Lafcadio, The Lion Who Shot Back // Book Review

Author: Shel Silverstein
Genre: Children’s Book
Year Published: 1963
Publisher: HarperCollins
Length: 112 pages

Shel Silverstein started my love of reading at the ripe young age of five. I’m not too cool to admit that sometimes when I have a bad day I turn to my good friend Where the Sidewalk Ends. So when my little sister bought me a Shel Silverstein book as a birthday present for my 21st birthday I was incredibly, nerdily excited.

This story follows a brave lion who comes to be known as Lafcadio. After eating a hunter and stealing his gun Lafcadio quickly becomes the sharpest shooter in all of Africa. When he gets recruited to join a circus, Lafcadio becomes wildly famous and rich. And in the process might just forget where he came from.

I absolutely love Lafcadio, The Lion Who Shot Back. This quirky tale of self-discover disguised as a children’s book could teach people of all ages a lesson or two. As someone who is about to enter their (potential) last year of college and is trying to figure out what the heck I’m doing with my life, I found great comfort in Lafcadio’s journey. Here are just a few of the lessons I learned from the lion who shot back.

Use your talents for good! When Lafcadio first starts shooting he uses it to protect his friends and family. But the aspect of endless marshmallow’s leads him down a road of riches. He gets lonely and bored very quickly.

Being rich and famous isn’t nearly as important as the people in your life. Lafcadio had it all. He had so much that he got bored with all his crazy adventures. He kept searching for bigger and better experiences that ultimately still left him feeling lonely. Even an unlimited supply of marshmallows couldn’t keep him happy.

Never forget where you came from. Lafcadio got so caught up with his fancy new life that he completely forgot where he came from. When he returns to Africa on a hunting trip he is struck by just how much he has changed. So much that he doesn’t know who he is anymore.

And most importantly:
It’s ok to not know where you’re going or what will happen: My favorite quote in this whole book was towards the end. “…he didn’t really know where he was going, but he did know he was going somewhere, because you really have to go somewhere, don’t you? And he didn’t really know what was going to happen to him, but he did know that something was going to happen, because something always does, doesn’t it?” This has seriously become my life motto. I don’t know where I am going in life and what I’m doing, but that’s ok because something will happen in my life! Thanks Lafcadio for validating my uncertainty.

Lafcadio, The Lion Who Shot Back was a fantastic, quick read that both transported me back to my childhood and gave me some new perspective about my adult life. I would honestly recommend this book for readers of all ages.

Rating: 5 marshmallows out of 5

Book Review / Feed

Author: M.T Anderson
Genre: Dystopian Young Adult
Year Published: 2002
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Length: 299 pages

Synopsis:
In a world taken over by capitalism and marketing, everyone is constantly bombarded by advertising by the feed, a chip implanted in their brains. Titus and his friends are completely used to this constant advertising. And then Titus meets Violet who is completely different from everyone else he knows. Violent challenges they very ideals and beliefs Titus grew up with, and he’s not sure he likes that. As their relationship develops they also begin to see the feed in a new light.

My Perspective:
This book took a different route than I was expecting. It was more of a love story with social commentary hanging out in the background. I went into this book expecting it to be all take down the man and scream it from the mountaintops. Which in a way made it more powerful. It showed how normally and easily technology came to run everything. Everything felt so much more normal than I was expecting.

The characters were very genuine and relatable. They seem so normal despite the weird feed and everything that goes on with that. Titus and Violet are very much products of their environment. Titus grew up with the feed. Everything about it is so normal to him. Violet, on the other hand, received the feed later in life and grew up with a father who is against it. These teens are trying to reconcile their beliefs and their relationship, and really just trying to figure out life.

M.T Anderson never fails to create interesting worlds with relatable characters. Overall I really enjoyed this read. It was a easy quick read, but also very thought provoking.

My Rating: 4 hackers out of 5

Book Review / The Impossible Knife of Memory

Author: Laurie Halse Anderson
Genre: Contemporary Young Adult
Year Published: 2014
Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
Length: 391 page

Synopsis:
Hayley Kincain is far from your typical high school senior. After being home schooled for five years as her dad worked as a semi-truck driver, she finds herself back in the halls of public high school. Throughout first, and last, year in high school Hayley juggles a father suffering from PTSD, trying to access her own memories from her childhood, figuring out the rules to dating, and not doing great at actually passing her classes. Hayley skirts on the brink of disaster in her life on a daily basis. Will she let the memories tear her way through and trust that she can recover? Or will the pressure of taking care of her dad become too much to handle?

