Allan Karlsson impulsively leaves his nursing home by way of his bedroom window on the day of his 100th birthday. There was no real decision-making inAllan Karlsson impulsively leaves his nursing home by way of his bedroom window on the day of his 100th birthday. There was no real decision-making involved; it was just done. So there he is, on the run in his "pee slippers" (so called because 100-year-old men don't reliably miss their shoes in the bathroom) and no real destination in mind. His journey leads him to the bus stop, where he steals a suitcase and then travels by bus as far as his limited funds will take him. It gets crazier from there as he goes from a missing geriatric to a wanted murderer.
In flashbacks, we read the story of Allan's life. He meets many, many world leaders during his time, influences world events, and makes a lot of friends in strange places.
I try not to read reviews of books I'm reading too close to the time I start reading them. I don't want others' thoughts to influence my own review. But this title caught my eye and I'd never heard of it, so before I downloaded the audio from the library website, I had a quick look through the GoodReads reviews. I came across many people who compared this to Forrest Gump. I have to agree. But it's like, Forrest Gump to the nth degree. It's just crazy and hilarious. No drama with broken women here. I also have to compare it to the Jim Carrey movie, Yes Man. Allan is an agreeable sort of fellow and he'll do anything to help someone else out, whether it's saving General Franco's life during the Spanish Revolution or giving Stalin the secret to the atomic bomb. Indirectly, in that case. Stalin was one of the few people Allan met that he didn't actually care for. Anyway, his propensity to say yes takes him around the world multiple times in a long life that is both well-lived and always entertaining.
I really enjoyed reading about the old man making a run for it and having one last, great adventure. My grandfather is 96 and basically wheelchair bound. I'm sure he'd like to go out the window and do whatever he likes for a few days. It's nice to read about someone actually doing it, fictional character or not.
I liked the reminder that our elderly have lived long lives that we don't necessarily know much about. Allan is just kind of rotting away in his nursing home, bored out of his mind except for his frequent battles with Director Alice, and no one knows what a full life he's lived because no one's bothered to ask. How many people is that true of? Probably a lot.
I love the dedication, which ends, "Those who only says what is the truth, they're not worth listening to." That's my motto. Why would I stick to the facts when I can tell you a story? Facts are boring. I think I would have liked Mr. Jonasson's grandfather.
The translation by Rod Bradbury is impeccably done and the narration by Steven Crossley is excellent.
For a fun romp through fairly recent history, pick this book up. ...more
Fereiba lived a lonely childhood in Afghanistan. Her mother died in childbirth and her stepmother never treated her like a real member of the family.Fereiba lived a lonely childhood in Afghanistan. Her mother died in childbirth and her stepmother never treated her like a real member of the family. Her stepmother does eventually arrange a marriage for her and it becomes a love match. Three children later, the Taliban are in power, Fereiba has had to give up the teaching job she loves, and their lives are shattered when the authorities knock on the door late one night, taking her husband Mahmood with them. Suddenly Fereiba finds herself alone with her children, fleeing Afghanistan and trying to reach family in England.
I like books like this. They always make me more thankful for the things I take for granted every day. It's easy to forget that not everyone is as fortunate as I am. I'm free to wear what I want, worship as please, marry whomever I want, work at any job I'm qualified for, and get an education. I have access to healthcare, a nice home, clean water, electricity, indoor plumbing...the list goes on. Not everyone has even the most basic of these.
I particularly enjoyed that the book starts before the Taliban were in power. Fereiba is a teacher, wearing stylish clothes and meeting her friends in public. The change to the Taliban regime is pretty abrupt in the book, I guess in the interest of time, but suddenly she can't teach and she can barely leave the house. When she does she has to wear a burqa and be accompanied by her husband. I've read widely enough to know that these changes have happened within my lifetime but it's good to remind those of us who are aware of it and to open the eyes of those who don't.
