Catalyst

Psst. Guys. Hey, hey, guys. You. Yes, you, staring at your computer screen. HEY.

Midterms are over.

THANK YOU DUMBLEDORE!

Now that those horrible, ugh-worthy things are over, guess what that means? LONG WEEKEND! READING! WASTING TIME ON THE INTERNET! AND A BLOG POST FOR ALL YOU LOVELY PEOPLE!

Whoops. Sorry for the caps attack.

Anyway, as you have no doubt noticed, this blog post is about Catalyst, written by Laurie Halse Anderson. Which I started to read completely by accident. You know, when you pick a book while you’re waiting for something and you’re like, “I’ll just read a few pages.” And then, inevitably. . .

Yep. I was hooked. I had to finish it. So let’s jump right in: A summary!

(Be glad my review summaries aren’t like the summaries I have to write for school. Because it appears that I have an issue with a thing called brevity.)

The star of our story is Kate Malone–a senior in high school with a sharp mind, a sharp wit, and an even sharper desire: To get into MIT. Honestly, there isn’t even really a choice in the matter. Because it’s the only school she’s applied to.

No, really.

As the days tick by and she waits for her letter (her acceptance letter), Kate is getting by  fine. Really. So what if she can’t sleep? A person can get loads of things done in the night when everyone else is snoring. She’s fine. She’s got great grades, she’s got Chemistry, she’s got her friends and boyfriend.  She’s got running. It’s all good, great, she’ll have that letter any day now.

And then everything just kind of goes a little crazy.

The Litch family’s house catches on fire. Kate ends up sharing her room and home with Teri Litch, who made a habit of beating her up in elementary school. College is still hanging over her head. At least Mikey Litch is an adorable little bundle of joy.

And just when stuff is starting to look maybe a little bit better. . .it all blows up again. Only even more.

One of the things that really struck me about this book is Kate’s voice as a narrator. I love it. More than anything, I think that’s what made me want to keep reading after I sat down and read those few (17?) pages. There are some really, really, really golden lines in there, and the way Kate narrates is very uniquely hers. Her attitude is so much fun to read.

The characters are all well written, and Kate’s friends, Travis and Sarah, were definitely fun and unique. The plot was well done, too, and Anderson added a number of little touches and other conflicts, which made Kate’s community and world seem all the more developed and real. Kate’s problems with her father, Reverend Jack Malone, for example, or the little snippets of science and math references, because those subjects are both a big part of Kate and her life. The way the book is formatted is also really cool, containing snippets of science and chemistry terms that are fully integrated into the book itself. I don’t particularly like science, and I found it neat.

So, all in all, Catalyst was a really good read, and I would definitely recommend it, especially if you’ve enjoyed more of Anderson’s work. Actually, her new book, The Impossible Knife of Memory, has just been released!

I hope you’re all enjoying your long weekend, and guess what? Guess what?!

The 3rd season of Sherlock premieres in the U.S. tonight.

If you need me, I’ll be sobbing and fangirling in the other room. No doctors are needed, but cookies are always appreciated.

Bye!

Bookish Quote of the Day: “Sweat trickles along the bones of my face and licks my neck. Running, sweating, evaporating. . . I’m distilling myself in the dark: mixture, substance, compound, element, atom. The ghost is getting closer. Run faster. Push beyond the wall, push beyond my limits. My chest is flayed open; no lungs to breathe with, no heart to pound. The air flows around and between my shiny bones. My skin is silk. I take it off when I get hot. . .

I wish I never had to stop.” —Catalyst, by Laurie Halse Anderson

P.S. If any of you are interested in Vidcon, which is a convention for YouTubers and vloggers, the video below has a great idea for it. (The video she made previously that she mentions can be found here.) (She’s a great YouTuber!)

Stolen

Hi everybody! So, today’s post focuses on the book Stolen, written by Lucy Christopher. Which I had been planning on reading for forever, and I finally did it! Yay me!

16-year-old Gemma needs a break. She’s stuck in an airport in Bangkok, she needs some space from her parents, and she needs a cup of coffee. So, seeking to remedy two of these problems, she heads for the nearest coffee-shop while her parents wait for her to return. Here’s the thing:

She doesn’t.

Instead, she’s swept away to the Australian desert with Ty, a strange man who insists he was “saving her.” A man with see-through blue eyes and a way with the land. Terrified and confused, Gemma must learn how to survive in this strange new world, where it is only her and Ty, and there is no one around to rescue her. But, gradually, the baffling question arises: Does she really want to be?

This actually might be the only book I have ever read that is written in the second person, and it definitely works. Gemma addresses Ty as she tells us her story, and it’s really a unique and interesting book to read. The characters are well-written and captivating, not to mention the plot, which is really original. The writing is great. Gemma’s voice is unique and definitely enjoyable to read, and the point of view offers an interesting perspective. (My god, the ending. The ending. . .and the climax might have had me freaking out a little bit. Or more.)

