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review 2017-11-21 03:35
Brave, (Awkward #2) by Svetlana Chmakova
Brave - Svetlana Chmakova
  Jensen is having a hard time in middle school, but the tragic fact, initially at least for the reader, is that he doesn't know it. Because he believes that sunspots are a real danger to us all, among other reasons, he's teased, tormented, and even ignored or taken for granted by his classmates.

Chmakova's story is full of humor and affectionate for its characters, and the first half of it was a great character study. As for the second part, most people won't have any issues, but I was bothered by how the plot was resolved. Brave has an important message, but I don't know if its the right way to teach compassion.

 

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review 2017-11-18 19:55
Brilliantly told story of an American boy with high-functioning autism filtering his first love through the lens of a classic French novel.
Kids Like Us - Hilary Reyl

Disclaimers: this book was provided through NetGalley, I'm choosing to leave an unbiased review, and also I know relatively little about autism.

 

Moving on. I'm not really qualified to comment as to how accurate a depiction this was of a person with autism, but it provided a fascinating perspective on the MC, Martin's life. He goes to a school for kids with neurodivergent/developmental differences/autism...? It's not quite clear, but they seem to have a special program for teaching these kids how to learn and communicate with others more effectively. Martin and a friend from the program both understand the world by comparing people and experiences to a beloved piece of media. In Martin's case, it's a classic French novel. In his friend's, it's the TV show Downton Abbey.

 

I enjoyed the way Martin was portrayed as deliberately thinking through his surroundings and choosing to respond. It was a bit surprising in the first few pages, but then felt very comfortable and surprisingly relatable. In the story, he's visiting a French town and attending school there on a casual basis while his mother films a movie in town. He struggles with the new situation and new people, but works out relationships mostly by helping others and examining their reactions for insight into why they act a certain way. He enjoys translating for his friends, finding meaning, purpose and acceptance while overcoming anxiety in the act. He struggles, like many children, with his impact on his parent's lives and relationship, feeling guilt for being different and creating conflict and challenges in their lives.

 

He falls for a local girl who he regards as equivalent to the heroine of his favourite book, and while it takes a while for him to separate his fantasy from reality, he is capable of thinking through the differences and seeing her as unique. In a way, it's a very quiet story about Martin's journey of understanding and relating to the world around him, but satisfying in the way it concludes and entertaining in that the world told in Martin's voice is intricate, interesting and challenging.

 

A satisfying story that lets you experience the world through a distinctive lens. 4/5 as entertainment, 5/5 as a very well produced book.

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review 2017-11-15 03:15
A fun horror adventure tale
Meddling Kids: A Novel - Edgar Cantero

This post is about the audiobook edition of this book which I'm too lazy to add.

 

Going to be brief here, this is one of those books that's all about the concept, if it's up your alley, you'll like the book.

 

The Blyton Summer Detective Club was a group of kids who met up on school breaks in a small Oregon town from their various homes/schools who solved mysteries à la the Hardy Boys, Three Investigators, Nancy Drew and most importantly, Scooby and the gang. Time after time, they'd uncover the solution to a mystery plaguing the community -- usually resulting in finding a man in a rubber suit, explaining everything. Meddling Kids asks the question: what if the solution to the mystery wasn't (just) a man in a rubber suit? What if the kids stumbled on to something actually mystical, real monsters, etc.?

 

Following their last case, the gang's lives went in separate ways -- mostly downhill. Incarceration, mental health treatment, academic struggles, addiction, and so on. Finally, more than a decade later, the Detective Club reunites to return to the scene of their last triumph to see just what they missed (or suppressed).

 

Cantero's execution of this premise was spot-on, early on he left the satirical component/pop culture commentary behind (pretty much), and just told the story, using that as a foundation. Really not much more to say then that.

 

Kyla Garcia's narration was pretty good. A time or two I had a little trouble following it, but I think that's reflective of the text -- which doesn't seem like the easiest to translate to this medium (not a slight on Cantero or Garcia's talents there). On the whole, though, she did a fine job bringing this book to life and I'd enjoy hearing another book she narrated.

 

An entertaining celebration of the genre, a rousing adventure, and a pretty creepy story. Pretty much all you could ask for.