I felt so bad for the family as they traveled. They fought so hard to stay together and lived such a dangerous life. Caring for a sick infant made everything so much more stressful. Fereiba doesn't speak English, which is known widely enough to make a difference for them, so she has to rely on her teenage son for almost everything--a hard fact for a devoted mother trying to protect her children.
They stumbled on so many caring, helpful people though. Of course there were dangerous people who threatened them or tried to take advantage of them, but so many went out of their way to be kind. It was amazing.
I also liked that this made me more aware of the challenges surrounding refugees and immigrants. Some countries were so overwhelmed with the unending flood of people that they had become pretty heartless to the travelers' plights. But what is the answer when there are so many people coming through your borders that you can't track them all, much less find a way to help them feed and care for themselves? Some of the living situations were pretty dire.
If you enjoy reading about other cultures and being reminded how blessed your life really is, pick this one up.
Thanks to the publisher for giving me early access to the book in exchange for a review....more
I walked into the library on my lunch break to pick up a nonfiction book for my before-bed reading. I have enough unread novels at home. I was not goiI walked into the library on my lunch break to pick up a nonfiction book for my before-bed reading. I have enough unread novels at home. I was not going to check out any fiction. I grabbed the book I was there for and then started wandering the fiction stacks. It couldn't hurt to just look, right? OK, so I hadn't read anything by Patricia Briggs in a while. I needed to check out the next in the Mercy Thompson series since it was available. But that was it. Nothing else. I marched toward the checkout desk with blinders on. I would not be deterred.
But, oh! What's that? Over on the "Staff Recommends" shelf? It's so pretty! My feet were going that way of their own volition. My hands were reaching for it. Beautiful and creepy. A quick glance at the back. Fairy tale? Sold. I had Beautiful Darkness checked out and in the car before my brain even processed what had just happened.
It truly is a beautiful book. It's large and hardcover so it was very striking on display. The interior artwork is all gorgeous too. I took my time looking over each frame.
The story--? So-so. It was very dark, in a Lord of the Flies way. I was never entirely clear exactly what happened, but I was clear enough. There's a murdered little girl in the woods. All of these fairy-ish creatures fled--her body? her mind?-- when she died. Now they're alone in a harsh world trying to survive.
All of the personalities you would expect to see in this situation show up. The "Queen Bee," demanding that the others cater to her every whim. The caretaker who is doing her best for everyone. The outcasts. The sneaky manipulators. And a whole lot of clueless people who get themselves killed for no good reason.
It was just too episodic for me. Each smaller story lasted just a few frames. There was a larger story arc and I did like that one. I did not expect the ending at all. It was deliciously shivery.
The translation was done very well. I would never have guessed it wasn't originally written in English.
If you enjoyed Lord of the Flies, you'll probably like this twisted little beauty of a book. If you're looking for a Disney-ish fairy tale, keep those feet marching toward the checkout desk. This one's pretty disturbing....more
Tin Win is a successful lawyer who simply walks out of his life one day. His children have both graduated from college so he apparently has decided thTin Win is a successful lawyer who simply walks out of his life one day. His children have both graduated from college so he apparently has decided that he's a free man. There's a search but it quickly comes to a dead end in Bangkok. His daughter Julia decides several years later to go looking for him in Burma, his native country, after finding a love letter he had written to a woman named Mi Mi. She quickly stumbles onto a man named U Ba who is able to tell her father's story from his start as an abandoned peasant boy to the time he left Burma.
Eh. I enjoyed this. And then I got to the end. It felt way too Nicholas Sparks-y to me. Nothing against him, that's just not my kind of book. At all.
The book and translation are beautifully written and the audio version is fabulous. Cassandra Campbell is an excellent narrator. Burma is not a country that I've read much about but it was fascinating. The descriptions of Tin Win finding his way through the world as child, relying mostly on his sensitive hearing, were amazing. The story of his first love was heart-wrenching.
But then I don't understand what happens. We are told how he ends up in America but I can't say that I truly get it. I can't lay out my questions without giving away spoilers, so I'll just say--why? I think it was a cultural thing. But it felt like a contrivance to set the story on the teary Nicholas Sparks path.
