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Style by the Book: Divergent

My summer reading includes finishing up the Divergent series. I loved the first book but sort of lost momentum with the second. As I plunge back into the world of factions, I thought it would be fun to imagine what each faction would wear if they existed today. Abnegation was the hardest and Candor was the most fun simply because I found panda shoes and when confronted with panda shoes, the answer is always yes.

Abnegation – The Selfless

The Selfless


Amity – The Peaceful

The Peaceful


Dauntless – The Brave

The Brave


Erudite – The Intelligent

The Intelligent


Candor – The Honest

The Honest


Which would you choose? I think I’m more of an Amity but Dauntless has cake and it’s pretty hard to compete with that.

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What’s on Your Summer Reading List?

Back in May, we asked our Library visitors, “What’s on your ‘summer reading’ list? (for school or for fun)”?  And we had a lot of suggestions (and suggestions about those suggestions)!

summerreadsI’ve found several of the titles available at the Library.  If you’re around for the summer, come check them out.  And if you’re not around, then stop by during the fall.  Reading for fun is a great way to relieve stress!

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho (813 C64a) :  This book serves as both a story of a young shepherd boy who travels the Egypt in search of the treasure in his dreams, and a philosophy on how one could live one’s life by following dreams and watching out for signs.  It’s about dreaming big and enjoying the journey, not the destination.  It is often on people’s list of books that changed their lives.

bookrow1 A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain (available on ebook and in print): A 19th century man awakens in 6th Century England and proceeds to use his knowledge of history and technological inventions to improve and modern the lives around him.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (J G817f): The story of 16 year old cancer patient Hazel, and how she meets and falls in love with a boy named, Augustus Waters.  It is a surprisingly simple premise that has won the hearts and tears of its readers with its intelligent and vibrant characters.  The movie is now in theaters!

The Giver (J L95g): Jonas becomes the Receiver of Memories, taking in all the memories of his community’s past.  He realizes that the Sameness adopted by his community needs to end in order to restore happiness and the power of choice, and, with the Giver’s help, plots his escape.  The movie adaptation of this novel is coming out this summer.  Read the book before you watch it.


The Great Gatsby (available on ebook and in print):  While the main narrative is about a wealthy and enigmatic man named Jay Gatsby and his love for his former flame, socialite Daisy Buchanan, the book is really about the sense of possibility and the display of decadence of the early 1920s.  It’s a lot more enjoyable when you’re not reading it for school.

The Hatchet by Gary Paulsen (J P28h): After a plane crash, Brian is stranded in the wilderness and must survive on his own with nothing but his hatchet.

The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkein(823 T57zg): The titular hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, who loves staying at home and staying out of trouble, finds himself on a quest with a band of dwarves to sneak into the Lonely Mountain and retrieve a royal jewel from the dragon, Smaug.

Hop on Pop by Dr.Seuss(J-P Se9ho): There isn’t much of a story here (or maybe I’m just not seeing it), but the rhymes are fun.


Orange it the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison by Piper Kerman (365.43 K47o):  Piper recounts the 15 months she had spent in prison  – the codes of behavior, the failures of the prison system, and the incredible lives of the women around her.  The second season of the TV adaptation of the memoir is now available on Netflix for binge-watching.

Tuesdays with Morrie: An Old Man, a Young Man, and Life’s Greatest Lesson by Mitch Albom (378.12 AL1t): A memoir chronicling 14 Tuesdays Mitch Albom spent with his former sociology professor, Morrie Schwartz, and the life lessons the older man imparted to his former pupil.  It is another one of those books that can change people’s outlook on life.

There were a few that weren’t in the Library, so we ordered them.  In the coming months, be on the lookout for Paper Towns by John Green, Divergent by Veronica Roth, and The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, along with other popular reading titles.

So what’s on your summer reading list?  Personally, I’m planning to tackle Insurgent by Veronica Roth this coming week and thinking about revisiting Crime and Punishment (891.73 D74ca) by Fyodor Dostoyevsky.


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Welcome to the Desert of the Real

I watch a lot of reality television.  My favorite show used to be Ace of Cakes, but like all shows I truly love, they stopped making new episodes.  I moved on to Cake Boss, but there was too much yelling in that one.  Dance Moms has a horribly hypnotic hold on me, as well as older episodes of Project Runway.  I have the recent discovery of a Roku Lifetime channel to thank for those latter two.

