Friday, November 22, 2013

Book review: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

Description from Amazon (below, because the Goodreads description sucked) can be found here along with other reviews. Add me on Goodreads!

Sherman Alexie tells the story of Junior, a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to take his future into his own hands, Junior leaves his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot. Heartbreaking, funny, and beautifully written, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which is based on the author's own experiences, coupled with poignant drawings that reflect the character's art, chronicles the contemporary adolescence of one Native American boy as he attempts to break away from the life he thought he was destined to live.

I heard of this book from the best of sources -- all the Young Adult (YA) authors I follow on twitter were tweeting about this book. Then, I started my master's program with a woman who went to a tribal college and learned more about Native Americans, who recommended the book. Plus, I knew it had won a billion awards (approximately). So, all good things.

The story starts when Junior realizes that his school, which is on a Native American reservation (the res), is still using science books from when his mother went through school. Through a series of events, he ends up leaving the res to go to a suburban school -- a primarily white suburban school -- a primarily white suburban school in the wealthiest part of town whose mascot is an Indian.

Obviously, life gets a little rough for Junior. He's the Other in his new school (as in, us against them), and folks back at the res don't take too kindly to him leaving the res for a white school. The book follows Junior as he tries to make a better life for himself than the one he had always expected.

All in all, this was an eye-opening, entertaining, hopeful and sad book. I highly recommend it.

Have any of you read this one? What did you think?

PS - I've heard that the physical book is illustrated, but I listened on audio, which was narrated by Sherman Alexie, and it was wonderful.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Book review: Emilie and the Hollow World

Emilie and the Hollow World by Martha Wells

Description from Goodreads (below) can be found here along with other reviews. Add me on Goodreads!

While running away from home for reasons that are eminently defensible, Emilie’s plans to stow away on the steamship Merry Bell and reach her cousin in the big city go awry, landing her on the wrong ship and at the beginning of a fantastic adventure.

Taken under the protection of Lady Marlende, Emilie learns that the crew hopes to use the aether currents and an experimental engine, and with the assistance of Lord Engal, journey to the interior of the planet in search of Marlende’s missing father.

With the ship damaged on arrival, they attempt to traverse the strange lands on their quest. But when evidence points to sabotage and they encounter the treacherous Lord Ivers, along with the strange race of the sea-lands, Emilie has to make some challenging decisions and take daring action if they are ever to reach the surface world again.

Emilie and the Hollow World starts straight into the action, with Emilie trying to sneak aboard a ship, being accused of pirating, and saving a man's life in a fight. And after that dramatic, action-packed start, the book doesn't really slow down. The ship Emilie ends up sneaking on takes off for a journey to the center of the world -- or, more specifically, to the world that exists at the center of our world.

Emilie is smart, curious and adventurous. She asks the question you as a reader want answered and noses her way into situations where she really has no business. She's really fun to follow along, and she's just one of an interesting cast of characters, including many non-human inhabitants of the Hollow World. You end up caring quite a bit about the characters and rooting for them, which is always a mark of a good book.

Speaking of the Hollow World -- so cool. The descriptions of the people/creatures Emilie meets there are wonderful and creepy and spot on. The book gives us a vague understanding of how it exists, but it's also a book where magic is very real, so it's not too specific or realistic -- just enough to satisfy your desire for details and to give a sense of mystery and magic to the whole story.

I won this book through a Goodreads giveaway, so it maybe wasn't one I'd normally pick up. But I ended up liking it a whole lot, so I'm glad I won it! It was a little bit younger than I would typically read, which sometimes ruins the enjoyment of a story, but I thought this one was charming and fun.

Have any of you read this one before, or heard of Martha Wells? I never had, but she seems to have quite the following!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

It is her birthday.

When I hear stories about high school these days (gosh I sound old already), I almost always think about how much harder it sounds than when I went through.

Girls were mean when I was in high school, but now they're even meaner. There's more pressure on teenagers -- to look a certain way, to act a certain way, to wear the right brands and be friends with the right people and on and on and on.

All this is to say that it's rough out there for a teenage girl. Every force, it seems, is to pull you apart and reshape you into whatever it thinks you should be.

So to be who you are in the midst of all that challenge?

That's a pretty big deal.

I am so, so proud of my little sister. Because she is who she is.

She's an amazing dancer. She's got an incredible sense of humor and wit beyond her years.

She's a thinker -- she doesn't jump into things that could have a huge impact on her life or on others. She thinks her choices through.

And in the end, she does what's right, what's good.

Anna is 15 today. Holy cow. After school, she'll be going to get her driver's permit! And (not to sound old again) I just can't believe how she's turned into such a real PERSON. That'll sound weird to anyone who hasn't watched someone grow up, but they go from this little thing into a human with real personality, interests, opinions. It's crazy how OLD she's gotten and it's been so cool to watch her become who she is.

She has a lot ahead of her though -- driving, voting, graduating, maybe college. So many great things. 

I can't wait.

Happy birthday, Anna. You're the best!!!!!


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