Tag Archives: 4 squinkles

Together at Midnight (Jennifer Castle)

26 Apr

I love stories about the end of the year, which is really what drew me to this one to begin with.  Add to that the premise of practising random acts of kindness, and I was sold!  Together at Midnight is a sweet story about finding yourself while being kind to others.

 

Together at Midnight

Squinklethoughts

1.  I started reading Together at Midnight way past midnight, and I was already on page 81 by the time I realized an hour had passed.  I had meant to just start the book to get a feel for it, but the first few chapters flew by really quickly.  If you like fast-paced stories and short chapters, you’ll love this.

2.  Kendall and Max are equally strong and compelling narrators.  It was great to read the story through their distinct voices.  Kendall is a very lovely flawed character.  She’s just spent a semester abroad in a school program that takes kids across various European countries.  For her, it was the perfect way to earn credits while undergoing teaching and learning styles that she could handle.  As the youngest and only girl in the family, Kendall has had supportive parents and siblings throughout her life, but there are some struggles she has to face alone.  Kendall is a great protagonist for anyone who’s ever felt just behind every one else – grasping academic concepts a little slower, or enjoying social milestones a little later.  She’s friendly and brave and optimistic, which makes it easy for other characters to like her, even if she can be hard on herself, but she really just needs time to grow.

3.  I was rooting for Max all the way.  He seems like the ultimate gentleman when it comes to his treatment of both Eliza, his erstwhile girlfriend, and Kendall.  He’s also a caring person, as evidenced by his relationship with his curmudgeon of a grandpa, Big E.  But what I like about Max best are his flaws.  Sometimes he cares a little too much, and that turns him into a helicopter parent, or – worse – he derails his life to help someone, even if he’s not asked to do so.  He actually reminds me a lot of Ted Mosby, architect.  He is inherently kind and obviously smart to have been accepted to Brown, but he, too, needs a little growing up.

4.  The adventures in this book take place during that fuzzy week between Christmas and New Year’s when you don’t know what day it is, but you’re thankful it’s still the holidays.  I love that.  I also love Castle’s decision to set this story in New York City, in and around the hustle and bustle of Times Square, a beating heart of a metropolis if there ever were one.  So many different cafés to try out, so many different people to observe.  I’ve been to NYC a handful of times now, and it’s so easy to see why Kendall and Max’s challenge works well here – and why the city itself helps the two of them evolve.

5.  I’m often wary about multiple narrators within a story, but Castle’s choice makes perfect sense.  In fact, knowing the thoughts of the people that Kendall and Max encounter adds a wonderful depth to the story for the readers.  It’s like a very satisfying instance of dramatic irony, especially when the two protagonists aren’t sure if they’ve helped or hindered their targets.  We, the audience, know the consequences of their actions, and it makes our journey so much better.

6.  There are so many quotable quips throughout the book that would look great on posters.  In particular, I loved:

It’s possible to have no regrets but also wish everything were different.

Every minute of being with [him] took effort, and not that I have anything against effort, but when you experience a different way of being with a person, stuff begins to make sense.

Together at Midnight 2

 

7.  Teachers/parents, Together at Midnight is a nice addition to your libraries.  There are a few discussion points that would be more appropriate for senior-level students, but nothing too earth shattering.  What your YA readers will take from this story is what I did: It’s entirely possible to be a wonderful human being even if you’re far from perfect.  Also: random acts of kindness can go a long way even if you can’t see their effects.

 

4 Squinkles

 

Jennifer Castle’s Online Corners
Website | Facebook | Tumblr | Twitter | Chapters/Indigo

 

Thank you, Harper Collins Canada, for sending me a copy of Together at Midnight in exchange for an honest review.  All Squinklethoughts expressed herein are entirely my own.

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Never That Far (Carol Lynch Williams)

5 Apr

Have you ever lost someone that you never imagined losing?  Did you worry that the pain would never go away?  Never That Far by Carol Lynch Williams is a sweet story about a girl who loses her best friend but cannot lose herself in her grief, for she’s got a very important mission to accomplish.

 

Squinklethoughts

1.  What drew me to this story was the very heart of the plot: Libby’s grandfather dies, and her world is turned upside down.  I was super close to my own grandpa, and even though he didn’t die suddenly, we only had a couple of weeks from the time he got sick to the time we had to say goodbye.  I knew instantly that I wanted to read Libby’s journey of grief.  I think others who have experienced the profound loss of a beloved family member will appreciate this story, and even if you haven’t, you’ll still take away so much from Libby’s narrative, especially how she tries to honour her grandfather and the rest of her family.

