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Search tags: realistic-fiction
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review 2017-11-17 16:58
Fathers and sons in America: A Matt Phelan Masterpost
Bluffton - Matt Phelan
The Storm in the Barn - Matt Phelan

I had said in last week's post that today I'd be writing a Matt Phelan 'masterpost'. Typically this means that I cover 3+ books by a single author (or multiple authors writing together in a series). However, today I'm just going to talk about 2 books because honestly that's all I could get my hands on and so that's all I managed to read. :-) I picked up Bluffton: My Summers with Buster Keaton and The Storm in the Barn with fairly high expectations based on the work I had seen by Phelan in the Comics Squad compilation I read and reviewed not too long ago. On the one hand, I was not at all disappointed. The illustration style is most definitely up my street. He is excellent at drawing evocative expressions on people's faces. I think where I was let down was on the overall reading experience. Let me take each of the books separately so that I can (hopefully) explain what I mean.

 

I read Bluffton first because it featured a circus and I am all about that circus lifestyle. Firstly, when I grabbed this book I somehow missed the subtitle and therefore was shocked to discover that one of the main characters in this book is that famous star of vaudeville, Buster Keaton. Secondly, I went into this book expecting a rollicking good time and instead got a somewhat borderline depressing narrative of what the childhood of Buster would have entailed since he was a performer from infancy. It's about the expectations that a parent has for their child and how those might be vastly different from the aspirations that the child holds for themselves. It's also about the nature of friendship and jealousy (especially when one of the friends is an itinerant performer). It's a coming of age tale that paints a rather grim picture of child stardom and how the experiences of our youth shape us into the adults that we will one day become.

 

Then there was The Storm in the Barn which I can only categorize as a Debbie Downer type of book. I'm not sure that this falls under any one genre. It's most certainly historical fiction as it depicts a little boy, his family, and his community as they struggle during the time of the Dust Bowl in Kansas circa 1937. However, it also contains fantasy elements of which I can't really go into without spoiling the plot... It's certainly rooted in reality because Phelan does not shy away from the harsh conditions that these characters face (don't even get me started on the rabbits). He covers bullying from both peers and parents. The protagonist is forced to watch a beloved sister struggle with a possibly fatal illness. The entire plot is fraught with tension and a dark cloud seems to hover over every page. What I'm trying to say is that if you're looking for a light read to send your tots to sleep at night then you should probably keep looking. BUT if you wanted to teach your kids about an era of history that's not usually dwelt upon in the classroom then this might indeed be the right selection for you.

 

I'd rate both books about the same. In terms of imagery and writing, they're both 10/10. The issue is that I held expectations about these books (as readers do from time to time) and I finished both of these feeling somewhat let down. I understand that not all books are going to be rosy, sweet, and fun. I know that not every book has a happy ending. And yet when these two books delivered hardship, sadness, and loss I was ill prepared and disgruntled. I can't honestly flaw these books and say that from a reviewer's standpoint they were faulty...but I still find it difficult to give them full marks just the same. Does this make sense? I guess my point is that a book can tick off all the boxes and still fall short based on the assumptions of the reader and/or their relative mood when they picked up the book. ¯_(ツ)_/¯

 

Now let's take a look at Buster from Bluffton followed by a page from The Storm in the Barn:

 

Source: YouTube

 

 

Source: books4school

 

What's Up Next: Ghost Waltz: A Family Memoir by Ingeborg Day

 

What I'm Currently Reading: Kid Authors: True Tales of Childhood from Famous Writers by David Stabler

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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review 2017-11-17 15:20
Long Way Down
Long Way Down - Jason Reynolds

I enjoy reading novels written in prose. I feel that the novels take on a deeper, more emotional quality to them. I loved the way that the author spaced out his words, how he placed his punctuation, and how he grouped his text. Whether one page held ten words or thirty, the intensity and the significance of those words was the same, each word had value. From the beginning pages, I was captivated by the story of Will and his brother Shawn.

After the shots rang out, Shawn was dead. Reading the text, I could see Shawn’s girlfriend, bent over Shawn’s body, her earsplitting screams piercing the air. Will cannot comprehend the scene that is before him, that is his brother lying on the ground, a stain spreading around his limp body. His mother becomes numb when the news reaches her ears, this was not supposed to happen. The world has come to a stop.

