I read this book because my dear friend and fellow librarian Karen asked m to. She wanted to get my Jewish take on it (as well as the reader take, obv...moreI read this book because my dear friend and fellow librarian Karen asked m to. She wanted to get my Jewish take on it (as well as the reader take, obviously). So, here goes, Karen:
Overall I enjoyed the book despite the fact that it could never have happened as written because:
1) The obvious problem is that NO Jewish mother I know would have left the country 3 weeks before her son's bar mitzvah, not even for a free trip to Italy with her husband. He's a doctor, they're loaded, and she collects antique snuff bottles. This is a person who can go to Italy another time, when her son is not about to be bar mitzvah. I was hysterically going over table arrangements, making sure party favors arrived, consulting with florists and caterers, checking music play lists, making sure dress alterations had been done properly. Maybe, just MAYBE I would have gone away if someone was desperately ill. But only maybe. Also, she knows her older son is a maniac. It's not realistic that she would leave the other children with him, especially right before the bar mitzvah.
2) I also don't know a Jewish mother who wouldn't have heard her son practice his haftorah portion at that point. At that point I was having multiple weekly conversations with the bat mitzvah tutor. And since the story begins with a friend of the family puking, crapping his pants and passing out at the altar when having his bar mitzvah, the parents' anxiety would have been exponentially ratcheted up as well as that of the next victim--I mean, the soon-to-be bar mitzvah boy. It is also not possible to get even a haftorah ready in 3 weeks, not even a crummy job. In my estimation, it would take at least 3 months. At LEAST!
But, whatever, let us suspend disbelief for the sake of storytelling. Here we are with the smart, geeky bar mitzvah boy being totally unprepared being left with his crazy violent brother Joshua who is really into being Jewish. So, Josh basically puts him through Manhood 101, like some sort of Outward Bound thing or Iron John where the men were supposed to get together in sweat lodges and hug and fart and cry (not necessarily in that order). While simultaneously studying his haftorah. And it was kind of awesome to see whiny baby geek get his man on. I thought josh the Super Jew was a realistic character. I've seen Jewish guys who were so angry about the ghetto Jews who went meekly to the gas chambers that they overreacted like that. Usually they join the Israeli Army, which is where I thought the plot was going. I thought the narrator (soon to be bar mitzvah) was a good character too because he was funny and smart and wry. I also enjoyed his revelations where he suddenly believes everything will be totally different--like when he realizes he has been a terrible friend to the guy who disgraced himself at the altar of his bar mitzvah--but then reverts immediately back to being ashamed of the guy and a terrible friend as soon as they see some popular girls. That's so what it was like to be a teen, in my experience. He does change and grow and become less whiny and weak at the end, but not in those flashing moments. Which is what keeps the novel from being an afterschool special.
The only thing I would have liked is for the heroine--Josh's friend whom the narrator gets a crush on--to be Jewish too. There were no hot Jewish women in the book, only whiny/needy ones. (unfair to Local # Jewish Wimmin!) but I guess you can't have everything. (less)
Peter's teacher has a roaring voice, a green face and nostrils you could drive a truck through. Until he sees her in the park and realizes she might k...morePeter's teacher has a roaring voice, a green face and nostrils you could drive a truck through. Until he sees her in the park and realizes she might kind of sort of really be human too. My favorite thing was the teacher's subtle, progressive visual transformation. I love it when picture books have a second visual level going on that complements the text.Lovely! (less)
Another book I read just because it was available in the ebooks section of my library and I knew the author. Louis Sachar is author of HOLES so how ba...moreAnother book I read just because it was available in the ebooks section of my library and I knew the author. Louis Sachar is author of HOLES so how bad could it be? And I was so right. Even for someone who doesn't care one tiny bit about bridge like me CARDTURNER is wonderful, partly because the author marks the bridge-y parts with a whale (for the whale in Moby Dick, which dominates the book but is boring to those who don't care about whaling). So I could easily skim them. I would have skimmed them anyway as. I do in books about sports, but it made it easier to do.
It's funny how you can love a book about something you hate, because the book isn't really about its ostensible subject. I often enjoy books about sports even though I hate sports because they're really about teamwork, the development of character, intergenerational legacies, and other interesting things. Like Mike Lupica's amazing books Travel Team or Heat. This book is actually about communication, learning to read a situation despite prior misinformation, and the development of confidence in one's own inner compass. Bridge is just the focus.
Anyway,the story runs as follows: Alton gets dragged into the world of bridge because his wealthy uncle with diabetes goes blind and he needs a "cardturner" to read the cards for him. His uncle has previously kept his distance from Alton's parents because they're greedy suck-ups. Over time, Alton grows to admire his uncle, to understand and sympathize with the personal tragedy that turned his heart "cold like a brick," to value his few words of praise, and finally, to play bridge well enough to "channel" him after his death. There's also a romantic subplot that involves Alton's manipulative best friend Cliff who is always cutting him out with girls.