2.  The characters in Never That Far are so different from one another that it’s a wonder Libby manages to juggle them all in her life.  Her dad must be a nice-enough guy, but in his grief, he becomes so withdrawn from his daughter and the world around him that I wonder if that isn’t how he was even before his dad died.  Bobby is refreshing as someone who doesn’t easily dismiss Libby’s “crazy” idea that her grandfather visits her at night.  I also like how he seems to really care for her, even though his sister, Martha, isn’t on the same page.  There’s something to be said about people who defy their parents’ orders just to help out a friend.  Not that I’m condoning disobeying your parents, Squinks … just that it works out in this novel.  Preacher Burls is not my favourite character at all, even as the story progresses and she shows a lot of good will towards Libby.  But that’s my own thing.  Maybe others will completely understand where she’s coming from.

3.  I like that Williams chose to include colloquialisms and spellings that reflect Southern American speech.  It really added something unique to the story for me.  Since I’m not from Florida where the story is set (or even from the surrounding areas), I really felt transported to Libby’s family’s groves whenever I read the dialogue or Libby’s thoughts.

4.  The idea of dead people revisiting the living is, I know, a controversial one.  Never mind all the religious beliefs that can be subscribed to (or rejected) by this idea, just the logical and emotional aspects of it are enough to make the premise a difficult one to grasp for many readers.  My suggestion is that you read this novel with an open mind and an open heart, remembering that in the same way we don’t all find joy in the same things, we all deal with sadness in different ways.  I like how Williams gives us an idea of how some people might deal with a loss.  It might not happen the same way with me, but I can appreciate Libby’s story all the same.

5.  **POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERT** … Teachers/parents, I know that some people think that death and coping with loss might be too mature a topic for middle-graders to deal with.  I think otherwise, and I’d like to offer you my humble opinion: the sooner that children read about this very real and painful part of life, the better it will be for them to start grasping its inevitability.  Someone somewhere may very well be saved (or, at least, his/her pain will be lessened) by knowing that someone else, albeit a fictional character, has endured the same sorrow and come out relatively unscathed.

 

4 squinkles

 

Carol Lynch Williams’ Online Corners
Website | Twitter | Blog | Chapters/Indigo

 

Thank you, Shadow Mountain, for sending me a copy of
Never That Far in exchange for an honest review.

All Squinklethoughts expressed herein are entirely my own.

Don’t Cosplay with My Heart (Cecil Castellucci)

26 Dec

My last new read for 2017 is Don’t Cosplay with My Heart by Cecil Castellucci, and you’ll love it if you’ve ever felt like any fandom universe is sometimes much better than the real world.

 

Don't Cosplay with My Heart

Squinklethoughts

1.  The cover and title totally hooked me.  I love the girl’s pink hair and purple mask – they drew my attention right away.  Also, there’s a popular song that I grew up with called “Please Be Careful with My Heart”, and the title of this book made me remember the lyrics of the song, so I wanted to see how many parallels the two would have.

2.  Edan Kupferman, the heroine of our story, is going through so much.  I just feel for her.  What’s great (for the reader, not for her) is that she’s in an unusual quandary, so it’s not like I could have predicted how things would turn out.  In fact, I was quite surprised at how the problems within her family ultimately develop.  (All the more interesting for me is that there’s a bit of Hollywood and behind-the-scenes allusions to Tinseltown in the story.)  I like that Edan has a hard time telling her best friend, Kasumi, what’s really going on with her parents.  She tells the audience right away how close they are, but there are some secrets that are difficult to share even with best friends, and this felt really realistic for me.  I don’t know that I would have allowed things to develop the way Edan does, but her choices about this make the rising action more interesting.  I also love that Edan’s family is comprised of three strong women who are tested to the core.

3.  Yuri.  Ugh.  I did not like him right away.  I see why he might have been interesting for Edan, but I just felt like she fell under the whole sunk-cost fallacy.  She spent so much time pining for Yuri that she can’t see how terrible he is for her.  I mean … just his friends are hard to hang around with, and even Edan can see that clearly.  I wish there were more just deserts for Yuri, but I suppose Castellucci leaves that to the reader’s imagination.

