review: (advanced copy of) Fat Boy vs the Cheerleaders by Geoff Herbach

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*This book will be released Tuesday, May 6 2014. 

I received Fat Boy vs. the Cheerleaders by Geoff Herbach from the publisher Sourcebooks Fire. I don’t recall asking for it, but I am not one to turn down a free book. Especially one that pits band geeks against, well…anyone else. You see, I was a band geek. Will be one for life, I suppose. So I instantly fell in love with Gabe – nicknamed Chunk due to his spherical body – and his smart mouth. That isn’t to say I liked everything about him, however that’s the sign of a good character. One with traits you dislike, but whose soul you love.

Gabe and the marching band face a band camp-less summer due to funds from the soda machine being given to the new dance team, where in the past the funds were for the band. Gabe and his friends slowly start a rebellion…one that results in him in an interrogation cell. The book is told in first-person from inside that interrogation cell.

The team of unlikely heroes may seem incongruous to what Hollywood thinks of high school, but it’s 100% factual for what high school really is like. Football players do support the rebellion efforts of their band geek friends. Goth girls do fall for overzealous, overweight, rebellion-inciting boys. Friends who were once awesome do turn into the enemy. This is reality, and Herbach nailed it.

Recommended for:
High schoolers who like a little rebellion with their reading. Band geeks will pump their fists in the air, jocks will nod in approval, and goth girls will smile. Just a little.

Read-alikes:
Scar Boys had a similar misfit-turned-hero element. A.S King’s Reality Boy is not nearly as light as Fat Boy but a solid read-alike.

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review: Uganda Be Kidding Me by Chelsea Handler

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Uganda Be Kidding Me is by one of the funniest women in the biz, Chelsea Handler. A memoir of her travels – including an African safari, the 2012 London Olympics, and Colorado – make me want to stuff myself into her purse and go with her everywhere. Everywhere. I’d go to Wal-Mart with her if she’d let me just to experience an outing in her presence.

Handler hates being alone so she takes people with her everywhere she goes. She actually ruined the anniversary plans one of her friends’ husbands had made because she insisted that she go to Africa with her. She made her sister leave the country when her family was relocating so she’d have at least one sister with her on the safari. She wants. She gets. I typically hate that kind of attitude in a person, but I make an exception for Handler – who gives as much as she takes. (She bought an aunt a house one Sunday afternoon when she was bored and hungover and because the aunt had been really good to her when she was a struggling actress/waitress years earlier.)

This is Handler’s fourth book, and it does not fail to make readers laugh out loud that snorty kind of laugh that makes others jump. Her deadpan voice comes through in her writing, so I completely believe her when she says she doesn’t use a ghostwriter.

Recommended for:
Anyone who doesn’t mind vulgar language and vivid descriptions of defecation and sex will LOVE this book!

Read-alikes:
Any other book by Handler (except Lies that Chelsea Handler Told Me which is actually written by her friends and family. It’s okay…but not fantastic because it’s not written by her, per say.)

I imagine the Mindy Kaling book Everyone is Hanging Out Without Me is similar, or so I believe because of things I’ve been told. In deadpan humor, I mean…not in the foul-mouthed kind of way.

circle

The Circle by Dave Eggers is the story of Mae Holland – a twenty-something working at The Circle, a GoogleAppleMicrosoft-like conglomerate that is the technology center of the country, nay, the world. Mae is awe-struck over the vastness of The Circle’s campus, and of its presence in nearly every aspect of a person’s life. After Mae’s arrival at The Circle, her colleagues push out such inventions as SeeChange (a tiny, inexpensive camera that anyone can install anywhere, including around their necks to promote transparency) and TruYouth (a tracking device injected into the bone of every infant so they can never be lost, but the device also tracks their academic standings, health records, and more). They sound harmless – helpful even – but Mae’s ex-boyfriend Mercer believes otherwise and fears The Circle’s all-encompassing control.

Mae doesn’t drink the Kool-Aid at first. She goes an entire weekend without sending one Zing (Tweet?), posting one Smile (“Like”?), or uploading pictures of her meals, her kayak trip, or of another daily activity. She is reprimanded by higher-ups who feel that her lack of posting shows she doesn’t care about sharing her experience with others. Her best friend, Annie, a heavy-hitter at The Circle, encourages her to do more with The Circle’s social scene, and Mae quickly becomes entranced by the place.

Then she goes transparent, being the first non-Congressperson to wear SeeChange for all of her waking hours. Her life is filmed, but a couple people are afraid of what will come next for The Circle, and the world, if such technology is commonplace.

The Circle is by the great Dave Eggers – Zeitoun is one of the most intriguing and affecting nonfiction books I’ve read. But unfortunately I felt this most recent one was a bit contrived. Maybe I read too much dystopia as it is, because this felt like just another on the pile. A technology company takes over the world by creating seemingly-harmless products, but those who want to maintain their privacy freak out and think it’s the end of the world. And even the “bad guys” aren’t that bad. They truly think they are doing good – keeping children safe from kidnappers, aiding in the health care system, forcing the government to be transparent and accountable for their actions – so you can’t hate them (although you do find them a bit odd and obsessed).

Recommended for:
Anyone who isn’t burned out from other dystopia or controlling-technology books. Definitely teens who like to read adult novels. Except for a couple PG sex inferences, this one is appropriate for older teens.

Read-alikes:
Machine Man
by Max Barry and Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson.