Books Against Bullying: This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales

Elise Dembowski is not afraid of a little hard work. In fact, she embraces it. All her life, she’s taken on big, all-encompassing projects. When she was eight years old, she built her own dollhouse. When she was thirteen, she taught herself stop-motion animation. And when she’s fifteen, she embarks on the biggest, and most important, project of them all: becoming cool. Except she fails. Miserably. And everything falls to pieces.

Now, if possible, Elise’s social life is even worse than it was before. Until she stumbles into an underground dance club, and opens the door to a world she never knew existed. An inside-out world where, seemingly overnight, a previously uncool high school sophomore can become the hottest new DJ sensation. Elise finally has what she always wanted: acceptance, friendship, maybe even love. Until the real world threatens to steal it all away.

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I decided to read THIS SONG WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE because of the cover. I knew it had something to do with DJing, but I never really paid attention to what the book was all about–just that a lot of people seemed to be raving about it When I finally got my hands on a copy and finished it, I realized this book was something special. I decided to go the easy way out and not write a review.

But that didn’t end up working.

So I decided to write an impersonal, go-read-this-now review.

But that didn’t work either, because I read Emily May’s review of THIS SONG. It made me tear up, and before I knew it I was deleting and rewriting my entire review, the way I should’ve wrote it the first time. I couldn’t bring myself to publish it on RealityLapse, but I sent copies to both Emily May and Leila Sales. You could say it was an awkward first conversation, but we quickly got to talking about this book and I got an idea for a feature.

Together, Emily, Leila and I compiled this interview-discussion about our experiences with bullying. I hope you guys learn from it, and you’ll add this amazing book to your Goodreads shelves. What do you think of bullying? Leave a comment below!

1) Why do you think kids bully other kids?

Leila: I think different kids have different reasons. Sometimes they’re trying to impress their friends, or make their friends laugh. Sometimes they’re trying to make themselves feel better by making somebody else feel worse. Sometimes they do it because they feel powerless, and hurting somebody else seems like a good way to make yourself feel like you have power.

Eli: Kids are mean. I think that a lot of it has to do with fitting in and more importantly, not standing out. In trying to hide the things that they don’t like about themselves, I think that they feel that if they point it out in others people won’t notice them as much.

Emily: I think a lot of kids victimize others to avoid being the victim themselves. High School is a tough world and I think that being mean can work as something of a self-defense mechanism. In my experience, looking back, the vast majority of school bullies weren’t the popular and beautiful kids, but they managed to hide their insecurities by pointing out the flaws in others, including me.

2) How would you describe bullying or seeing someone else getting bullied?

Leila: I think it’s when somebody says or does something hurtful to somebody else, knowing that it’s hurtful, with the intention of hurting. They may claim “no offense,” but don’t believe it– they meant offense.

Eli: Physical things, they hurt. But cyberbullying–it’s always there. If you feel pain, you can mentally get over it. You can always fight another day, but when it really gets inside of you, it changes how you react to other people. Personally, I think cyber bullying is the worst. Sure, it can have something to do with what you physically look like. For cyberbullying, you’re behind a computer screen. Your bully has the potential to imagine you any way they want. No bullying is easy.

Emily: I believe that bullying is the act of repeatedly and intentionally trying to hurt someone else. It’s strange because whenever I used to see others being bullied, I would feel angry towards the bully; but when it was me being bullied, I always felt angry towards myself – I think blaming yourself is a major problem a lot of bullied kids face.

3) What do you wish you had known or had when you were being bullied?

Leila: I know this is a cliche to say at this point, but I wish I’d known that it really does get better– you grow up and you are more in control of your circumstances, and you get to meet more people who are similar to you. Most adults aren’t going to bother being jerks to you for no particular reason. And I wish I’d known that it wasn’t my fault– I didn’t “deserve” to be bullied because I was “doing something wrong.” Those are some of the main things that Elise realizes over the course of THIS SONG WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE.

Eli: I wish I’d known what to say. I wasn’t sure exactly how to act or what to do around people who were getting bullied. Never having been bullied myself, I didn’t want to make things worse. It was hard to see people getting bullied, and I wish I’d known that really, anything does help. Reaching out to someone helps, even if you choose not to intervene.

Emily: I wish I could have seen past the sphere that was the High School world. I can remember how it felt and it still makes my stomach feel sick sometimes when I dwell on it for too long. But High School feels like all there is when you’re a teenager; it’s really hard to imagine a world that exists outside of it, and a life beyond what you’ve grown accustomed to. It’s that old cliche – “it gets better” – but it does, it really does.

4) How do you deal with bullying?

Leila: Elise ultimately deals with bullying by finding her own self-respect. Other kids can and will still tell her that she’s a loser, she’s a weirdo, but their words no longer hold the same power over her because she knows, deep down, that they’re wrong. She doesn’t have to prove to them that they are wrong anymore, because she has proven it to herself.

Eli: I don’t deal with bullying myself. Honestly, I find that simply talking to someone who has been bullied or needs someone to reach out to can help a lot. Just letting them know that you aren’t judging them, and trying to understand their situation, will mean a lot to them. I feel like that definitely ties in with the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign on Twitter and spreading the knowledge about the issues that teenagers face.

Emily: Honestly? I think the victim-blaming culture in society needs to change. We live in a world where rape victims’ clothing and behavior is scrutinized in the media and the 12-year-old title character in Lolita is labelled a seductress. I think it is deeply-ingrained in us to look for the fault in the victim and to assume that we’ve done something wrong if we become the victim of attack. Bullied kids are being taught to wonder what’s wrong with themselves, not to question whether the bully is wrong.

5) In your opinion, does bullying effect people even after it’s been stopped?

Leila: Absolutely. I edited a wonderful novel about this, Jennifer Hubbard’s UNTIL IT HURTS TO STOP. It’s about how bullying can leave marks on its victims years after the perpetrators have moved on. Anything that we say or do to other people can affect them in ways that we wouldn’t anticipate. And not just bullying: sometimes doing something nice for someone can also have an impact on that person much further in the future than you might imagine.

