Wrong email address or username
Wrong email address or username
Incorrect verification code
back to top
Search tags: childhood
Load new posts () and activity
Like Reblog Comment
review 2018-03-08 01:39
The Chalk Man -- Yay, a good 2018 mystery!
The Chalk Man: A Novel - C.J. Tudor

This is pretty dazzling debut, especially given all the clunky "just OK" mysteries that litter my house, library history, recommendations and my Read piles. I'll take a mystery no matter what, but it's very nice to get a good one.


As I read this, I was reminded repeatedly of less successful (in my eyes) books I've read recently. It does the back and forth from A Time Before to Present Day and back again, which is what apparently must be done in every book written since 2016, but it didn't irk me the way many others have. Even when we jumped time, the storyline continued through. The past had a lot to do with the present. It wasn't just some device. Or if it was, it was well handled.


I also noted that All the Missing Girls has a fair number of surface similarities - both set in small insular towns, involving a circle of friends who have known each other since childhood, cue the lifelong crush, and then there's the biggie -- two murders decades apart. The similarities end there though. First of all, the characters are all original in this book. People we would be led to feel sorry for in other books are strong in this one. People we would like in other books are unlikable in this one. Everyone is very human. Nobody is a cardboard cutout. And there are some nice twisty bits that require actual attention because you haven't read them a thousand times before.


Every time I thought I was onto a clue, I was dead wrong. Twist after twist, we're kept slightly off balance by a narrator who drinks too much and is a bit of a curmudgeon in everyman clothes. Maybe because I woke up early and read in the dark, but the whole book feels spooky and yet on the surface it all seems so normal. It's never good when things seem normal. I know this, so maybe I added to the spooky factor.


I can't tell you the plot. If I tell it, I'll give something away. Again, this is not a book anyone MUST read. But if you're looking for a good mystery that was released recently, this is the best "everyone's talking about it" book I've read in a while.


Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2018-03-05 22:54
Stephen King: Master of Horror
It - Stephen King

I don't remember if I've ever talked about my fondness for Stephen King before on the blog. I know that I've mentioned that horror is a genre that from time to time I thoroughly enjoy. There was one summer in particular that I found myself binge reading some of King's works. I read through Carrie, The Tommyknockers, The Shining, and Needful Things that summer but that wasn't where my love affair started. It actually started with It: King's novel about a group of kids who face an unspeakable horror while growing up that comes back to haunt them as adults. I've actually re-read this one a few times simply because I find something new each time that I read it. There are all of the elements of horror as well as a healthy dosage of psychological thriller which King is known for. It's all set in Derry, Maine which I for one would love to visit as it seems to be the epicenter of King's works. It is not for those who suffer from Coulrophobia or the fear of clowns. The nexus of evil in this novel is a shape-shifting entity that primarily takes the shape of a clown so that it can lure children to its lair. (Not sure what kid would willingly follow a clown but these kids seem to be into it.) The main group of children that this book focuses on were outcasts who formed the 'Losers Club' and because of their combined strength they were able to provide a united, threatening front. The book flips between the present day (1984-85) and the past (1957-58) and tells each of the main characters stories. You get to know them and root for them all to various degrees. If you've never read any of Stephen King's books and you want a good place to start then I definitely recommend It. (Warning: There are adult themes and coarse language so keep that in mind.) If you'd like to delve into horror but you're a little overwhelmed with all of the choices then I recommend this one to you as well. :-D (Warning: Likely to induce nightmares for the faint of heart.)

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2018-03-02 04:48
The Diary of A Young Girl is exactly that and much more
The Diary of a Young Girl: The Definitive Edition - Mirjam Pressler,Susan Massotty,Otto Frank,Anne Frank

I reread this for the Catch-up Book Club on Goodreads, and I'm glad I did. The last time I read Anne's diary I was younger than she was while writing it, and again, I'm annoyed at myself for being such a dumb kid. Also, it's changed since my initial read. There's more and we get more background in the newest editions.

I hate using stars to "rate" a journal that itself says how boring, juvenile, tawdry, silly and personal it is repeatedly, but I'm going to if only to keep the rating I gave it earlier and reinforce it.

As an older reader I felt for Anne's parents early in the book. She is oblivious to the many goings-on in preparation to go into hiding. She's living a child's life with her new birthday diary, while her parents have moved the family more than once to avoid Hitler only to get stuck in Holland. Nonetheless, they prepare for hiding by taking things piece by piece to the annex and preparing as much as possible before being forced to flee. I was impressed by her father Otto's ability to allow her as much carefree childhood as he could during what must have been incredibly terrifying days.

Anne's earliest entries show she's a child with a keen understanding that many people only show masks to the rest of us. This observation repeats itself through the journal, and her torment with others being less genuine than she would like is, in itself, heart wrenching. An historical document, a life in hiding with its mundanity and extraordinary qualities equally prevalent, this diary shows both extreme fear and incredible boredom. She goes from child to philosopher repeatedly.

Interested in a huge variety of things, Anne keeps herself busy writing not just in her diary but also short stories, genealogical studies, poetry, etc. She's got thoughts and ideals on feminism, love, God, war and peace, the culpability of regular people, families, self, discrimination, motherhood, pain, poverty, medical science, finance, the war machine, religion... This is not an idle idiot scrawling nonsense. She is very capable of growth, and we see it within the diary. She allows for her own earlier "childish" writing, yet leaves it included with some additional notes. While she was supposedly editing this for after the war, she remarks more than once that this diary is just for her, that it surely won't be worthwhile to anyone else ever. How wrong you were, Anne Frank.

