This Valentine’s Day, Get Someone a Book

When we think of Valentine’s Day, we think of roses and chocolates and teddy bears holding hearts. Many of us would love to receive one of these. (Who wouldn’t?) ūüėČ But this Valentine’s Day, give your loved one something unique and timeless— and no, I’m not talking about diamonds. I’m talking about books.

Yes, you heard me right. I think it’s safe to say that most of you here adore books. I certainly do, and I would appreciate getting a book much more than a box of gourmet chocolates. Why? It’s simple: a book lasts much longer. The chocolates will disappear in a flash, with no evidence they were ever there, except for a sadly empty red, heart-shaped box. Roses, though beautiful, will eventually wilt. Teddy bears can often be stuffed into the closet and forgotten, until you stumble upon it after a few years and try to remember who gave it to you.

A book, however,¬†is something that goes on the shelf and is read over and over along the years. Every time that person picks that book up, they will remember you. (Especially if you¬†sign your name on the first page.) And there is no greater gift than the gift of imagination and words. Books can¬†truly be a wonderful present for anyone… and if they are given someone who adores¬†books, it shows that you know them well.

Skip the Valentine’s Day candy hearts and show how much you love them with a good¬†book.

Want some suggestions?

  • Sense and Sensibility, by Jane Austen (classics never go out of style!)
  • Any book they loved as a child (nostalgia is perfect for Valentine’s Day)
  • Dystopias like The Hunger Games, Divergent, and Legend (not only are they awesome page-turners, they also have a¬†pinch of romance added in)
  • Fantasy books (stories with princesses are perfect for this kind of gift; I¬†recommend Palace of Mirrors, by Margaret Peterson Haddix)
  • YA Books (like the Fault in Our Stars)
  • Any book you think they might like!

Happy (early)¬†Valentine’s Day! ūüôā



Book Review || Inside Out & Back Again

Author: Thanhha Lai

H√† lives in Saigon— a city of celebrations, papayas, open-air markets full of exotic food, magic crepes filled with shrimp and bean sprouts and cucumbers, quiet prayers with burning jasmine¬†incense and clear bell rings from a brass gong, sadness and joy. That is all she has known her entire life, along with her brothers, Quang, V√Ľ, and Kh√īi. But the Vietnam War is slowly approaching, and the ever-present roars of bombs in the distance grows louder every day. People are fleeing, including H√† and her family. They secretly depart by ship,¬†crammed to the brim with other refugees, living off ration rice and water and trying to make the best of their small, unsanitary quarters. For what seems an eternity, they stay on the water, and finally— as though it is a miracle— they are rescued. They stay on Guam for a little bit, and then are transferred to the United States. A sponsor from Alabama¬†(who H√† believes is a cowboy) offers to take the family in. H√† must adjust— going to school, dealing with her mean classmates, learning English from a friendly neighbour, and, eventually making friends and learning to stand up for her family, her culture, and herself.¬†She and her family¬†must also say a symbolic goodbye to Ha’s father, who was missing in action for 10 years, and slowly accept their new life— blending old and new traditions together.

Inside Out & Back Again is a gorgeous and very memorable story written in free verse poetry. It has a very authentic voice to it— probably because much of what happened to H√† happened to the author,¬†Thanhha Lai, including being forced to flee to Alabama, a strange state in a strange land with a strange language to learn. H√†’s narration is clear, describing emotions in a childlike (not childish)¬†yet sincere way.¬†This book perfectly¬†illustrates many of the struggles immigrants face in a new country. And not only is it about¬†adjusting and accepting, but¬†also family and love. A book full of pain, but so much¬†more hope. ‚̧


Book Review || Finally

Rory Swenson has been waiting forever to turn twelve years old. Literally, all her life. And finally, the day has (almost) come. Luckily, Rory is prepared— she has a to-do list.

Big Things

1. Get a cell phone.

2. Stay home alone.

3. Get my own screen name so I can IM.

4. Shave my legs.

5. Go to the mall with Annabelle and no parents.

6. Wear makeup.

7. Get a pet.

8. Babysit.

9. Get my ears pierced.

10. Get contact lenses.

11. Attend Natalie Karp’s boy-girl birthday party.

Smaller (But Still Very Important and Worthwhile) Stuff

1. Get my own house key.

2. Go to bed at 9:30 pm.

3. Drink coffee.

4. Watch Friday the 13th Part IX.

5. Sit in the front seat of the car.

6. Do my homework without anyone checking it.

7. Pick out my own clothes.

8. Use electrical appliances without permission or supervision.

9. Walk home from school.

10. Buy lunch in the cafeteria.

11. Ride an upside-down roller coaster.

So how does Rory’s birthday go? Well, not exactly the best. She drinks coffee for the first time, and— oops— caffeine overload! But then her parents allow her to get a phone (albeit “the lamest cell phone in the history of cell phones”)! In less than fifteen minutes, Rory manages to lose it. Thank goodness her father forced her to buy insurance policy. When she gets her second phone, she receives quite a few calls— but not from the people she expected. All of that, however, is minor compared to the fact that she’s 12! In no time, Rory starts her quest: completing her list. However, things do not turn out exactly as planned. Turns out she’s allergic to make-up… and earrings… and eye-contacts are more dangerous than they seem. Her bunny, Kyle, tries to murder her. She stars as an extra in a movie being taken in her very own hometown (!) but keeps on showing up either hurt or swollen up. She gets a locker slammed in her face by a famous movie star. And maybe boy-girl parties aren’t what they’re all cracked up to be. But¬†Rory makes quite a few friends— including the eccentric Amanda and Leo, a clever ten-year-old, a ballerina, and a wise old woman with a duck-shaped birthmark, and sees that the road to your goal is not as rewarding as helping those you meet on the way.

Yup, this is the sort-of sequel to 11 Birthdays. Wendy Mass is at it again, writing touching but funny stories¬†about growing up. Rory is an awesome character: she’s sweet and down-to-earth but really, really clumsy. She’s¬†just trying to make the best of her newly-gained independence and her crazy mistakes. Her parents are also¬†pretty cool, I must say. They may be overprotective but they are understanding and¬†actually have a sense of humour. The ending is¬†absolutely amazing,¬†I won’t spoil it but I think it’s my favourite part of the book. To quote Angelina, who is the duck-shaped birthmark woman by the way, “You won’t get what you want until you see what you need.”