To compliment my penchant for “reality,” I have come upon a cache of reality television inspired YA.  If you, like me, try to vary your intake between the written word and unfortunate amounts of Real Housewives, here are a few book recommendations for you.

books 1Fans of Supernanny read: Reality Boy by A.S. King.  This book is so dark and angry in parts, you’d never know it was written by the same person who created Ask the Passengers.  The plot focuses on a boy who was featured on a Suppernanny-like program with devastating lasting effects.  It is frightening for how real the story could be.  I like to believe the seeds of hope planted at the end are just as likely to be real as well.

Fans of Top Chef read: Pizza, Love, and Other Stuff That Made Me Famous by Kathryn Williams.  Here is a more lighthearted story.  I’ve always liked food competitions (and books that feature food), because it less about voting someone off an island and more about becoming champion based on skill.  In Pizza, sixteen-year-old Sophie grew up working in her family’s restaurant.  Her best friend Alex convinces her to audition for “Teen Test Kitchen.”  Sophie is completely unprepared for the notoriety that follows.  I really wish Teen Test Kitchen were an actual show.

Fans of Jon and Kate Plus Eight or 19 Kids and Counting read: Something Real by Heather Demetrios (J D464s).  What happens when children like the Gosselin twins and sextuplets grow up and want nothing more than to be left alone?  That is the question posed in Demetrios’ debut book.  Oldest sister Bonnie™ Baker suffered a breakdown on air that led to the cancelation of her family’s reality show “Baker’s Dozen.”  Now Bonnie™ has managed to make a new life for herself, until her mother resurrects the show for a new series.  This is a dark book especially if you watched a fair amount of Jon and Kate Plus 8 like me.  It poses how damaging shows like this could be years from now.

books 2Fans of The Voice read:  The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy by Kate Hattemer.  In this book, an awful reality show comes to take over titular Selwyn Academy.  Protagonist Ethan and his friends scheme to ruin the show’s nefarious plans.  I admit, as a writer, I have always wondered what a reality show about writing would be like.  “Boring” was my first thought.  Seeing a bunch of people sitting in front of notebooks or laptops and alternating between internal bouts of megalomania and self-loathing doesn’t really translate well to screen.  But in this book I was given a close second—artists taking down reality television as only they can.

Fans of the 7 Up series read:  You Look Different in Real Life by Jennifer Castle.  Five teenagers star in a documentary series about their everyday lives.  However, the result is a little like Schrodinger’s Cat:  does the observation of their lives fundamentally alter and determine what their lives are?  The perils and advantages of even small amounts of fame are masterfully explored in Castle’s take.  I’ve always enjoyed the 7 Up series, but as the children (now adults) chronicled reflect on the years gone by, it is interesting to see how “reality documentaries” can be difficult to actually live.

Fans of The Amazing Race read: For Real by Alison Cherry.  The only drawback to this book is that it’s not slated for release until December of 2014.  However, it’ll be worth the wait!  Claire has always been in older sister Miranda’s shadow.  However, when Miranda finds out her boyfriend has been cheating on her, she and Claire decide to compete on a show much like The Amazing Race.  A surprise twist may mean love for Claire, or complete humiliation broadcast for the world to see.  My favorite part of the Amazing Race was always Phil Keoghan, but maybe if the show really had Miranda and Claire as competitors, I’d watch it with more interest.

Reality television is like candy for the soul.  I firmly believe if you watch too much, your spirit will rot.  However, reading is such an intellectual activity!  It’s good for you.  Read these for a good fix of fiction narrative.  Ore, arguably, something more real.

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Featuring Characters of Asian Descent

The month of May commemorates the culture, history, and accomplishments of those of Asian-American and Pacific Islander heritage.  I am reminded of Grace Lin, a daughter born from Taiwanese immigrants, and her contribution to children’s literature with Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, which received the Newbery Medal and Wheel Award.  Recently, the Wheelock Family Theatre had put on a stage adaptation of the book.   mountainmoonIt was a great accomplishment not only for Grace Lin, but for authors of Asian descent.  Not many children’s books by authors or featuring characters of Asian/Pacific Islander descent get that much attention.  Actually, there aren’t that many being published in the first place.

So, in honor of  Asian-American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, I’m highlighting some books from the Wheelock College Library featuring characters of Asian and/or Pacific Islander decent.

Bobby vs. Girls (accidentally), by Lisa See; illustrated by Dan Santat
Bobby Ellis-Chan accidentally gets into a fight with his best friend, Holly, and suddenly, it becomes an all-out boys versus girls war.   While many books featuring characters of Asian descent are about the Asian American experience, this book is focused more on boy-girl dynamics during the pubescent years.  Bobby just happened to be of Asian descent.