So I obviously don't think this is for everyone but if you like reading love stories with your box of tissues nearby, pick this one up....more
Jean Perdu is a broken man, not really living his life but only existing. His one great love left him twenty years ago and he's never moved on. He putJean Perdu is a broken man, not really living his life but only existing. His one great love left him twenty years ago and he's never moved on. He puts together gigantic puzzles in his spartan apartment and sells books on his book barge, The Literary Apothecary. He knows exactly the right book to sell to the lovelorn when they enter his shop, but he doesn't know how to fix his own life.
When Catherine, fresh out of a devastating marriage, moves in across the hall, they both sense that they could have a real, lasting relationship, a relationship that neither of them is ready for. In an act of desperation, Jean casts his barge off into the Seine, bestselling author Max in tow, and heads off into the sunset, or at least the south of France, to seek peace and healing.
I truly wanted to like this more than I did. I read a couple of reviews, thought it sounded like the perfect book for me, and went to request it on Netgalley. It was good, not great, and in the month or so since I finished it, I've largely forgotten it.
My biggest problem was the title. I estimate that 2/3 of the book takes place outside of Paris. So now it's The Little France Bookshop. That's misleading but still, no real complaints here. I haven't been to France but it's high on my wishlist. And while quite a bit of the story does take place in the bookshop or around books, it wasn't quite as much as I expected. Instead of a love story to books, or a love story revolving around books, I felt like it was more of a love story with a few books thrown in. That's not quite fair because there were a lot of titles and author's names tossed about but they almost felt like afterthoughts. To me, anyway.
Still, the settings did come to life for me. I'm ready to take a cruise on the waterways of France in the summertime. Especially on a floating bookstore. I want to gaze at the stars, dance the tango, smell the flowers, eat the food and drink the wine.
I liked the three men who ultimately end up aboard The Literary Apothecary and the way their lives contrast to each other. Young author Max hasn't experience all-consuming love yet and he's frankly afraid of the idea. Jean had his and can't let her go. Jack-of-all-trades Cuneo joins them later on---and I can't finish this thought because that will get into spoilers.
I personally don't read too many straight-up romantic-type books, so this turned out not to be a great fit for me. Those who enjoy romance more than I do will love this one. But even for me, it was worth the read, if only for the gorgeous setting.
Simon Pare did an excellent job with the translation. If I hadn't known it was translated, I don't think I ever would have guessed. The language was gorgeous.
Thanks to the publisher for allowing me access to a review copy through Netgalley....more
In a hospital in England, the anti-Christ is born, making unlikely allies of the demon Crowley and the angel Aziraphale. They've both spent quite a biIn a hospital in England, the anti-Christ is born, making unlikely allies of the demon Crowley and the angel Aziraphale. They've both spent quite a bit of time on Earth and they actually kind of like the place. They're not ready for the End of Days. So they set out to make sure it doesn't happen.
I read this book about half a lifetime ago, which makes me feel a little old. I really enjoyed it. When I saw that it was going to be adapted for radio by the BBC and we could stream it on our side of the pond, I was excited.
I think I was a little distracted as I was listening to it. I only listened to it around the house so I could stream it over our wifi. And of course I was puttering around as I listened. I laughed in all the right places but it felt disjointed to me. I think that's at least partly because I would get focused on whatever I was doing for a minute or two and then try to pick up the thread of the narrative again. Also, the BBC app is terrible. I could only listen to five minutes at a time before the audio started whistling at me, so then I'd have to exit completely out and go back in to listen to the next five minutes. That shows some sort of dedication on my part, doesn't it, that I listened to the whole thing like that?
Also, (I'm afraid to say this), I tend to love Neil Gaiman's books but I've never been a huge Terry Pratchett fan. My sister has tried to get me to read the Discworld books forever. I've read a few. I enjoyed one and the others were just too random and over the top for me. That's how Good Omens felt to me now. I don't know if my taste has changed or if it just stood out to me more in this format.
