Book Review: “Before I Fall” by Lauren Oliver

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Have you seen the movie Groundhog Day? Even if you haven’t, you’re probably familiar with the basic thematic concept of living the same day over and over again- it’s been done in many movies and books. Sometimes this kind of storyline can get boring and repetitive. However, when it’s done right, it can be effective and even entertaining, and Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver is a great example of this.

Before I Fall  examines the life of a popular “mean girl,” Samantha Kingston, and what happens when she dies and then has to relive her last day multiple times.

 

What Before I Fall does right: Samantha (Sam) goes through the stages of grief when she realizes that she has died, has to relive her last day, and isn’t sure why or how to get out of it. One day shows her taking a nihilistic view- if she’s really dead, then nothing she does matters, right? On a different day, she’s so grateful to see her parents, friends, and town again that she practically beams the whole day. I find this take on the popular “Groundhog Day” theme to be pretty realistic.

The characters in Before I Fall dance off the page as if they were real. Hardly anyone is two dimensional, even though they may seem that way at first. Sam learns more and more about the people around her and how her actions have affected them for better or for worse. She seeks to make things right with those she has wronged- in particular, she wants to help a bullied girl named Juliet when Sam realizes that Juliet committed suicide on the same original day that Sam died.

Sam herself undergoes a fair amount of character development, but it doesn’t seem rushed, forced, or overly moralistic. She changes slowly, with plenty of frustration about her situation and toward her friends when they don’t understand why she seems different with each relived day. It’s a believable amount of growth, but Before I Fall still leaves you with that glowing sense of redemption.

 

What Before I Fall gets wrong: There are parts of the book that seem a little long, and there are times when Sam makes choices that seem cringey or obviously wrong- doesn’t she know better by now? But all of this is leading to her ultimate redemption, and it’s worth it to keep reading.

 

Who should read Before I Fall: Older teenagers, college students, and adults alike may enjoy this realistic depiction of teenage life (played out through an unrealistic Groundhog Day theme). Before I Fall can be very sad at times, but the ultimate messages are of love, friendship, family, and redemption.

 

Who shouldn’t read Before I Fall: With its mature themes and language, Before I Fall is not marketed towards younger readers. However, older readers will probably enjoy and relate to this book. Please be warned, however, that this book contains heavy themes and intense depictions of teen and adult problems (think Thirteen Reasons Why and read the content note below).

 

Content note: language, suggestive content, heavy themes (including eating disorders, suicide, and inappropriate relationships).

 

Before I Fall is available in the library’s Family Room.

How To Make Time For Reading As A Busy College Student

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I’ve worked in the library for several years, and one thing I hear a lot from students is “I wish I could read that book, but I don’t have time!”

Now, I’m not here to give you a lecture on time management, or to tell you to stop doing homework so that you can read for fun! That’s definitely not what you should be doing as a student. However, I do think many students would like to find the time to read in their busy lives, so here are a few tips on how to squeeze in some reading time.

 

Read on-the-go.

Did you know that you can download eBooks from our library website? Once they’re downloaded on your Kindle, phone, or laptop, you can read the eBook even if you’re online. This is a great option for time spent waiting in line at Cobo or sitting in Nurse Paul’s office- those few extra minutes could be reading time!

 

Read on breaks.

From Christmas break to summer break, there’s usually a few hours to spare for leisurely reading. When I look at my Goodreads statistics, I can see that I typically read the most during J-Term, when I have a few days off of work and a less hectic schedule.

 

Read during meals.

Meal breaks are a great time to read a quick chapter or a few poems, especially if you find yourself in Cobo at a time when none of your friends are available for lunch.

 

Read before bed.

If you tend to reach for your phone before you turn out the lights, maybe you could reach for your book instead! If it’s a physical book, then its pages won’t emit sleep-disrupting light like screens do.

 

 

But what to read?

Matthew’s Monday Movie: “King Kong” (2005)

In 2005, director Peter Jackson was riding high off of the success of The Lord of the Rings franchise. But he had always dreamed of remaking the classic 1933 film King Kong. Jackson was a young boy when he first saw the film and instantly fell in love with its timeless story. In fact, King Kong impressed him so much that it would eventually lead him to becoming a filmmaker himself. Jackson’s own King Kong is a re-imagining of the great classic that uses state-of-the-art visual effects that help bring the giant ape to life (as well as realistic motion capture) and show off impeccable set design, stunning visual sequences, and awe-inspiring sound.

The film’s plot revolves around an ambitious filmmaker out to make a name for himself who manages to con some down-on-their-luck actors, a captain, and his crew into venturing to the uncharted and mythical Skull Island. They hope to shoot the first on site film and use the mysterious island as its backdrop; however, the island turns out to be populated by hostile natives and, worse still, all manner of giant monstrous creatures.  The fiercest of these creatures are what the natives have dubbed “Kong,” a giant gorilla that they worship as a god. The leading actress is captured by Kong, and the cast and crew must attempt to rescue her. They then decide to capture and bring Kong back alive and to show off the beast to stunned New York crowds. This inevitably leads to disaster as Kong escapes and terrorizes the city.

This film’s cast includes Naomi Watts as the aspiring lead actress Ann Darrow. Although Ann is captured by Kong, she soon realizes he is not a mindless brute but can be quite tender and protective. Adrian Brody stars as Jack Driscoll, a pragmatic screenwriter who attempts to rescue Ann and ultimately falls in love with her. Lastly, Jack Black stars as Carl Denham, the man who is desperate to achieve greatness and is willing to risk everyone’s lives to do it.

King Kong did extremely well with critics, who praised its visual effects and imaginative retelling of the classic 30’s film. The film pulled a whopping 550 million in box office revenue. It still holds an 84% fresh rating among audiences and users on the movie review site Rotten Tomatoes.  King Kong went on to win Academy Awards for Best Visual Effects, Best Sound Editing, and Best Sound Mixing.

King Kong is a fantastic retelling of a classic piece of early cinema that modern audience will appreciate and enjoy.  It is available at the Union University Library and is rated PG-13 for some mild violence and language.

 

 

Top 5 Cookbooks At The Library

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Are you a college student who’s getting tired of takeout? We have several cookbooks in the library that can help you find easy, nutritional recipes that you can use in your dorm. These top 5 cookbooks have beautiful photos of the foods mentioned and step-by-step instructions to ensure your success.

 

The Healthy College Cookbook: Quick, Cheap, Easy by Alexandra Nimetz, et al.

This eBook is the perfect place to start your cooking journey! Learn how to set up your first kitchen and flip through 200 recipes that anyone can make.

 

Comfort Food Makeovers by Taste of Home Books

Comfort Food Makeovers is full of familiar, delicious recipes that are also low calorie. Its goal is to make you feel at home while also helping you make healthier dishes.

 

Oh She Glows Everyday Cookbook by Angela Liddon

Looking for something healthy and meatless? Angela Liddon’s cookbook will walk you through a variety of plant-based recipes. This book is available in our Recreational Reading section.

oh she

 

Campbell’s Creative Cooking With Soup by Campbell Soup Company

For chilly days, soup really hits the spot. This cookbook offers over 19,000 combinations of easy soup recipes for the hungry student.

 

Gluten-Free, Hassle-Free: A Simple, Sane, Dietician-Approved Program In Eating Your Way Back To Health by Marlisa Brown

If you practice a gluten-free diet, look no further than this helpful eBook. Gluten-Free, Hassle-Free offers tips in making the change to a gluten-free lifestyle and maintaining good health.

 

 

Matthew’s Monday Movie: “War Horse”

Director Steven Spielberg has brought audiences many fantastic and awe-inspiring films set as historical period pieces. However, his 2011 hit War Horse showed us an often-overlooked period that is currently experiencing a resurgence of interest: WWI. This film is as much a war film as it is a story of the triumph of the human spirit and the bond people naturally share with animals.

The plot revolves around a horse who is auctioned off and sold to an English farmer. The farmer’s son, Albert, soon comes to love the horse and names him Joey. The two quickly become inseparable. Unfortunately, fate steps in, and war is declared on Germany in 1914. The farmer, short on funds, must sell Joey to the British Army for the war effort.

During the course of the war, Joey is captured and forced to serve the Germans. Joey has brief moments of freedom and kinship with those soldiers and civilians who are kind to him. As the war drags on, Albert eventually comes of age and is drafted into the British army. Albert still remembers his beloved horse and hopes against hope that he may be lucky enough to one day be reunited with his long lost friend.

War Horse is a fantastic film; it features Spielberg at his very best. War Horse features the gritty and heartbreaking periods of war and strife while at the same time focusing on the love and inner humanity that animals help bring out in us all. This film was based on a 1982 novel by Michael Morpurgo by the same name, and Steven Spielberg has done an amazing job in bringing this book to life. The cast is quite large and star-studded with top celebrities such as Jeremy Irving, Peter Mullan, Emily Watson, David Thewlis, Tom Hiddleston, and Benedict Cumberbatch. The set design and period clothing take you right back in time. The film’s moving and emotional score is composed by the great John Williams, who is always a staple in any Steven Spielberg film.

War Horse was nominated for six Academy Awards including Best Picture and still holds a 75% fresh score on Rotten Tomatoes.