All in all, Stolen is a book I would definitely recommend, and I highly suggest you go take a look. Everyone have a great day! (And I’m sorry this is a little bit shorter than usual!)

Literary Quote of the Day: “You saw me before I saw you.” –Stolen, by Lucy Christopher

P.S. Have a look at the amazing book trailer, which will probably convince you to read this more than I ever will! 🙂

P.P.S. Rest in peace, Lou Reed.

Eleanor & Park

GAH. THIS BOOK. THIS. BOOK. Ergasmergh. Just. . .just ergasmergh. Really.

OK, collecting my thoughts, collecting my thoughts, gimme a sec. . .JUST ONE SEC. . .OK. I think I’ve got it. Let’s do this.

So, just a little while ago I started hearing really good things about this book. It’s currently being featured on Figment (a writing site for teenagers), and has gotten a ton of good reviews. (Including one from John Green, might I add.) So I decided to get it from the library and read it. (Plus, look at the cover art. That is some EPIC cover art.)

Eleanor & Park, written by the talented Rainbow Rowell, is the story of two sixteen-year-olds that meet one day in 1986. Eleanor has just moved to Omaha and needs a seat on the bus. Park is the only one who lets her sit down, very reluctantly so. Eleanor, well, she’s weird. You can tell. And Park, as one of the very few Asian kids in his entire school, already doesn’t fit in. And some chubby, oddly dressed redhead isn’t really going to make life easier for him. So he plugs in his Walkman and drowns everything out. Eleanor doesn’t talk to him, and he doesn’t talk to her.

Gradually, though, they do start to interact a bit. It starts with comics. It gains speed with music. And before you know it, they’re in love.

The one thing that really stuck with me about this book was the characters. Not just Eleanor and Park, but the others as well. Eleanor’s only other friends at school, DeNice and Beebi, are funny and extremely likable. The other kids on the bus, as well as the schoolteachers, are striking and unique. But Eleanor herself was probably my favorite character. In the second chapter, when she’s deciding to brave the bus and the merciless kids who tease her, and thinks, “Oh, fine. The children of hell shan’t go hungry on my watch,” I immediately thought, “I love her.” Her sarcastic comments are some of my favorite moments throughout the whole book. The things she and Park go through together are also amazing, and some of the things they say to each other might have made me actually stop reading and go, “Squueeeee!” Because they were–and are–that fabulous. And squee-inducing.

And though the ending might make you cry, or at the very least make you want to eat a whole tub of ice cream, reading this book is just so incredibly worth it. The main characters, though imperfect and not your oh-so-conventional pretty-girl and pretty-boy couple (which is great, because I wouldn’t like them nearly as much), will have you cheering for them the whole time. And their story is one that is entirely worth your time. So read it. Excuse me, I need to go eat some ice cream now.

Literary Quote of the Day: “‘The least boring Batman story ever, huh? Does Batman raise both his eyebrows?'” –Eleanor in Eleanor & Park, by Rainbow Rowell

P.S. If you STILL aren’t totally convinced that you HAVE to read this book, take a look at John Green’s review in the New York Times.

Monster

Hello all. So I had been meaning to read a book by Walter Dean Myers for a while, but I really wanted to after I saw him at the National Book Festival last year. He was definitely interesting to listen to, and his book sounded equally intriguing. So I got one from the library. The book in question is Monster, the story of teenage Steve Harmon, whose life may be a tad different from yours. He’s in jail.

The book tells the story of how he ended up there, as well as what’s it like for Steve, being on trial for murder and all. For me, it was kind of like Night, by Elie Wiesel, in that it offered an up-close and personal look at what it’s like for a kid going through an awful and striking experience, the kind of look that sort of smacks you in the face and makes you think, “Wow.” Myers really succeeds in making his story seem real, which is one of the best things about it. The book is also written in a unique format. It’s a mash-up of Steve’s journal entries and the script for a movie he’s writing, to help him cope with what he’s going through. At first, I was worried that this would take away from the enjoyment of the book, but it didn’t; it was actually pretty interesting. The plot is gripping, especially since Myers continuously holds off on letting the reader know if Steve is actually guilty or not. The characters are just as well-written and interesting, and Myers definitely manages to make Steve, a suspected criminal, a human being, despite the prosecutor’s assessment of him–that he’s a monster. One of the other things I liked about the book was that it offered a look at life in and relating to the courtroom that was pretty new for me, which only makes the book better. All in all, I would definitely suggest you read Monster. It’s an important book, and it deserves it.

