Despite a few flaws, I really liked this book. Although it's categorized as YA, I have to wonder who the real audience is. Do modern teenagers really...moreDespite a few flaws, I really liked this book. Although it's categorized as YA, I have to wonder who the real audience is. Do modern teenagers really get this book? Do they have any concept of mix-tapes and what it meant to discover new music back when you had to seek it out? Or is Rowell's intended audience people in their 30s and 40s feeling nostalgic for those day?
I liked the characters of Eleanor and Park. They were smart, likable, and very sympathetic. I think Rowell did a great job of capturing into words all those feelings of first love, isolation, etc. This book will make you remember your first love and all those angsty feelings of adolescence. It will also make you want to listen to The Smiths, if you ever listened to them in your youth.
The few little flaws that I mentioned before, I've seen in other reviews. They're not really that spoilery, but if you haven't read the book yet, you might not want to read them. (view spoiler)[One is that the jump from disdain to infatuation was pretty quick. I didn't always understand why Park was so attracted to Eleanor, but maybe that was because the book contains a lot more of how she sees herself, instead of how he sees her. And when we do get snippets of how he sees her, it makes her image of herself seem pretty skewed...which is believable. The other is that Park's version of growing up Asian in middle-America in the 80s seems extremely mild. Would Steve's friendship really keep him from any kind of negative reaction in the entire school? The racism in general is extremely dialed back. Really, Eleanor is the only person we ever see bullied. Park complains that Asian guys aren't considered hot, but most of the girls in the book seem to find him attractive: Eleanor (obviously), Tina, Kim (Cal's crush), the girl at the record store, even Eleanor's friends DeNice & Beebi. (hide spoiler)] ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
I don't watch Big Bang Theory often (eventually, I want to watch the whole series), but when do, I really enjoy Sheldon Cooper. I think the comparison...moreI don't watch Big Bang Theory often (eventually, I want to watch the whole series), but when do, I really enjoy Sheldon Cooper. I think the comparison between Don Tillman & Sheldon is pretty accurate, except that instead of this:
Don looks like this:
...with bad hair & glasses...and also washboard abs under his terrible clothes.
Don might be one of my favorite literary characters of the year. While he's completely oblivious to some things, he's extremely self-aware in others. He struggles to balance maintaining his individuality with conforming enough to make his own life and others' lives easier. He's written humorously, but still has some depth. All the main characters are well-rounded, not just caricatures.
This is the second Agatha Christie novel I've read, and both of them have been for book groups. While I really enjoyed Murder on the Orient Express, I...moreThis is the second Agatha Christie novel I've read, and both of them have been for book groups. While I really enjoyed Murder on the Orient Express, I found this one disappointing. Published in 1969, Christie's characters seem to reflect her own belief that the world was going to hell in a hippie handbasket. I thought the action lagged more than MOE, with Poirot endlessly traipsing around the small town of Woodleigh Common in his unsuitable shoes interviewing witnesses. I saw the ending coming, although Christie did throw in a few twists that I didn't expect...one fairly believable (view spoiler)[: the affair between Michael Garfield and Rowena Drake (hide spoiler)] and the other ridiculously far fetched (view spoiler)[: Michael being Miranda's father (hide spoiler)].(less)
The beginning of the book was great -- setting up a smart, science-loving, female protagonist -- but then everything went a little wonky.
The "Cretace...moreThe beginning of the book was great -- setting up a smart, science-loving, female protagonist -- but then everything went a little wonky.
The "Cretaceous Surprises exhibit" was confusing. Was it a trip back through time? A re-creation? And the existence of a vegetarian T-Rex wasn't given any explanation.
The author profile on the back jacket flap explains that "Robert Neubecker was inspired to write this story after reading about Falcarius utahensis, a dinosaur whose ancestors evolved from being meat eaters to vegetarians." Falcarius utahensis were actually related to Velociraptors, a much smaller carnivore than T-Rex.
The illustrations of a big, blue, vegetable-loving T-Rex are cute, but not scientifically accurate. I think my fact-obsessed first grader is rubbing off on me. (less)
Duncan's crayons have all gone on strike, each leaving a letter detailing his/her gripes. Grey feels overused. Pink feels underutilized. Yellow and Or...moreDuncan's crayons have all gone on strike, each leaving a letter detailing his/her gripes. Grey feels overused. Pink feels underutilized. Yellow and Orange are arguing over which one is the correct color of the sun.
This is one of those fantastic books that is written just as much for adults who read to children as it is for actual children. (less)
Published in 1950, this book takes you back to a time when an ice cream cone cost a nickel, kids bought horse meat for their dogs at the pet store, an...morePublished in 1950, this book takes you back to a time when an ice cream cone cost a nickel, kids bought horse meat for their dogs at the pet store, and a third-grader could run all over Portland by himself.
Henry is just an average kid with a tendency to get himself into interesting situations. He finds a skinny mutt and, after checking with his mom, brings him home on the city bus. Chaos ensues. He buys two guppies at the pet shop and ends up with a bedroom full of canning jars filled with guppies. And then his mom needs her canning jars back. He accidentally loses another kid's expensive football and has to earn the money collecting nightcrawlers. His teacher gives him the lead role in the school Christmas play as a "little boy" because he's the shortest boy in his 4th grade class, but his dog and a bucket of green paint get him out of it. He decides to enter his dog in the local kids' dog show, but a series of events lead to his dog being light pink...and winning a prize. It's all normal stuff -- no superheroes, no magic -- but Cleary is such a fantastic writer that she doesn't need any of that. And her characters are realistic, mischievous, and hilarious, without being obnoxious.
