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review 2019-10-14 00:36
Sometimes, you just know . . .
Radioactive: Marie and Pierre Curie, A Tale of Love and Fallout - Lauren Redniss

Sometimes, I have to think for a while -- or a long while -- about how I would "rate" a book. And sometimes, I just know as soon as I close the cover. 


Today was one of those days. This "graphic history" hit my emotional, intellectual, and artistic buttons in all the right ways, and as soon as I closed the back cover, I knew: Five stars. 


Highly recommend. Read it all in one sitting, for best effect. My time was about 1:45, so if you have time for a movie, you have time for this one. 



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review 2019-09-09 01:47
It moved me . . .
Heart of a Tiger: Growing Up with My Grandfather, Ty Cobb - Herschel Cobb

This memoir touched my heart. Yes, Herschel Cobb is probably idolizing his famous grandfather, but so what -- I idolize my beloved, late grandparents a bit, too. 


Was the famously irascible Ty Cobb the old pussycat his grandson makes him out to be? Perhaps not. But for a few weeks, over the course of a few years, he was the child's life-line, as the boy suffered through physical and emotional abuse, as well as neglect from his parents. The elder Cobb was the man young Herschel needed in his life to survive, and probably saved him from turning into a violent or despairing man himself. 


So the story moved me. It was horrifying to realize that a child who came from a family with means could be just as badly abused--terrorized really--as a poor child. And he needed the love and support he received from his grandfather (as well as various aunts and his grandmother) as desperately as any child. 


It also makes me aware that some children never find their lifeline -- they survive by their own wits. Or the cycle doesn't break. So yes, it's the overlay of this being a "famous family," that drew me in to the memoir, but in the end, that mattered far less than the human connection told of within. Does it matter that it was a story about Ty Cobb? Not as much as it mattered that the boy, Herschel, survived. 



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text 2018-04-17 05:50
Dewey's and Caldecott

It's a bit over a week until Dewey's 24-Hour Readathon on Saturday, APRIL 28, 2018.



Reader Sign-ups are open:



There are over 700 people signed up already.


I've made a tradition of reading the  2018 Caldecott Award winner and some of the Caledcott Honor books as a change of pace between novels during the Spring Deweys.  You can find the winners of the Caldecott, Newbery and other awards from http://www.ala.org/news/press-releases/2018/02/american-library-association-announces-2018-youth-media-award-winners 


This is nicely compatible with the low-key Readathon I'm planning, since there is also a visiting scholar at my synagogue and the local Earth-Day celebration competing for my attention.  I don't expect I'll actually read much, since I'd rather spend my time social media-hopping and cheering others on.

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review 2015-07-22 23:35
Book 61/100: Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos
Dead End in Norvelt - Jack Gantos

I think middle-grade historical fiction just isn't really my thing.

Although this is well-written and is obviously meant to be humorous, I'm afraid it didn't make me laugh. It felt like it relied a lot on its "voice" and a sense of atmosphere, since anything resembling a plot didn't start to emerge until the last quarter of the book, at which point getting an actual plot felt very disorienting.

The voice didn't particularly enchant me, and I'm not automatically gaga over a well-captured historical atmosphere, so this book didn't leave much for me except for a couple mildly interesting characters and competent writing.

I also felt as though the narrator, who is a sort of fictionalized version of the author's younger self, came across as way too "good" to be a believable 11-year-old. Not so much in his actions, but in his thoughts, which always seemed to be sucking up to his parents and other adults. Since he's based on the author, it's hard not to see him as a Gary Stu, or at least as a character seen through rose-colored glasses ("Why, when I was young, kids respected their elders!") And although I found the character of Miss Voelker interesting, I had trouble believing an 11-year-old boy would love hanging out with her and listening to her stories as much as Jack did. Almost every kid that age that I know, while having affection for their elders, is bored witless by long stories from their parents and grandparents.

This book didn't bore me witless, luckily. But I may have lost patience if it was much longer. I think nostalgia and adult tastes had a LOT to do with its winning of the Newbery, whose committee seems somewhat swayed toward atmospheric historical fiction.

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review 2014-12-11 23:20
Book 105/100: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
We Were Liars - E. Lockhart

This is one of those books I kind of resisted reading because there is so much hype surrounding it. But once I did read it, I could not resist giving it any less than four stars, because it truly is well-written, affective, edgy, and surprising.

The opening felt a little jerky to me, and I'm not really sure I ever did understand it exactly. I'd like to go back and read the first few pages to see if I'm remembering thing right, because I was listening to it at the end of an incredibly exhausting day when I may not have had my wits all about me. Still, I caught up quickly enough with the Sinclair characters and all their familial drama.

The mystery and subsequent twist are surely what has generated so much buzz around this title, but that was not what most interested me. I was especially drawn in by the commentary on class and privilege, and the destructive power of greed and resentment -- probably because my own extended family has been lurching through their own ugly power struggles for almost a year now. So it seemed an especially resonant time to read about this family that, although once close, begins to disintegrate as they squabble over who is entitled to certain assets when the family patriarch passes on. All daughters and all divorced, none of them have truly learned what it means to work, and they need their father's legacy to continue living their lives of leisure and comfort. Their teenage children, in the way of teenagers everywhere, see themselves as above such pathetic jockeying of position and keep themselves admirably separate, remaining close to one another even as their parents try to pit them against their cousins, aunts, and grandfather.

These dynamics emerge as Cadence, the narrator, tries to piece together her memories of "summer 15" (she's now 17), which have become lost after an accident around which she cannot remember the details. The accident has left her with frequent migraines, and these descriptions were much too visceral to me; I have to suspect that E. Lockhart has suffered through migraines herself based on the painfully accurate way in which she describes them.  Clues as to what actually happened that summer are dropped throughout Cadence's memories and the way others interact with her, but the novel is also full of red herrings, and I did not guess the details of the accident before they were revealed. I'm still not sure how I feel about the novel's final twist, but I can't deny that this is a masterfully done little novel. It is even a serious contender for the prestigious Printz award, and has already won the Goodreads Reader's Choice in YA. Not too shabby for an author I once associated with writing "fluff."

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