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Monday, November 29, 2010

Crunch

Crunch
by Leslie Connor

I picked this one up for the Cybils, and I'm so glad I did.

The premise of the book has provided me with thinking material for the last several weeks. It's about the Mariss family living through a fuel crunch.  The parents are away on their anniversary trip when, all of a sudden, their gas ration coupons are no good to get them home.  Fortunately the five kids at home, including our protagonist Dewey, have got things pretty well covered.  With no fuel available, however, the Mariss Bike Barn is suddenly a booming business.

I loved hearing about how the Mariss kids played the cards they were dealt.  And, of course, I've spent quite a bit of time thinking about what would happen to me in a similar situation.  The book also has a little mystery sub-plot that I liked as well.  I liked that it added tension to the book, but didn't overshadow the drama that is everyday life.  As one of the oldest of 7 kids, I can tell you there's a bit of drama in everyday life when mom and dad aren't home. And yet, Dewey manages to keep it positive, and himself positive.  It's admirable. It's real.

And that's probably the highest praise I can give this book.  It seems real.  When I stopped reading, I had to remind myself that I was back in my own life, and not one of the Mariss kids.  And I wish I was as well prepared for a "crunch" as they are.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Yes, yes, yes.

Just read this post over at Shannon Hale's blog.  I totally agree.  This is one of the reasons I don't give star ratings (or use a number system of some kind).  It's just not part of my reading process.

I do what I like here on my own blog.  I don't like being a literary critic, I like reading books and thinking about them and applying them to my own life.  I don't like reviewing books, I like recommending books.  If I read a book I don't want to recommend, I don't usually mention it here.

I especially liked this list of questions from Shannon's post:
Where did the story fail you? Where did it work for you? So, what does that say about you? What were you hoping for? What did you need from the story? If you're a writer, what does that tell you about what kind of a story you want to write? For me, this kind of responding is just about how I think about the book. Instead of thinking, "The author really dropped the ball on the ending," I try thinking, "What did I want out of the ending instead of what I got? Why did I want that?"
If you feel like chattering about questions like these about a book you've just read, and then you email that to me, I might even post your guest review. Just let me know. Email address is in the sidebar.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Pies and Prejudice

I find it funny that in middle-grade fiction this year, two totally separate authors published a book called Scones and Sensibility and a book called Pies and Prejudice. Both books are on our Cybils list. I just finished Pies and Prejudice, and I have to say that, like pie, the book was kind of a guilty pleasure for me. It doesn't make my shortlist of favorites, but I still really liked it, because it's my kind of book. A little unlikely romance, a few Jane Austen references (or a lot, in this book's case), and I'm hooked!

Pies and Prejudice is the fourth installment in the Mother Daughter Book Club series. Since I haven't read the other three, I know I don't have the proper background for judging it, but as a stand-alone novel, there were just too many characters! There are five girls, all of their mothers, and two older women in the book club, so that's twelve characters you have to try to keep straight, right off the bat. Then there are their fathers, siblings, schoolmates, teachers, and crushes. I felt like I spent half the book trying to figure out who everybody was. And then the story itself comes from four of the girls' points of view. So just when I was getting comfortable in one girl's head, the next chapter hopped into another's. But like I said. If I'd read the whole series, I'm sure I would've been introduced properly to all of these people. So maybe it's a moot point.

My final beef with what was otherwise a delightful, fluffy-easy kind of read, was that the story I found most interesting--the love/hate relationship between Cassidy and Tristan (the Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy of the story)--was totally glossed over! They apparently hated each other, and then we never got a chance to see Tristan act anything but the conceited snob, and then they're all pal-y at the end? I was so bummed about that. Anyway. Still a fun read. Though I guess my final final beef with the book is that it made me totally desperate to have a daughter. *sigh*

Recommended for mothers and daughters. :)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda

I've been hitting the Cybils nominees hard and fast, but I just had to pause to mention this one.

So, so, so, so funny.  I imagine that anyone from fourth grade on up would enjoy this one.  It's got that same way of capturing the disastrous hilarity of early middle school that Jeff Kinney captures so well in his books.  Fortunately, most of the characters are more likable than Greg Heffley. I can totally imagine that if this one were out back when I was teaching fourth grade, the kids would have talked and laughed about it as much as they did the Wimpy Kid books. Now that I've compared it to the Wimpy Kid books you're all wondering if it has random comic strip panels.  No, it does not.  But it does have the occasional very funny illustration.

This book is the case file that Tommy put together to see if Origami Yoda (Dwight's finger puppet) can really predict the future.  I think my favorite piece of evidence is the story of Yoda saving one of the boys from looking like he peed his pants.  He leaned against the wet bathroom counter, and disaster struck.  

Ah, just thinking about reading this book makes me smile.  Go read it and have a good time! :D

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Dream of Night

My first Cybils book review! I've read lots, but this is the first I'm getting around to reviewing.

Another atypical horse book. The story comes from three points of view: Shiloh, a very angry young teen who was severely abused as a child and who's been shunted from foster home to foster home for years, Jess DiLima, a middle-aged woman who rescues abused and neglected horses and who has her own tragic past, and Dream of Night, a former racehorse whose last owner kept him locked in a tiny stall and beat him with chains. Their three stories intertwine when Jess takes both horse and girl in, though she's afraid she's becoming too old to help either.

This was also another book where I thought I could see the end from the beginning, and where the ending I imagined was fairly cliche. Troubled teen and wild horse come together, teen gentles horse who gentles her back, together they learn to ride again, and they win some big race and live happily ever after. This was not at all the direction the book took, however. Its real direction was far more believable, far less cliche, and far more moving.

The short, fragmentary writing style was a bit distracting to me at times, but it was effective most of the time in making the story feel more raw and exposed. I recommend this book to readers of all ages, really. Great read.

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