Eli: Yes. If anything, it really is about bullying after it happens. When it first happens, it’s just hard on you because it’s a new change but you can eventually ignore it. But then it gets to the point where you can’t ignore it. And it starts to change you. When the bully feels more comfortable around you, that’s when everything really just gets worse. It’s a form of trauma. 

Emily: Without question. Unfortunately, I would say the effects of my experience lasted far longer than the bullying itself. The last of the bullying ended when I was 16 but it took me a long time to stop being suspicious of other people’s intentions. One characteristic of my bullying was that they would slyly tell me they liked my hair/shoes/etc. and then turn to their friends and laugh. I still sometimes find it difficult to accept compliments and constantly question the truth in them.

6) Why don’t kids tell others when they’re being bullied?

Emily: As I said with the first question, I think it depends on the kid and the circumstances. Some kids do tell. Other don’t tell because they’re ashamed of what’s happening to them, they think they’re bringing it on themselves somehow, and if they told an adult, that adult might say, “Well, if you just acted less weird and played more sports and tried a little harder to fit in, you wouldn’t have these problems.” Still others don’t tell because they don’t believe that anyone else has the power to fix the situation, or because they’ve been explicitly threatened not to tell anyone.

Eli: I think that it’s because the victim either doesn’t think that the person won’t help them, won’t listen to them or will blame them for it. There’s also the fear that a bully will lash out at you more for telling others, especially if the adult doesn’t do anything about it. No matter how many bullies you tell the teachers about, no matter how many times the teacher talks to the bully, you feel like things won’t change.

Emily: Mostly I think it’s because they either blame themselves or think nothing will change. I wrote about this latter feeling in my review. If you think that your bullying is directly linked to the person you are and caused by your own character flaws, you will also believe that no amount of involvement from parents or teachers can change this. You’re bullied because you’re weird? Well you’ll still be weird even if your parents call the school. You’re bullied because you’re fat? Well you’ll still be fat even if the teachers speak to the bullies.

7) Can people who haven’t been bullied understand bullying fully? What did Elise’s experience mean to you?

Leila: I hope that books like THIS SONG WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE can help people who haven’t had Elise’s exact experiences still understand what those experiences feel like on the inside. That’s what good fiction can do: help you experience empathy, help you see that other people’s life experiences might be very different from your own, but their feelings are every bit as real and consequential as yours.

Eli: 

Like I said before, I think that with new books and more education, people–and kids especially–will learn to accept things about other people and bullying as a whole can start to diminish. The first step towards learning about bullying for me was reading, and with books like this I hope that other people can say the same.

Emily: I hope with better education and books like Leila Sales’ that they can start to. Bullying is something that can have a huge negative effect on a person for the rest of their life and it needs to be addressed early.

Elise’s experience was mine. I couldn’t believe how closely our stories resembled one another. I am no longer a bullied teenager, but a 22-year-old with good friends and interesting opportunities on the horizon… and still THIS SONG WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE took me back to all the pain and sadness of High School, whilst simultaneously reminding me how much it does get better and how far I’ve come from that. I’ve literally read thousands of books in my life, but I think this is the single book that affected me most.

8) Did any song in particular help save you?

Leila: Lots of different songs, at different points in my life. “Leave,” by Matchbox Twenty; “A Murder of One,” by the Counting Crows; “Someone Great,” by LCD Soundsystem… I could go on. Sometimes a song just hits you in the right way, and makes you realize you’re not the only one who feels this way.

Eli: A few, actually. Unwell by Matchbox 20. Someday and Her Diamonds by Rob Thomas. I Got You by Leona Lewis. Breakaway by Kelly Clarkson. Keep Holding On by Avril Lavigne. 

Emily: So many. “Not a Pretty Girl” by Ani Difranco was a good one at a time when I didn’t feel so “pretty”. Also, “My Life” by Billy Joel and (a bit cliche but…) “You Learn” by Alanis Morissette.

9) What advice do you have to people out there who are being bullied today?

Leila: It’s really hard. There’s no one piece of advice I could give in a blog post that would make it all better. But I would tell them to just keep pulling through, because no matter how bleak it gets, it does eventually get better. I would tell them that they’re not the only ones experiencing this suffering, that a lot of really happy, successful adults were once victims of bullying. And I would advise them to remember what makes them special, and not to give anyone else the power to take that away.

Eli: You’re not alone. It’s not your fault that this is happening. It’s theirs. And try to get close to people. Make some friends. Don’t be afraid. Tell yourself every morning that today’s going to be better. I’m not saying things will be nice that day. But someday, the world’s going to change. So many  things can happen in one day. Making friends and building up confidence is definitely a part of that. It does get better. 

Emily: I would tell them that no matter how it may seem, it isn’t their fault and it does get better. I would tell them about the dark place I reached at a certain point in my life and all the wonderful things I wouldn’t have got to experience afterwards if I’d let that darkness consume me. I would tell them that the people who give them hell now won’t even be a blip on their radar in a few years time. Most of all, I think I’d tell them that everyone is weird and there is no “normal”. And that anyone who tries to make them feel otherwise is lying.

Thanks to Leila Sales and Emily May @ The Book Geek for taking part in this feature. Also many thanks to Frances @ France With An S for designing the button for this feature.

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Leila Sales grew up outside of Boston, Massachusetts. She graduated from the University of Chicago in 2006. Now she lives in Brooklyn, New York, and works in the mostly glamorous world of children’s book publishing. Leila spends most of her time thinking about sleeping, kittens, dance parties, and stories that she wants to write.

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The YA Valentines

When I first heard of the YA Valentines, it was around the time that they started up their street teams. I’m on the street teams right now for Lynne Matson’s Nil, Jen McConnel’s Daughter of Chaos and The Secret of Isobel Key and Paula Stokes’s The Art of Lainey. So far, being a part of the street team has been A LOT of fun and I have loved supporting these amazing authors. I’ve worked with most of them, and they are all extremely friendly and great to work with. Check out this post on the YA Valentines website to get all the links and I highly encourage you to join!

