I loved Absolutely Almost. I think I loved it at least as much as Umbrella Summer. Maybe even a little bit more. I don't know. Time will tell. I don't...moreI loved Absolutely Almost. I think I loved it at least as much as Umbrella Summer. Maybe even a little bit more. I don't know. Time will tell. I don't actually have to choose between the two, right?! I can LOVE two GREAT books by one very talented middle grade author, can't I?!
Albie is the protagonist of Absolutely Almost. His narration gives the book a just right feel. It's a satisfying read about a boy who struggles with meeting expectations: his parents, his grandparents, his teachers, his own. He's never good or great, he's always only almost. Almost good at this or that. Almost ready for this or that. And this oppressive almost gets him down now and then. Not always, mind you. I don't want to give the impression that Albie is sad and depressed and unable to cope with life. Albie is more than capable of having a good time, of enjoying life, of appreciating the world around him.
I really appreciated Graff's characterization. Not only do readers come to love (in some cases I imagine love, love, love) Albie, but, all the characters are well written or well developed. Albie's parents at times seem to be disconnected, out of touch with who their son is, what life is like for him, what he wants, what he needs. But just when I get ready to dismiss them as neglectful or clueless, something would happen that would make me pause and reconsider. Readers also get to know several other characters: his nanny, Calista, his math teacher, Mr. Clifton, and his friend, Betsy. For the record, he does have more than one friend. But Betsy is his new friend, his first friend that he makes at his new school. It is their friendship that is put to the test in the novel. It is his relationship with Betsy that allows for him to progress a bit emotionally. If that makes sense. (So yes, I know that his best-best friend is Erlan. But Erlan has been his friend for as long as he can remember, probably since they were toddlers. He's completely comfortable in that friendship. Their friendship does come into the novel here and there. But for me, it wasn't the most interesting aspect of the novel.)
I loved the setting of Absolutely Almost. I loved how we get to spend time with Albie in school and out of school. I loved how we get to see him in and out of his comfort zone. I loved that we got to see his home life. We got to see for ourselves how he interacts with parents. I love how Albie is able to love his parents even if they don't really make him top priority. Especially his Dad. Albie's need for his Dad's attention, the right kind of attention, can be FELT. Albie held onto hope that one day his Dad would find time to spend with him, that one day his Dad would see him--really see him. There were moments that hope lessened a bit as Albie gave into his emotions-of-the-moment. But Albie's love for his dad always won out at the end. His hope would return.
The writing. I loved it. I did. I think the quality of the writing was amazing. There were chapters that just got to me. Their were paragraphs that just resonated with me. The writing just felt TRUE.
Absolutely, Almost is set in New York City. (less)
Running away from possible bad news, Lauren Chase, our heroine, finds herself almost hopelessly lost when a road trip goes wrong. Lauren enters a dust...moreRunning away from possible bad news, Lauren Chase, our heroine, finds herself almost hopelessly lost when a road trip goes wrong. Lauren enters a dust storm on a highway, and, when the dust is cleared she's entering the town LOST. Her first impressions of this town, well, I'm sure we'd share if we were in her place. But Lauren decides that as weird as the town is, it is still better than going back out on the highway this late at night when you have no idea where you are and how to get back to civilization. One of the many weird things about the town is how all the residents act like they know something she doesn't: that she'll not be leaving town anytime soon, that she's just as stuck as they are. Lauren tries to leave town. Most of the day she tries to leave town, to no avail. No one is surprised to see the newbie return to town frustrated and confused. They tell her to find the Missing Man. He might be able to help her find what she's lost and enable her to leave the town of Lost.
The Lost has two symbolic characters, the "Missing Man" and the "Finder." Lauren ends up meeting both men...
In the past, Lauren has evaded her feelings. She's not dealt with everything that has happened in her life. But now, she almost has no choice but to own up to her feelings and reflect on the past and go through her memories one by one. Her focus is on the "possible" bad news. Her mother's latest test results. Is the cancer back? Is it terminal? How long does her mother have left?
Will Lauren find her own way out of Lost? Does she even want to leave Lost?(less)
Unbroken is an incredible read and an emotional one. It is the biography of Louis Zamperini. Readers learn about his family, his growing up years, his...moreUnbroken is an incredible read and an emotional one. It is the biography of Louis Zamperini. Readers learn about his family, his growing up years, his training and competitive years. Zamperini competed in track in the 1936 Olympics. He went home knowing that the next Olympics would be his Olympics. He spent years training for an Olympics that was never to be. The arrival of war shifts the focus to Zamperini in the military. Much of the book focuses on the war years. I suppose there are three sections that focus on the war years: his time as a bombardier, his crash and survival in the seas--this section was INTENSE, his "rescue" and time spent as a POW in Japan--and I thought the earlier section was intense! There is so much drama, so much emotion in this one. I don't mean that in a bad way at all. It's not overly dramatic or inappropriately dramatic or manipulative. The book is straightforward in its horrors. But the description of what life was like in the prisoner of war camps is vivid. Same with the descriptions of his survival at sea. For over a month, Zamperini and two others barely survived in two small rafts with essentially little to no food and water. So as I said, this is an emotional and unforgettable story of survival. What I didn't quite expect to be as emotional was the final section which focuses on his return to the States after the war is over. Those months and years where he had to get on with his life, to return to a "normal" life, his mental and emotional struggles. Since he was famous, it was made all the more difficult perhaps? As I said, I wasn't expecting that section to be as emotional as previous sections. There are a couple of scenes in this last section that just get to me.