Alton has a great voice as narrator, a little like the one in HOLES but older of course; it reminded me of the narrator in THE WEDNESDAY WARS by Gary Schmidt in that he is highly critical of his parents but not in such a way that it makes you dislike him. For teens whose job it is to distinguish themselves from their parents, it can be especially interesting to read about characters with immoral or otherwise distasteful parents, and those characters' struggles to become people of integrity despite their parents' poor guidance. The parents aren't evil--and by the way I'm so sick of evil parents in teen literature!--they're just sort of crude and grasping--so it's easier for ordinary children to identify with the struggle.
As with HOLES, there is a strong thread of family history running through THE CARDTURNER and I also liked that. I do think children need to be encouraged to learn family stories, to find out for themselves that the best stories in the world may come from your own older family members.
All in all, a very satisfying reading experience! This random reading project on eBCCLS is doing me solid!(less)
**spoiler alert** I just admit I read this because it was available in the ebook section of my library. But I really enjoyed it's good natured superna...more**spoiler alert** I just admit I read this because it was available in the ebook section of my library. But I really enjoyed it's good natured supernaturalism and thought the romance part was spicy without being, well, gross. The mystery was reasonably well plotted, and didn't turn out to be a Scooby Doo-ish unmasking of criminals masquerading as spooks, it neither did all of the seeming supernatural phenomena turn out to be true. I liked that mix. (less)
What a lovely romance. And I usually don't like romances anymore. I wrote a whole review that got eaten by the computer so now I'll have to recreate i...moreWhat a lovely romance. And I usually don't like romances anymore. I wrote a whole review that got eaten by the computer so now I'll have to recreate it later. (less)
A community garden rises out of a garbage-strewn lot in Cleveland, bringing together a wealth of neighbors from distant countries. Each tells us his o...moreA community garden rises out of a garbage-strewn lot in Cleveland, bringing together a wealth of neighbors from distant countries. Each tells us his or her own story. The effect is a bit like the living patchwork quilt of their garden! The author's strong faith in the redemptive power of community and of working with the land shines through the book. Each character's voice is distinct and engaging, each story draws you in. A triumph of storytelling. Almost makes me want to go out and plant a garden myself! .(less)
I always enjoy Margot Benary-Isbert and her depictions of the sufferings of ordinary Germans who never liked Hitler (and you believe them). This one i...moreI always enjoy Margot Benary-Isbert and her depictions of the sufferings of ordinary Germans who never liked Hitler (and you believe them). This one is about a young girl and an older pastor in the countryside who are drawn to each other but fear they are not meant to be life partners despite their mutual admiration and attraction. Their story unfolds against the last few months before Germany officially loses the war, when the girl, her mother, brother, and all of their livestock take in the rural parsonage from the threat of bombs in the cities. I didn't love it as much as the others (especially her Ark series) but I did enjoy it.(less)
Eh. A cross between Holly Black's TITHE and Melissa Marr's WICKED LOVELY. A tiny bit of TWILIGHT thrown in because the sexy immortal is physically col...moreEh. A cross between Holly Black's TITHE and Melissa Marr's WICKED LOVELY. A tiny bit of TWILIGHT thrown in because the sexy immortal is physically cold. (I will never understand the appeal of a chilly lover; it seems almost like necrophilia to me!). It wasn't all bad. I enjoyed her tricky plotting with riddles and cleverly worded contracts but basically it's the kind of book where everyone addresses the heroine as "human" or "princess" or they intone first and last name. (Luckily it's Meghan Chase. Just imagine if she were Heather Finkelstein!) But most damning of all, the parts about the land of the fairies were terribly overwritten. Fairyland should be the best part of a book about fairies, urban or otherwise. That's a rule.(less)
I was actually very sad to finish this book. I listened to it on audiobook and sometimes I would have to turn it off because I couldn't process any mo...moreI was actually very sad to finish this book. I listened to it on audiobook and sometimes I would have to turn it off because I couldn't process any more info, but I kept going back, fascinated by the depth and breadth of knowledge displayed in a history of the technology of the kitchen and the table. The author divides the book into themes like fire, utensils, measurements, coldness, etc. and ranges from prehistory to futuristic contemporary tools. She discusses every continent, it is truly a tour de force. (less)
Another Iron Druid story: Atticus O'Sullivan against a panoply of pantheons. Lots of hacking and hewing. Atticus always wins. Rather predictable but t...moreAnother Iron Druid story: Atticus O'Sullivan against a panoply of pantheons. Lots of hacking and hewing. Atticus always wins. Rather predictable but that's part of the fun. (less)