Saturday, June 05, 2010

Book 10: Get Real by Betty Hicks

Get Real by Betty Hicks

I think I may be too tired to properly articulate what I thought of this one. I'm not sure I can even think it through.

I like the voice of the narrator, Dez; she's not always the most likable person in the world, but she seems very much herself. She's an unapologetic neatfreak living in a painfully disorganized world.

What bothered me was the plot; the way the author got from point A to point B was just... weird. Thought perhaps the 10+ books in 2 days factor is affecting my perspective. But the events Hicks chose to make her points were not convincing.

I also disliked Dez's best friend, Jil, who seems incredibly selfish and self-absorbed. I wasn't sure how I was supposed to feel about her, honestly, but she's a major character and presumably intended to be at least somewhat sympathetic.

So kind of divided on this one. I did enjoy reading it and might recommend it to someone looking for a friendship story with a touch of wacky suburban adventure.

184 pages
Reading: 1 hour, 8 minutes
Blogging: 14 minutes

Labels: , ,

more odd coincidences

Of the last 6 books I've read, 5 of them were published in 2007.

I may have time for one more before I call it a night... don't know what to pick, but perhaps I should take it as a sign and find something else published in 2007.


Book 9: The London Eye Mystery

The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd.

This was recommended to me by my mother, and knowing her, I'm guessing she loved it for its Britishisms. Not just the setting with the London Eye, a sort of extra-big, extra-long ferris wheel, but all the phrases: "Bunk off." "Skivving." Shreddies for breakfast! This book can't possibly be as fun to read if you're actually from England.

I confess my first thought when she told me it was about a boy with Asperger's Syndrome who solves a mystery was "oh, not another one." But the story worked--I think because it's so much in the classic mode of a children's story. There genuinely is a mystery to solve, and our hero Ted does it with the help of his older sister, which has an impact on their difficult relationship reminiscent of the brother and sister in From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L Konigsburg. And he finds a way around the fact that no one will listen to him, as all misunderstood heroes must.

As a portrayal of someone with Asperger's (never labelled, but it's pretty obvious), I don't know if this was all that great. But it certainly was an interesting mystery and family story. (9 & up)

323 pages
Reading: 1 hour, 53 minutes
Blogging: 14 minutes

Labels: , ,

Book 8: by Liane Shaw. Second Story Press, 2009 (978-1-8971887-62-3) $11.95 trade

I'm not a fan of problem novels, but this one had a hook that grabbed me instantly: it's about a girl involved with a "pro-Ana" support group online. Maddie narrates her story from an eating disorders clinic where, in her mind, everyone is in a conspiracy to force her to be fat. Cut off from the Internet, she desperately misses the only support she had, the group of "Girls Without Shadows" who were the only ones who understood her need to do anything to be thin. But as Maddie describe the events that led her to the clinic, she starts to feel less sure of what she believes:

"I thought I had this all figured out. Looking back, I was sure I knew what I was doing. I have a right to do what I want with my own body, and so I did it. I wasn't hurting anyone, including myself. I knew this absolutely. I had it confirmed by my GWS and everything."

Confused and desperate for non-judgmental support, Maddie breaks the clinic rules to talk to her online friends one more time. What she discovers then will change her life forever.

The best thing about this story is the authenticity of the online culture depicted--and it's a sympathetic portrayal, as well. Though we know as readers that all of the GWS girls are deceiving themselves and each other, there is clearly no malice, just as great deal of pathetic self-delusion. Oddly, the "real" characters in the story don't come to life nearly as well, and a somewhat contrived bit of romance with a boy in the clinic falls flat. But though the writing may not rise much above "message novel" competence, it's a very engrossing, fast-paced story that stirs up a lot of feelings, and will likely have a strong appeal to teen readers. (12 & up)

Incidentally, the author has used the title of her book for an interesting website.

263 pages
Reading: 1 hour, 27 minutes
Blogging: 29 minutes

FTC disclosure: Review copy provided by the publisher. This blog is completely independent, but I receive a small percentage if you order books from Powell's via this site.

Labels: ,

Book 7: Brendan Buckley's Universe and Everything In It

Brendan Buckley's Universe and Everything In It by Sundee T. Frazier

I was happy to see that MotherReader fudged the age requirement a bit, because this is listed as grade 4.5 reading level, but it's the book from my pile that I most wanted to read. And if our Gracious Leader can do it, so can I!

Brendan Buckley, the child of a black father and a white mother, is an intensely curious, scientifically-minded ten-year-old boy, trying to answer two complicated questions. Why doesn't he know his mother's father? And why are white people sometimes mean to black people?

When he accidentally runs into his grandfather Ed at a minerals exhibit, Brendan discovers they have a lot in common. And he feels compelled to try to solve the mystery of his grandfather's absence from his life... but he may not like the answer he gets.

Frazier takes what I guess could be called a post-modern approach to biracial identity here, and expresses it with sincerity and conviction. Although Brendan's life is not free of racism, he's not caught up in a black identity or a white identity, but open to all aspects of himself. His energy, commitment and intelligence make him a very likable character and I was moved to tears by his final, triumphant self-acceptance. (9 & up)

198 pages
Reading: 1 hour, 18 minutes
Blogging: 25 minutes

Labels: , ,

Book 6: Mozart and the Whale

Mozart and the Whale by Jerry and Mary Newport.

I think I read a non-fiction book about autism during every challenge. Not deliberately, there's just always at least one in my pile.

I didn't think much of the movie "Mozart and the Whale," but it did get me interested in reading the book, which is really not the same story. The real characters were much older when they met, for one thing, and already had a lot of life experiences behind them. This is not just their love story, but also their autobiographies.

I had some trouble getting into this book. One problem is that two different people are writing in turn and it's hard to tell when the points of view have changed (this was an ARC -- perhaps they made it clearer in the finished book.) The other problem was that the sections by Jerry Newport were so full of worn-out phrases. It was a nagging irritation.

But I persisted and wound up relating to a lot of what I read. And it was intriguing to read the points of view of two autistic adults, who share a lot in common yet also have many differences.

Like many autobiographies I read, this one sometimes felt too... elliptical, is the word that comes to mind. So much happened to them and they just drop little bits and pieces of it into the narrative, leaving me with tons of questions. How someone got from point A to point B is often a mystery. It reminds me of confusing autobiographies of children's book authors I read when I was younger.

Two bits of trivia

1)The "Mozart" of the title, Mary's costume at the Halloween party where they met, was not Wolfgang Amadeus -- it was his sister, the thwarted prodigy Nannerl. I find that very touching.

2) I can't find any verification of this, but I'm almost certain that the opening of the show "the Big Bang Theory" was inspired by a paragraph in this book. Or possibly, since both came out in 2007, the other way around?

261 pages
Reading: 129 minutes
Blogging: 31 minutes

Labels: , ,

Book 5: Silent in the Grave

Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourne

I am thoroughly YA'd out, so decided to finish this book, which I'd started before the challenge. Victorian historical mystery, a bit along the lines of the Amelia Peabody books, though without an archeological emphasis. It was fun, I'll probably read the rest of the series.

326 pages (out of 509)
Reading: 2 hours, 27 minutes
Blogging: 2 minutes

Labels: ,