Saving Money on Textbooks

As a student growing up in this era, money is not a fun subject to talk about. It seems like I'm always paying for something; from car repairs to tuition to groceries. Something I always hate buying are textbooks. You take textbooks for granted in high school because you don't have to pay for them. In college that is not the case and it really stinks having to pay for that 250 dollar textbook. Well, thankfully, there are plenty of ways to save on text books. 

First off, buy online. Never ever go to the bookstore to get your books! They charge ridiculous amounts for textbooks. I know sometimes the version you need for your class is only provided by the bookstore, but if you have the option always buy online! A couple of great sites are Amazon and Chegg. I look between these two sites to decide where to buy from. 

Charm & Strange by Stephanie Kuehn

2.5/5 stars.

Charm & Strange follows Win Winters, a withdrawn, quiet teenager who keeps everyone at bay, else they find out his dark secret. The story goes back and forth between present day Win as he battles what hides inside him, and 11-year old Win as his future becomes shaped for him. It’s an interesting writing style that allows the reader to see how the past unfolds to lead to the present that we know, ultimately having them meet at the point where all questions get answered. Typically I don’t mind this technique. However, Charm & Strange had far too many questions throughout that made reading the story confusing and frustrating as you struggle to figure out where the author is taking you.

Charm & Strange is one of those books where you don’t truly appreciate it until you have finished. In fact, the best part of the book is the last 10 pages (and I don’t mean that in the snarky “yay, it’s done” sort of way…sort of). It’s at the end where all of the questions get answered and you are left saying “Ooooooh, I get it.” Suddenly everything you read up to that point makes sense and you get where certain things were coming from.

Sadly, this is why I think the book won the Morris Award: the last-minute appreciation the reader gets when finished. In all honesty the book as you are reading it isn’t all that great. It’s confusing and seems to go all over the place. Yes, it most likely was the author’s intent, but I didn’t find it enjoyable. Also, the characters never seemed all that fleshed out and appeared to serve no other purpose than tools to move the main character along and drive his motivations and personality.

I gotta say, if you’re looking for a debut YA-Lit author I would look somewhere else. Yes, I give Kuehn a tip of that hat for the ending and how she wrapped up the story and tied it off, but the destination doesn’t justify the journey.

You Need a Budget (YNAB)

You Need a Budget (YNAB) is a great piece of software that will help you get on a budget. They boast that thousands of people have gotten a handle on their finances as a result of their product. YNAB uses 4 basic financial rules. First, give every dollar a job. Second, save for a rainy day. Third, roll with the punches. Last, live on last month's income. Their whole goal is to help you plan ahead for your bills and expected expenses. They help you save up for those unexpected expenses as well. Eventually you end up paying all of your bills on last months paychecks. They want you to get out of the paycheck to paycheck mentality to start living stress free. 

Iron Man 3

Iron Man 3. What can I say about you. Well, first of all it was awesome. I loved the plot and of course I loved Robert Downey Jr. I liked him even better in this one than the other two. I think it's because in the other ones he's more of an arogant jerk. But in this one, he seemed to actually try to grow and learn something. He seemed more human, at least to me. Gwyneth Paltro, who plays Pepper Pots, did really great, as in the first two. She got to do a sweet action scene! I know some people didn't like it, but I thought it was sick. My favorite part of all of these movies, esspecially in the third one, is the relationship between Pepper and Tony. Robert and Gwyneth are so good on screen and their chemistry is almost palpable. Their relationship may not be very realistic, but it's still hilarious. Now, the story was a little different with a few plot twists I wasn't a huge fan of. I won't spoil it, but lets just say they killed the whole idea of the Mandarin. Was it an interesting twist? Sure. But, they didn't need to do what they did. Besides that, though, it was a great movie. Definitely watch it!

A Hundred Flowers by Gail Tsukiyama

Follow three generations of a family from Guangzhou as they navigate Mao’s China for a few months in 1958. Each family member is tormented by their own secrets and the tension builds throughout the novel as they are revealed to you. In “A Hundred Flowers,” Gail Tsukiyama captures visions of the oppression and fear created by the Cultural Revolution as experienced by a little boy, his mother and his paternal grandfather as they all try to make sense of life in the absence of their father, husband and son.

A Hundred Flowers is the International Book Club selection for April.  On March 20 we will be meeting to discuss Indigo: In Search of the Color That Seduced the World by Catherine E. McKinley.  We hope to see you soon.

Books & Bagels back in October

March was our last Books & Bagels meeting until fall.  Until then, have a great spring and summer and enjoy this slide show from our last meeting.  Pi, the mathematical constant, features heavily in Navigating Early and as you can see from these photos, our readers had fun experimenting and tasting with pi in several forms.  Happy Pi Day!

Better Living Book Club - April 2014

April's book is Annie's Ghosts by Steve Luxenberg.  Annie's Ghosts has been selected as a Great Michigan Read for 2013-2014 and as a Michigan Notable Book for 2010.

Annie's Ghosts is the result of Luxenberg's research into his late aunt, Annie, who died in 1972 and was mentally and physically disabled.  Luxenberg only learned of his aunt's existence from his mother in the years before her death in 1999.  Luxenberg's debut book is part detective story, part history and part memoir touches on the pain and grief experienced by a family, as well as the dark history of the care of the mentally ill in the US.