Will knows immediately what he must do, what you had to do when you come face-to-face with this type of situation, Will has to follow the rules. The rules, how they came about is not important, what is important is that they are followed. As Will begins his retaliation, his ride down the elevator to the world outside becomes quite a long journey. A long eye-opening journey which allows Will to see the world for what it is, to see the consequences of decisions that have been made and to decide where the future is headed.

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review 2017-11-10 16:57
Love, love, love this gorgeous cover...
In a Perfect World - Trish Doller

 

 

Book Title:  In A Perfect World

Author:  Trish Dollar

Genre:  YA | Realistic Fiction

Setting:  Cairo, Africa

Source:  Kindle eBook (Library)

 

 

 

Add to Goodreads

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Plot:  4/5

Main Characters:  4/5

Secondary Characters:  4/5

The Feels: 4/5

The Pacing:  3/5

Addictiveness:  3/5

Theme or Tone:  4.3/5

Flow (Writing Style):  3.5/5

Backdrop (World Building):  4.5/5

Originality:  4.5/5

Book Cover:  5+ Beautiful!

Ending:  4.5/5 Cliffhanger:  Nope.

Steam Factor 0-5:  1.5

Total:  3.7/5 STARS - GRADE=B

 

 

 

This is a book that deals with some controversial subjects, that I feel, ultimately has its heart in the right place.  The MC, in the beginning, comes off as very immature and offensive with some of the comments she has about Muslim women.  But…I think it was done this way by the author for a purpose, so you could see her learn and relate and even grow as a person.  Which she does do, and she becomes a better person by the end. 

 

My only issue with this, was mainly just that it was slow; not much happens that excited me.  Mostly, just sightseeing and eating different kinds of food.  Then at about 85% mark something does happen, and yeah, you could totally see it coming…and then we're rushed into an ending and an epilogue…all very quickly done.  I did really like the Cedar Point references, (MC is from Sandusky, Ohio) because I do love Cedar Point.

 

Will I read more from this Author?  Yes, I would; I only ever read one other book by Trish Doller (Something Like Normal) and I really liked that one.

 

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review 2017-11-06 03:03
I'll Give You the Sun - review
I'll Give You the Sun - Jandy Nelson

 

Noah and Jude are twins, and both very artistically inclined. This book follows the twins through some difficult times. It jumps back and forth between years and alternates between Noah and Jude's viewpoints.

 

This book deals with a lot of issues that teens might face, including questioning their sexuality, sex, death, divorce, mental health, and more. I didn't love the book, maybe because I don't usually enjoy realistic fiction. I read it for my Young Adult Literature class, and I probably wouldn't have picked it myself. But I am trying to branch out a bit.

 

Anyway, the book is well written and I can see the appeal it has for young adults. They can easily identify with the characters even if their own situation is a bit different. What bothers me about some of these stories is the romantic relationships. Books like this promote unrealistic expectations about love and relationships. Most of us don't find our "soulmate" (if one even exists), and we don't often experience a love that was "meant to be." Sad I know, but it seems worse to make teens think that this is how love works. 

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review 2017-10-23 21:14
A very worthwhile story once you get past the beginning...
If There's No Tomorrow - Jennifer L. Armentrout

 

 

Book Title:  If There's No Tomorrow

Author:  Jennifer L Armentrout

Genre:  YA, Contemporary Romance

Setting:  Virginia

Source:  Kindle eBook (Library)

 

 

 

 

Add to Goodreads

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Plot:  4.3/5

Main Characters:  4.5/5

Secondary Characters:  4.5/5

The Feels:  5/5

Addictiveness:  For the first 1/3; 2 for the rest 4 = 4 3/5

Theme or Tone:  5/5

Flow (Writing Style):  4.5/5

Backdrop (World Building):  4/5

Originality:  4/5

Book Cover:  5/5

Ending:  5/5  Cliffhanger:  Nope.

Steam Factor 0-5:  3

Total:  4.5/5 STARS - GRADE=A-

 

 

 

If I rated this just from the first third of the book, I would rate closer to a 2-star.  At the 36% mark on kindle, which is right when part II starts, this book became a completely different kind of story. Where the first part is mostly just teenage kids behaving as teenage kids are liable to do.  Permeated with too many conversations between too many characters.  The rest of book is a heartfelt and genuine look at the aftermath of a tragedy, with a sweet romance that has all the feels. 

 

I wholeheartedly recommend this to all teenagers, if I could get my daughters to actually read a book, I would have them read this.  There are some important life lessons in here told in a very compelling way…instead of telling them don't do this, and don't do that…this gives them why of those don'ts.

 

Will I read more from this Author?⇜  Of, course!

 

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