4.  Just as Yuri is so ugh, I felt myself rooting for Kirk almost right away.  It’d have been great to have had a friend like Kirk in high school, though I’m sure I would have been just as emotionally invested in his home life as Edan eventually is.  Edan and Kirk work well for me because even though they have their own really difficult dilemmas to deal with, they both have enough compassion in them to help one another out.  This doesn’t always happen (and, for sure, I wish this had happened when I was in school), so to read about two characters who could think beyond themselves, even for a little while every so often, was quite refreshing for me.

5.  I’ve been to many cons and conferences (though none as big as SDCC), and I love that world.  I love being immersed in a fish tank of like-minded individuals for a few days.  Even though I don’t cosplay myself, I do wear tailored tees and other paraphernalia to show my fandom love.  It was particularly interesting for me to read about some of the rules, expectations, and backstage info about what happens in other cons (even the fabricated one here).  Castellucci writes about Disney bounding and ticket lotteries with an authority that makes me think she’s been to a fair (faire, ha) few cons herself.  If you are a “real nerd” (used in quotes because, well, read the book to find out why), you’ll love these bits in the novel.

6.  I loved all the back stories on Team Tomorrow, Edan’s fandom of choice.  These were the parts of the story that I thought were so well written, and I wonder if the author first thought of the Team Tomorrow backstory and just sort of built Edan’s story around it … which is so cool to speculate.  There are lots of details about the made-up characters (Gargantua, Green Guarder, Lady Bird, etc.) and real comic-book life (ashcans, story arcs, writer-illustrator-creator-producer relationships, etc.), and I really wanted to learn more.  Plus, there are tons of allusions to real fandoms that my Disney-Harry-Potter-Doctor-Who-Sherlock/Elementary-Murdoch-Mysteries-loving heart just eats up.  I guess I’m all about the behind-the-scenes stuff.  Anyway, the Team Tomorrow BTS pages were my favourite parts of the whole story.

7.  There’s one part though that I wasn’t too fond of, which is the constant references to boys objectifying girls and Edan being super feisty (or thinking about doing something super feisty) every time it happened.  I one-hundred-percent believe that girls should be treated with respect and should never be made to feel uncomfortable.  But I felt, more times than not, that the way the author presented this was unrealistic.  When Yuri’s friends are talking about how great a girl looks, Edan sometimes gets upset right away.  Maybe it’s because people who talk poorly about girls like they do wouldn’t stay my friends for very long, or maybe it’s because I think commenting on someone’s looks is not always demeaning nor are those looks mutually exclusive of a person’s intelligence.  I just can’t see myself getting as steamed as Edan does (and still being with Yuri … ugh again).  Either way, I think this would make a great starting point for discussions among my students.

 

4 squinkles

 

Cecil Castellucci’s Online Corners
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTubeChapters/Indigo

 

Thank you, Scholastic Canada, for sending me a copy of Don’t Cosplay with My Heart in exchange for an honest review.

All Squinklethoughts expressed herein are entirely my own.

Supreme Power: 7 Pivotal Supreme Court Decisions (Ted Stewart)

13 Nov

The physical book itself is not very long, but Supreme Power: 7 Pivotal Supreme Court Decisions that Had a Major Impact on America packs a wallop.  Historians, poli-sci students, and lay people alike will find Ted Stewart’s discussion of significant Supreme Court decisions gripping and educational.

 

Supreme Power Squinklethoughts

1.  This book is for you if you want to know how the Supreme Court began and why a Justice once said, “We are not final because we are infallible, but we are infallible only because we are final.”  The intro hooks you in right away.  Stewart discusses the Founding Fathers, their vision for the new country, and even some personal vendettas against one another.  I guess if you want to learn about how the highest court in the land got to be that way, you have to start at the beginning.  I find it really interesting that the number of Justices has fluctuated throughout history.  Also, it’s incredible how many appeals there are every year, and how many are actually heard and decided by the Court.

2.  The divide between prescriptive and descriptive linguists today neatly mirror the two philosophical types of Justices that Stewart describes – the Originalist and the Constitutionalist.  I found this part particularly interesting because I could see how similarly different many tenets of the two political parties are.  As I read through the chapters, I found myself seeing each case from the view of both philosophies, and it’s no wonder they had to go to the Supreme Court for final decisions.

3.  The section on Plessy v. Ferguson, which discusses the onset of the term “Jim Crow” and how the idea of “separate but equal accommodations” led to problems we continue to see today, was a good read.  Stewart recounts the Court’s ruling that the Louisiana Separate Car Act was not in violation of either the Thirteenth or Fourteenth Amendments.  As far as class discussions go, this chapter would make a great springboard for talking about what constitutes “established usages, customs, and traditions” and whether a few years is enough time for a custom to become established.

