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review 2017-06-24 16:22
Truly, Madly, Guilty - Liane Moriarty 
Truly, Madly, Guilty - Signed/Autographed Copy - Liane Moriarty

It's not a thriller.

 

Imagine that line as spoken by Arnold Schwarzenegger to his class in Kindergarten Cop. I start here because I saw a review saying what a disappointing thriller it was, and it would be disappointing if that was what Moriarty were shooting for. It's also not a romance, or a mystery, or a literary novel, although it does share some elements with those.

 

What it is is a book about regular middle class suburban couples who experience a trauma together, and how it affects their lives thereafter. It's not a big trauma, it's not newsworthy, but it affects them all, and their little kids, too. And because the author takes her work seriously, there is much more to it than just that, humor, and backstory, and a way through, and a future.

 

I love books like this about living in after some bad thing. Fairy tales are important because they teach us that the witch or the monster can be killed, these books (and I hope someone has a short, catchy name for the genre that isn't sexist, because I sure don't) these books demonstrate how to live through the bad things and still have a good life. I don't believe stories about people living through horrible events and being stoic and saintly and a good example. Pain doesn't make people stronger or better, it makes us angry, and short-tempered, and hell to get along with. And of course, we all have pain and most of it is garden-variety common and of no interest to others. And the older we get the more time we spend attending funerals, the more people we have to lose. These books remind us that we can still laugh at the wake, that there are many ways to comfort one another in our loss.

 

I'm on my way to a funeral soon 

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review 2017-06-23 12:00
Windfall by Jennifer E. Smith
Windfall - Jennifer E. Smith

I was really hoping that this book would be my next favorite, but it ended up being kind of blah. I'll admit, I was really only interested in this book because the cover is freaking gorgeous. Those colors just spoke to me and I really hoped that the story would be as beautiful as the cover.

 

The main issue with this book is that it's predictable. Imagine the cliche story about someone winning the lottery and you have this entire book nailed. It has all the elements that someone would usually come up with from the extravagant spending of money, wanting to do something nice for the mom, a gambling father that isn't around, and one best friend in love with the other. Add in the token gay best friend, the fact that the main character is an orphan and I'm sure you could figure out the main plot, if not the entire book.

 

Unfortunately, the predictability of the story wasn't the only downfall. The main character, Alice, was very hard to connect to. She was perfect in every way imaginable, and not in the good way. She spends a lot of time volunteering at soup kitchens, teaching a child to read, and doing various other charitable things. When she is offered a portion of the winnings, without hesitating she turns it down. What kind of person turns down that kind of money, at least without thinking about it first? She then thinks that she has the right to judge how Teddy spends his money and looks down on him for not immediately donating it to charity.

 

The romance was also quite bland. You're supposed to root for Teddy and Alice, but honestly I didn't really care for either of the characters. Teddy was not the greatest friend and it was hard to see why Alice was in love with him. As I said before, Alice spends a lot of time telling Teddy what he should do with the money and it almost felt mom-like, which isn't something you want in a relationship that is potentially romantic. 

 

The redeeming qualities of the book were not many, but they were strong. Strong enough to keep me reading and make me nearly cry. Alice has been through a lot due to losing her parents. There was an underlying theme of belonging throughout the book, that really should have been the center focus. The moments between Alice and her relatives were poignant and heartfelt. Seeing Alice's character develop and accept that she no longer had her parents was something I would have liked to have more of a focus on that.

 

While this isn't my favorite book, it wasn't bad by any means. I wish that certain things, like the romance was less of a focus and there was more of an emphasis on family.

 

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review 2017-06-20 00:18
Save Me a Seat
Save Me a Seat - Gita Varadarajan,Sarah Weeks

Save Me a Seat is a recent middle grade book co-authored by veteran Sarah Weeks and newcomer Gita Varadarajan.  While not explicitly discussed in the interviews, I believe the two authors met at a Teachers College Writing Workshop directed by Lucy Calkins and that the collaborative project may have been born during the workshop. 

 

The book features alternating chapters of the first week of 5th grade from two viewpoints, Joe (written by Ms. Weeks) and Ravi (written by Ms. Varadarajan).  Joe has lived in the same small town in central NJ all his life.  Ravi has just moved to the US from India.  Taking place over the course of a single week, the boys find common cause and the seed of a friendship as they are both targets of their class bully, an Indian-American kid named Dillon Samreen.

