Say Goodbye to Survival Mode: 9 Simple Strategies to Stress Less, Sleep More, and Restore Your Passion For Life by Crystal Paine

Say Goodbye to Survival ModeI know my blog is primarily for reviews of books written for tweens and teens… but I also know that there are adults (parents, teachers, librarians, and writers) among my readers.  Therefore, I am taking some liberties and sharing this book review on my own blog as well as my library’s Staff Picks blog.  If any of my readers could stand to benefit from knowledge of a book, I think it’s worth making an exception once in a while.  :-)

Earlier this summer, a patron came in looking for this book because one of her friends swore it was a life changer. I was in over my head with both personal and professional commitments, sleeping poorly, and desperate for anything that could help me change my “barely keeping my head above water” style of living. As soon as I placed a request for the patron, I added another for myself. The very day that I started reading this book, I read the first couple of chapters and started making lists of my priorities, goals, and routines so I could set up a concrete plan for moving forward. I am sure I probably could have worked through things on my own, but it was so much easier to have a step-by-step plan that was created by an author who had “been there, done that.” Although I would like to say my life turned completely around in the week it took me to finish this book, I have to be more honest and say that I’m simply on my way. I’m working on saying no to things that don’t help me reach my goals rather than over-committing myself; I’m working on finely tuning my morning and evening routines to get all of my “must do” stuff done (while letting go of the stuff that doesn’t truly matter); and I’m trying to live by the OHIO (Only Handle It Once) rule I once learned at a workshop about organizing — don’t put it in a pile or on a list if you can just get it done right now. So far, so good. Wish me luck!

Happy Reading!

Hold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lish McBride

necromancerSam was always a bit of a loner.  He found it difficult to connect with other people and had only a few friends.  One night, while Sam was working at his fast-food job, he had an unusual encounter with a customer who took one look at him and started asking strange questions about where he came from and whether he was granted permission to move to Seattle.  But, Sam had always lived in Seattle.  And why would he have needed permission to move there anyway?  So weird!  Then, at the end of their shift, Sam and his friends got attacked by a huge man with superhuman strength.  Things went from weird to scary pretty fast.  It turned out that Sam never knew it but that he was a necromancer.  Suddenly, many of the quirky things about himself and his family had supernatural explanations and started to make more sense.  Sadly, “making more sense” and “making sense” aren’t exactly the same.

Lots of action, a bit of mystery, and sarcastic/twisted humor made this book hard to put down.  Readers who enjoy books like Killer Pizza and I Kissed a Zombie and I Liked It should definitely check this one out.  I know I’m looking forward to reading the sequel (Necromancing the Stone) when my “to be read” pile gets a little shorter, though I’m a little afraid those chapter titles will also get a bunch of songs stuck in my head.  ;-)

Happy Reading!

The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights by Steve Sheinkin

Port Chicago 50Before hearing Steve Sheinkin speak at the 2014 YSS Spring Conference in White Plains, NY, I had never heard of the Port Chicago 50.  When Sheinkin told us about the Port Chicago disaster and then went in to explain how the 50 men who had been too afraid to return to work were charged with mutiny, I was dumbfounded.  I *had* to know more about this story and how it was that the charge of mutiny actually stuck.  I don’t often find non-fiction books so compelling, but I found myself sitting in my driveway after I got home and popping in my ear buds during lunch breaks at work because I just couldn’t tear myself away from this story — especially when I got to the court trial.  It was like I was listening to an episode of Law & Order: Historical Case Files.  (If they end up starting a spin-off show with that title, y’all are my witnesses that I came up with the idea and deserve some royalties!)

I especially appreciated how Steve Sheinkin pointed out the fact that the members of the Port Chicago 50 were early, and largely unsung, heroes in the Civil Rights Movement.  Not only did their plight shine a light on the unfairness of the segregation of duties within the Armed Forces, but their treatment by civilians once they left the base was sometimes atrocious, regardless of the fact that they were putting their lives on the line to fight for their country.  One of the quotes that best summarizes how these men effected change in the people around them actually came as the answer to a question between friends.  When Joe Small (the so-called leader of the Port Chicago 50) asked his friend Alex (a formerly racist Alabaman) what had changed his mind about befriending a black man, Alex replied, “I found out something. A man is a man.”  So simple a statement, yet so profound.

Happy Reading!

 

A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

great and terrible beautyFrom looking at the cover of this book, I assumed it would have been a historical romance novel.  I honestly thought it would have read like The Luxe or Manor of Secrets, and I was hoping for a Downton Abbey fix.  And though there was a touch of romance, my assumption was pretty far off.  Gemma Doyle’s experiences in a London finishing school [in 1895] were historically accurate, and she did experience some romantic entanglements, but the plot was primarily focused on the supernatural forces at play in Gemma’s life.  While part of me wishes I knew about this book when it first came out, part of me is happy that all three books were already published and available as audiobooks so I could listen to them in rapid succession!

Gemma had a fairly uncomplicated life until the day a strange creature attacked her mother in an Indian marketplace.  Rather than be captured by the creature, her mother committed suicide.  Gemma’s father insisted on telling everyone that his wife died of an illness, but Gemma knew the truth and was racked with guilt over the fact that her mother was only in that area of the marketplace because she (Gemma) had run off in a snit.  After witnessing the attack/suicide, Gemma started having visions — and the visions only got worse after she was sent off to Spence Academy.  Trying to make new friends and to succeed in finishing school while also figuring out what was behind the visions proved extremely challenging, but these challenges were no match for Gemma’s pluck and determination.

Happy Reading!