Bringing Asha Home, by Uma Krishnaswami; illustrated by Jamel Akib
Arun finds out that his parents (Caucasian mom, Indian dad) are adopting a baby girl from India.  He is super-excited about getting a baby sister, but struggles with the long wait for her to arrive.  The perspective of the long, agonizing process of international adoption from the child’s point of view is something that we don’t often hear about.

Dia’s Story Cloth: The Hmong People’s Journey of Freedom,  by Dia Cha
This book features the story cloth that Dia Cha’s aunt and uncle made.  The Hmong people make them to capture their culture, history, and memories to pass down through the generations.  Dia’s story cloth tells the history of the Hmong people and the story of how Dia’s family was caught in the violence and chaos of the Laotian Civil War and how they eventually emigrated to the United States.

Duck for Turkey Day, by Jacqueline Jules; illustrated by Kathyrn Mitter.
Tuyet gets upset when she finds out that her Vietnamese family is having duck (delicious!) rather than turkey for Thanksgiving.  However, she learns that her classmates did not have turkey either and that the only thing their celebrations have in common is family.

Dumpling soup, by Jama Kim Rattigan; illustrated by Lillian Hsu-Flanders
Marisa helps her grandmother make New Year’s dumplings for the first time.   The story takes place in Hawaii and like many families in Hawaii, Marisa’s family is multicultural.  Her family members come from Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Hawaiian, and Anglo cultures.

The Gold-threaded Dress, by Carolyn Marsden
Oy, who had originally come from Thailand, starts attending a new school.  She renamed by her teachers and bullied by classmates, who ignorantly refer to her as “Chinese”.   Then, one of the popular girls offered her a chance to join her group.  All Oy has to do was to let them all try on the beautiful, ceremonial dress that has been in her family for years.  Oy struggles between her desire to fit in and her desire to respect her family.


Grandfather’s Journey, by Allen Say
This is a story about the author’s grandfather and how he loved both the United States and Japan.  The story tells of his life from his first travels to the United States and then his return to Japan.  His plans to go back to the United States had been put to a stop after World War II broke out.

In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson, by Bette Bao Lord; illustrations by Marc Simont
This was one of the first books about Asian Americans that I read.  Shirley Temple Wong arrives from China to make a new home in the US in 1947 and in the midst of trying to learn about American culture, she discovers a love for baseball and an admiration for Jackie Robinson, the first African-American Major League Baseball player.

Journey to Gold Mountain: The Chinese in 19th Century America, by Ronald T. Takaki
This is a book covers the Chinese experience in 19th century America – from the various occupations they served in America to the racism and prejudices they faced to putting down roots.

The Elephant’s Friend and other Tales from Ancient India, by Marcia Williams
This is a collection of 8 animal folktales depicted in a vibrant and humorous comic-strip format.  I know this book has no major human characters, but it is just too awesome not to recommend.  And I love elephants.


The Name Jar, by Yangsook Choi
Unhei has just arrived from South Korea.  After some kids on the bus had trouble pronouncing her name, she decided to let her new classmates name her.  After trying on different names, she realizes that she liked her name best and helps her classmates pronounce it.

Nene & the Horrible Math Monster, by Marie Villanueva; illustrated by Ria Unson.
Nene is a Filipino-American girl who hates math.  She struggles at it and only does well because she works so hard.  She feels conflicted when her teacher chooses her for the math portion of an academic competition.   This story goes against the stereotype that Asians are good at and love math.  As a Chinese-American who dislikes math, I can relate to Nene.

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What exactly IS Turkish Delight?

TheLionWitchWardrobe1stEdOne of my first food-in-books memories center on Edmund in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. The boy is so taken by enchanted Turkish delight that I myself became obsessed with it. Edmund’s undying devotion to this sweet treat had me convinced it was clearly the best candy in the world. But I had no idea what it was. I projected my own favorite sweet flavors onto this unknown substance and imagined it as a chocolaty/caramel substance, kind of like fudge. Well, I was wrong.

Turkish delight turns out to be a gel-based candy, often containing a variety of dried fruit and nuts, and it comes in citrus or floral flavors. It’s an incredibly varied kind of candy, with a seemingly endless potential for combinations. You can even make some at home, and try out your own flavor combos!


Try them all!

Oddly enough–I have never gotten around to trying it. Mostly because I don’t like nuts, or dried fruits very much for that matter. So when I learned what Turkish delight actually was, my visions of the candy perfection came to an end. But for someone who loves those flavors, Turkish delight could still be part of a childhood dream of finding the perfect candy. So, get out there and try all of those combos! But remember–watch out for any witches offering it to you!

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