At April's meeting the group will be choosing upcoming titles so bring your suggestions!


Personal finance is probably one of the hardest things we have to learn growing up. Finding the wisest course of action in your spending is very important and rather difficult. Something to help with that is making a budget. Doing this on your own might be a daunting task full of questions and uncertainties.

Spring Fever by Mary Kay Andrews

Although the weather feels like otherwise, the first day of Spring is just around the corner on March 20. As I am truly looking forward to Spring this year, with allergies and all, I typed in "spring fever" into Encore, the library's online catalog.  Lo and behold, there is a book with that exact title written by Mary Kay Andrews.  I have been known to read "chick lit" on occasion (ok, ok, more than occasionally) so I checked out the book that afternoon.  

I have never read anything written by Mary Kay Andrews as the romance/mystery fiction authors I enjoy are Nora Roberts, Kresley Cole and Edna Buchanan.  Spring Fever is about Annajane, her ex-husband Mason, his new fiancée Celia and Annajane's best friend and Mason's sister Pokey (Patricia).  The story centers on the family business of Quixie, a cherry soda that has been around for decades.  

I felt that Spring Fever lacked in "fever" and intensity.  It was a cute story with a little deceit, a little mystery and a little romance.  But, it never really grabbed you in, although I found myself wanting to see how it ended. All in all, I agree with the Booklist review that Spring Fever is "tailor-made for laid-back summer pleasure reading" as the book would be perfect to take on vacation sitting on the beach with a cold drink in hand. 

ELPL celebrates Money Smart Week 2014

There's lots going on at ELPL April 5-12 in celebration of Money Smart Week.  

Go Green $torytime
April 8 and April 11

Interactive storytime and piggy bank craft!  Free book while supplies last.  For ages 3+.

Becoming a Homeowner:  What You Need to Know!
April 8, 6-7pm

Learn the basic steps of buying a home and information about the Lansing Home Buyers Club. Presented by the Center for Financial Health.

Financial Fitness:  It's Your Money, Keep It That Way!
 April 9, 6-7pm

Flex your financial muscle and learn important strategies to save money and prevent identity theft.  
Presented by the Center for Financial Health.

SYLO by D.J. MacHale

Sylo by D.J. MacHale was pretty good. The story was interesting enough. The characters were developed enough to connect with them. The writing was good too. I'd say this is your average teen series novel. Definitely not the next Hunger Games or anything, but still worth the read I think. The story left off at quite the cliff hanger and I want to know what's gonna happen! I guess that's what these kinds of books are supposed to do, make you want more. All in all, it's a great entertaining read to fill the time and perfect if you don't want to get super invested in a new series. 

Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith

I'm not quite sure where to start with this review.  It seems unfair to recommend and review a book by first raving about the author's previous novel, but I think that Grasshopper Jungle is unique enough to warrant a bit of back-tracking.

Adam Smith has been writing for years, but the first Smith book I read was Winger, which came out in May of 2013.  This book is beautiful and perfect.  Funny, heartbreaking, and so painfully true at giving voice to Ryan Dean West, the brilliantly awkward yet charming 14 year old rugby player who narrates Winger.

I've been recommending Winger to anything with a pulse that I've had a chance to bump into over the past few months and I already knew that I would be reading the next book that Smith wrote.  So when I saw the advance buzz about Grasshopper Jungle, I placed my hold immediately, even though I knew that the book was about six foot tall insects that destroy the planet.

Yes, if you want to read this book you'll have to be okay with reading about giant, hungry bugs, and no, I'm not talking about giant grasshoppers as a metaphor for humanity's natural desires for destruction and consumption (although Smith deftly weaves that in as well).  Much of the story and plot really is about humongous, genetically modified insects whose only urges are to eat and procreate.  

So why does Grasshopper Jungle work, and most importantly, why should those folks who loved Winger at least give it a try?  Because as he does in all his novels, Smith is a master at beautifully revealing the inner lives of teenagers, specifically teenage boys.  Austin, Grasshopper Jungle's main character and most likely the earth's last remaining historian, reveals his humor, his multitude of worries, and his history while figuring out why people in town are disappearing and how to kill an eight foot tall grasshopper that wants to eat your head.  Ultimately, the novel is at its best when Austin struggles with the question, "Is it possible to be in love with two people at once?", and "If you are in love with two people at the same time, what do you do?"  

If you've loved any of Smith's previous novels definitely give this one a try.  I think this book is great for all teens, especially those questioning their sexuality, but since there is quite a bit of violence and some drug use, I can also agree with many of the reviewers on Good Reads and who recommend it for grades 9-12.

If you are brand new to the amazing world of Adam Smith, start with Winger, or one of his earlier novels, and then work your way up to Grassphopper Jungle.  Unless you have a thing for giant bugs...

Hoopla issues caused by latest iOS release

Hoopla users, if you have an iOS device you might want to wait (if you can) to upgrade to Apple iOS 7.1  People who have upgraded have been having difficulty playing Hoopla Audiobooks and Music.  Here's the offical notice from Hoopla:

Dear hoopla Fans,

March Follow Up

Last night, the Books on Tap attendees realized that maybe we don't have as much control over our thoughts and actions as we thought. The group came to a general consensus that they enjoyed reading Blink by Malcolm Gladwell and would like to read more of his work. 

Below are brief synopses of other works by Gladwell taken from