Tuesday, February 25, 2014

"Hyperbole and a Half" by Allie Brosh

A while back I stumbled upon Hyperbole and a Half, an entertaining blog which has short autobiographical stories, accompanied by entertaining drawings. I received this book as Christmas present and read it almost immediately.

Summary: This is a collection of autobiographical stories, many from childhood, in which Brosh reflects on things that happened and examines her internal thoughts while they happen. She discusses serious topics of depression, personality, motivation and does it in a way that is respectful and lighthearted. She writes with a high degree of insight into issues that most people try and avoid. It's clear she has a genuine interest in understanding her thoughts, instead of just having them. She spends a lot of time exploring the topics of dogs and dog training, kids parties, dental work, lost in the woods, hot sauce and what not. Each story is written half in text and half in pictures with a charming element that are enhanced by their poor quality.

What I Liked: This was a fun read, even as it dealt with some topics that are usually not considered fun. I also found a lot of points where I could relate to the stories when she reflects on the thoughts going through her head. Brosh is great at presenting stories in a way that maximizes their comedy and value. The pictures are exactly right to make the jokes funnier than text alone.

What I Didn't Like: It was too short. I could have been five times as long. I should warn potential readers that Brosh is not afraid to use words which are generally, and arbitrarily, considered offensive. If you are uneasy about "swear" words, I suggest you stick to other authors. This vocabulary did not bother me, but it might bother some.

Rating: Amazing. This is a must read for anyone who has an active internal mental life.

Also Read By This Author: Hyperbole and a Half website. 

Reviewed by: Nick

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

"The Butler" by Wil Haygood

This audiobook was selected because of its historical content. 

Summary: Shortly after the 2008 election of Barack Obama Wil Haywood wrote an article called A Butler Well Served By This Election. The article focused on Eugene Allen, a black man who served as a White House butler over 34 years for 8 presidents. The reason Eugene's story is so compelling is because he witnessed the changes which happened during the civil rights movement. From the article a 2013 movie was made, called The Butler staring Oprah Winfrey and Forest Whitaker. 

Presumably, this book was to be the story of Eugene Allen in greater detail than a short article could cover. Instead, this book is the story of Wil Haywood and how he came to meet Eugene and write the article. It is also the story of Eugene attending Obama's inauguration. The second part of the book is a history of black cinema which leads into the story of how The Butler was filmed and produced.

What I Liked: It was interesting to hear the story of Eugene Allen, Wil Haywood and black cinema.

What I Didn't Like: We had expected there to be a more in depth look into Eugene's life, instead the book focused more on how the author was inspired by Eugene's story. It felt a lot like an infomercial for The Butler movie. It would probably be better to just watch the movie. 

Rating: Skip it.

Also Read By This Author: None. 

Reviewed by: Nick

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

"Forbidden" by Tina Smith

We were approached by the author of Forbidden to read and review her book.  While we received a review copy of this book for free, please note that all opinions are Tami's and (for better or worse) are honest.
Image from Amazon.com

Summary:  After her parents bitter divorce, Lila and her mother move from the big city to the small town of Shade, where her mother grew up.  While she's not happy about the move to the strange town in the middle of nowhere, Lila tries to make the best of it when she shows up to her first day of school.

Except the school is weird.  The other students don't talk to her, but she can feel their scrutiny in class and in the halls.  And then Samantha, gorgeous leader of the popular clique corners Lila in the lunchroom and everything changes overnight.  Lila is drawn into the close knit and tight lipped circle of popular kids, but the more time she spends with Sam and the gang, the more she feels as if there is a secret she must discover.  When the school's bad-girl-weirdo Cresida starts to stalk her, Lila is torn between loyalty to her new friends and her desire to dig to the bottom of the truth, a truth that only Cresida can show her.

Will Lila remain loyal to her new friends, or will she listen to Cresida....and herself....and get to the bottom of the secret.

What I Liked:

  • The premise of the story, a modern day telling of the Greek myth of Atemis and the wolf, is clever and interesting.  After reading the introduction I was excited to read the rest of the story.
  • The author kept true to the main character.  Lila starts off as a self-conscious, slightly depressed teen and her responses to the popular kids' interest in her is genuinely described.
  • The main characters progression throughout the story was believable and I appreciated that she actually grew into some self strength towards the end of the book.
  • The ending was a little unexpected and closed out in such a way that I'm curious to see what's next.

What Drove Me Nuts:

  • The story reminded me a lot of Twilight.  Average girl moves to small town and starts a new school.  She meets a gorgeous, exclusive teen clique and unwittingly joins them.  Average girl has forbidden romance with gorgeous teen until a secret almost destroys them.
  • I felt like there were a lot of plot points, but also a lot of missed opportunities.  For example, the beginning of the book mentioned that Shade was Lila's mother's home town.  I honestly expected to learn more about Lila's mother, and perhaps a family secret of Lila's own.
  • I felt like this book could have used a bit more polishing - perhaps from a professional edit.
Rating:  I'm not a big fan of this type of supernatural romance (don't want to give the secret away) but if you are interested in the supernatural genres related to vampires, shapeshifters or magic, you may like this book.

Also Read By:  N/A

Reviewed By:  Tami

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

"Size 12 is Not Fat" by Meg Cabot

I read the latest installment in the Heather Wells series first.  I like it so much I had to go back to the beginning and see how it all started.
Image from Google

Summary:  Meet Heather Wells, former teen sensation turned assistant director of a residence hall.  Only three months on the job, Heather is faced with catastrophe when one of her freshman residents is found dead at the bottom of an elevator shaft.  The death is ruled as accidental due to elevator surfing but Heather thinks otherwise.  When a second freshman woman turns up dead, Heather knows she needs to find out what is really happening before a third resident dies on her watch.

What I Liked:  The dialog in this story is hilarious.  Meg Cabot has a flair for the ridiculous and she wields her skill in a glorious manner.  I literally laughed out loud while reading, which is both awesome (yeah, good dialog) and bad (nooo, don't laugh at a book weirdo.)

The characters are well developed, in that they are unique and different from other books I've read.  Cabot deals with former child stars in exactly the right way.  And Heather's landlord:  DREAMY.

I also appreciated some of the more random moments, such as the lip synch contest and any and all run ins with Heather's ex.

What Drove Me Nuts:  There weren't a lot of plot turns and the main character is really ditsy.  I occasionally found myself rolling my eyes (but then again, that might be the point and why the books are so fun to read.)

Rating:  This would be an excellent beach read (easy to pick up and put down, or to read while drinking a margarita).  Not too serious and just fun.

Also Read by This Author:  "The Bride Wore Size 12"

Reviewed By:  Tami