The adaptation was very well done though. I haven't listened to many (if any) other radio adaptations, and I liked the full cast and the sound effects. I can't think of any weaknesses in that aspect of things.
I don't know if this is still available, but fans of the book should definitely check it out. I think I just had too many other things going on because I really should have loved it....more
It's 1875 and Archie Dent's parents belong to The Septemberists, a society dedicated to remembering the damage caused by monsters called the MangleborIt's 1875 and Archie Dent's parents belong to The Septemberists, a society dedicated to remembering the damage caused by monsters called the Mangleborn and to preventing them from rising again to destroy civilization. On a routine trip to the Septemberist headquarters, the older Dents are taken over by Manglespawn, children of a Mangleborn, and forced to Florida where one of the monsters is trying to break free. Archie and his family servant, a tik tok man named Mr. Rivets, try to save the Dents but fail. They set off to seek help from other Septemberists and make a couple of brilliant young friends along the way.
Whew! That sounds complicated! It's not really. This is a middle grade steampunk adventure and everything's explained pretty easily.
Archie's a great protagonist. He's small for his age, smart, kind of a nerd, and apparently there's nothing special about him. He wants so badly to be a hero that he feels his normalcy is a weakness. His friend Fergus is an electrician/scientist of amazing talents. His friend Hachi is a fierce warrior, utilizing five clockwork toys to her advantage. Archie seems to just be...Archie.
I love the whole world this is set in. The fledgling colonies of North America lost contact with Europe when there was a catastrophic Mangleborn rising. They had to learn to live peacefully with the Native Americans so they've come to be known as the United Nations of America. The states we know correspond more closely to tribes of Native Americans. The colonists come to be known as the Yankee tribe. The society is pretty advanced but everything runs on clockwork and steam power.
I was fortunate to see author Alan Gratz at his book launch and he said that he wanted to write a "book of awesome," so he wrote down all the awesome things he could think of and tried to fit them all into one book. It works for me and I'm sure it will work for younger boys and girls looking for an action-packed read. I can't wait to get my hands on the second book in the trilogy....more
Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality has taken boys on board and is heading to London. Sophronia knows that somethinMademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality has taken boys on board and is heading to London. Sophronia knows that something is afoot, if she can only figure out just what it is. Someone seems to be determined to kidnap Dimity and her brother (What is his name? I can't be bothered to look it up just at this moment), and Sophronia's friends aren't speaking to her.
Hmmm...I loved this while I was reading it and laughed my way through several parts, even going so far as to read them to my husband. But now that I'm sitting down to write my review a couple of weeks later, I find that I've forgotten most of the book. I'm going to knock it back a star. I think it's fallen prey to the "filler" curse. How often does book two of a series only feel like filler? Entirely too often for my taste.
The book was as witty and charming as I expect Gail Carriger's books to be. I loved that Lord Akeldama finally made an appearance. He will eat Sophronia up! Hopefully not intentionally. I actually enjoyed the triangle that is forming between Sophronia, spoiled Lord Felix, and down-to-earth Soap. I'm Team Soap all the way! I fear that it's a doomed relationship before it even gets started though.
The whole thing with the other girls shunning Sophronia felt very forced. She's a smart girl and she should have realized what was going on. I guess sometimes it's hard to see it when you're right in the middle of things though.
And I think that's all I have to say about that. I'll definitely continue with the series, I just hope the next installment is a bit stronger....more
When I was offered a copy of Neil Gaiman's newest short story collection, Trigger Warning, for review, my first thought was to jump on it. I adore NeiWhen I was offered a copy of Neil Gaiman's newest short story collection, Trigger Warning, for review, my first thought was to jump on it. I adore Neil Gaiman's work. He is one of only about three authors who get their own shelf name on my GoodReads account. And then I remembered that I wasn't particularly happy with The Ocean at the End of the Lane. I know I'm in the minority and I've never even written a review for it, but all I can say is that it was too weird, even for me. I hate feeling honor-bound to review a book that I didn't love so I wavered. Then I decided to go for it. I'm so glad I did!
