If you’ve been following me and my good friend the Jolly Good Bookie on Google+, you would already know of some grim news I must tell you. The Bookie found out that he wasn’t a real person and was just something I created for my own benefits, so he quit. That’s right, the JGB is no longer associated with Sammwak. Looks like I’m going to have to grab the reins and introduce something new. I know I haven’t made a review in a while–heck, I haven’t made a post in a while ever since school clogged my schedule. First off, I’m sorry. Secondly, I want to try something new. Once a month, I’ll release several reviews crammed into one post, alongside some news and upcoming titles in the bookverse. Welcome to BookBuzz.

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Reviews

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Fast food has received lots of osmosis in the pop culture of America. With thousands of restaurants around the country that serve millions (if not billions) of people and then plague televisions with their commercials, it’s very hard to avoid the growing phenomenon of unhealthy deliciousness. Some people love its taste, others hate its effect. But have you ever stopped to wonder how all of this came to be? In the novel Chew On This by Eric Schlosser and Charles Wilson, you find out just that. The matter is broken down simplistically to give you a history lesson and a behind-the-scenes look at big fast food brands and what dark secrets they’re hiding from the public. In this book, you will learn about…

  • How the hamburger was invented
  • How McDonald’s was born
  • How McDonald’s inspired the birth of tons of restaurants in its wake
  • How chickens are slaughtered
  • How fries are made
  • Why meat grinding is a more dangerous job than you think
  • What E.coli is and how lethal it can be
  • And much much more!

Chew is one of the few novels that actually gives me information and not trivia. As the tagline says, this book taught me “everything you don’t want to know about fast food”. And after reading it, I frankly did not want to know this about fast food. The writing provides an honest and fascinating undertone as the book changes subjects, and it doesn’t feel droned. They didn’t just copy and paste their research, do a little paraphrasing, and publish it. Never once was it not interesting, and it was sapid enough to the point where I’d actually want to keep reading. Few nonfiction books can pull that sensation out of me. Definitely a book you should read if you’re addicted to fast food or if you’re in an on-off relationship with it, like me.

FINAL SCORE: ★★★★★

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“I am Ivan. I am a gorilla. It’s not as easy as it looks.” Thus begins the most heartwarming story of the year. Now, before I even tell you what the book is about, look at the author of it. Katherine Applegate. Doesn’t sound like much, does it? Now, take away the “therine”. Now you have KA Applegate. Yes, that KA Applegate. The lady who spent the 90s writing Animorphs went on to win the Newbery Medal. Wow.

Anyway, The One and Only Ivan is about the titular Ivan, a silverback gorilla who lives the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade. He has grown to living a life of people watching him all the time, and never once does he ever think about his old life in the jungle. His thoughts are about shows he’s seen and his friends Stella (an elderly elephant) and Bob (a stray dog). Above all, Ivan has a penchant for art and is always thinking about how he can capture the taste of fruit with crayons and an open imagination. Then as a baby elephant named Rudy is added to the Exit 8 crew, the tides begin to change, and Ivan must make sure the tides go in the right directions as he becomes a papa wolf for little Rudy.

As you can tell, Ivan is a very heartfelt novel that comes from a unique perspective. Never did you think a simian Shakespeare could swing in with such an amazing story. His streams of narration can hook a reader from page one and keep them there as the story unfolds in the next hundreds of pages to follow. Definitely a book that I did not see coming from the lady who wrote Animorphs, and definitely one that deserves the Newbery. Not only is it beautiful, but it also has its moments of humor. Ivan chucking “me-balls” of poop at people he hates will never not be amusing.

FINAL SCORE: ★★★★★

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James Patterson has a knack for just the right type of comedy — with the just right amount of heartwarming goodness. Whether it comes in a huge twist or a very subtle reveal, James does it right. And it’s epitomized in the first two volumes of the misadventures of Rafael “Rafe” Khatchadorian (pronounced “catch a door, Ian”). I mean, they were masterpieces! I’d love to go into detail, but I’ve already done that in some other reviews. Now, a big change is coming to Patterson’s third middle school story–Georgia’s taking the wheel. Yep, lil’ G has her own story to share in Middle School: My Brother Is A Big Fat Liar. And what a story it is.