Anne practices multiple languages, learns history and other subjects, reads voraciously and really only stops in to write in her diary occasionally once she and her family are in hiding. She also stays abreast of her schoolwork, always planning and even trying to expect freedom just around the corner. She's up on the war, keeps an eye on the Allied Forces and fully expects them to succeed. She knows she's being optimistic. She says she's doing it purposely. She watches the squabbles around her, getting annoyed at other people's annoyance, and only occasionally allows herself to wish for things she can't have. Instead, she simply plans for "after" the war.

One moment really stood out to me. While discussing the war, Anne notes that despite nationality, she believes that after the war "We can never be just Dutch or just English or whatever, we will be Jews as well." This is, to me, a remarkable statement. While Zionism had already begun, it becomes very clear that Anne - isolated and sheltered from the worst thus far - has figured out something absolutely vital about the world post WWII and about identity when someone is part of a marginalized group in a larger society. Much earlier she had started wrestling between her German identity and her Jewish identity and she will begin to include her Dutch identity too.

The Diary of A Young Girl is exactly that and so much more.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2018-02-28 09:15
GREEN never harangues even while it makes us think
Green: A Novel - Sam Graham-Felsen

A book that can and does work on so many levels, once I stopped to think about it, I was completely impressed by the author. I never once thought "wow, this is deft writing" while reading it, which says a lot. I read it as a woman who grew up about a decade earlier in a family of all girls. I know very little about young boys, so I was drawn in and somewhat fascinated, often amused and thoroughly satisfied with this book. At its heart, its just a good, solid story of friendship. Two boys, both Celtics fans, living in 1990s Boston, going to middle school, navigating the sixth grade.


The there's the next level, where Dave Greenfield -- privileged son of privileged but very hippie parents -- sees himself in Alex P. Keaton, in that he can't stand the fact that his parents send him to the local public school because "they believe in it," doesn't want to be seen growing vegetables in the urban garden his father has created, is furious that he can't have the newest line of footwear and clothes, and feels highly misunderstood by everyone. Now he has to go to a new school where he's one of two white boys, and the only uncool white boy. Enter Marlon, who doesn't treat Dave the way everyone else treats him, defends Dave on a typically harrowing bus ride home, and finally befriends and in many ways saves him in a very quiet way.


They are from the same general neighborhood but worlds apart. Mar has his own problems and his own dreams. Their friendship is enchanting and challenging, as many interracial friendships are. It's realistically portrayed, complete with the lingo of 1990s, which sounds at once familiar and hilariously old-school.


Race issues are a constant in the story but aren't the centerpiece: that remains the friendship and Dave's growing understanding of his place in the world. It's the story of two boys growing up and being friends with race, class, religion, and even some gender norms banging against them. This is a world where societal pressures to conform and be cool knock against the need to succeed. In other words, it's a highly nuanced portrayal of two twelve year old boys forming a friendship and trying to maintain that friendship over a pressure-filled school year.


Also lingering is the pressure kids are under to perform on standardized tests, and the way that test could determine your chances to go to the better school (which determines your chances for many other things down the line.) I know standardized tests have been troubling in the US for many for years, but the ridiculously unfair nature of it became very clear to me reading this book. I understand my privilege more with every new take on these things. This book gave me yet another chance to investigate what my education and class gave me early in life, especially the stressors I was removed from.


There are a lot of big, thorny issues throughout this book. Sam Graham-Felsen does an arresting job of showing these issues through the eyes of a child, with the simplicity and grace children often have without shying away from any of the ugliness. Yet never once did I feel like I was reading a polemic. The tough stuff is always there, but it rarely overtakes the friendship and never jets into a diatribe. Really quite masterful when I think about it.


I didn't give it five stars because I honestly just didn't feel it in the way I feel some books. This was purely my own personal thing, not anything against this extremely well-written book that raises a slew of important topics in language that never harangues even while it makes us think.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2018-02-28 08:58
all the good adjectives go here
The Leavers: A Novel - Lisa Ko

"...to acknowledge his mother's regret meant

he had to think of what her leaving had done to him..."


I'd guessed The Leavers would be an emotional read for me, but I read things that hit close to home often. This one felt like it both got into and came from somewhere deep inside my bones.


To keep me out of this as much as possible, suffice it to say that my life has a lot of parallels to Deming Guo's. I was/am primed to be completely on the side of the child (Deming) here. I knew that going in. I was talking back aloud to the book when Polly Guo (Deming's mom) started telling her story.


Lisa Ko's talent is such that I shut up fairly quickly. She brought me around. She made me feel for everyone involved. Left to my own devices, without such nuanced and honest emotional portrayals, I would have actively hated Polly Guo. I would have made every excuse for Deming's behavior. (OK, I'm still going to make excuses for his young behavior.) The adoptive parents weren't as well fleshed out, but this was not their story. I'll guess some adoptive parents have trouble with this book, but Deming's feelings are true to my experience at least. He loves everyone and wants to please everyone. When you're the kid who is desperately needed by the parents who choose you, it can get sticky. When you need to know your origin story and your parents can't tell it or identify with it, that can cause ruptures and resentment on everyone's part. When all of your parents crowd into a space that's meant for a smaller group, the conflict can get excruciating. Meanwhile, adopted kids are told how lucky and unconditionally loved they are - all the time, when in fact, that's not always the way it feels.


The real gift Ko gives us is the lack of a wonderfully huge bow at the end of this novel. The answer lies simply in finally figuring out who we, as characters or people, are and finally allowing ourselves to be OK with that.


It turns out I could have saved myself years of therapy if this book had appeared somewhere in the 80s as opposed to last year.

More posts
Your Dashboard view:
Need help?