Overall impression: It started off with a couple of stories that I didn't particularly care for so I was getting worried. I'd read the third story earlier (In George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois's Songs of Love and Death) and enjoyed it, but still, it was a re-read. The fourth story started to catch my attention and by the fifth, I was hooked. There were probably one or two others I didn't care for in the remaining nineteen stories, but the collection overall is fantastic.
And because I find it impossible not to mention what I think of every single story in a collection, here's where I get long-winded.
"Making a Chair"--A poem about--you guessed it--making a chair. I assume Gaiman was pushing through some writer's block with this one. Haven't we all been there? You have a million real things to do but something unimportant proves to be a welcome distraction?
"A Lunar Labyrinth"--Normally short horror stories scare me to death. So much is left unsaid. I can generally read Stephen King novels and sleep like a baby, but hand me one of his short stories and I'll be up all night, jumping at every sound. This story left a bit too much unsaid. I was uneasy but I didn't really understand what was going on so it stopped there. I'd completely forgotten about it until I started looking back through the book to write this review.
"The Thing About Cassandra"--I like the way this story turns completely upside down about halfway through. Even as a re-read it felt surprising.
"Down to a Sunless Sea"--I suspected where this atmospheric creeper was going but I still liked it.
"The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains..."--Probably my favorite in the collection. It has a dark, twisted fairy tale feel to it. Gaiman writes so much that he's practically impossible to categorize. This is written in the style of his that I like best.
"My Last Landlady"--I had no idea where this was going but it got darker and darker. I liked it.
"Adventure Story"--This one was just a lot of fun. The narrator's mom refers to meeting someone unexpectedly in the grocery store as an adventure. But she occasionally hints at some real adventures his dad (and possibly her? I don't remember now) had when they were younger. It made me think about the untold stories that people walk around with every day.
"Orange"--I love the format. It's written as a sort of police report so it unfolds gradually, leaving the reader to piece everything together. It's the story of an ordinary family and the extraordinary things that happen to them when the older sister is--well, that would be telling, wouldn't it? I enjoyed it.
"A Calendar of Tales"--I'll try to restrain myself from reviewing each of these. I read about the idea for this mini collection on Twitter and I was excited to see the end result. It was a bit hit-or-miss for me.
"The Case of Death and Honey"--Sherlock Holmes. I liked it well enough but it dragged on a bit too long and moved through time a bit too much for my taste. I prefer Gaiman's Sherlock tale in Fragile Things.
"The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury"--I enjoyed this while I was reading it but now that a little time has passed, I find that I've, well, forgotten it a bit. Not even trying to be ironic.
"Jerusalem"--Apparently there is a real disorder-y thing where people visit Jerusalem and then find themselves sort of spreading God's Word through the streets. Who knew? Not this girl. Of course this is fodder for a good story in Gaiman's hands.
"Click-Clack the Rattlebag"--Now this is the kind of horror story I like!
"An Invocation of Incuriosity"--I liked the idea but the story felt like the introduction to a novel. I really wanted to know more.
"'And Weep, Like Alexander'"--Fun enough. What if there were an uninventor running around out there, erasing some of our more egregious inventions?
"Nothing O'Clock"--An unsettling Doctor Who story. I've only watched the show a few times because my husband can't stand Christopher Eccleston as the Doctor, but this feels like it fits right in that world.
"Diamonds and Pearls: A Fairy Tale"--This apparently went along with some artwork on one of Amanda Palmer's albums. It was okay but I would like to see the photo it went with.
"The Return of the Thin White Duke"--This was one of those stories that, in your heart of hearts, you know works best as a story, but you really, really want to know what came before and after. It felt cyclical in a way that I can only compare to Stephen King's Dark Tower series. There's definitely more to it but we'll never know what it is.
"Feminine Endings"--Another creeper. It reminded me a bit of "Stilled Life" by Pat Cadigan, a short story that I think about surprisingly often.
