Saturday, December 19, 2009

2nd Quarter Outside Reading Book Review

Second Quarter Outside Reading Book Review

13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher. Penguin Group, 2007. Genre: Fiction

13 Reasons Why is Jay Asher's first novel and became a huge hit. This book is about high schooler Clay Jensen who gets a shocking package. Two weeks before he received a box full of old cassette tapes, Hannah Baker, Clay's old crush, committed suicide. Clay took a risk and started listening to these mysterious tapes. To his surprise he heard Hannah's voice come on. For the next several tapes, Hannah explained all thirteen reasons why she killed herself. Through out the night Clay was lead by Hannah's voice to places that events occurred in her life. During this experience, Clay discovers not only secrets about her and his fellow classmates, but also some things about himself.

"Very clever premise, strong voice, perfect suspense. This one will keep you reading. Jay Asher is a fine storyteller." -Chris Crutcher

This book is a very unique and interesting way of looking at high school. It shows the hardships and pain of it in in new light. Everyone suffers a least a little bit in high school and this book talks about the things that some of us never want to think about.
I've never read any other Jay Asher books. 13 Reasons Why was his first novel. I've read similar books in that they discuss high school. But I've never read something quite like this. By the end of the book you really seem to know the characters and can feel some of their pain.

"But I did, Hannah. And I wanted to. I could have helped you. But when I tried, you pushed me away. I can almost hear Hannah's voice speaking my next thought for me. 'Then why didn't you try harder?'" (148)

13 Reasons Why has become one of my favorite books. Although I am fortunate enough to never have dealt with suicide, I really connected with this. I know several people who are very close to me that deal with depression every day and it's so hard to sit and watch them in pain. This book shows that. I think this book did affect me in letting me think as if I'm in their shoes and to see how they feel. I really did love this book and would recommend it to anyone.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Christmas Beagle

What really matters? The world today has been warped and molded based on money and fear. What puts a price on something? The price tag or a criticism from someone you know? For some, the brand handbag they carry is more important to them than relationships they have. Relationships they have are influenced by the handbag. What is truly important?

For years I had been begging my parents for a Beagle. Now, finally, we are going to pick up my puppy. We're gone insane trying to find the perfect name for our little Beagle. As a family, we decide on Buster. I am nine years old and practically bouncing in my seat. It's mid-November and chilly. We pull into the driveway of the breeder that we're buying Buster from. He comes out of the barn with a little, wrinkly puppy in his arms. He hands Buster over to me. He's so warm and soft. Buster looks up and me and licks my chin. To keep him warm, I hold him close to me on the car ride home. First, we stop at my little cousins house. She sees Buster and screams in happiness. When my aunt tells her we have to leave, she says, "No, I want to stay and play with Buther." We all laugh and tear my dog away from her; she was not happy.

We get home to show him around. Unfortunately, Buster is still not house trained. Let's just say we use a lot of paper towels and newspaper. Over the next few years, Buster is non-stop. He's more annoying than ever imaginable. Puppy classes failed miserably. His first veterinarian visit was really ugly. At several points, my dad honestly wanted to send him away. But we kept him anyway. Now, Buster behaves 95% of the time, is sweet, and very protective.

I get home from school, tired and impatient. My dad opens the crate and he comes out wriggling and smiling like it's the best day of his life. Buster whines and jumps up on me. He leans against my legs, waiting for me to scratch his back. I find his "sweet spot" and his leg starts to kick uncontrollably. My welcome home greeting is the best and always puts a smile on my face. Before homework, I sit on the couch to watch some t.v. From around the corner, I see his little face. When he sees that I've spotted him, he jumps up on my lap. For a Beagle, he is pretty big. Buster is thirty pounds of pure muscle. I lose feeling in my legs pretty quickly, but it doesn't even faze him.

Whenever I'm having a bad day, Buster is always there. In a way he's better than friends because he won't say a word but still be caring. I curl up next to him, stroking his fur. As my tears fall, he licks them away. He'll stay that way forever, no matter what. After I've recovered from my meltdown, we go into the kitchen and I give him treat. After he inhales it, he trots over to the door, indicating he wants to go outside. I put on his leash and we go in the backyard to play. We play fetch for a little while before we freeze. When we come in, we both get on the couch to warm up. Buster is the best dog in the world. Although my family did pay quite a price to get him, he is priceless to me.

It's Christmas Eve and my mom and I are making cookies to leave out for Santa. Although I am a little too old for that, we still like to keep our Christmas Eve routine. Tonight is always really fun and exciting. It's about five o'clock and my family is getting dressed up for church. Like most churches, mine holds a special Christmas Eve service. We get to church and are handed a candle, the usual welcome. I greet several of my friends and compliment their outfits. We walk into the dark great room as Pastor Jeff begins to speak. The candles are lit and hymns are sung. When the service is over, we blow out the candles and fake snow blows from a machine. I run to find my gifts for my friends and they do the same. When we get home, I make myself some hot chocolate and get into my pajamas. I glance out the window, praying for snow. At last it catches my eye; several tiny crystals dancing their way down to the ground. I smile and enjoy this time of peaceful bliss. Christmas is just around the corner.