And what are the YA Valentines, you may ask?

Well, they’re a group of fourteen highly talented authors that have their debuts releasing in 2014 that came together to share the YA Book Love. You can check out they’re website by clicking on the picture above! Be sure to follow to get the news about awesome giveaways, interviews and other updates on the Valentines.

And today is VALENTINE’S DAY. Seriously. It’s a day devoted to the Valentines. The YA Valentines, of course. 

Bask in the amazing.

snowlikeashes

No Place to Fall by Jaye Robin Brown

In order to share the love today, I’ll be giving away a pre-order of any of the YA Valentine books! You can find out all the deets here!

The Christmas Countdown Day 11, Fun Gifts and Humor

Welcome to the second-to-last day of the Christmas Countdown! Today we’re taking a look at some fun gifts and humorous books. We’re one day away from Christmas! Ahhhh! So excited! We’re starting today with the good old Oatmeal.

oatmeal

Matthew Inman dishes another helping of hilarity from his online comic The Oatmeal in My Dog: The Paradox. After years of carefully observing his own dog, Rambo, Inman follows his #1 New York Times best-sellingHow to Tell If Your Cat Is Plotting to Kill You, with this ode to the furry, four-footed, tail-wagging bundle of love and unbridled energy frequently dubbed man’s best friend. This eponymous comic became an instant hit when it went live on The Oatmeal.com and was liked on Facebook by 700,000 fans. Now fans will have a keepsake book of this comic to give and to keep.

In My Dog: The Paradox, Inman discusses the canine penchant for rolling in horse droppings, chasing large animals four times their size, and acting recklessly enthusiastic through the entirety of their impulsive, lovable lives. Hilarious and heartfelt, My Dog: The Paradox eloquently illustrates the complicated relationship between man and dog.

We will never know why dogs fear hair dryers, or being baited into staring contests with cats, but as Inman explains, perhaps we love dogs so much “because their lives aren’t lengthy, logical, or deliberate, but an explosive paradox composed of fur, teeth, and enthusiasm.

The sheer amount of time you can spend reading the Oatmeal comics is ridiculous. You don’t even notice the time going by, and if you’re like me–you just keep opening new comics into new tabs until you’re finished. This book is no exception. It’s extremely compulsively readable and hilarious. You can check out what it’s like here!

immaturity inventions

These two books are exactly what they sound like. Wacky, weird and extremely cool. Anyone who has ever bought or been a part of anything Klutz knows how fun and unique their ideas are. These two books are constantly being flipped through in libraries and middle schools everywhere I go. They make great gifts, along with everything else Klutz if you like crafty things! Or maybe just out-of-the-ordinary things…

zombiesurvivalgudie

The Zombie Survival Guide is your key to survival against the hordes of undead who may be stalking you right now. Fully illustrated and exhaustively comprehensive, this book covers everything you need to know, including how to understand zombie physiology and behavior, the most effective defense tactics and weaponry, ways to outfit your home for a long siege, and how to survive and adapt in any territory or terrain.

Top 10 Lessons for Surviving a Zombie Attack

1. Organize before they rise!
2. They feel no fear, why should you?
3. Use your head: cut off theirs.
4. Blades don’t need reloading.
5. Ideal protection = tight clothes, short hair.
6. Get up the staircase, then destroy it.
7. Get out of the car, get onto the bike.
8. Keep moving, keep low, keep quiet, keep alert!
9. No place is safe, only safer.
10. The zombie may be gone, but the threat lives on.

Don’t be carefree and foolish with your most precious asset—life. This book is your key to survival against the hordes of undead who may be stalking you right now without your even knowing it. The Zombie Survival Guide offers complete protection through trusted, proven tips for safeguarding yourself and your loved ones against the living dead. It is a book that can save your life.

The best teacher I ever had was a die-hard zombie lover. As such, I got her this book. This book should only be bought for extreme zombie enthusiasts, otherwise you probably won’t enjoy this book to it’s full potential. THE ZOMBIE SURVIVAL GUIDE is just that, an extremely detailed novel on zombie strategy, tactics, weapons and the sort. This is not a story in any way, and if you don’t live in Canada, America or Mexico–then a lot of the strategies don’t really apply since there’s a lot of different options. But if you do, and you’re looking for an amazing zombie book for a friend, this is the book for you.

diaryofawimpykid

Greg Heffley and his family and friends are back in Diary of a Wimpy Kid Book 8, the latest installment in the #1 bestselling series by Jeff Kinney and one of the most anticipated books of 2013. A global phenomenon, the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series has more than 85 million books in print around the world.

Greg Heffley’s on a losing streak. His best friend, Rowley Jefferson, has ditched him, and finding new friends in middle school is proving to be a tough task. To change his fortunes, Greg decides to take a leap of faith and turn his decisions over to chance. Will a roll of the dice turn things around, or is Greg’s life destined to be just another hard-luck story?

There were rumors circling for a while that this would be the last book in the DoWK series, and when I heard that I had a mini panic attack. These books started my trend of reading books in Costco. They’re so much fun to read when you’re just burning time, and even though I don’t read them as much anymore–they still have a certain nostalgia to them. Luckily, Jeff Kinney has said that these books won’t be the last ones in the series. I do have to wonder though, how long will these books follow Greg and the crew? It’s like anime and manga. You can only follow the main characters so far, and in those mangas where it ends up working that the kids have grown into adults–well, there aren’t that many of them. However, I have faith in Jeff Kinney and while we have them, I know that I’ll continue reading them, as well as anything else he comes out with. And when the series stops, people will still love these books. It’ll may even become like BLEACH. Who knows?

hyperboleandahalf

Every time Allie Brosh posts something new on her hugely popular blog Hyperbole and a Half the internet rejoices.

Touching, absurd, and darkly comic, Allie Brosh’s highly anticipated book Hyperbole and a Halfshowcases her unique voice, leaping wit, and her ability to capture complex emotions with deceptively simple illustrations.