"Observing the Formalities"--A story poem told from Maleficent's point of view. Pretty good.
"The Sleeper and the Spindle"--Another fairy tale. This has a bit of a feminist slant so of course I liked it.
"Witch Work"--Another poem but I can't say that I really understand it.
"In Relig Odhráin"--I took this to be about religion and the inconvenient truths that get buried under dogma. I think this is one of those things that everyone will interpret differently though. I liked it well enough.
"Black Dog"--Shadow from American Gods turns back up. I really need to re-read that someday. This was a solid story that kept me turning the pages....more
Mercy Lynch is a nurse in the Civil War, which has been lingering on for decades. Like many people, she has torn loyalties. She's a nurse for the ConfMercy Lynch is a nurse in the Civil War, which has been lingering on for decades. Like many people, she has torn loyalties. She's a nurse for the Confederacy but her husband is a soldier in the Union. Shortly after she receives word that he died in a POW camp, she receives a telegram notifying her that her long-estranged father is very sick and asking for her to come see him in Tacoma, Washington. That's quite a trek away from Richmond, Virginia, especially given the state of the country. Duty and curiosity win out and she sets out via dirigible and then train to hopscotch her way across the country.
I really enjoyed Boneshaker so I had high hopes for this book. I downloaded it on audio but read the first in print. When I realized that Kate Reading was the narrator, I wasn't quite sure what to think. Don't get me wrong--I've enjoyed Ms. Reading's narration but I've only listened to her reading fiction that is more directly targeted to women. I wasn't sure how she'd handle the steampunk action that I expected. I needn't have worried. The performance was so pitch perfect that I'll continue with the series on audio.
It's been a while since I read Boneshaker but I do think Dreadnought may actually be a little better. It's not a direct sequel but it does take place in the same book world and at the very end a few characters overlap.
I was a little disappointed that the rotters (read: zombies) aren't around very much. But when they are--holy cow!
I didn't like Mercy quite as much as I liked Briar from the first book but she was still a strong character. She's just trying to get across the country as fast as she can and she finds herself caught up in some wartime intrigue/action. She and the other civilian passengers try to stay out of it but they keep getting dragged into things whether they like it or not. Mercy just handles everything that comes along and does what needs to be done, whether that's patching up a soldier who's been shot or breaking into a private car to find out exactly what the train is carrying.
The book is so tightly focused on Mercy that I was left wanting to know more about a few other characters. Of course I don't remember their names now and I don't have a print copy to refer back to. The Texas Ranger, the Mexican inspectors, the awfully warlike young lady sharing Mercy's compartment--I'm curious about them all. I hope they show up in later books.
This was a great audio book and I highly recommend it. I can't wait to get my hands on the next in the series!...more
Young Mickey hears a noise deep in the night and finds himself falling into the Night Kitchen, where he has to help the cooks get the milk into the baYoung Mickey hears a noise deep in the night and finds himself falling into the Night Kitchen, where he has to help the cooks get the milk into the batter.
What a fun little book! I never read much Sendak when I was little for some reason, so this was completely new to me. The illustrations were tons of fun, of course. The kitchen is set against a "skyline" of boxes of cake mix, tall salt shakers, and an elevated bread train. They're perfectly whimsical for this book. I imagine children would love the story of little Mickey saving the day. I know I did! How much fun is it to imagine that only you can accomplish something important while the world, including your parents, is sleeping? It should also be a great book to read aloud. It's short and to the point and rhymes just enough to roll off the tongue.
I highly recommend this one to parents with young children as a fun little bedtime story. ...more
Will Robie is a sanctioned assassin for the US government. Needless to say, if he screws up he's officially on his own. He gets an odd assignment amidWill Robie is a sanctioned assassin for the US government. Needless to say, if he screws up he's officially on his own. He gets an odd assignment amidst the cartel bosses and terrorists that are his usual hits. He's assigned to take out a woman who works for the Department of Defense. The official story is, she's got terrorist ties. He walks into her apartment and realizes something isn't right. He freezes and re-evaluates as her child wakes up and starts to panic, just in time for a second sniper to kill both him and his mom. Robie goes underground to find out what's going on. He climbs on a bus and watches a teen girl board as well. Shortly behind her is a man who looks like a professional. Robie watches as the man prepares to kill the girl, ready to act if he needs to. It turns out, she's capable of taking care of herself but now she's on the run with Robie.