I didn't not like it. I could easily say I liked it well enough. But you know how there are certain books that you read and get excited about and just...moreI didn't not like it. I could easily say I liked it well enough. But you know how there are certain books that you read and get excited about and just can't wait to talk about? This wasn't that kind of book for me. While there was not one thing about the book that I didn't like, I just didn't find myself loving it. I don't know why readers feel, in some ways, obligated to love everything they read.
I liked the opening paragraphs. "Oliver Crisp was only ten years old, but they had been a busy and exciting ten years, because Oliver's mother and father were explorers. They had met on top of Mount Everest. They had been married at the Lost Temple of Amon Hotep, and had spent their honeymoon searching for the elephants' graveyard. And when young Oliver was born, they simply bought themselves a back carrier and an off-road baby carriage and went right on exploring." See. It starts off cute and promising. And it doesn't disappoint. You know from the start what kind of book this will be. And you get just that.
I liked the characters. I liked Oliver Crisp. I liked the wandering albatross, Mr. Culpeper. I liked the near-sighted mermaid, Iris. I liked the island, Cliff. I liked how they met and became friends. You can certainly see this is a unique story.
I liked the pacing. It is a nice, imaginative adventure story starring unique characters.
I like the illustrations. I like the layout. Many kids, like Lewis Carroll's Alice, do look for stories with plenty of pictures! It's a sign of it not being horribly dull. If you share Alice's opinion on books that is. (less)
Is it a horror novel or comedy? Readers will be the final judge in the end.
I do not like horror novels. There are a few slight exceptions now and the...moreIs it a horror novel or comedy? Readers will be the final judge in the end.
I do not like horror novels. There are a few slight exceptions now and then that I've discovered by accident. But. For the most part, I don't seek out horror novels. So, if I don't seek out horror novels, why would I read The Twilight of Lake Woebegotten? For one reason, primarily. The book pokes fun at Stephanie Meyer's Twilight series. It asks a big 'what if?' What if the heroine is not good, clumsy, and naive? What if the heroine is evil and manipulative? What if she wears a mask in every relationship? Being who she needs to be--in that moment--to get what she ultimately wants?
Bonnie Grayduck is the heroine who appears to fall madly and deeply in love with Edwin Scullen, a vampire. And she is one of the monsters in this horror novel. The events loosely fit into the Twilight books, so, one could definitely see the book as being a parody. But this parody isn't a ha-ha parody.
Bonnie is a dark person. She doesn't think nice, happy thoughts. She wants what she wants when she wants it. It is all about power and control and desire. And she has adult desires. Don't expect the "innocent" tension or chemistry from Twilight. This book is for more mature readers, I'd say.
Quotes: So Edwin had taken a sudden trip to Canada. Interesting. It was insane to think he'd left town because of me...but in my experience, most things in the world do seem to resolve around me. And if they don't start out that way, they get there eventually. (50, ARC)
"Ike's great," I said, because if I told her I thought he was podgy and dull she'd get offended, "but I like Edwin." She looked at me, now. "Really? Scullen? You don't like Ike?" "I like him, what's not to like, but, not that way." "I don't understand you," J said, voice heavy with mistrust. "Ike is so sweet and good and kind, and Edwin...he's so cold and condescending and superior." I gave a great sigh. "I know. I've always been attracted to boys like that." (80, ARC)
I'm not much of a reader, but if I was, apparently I'd have a hard time reading any novel written in the last fifty years that didn't have a brooding sexy conflicted vampire in it--the shelves were just full of the stuff. (91, ARC)
"You are a brave, wonderful, suicidally stupid, diplomatic-incident-causing, amazing woman," Edwin said, kissing my face all over. We were in my bed, two nights after Gretchen's very timely demise. He'd only been back for about ten minutes, and he'd already called me names, clutched me to his bosom, sobbed a bit, brooded a fair amount, and proclaimed his love in a fairly operatic fashion. He'd finally settled down to snuggling me in bed which was rather less exhausting. (196, ARC)(less)
Readers may be familiar with the character of Rocket already. Rocket is the star of several picture books: How Rocket Learned to Read and Rocket Write...moreReaders may be familiar with the character of Rocket already. Rocket is the star of several picture books: How Rocket Learned to Read and Rocket Writes a Story.
This story is simple and repetitive. Rocket wants to learn new words and add new words to the word tree. He brings new things--new objects--to his friend the yellow bird. The bird tells him to "drop it" each time. Rocket is usually a good dog, so he obeys. New words are added. But what happens when Rocket does not want to drop it?
I liked this one. I liked the problem solving. It's a cute story. (less)