Literary Quote of the Day: “When you’re young, you make mistakes. The big thing that’s different now is that when I was a kid, you could survive your mistakes. We didn’t have guns. Today, kids have access to guns. The same kids that would have been in trouble and gotten a stern talking-to are now going to jail for fifteen or twenty years. Instead of bloody noses there are bodies lying in the street with chalk outlines around them. The values are basically the same, but it’s easier to mess up.” –Walter Dean Myers

Camilla

Okay, confession time: The truth is, I read Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle In Time, and honestly. . .I don’t remember much. Really. BUT I’ve read another book of her’s recently, Camilla, and I wondered–why is it I’ve never heard of this before? Admittedly, it is definitely geared towards a more mature age group, but it’s still really good! The story focuses on Camilla Dickinson, who lives with her parents in New York City, during the 1950s. As Camilla watches, she sees her parents’ relationship deteriorate further and further, as she learns about life and growing up. But in the midst of this, she becomes acquainted with her best friend’s brother, Frank, and finds herself spending more time with him. With Frank, she learns and thinks about things she never thought of before, not to mention the people she meets. This book is interesting and definitely really well-written, and I enjoyed it. I think teenage girls, particularly those who enjoy classics, will like this book, even if it’s not really in the same vein genre-wise as A Wrinkle In Time.Trust me! (But again, it’s definitely young adult.)

P.S. Colds suck. Anyone want to send me a unicorn as a get well soon present?

P.S.S. Unfortunately, Powell’s Books, the website where I get the images and links for my posts, doesn’t offer this book. You can get it here at Barnes and Noble.

Banned Books Week: They Banned WHAT?!

Well. . .here we are again. . .>clears throat awkwardly< Okay, fine, since I can FEEL you all glaring at me through your computer screens (or iPads, or whatever), I’ll just say it–I HAVEN’T POSTED IN FOREVER AND I KNOW I REALLY SHOULD HAVE BUT TIME GOT AWAY FROM ME AND I FEEL BAD!! Ahem. Okay, then. Can I get on with it now? Right.

So, I know that I’m really late talking about this, but this week is (drumroll please) Banned Books Week! So rather than blather on with all the same stuff I said last year, I’ve decided to write a bit about some books that have been banned that will probably (hopefully) make you shake your heads and mutter, “Dang idiots.” (The ones that banned the books, not the authors.) But first, a little background. . .

Banned Books Week is a celebration of the right to read. Across the US, many books have been banned (taken out of libraries, schools, etc.), mostly because they’re considered inappropriate for young readers, and are therefore made unavailable. A couple of the more frequent offenders are To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. Now, personally, I see the banning of books as unfair and unconstitutional, both to the authors and their readers. And might I also add that some of the boards who ban the book have not read it, and probably don’t know their true merits? Just saying. But some of the books being banned are particularly surprising.

Harry Potter. They really tried to ban Harry Potter. I kid you not. The reason? It encourages kids to believe in Satan, you know, what with all the ghosts and witches and wizards–thank goodness people tried to protect us from this awful influence! They also believe that it sets a bad example for young children, considering all the rule-breaking Harry and his friends do. Because there are so many protagonists out there that are absolute angels.

Next up: The American Heritage Dictionary. Huh? Why would people want to ban something that can be deemed so educational? Well, the thing is, it included entries that were considered “objectionable” and inappropriate. So let’s just ban the whole darn thing! But really, I would think the good outweighs the bad where this is concerned. Why cut off a good and reliable reference for kids just because of some entries?

I, for one, definitely liked this book as a kid. It’s Sylvester and the Magic Pebble! (Written by Willliam Steig.) Honestly, I think it’s an enjoyable story for kids, but twelve states objected to its subject matter. More specifically, the part that portrays police as pigs. I can see why they might be offended, but really?

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? Wow. I mean. . .just wow. This book is the popular children’s story that is a collaboration between Eric Carle and Billy Martin Jr., and was removed from libraries in Texas by the Texas State Board of Education. The reason was that Billy Martin Jr. happened to have the same name as Marxist theorist who has written a book that is anti-Capitalism. Then–whoops! Wrong person. Luckily, the book was instantly made available again for the public’s enjoyment.

And, finally: The Diary of a Young Girl, the famous record of Anne Frank’s family and their confinement to an annex in Amsterdam during the Holocaust. Now, it isn’t particularly surprising that this book would be banned. The subject content would definitely make some parents prefer not to have their kids read it until they’re older. I respect that, and in some cases, maybe it’s a good idea. But what I don’t agree with is having a book with such valuable insight into World War 2 being made completely unavailable when it has such an important story within it. Anyway, the surprising part of it is that there was an attempt made to ban it because people just considered it “a real downer.” Sigh. That’s all I have to say.

So, anyway, let me finish with this: I understand if a parent wants their child to hold off on reading something because they don’t think they’re old enough. But there is no guarantee that all parents are going to feel this way, so please don’t try to silence an author’s voice when it could prove beneficial (or enjoyable) to someone else. I don’t think anyone has any business doing that. Seriously, bug off.

Phew. So there you go. Now we just have to wait until next year. Oh, and in closing, if you’re feeling all depressed because so many great stories are being banned, click on this link to read some of the authors’ responses to it. I especially liked Ray Bradbury’s.

P.S. Feel free to leave your views on this issue in the comments!