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review 2017-10-03 20:53
Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing ★★☆☆☆
Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing (paperback) - Judy Blume

Probably my least favorite of Judy Blume’s children’s books so far. I seem to remember enjoying it as a child, but unlike the Ramona and Beezus and Henry books, it has no charm for me as an adult reader. Peter is cursed with an obnoxious little brother who gets all the attention and ruins everything. Originally written in 1972, the substance of the story doesn’t rise above its dated references and gender stereotypes.

 

The only other thing I can say is, poor Dribble. He probably wished Peter didn’t have a little brother, either.

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text 2017-10-03 18:58
Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing - 28/120pg
Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing (paperback) - Judy Blume

New York City in 1972? And this kid is 9 years old.    O_o

 

     We live near Central Park. On nice days I like to play there after school. I'm allowed to walk over by myself as long as I'm going to be with friends. My mother doesn't want me hanging around the park alone.

     For one thing, Jimmy Fargo has been mugged three times - twice for his bicycle and once for his money. Only he didn't have any to give the muggers. 

     I've never been mugged. But sooner or later I probably will be. My father's told me what to do. Give the muggers whatever they want and try not to get hit on the head. 

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review 2017-10-03 13:16
Boy’s Life ★★★★★
Boy's Life - Robert R. McCammon

It would be easy to lose interest in a long, rambly story that doesn’t seem to advance any sort of plot or action for the first half, but Boy’s Life is full of paragraphs and observations that delighted me for the way they evoked a time or place or childhood emotion. Then the plot roared to life and I started turning pages to find out what next, what next, what next, and forgetting to stop and savor the prose.

 

Maybe a bike, once discarded, pines away year after year for the first hand that steered it, and as it grows old it dreams, in its bike way, of the young roads. It was never really mine, then; it traveled with me, but its pedals and handlebars held the memory of another master. Maybe, on that rainy Wednesday, it killed itself because it knew I yearned for a bike built for me and me alone. Maybe. All I knew for sure at that moment was that I had to walk the rest of the way home, and I couldn’t drag the carcass with me.

 

And:

They say that somewhere in Africa the elephants have a secret grave where they go to lie down, unburden their wrinkled gray bodies, and soar away, light spirits at the end. I believed at that moment in time that I had found the grave of the bicycles, where the carcasses flake away year after year under rain and baking sun, long after the spirits of their wandering lives have gone. In some places on that huge pile the bicycles had melted away until they resembled nothing more than red and copper leaves waiting to be burned on an autumn afternoon. In some places shattered headlights poked up, sightless but defiant, in a dead way. Warped handlebars still held rubber grips, and from some of the grips dangled strips of colored vinyl like faded flames. I had a vision of all these bikes, vibrant in their new paint, with new tires and new pedals and chains that snuggled up to their sprockets in beds of clean new grease. It made me sad, in a way I couldn’t understand, because I saw how there is an end to all things, no matter how much we want to hold on to them.

 

And:

My heart was a frog leaping out of murky water in to clear sunlight. I said, “Thanks!” and I ran for the door. Before I got out, though, I looked back at Mrs. Neville. She sat at a desk with no papers on it that needed grading, no books holding lessons that needed to be taught. The only thing on her desk, besides her blotter and her pencil sharpener that would do no more chewing for a while, was a red apple Paula Erskine had brought her. I saw Mrs. Neville, framed in a spill of sunlight, reach for the apple and pick it up as if in slow motion. Then Mrs. Neville stared out at the room of empty desks, carved with the initials of generations who had passed through this place like a tide rolling into the future. Mrs. Neville suddenly looked awfully old.

 

And:

This is the way the world spins: people want to believe the best, but they’re always ready to fear the worst. I imagine you could take the most innocent song ever written and hear the devil speaking in it, if that’s what your mind told you to listen for. Songs that say something about the world and about the people in it – people who are fraught with sins and complications just like the best of us – can be especially cursed, because to some folks truth is a hurtful thing. I sat in that church and heard the reverend rage and holler. I saw his face redden and his eyes gleam and the spittle spray from his mouth. I saw that he was a terrified man, and he was stoking the hot coals of terror in his congregation. He skipped the needle around, playing more snippets backward that to me sounded like gibberish but to him held satanic messages. It occurred to me that he must’ve spent an awfully long time huddled over that record player, scratching the needle back and forth in search of an evil thought.

 

And: more. So much more.

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review 2017-07-29 16:59
The Realm of Last Chances ★★★☆☆
The Realm of Last Chances - Steve Yarbrough

Are there any “literary” novels that aren’t grim and depressing? If so, I haven’t found any yet. My takeaway from this one is that

everybody is hiding something, the only people who aren’t judgmental assholes aren’t interesting enough for character exploration but instead are simply receptacles for the interesting people, and since everyone is guilty of violating at least one rule of ethics or someone’s trust, then we shouldn’t judge each other for that kind of stuff, only for having tacky or popular tastes in entertainment and/or conservative politics. Oh, and all sins are fairly equivalent: academic dishonesty, cheating on your spouse, embezzling from your employer, giving someone a (deserved or undeserved) beating that hospitalizes them, armed robbery, or being a swinger.

(spoiler show)

In spite of these flaws, this is a well-written story with interesting characters and plot.

 

Hardcover, purchased from Half Price Books on the recommendation of the now-defunct podcast Books On The Nightstand.

 

Previous Updates:

7/22 – 27/288pg

7/24 – 82/288pg

7/25 – 96/288pg

7/28 – 199/288pg

 

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text 2017-07-28 14:52
The Realm of Last Chances: 199/288 pg
The Realm of Last Chances - Steve Yarbrough

Now she was lying in bed, in a musty room where the accumulated dust of the coverlet made her sneeze each time she crawled under it, and a man who could have gone to jail for embezzlement was asking her if she could possibly overlook academic mischief. 

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