This full-color, beautifully illustrated edition features more than fifty percent new content, with ten never-before-seen essays and one wholly revised and expanded piece as well as classics from the website like “The God of Cake” “Dogs Don’t Understand Basic Concepts Like Moving” and her astonishing “Adventures in Depression” and “Depression Part Two” which have been hailed as some of the most insightful meditations on the disease ever written.’

I’ve read just a snippet of this book, and it. is. HILARIOUS. I cannot wait to get my hands on a copy of it. You can check out a great example of what this book is like here!

aliceintumblrland

The Ugly Duckling still feels gross compared to everyone else, but now she’s got Instagram, and there’s this one filter that makes her look awesome. Cinderella swaps her glass slippers for Crocs. The Tortoise and the Hare Facebook stalk each other. Goldilocks goes gluten free. And Peter Pan finally has to grow up and get a job, or at least start paying rent.

Here are more than one hundred fairy tales, illustrated and re-imagined for today. Instead of fairy godmothers, there’s Siri. And rather than big bad wolves, there are creepy dudes on OkCupid. In our brave new world of social networking, YouTube, and texting, fairy tales can once again lead us to happily ever after”—and have us laughing all the way.

I’ve heard good things about this book, and I can’t wait to read it–though I would suggest you proceed with caution. There have been mixed feelings about this book on Goodreads, but I’ve liked what I’ve seen so far, so I’m going for it. Review to come. Looking forward to reading it!

That’s it for fun book gifts and humorous books! For more funny stories and characters, you should check out the books from other days! Happy Day-Before-Christmas, everyone! Come back tomorrow for Day Twelve: Reflecting Back on a Year of Books.

The Christmas Countdown Day 10, 2013: My 5 Star Picks of the Year

Welcome to the 10th day of the RealityLapse Christmas Countdown! As of today,we’re two days away from Christmas and we’re celebrating my five star picks of the year. As some of you may know, I’m very picky about the books I rate five stars. In my mind, I use that to signify which books are my all-time favorites, whereas I use 4.5 stars to symbolize books I loved–but didn’t make the list for any one reason. Some will come and go, and in the end only the ones I can’t seem to forget and love and learn from every time I read them will stay on that list. You can check out my full list here. Below are the books that made the list in 2013. (Just as a note, I’ve only been on Goodreads since February of this year. That’s why, even though I read them for the first time long before now, it says that I added them in 2013).

One day Han Alister catches three young wizard setting fire to the sacred mountain of Hanalea. Han takes an amulet away from Micah Bayar, son of the High Wizard, to ensure the boy won’t use it against him. The amulet once belonged to the Demon King, who nearly destroyed the world a millennium ago. With a magical piece so powerful at stake, Han knows that the Bayars will stop at nothing to get it back. Meanwhile, Princess Raisa ana’Marianna has her own battle to fight. She’s just returned to court after three years of riding and hunting with her father’s family. Raisa aspires to be like Hanalea, the legendary warrior queen who killed the Demon King and saved the world. But it seems that her mother has other plans for her—plans that include a suitor who goes against everything the Queendom stands for. The Seven Realms will tremble when the lives of Han and Raisa collide in this stunning page-turner from best-selling author Cinda Williams Chima.

One day Han Alister catches three young wizard setting fire to the sacred mountain of Hanalea. Han takes an amulet away from Micah Bayar, son of the High Wizard, to ensure the boy won’t use it against him. The amulet once belonged to the Demon King, who nearly destroyed the world a millennium ago. With a magical piece so powerful at stake, Han knows that the Bayars will stop at nothing to get it back.
Meanwhile, Princess Raisa ana’Marianna has her own battle to fight. She’s just returned to court after three years of riding and hunting with her father’s family. Raisa aspires to be like Hanalea, the legendary warrior queen who killed the Demon King and saved the world. But it seems that her mother has other plans for her—plans that include a suitor who goes against everything the Queendom stands for.
The Seven Realms will tremble when the lives of Han and Raisa collide in this stunning page-turner from best-selling author Cinda Williams Chima.

By the time I got to this book for the first time, I had been through a slump of fantasy books that I hadn’t enjoyed. By the time I got to this book, I was worn out from my quest to rediscover fantasy. Cinda Williams Chima and this series reminded me. I do have to say this book is a little slow at some parts, but the pacing didn’t bother me too much. Other than that, so much about this book and series are amazing. The books just keep getting better and better. As for the characters and the world-building, this book is fascinating and fun to explore. Filled with humor, witty dialogue, action and adventure–this gives me the same feeling I get when I read John Flanaghan’s work. A truly entertaining read. You can read my full review here.

Connect With The Author:

Ξ Website Ξ Facebook Ξ Blog Ξ Goodreads Ξ Twitter Ξ

virals

Tory Brennan, niece of acclaimed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan (of the Bones novels and hit TV show), is the leader of a ragtag band of teenage “sci-philes” who live on a secluded island off the coast of South Carolina. When the group rescues a dog caged for medical testing on a nearby island, they are exposed to an experimental strain of canine parvovirus that changes their lives forever.
As the friends discover their heightened senses and animal-quick reflexes, they must combine their scientific curiosity with their newfound physical gifts to solve a cold-case murder that has suddenly become very hot if they can stay alive long enough to catch the killer’s scent.
Fortunately, they are now more than friends. They’re a pack. They are Virals.

I was laying on my couch, tired and half-asleep, when I started reading this book. But it didn’t stay that way for long. Before I knew it, I was laughing out loud and smiling despite myself as I read this story. The action and adventure themes in this novel were well-done and exciting, while some parts to this book were humorous and witty. The world-building to this book was great as well, even if it made the book a little slow in the beginning. All the elements in this book perfectly come together to make one awesome read. I loved this introduction into Kathy Reichs’s writing and I plan to check out more, as well as the BONES TV show. While I didn’t like the sequel to this book nearly as much as VIRALS, I still love this book. It just isn’t like some of my other five star reads, where the five stars account for that book and most of the rest of the series. Looking forward to the third book! You can read my full review here.