War Horse is available at the Union University Library. It’s rated PG-13 for war-related violence and some language. We are also happy to offer both the novel and audiobook in these links below:

 

5 Financial Tips For College Students

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Recently, I have taken the Personal Financial Management class here at Union, and as I am about to graduate in the spring, I have begun to think more and more about more and more of my own finances. Here are 5 tips in personal finance:

1. Pay in cash.

If you can, try to pay for things up front and in cash. Whether it is a new phone or a new car, try to use cash. As college students, we probably already have thousands of dollars of debt anyways. We really don’t need more.

2. Pay off your student debt ASAP.

Becoming a college student is one of the best decisions you can make in your life. It can also be one of the most expensive. Once you graduate, it is important that you live meagerly and attempt to pay off your debt in a timely manner. The longer you wait, the more debt will accrue.

3. Save, save, save.

Once you start paying off your debts, you can start allocating your money to other things. One important tip I have learned is that you can just start saving the money that you were already using to pay off your debts. You already know how to live without that money, so maybe you can keep living that way.

4. Start investing early.

One of the classic and most important financial tips is investing early. Putting money into a 401K or mutual funds is critical. Money you invest now will grow exponentially, and being financially aware now can legitimately help you to become a millionaire by the time you retire.

5. Give to charity and to the Church.

This is something you should already be doing. God has told us that we should give a portion of our earnings to God. This is the most important tip I can give you. Give, not only because God will reward you, but because we are called to.

 

There are many other tips out there! Learning how to create a budget, creating an emergency fund, treating yourself every now and then, having small side jobs, and writing down your goals are just a few others. More than anything, the most important thing is to be responsible with the resources given to you!

 

*written by Donny Turner

Moments In History: October 3rd, 52 B.C.

vercingetorix

*painting by Lionel Royer

Matthew Beyer has begun a “Moments In History” series to raise awareness of important historical events. Each post will also have book recommendations about the moment in history, using our extensive history collection in the library.

 

October 3rd, 52 B.C.

The Surrender of Vercingetorix & The Roman Conquest of Gaul

From 58 B.C to 50 B.C., Julius Caesar was carving out huge parcels of territory from the  feared Celtic Gauls of modern day France, Northern Italy, and Belgium.  Rome had been sacked earlier in its history by an invading Gallic tribe, and the Gauls had ever since been the “bogymen” of the Roman psyche. Caesar saw Gaul as a spring board to riches and greater political power; if he could do the unthinkable and conquer this vast country, not only would he become rich, but he would win the undying love and support of the people of Rome.

By 52 B.C., the stage was set for a final climatic showdown. Over the years Caesar had succeeded in subjugating various tribes one by one, picking them off or turning them against old rivals until he crushed them. This changed when a charismatic king and chieftain of the Averni tribe, Vercingetorix, united a large coalition of tribes to attempt to destroy the occupying Romans for good. Most of the Gallic tribes joined in the general revolt and their numbers swelled to over 80,000 men. Caesar rushed to the scene with as many reinforcements as he could muster; he managed to surprise the Gauls in their fortified city of Alesia. Caesar decided to besiege the settlement, hoping to starve the Gauls into surrendering. Caesar and his legions set about the herculean task of digging trenches and building a wall around the city of some 11 miles.

The Gauls, running short of food, called for more tribes to unite and attempt to revive their besieged kin. Within a short time, tens of thousands answered the call, and the Roman legions found themselves surrounded as the Gauls attacked from both sides of their fortifications. The Romans were on the breaking point, but Caesar personally rode to where his troops were most hard pressed and cheered them on as they fought for survival. The Romans persevere, and by morning the Gallic relief force and those still alive in Alesia had given up. The morning of October 3rd, 52 B.C., Vercingetorix rode down to the Roman Camp in his finest armor, stripped himself naked, and knelt before Caesar himself in surrender. This moment was the end of organized Gallic resistance to Rome.

In the coming years, Gaul would become a Roman province and would remain so for the next 500 years. Vercingetorix would be kept prisoner for the next 5 years until Caesar’s triumphant march in Rome, where he was executed in front of the crowds. The end of the Gallic Wars would go on to bring about a series of civil wars that would eventually lead to the downfall of the Roman Republic and Caesar’s own assassination. Finally the republic would be reorganized as an empire under Caesar’s nephew, Octavian.

If you would like to know more about the events surrounding the conquest of Gaul and the battle of Alesia, please follow the links bellow:

 

Top 5 Recent Bestsellers At The Library

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Since the Union library is an academic one, the books we have on our shelves are primarily for research and school-related purposes. However, we also have some “fun reads” and bestsellers in our Recreational Reading section (which is on the 2nd floor near the DVDs). Several of these bestsellers have been popular here at the library, appearing on our most checked out items list for several months now. You can find brief descriptions of them, as well as links to where they are located in the library, below:

 

Educated by Tara Westover

Publication Year: 2018

Genre: Memoir

Description: Tara Westover describes her upbringing in an isolated, survivalist family who did not trust conventional schools or medicine. Westover eventually went to college and learned about the world beyond her mountains.