I wanted something pretty exciting and fun to listen to and I have to say this did fit the bill. It took me by surprise when the sound effects started though. I can't recall having sound effects in many other audio books and I'm not sure if I like them. Mostly they just yank me out of the story as I look around, wondering where the gunshots are coming from. (I live kind of in the country in the South. It's not unusual for neighbors to indulge in some target practice.) I liked David McLarty's narration quite a bit. He has a gruff kind of voice that I thought suited the story perfectly. I also liked that Orlagh Cassidy read the female dialog but I occasionally felt too much like she was actually reading to me. I know, it's an audiobook and she is reading to me but I don't want it to sound that way. Mostly I enjoyed her narration too though.
While the book itself was exciting and I never did figure out exactly what was going on until the end, I saw too much of it coming from way too far away. There were a couple of times where I caught myself thinking, "Heaven help us if this is the best and brightest our country has to offer" and rolling my eyes. I might not have put all the pieces together but I did at least know what the pieces were. I'm pretty sure the whole thing was supposed to be a big surprise.
I don't know that I'll be running out to read or listen to more books by this author but if the mood strikes for another thriller-ish read, I'd give him another try, either in print or audio....more
Linda, an overweight girl in fifth grade, gives a report about whales one day. Someone passes around a note that "Blubber is a good name for her" andLinda, an overweight girl in fifth grade, gives a report about whales one day. Someone passes around a note that "Blubber is a good name for her" and Linda has a new nickname. The other kids start to tease and harass her and just generally make her life miserable. Our narrator, Jill, watches all this and even takes part in it.
Holy cow, what mean little kids these are! This was hard to read, even as an adult. Or maybe it's because I'm an adult and unconsciously prefer to look back at childhood with rose-colored glasses. We definitely had a pecking order in our class and the kids at the bottom of it were picked on but I don't remember it being this bad! The sad thing is that it all feels real though. I tended to keep to myself so there could have been mean girls cornering other girls in the bathroom and stripping them off and making fun of them mercilessly for all I know. And even if my class wasn't that mean, just the act of avoiding someone or always choosing him or her last for teams was damaging enough. There may be degrees but bullying is still bullying.
The beauty of the book is that the reader first has enough distance to see how cruelly the other kids treat Linda and then, when the tables are turned, learn how it feels to be tormented. It definitely teaches a lesson about how destructive bullying is without being too preachy.
I don't know if there are better books about bullying out there but this one has become a classic. Children should have to read it or something like it so that they can learn how hurtful their actions can be. And if a child is being picked on, it lets them know that he or she is not alone....more
Anytime kids gather together in the dark, scary stories are inevitably told. Alvin Schwartz gathered a good selection of the most popular and publisheAnytime kids gather together in the dark, scary stories are inevitably told. Alvin Schwartz gathered a good selection of the most popular and published them in this anthology.
I kind of think this scared me when I was little but I don't actually remember ever checking it out from the library. My theory is that I knew it would scare me so I steered clear. I do remember all my little classmates rushing to check out the one copy we had in our school library though.
Reading this now, the stories aren't particularly scary. The author chose to divide the book into sections, with the first being "Jump" stories, where the teller gets to the climax and gives out a blood-curdling scream to scare the wits out of the listeners. I can see that they would be scary in person but on the page they were actually a little silly. The others were a little more fulfilling if you're looking for a frightening read. There are sections about ghosts and urban legends and even a few songs. (How's this for a coincidence? I read "The Hearse Song" here, "The worms crawl in, The worms crawl out, The worms play pinochle on your snout" and then came across it again in my very next read, Blubber.) It was interesting to me as an older reader to recognize basic elements here that I've come across in other books that were published later. I can't help but wonder if the later books got the idea from this one or if they are all just referencing the same old folktales and legends.