Connect With The Author:

Ξ Website Ξ Facebook Ξ Blog Ξ Goodreads Ξ Twitter Ξ

That’s it for day ten! What are some of your favorite books? You can check back tomorrow for Day Eleven: Humor Books & Great Gifts.

The Christmas Countdown Day 8, Science Fiction

Welcome back to the RealityLapse Christmas Countdown! We’re on day eight, celebrating science fiction and we’re four days closer to Christmas! Starting out, we’re going with the book that was recently made into a movie and one of my favorite sci-fis of all time–ENDER’S GAME.

ender'sgame

As much as I like this book, I can understand why the movie didn’t get as good ratings or bring in as much money as it could have. The reality of the matter is that if you can’t identify yourself with Ender and his story, then you probably won’t enjoy this movie. Sure, it’s action and adventure scenes are cool enough, but if you’re like me–where you like high-concept movies the best–then this movie may not be for you if you didn’t enjoy the book. The thing is though, I could identify with Ender. I loved how this book was about intelligent kids and what they can do, and I really felt like this book was the very first science fiction book I ever really enjoyed. This book is awesome, and while I have to admit that it has it’s rough spots–I still love it all the same. There’s a lot on ethics and suppression in here, and I highly recommend this book for all MG to YA readers who want to get into science fiction. You can read my full review here. For a great book for someone who liked ENDER’S GAME, you should check out Ender’s Shadow.

oldmanswar

John Perry did two things on his 75th birthday. First he visited his wife’s grave. Then he joined the army.

The good news is that humanity finally made it into interstellar space. The bad news is that planets fit to live on are scarce– and alien races willing to fight us for them are common. So: we fight. To defend Earth, and to stake our own claim to planetary real estate. Far from Earth, the war has been going on for decades: brutal, bloody, unyielding.

Earth itself is a backwater. The bulk of humanity’s resources are in the hands of the Colonial Defense Force. Everybody knows that when you reach retirement age, you can join the CDF. They don’t want young people; they want people who carry the knowledge and skills of decades of living. You’ll be taken off Earth and never allowed to return. You’ll serve two years at the front. And if you survive, you’ll be given a generous homestead stake of your own, on one of our hard-won colony planets.

John Perry is taking that deal. He has only the vaguest idea what to expect. Because the actual fight, light-years from home, is far, far harder than he can imagine–and what he will become is far stranger.

The first reason why I liked this book is because of Scalzi’s writing. From the very first few pages, you can see how clear, concise and well thought-out it is. After reading an excerpt of this on another blog a long time before I started blogging myself, I knew I wanted to read it. It wasn’t only that though. It didn’t hit me all at once. I didn’t like the characters immediately, they slowly and steadily creeped upon me. The characters and their story really began to mean something to me, and that made the story a lot stronger. I loved the idea of the book and the concepts Scalzi explains. Younger readers might not appreciate this book as much, and in that case you might want to check out Lissa Price’s STARTERS. You can read my full review here.

readyplayerone

It’s the year 2044, and the real world is an ugly place.

Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be, a place where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets.

And like most of humanity, Wade dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this virtual world. For somewhere inside this giant networked playground, OASIS creator James Halliday has hidden a series of fiendish puzzles that will yield massive fortune–and remarkable power–to whoever can unlock them.

For years, millions have struggled fruitlessly to attain this prize, knowing only that Halliday’s riddles are based in the pop culture he loved–that of the late twentieth century. And for years, millions have found in this quest another means of escape, retreating into happy, obsessive study of Halliday’s icons. Like many of his contemporaries, Wade is as comfortable debating the finer points of John Hughes’s oeuvre, playing Pac-Man, or reciting Devo lyrics as he is scrounging power to run his OASIS rig.

And then Wade stumbles upon the first puzzle. 

It’s so much fun to read this book, among other things. Wade is funny, relatable, real and a good guy. All the different references in here are fun to track and think about. I read this book again for the first time in a long time right after watching SWORD ART ONLINE for the first time, so I was extremely excited to rediscover this book and why I loved it so much. There’s a lot of great elements in this book and I loved reading about them as Ernest Cline put them all together, along with the genuinely lovable characters. Highly recommended to 80s pop-culture and video-game fans. You can read my full review here.

theknifeofneverlettinggo

Prentisstown isn’t like other towns. Everyone can hear everyone else’s thoughts in an overwhelming, never-ending stream of Noise. Just a month away from the birthday that will make him a man, Todd and his dog, Manchee — whose thoughts Todd can hear too, whether he wants to or not — stumble upon an area of complete silence. They find that in a town where privacy is impossible, something terrible has been hidden — a secret so awful that Todd and Manchee must run for their lives.

But how do you escape when your pursuers can hear your every thought?

I loved the first sentence of this book from the very first time that I read it, and the rest of the book that follows. I love the detail an the heart-racing action that takes place in this book, as well as the characters that quickly grow on you. It was extremely interesting to see Todd grow throughout the first book, constantly changing and growing better. I also really liked the concepts of this story. Even though sometimes the way the slang and language was used throughout this book, it doesn’t bother me as much anymore. This a great read for anyone looking for an action/adventure novel with some fascinating ideas and story writing that will make you think. You can read my full review here.

ugliesseries

Everybody gets to be supermodel gorgeous. What could be wrong with that? 

Tally is about to turn sixteen, and she can’t wait. Not for her license – for turning pretty. In Tally’s world, your sixteenth birthday brings an operation that turns you from a repellent ugly into a stunningly attractive pretty and catapults you into a high-tech paradise where your only job is to have a really great time. In just a few weeks Tally will be there.

But Tally’s new friend Shay isn’t sure she wants to be pretty. She’d rather risk life on the outside. When Shay runs away, Tally learns about a whole new side of the pretty world and it isn’t very pretty. The authorities offer Tally the worst choice she can imagine: find her friend and turn her in, or never turn pretty at all. 

