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review 2018-07-10 19:16
Contemporary fiction meets supernatural thriller
Graveyard Shakes - Benchmark Publishing Group;Stephen Jay Jackson;Rina Alvarez;Lisa Crane;Scott-Laura Schoeggl;Jessica Friedman;Sara Lynn;Sarah Alston;Emily Ku;Paula Maxheim;Michelle Posey;Melissa Madden;Jorge Gonzalez;Terry B Bruno;Samuel Guss;Erin Johnson;G.E. Masana

Continuing the trend of reading books selected for the Summer Reading program, I read Graveyard Shakes by Laura Terry. The reader follows two very different storylines that at the outset have no correlation to one another. The first revolves around two sisters who have newly arrived at a boarding school and are struggling to come to terms with their change of environment. The second focuses on a little ghost and his friend Modie (I don't know either) who as best as I can tell is a reanimated corpse. So on the one hand we are rooted in reality with a situation that seems very familiar: wanting to fit in yet also wanting to be recognized as the individual that you are. On the other hand, the supernatural elements of ghosts and zombies are compacted with horror because the only way that Modie can stay 'alive' is to absorb the soul of a dead (i.e. murdered) child. Yes, this is a middle grade graphic novel. (It is at this point that I have essentially 'sold' this book to the reluctant child reader standing in front of me while the parent stares at me open mouthed.) The good parts: The illustrative style was excellent and I really enjoyed the character journey of Victoria, the older sister. The not so good: It was way more disturbing and graphic than I expected plus the ending was entirely too predictable after all of the narrative build-up. While I did thoroughly enjoy the illustrations, I don't know that I'll be rushing out to read Terry's next work (unless the cover draws me in again). I didn't overwhelmingly dislike this book but I also didn't love it with all of my heart and soul (get outta here, Modie!). The little guys and ghouls in your life that love a good ghost story will probably fall head-over-heels for this one. 5/10

 

An example from the inside. [Source: A Kids Book A Day]

 

What's Up Next: The Bad Guys by Aaron Blabey

 

What I'm Currently Reading: Recovery: Freedom From Our Addictions by Russell Brand

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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review 2018-06-29 15:48
All the world's a stage but thank goodness I'm not a Winged Monkey
Short - Holly Goldberg Sloan

One of the things I regretted last summer was that I wasn't more in touch with the books selected for the Summer Reading program. So I decided as soon as the list was given to us that I would read as many books as I could so that I'd be better prepared for recommending them to our patrons. This is why I picked up Short by Holly Goldberg Sloan. The story is told through the eyes of Lydia, an 11-year old girl, who is super sensitive about her height...until she is chosen to be a Munchkin and Winged Monkey in her town's production of The Wizard of Oz where it suddenly becomes an advantage. She discovers that her height is just a small (no pun intended) part of her. She makes friends with a fellow cast member named Olive who is herself a dwarf as well as an older neighbor named Mrs. Chang who turns out to have many years of experience with the theater and costume making. My favorite part about this book was the main character, Lydia, who was absolutely hysterical. 

 

An example from page 26-7 as she describes the director of the play she's performing in:

He is for sure older than my parents, who are old, because they are forty-two and forty-four. He might be super-super-super-old. Is he fifty-five? I have no idea.

Sloan totally gets the 'voice' of a child. They have zero concept of age (I've been told I'm 84 so I know from experience) and they also have zero reason to lie to you. Lydia is a well-rounded character who not only makes hilarious asides but also conveys depth of feeling.

 

When confronted with an awkward conversation about death:

My voice is small. I whisper, "Life is a cabaret." I don't even know what this means, but I heard Shawn Barr say it to Mrs. Chang a few days ago and they both laughed. It works, because she smiles. I'm guessing a cabaret is a kind of wine. I hope she'll have a tall glass. - pg 240

Overall, this was a delightful little read and I've been more than happy to recommend it to the children and parents at my library. If you're a fan of the theater or looking for a book full of heart (or both) well I think you've found your book match. ;-)

 

A/N: If you're triggered by repeated mentions of pet death then don't come near this book. It's not a spoiler to tell you this is a running theme throughout the book beginning in the first couple of pages. Grief is a large theme explored in this book but I didn't find it as compelling as the self-discovery/acceptance experienced by Lydia. 

 

There are 2 different covers for this one and honestly I like them both quite a bit.

