Sunday, June 30, 2013

Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

"According to The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes NutterWitch(the world's only completely accurate book of prophecies, written in 1655, before she exploded), the world will end on a Saturday. Next Saturday, in fact. Just before dinner.

So the armies of Good and Evil are amassing, Atlantis is rising, frogs are falling, tempers are flaring. Everything appears to be going according to Divine Plan. Except a somewhat fussy angel and a fast-living demon—both of whom have lived amongst Earth's mortals since The Beginning and have grown rather fond of the lifestyle—are not actually looking forward to the coming Rapture.

And someone seems to have misplaced the Antichrist . . ."

Let me begin by saying this:
This book is freaking amazing. FREAKING. AMAZING.
Now that that's out of the way, let me explain: my friend's been on this campaign to get all her friends to read it, and I finally gave in and borrowed her copy to occupy me on a plane ride. 
After finishing it, I can happily say I'll be right along with her on her campaign. This book was amazing. It was very Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy-esque, in the best possible way. It was pretty much hilarious and had so many references and snide allusions and straight-out commentaries and jokes and even the wording was enough to send me into a laughing fit sometimes. I literally cannot express how much I loved this book. It got me cracking up with tears running down my face one time. And it was smart, too. It wasn't just like a book of jokes. It wasn't afraid to make fun of/reference pop culture, philosophy, religion, you name it. (So, if you're sensitive or don't have a sense of humor or something, maybe steer clear). If I could, I would jump through your computer screen and put this book in your hand. So, next best thing: go out and find it yourself. The libraries unfortunately don't have it, but heck, buy the thing if you have to. 
You won't regret it.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters by Meredith Zeitlin

"So, let’s say you’re fourteen years old and you live in New York City.
(Well, technically you live in Park Slope, Brooklyn, which is very close to and almost just like Manhattan… except not.) You’d think your life would be like a glamorous TV show, right? And yet...
You don’t have a checking account, much less a personal Black American Express Card. No fake ID, either – not that you’d pass for 21 in a million years even if you did. The only couture in your closet is a Halloween costume your mom made out of an old laundry bag when you were eleven. You've never been to a club, or had a drink served in a martini glass or, frankly, done anything really NYC-ish at all.
You definitely don’t have any secret powers, or friends who are vampires, or magical weapons stored in your parents’ basement. You’re about as normal and totally boring as a human being living in the most exciting city on the planet could possibly be.
In other words? You’re me: Kelsey Finkelstein.
But don’t despair, people—I’m starting high school in less than a week! This is going to be the year that I live up to all of my untapped potential—finally.
I have to say… I’m feeling almost optimistic."

Soo, this one was a little like the last one. I really didn't mind reading it, but I only started getting into it by the end. When it came to the characters, I really liked them. Kelsey is really real, to be redundant. She's kinda insecure but simultaneously doesn't have any filters, she tends to suck at talking to guys, and she's not exactly sure how starting high school will go. So, I liked her character, and her friends and even enemies. They were interesting, funny, and fleshed-out. What I wasn't so crazy about, though, was the plot. I'm sure NYC has some pretty different attitudes, but as an Alaska girl reading about these fourteen-year-old girls casually drinking and going to parties and considering sex and all that, was a little off-putting. I mean, seriously, you're a freshman girl and you're getting drunk and having drunk escapades? Well anyway, on another topic: the reason I didn't really get into it 'till the end was partly due to the embarrassing chain of events that was the book. I know that's mostly the premise, but it just ended up playing out that I was cringing for Kelsey (not in a good way at all) every time. A train of somewhat unfortunate events dramatized by the main character didn't really make for good reading for me. One last event at the end finally took the book into enjoyable semi-hilarity for me, and from then on I enjoyed it pretty thoroughly as things began to turn around a bit. So, meh. I really don't know what to think of this one. If you're bored and want to try it, give it a read. If you're not into drama, don't. It's at Kettleson.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde

"In the good old days, magic was indispensable—it could both save a kingdom and clear a clogged drain. But now magic is fading: drain cleaner is cheaper than a spell, and magic carpets are used for pizza delivery. Fifteen-year-old foundling Jennifer Strange runs Kazam, an employment agency for magicians—but it’s hard to stay in business when magic is drying up. And then the visions start, predicting the death of the world’s last dragon at the hands of an unnamed Dragonslayer. If the visions are true, everything will change for Kazam—and for Jennifer. Because something is coming. Something known as . . . Big Magic."

So, the reviews on the back of this seemed pretty promising, saying things like "true literary comic genius" and "for any Harry Potter fan." Things like that. But I was pretty underwhelmed, honestly. The writing could have been better, leaving me to slate it for a more middle-school audience. And, sure, it was funny in the first part of the book. But all things considered, it wasn't quite the type of book I was expecting--there was quite a bit of politics and the like, in it. I mean, all sorts of things like corporations, bureaucracy,  flawed governments/leaders, etc., were present in fluffy incarnations of themselves. Not really an action book. The plot, while having some dropped or random story-lines here and there, managed to pull it together to give a mostly interesting conclusion. So, I give it 3.5 stars out of 5, and would pass it on to middle school audiences. They would probably like it quite a bit. It's at Kettleson or Blatchley. (And expect another review pretty soon; I'm leaving halfway through next week and want to get it up before I leave).

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Imagine: How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer

"Did you know that the most creative companies have centralized bathrooms? That brainstorming meetings are a terrible idea? That the color blue can help you double your creative output?
From the New York Times best-selling author of How We Decide comes a sparkling and revelatory look at the new science of creativity. Shattering the myth of muses, higher powers, even creative “types,” Jonah Lehrer demonstrates that creativity is not a single gift possessed by the lucky few. It’s a variety of distinct thought processes that we can all learn to use more effectively.
Lehrer reveals the importance of embracing the rut, thinking like a child, daydreaming productively, and adopting an outsider’s perspective (travel helps). He unveils the optimal mix of old and new partners in any creative collaboration, and explains why criticism is essential to the process. Then he zooms out to show how we can make our neighborhoods more vibrant, our companies more productive, and our schools more effective.
You’ll learn about Bob Dylan’s writing habits and the drug addictions of poets. You’ll meet a Manhattan bartender who thinks like a chemist, and an autistic surfer who invented an entirely new surfing move. You’ll see why Elizabethan England experienced a creative explosion, and how Pixar’s office space is designed to spark the next big leap in animation.
Collapsing the layers separating the neuron from the finished symphony, Imagine reveals the deep inventiveness of the human mind, and its essential role in our increasingly complex world."

So, you may or may not have heard of some of the controversy surrounding this book (long story short, Jonah Lehrer was spotlighted for messing with a Bob Dylan quote or two, reusing a little of his past work, and "oversimplifying" ideas dealing with neurological science). I know all this happened, and it caused a bit of outrage, but I guess I'm either pretty unintelligent  or just not that discerning because I really actually liked the book. It was good. And, I mean, really: if you wanted to, you could have totally skipped over the Bob Dylan chapter. There was so much more in that book. And who am I to care if he used his previous work some--I've never read them. And as for the neurotics, hey. I'm not a neurologist, I'm cool with baby steps. But yeah, this book was really interesting and I learned a lot that I didn't know. And it kept me fascinated. For a nonfiction book being read by a teenager, that's no mean feat. I was really intrigued by so much of what it was talking about, it took me about three days to finish. So, sure. Take this book with a grain of salt, but still, READ IT. I totally recommend it to anyone. Just try it. It's at Kettleson.