G is starting middle school at Hills Village, the same place where Rafe left one heck of a mark. She plans to excel in all the fields her brother failed to clear the name of the Khatchadorians for good! G got so cocky, she even bet Rafe that she’d become popular. Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done, as everyone’s now adapted to make school a living hell for anyone with the last name of Khatchadorian. Plus, there’s the Princess Patrol, a trio of snooty mean girls who rule the school and look devilishly good doing it. They’ve got their crosshairs on G and are willing to bully her every time the chance comes.

In the wake of her troubles, G is also crushing on an adorkable boy named Sam (no, not me) and befriending a loud-talking girl named Rhonda. Out of school — get this — G plays electric guitar for a band called The Awesomes. (Rafe doesn’t think they live up to their name. Why? Because he’s Rafe.) But Rafe’s not quite done yet. He wants to make his burden of the bet a lot lighter and plans to humiliate G in the worst ways. But could G actually be able to fight her odds and emerge on top?

When I finished My Brother Is A Big Fat Liar, I was disappointed if anything. Why?

    • I finished the book the same day I started it. (I took a few days separately to read through Rafe’s books.)
    • I don’t think the book’s name is very appropriate. The Worst Years of My Life makes sense because Rafe explains why middle school was the worst years of his life. Get Me Out of Here makes sense because Rafe wants to get out of here and explains why. G does nothing to explain why her brother is a big, fat liar beyond one page; she’s too busy telling her story.
    • It has the most predictable setup of all time to the most generic ending of all time. I mean, you know the ending before it’s even close to arriving, it’s so foreseeable.
    • Rhonda is so annoying.

On the bright side, the book still have traditional Patterson gags and charm, and the climax is absolutely jaw-dropping. In Patterson’s trademark fashion, I did not see that one coming. Even though the story’s flaws are mortal in the end, it’s still a decent read to hold us by for Rafe’s next adventure.

FINAL SCORE: ★★★

The Scholastic Graphix graphic novel lineup is full of great authors. Jeff Smith (Bone), Raina Telgemeier (Smile/Drama), Doug TenNapel (Bad Island/Cardboard), among others. But a name like Kazu Kibuishi caught my eye as early as the fifth grade. I was a huge Bone fanboy at this time so I pushed the book aside. But after reading and reviewing all nine books in the series, I decided to give the first installment, The Stonekeeper, a try. Kibuishi is now on my “graphic novel authors to watch” list, because that book was grandiose.

Our story ironically begins with a bang as the main characters–Emily and her little brother Navin–are involved in a tragic car accident that kills their father. Two years later, Emily’s mom is struggling to raise her kids by herself, so she moves them into a spacious old house inherited from Emily’s great-grandpa Silas. As Emily explores her new home, she finds a stone amulet that warns her that her family’s in danger. Before she even knows what the amulet’s capable of, Emily and Navin are thrown into a mission to rescue their mother in a subterranean world full of friends and foes.

This book’s storytelling is absolutely pristine even in the limits of 192 pages; and the story’s emotions whiplash from exciting action to tearjerking drama within pages. Emily and Navin are ordinary children that you can feel for as they embark on a journey of such proportions. Also, the illustrations are crisp and beautiful and impeccably follow along the storyline. That being said, the story arc is very simplistic with not enough rising and falling actions to fill in the holes before and after the climax. It’s a book that I blazed through while at the same time understanding what was going on, and that sort of let me down. But The Stonekeeper‘s “and the adventure continues” ending paves the way to a lot of sequels I need to plow through.

FINAL SCORE: 

Remember back in May 2012 when I made a review for the last Bone book, saying that JGB Bone was coming to an end? Well, I forgot about one spinoff book (and the handbook and the prequel and the Quest for the Spark series): Bone Tall Tales featuring Tom Sniegoski. In this book, campfire myths from our old smoking pal Smiley are used to answer questions like how Boneville was made, and how the Bones got lost in the valleys.

The book was only 128 pages, so it didn’t take me that long to finish. I was very disappointed. The book is nothing but mildly entertaining stories that give me some exposition and context about the Bones, but I wanted more. More story, more action, more laughs, more pages, more Bone that I expected out of this! And to think I was so excited to read this book. Hopefully Quest for the Spark will be a saving grace, because Jeff Smith is dangling off the edge off of my “graphic novel authors to watch” list.

FINAL SCORE: 

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