Source: irresponsiblereader.com/2017/11/14/meddling-kids-audiobook-by-edgar-cantero-kyla-garcia
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review 2017-11-08 00:16
Cute, cuddly, & educational - The Case of the Cursed Dodo by Jake G. Panda
The Case of the Cursed Dodo (The Endangered Files) (Volume 1) - Jake G. Panda

This was so cute! It’s got some detective noir feel to it with the period phrases but none of the real violence since this is for kids. There’s humor all over the place; you can’t help tripping over it. As a biologist, I loved seeing all the endangered animals, like the macaroni penguin, tucked into the story.

Jake Panda was a fun detective, trying to be all tough and grumpy and yet sweet talking his bamboo plant. I kept picturing him in a hat and trench coat even though he doesn’t wear a hat. While working at the Last Resort hotel as the house detective, he gets a postcard from his friend The Professor, a hare (not a rabbit!), seeking his aid. He runs off to do so and gets tangled up in this nefarious underground animal ring. Jake Panda won’t stand for that! Yay! Even though this is for kids, the mystery was still fun to watch unravel.

The story sometimes included stuff like ‘and we fade in to whoever doing whatever’, etc. This seemed a little odd at first but I soon got used to the stage directions being there. I really liked that the tale took place in more than one place around the world and yet more places were mentioned. In fact, this whole story is full of little learning moments – the various types of animals, locations around the world, small interesting bits about the animals themselves. I think this is great for kids interested in biology or science in general.

There’s really only 1 main female character, Daisy Condor, and she comes into the tale half way through. She’s a romantic interest and while she gets to take part in the grand finale, I felt that this story needed some gender balancing. There were a handful of ladies briefly mentioned but all with small tiny roles. Meanwhile, we have The Professor, the Dodo, the guy who double crosses Jake, etc. How are all these endangered animals going to reproduce if there’s no ladies?

All told, it was a delightful tale and fit fora family road trip with young kids. 4/5 stars.

I received a free copy of this book.

The Narration: So many awesome narrators came together to make this story alive! All the character voices were distinct and I loved that the voice actors made each voice sound a little like the animal they are portraying. There was a snorting hog, a laughing hyena, and Jake Panda often had a little growl to his voice. There were plenty of sound effects and they added to the story, though there was once or twice when the sounds over-shadowed the voices for a moment or three. 4.5/5 stars.

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review 2017-11-04 21:22
Enjoy the Dance (Dancing #2) (Audiobook)
Enjoy the Dance - Iggy Toma,Heidi Cullinan,Heidi Cullinan

Story: 3 stars

Narration: 4 stars

Overall: 3.5 stars

 

Turns out, waiting around for election results is just as boring in a book as in real life. The timeline for this book covers some important and groundbreaking moments for gay rights and equality, and while those are moments worth celebrating, I felt like the author got so caught up in chronicling every single one that she kind of forgot to tell a story, and that story was Duon.

 

Duon is the catalyst for this story, since Spencer finds the boy outside his apartment while Duon is waiting for Tomas, Spencer's across-the-hall neighbor, to come back from one of his three jobs. It's seeing Duon's predicament - beat up by his own cousins, kicked out by his grandmother, and homeless - that compels Spencer, a former foster care kid himself, to take Duon in and give him a home and family. Tomas, who is suspicious of the system for several reasons, is at first wary of Spencer, but comes to see his good qualities and eventually the two fall in love. And in between Spencer finding a family, Tomas trying to keep his family together, there's this kid that gets shuffled to the background for the majority of the story even though it's because of him that all of this is happening. It felt like the book was disconnected from itself, and while there was just enough to see that Spencer and Duon do care for each other, that relationship is really only ever given lip service. The same is true of Tomas's nieces and nephew. We're told they exist, as they're part of the reason Tomas has so many jobs, but we don't see them much at all.

 

I did like how the relationship developed between Spencer and Tomas though. Tomas's mom was a hoot (but oy, vey, that accent) and his father was pretty great too. There's a lot of Laurie and Ed in this one, and it was cool to see how they took care of everyone around them. I especially like how Laurie was able to calm down a nervous Spencer to convince him to learn tap dance. Seeing Spencer and Tomas let their guards down with each other was a treat, and they were able to understand each others' struggles and support each other despite their different backgrounds. 

 

The narration was as good here as in the first one. Iggy Toma has a new fan. :D 

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