I lazily roll out of bed after a night of no sleep. Half unconscious, I make my way downstairs following the smell of coffee and the sound of my mom and grandma talking. I look in the den to see our little tree and all the presents underneath. I'm immediately greeted by the way-too-excited Buster. Once I say hello to my family, we go into the den to open our stockings. When we've finished, my mom and dad make our traditional Christmas morning breakfast, potato pancakes and homemade applesauce. We sit on the couch, eating our breakfast to watch the parade. It takes a while to finish up everything, but when we do we go back into the den to open the rest of the presents. A few hours later, my aunt, uncle, and cousin come over for dessert and more presents. I play some songs on the piano while everyone sings before they go home. At the end of the day, I'm exhausted and ready for bed. Christmas day is always a very special time for me that I wouldn't trade for anything.

Although the things I value are very different; when I think about it, both are fairly similar. When I'm alone with Buster, I have a sense of peace and relaxation. I feel as if nothing can go wrong, even if they are. I feel the same way about Christmas with my family. On that one day, I don't think about my troubles; I leave them all behind me. Christmas is a time of joy with the people I love, and Buster is included. Even though, on Christmas day, he's a bit of a spaz. The things I value most bring joy and love to people. Maybe that's why I cherish them so much. They show me things I otherwise wouldn't know. Whether I'm enjoying the parade with my family or sitting with Buster (or both!) I know that I wouldn't be me without these things.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

First Quarter Outside Reading Book Review

Someone Like You by Sarah Dessen. Penguin Group-Speak, 1998. Young Adult-Fiction

Someone Like You is one of Sarah Dessen's many novels. It follows Halley and her best friend Scarlett as they battle tragedy, pregnancy, and love together. When Scarlett's boyfriend is killed in a motorcycle crash, Halley becomes the strong friend for both of them. Scarlett later discovers she is carrying his child. Together, they learn about how to live like this while maintaining a normal life. Halley becomes the father figure while struggling with her own relationships.

"Dessen has a perfect ear for the immediate daily details of a middle-class teenager's home, school, job, party scene - the elemental push and pull of family and friends." -Booklist (Found on the back)

Someone Like You shows a detailed look inside high school life. True, not everyone deals with this situation but Dessen makes you feel like you're in the book and in the halls with the characters. Though I haven't read any of her other books, I do know that they all have very much the same feel as this does.
Other books I've read that were similar to this are The Breakup Bible and I'd Tell You that I Love You, but then I'd Have to Kill You. Although both books have much different plots, the writing style is similar. In all three books, the author makes you feel like you know the characters and are a apart of what they're doing.

"For my gift, I had blown up a picture of me and Scarlett, sitting on her front steps together. Scarlett's belly was huge,and she had her hands folded over it, her head on my shoulder. I had it framed and Scarlett immediately hung it over the baby's crib, where she or he would see it every day. 'The three of us,' she said, and I nodded." (251)

Reading this book has really made me want to read more by Sarah Dessen. I loved Someone Like You and would gladly read it again. This book really can help someone struggling in high school. Whether it's because of relationship problems or something else, I think this book can be a comfort.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Airport Cousins

How I Live Now - Daisy
Briar Rose - Becca
Setting - England, Daisy's House

I was going back to Poland to see my old friends I had met on my last trip, only this time I brought Stan, my boss and boyfriend. We were in the England airport waiting for our connection when the intercom came on saying our flight was canceled due to weather and the next flight was tomorrow. Stan and I were trapped in the airport. Claps of thunder went off every five minutes. Lightning lit up the sky. I panicked. "What do we do? Do we know anyone over here? Who should we call?"
"Becca, calm down, it's okay. We'll figure something out." Stan said soothingly. Just then someone tapped me on the shoulder.
"Becca?" For a minute I didn't recognize her. "Becca it's me, Daisy."
"Oh my gosh. Daisy!" My cousin and I hugged and jumped around like little girls. "Look at you!" I took a second look at my little cousin. The young woman in front of me was so different than what I remembered of her. "What are you doing here? I thought you went back to New York."
"I came back to England a few years ago. I missed it too much. Oh how stupid of me! Becca, this is Isaac, my cousin." We shook hands.
"And this is Stan, my boyfriend." They shook hands, too professionally in my opinion.
"How long are you guys in England?" We told them the whole story and they insisted we stay at their house for the night. Daisy explained she had been picking Isaac up from his trip to Barcelona.
It was still raining when we left the airport after grabbing some food. Daisy told me all about Piper, Edmund, and Isaac, because he doesn't say much. We arrived at their white mansion a while later. Piper, who I've never met in my life, came running up to me and gave me a hug. Then she made her boyfriend Jonathan say hello. Daisy searched the house for Edmund, but came back with a depressed expression and shook her head. After Piper and Isaac went to bed, Daisy, Stan, and I sat at the kitchen table and talked for awhile.
"The house was a wreck. All the animals died, that was what was hardest on Piper. I came back three years later to find everything pretty much the way it was, except for Edmund." She looked down. Stan was writing everything down on a notepad. I put my hand on his, signaling for him to stop. He looked over at me and put it down. "We don't talk much. He only talks to Isaac."
"I'm sorry."
"It'll get better, Piper's assured me. So how's work going?" We talked for a few hours before heading to bed. We stayed up in a loft. Daisy said it was her favorite spot in the house. It smelled old and slightly musty but was warm and comfortable.
We woke up to the smell of bacon and dogs barking. It stopped raining and was just foggy. The drive to the airport was mostly quiet except for Piper talking about random things. Daisy and Piper came in with us while we got tags and gate numbers. We hugged several times and promised to visit more often. Our flight number was called, so we had to run to make it on time. I honestly didn't want to leave, despite really wanting to get to Poland the day before. Stan took my hand and we walked on the plane together.