Sunday, October 27, 2013

Trash by Andy Mulligan

"In an unnamed Third World country, in the not-so-distant future, three “dumpsite boys” make a living picking through the mountains of garbage on the outskirts of a large city. 

One unlucky-lucky day, Raphael finds something very special and very mysterious. So mysterious that he decides to keep it, even when the city police offer a handsome reward for its return. That decision brings with it terrifying consequences, and soon the dumpsite boys must use all of their cunning and courage to stay ahead of their pursuers. It’s up to Raphael, Gardo, and Rat—boys who have no education, no parents, no homes, and no money—to solve the mystery and right a terrible wrong."

This was a bit of a deviation from my normal books, but I'm very glad I read it. It was a big "social issues" book, one that made commentary and society and showed the depths to which it can fall or rise to (um, it mostly focused on the "fall" part). It was set, as far as I can figure, somewhere in Latin America (they used pesos and the names were reminiscent of that area). Also, one thing became significantly clearer to me throughout the book: it isn't about the characters. Not at all, really. They live the situation and provide a characterization of the state of the country and its citizens, but they aren't the focus. The focus is the story that's being told, the story of corruption and unfairness and poverty and the few people who have rebelled against it over time in the hopes of making something better. In that respect, the author does a spectacular job--you can't help but picture the state of living and the awful life that too many people consider routine. The ideas and questions that it leaves you with are almost more important than the experience of reading it; you have no choice but to consider the book's message and its very real applications today. I'd give this one a good rating, and recommend it especially to someone interested in these issues. Heck, read it if you're not interested. I think that's partly what it's for, getting people to consider new viewpoints. Go find a copy at Kettleson, SHS, or Mt. Edgecumbe.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

"Anna is looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. Which is why she is less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris--until she meets √Čtienne St. Clair. Smart, charming, beautiful, √Čtienne has it all...including a serious girlfriend. 

But in the City of Light, wishes have a way of coming true. Will a year of romantic near-misses end with their long-awaited French kiss?"

So. I picked up this book because an absurd amount of people really loved it and I wanted to give it a try. I honestly expected it to be just one of those generic, drama-fluff books that gives you a cavity and an empty sensation between your ears, but I'm happy to report that it doesn't (really) fit that bill. It was able to get more dimensional and believable, making me able to get into it and enjoy it despite the decidedly "first-world problem" context. I loved that St. Clair was short--how often do you see that in a love interest, really? And the dialogue was incredibly fun to read; the characters are witty and kind of hilarious and awkward and real but still optimistically romantic. The characters were completely the best part of the book. One thing that I have to mention, though, is that the writing was... a little fluffy at times. Specifically, imagery; there was quite a bit of cliche and at times hilariously cheesy similes/metaphors. It wasn't a debilitating weakness, though, just enough to get you to roll your eyes when macaroon crusts are called "as delicate as eggshells" or something like that (seriously, have you felt an egg? Those things aren't exactly delicate. If I tried to bite down on an eggshell, I'd need to put some force behind it). But that's the only really noticeable shortcoming; as a whole, the book was witty, real, adorable, and addicting. I'd definitely recommend you read it. Go find a copy at Kettleson or Mt. Edgecumbe.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

Percy Jackson is about to be kicked out of boarding school... again. And that's the least of his troubles. Lately, mythological monsters and the gods of Mount Olympus seem to be walking straight out of the pages of Percy's Greek mythology textbook and into his life. And worse, he's angered a few of them. Zeus' master lightning bolt has been stolen, and Percy is the prime suspect.

Now Percy and his friends have just ten days to find and return Zeus' stolen property and bring peace to a warring Mount Olympus. But to succeed on his quest, Percy will have to do more than catch the true thief: he must come to terms with the father who abandoned him; solve the riddle of the Oracle, which warns him of betrayal by a friend; and unravel a treachery more powerful than the gods themselves.

So my book this week was House of Hades, which is basically a later continuation of this universe, and I realized I haven't done a review on this original book yet, so voila. May I acquaint you with one of the most wonderful books ever? That was a rhetorical question: you're gonna read it whether you like it or not. I first read this book in middle school, and became completely infatuated with it. The Greek mythology is so awesome and interesting that you can't help but get pulled in. And, one of the wonderful things about this whole series: it has a lot of heart, but doesn't take itself too seriously. The chapter titles are basically gems on their own ("We Take a Zebra to Vegas," "I Ruin A Perfectly Good Bus," "Clarisse Blows Up Everything," etc...), and the rest of the story is equally as quirky. You fall in love with these characters in .2 seconds flat. No lie. They're unique and unapologetic and awesome role models. There's a companion series too, which is equally as amazing and a little more grown-up. It's best to start with this one, though; you won't regret it. If I was allowed to bribe you to read these books, I would, but I have to settle for a stern order: I won't love you anymore if you don't or haven't at least tried reading these. (I'm kidding. Mostly).  Anyway, there's copies at Kettleson, Mt. Edgecumbe, Blatchley, and Keet. Go, I tell you.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by Michael Kamkwamba

"William Kamkwamba was born in Malawi, a country where magic ruled and modern science was mystery. It was also a land withered by drought and hunger, and a place where hope and opportunity were hard to find. But William had read about windmills in a book called Using Energy, and he dreamed of building one that would bring electricity and water to his village and change his life and the lives of those around him. His neighbors may have mocked him and called him misala—crazy—but William was determined to show them what a little grit and ingenuity could do.

Enchanted by the workings of electricity as a boy, William had a goal to study science in Malawi's top boarding schools. But in 2002, his country was stricken with a famine that left his family's farm devastated and his parents destitute. Unable to pay the eighty-dollar-a-year tuition for his education, William was forced to drop out and help his family forage for food as thousands across the country starved and died.

Yet William refused to let go of his dreams. With nothing more than a fistful of cornmeal in his stomach, a small pile of once-forgotten science textbooks, and an armory of curiosity and determination, he embarked on a daring plan to bring his family a set of luxuries that only two percent of Malawians could afford and what the West considers a necessity—electricity and running water. Using scrap metal, tractor parts, and bicycle halves, William forged a crude yet operable windmill, an unlikely contraption and small miracle that eventually powered four lights, complete with homemade switches and a circuit breaker made from nails and wire. A second machine turned a water pump that could battle the drought and famine that loomed with every season.

Soon, news of William's magetsi a mphepo—his "electric wind"—spread beyond the borders of his home, and the boy who was once called crazy became an inspiration to those around the world.

Here is the remarkable story about human inventiveness and its power to overcome crippling adversity. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind will inspire anyone who doubts the power of one individual's ability to change his community and better the lives of those around him."

There's not much to be said about this book that hasn't been said by the blurb, but I'll interject real quick: this was really fascinating and interesting, and quite eye-opening to read. It gives you a new level of understanding of lives in Africa; over the first two-thirds of the book simply chronicle his life growing up in Malawi. Really compelling and completely new. If you're interested at all in other cultures, read this. You won't regret it (I even cried once. The writing's straightforward but gets to the heart of things). It's at Kettleson, SHS, and MEHS.