My Thoughts:
I just have to start out with proclaiming my love for Laurie Halse Anderson. She is seriously the queen of YA. Anderson takes big issues and weaves them into incredible heart-wrenching tales of love, loss, and belonging.

The ways in which Anderson explained Andy and Hayley’s relationship was so realistic. She didn’t try to sugar coat their dynamic, but showed how complex it was. The constant turmoil Hayley went through of loving and wanting to help her father, but also wanting to just be a normal teenager for once felt was so genuine.

I also loved seeing the highs and lows Andy went through from Hayley’s perspective. This book was a very real exploration of a child living with a parent suffering from PTSD.

I can’t talk about this book without talking about Finn. Hayley and Finn’s relationship was precious, and just as complex as everything else in Hayley’s life. Again, Anderson succeeded in create genuine, realistic relationships between her characters. I think insta-love is all too common in YA. And sure, sometimes it works. But, it wouldn’t have for Finn and Hayley. The fact that Hayley had never really dealt with the realm of boys and relationships became very real in the way she approached her relationship with Finn right from the start. Seriously though, that date he tricked her into? Adorable. Also, the fact that Finn had his own emotional baggage was perfect for Hayley. Sure, they were kind of crap at communicating, but that’s pretty typical for a high school relationship. They definitely learned to be what the each other needed.

For me the sign of a good book is when it makes me emotional. If I am so attached to the lives of these characters that I can’t hold it together, that’s a good sign. This book did just that. I laughed, I cried, I swooned, and I yelled. The Impossible Knife of Memory was just as fantastic as any of Anderson’s other works.

A Really Awesome Mess / Book Review

Author: Trish Cook and Brendan Halpin
Genre: Contemporary Young Adult
Year Published: 2013
Publisher: Egmont
Length: 275

Synopsis:
Justin is a sixteen year old with daddy issues and a sex drive. Emmy, an adopted Chinese girl, desperately seeks love to the point of developing an eating disorder. Both of these teenagers land in Heartland Academy, a therapeutic boarding school. Thrown into a rag tag group for therapy these two find themselves in crazy adventures, making new friends, and even confronting their own issues.

My Perspective:

I was not the biggest fan of this book. I got it for free for volunteering at a book sale on my campus, so no harm no foul really. Emmy and Justin both annoyed me. I know they were dealing with very valid issues, but they just seemed so whiney. The character change throughout the book felt forced and sudden. They were both so reluctant to work on their own life issues, that when they finally started to it felt ingenuine. I sort of liked the all the other characters in their therapy group, mostly because they were funny. I just had the hardest time getting invested in their lives. Typically, I love books about kids in therapy because usually the characters are complex and I really enjoy trying to figure them out. But, Emmy and Justin just seemed flat and cliche and boring.

Same with the plot. I was not invested in what was happening. It was definitely fun. The kids were all about crazy hijinks. More than they cared about their own character development honestly. Their adventures were a bit unrealistic though.

Overall, I just think this book wasn’t my cup of tea. Or a wrong book at the wrong time type of deal.

My Rating: 1 jailbroken pig out of 5.
You’ll like this book if: You enjoy fun reads full of hijinks and shenanigans.
You’ll dislike this book it: Typical characters that fall flat.

June: The Month of Reading

June was the month of reading! I read more this month than I have read in a really long time and it was fantastic. The combination of ending the school year, only working a few days a week, and a few trips home made for the perfect reading month. Here’s what I read and a few brief thoughts!

Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler: I really enjoyed this slightly goofy, mildly dark, and all together different tale of love lost. Handler has a way of writing characters impossible not to fall in love with. I wrote a full review on this one so check it out!

Feed by M.T Anderson: Feed took a route I wasn’t quite expecting it to take, but I liked it more than I thought it would. The love story interwoven with the social commentary on technology was well written and pulled me into the story.