The choice Tally makes changes her world forever…

I feel like the first book in this series was all about Tally’s growth as a character–learning about the world outside her own sheltered one and finding a place behind everything she’s been told or believed. Scott Westerfeld’s writing style grows with the series as well, changing to match whatever is happening at the time, and I think that that makes the book a lot stronger. I do have to say this book
is a little slow in the beginning, but if you get into it–this is a series that is exciting, fun and makes you wonder about where we’re heading as a society. If you liked Westerfeld’s other works such as LEVIATHAN, then you should try this book. You can read my full review here.

feed

For Titus and his friends, it started out like any ordinary trip to the moon – a chance to party during spring break and play with some stupid low-grav at the Ricochet Lounge. But that was before the crazy hacker caused all their feeds to malfunction, sending them to the hospital to lie around with nothing inside their heads for days. And it was before Titus met Violet, a beautiful, brainy teenage girl who has decided to fight the feed and its omnipresent ability to categorize human thoughts and desires. Following in the footsteps of George Orwell, Anthony Burgess, and Kurt Vonnegut Jr., M. T. Anderson has created a not-so-brave new world — and a smart, savage satire that has captivated readers with its view of an imagined future that veers unnervingly close to the here and now.

I loved so much about this book the first time I read it. I have to say that may be under the influence of 1984, which I read just before this as I was in my classics phase–but this book still has something all it’s own. I have to say I didn’t appreciate the teen-speak from Titus and his friends in the beginning. Frankly, it was quite annoying at times. However, I grew into it and by the end of the book it didn’t bother me. The concepts to the story and the amazing plot line really grew on me and I loved reading about Titus and Violet as they fought the feed. M.T. Anderson’s voice really resonates perfectly with the storytelling of this book and I love the journey that they all go through. A truly satisfying read that can make you think.

That concludes day eight and all the science fiction madness! What are some of your favorite science fiction reads? You might want to try some of the ones above! If you’re a fan of Alistair Reynolds and haven’t read it yet, I highly suggest reading his HOUSE OF SUNS. Come back tomorrow for the RealityLapse Christmas Countdown Day Nine: Fantasy.

The Christmas Countdown Day 7, 2013: Biographies, Memoirs and Nonfiction

Well, now that day six is over, we’re on to day seven for the RealityLapse Christmas Countdown and we’re five days away from Christmas! Today we’re celebrating some of my favorite biographies, memoirs and nonfiction.

diaryofannefrank

Discovered in the attic in which she spent the last years of her life, Anne Frank’s remarkable diary has since become a world classic—a powerful reminder of the horrors of war and an eloquent testament to the human spirit.

In 1942, with Nazis occupying Holland, a thirteen-year-old Jewish girl and her family fled their home in Amsterdam and went into hiding. For the next two years, until their whereabouts were betrayed to the Gestapo, they and another family lived cloistered in the “Secret Annexe” of an old office building. Cut off from the outside world, they faced hunger, boredom, the constant cruelties of living in confined quarters, and the ever-present threat of discovery and death.

In her diary Anne Frank recorded vivid impressions of her experiences during this period. By turns thoughtful, moving, and amusing, her account offers a fascinating commentary on human courage and frailty and a compelling self-portrait of a sensitive and spirited young woman whose promise was tragically cut short.

Anne Frank and her story changed the way I looked at war. Every single book about war since I read THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK has been read by me because of this book. The tragedy and cruelty of the time and her beliefs on what was happening really spoke to me. Not only that, but the way she wrote really struck me through this book. The elements are all there, and she herself pulls it together. Recommended read for all people at any point in time.

timtebowthroughmyeyes

Over the course of the last five years, Tim Tebow established himself as one of the greatest quarterbacks in the history of college football and a top prospect in the NFL. During that time he amassed an unparalleled resume—winning two BCS national championships, becoming the first sophomore in NCAA history to win the Heisman trophy, and in the face of massive public scrutiny, being drafted in the first round of the NFL draft by the Denver Broncos.

Now, in Through My Eyes, Tebow brings readers everywhere an inspirational memoir about life as he chose to live it, revealing how his faith and family values, combined with his relentless will to succeed, have molded him into the person that he is today. As the son of Christian missionaries, Tebow has a unique story to tell—from the circumstances of his birth, to his home-schooled roots, to his record-setting collegiate football career with the Florida Gators and everything else that took place in between.

At every step, Tebow’s life has defied convention and expectation. While aspects of his life have been well-documented, the stories have always been filtered through the opinions and words of others. Through My Eyes is his passionate, firsthand, never-before-told account of how it all really happened.

This book was my first step into the world of sports biographies and memoirs. THROUGH MY EYES is a great story about Tim Tebow’s rise as a football player and how he got there. I feel like this book really taught me a lot and it was a great journey into understanding his life. This book is remarkable and inspiring and I highly recommend it even if you’re not a football fan. If you liked this book and want to find more like this you can try Drew Brees’s COMING BACK STRONGER, Michael Oher’s I BEAT THE ODDS and Tony Dungy’s QUIET STRENGTH. For my full review of this book, click here.

freakonomics

Which is more dangerous, a gun or a swimming pool? What do schoolteachers and sumo wrestlers have in common? Why do drug dealers still live with their moms? How much do parents really matter? How did the legalization of abortion affect the rate of violent crime?

These may not sound like typical questions for an economist to ask. But Steven D. Levitt is not a typical economist. He is a much-heralded scholar who studies the riddles of everyday life—from cheating and crime to sports and child-rearing—and whose conclusions turn conventional wisdom on its head.

The first time I read FREAKNOMICS, I had a great time. And every time since then, it’s been the same way. It’s fascinating and often times hilarious to hear about all the different things in this book, from quirky facts to things that happen in everyday life–and why it happens. If you’ve already read this book, you might want to check out the movie. I enjoy both a lot and the facts in them are light and fun.

fastfoodnation

Fast food has hastened the malling of our landscape, widened the chasm between rich and poor, fueled an epidemic of obesity, and propelled American cultural imperialism abroad. That’s a lengthy list of charges, but Eric Schlosser makes them stick with an artful mix of first-rate reportage, wry wit, and careful reasoning.