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate‎

One and Only IvanWhen this book won the 2013 Newbery Award, I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to read it.  It just sounded too depressing.  Luckily, a friend read it and said it was actually funnier than it sounded, albeit sad at times, and that she thought my son would also enjoy it. I decided to get the audiobook because my son and I share 60-90 minutes of audiobook time per day in the summer driving together to my library and his day camp.  (We share a parking lot with the Y!)  This was our first audiobook of the summer, and it was a *HUGE* hit.  So much so that my son was pretty much devastated any time that his sister was in the car and requested that we “waste” any of our time listening to music.

Although Ivan and the other animals were being held captive in less than desirable conditions, their actions and stories they told one another were often funny.  The humor sprinkled throughout the story definitely helped to keep it light.  My son’s favorite new vocabulary word, and the discussion of which he often used to try to convince his sister to listen to the story with us, was me-ball.  You may be asking yourself, “What’s a me-ball?”  Why, it’s a rolled up, dried out ball of poop that gorillas like to throw, of course!  ;-)  He thought that was hilarious, and he loved the loving friendships between the animals.  The best part of the story, in my opinion, was at the end when the author’s note explained that this story was based on the true story of a gorilla named Ivan.  I think it will do a lot to help readers understand that, though the thoughts and specific stories told by the animals in this story were fictional, animals surely want (and deserve) companionship and appropriate living conditions.

Happy Reading!

Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume

Tiger EyesAs a child, I definitely read — and loved! — Judy Blume books.  Freckle Juice was probably the first of my “favorite books that I could read to myself.”  I think it may have been the fact that I was so sympathetic to Andrew’s plight, as I *desperately* wished that I could have freckles, like my sister and cousins, but was stuck with skin that tanned instead.  Then I found Superfudge…  I was in stitches over his crazy antics and sometimes got in trouble for reading when I should have been doing homework!  I was thrilled when, as a relatively new YS librarian, I discovered that Blume had continued the story with Double Fudge, and vowed to read these stories to my baby when he got older.

Yet, I missed something MAJOR along the way.  Somehow, I managed not to read any of Judy Blume’s YA books when I was a teen!  WHAT?!?  Surely, some of my friends must have read them…  But, for whatever reason, they never passed them along and I never found them on my own.  When I was in library school, I was made aware of the egregious error and read Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.  Oh, how I wished someone had given me that book when I was a pre-teen!  I also read Forever and thought, “This is another book I will have to be sure to own before my kids become teenagers.”  I mean, Judy Blume just *gets* kids and teens; she deftly handles topics like puberty, teen love, and sex without shame or sounding like a textbook.

Last summer, when Tiger Eyes came out in theaters, I added the audiobook to my OverDrive wishlist.  The wait list was pretty long, and I wanted to give my library teens a chance to read it first, so I didn’t make an actual request at the time.  I figured I would wait for the demand to die down and then make my own request later.  Sadly, I forgot about it until I was looking for an audiobook on my phone last week.  I got sucked in so utterly that I found myself popping in my earbuds for more than just my daily walk; I listened when I was prepping dinner, folding laundry, mowing the lawn, and even at bedtime on a night when my husband was out with friends.  It usually takes me much longer to get through a YA audiobook in summer, since most of my commuting time is dedicated to the audiobooks I share with my [now, 9-year-old] son… but I finished this audiobook in only three days because Davey’s story grabbed my by the heart and refused to let go.

After listening to Tiger Eyes, I was extremely disappointed that none of the adults who were in my life during my middle and high school years thought of this book (or bibliotherapy in general) as a way to help me combat the anxiety and depression from which I suffered after my best friend’s sudden death.  I was only in 8th grade, but I was expected to simply get on with my life and to “get over” her death.  I was instructed to stop dwelling on it and to stop worrying all the time, though I was never offered therapy or medication [or anything, really] to help with the process.  And while my friend’s death was not the result of an act of violence like Davey’s father, Davey’s feelings of helplessness, despair, depression, anger, and anxiety mirrored those that consumed me for many years.  On Blume’s website, she makes the statement that “Tiger Eyes isn’t about violence. It’s about the sudden, tragic loss of someone you love.” And I could not agree more.  This story further solidified my theory that Blume’s books are accessible and universal enough that they should probably be required reading for tweens and teens everywhere.  You’d better believe I’m adding a copy of this book to my home bookshelf…  I’m just going to pray that my kids never need to read it.

Happy Reading!

Roomies by Sara Zarr & Tara Altebrando

RoomiesI think this would have been an excellent book to have read the summer before I went away to college.  Although I am not an overly shy person, I was kinda freaked out about the concept of rooming with someone I had never met before. I find it odd that it never crossed my mind to try to get in touch — and that my college didn’t really try to foster early communications either.  Things may have been strained that first semester, but I still lived to tell the tale.

Aside from the obvious worries about classes and living with a stranger, Elizabeth and Lauren also have family relationships and friendships that are about to change.  Lauren is only moving about an hour away [from San Francisco to Berkeley] so staying in touch with family and friends should, theoretically, be easy enough.  Elizabeth, on the other hand, is going to be moving across the country [from New Jersey to California], so she won’t be able to take any quick visits home to see her mom or her friends.  Still, distance is not the only factor that determines how hard a move will be.  Lauren is leaving her tight-knit family full of younger siblings whom she typically helps to care for and worries that she will miss them too much or that they won’t be able to manage without her.  Elizabeth, on the other hand, is all too used to being alone in her house and is excited to get away from home.  She is also hoping to spending some quality time with her father [who owns an art gallery in San Francisco], but doesn’t really know how to start up a relationship with the father who’s never really been there for her.  Readers get to peek into the minds, and emails, of each of the girls as she prepares for moving in with her new “roomie.”  I’m certain that fans of Sara Zarr (Story of a Girl, Sweethearts, How to Save a Life, Lucy Variations) will love this, and I’m desperately hoping for more YA from Tara Altebrando.

Happy Reading!