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Something Familiar: Chomp by Carl Hiaasen

Hola!

As you may know my husband and I moved from Florida to Columbia, South Carolina this past July. We’re loving the fact that we get to experience the change in seasons and that we’re really close to the mountains. It is just a great area to live in. It’s not that we didn’t like Florida, it’s just that it wasn’t the place we wanted to be forever.

Pretty shortly after we moved however, I realized that Chomp by Carl Hiaasen was on the South Carolina Junior Book Award list for the 2013-2014 school year. I was pretty excited to read Chomp because it, like all of Hiaasen’s books, takes place in southern Florida and in the midst of our move I needed to read something familiar.

Wahoo Cray lives in a zoo. His father is an animal wrangler, so he’s grown up with all manner of gators, snakes, parrots, rats, monkeys, snappers, and more in his bChomp by Carl Hiaasenackyard. The critters he can handle.  His father is the unpredictable one.

When his dad takes a job with a reality TV show called “Expedition Survival!”, Wahoo figures he’ll have to do a bit of wrangling himself—to keep his dad from killing Derek Badger, the show’s boneheaded star, before the shoot is over. But the job keeps getting more complicated. Derek Badger seems to actually believe his PR and insists on using wild animals for his stunts. And Wahoo’s acquired a shadow named Tuna—a girl who’s sporting a shiner courtesy of her old man and needs a place to hide out.

They’ve only been on location in the Everglades for a day before Derek gets bitten by a bat and goes missing in a storm. Search parties head out and promptly get lost themselves. And then Tuna’s dad shows up with a gun.

Although I’ve always enjoyed the Hiaasen books that I have read, his books are not always my favorite. However, I think out of all of them Chomp might have been the one I liked the most. There was just so much more humor in this story and I stopped my husband to tell him about the story more than I usually do when reading. I especially loved the reality show idea and my husband and I are big fans of Bear Grylls and his survival shows, so I got a kick out of the Derek Badger character, who is obviously a mocking portrayal of Grylls and survival show hosts like him.

In Hiaasen’s books the setting is always a character in its own right. And although I’ve never been to the Everglades (even after living in Florida for around 15 years) I know enough about Florida wildlife and geography to completely understand and appreciate this setting. Hiaasen throws in so many Florida “inside jokes” or references that I absolutely felt like I was back in the Florida sunshine.

The main character, Wahoo and his friend (something more?!), Tuna, are really fun and lovable characters. These two are one of the main reasons why I enjoyed Chomp more than Hiaasen’s other books. Wahoo and Tuna were both so realistic and tender in their new-found friendship that you can’t help but fall for them both.

OMG! I almost forgot! Do you even know who narrates this audiobook!?  I freaked out when I pressed play for the first time and heard the voice I hadn’t heard in like 10 years…DAWSON LEERY! Yes. You read correctly. Chomp is narrated by James Van Der Beek! High School Tina swooned a little. For real.

Chomp, definitely comes recommended for middle grade readers considering jumping into Hiaasen’s books who enjoy survivalist stories with some humor thrown in. Although, I do enjoy Hiaasen’s books they are definitely written mostly for their middle grade audience and I think it would be a stretch for older readers (especially adults) to really get into.

Author: Carl Hiaasen

Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (March 27, 2012)

Format: Audiobook

Length: 6 hours and 13 minutes

Narrator(s): James Van Der Beek

Series: Standalone

YA/MG: MG

Buy the Book: Chomp

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I Finally Read John Green! Paper Towns by John Green

Well hello again!

Last year I realized that I hadn’t read any of John Green’s books. So I quickly went to my public library and grabbed the audiobook of An Abundance of Katherines. I didn’t like it.  In fact I didn’t finish it. But I continued to hear people talking, writing, and tweeting about how much I needed to read his books! So I picked Paper Towns.  I liked this one much better.

Quentin Jacobsen has spent a lifetime loving the magnificently adventurous Margo Roth Spiegelman from afar. So when she Paper Towns by John Greencracks open a window and climbs back into his life – dressed like a ninja and summoning him for an ingenious campaign of revenge – he follows. After their all-nighter ends and a new day breaks, Q arrives at school to discover that Margo, always an enigma, has now become a mystery. But Q soon learns that there are clues – and they’re for him. Urged down a disconnected path, the closer Q gets, the less Q sees the girl he thought he knew.

So, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started this book. I was pretty much hooked from the start of the book. I mean, starting a story off with a dead body is always a good hook, right?! Well, yes! It is!  And I had no idea that this book was actually a mystery at its heart, which was kinda cool!

The main thing I enjoyed about Paper Towns is that is set in Orlando, particularly the Baldwin Park (Jefferson Park in the book) area, which I live incredibly close to.  In fact, Q and his friends all attend Winter Park High School, which I jog by frequently as it’s a 5 min jog from my house! Pretty stinkin’ cool! I love stories set in places I’ve been to, but books about where I live are even better!

So, let’s talk characters. I really liked Q and could totally relate to him and his friends.  He is a rule follower by nature who doesn’t like to take chances (sounds like we have some similarities!) and has an awesome sense of humor. So, yeah I liked Q. He grows and changes as a character throughout the story. I don’t quite know if I liked Margo Roth Spiegelman. Actually, I’m not sure if the reader is supposed to like her at all. She is so selfish and narcissistic.  This girl has obvious mental health issues but has seemingly no intention of getting healthy. But at the same time she is adventurous and exciting and completely charming. No wonder Q is drawn to her. My confusion towards Margo had no affect on my enjoyment of the story though. It’s a good story.

So, what did have an effect on my enjoyment of Paper Towns? Okay. Here we go.  The use of the “R word”. On multiple occasions.  For those of you unsure of what the “R word” is, it’s the use of the word “retard(ed)” in a derogatory way. So why does this have an effect on my enjoyment? Well, “when ‘retard’ or ‘retarded’ are used…as synonyms for ‘dumb’ or ‘stupid’ by people without disabilities, it only reinforces painful stereotypes of people with intellectual disabilities as being less valued members of humanity” (r-word.org). Coming across this word in Paper Towns, was incredibly disappointing and distracting for me. I still liked the book (although definitely less than I would have had it not been used) and I don’t believe that John Green is a bad person or anything like that, I am just deeply hurt and bothered by such an accomplished (and awarded) author’s use of this hateful word.

All in all, Paper Towns is most definitely a YA novel and I would only recommend it to older middle school readers and up, but like I said before, it’s a good story and an enticing mystery. I wouldn’t say that I loved it (and I definitely didn’t dislike it!) but hey! At least I’ve finally read a John Green novel!

Author: John Green

Publisher: Brilliance Audio (October 16, 2008)

Format: Audiobook

Length: 8 hours 3 minutes

Narrator(s): Dan John Miller

Series: standalone

YA/MG: YA

Buy the Book: Paper Towns

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Top Ten Tuesday: Settings I Want More Of

Well hello there! Welcome back!

It’s time for Top Ten Tuesday, which is a weekly event hosted by The Broke and Bookish that I participate in on a weekly basis. This week the theme is Top Ten Settings I’d Like to Read More Of.  I’m not sure why, but this was a difficult list for me to create. But I did finally manage it! There are probably tons of books with these settings out there but I just need to find and read them!

So here we go:

1. London: Be it historical or contemporary I love books set in London. Really, I’ll take stories set anywhere in the UK! I’m a total Anglophile and proud of it!London

2. Boarding Schools: If your book is set in a boarding school chances are I’ll pick it up. I just love the idea of being away from home and kind of on your own in a new place.

3. Under the sea: I’ve only read a few mermaid novels, but I think I could really get used to this genre.

4. Amish Country: The Amish are completely fascinating and I am always up for a story set in this community.AmishCountry

5. Colonial America: As a history major in college American colonial history has always intrigued me.  Give me more of this!

6. Florida: Who doesn’t want more books set where they live? It’s fun to read about places you’re familiar with!

7. Wild West Space: Like my beloved Firefly. I like to believe that the future is actually more like the wild west with space travel and Chinese curse words.

Firefly8. Fairy Tale Lands: Fairy tale retellings are one of my favorite genres so I will gladly accept any novels set in fairy tale lands!

9. Steampunk worlds: I think I just need to read more YA steampunk novels because I know they’re out there. Although I love this genre I think I prefer a mild steampunk setting to a high one.

10. Futuristic dystopian societies: I know this sounds super trendy, and some people may be over dystopian fiction, but I sincerely love this setting and have since I read A Handmaid’s Tale in high school. More YA dystopia!

So there you have it! My nerdiness has been revealed now that you know I want more Amish, steampunk and mermaid themed settings in books! My husband will laugh at me if he reads this post…haha

Am I the only nerd out there or are some of these settings that you’d like to read more of?