Schlosser’s myth-shattering survey stretches from California’s subdivisions, where the business was born, to the industrial corridor along the New Jersey Turnpike, where many of fast food’s flavors are concocted. Along the way, he unearths a trove of fascinating, unsettling truths — from the unholy alliance between fast food and Hollywood to the seismic changes the industry has wrought in food production, popular culture, and even real estate.

Both this book and the SUPER SIZE ME documentary were really eye-opening for me. I knew that fast food was bad for people, why it was bad and what it did to your body. But I never really knew about the history of fast food, the process of how it got to this point today and how it’s grown over time, as well as the all-important standpoint of exactly what is it doing today. I really liked the process of reading this book and watching SUPER SIZE ME and I feel like this is a great answer to all of my questions. You can read my full review here.

templegrandin

When Temple Grandin was born in 1947, autism had only just been named. Today it is more prevalent than ever, with one in 88 children diagnosed on the spectrum. And our thinking about it has undergone a transformation in her lifetime: Autism studies have moved from the realm of psychology to neurology and genetics, and there is far more hope today than ever before thanks to groundbreaking new research into causes and treatments. Now Temple Grandin reports from the forefront of autism science, bringing her singular perspective to a thrilling journey into the heart of the autism revolution.
Weaving her own experience with remarkable new discoveries, Grandin introduces the neuroimaging advances and genetic research that link brain science to behavior, even sharing her own brain scan to show us which anomalies might explain common symptoms. We meet the scientists and self-advocates who are exploring innovative theories of what causes autism and how we can diagnose and best treat it. Grandin also highlights long-ignored sensory problems and the transformative effects we can have by treating autism symptom by symptom, rather than with an umbrella diagnosis. Most exciting, she argues that raising and educating kids on the spectrum isn’t just a matter of focusing on their weaknesses; in the science that reveals their long-overlooked strengths she shows us new ways to foster their unique contributions.

Back when I was really first getting into my study of autism and other disorders, I stumbled upon Temple Grandin’s books and decided to read them. That book led to another and led to another and before I knew it, I found myself fascinated with the life and works of Temple Grandin. The way she explained things and the impact that she’s made on the world is amazing and everything she’s done–for animals and humans–really inspired me. I haven’t read this book all the way through yet–I only got a few-chapters-long teaser from a friend of mine–but I feel like this is her best book yet and I can’t wait to get to read the rest of it! I’m also really looking forward to THE REASON I JUMP Naoki Higashida.

jimhenson

He was a gentle dreamer whose genial bearded visage was recognized around the world, but most people got to know him only through the iconic characters born of his fertile imagination: Kermit the Frog, Bert and Ernie, Miss Piggy, Big Bird. The Muppets made Jim Henson a household name, but they were only part of his remarkable story.

This extraordinary biography–written with the generous cooperation of the Henson family–covers the full arc of Henson’s all-too-brief life: from his childhood in Leland, Mississippi, through the years of burgeoning fame in Washington D.C., New York, and London, to the decade of international celebrity that preceded his untimely death at age fifty-three. 

I love Jim Henson, and he was an amazing inspiration in my life as a child and now. From what I’ve seen already from this book, I love the format and the in-depth storytelling about Jim Henson’s life in his struggles, accomplishments and what led him to be the legend he is today. If you have any interest in Jim Henson’s life or his works, then I highly recommend that you read this book.

That’s it for day seven! A few other titles I’m dying to read are HAPPY, HAPPY, HAPPY by Phil Robertson and Malala Yousafzai’s biography. What about you? What are your favorite biographies, memoirs or nonfiction titles? For some great biographies for younger kids, you might want to check out the WHO WAS series and the CHILDHOOD OF FAMOUS AMERICANS series, both of which I loved growing up. Stay tuned tomorrow for Day Eight: Science Fiction.

The Christmas Countdown Day 6, 2013: Zombies

Hello and welcome to the sixth day of the RealityLapse Christmas Countdown! The theme for today is zombies, and we’re six days away from Christmas. Today we’re starting off with some of my favorite zombie novels of all time…. You know… the kind that makes you think. Brings about questions like:

zombieattack

And makes you wonder.

zombies-demotivational-1

And brings about the notion that you’re never quite prepared enough.

preparedness

On that note, Jonathan Maberry to start us off.

rotandruin

In the zombie-infested, post-apocalyptic America where Benny Imura lives, every teenager must find a job by the time they turn fifteen or get their rations cut in half. Benny doesn’t want to apprentice as a zombie hunter with his boring older brother Tom, but he has no choice. He expects a tedious job whacking zoms for cash, but what he gets is a vocation that will teach him what it means to be human.

The first time I read this book, I had no words for it by the time I was done. I had never read any zombie book like this before, and even now–I find it hard to find anything quite like it. All I really knew was, Jonathan Maberry is awesome. I had rumors about PATIENT ZERO before, but I hadn’t read any of his books before. And he impressed me on his first try. I still find it hard to describe this book. Like all good ones, it’s hard to describe in words. Because it ends up with a lot of contradictions. This book is sensitive and smart, yet tough and almost horrifying at times. It’s clever, witty and fun yet straightforward and tight. It talks about what it means to be a zombie, but even more so about humans. Ugh. I have CJDAB (Cannot Justifiably Describe Amazing Books) syndrome. To read my full review, click here.

World_War_Z_book_cover

The Zombie War came unthinkably close to eradicating humanity. Max Brooks, driven by the urgency of preserving the acid-etched first-hand experiences of the survivors from those apocalyptic years, traveled across the United States of America and throughout the world, from decimated cities that once teemed with upwards of thirty million souls to the most remote and inhospitable areas of the planet. He recorded the testimony of men, women, and sometimes children who came face-to-face with the living, or at least the undead, hell of that dreadful time.World War Z is the result.

Never before have we had access to a document that so powerfully conveys the depth of fear and horror, and also the ineradicable spirit of resistance, that gripped human society through the plague years.Ranging from the now infamous village of New Dachang in the United Federation of China, where the epidemiological trail began with the twelve-year-old Patient Zero, to the unnamed northern forests where untold numbers sought a terrible and temporary refuge in the cold, to the United States of Southern Africa, where the Redeker Plan provided hope for humanity at an unspeakable price, to the west-of-the-Rockies redoubt where the North American tide finally started to turn, this invaluable chronicle reflects the full scope and duration of the Zombie War.

Most of all, the book captures with haunting immediacy the human dimension of this epochal event. Facing the often raw and vivid nature of these personal accounts requires a degree of courage on the part of the reader, but the effort is invaluable because, as Mr. Brooks says in his introduction, “By excluding the human factor, aren’t we risking the kind of personal detachment from history that may, heaven forbid, lead us one day to repeat it? And in the end, isn’t the human factor the only true difference between us and the enemy we now refer to as ‘the living dead’?”

I personally have a good time reading some select zombie books, but most of them freak me out even if I love them. This book was no exception. Anyone reading this seen the movie version of this book? I bet some of you have. That movie, whether you liked it or not, (I did) was just a sliver of this book. I love the thrill of watching the movie and then going back to the book in this case, just because I feel like they pair up so well together. By reading the book, you really gain an understanding of why the movie was made the way it was. I was fascinated and sucked into both, and I highly recommend them.

enclave

WELCOME TO THE APOCALYPSE

In Deuce’s world, people earn the right to a name only if they survive their first fifteen years. By that point, each unnamed ‘brat’ has trained into one of three groups–Breeders, Builders, or Hunters, identifiable by the number of scars they bear on their arms. Deuce has wanted to be a Huntress for as long as she can remember.

As a Huntress, her purpose is clear—to brave the dangerous tunnels outside the enclave and bring back meat to feed the group while evading ferocious monsters known as Freaks. She’s worked toward this goal her whole life, and nothing’s going to stop her, not even a beautiful, brooding Hunter named Fade. When the mysterious boy becomes her partner, Deuce’s troubles are just beginning.

Down below, deviation from the rules is punished swiftly and harshly, and Fade doesn’t like following orders. At first Deuce thinks he’s crazy, but as death stalks their sanctuary, and it becomes clear the elders don’t always know best, Deuce wonders if Fade might be telling the truth. Her partner confuses her; she’s never known a boy like him before, as prone to touching her gently as using his knives with feral grace.

As Deuce’s perception shifts, so does the balance in the constant battle for survival. The mindless Freaks, once considered a threat only due to their sheer numbers, show signs of cunning and strategy… but the elders refuse to heed any warnings. Despite imminent disaster, the enclave puts their faith in strictures and sacrifice instead. No matter how she tries, Deuce cannot stem the dark tide that carries her far from the only world she’s ever known.

I can’t help but love this book. Deuce and Fade brought a new kind of zombie book to me–one that was thrilling and fun and seemingly more YA-like than most other zombie books I had read. That, and it completely captured the zombie feel through the Freaks without completely freaking me out. This book is fun, thrilling at times and a great adventure. I still haven’t read HORDE yet but I’m dying to and I’m for sure going to be doing it soon. I have high hopes for the ending and I hope Ann Aguirre doesn’t disappoint… To read my full review, click here.

thewalkingdeadgraphicnovel

An epidemic of apocalyptic proportions has swept the globe, causing the dead to rise and feed on the living. In a matter of months, society has crumbled: There is no government, no grocery stores, no mail delivery, no cable TV. Rick Grimes finds himself one of the few survivors in this terrifying future. A couple months ago he was a small town cop who had never fired a shot and only ever saw one dead body. Separated from his family, he must now sort through all the death and confusion to try and find his wife and son. In a world ruled by the dead, we are forced to finally begin living.

I loved so much about this series. I don’t watch the tv show, but if it’s anything like the books I can definitely see the appeal to it. These stories are real, well-paced and have awesome world-building. I had a ton of fun reading them and I felt like the pictures really added in a great element to the story. I was very impressed with all the graphic imaginings of this world, in fact, and it brought more to the story than I could’ve imaged for this kind of book which was an awesome addition.

therithmatist

More than anything, Joel wants to be a Rithmatist. Chosen by the Master in a mysterious inception ceremony, Rithmatists have the power to infuse life into two-dimensional figures known as Chalklings. Rithmatists are humanity’s only defense against the Wild Chalklings — merciless creatures that leave mangled corpses in their wake. Having nearly overrun the territory of Nebrask, the Wild Chalklings now threaten all of the American Isles.

As the son of a lowly chalkmaker at Armedius Academy, Joel can only watch as Rithmatist students study the magical art that he would do anything to practice. Then students start disappearing — kidnapped from their rooms at night, leaving trails of blood. Assigned to help the professor who is investigating the crimes, Joel and his friend Melody find themselves on the trail of an unexpected discovery — one that will change Rithmatics — and their world — forever.

Somehow, I enjoyed this book much more than Brandon Sanderson’s other fantasy novels–despite his rep as a fantasy writer. This story is engaging and creepy. If someone had come up to me with this idea for a chalk-zombie-paranormal fantasy, I probably would’ve been pretty creeped out–and then come to the conclusion that only a select few authors could pull it off well. Turns out, Brandon Sanderson is one of those authors. And he’s done it. THE RITHMATIST is unlike many other books I’ve read and I really loved the uniqueness of it all. I loved the characters and the plotlines as well. An awesome fantasy-zombie read.

So that chalks up my favorite zombie reads, but what are yours? Are you interested in zombies? Despite the stereotype of most zombie books, there are many unique and amazing ones out there. Give these a try and stay tuned for the next day of the RealityLapse Christmas Countdown Day Seven: Biographies, Memoirs and Nonfiction.