Grace’s Guide: The Art of Pretending to be a Grown-Up by Grace Helbig: This quirky book is part self-help, part memoir, and 100% funny. Written by Youtube Personality Grace Helbig, Grace’s Guide was the perfect summer read.

A Really Awesome Mess by Trish Cook and Brendan Halpin: I was not a fan of this one. A Really Awesome Mess follows two teens whose problems land them in a therapeutic boarding school. The characters were whiney. The plot was kind of weird and not that interesting. This book just didn’t keep me interested.

Catalyst by Laurie Halse Anderson: This is the last book I read in June. I finished this book eleven days ago and haven’t really read all that much since. I think I still have a massive post-book hangover from this one. Catalyst is definitely not easy to move on from. I loved everything about it from the characters to the plot to the writing. I even loved how much it broke my heart.

So that’s June for you. Hopefully July is just as productive! I just bought a couch for my porch, so I anticipate a lot of reading to happen there. How’s your summer reading going? Any summer recommendations?

Happy Reading,
Sam

Why We Broke Up

Author: Daniel Handler
Genre: Contemporary Young Adult
Year Published: 2011
Publisher: Little Brown Books for Young Readers
Length: A 354 page letter

Synopsis:
“And that Ed is why we broke up.”

When Min Green and Ed Slaterton breakup Min goes on a mission to give back everything she has collected over the course of their month long relationship along with a letter explaining exactly why they broke up. Why We Broke up details the crazy adventures and explosive break up of this unlikely couple.

My Perspective:
The Pictures: First off this book is beautiful! Every story that Min includes in her letter is accompanied by beautiful illustrations. This makes the story even more intriguing and definitely pulls the reader into the world of Min and Ed.

The Characters: I love these characters. Ed is the basketball star and your stereotypical high school jock bro. Min is not arty but…different… Seeing Ed and Min interact was so interesting. Min brings out the sensitive side of Ed and Ed turns Min into a basketball girlfriend. Yet both are still so caught up in their own worlds.

The Plot: This book was so real and easy to get into. I was so invested in the relationship and lives of Min and Ed. Also, I had to keep reminding myself that they had only been dating for a month. Crazy! It seemed as though they had been dating for so long!

Overall, I really enjoyed Why We Broke Up. It was so fun reading a book by Daniel Handler other than the Series of Unfortunate Events, which I haven’t read since I was young.

My Rating: 5 obscure movies out of 5.
You’ll like this book if: You enjoy you like contemporary young adult books about relationships.
You’ll dislike this book it: You don’t enjoy books about dramatic teenagers.

Leaving Time

I recently had my heart ripped out of my chest. Well, at least that is what it felt like when I got to the end of Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult. To top it all off I was at school and had to sit through class going through one of the biggest post-book crises of my life.

Alice Metcalf, an elephant researcher, disappeared after a death at the elephant sanctuary she ran and the only witness was her three year old daughter. Ten years later Jenna Metcalf sets out on a mission to find her mom, or at least find out what happened to her. Partnering up with a washed up psychic named Serenity and one of the policemen that originally worked the case, Virgil, Jenna begins to piece together the clues in search of the truth. What she finds is shocking beyond belief.

This book took me through an array of emotions. I thought it was really boring for a while. Honestly, the only thing that kept me reading was the fact that I have a signed copy. You can’t own a signed copy of a book you’ve never read. That’s weird. However, Leaving Time took me a really long to time to work my way through. Not a lot happens for the first 200 pages honestly. Little details of the night of the death are revealed and a whole lot of boring backstory is told.

Then it got really weird. Stuff finally starts happening in the weirdest way imaginable. I was left perplexed, but wanting to finish reading just figure out what the heck just happened.

And figure it out I did. Because next came the twist ending that Jodi Picoult is so wonderful at delivering. I gave up while ago trying to guess how Picoult’s books end because I am literally always wrong. And boy was I off with this one. I had many theories floating around my head as I read this book, but this one not only took me by surprise, but also ripped my heart out and left unsure of how to continue on with my life.

Jodi Picoult is a master of narrative. Even if I thought the beginning of this book was boring, it was so worth it for the shock of the ending. I would recommend Leaving Time to anyone who loves getting invested in the lives of characters, but also enjoys emotional roller coasters. Just know, you are in for a long haul when you start this book.

Happy reading,
Sam