Three-plus. After hearing so much about this book for so many years, I was surprised to find it so short (which, of course, I liked; I was pleased toThree-plus. After hearing so much about this book for so many years, I was surprised to find it so short (which, of course, I liked; I was pleased to find that each secondary character was given exactly as many words as s/he needed). Like so many people, I approach folksy/spunky girls without mothers with one big eyeroll, and Opal herself didn't interest me much, but I enjoyed all the characters she met--especially Amanda, Miss Franny, and Gloria Dump. By the time the party was being planned, the book had won me over....more
I loved these characters and really hope the next books go into them more. Really, what I want is a prequel, to meet these characters earlier. The ploI loved these characters and really hope the next books go into them more. Really, what I want is a prequel, to meet these characters earlier. The plot and setting are cute and original, the writing is clear and straightforward. Some of it's a little cartoonish for my tastes, and really I felt kind of like I was watching a Disney princess movie at times, and the made-up names/words/languages were kind of jarringly not-real-sounding, but I liked it a lot. ...more
And now begins the phase of "this is a random book I came across in Rwanda". This is pretty uneven and I felt like I was being set up for more scandalAnd now begins the phase of "this is a random book I came across in Rwanda". This is pretty uneven and I felt like I was being set up for more scandal and betrayal than actually happened, and some of the characters didn't match up with themselves throughout the book (like, why is Nola portrayed as some kind of Alex Vause in college and then she's sort of pedestrian and non-sophisticated in adult life?), but it held my attention, and I especially liked the scene at the Friday Night Lights season premiere party, which was clearly written by a True Fan....more
This was a little sprawling and could have used stronger focus and fewer characters, but I enjoyed it--probably all the more for being willing to letThis was a little sprawling and could have used stronger focus and fewer characters, but I enjoyed it--probably all the more for being willing to let it stretch out a little bit. If I hadn't lived through this time and place, I would think this book was over the top, that there's no way things could ever have been this bad--and not even that long ago--but when I force myself, I remember the literature from the OCA (some of it worse than what's mentioned here) and the things I heard teachers say in school. If anything, it all turns out almost unrealistically well for Triinu--but she went to a relatively liberal, high-achieving high school. I only sensed a couple of missteps in the historical setting. I don't know what conversations the author might have had, but the mention of gay marriage felt like a nod to today, not a realistic scene from then; this is a time when "lesbian wedding" was still an odd enough phrase to be its own punchline on Seinfeld. The other was a character saying "Do you really think we'll all be listening to CDs soon?" That doesn't sound like a teenager in the first place, it seems a little early in the second place, and it was just jarring in the third, "look how different things used to be isn't that funny!". (While I know I was a late adopter, I didn't buy my first CD until 1997.)
I recommend this, but as I say, I'm not sure anyone who wasn't there will believe it....more
Somehow the author managed to make her life sound less interesting than she really was. The style felt amateurish; I was surprised to check and find iSomehow the author managed to make her life sound less interesting than she really was. The style felt amateurish; I was surprised to check and find it was published by a regular publishing house, because the writing seemed similar to what you find in self-published/small press publishers. (No offense to small presses, but they put out those niche books that appeal to specific interests and don't need to work for mainstream. They're not amateurish, but the editing is different, or so it seems to me.) I have no doubt that the author had love and respect for Rwandan people, but the language she used!--casual racism that made it hard to get through the book at times, such as referring to grown men as "boys" and talking about the Batwa tribe as if they're adorable animals, so clever, you know. The Rwandan history she relates is highly, highly suspect compared to other sources I've read--it seems like she ascribed to faulty "research" and racist beliefs about the supposed differences between Hutu and Tutsi, all stuff I've seen debunked elsewhere. She does seem to be neutral, though, throughout the entire sixty-year span she spent in Rwanda--only on the side of good people and children.
Three stars because I liked it well enough and most of this is just me being snippy. I mean, she was there, I wasn't....more
This was pretty good and has a twist I didn't see coming, but I thought it was too long and had too many characters--a lot of the stories felt shallowThis was pretty good and has a twist I didn't see coming, but I thought it was too long and had too many characters--a lot of the stories felt shallowly explored, and I had trouble keeping everyone straight. Maybe if I read it again, or sat down and plotted it all out, all the pieces would fit together; but I never had that satisfying feeling where everything falls into place. And I never dropped deep into the book's atmosphere the way I might have liked to....more
An intriguing book, and I especially liked that it is about extremely ordinary people; not geniuses, not people who became important later, but regulaAn intriguing book, and I especially liked that it is about extremely ordinary people; not geniuses, not people who became important later, but regular people responding in an ordinary (if illegal) way. The book makes it pretty clear that the sailors shouldn't be considered guilty of mutiny, but I'm not sure it's made clear enough that there's no question (as far as I understand) that not following an order is a pretty serious offense in the military.
It would have been far more satisfying if there had been some kind of comeuppance for the villains of the book (the white officers, the JAG team, the judges), but, well, that's real life for you. I hope they secretly felt really bad about it for the rest of their lives. And that they were bitter about desegregation but couldn't do anything about it.
Only once did I really note the authorial voice barging in (something I've grumbled about in previous recent non-fiction works, including those by Sheinkin and others): page 21, "Think about that. Robinson felt he had to prove himself in combat in order to 'win' rights already guaranteed to all citizens in the United States Constitution." I find that "Think about that" both unnecessary and condescending, almost a lecture. No, thank you....more
I enjoyed this so much, and I didn't really want to read it because I had heard so often that it was a lot like Wonder, had "a Wonder vibe", etc. LikeI enjoyed this so much, and I didn't really want to read it because I had heard so often that it was a lot like Wonder, had "a Wonder vibe", etc. Like Wonder it's a school/family story set in a New York apartment, boy who doesn't really fit in, etc etc, but where I thought Wonder was sticky-sweet and unrealistic and creepy, Absolutely Almost is real and funny lovable.
I also opened it with a groan because the official summary on the copyright page includes this: "new nanny Calista helps him uncover his strengths and take pride in himself". Gag me. I don't really want to read a book about those things, and there's not much I hate like a kids' book where grownups help the kids solve all their problems (see: Wonder). But that summary doesn't do the book justice. There ARE a lot of helping grownups in it, but they didn't feel too intrusive. And Calista is kind of a manic pixie dream girl (in both personality and function), except that she isn't, because the book also hints that she has a life of her own, that her sole purpose is not to help Albie "discover himself". Anyway, she's an important part of the book, but not necessarily more important than Albie's great best friend, Erlan.
Calista does several things that I thought weren't quite right, and I was surprised that... that didn't always turn out quite right. The book avoids having everything turn out with feel-good resolutions. Some things turn out better than others, but there's no final school assembly with lots of hugs....more