The illustrations by Stephen Gammell are downright creepy and perfect for the book.
Young readers who like a good fright should find what they're looking for in this collection....more
Our young British protagonist and his Norwegian grandmother know something that we don't: Witches are real and they live among us. They look like sweeOur young British protagonist and his Norwegian grandmother know something that we don't: Witches are real and they live among us. They look like sweet neighbor ladies but they're keeping a lot of secrets. Chief among them? They want to wipe out the children of the world.
When Grandmamma and Grandson (do we ever learn his name?) go on vacation to the coast of England, they stumble on the annual witches' meeting, led by The Grand High Witch herself. The witches have a plan to eliminate all the children of England at once! That won't happen if Grandmamma and Grandson have anything to say about it.
Confession: I remember starting to watch this movie when I was little and spending the night at my grandmother's house but it scared me to death. We had to turn it off. I told my husband this and he asked, "How old were you?" I looked up the release date of The Witches. It came out when I was 12. 12! And I was probably 13 by the time it came out on video or on tv or however I happened to catch it! What can I say? I was sheltered. And Anjelica Huston intimidates me to this day. I can just imagine facing her as a tween, on a screen or not. *shudder*
Now that I'm firmly in my 30s, I'm brave enough to read the source. It was so much fun! It was (obviously) scary and suspenseful enough to satisfy most children but it had an element of silliness and impossibility that captures the imagination. There's really no such thing as a bald witch with claws, no toes, blue spit, and a removable face. But what if there were? *shiver*
I enjoyed Grandson's bravery and Grandmamma's willingness to let him take risks for his own well-being and that of others. How often do adults trust children with things like that? Probably not often enough if you're looking through the eyes of a child. I also liked that Grandson turns what could be a disability into a strength. He never lets anything hold him back. In fact, he embraces the changes that come his way.
I absolutely loved the introduction, "A Note About Witches." "In fairy-tales, witches always wear silly black hats and black cloaks, and they ride on broomsticks. But this is not a fairy-tale. This is about REAL WITCHES." And in a suitably alarming tone, the facts about witches are laid out.
I loved the illustrations by Quentin Blake as well. They were silly but scary enough to match the story.
There's a group of sheltered kids, like me, who this won't be appropriate for. But if you and/or your child like a fun little fright, give this one a try. I'm glad I finally gave the book a chance. Now maybe I'll be brave enough to try the movie again for Halloween......more
Chronicling the lives of Japanese brides coming to America, Buddha in the Attic is deceptively slim. Almost every sentence begins a new story that isChronicling the lives of Japanese brides coming to America, Buddha in the Attic is deceptively slim. Almost every sentence begins a new story that is only hinted at, yet I saw at least the broad strokes of an entire life in just those few words. There is no main character and the book is told collectively. (NOT a direct quote) "We came from Japan. We left our remote farms. We left our lives in Tokyo. We left our fishing villages. We cried as we left our families. We left happily, vowing to never look back." Listening to this on audio, the style bothered me a bit at first. It's so freaking repetitive! I do not do well with anything repetitive. Once I did settle into the narrative, I saw the beauty of it. In about four hours, I was a part of the lives of what felt like hundreds of Japanese women, each with her own story.
The book starts with the young women on the boat, uncertain of their futures and their husbands. They've never even met the men they're traveling halfway around the world to marry. Then there's early married life, children, life as an immigrant, and, in the early years of WWII, life as a "traitor." It was sometimes heart-breaking but always thought-provoking.
Samantha Quan narrates beautifully. I've not been a big fan of Carrington MacDuffie's straightforward narration in the past but it worked very well for her small part in this book.
I might have rated this higher in print, despite the excellent narration, simply because I could have skimmed over the seemingly endless, "We came from"s and "We gave birth in"s. In whatever format you choose, this is an excellent little book and I do recommend it....more