Friday, March 25, 2016

Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley {A Little of the Book Life Review}

Lies We Tell Ourselves

Title: Lies We Tell Ourselves
Author: Robin Talley
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Publication Date: September 2014
Source: Library
Read in May 2015... this review has been sitting in my drafts... whoops! lol

In 1959 Virginia, the lives of two girls on opposite sides of the battle for civil rights will be changed forever.

Sarah Dunbar is one of the first black students to attend the previously all-white Jefferson High School. An honors student at her old school, she is put into remedial classes, spit on and tormented daily.

Linda Hairston is the daughter of one of the town's most vocal opponents of school integration. She has been taught all her life that the races should be kept separate but equal.

Forced to work together on a school project, Sarah and Linda must confront harsh truths about race, power and how they really feel about one another.

Boldly realistic and emotionally compelling, Lies We Tell Ourselves is a brave and stunning novel about finding truth amid the lies, and finding your voice even when others are determined to silence it.

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I really loved this book. I cared about the characters from page 1. I wanted to cry, cringe, throw things... I hated that I was reading a fiction story based on facts. That these types of things, and worse, happened to anyone. The writing just pulls me and I feel like I'm there. Like I'm going through what these young women are going through. And I definitely wasn't there. I've never lived in Virginia, I didn't live through  desegregation; I never experienced any of that. But this author made me feel like I did.

If I had rated the book 2/3 of the way in, it probably would have been a resounding five stars. I loved it that much. I felt it. But then it started to feel rushed. And slightly... preachy, maybe. And it all wrapped up so neatly with a pretty bow on top... and not that I don't like happy endings. I do. I really do. But it didn't feel as real to me with that bow.

Then there's the issues. While it's a book essentially about racism, about segregation/desegregation and what it meant to those kids who were experiencing it, the issue of sexuality was brought in, as well as abuse. It's obvious very early on that Sarah experiences feelings for girls that she "should" be experiencing for boys. By the end of the book, I kinda felt like the author was saying "How many issues can I throw into one book and make it work?" Most of it did. And while I get that Sarah is a God-fearing Christian who is highly involved in the church, the Bible quoting and relentless thoughts/talks about sin could have been pared down some for my tastes.

Overall, though, I found it to be a very enlightening and engaging read. So, despite a few minor hangups, I'm going with four (really four and a half, probably) stars. I loved the characters, and even though it seemed to me (again, I wasn't there in that time period, so there's that) that some of the romantic (for lack of a better, more proper, word) elements were a bit far-fetched, I rooted for them to survive, to believe in themselves, and to develop their own beliefs and not just regurgitate what their elders and peers were always saying.

This is definitely a book I would recommend to anyone who:
  • loves a good story
  • enjoys historical fiction
  • wants likeable and hateable (is that a word?) characters
  • like authors who drag them along with their writing
  • needs a supplemental historical fiction book when teaching about Civil Rights
Have you read it? What'd you think?

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey {A Little of the Book Life Review}

The Girl With All the Gifts

Title: The Girl With All the Gifts
Author: M.R. Carey
Publisher: Orbit
Publication Date: April 2015
Source: Own
Rating: 4 stars

Melanie is a very special girl. Dr Caldwell calls her "our little genius."

Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class. When they come for her, Sergeant keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don't like her. She jokes that she won't bite, but they don't laugh.

The Girl With All the Gifts is a groundbreaking thriller, emotionally charged and gripping from beginning to end.

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I am so shocked. Seriously. So this book came to my attention via Maggie Stiefvater's Twitter feed a while back. She said, "The most sure-footed novel I've read all year. A dystopian thriller with a real, beating heart. Recommend. Recommend. Recommend." I added it to my TBR list that moment. On a whim I suggested it to my book group and they said it sounded "promising"... so here I am on the other side of the beginning.

I'm going to attempt to talk about this book without any spoilers. I knew nothing other than the synopsis from GoodReads and what Maggie had said about it. I want to leave you all with that same experience should you choose to read it. If I had known more, I don't think I would have enjoyed it as much as I did.

From page one I was drawn into the story. I love that it started with Melanie. I'm not sure it could have been done any other way and been as intriguing. Why is she in a cell? Why does she have to be strapped into a wheelchair? I'm SO confused!!! Eventually I caught on, of course. 

I can't say I loved it like I did in the beginning. But I enjoyed it. It started to lag for me about halfway through, but it picked up again toward the end. I liked Carey's take on a subject that doesn't typically appeal to me. I'd definitely recommend this to anyone who loves a well-told story in a dystopian setting. 

Have you read it? What'd you think?


Social Media {A Little of the School Life}

This is for an assignment for one of my classes... ignore away. :)

Social networks seem to be everywhere. Both on a personal and a professional level. I have accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest, GoodReads, and LibraryThing. There's a chance my Myspace account is still there, I suppose. While I have accounts on all of the above, that's not to say I use them all regularly or that I use them at all, really. Take Google+ for example. I can't recall the last time I actually checked out my page. (Although writing this will probably spur me to do so... that's how it ends up happening for me.)

Facebook is one that I use almost daily. I scroll through it, post to it, kill time with it. There are downsides to it, as with anything (drama, anyone?), but overall it's good for keeping up with friends and family that don't live near. I can see what they're up to and they can see what I'm up to. On a professional level, it's great for spreading the word about events or for letting our followers know what's new in the library. I also like to share fun things that are related to reading, books, or even general stuff that I think our community might find interesting. The Shelby County Public Library has a general Facebook page as well as a Teen-specific page. The IUPUI SOIC uses Facebook to promote students' successes as well as events and varying celebrations (like Spring and International Women's Day).

I've had an account on LinkedIn for some time but I've not used it as much as other social media sites that geared more toward personal interests. It is a great networking site for professionals and a great way to connect with people in the community. For instance, one of my connections is Nathan Burger, who is a Manager for the Indiana Fever Group Events and Programs. Every year he provides us with vouchers for free tickets for those that complete our summer reading program.

While nothing can take away from the value of face-to-face interaction, technology is ever-present and ever-growing in this world. It's a great tool for communication and making connections on both personal and professional levels.

MUVE {A Little of the School Life}

This is an assignment for a class I'm taking - ignore away! ;)

I don't have much experience with any MUVE, interactive, or gaming technologies. My son, who is 6, plays Minecraft via an app on his tablet, but I've not done more than watch him do some things on it. A friend and coworker of mine is into all things technology related, including all the ones mentioned above. He likes how it works as a stress reliever for him and the creativeness of the game. He has the tools to make the game whatever he wants it to be, and even mentioned that some people go really far into the coding and creating their own space out of it. He talked about the different modes people can play in - peaceful, creative, survival, and adventure modes. It's easy to see why so many people become addicted to it.

One of my other coworkers talked about her former library where they had a Minecraft club that would meet at a set time each month. I think it would be a great way for kids to meet other kids with like interests. They can interact with one other in the game as well as outside the game, in the physical space they are sharing. She also mentioned that one of the librarians had used Minecraft to create an exact replica of the library. That could come in handy for all sorts of things from advocating for more space or grant applications.