I also loved the boob fight she and Jess got into.  While I love Schmidt and Nick, I got a little tired of the fighting about their friendship.  I still think this is an excellent show, though, and I look forward to it every week.

I’ve been rewatching The Office with someone who’s never seen it before, and it’s a lot of fun.  He’s totally into it, and there’s something about experiencing a show again with someone who is seeing it for the first time.  The second season (and third, I guess) is my favorite, so it’s fun to be seeing the episodes where the show was in its prime.  I can’t wait to watch Casino Night, which might be my favorite episode ever.

What did you watch this week?

pop culture

Movie Blather and Randomness

Gentle readers, it’s time for another installment of movie blather and randomness, wherein I give you the latest (or latest-ish) news relating to all things movies.  Without further ado, let’s get to the news!

1. Carrie teaser trailer is live

Just in time for Halloween, the first teaser trailer for Stephen King’s Carrie remake is live.  There obviously isn’t much to go on, based on the one-minute teaser, but it certainly looks pretty crazy.  What’s interesting about the casting of Chloe Grace Moretz is that she’s fairly divisive amongst audiences–people either think she can’t or they don’t.  There doesn’t seem to be much in the way of middle-ground.  I loved King’s book and enjoyed the original movie, so I’ll definitely be seeing this.

2. Shailene Woodley to star in Divergent movie?

I’m not going to lie: I’m somewhere between “meh” and “wrong on this one, but I’m writing about it because it’s sort of a big deal in the YA book blogosphere.  There’s been a lot of speculation about who could play Tris in the sure-to-be mediocre Divergent movie, and it looks like Shailene Woodley (she of The Descendents and also The Secret Life of the American Teenager, which I will never let her live down).  This isn’t a done deal yet, but it’s looking fairly likely, I guess.  I don’t know.  Meh. (Deadline)

3. Save the Date trailer looks awesome

Have you guys seen this? It has so many of my favorite people I hardly know where to begin.  Lizzy Caplan, Martin Starr, Alison Brie?  It looks quirky and weird and probably uneven, but to say that I am so there is probably the understatement of the week. I can’t wait, you guys.

4. Starlet trailer is mesmerizing

I hadn’t heard of this movie until I started doing a little bit of research for this post, but I watched the trailer and couldn’t look away.  It looks so, so great, you guys. I can’t wait to see this–it’s the kind of thing my mom and I go see together (when we’re not seeing really stupid movies, I mean), and I think this one is going to be really moving and memorable.

5. Most popular Halloween costumes this year are exactly what you’d expect

The original source is Fandango, so take from that what you will about those surveyed, but the report is that The Avengers and Katniss from The Hunger Games are topping the Halloween costume circuit this year.  The entire article is sort of bizarre, but it’s worth a look just to see what people seem to want to do for Halloween.  My costume is pop culture related, but nothing quite so relevant.  (Maybe I’ll post pictures after the party tonight.  Maybe.) (THR)

What movie news are you excited about this week?

books and reading · reviews

Book Review: The Good Braider by Terry Farish

Viola and her family live in Sudan until the war-torn country’s turmoil forces them out.  With her mother and brother, Viola moves to Cairo before finally arriving in Portland, Maine.  While Viola dreams of Sudan, she struggles with the differences she faces in America.  Her mother also struggles, as she is a traditional Sudanese woman at heart.  How will Viola manage to adapt to her new world when she feels the pull of her old country so strongly?

There’s a lot happening in Terry Farish’s sparse verse novel that readers will find appealing.  Although verse novels won’t work for every reader, this one is accessible, beautiful, and quite moving. It’s also a fairly accurate historical account of life in Southern Sudan at the end of the last millennium.

Viola’s beautiful narration propels the story.  Whether she is in Juba or Portland, her surroundings become very real and almost palpable.  Her struggles with culture shock and clashing ideals are authentic, frustrating, and sensitively handled.  Although the readers never get to know any of the other characters as well as they do Viola, there are likable elements to be found in each of them.

Perhaps what is most refreshing is the fact that there are no outside saviors working to enlighten Viola or her family.  All of the help comes from within the Sudanese community, and Viola’s strength ultimately comes from her culture.  This is a nuanced verse novel and probably is best suited for sophisticated readers, but it’s a good read and would work particularly well in a social studies classroom.

The Good Braider by Terry Farish. Marshall Cavendish: 2012. Read for the Cybils 2012 Round 1 Panel.  Library copy.

books and reading · reviews

Book Review: Happy Families by Tanita S. Davis

Ysabel and Justin are fairly lucky twins.  Ysabel is showing tremendous promise as an artist and Justin has a bright future in one of the country’s best colleges.  Their family is close-knit and pretty happy.  But then their father’s long-held secret becomes public, and it feels as though their family is being torn apart.  Both conflicted, sad, and hurt about their father’s reveal, the twins struggle to come to terms with their new life.  A spring break spent with their dad is planned to help them come to terms with the changes, but are they willing to alter their view of their happy family?

Tanita S. Davis’s smart, empathetic novel about a family in the middle of crisis handles the heavy issues within its pages very well.  Both the tension of the story and the underlying love of the family at the center of this novel are palpable feelings throughout the story.  Although this isn’t a book that’s going to appeal to every reader, it tackles some hard topics in a way that is never overly didactic or pandering to its audience.

Although Davis relies on a fair amount of exposition to tell the story of Ysabel and Justin, she does so in a way that never feels too heavy-handed.  Relying on a combination of dialogue and narrative to explain many of the issues relating to transgendered people, Davis lays out what it all means for the reader.  It’s effective.

A pretty quick pace and some good moments with action make this novel a quick read.  Although Ysabel and Justin’s turnaround about their father comes fairly quickly, it doesn’t feel inauthentic.  Because the family in question is African American, this book is an important entry into the LGBTQ literature cannon.  Recommended.

Happy Families by Tanita S. Davis. Knopf Books for Young Readers: 2012. Library copy.