 

Source: Barnes & Noble

 

 

What's Up Next: The Royal Rabbits of London by Santa & Simon Sebag Montefiore

 

What I'm Currently Reading: Madam President: An Open Letter to the Women Who Will Run the World by Jennifer Palmieri

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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review 2018-06-11 23:01
A Handbook For Beautiful People
A Handbook for Beautiful People - Jennifer Spruit

Marla is a 22 year-old waitress/ medical assistant who has had a difficult life. Born to a addicted mother, Marla has partial Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and her younger brother, Gavin is deaf. Marla bounced around in foster homes and worked as a prostitute until she found a friend in fellow outcast, Dani. Now, Marla and Dani look after each other. Marla is finally beginning to feel like an adult while holding down her two jobs and entering into a relationship with Liam. However, Marla soon finds herself pregnant and looking through the options of abortion, adoption and motherhood. Marla invites Gavin to visit when she is pregnant and getting ready for the arrival of the baby. With Gavin's arrival, she learns that his life has not been easy for him either. Gavin and Dani also enter into a relationship further complicating the balance. Despite everything Marla is doing to keep her head above water, the world has other plans and everything takes a turn for the worse all at once.


A Handbook for Beautiful People provides a raw look into the lives of very real and heartfelt characters. I was very interested in reading a book from the perspective of someone with fetal alcohol syndrome. Marla is an astonishing and well written character. At every turn, Marla's surprised me with her faults, accomplishments, missteps and decisions she was able to make. Though it seemed as if her life were a series of mistakes and drama, Marla was able to shine through. More than once, it seemed as if Gavin might steal the show. Gavin is strong and supportive, but is still working on who he is while being hearing impaired. Gavin's journey was amazing in itself, I think there could be a whole separate story there. My only complaint was that the writing style quickly changed points of view, and it would sometime take me a few sentences to make sense of everything again. The supporting characters around Marla and the events in her life create one big beautiful mess. With twists, turns, breaks, floods, a baby and a decision, Marla's journey is unique and satisfying.


This book was received for free in return for an honest review.
 

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text 2018-06-10 18:35
Reading progress update: I've read 63 out of 940 pages.
The Adventures of Don Quixote - J.M. Cohen,Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra

Why did no one tell me Don Quixote was this much fun? Also, he's like the ultimate (and worst) fan; I'm surprised he's never referenced in fan studies.

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review 2018-06-07 16:32
Another Country, by James Baldwin
Another Country - James Baldwin

"So what can we really do for each other except--just love each other and be each other's witness?"

 

When I finished Another Country, it brought tears to my eyes. There's so much suffering exquisitely depicted alongside glimmers of love and beauty, such whole, flawed characters. Like the recently read The Fire Next Time, a nonfiction work by Baldwin, it might have been written today. Again, this is both a compliment to Baldwin's art and his powers of observation but also a lament that so little has changed, particularly regarding race but also gender and sexuality.

 

Nothing is easy about this book except its gorgeous, lucid prose. It's not afraid of the dark things in people, the mistakes we make, and what holds us back. I felt deeply for these characters, but the book doesn't give in to despair, which, at the end, is what made me cry in relief.

 

I was surprised to be reminded of Virginia Woolf as I read. There are passages where a character's inability to express "it" or oneself or story are noted. There's a suicide. There's also something about the way both Baldwin and Woolf capture fine states of emotion or the way our feelings and attitude can change so quickly, from seemingly small things. And, when we learn Cass's real name is Clarissa (her husband is Richard), I knew I wasn't crazy to make these connections!

 

The book is a landmark queer text, and Baldwin clearly knows how to write sex, the act itself--between men and women and between two men--and desire. Its queerness affected its reception at the time; I'm sure many would prefer Baldwin stick exclusively to race and racism. The quote above is spoken by Vivaldo to Eric, and it is a beautiful and simple idea even as the story proves it may be impossible to live by.

 

However, Baldwin does privilege love between men and the homosocial above all. Nearly all the central male characters are queer or explore their sexuality with one another; at the very least, platonic love between them is a source of comfort and hope. This is not the case with the women. Women's sexuality and power emasculate or cannot be known. There appears to be no escape or solution for women and their pain and oppression, whether white or black. If there is one flaw or problematic issue in this book, in my mind it's that. The love and act of witnessing in the quote seem to be for men only.

 

 

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