dsbs42’s #CBR5 Review #5: Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

stargirl

*Minor spoilers ahead*

I started out frankly irritated with the self-indulgent purposefully bizarre antics of the eponymous Stargirl, to be perfectly honest. But she, and the book, really grew on my by the end. The writing was impressively thoughtful for YA lit, and the characters and high school setting was fairly believable. I’ll admit that my high school experience seems to have differed greatly from most of pop culture’s conceptions of what it’s supposed to be like – I never felt pressured to change my behaviour or who I hung out with, and while there were cliques, it was mostly based on mutual interest (the “art people” (aka the druggies), the “Mac geeks,” the “music hallways group”), and you could belong to all or none of them, if you chose. So the school-wide shunning seemed a bit much, although I can picture it happening due to my exposure to shows like Degrassi, and movies like Mean Girls.

But a girl who devotes an entire office to making note of people’s birthdays, triumphs, failures, and misfortunes, just so she can support and cheer them along the way? That’s universally wonderful, no matter what your experience. So despite the cliché premise, there’s an important message here. And that message is not just to “be yourself and do what makes you happy, regardless of what people think of you,”** but also to simply have less of an ego, to think and care more about other people, humanity, and nature, and less about what clothes to wear.

Read the rest here!

dsbs42’s #CBR5 Review #2: I, Mona Lisa by Jeanne Kalogridis

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I, Mona Lisa is an alternative history of 15th and early 16th century Italy, centering around the character of Lisa Gherardini, also known as the Mona Lisa herself. The story follows Lisa’s life and the creation of the famous painting, and weaves it neatly into the tumultuous events occurring in and around Florence at the time. Kalogridis does take some incredible liberties with history and what we know of the Mona Lisa, but I’m actually not sure how much of that is her fault – the book was published in 2006 (therefore presumably written in 2004/2005), and a lot of what we know of the Mona Lisa came to light in 2005 (see the above link). At any rate, I’ve decided it would be helpful to read books like this with one hand on the keyboard and one eye on Google. That way, the author can draw you into history with intrigue (murder! sex! sword fights!) and atmosphere, and you can be sure not to replace recorded history with half-remembered fictions from some book you once read.

Read the rest here!

dsbs42’s #CBR5 Review #1: Drop Dead Healthy by A.J. Jacobs

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I’ve read all of A.J. Jacobs’ “stunt” memoirs. The Year of Living Biblically was my favourite by far, but his first, The Know-It-All is pretty damn good, too*. My Life As A Guinea Pig is fine – it’s a collection of articles written for Esquire following the Jacobs’ theme of experimenting on himself.

Drop Dead Healthy is just as good as Biblically. I spent the entire week I was reading this book reading quotes out loud to everyone around me, and making notes to improve my own healthiness.

It’s not your average self-help diet and exercise book, there isn’t one simple program that he hawks. It’s a fairly broad overview of all that healthy living has to offer, told with minimal judgement (a tone I call “respectful skepticism”) – a lot like Mary Roach. It’s not surprising that I’m always reading endorsement quotes from one on the jacket flaps of the other. There are the expected chapters on exercise and diet (encompassing everything from mindful eating, caveman living, and the veggie smoothie diet), but, as usual, Jacobs goes several steps further; you’ll also find chapters on ear health, back health, hand health, and more.

Read the rest here!

taralovesbooks’ #CBR5 Review #3: The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

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Cannonball Read V: Book #3/52
Published: 1999
Pages: 213
Genre: Young Adult

I’ve had this book on my to-read list for a long time. I’d heard it was good, but the plot seemed somewhat boring and I was slightly turned off by the fact that MTV published it (MTV publishes books?). However, after being bombarded with previews for the movie version, I decided it didn’t look too bad and I always prefer to read the book before I see the movie.

So, The Perks of Being a Wallflower follows a “wallflower” named Charlie who is just starting high school after his best friend committed suicide the previous year. Then he meets a pair of senior step-siblings (Sam and Patrick) who sort of take Charlie under their wing. The story unfolds through letters that Charlie writes to an anonymous penpal.

Read the rest in my blog.