 

There were many moments of humor and realistic tween emotions throughout Save Me a Seat. I also liked the clever way the book used food as a framing.  However, I didn’t fall in love with the story or the characters. While seeing yourself represented in books is important, I thought it was just too convenient that Joe’s defining characteristic is a learning disability.  And there were times that the moral lessons of looking beyond the surface to find potential friends were just a bit too blatant for my adult eyes.  As I read, I kept wondering if this is a book kids would really be attracted to on their own or if it was written to be a parable and the basis of lesson plans and won’t find many readers outside that context.

 

Read for Tomorrowland 34 in Booklikes-opoly

 

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review 2017-06-17 00:45
Am I no longer afraid of robots?
The Wild Robot - Peter Brown

The Wild Robot by Peter Brown has both fascinated me and frightened me for at least 2 months now. I kept seeing the cover when I was shelving or visiting other branches and the image of the single robot standing on top of a pile of rocks kept leaping out at me. I finally gave up the fight when I decided that middle grade fiction was the way to cure my book reading blues. I'm glad that I did because The Wild Robot was a lot of fun to read (and it turns out it's the start of a series!) made even more amazing by the superb illustrations supplied by the author. [A/N Peter Brown is no stranger to creating books as he's a well-known children's picture book author/illustrator but this is his first attempt at middle grade fiction.] This isn't your standard 'robot story' but instead it's a look at climate change, the ever-evolving landscape of our world with the advent of technology, and what it means to be truly alive. In short, it's beautiful, thought-provoking literature. The illustrations peppered throughout enhance the story by adding depth to the characters (I love that they're black and white.). Roz is doing the best she can given her circumstances which is really all that anyone can do. The only difference is that she's an artificial lifeform living on an island without any humans. How will this shape her? Will her presence have any effect on the local fauna and flora? Brown's commentary on our world is perfectly geared for a younger audience but it wouldn't go amiss for the adult crowd either. ;-) I can't wait to see how this story continues to develop as Peter carries on with the series. 10/10

 

For a look at the book from the author's perspective check out this awesome post written by Peter about his process of getting his book published: "The Wild Robot lives!".

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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review 2017-06-16 12:00
That Thing We Call a Heart by Sheba Karim
That Thing We Call a Heart - Sheba Karim

I was really excited about this book mainly because a lot of the books I read are really lacking in diversity. I really wanted to love this book and there were some parts that I did, but the main character kind of killed some of my enjoyment. 

 

I was not really a fan of Shabnam throughout the book, until maybe the very end, but even then I still didn't really like her as a character. She was selfish and way too obsessed with a boy that she barely knew. She falls in love with Jaime in a very short amount of time and that really put me off from the romance. She was also a terrible best friend and at least she acknowledges this to an extent. The first thing she says to Farah when they start talking again is that she's in love. Not "I'm sorry I abandoned you" or even "how are you?". I really enjoyed the fact that Farah voiced my same thoughts when they talked about their falling out.

 

Shabnam also took it upon herself to scrutinize her parents marriage/romance/sex life and I just found this weird. She had been "in love" for maybe a month so what gave her the authority to say that they weren't happy or in a loving marriage? It seems that she was comparing her relationship with Jaime to her parents', but those aren't really two comparable relationships. I didn't like her father as a character, he just didn't seem to work very well and I guess that was the point, but honestly I didn't really see the point of him behaving that way. 

 

Thankfully, Shabnam didn't ruin the book for me. I absolutely loved Farah and honestly wished that she was the main character. I thought that her self discovery and journey to figure out where she fit in as a Muslim was so much more interesting than Jaime and Shabnam's relationship. She was a badass feminist and so much of what she said was so important. 

 

I also enjoyed the incorporation of poetry throughout the book. It was interesting and unique, especially because I had never encountered that type of poetry before. I also enjoyed the difference between Shabnam and Farah's experiences as Muslims. They both have such a different relationship with their own culture and I thought that portraying that was really important, especially Farah's experience. 

 

The book showed a lot of promise, especially with the side characters. I think that it's something important for people to read, even if it might not have the best main character.  

 

*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! 

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