 

Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Publication Year: 2018

Genre: Mystery

Description: The “Marsh Girl” is a local legend in Barkley Cove, North Carolina. This mysterious figure emerges in the midst of local crime.

 

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead

Publication Year: 2019

Genre: Historical fiction

Description: Two boys struggle to survive the horrors of their juvenile reformatory and racism in the Jim Crow era.

 

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

Publication Year: 2018

Genre: Historical fiction

Description: A family moves to Alaska in the 1970’s and deals with harsh wilderness, PTSD, and complicated relationships.

 

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

Publication Year: 2019

Genre: Dystopian fiction

Description: More than 15 years after The Handmaid’s Tale, the oppressive Gilead regime is still standing- but there are signs that it is beginning to rot from within. (You can read our review of The Testaments here.)

 

 

 

Matthew’s Monday Movie: “Bedazzled”

The late great director Harold Ramis has many fantastic films in his long and storied career. He always had a natural bent towards comedy, and most of his characters in his films tend to be very relatable to the audience. His remake of the 1967 film Bedazzled is one of my personal favorites as a comedic take on the popular tale of Faust.

Bedazzled’s  story centers on our protagonist Elliot Richards (Brendan Fraser). Elliot sees himself as a hopeless, down-on-his-luck loser. He is socially awkward, and his co-workers constantly dodge his attempts at friendship. On top of it all, he is deeply infatuated with a woman he works with, Alison Gardner (Francis O’Conner). Elliot feels that if he could win her heart, he would finally be happy and his life would have purpose and meaning; unfortunately, he is too nervous to actually ask her out and feels he has little to offer her anyhow.

It is at this moment, while bemoaning his situation, that Elliot says he would give anything to be with her.  Suddenly, a mesmerizing and seductive woman strikes up a conversation with him. She asks if he is happy with his life and offers to make the world love, respect, and even fear him. Elliot wonders how this strange woman can know so much about him and his deepest desires. She informs Elliot that she is actually the Devil and has come to grant him seven wishes in exchange for his soul. The Devil is portrayed by Elizabeth Hurley, and she is instantly captivating, sharp-witted, and devious.  Elliot agrees to the offer and begins to make wish after wish, but it appears that the devil corrupts each wish and nullifies Elliot’s goal of having Alison fall in love with him. After a while Elliot starts to doubt himself further as he tries to come up with a full proof wish and beat the Devil at her own game. Will he come up with a perfect wish or will he find some other way of getting out of the contract?

This really is a fun and light-hearted take on a famously dark story. It’s a rather zany comedy, but it does have a positive message in the end which proves memorable.

This film is available at the Union University Library.

* It is rated PG-13 for some language and suggestive material.

 

 

 

Moments In History: September 28th, 1928

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Matthew Beyer has begun a “Moments In History” series to raise awareness of important historical events. Each post will also have book recommendations about the moment in history, using our extensive history collection in the library.

 

September 28th, 1928

Discovery of Penicillin

On this fateful day, Scottish physician and microbiologist Alexander Fleming made a discovery that would go on to change medicine forever. While working on research and experiments with Staphylococcus bacteria in his lab, he woke the morning of the 28th of September to find one of his Petri dishes had its lid popped off and had been contaminated. While investigating the source of the contamination, he noticed a strange green ring that had appeared around the dish. This ring was a green fungus mold known as “Penicillium notatum.”

What he found so fascinating was that the bacteria surrounding the ring had not only not penetrated it but had been destroyed by the mold. Meanwhile, those farther away from it were unharmed and still growing. He would later remark:

“I certainly didn’t plan to revolutionize all medicine by discovering the world’s first antibiotic, or bacteria killer. But I suppose that was exactly what I did.”

It would still take many years of peer review, as well as isolating and growing the mold into a pure culture and tested on patients for its effects as a treatment of bacterial infections.

However, by 1942, penicillin was in mass production and might even have helped tip the scales in favor of the Allies during WWII, as it is thought to have saved as many as 12% to 15% of Allied soldiers’ lives from sepsis and other infections from recently amputated limbs. It would also be used to treat prominent illnesses and diseases such as pneumonia and gonorrhea.

On average, 33 million pounds of penicillin is produced around the world each year. All told, it is estimated that penicillin has saved around 200 million people worldwide and continues to do so today.  In 1999, Alexander Fleming was named among the top 100 most influential people of the 20th century in Time magazine.

If you enjoyed this article and would like to know more about Alexander Fleming and his work, I encourage you to follow the link down below for a fantastic book and on the subject.