4.  Another chapter that I liked was “How a Law on Bakers’ Working Hours Led to Abortion Rights”.  I enjoyed learning about Lochner and the belief that part of our birthright is the right to work as long or as hard as we want.  I also like that Stewart poses the question on who defines “liberty” and what “due process” actually (or should actually) means.  I would have liked more of a discussion on the proceedings and consequences of Roe v. Wade.  Stewart discusses Lochner a lot, but he leaves the Court’s decision on Roe v. Wade to a few paragraphs.  I think the pivotal impact of McCorvey’s case shouldn’t have been considered outside the scope of this book.

 

Supreme Power 2  

5.  I didn’t take any poli-sci or history classes in university – at least not ones that explored the Supreme Court and its decisions – so I was happy to learn about the cases Stewart presents.  This book would be great for anyone who wants to know a little bit about them and American political origins.  It would also make a good addition to senior high-school and university courses.  I don’t know if I would assign the entire book, but I’d definitely pick a couple of cases (and the intro) for students to get into.  A caveat, however: Stewart uses jargon that the average person might have heard of but don’t understand.  If I were to give excerpts of this book to non-poli-sci students, I’d have to include a glossary so that they don’t get lost in legalese.

6.  Aside from a glossary that would have helped even me, I would have liked to find an index at the end so that I could find pages related to specific mentions of Justices or cases more easily.  A very extensive bibliography is included though.

 

4 Squinkles

 

Ted Stewart’s Online Corners
US District Court Profile | Chapters/Indigo

 

Thank you, Shadow Mountain, for sending me a copy of Supreme Power: 7 Pivotal Supreme Court Decisions that Had a Major Impact on America in exchange for an honest review.

All Squinklethoughts expressed herein are entirely my own.

Mutant Bunny Island (Obert Skye)

7 Nov

If you’re looking for a story about cute, fluffy bunnies, then this isn’t really the book for you.  Well, actually, hang on.  There ARE cute, fluffy bunnies here, but don’t forget that even the title warns you that mutants abound.

 

Mutant Bunny Island Squinklethoughts

1.  I like stories that are smart-funny, not just slapstick-funny.  Skye’s writing has that in spades.  I loved all the word play in the book, most especially because I think my students will really appreciate his cleverness.  I mean, the first chapter is called “Getting Squiddy with It”, for goodness’ sake.

2.  Perry is a lovable character whom, I think, many people will be able to identify with.  I would much rather stay indoors than enjoy the allergens outside – though for him, he’s avoiding newts, not ragweed.  He seems to have a great relationship with his dad.  I wish the author had explored more the reasons his mom isn’t in the picture, but it looks like Mr. Owens is really trying to be a good dad AND friend to Perry.

3.  Rain is so annoying at first, and it takes quite a while for me to warm up to him.  I suppose there’s not much to do on his island, but still.  I’m glad he becomes less annoying towards the end.

4.  I’m also glad that although there are hints of Perry blushing around Juliet, that storyline doesn’t dip into romance, which the story doesn’t need.  If there’s to be another book with these characters, I’d be more interested in seeing how the friendship among Perry, Juliet, and Rain develop than in any potential love story.  And even without a love plot, I’d love to read Perry’s awkwardness at dealing with girls.

5.  One of the best things about this book is that it intersperses elements of graphic novels with the narrative structure.  The artwork after every chapter not only provides back stories of Admiral Uli and the rest of the squids that Perry wishes were his friends, but it also serves to give readers a pause from the main story.  For many of my kids who sometimes have a hard time getting through novels, this set-up is absolutely perfect.

 

Mutant Bunny Island 2

 

6.  The squid humour is great.  Just thought I’d add that in again.  Our library copy has already been borrowed and loved, so I know this will be a great hit amongst my kids who love funny, fast-paced stories with great art.

7.  Teachers/parents, want to see if this is book is for your child/ren?  Check out a sample here.

 

4 Squinkles

 

Obert Skye’s Online Corners
Facebook | Twitter | Chapters/Indigo

 

Eduardo Vieira’s Online Corners
Facebook | Twitter | Chapters/Indigo

 

Thank you, Harper Collins, for sending me a copy of
Mutant Bunny Island in exchange for an honest review.

All Squinklethoughts expressed herein are entirely my own.

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