As a mom, I really like how each chapter is a self-contained story, instead of cliff-hanger chapters like Runaway Ralph and Ralph S. Mouse. It makes for easier bedtime reading.
This is the third Beverly Cleary book I've read to my boys (ages 4 & 6), but the first one featuring a human main character. We all really enjoyed it and I plan to read the rest of the series to them. (Hopefully, we won't lose steam like we did on the The Wonderful Wizard of Oz series or Elizabeth Enright's Melendy Family series. (less)
Really well-written account of Roosevelt's Amazonian adventure (navigating a previously unexplored tributary). Millard does a fantastic job of melding...moreReally well-written account of Roosevelt's Amazonian adventure (navigating a previously unexplored tributary). Millard does a fantastic job of melding all the relevant historical and scientific information together in a smooth narrative. My fascination with the Amazon and all its lethal inhabitants continues.(less)
This is mostly a cute collection of little poems about witches, monsters, etc. However...
MAJOR WARNING TO ANYONE READING THIS BOOK TO YOUNG CHILDREN: S...moreThis is mostly a cute collection of little poems about witches, monsters, etc. However...
MAJOR WARNING TO ANYONE READING THIS BOOK TO YOUNG CHILDREN: Stuck in the middle of this otherwise innocuous book is a story called "I'm Coming Up the Stairs" by Maria Leach which creeped me out...and my husband. Here's an even creepier audio version of it (because I didn't read it nearly this creepily).
We've morphed the story into a new game, but still...I wouldn't have read that one if I'd actually previewed the book. (less)
I received an Advanced Reader Copy of this book through the First Reads program...and I was really excited because I loved Rachel Joyce's first novel,...moreI received an Advanced Reader Copy of this book through the First Reads program...and I was really excited because I loved Rachel Joyce's first novel, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, even though it wasn't what I expected. This book was much the same: it wasn't what I expected from the publisher's blurb, but I loved it anyway.
In 1972, two seconds were added to the clocks to make everything peachy-keen science-wise. Eleven-year-old Byron Hemming comes to believe those two seconds have changed his life...for the worse. I expected this book to be much lighter than it actually was. Why? I mean, I made that same mistake with good ol' Harold, and while Harold and Byron don't have a whole lot in common on the surface, they're similar characters in some ways. (I'll let you figure that out on your own.)
In the 1972 storyline, we meet Byron, his troubled mother Diana, overbearing father Seymour, his best friend James who is infatuated with Byron's mom, James' overbearing mother, and Beverly, a woman from the other side of the tracks (which in this case is actually a road). The sexism of the '70s infuriated me and Joyce brings the characters to life so expertly, I raged against some characters and ached for others. Which isn't to say that Joyce paints them strictly as good or bad. Her characters are nuanced, and all of them are far from "perfect."
In alternating chapters, we meet a man named Jim, who is in his 50s and has spent most of his adult life in a psychiatric hospital, which is now closed. Shock therapy has left him with a stutter and he is captive to his OCD rituals. He is able to hold a job wiping tables at a local restaurant, and there he is forced to interact with an eclectic collection of coworkers.
I can't say too much about the characters or plot, because the layers of deception and mystery are integral to the story and the reader's enjoyment. I will say that I saw some of the twists coming, but only because I've read so many books that I've become pretty good at guessing. Some of my guesses regarding this book were also wrong, so yours could be, too. And also this book made me cry, a lot, but I'm a big sap when it comes to books, much more than I am in real life.
Joyce's prose is gorgeous, perfectly evoking the mood of a restless 70s summer and modern chilling winter. Dear Publisher, please feel free to send me ARCs for anything else that Rachel Joyce writes! (less)
I make photo books on photography websites for my kids, since I'm not patient or crafty enough to scrapbook....moreSo here's my issue with too many memoirs:
I make photo books on photography websites for my kids, since I'm not patient or crafty enough to scrapbook. I go through all the pictures I took of them over the course of a year or two and try to cram all the best ones into forty or so pages. Inevitably, I end up with 80 or 100 pages on the first go and have to ruthlessly cull all those pictures down to a manageable number. I imagine it must be similar to write a memoir. You want to include everything important, but after it's all down on the page, no one really wants to see four pictures of your toddler's face smeared with yogurt.
And this is my repeated complaint with memoirs. Instead of leaving me wanting more, I usually think, "Enough, already!" Maybe I should avoid memoirs as a general rule, but I always come across interesting lives that I want to read about...and then it becomes too much.
So this one -- the story of a couple who dreamed of being self-sufficient blueberry farmers/ homesteaders -- seemed to have a lot of promise, but got bogged down in the details. It doesn't help that the author is a professor/poet. (I found the poetic excerpts at the beginning of each section a tad painful.) Too many customers described, too many mundane details of their lives, just a little too much in general. And many of the chapters felt disconnected, like they were written as blog entries, or more likely in this case, newspaper columns, and then strung together, with information repeated or out of chronological order. I think I would have enjoyed the book more if it had lost 1/3 to 1/2 of its 300 pages in the editing process. (I fully admit that I skimmed or skipped most of his "blue interludes.")(less)
I don't usually read short story collections, but Arcadia was so beautifully written, I decided to give this one a try. It killed me. So beautiful and...moreI don't usually read short story collections, but Arcadia was so beautifully written, I decided to give this one a try. It killed me. So beautiful and many of them so sad. Wow. Wow. Wow.
Usually I plow through books, gorging myself, because I'm a book glutton. But with this book, I took my time, savoring one story per night, fully immersing myself in each world Groff created.
My favorites are "L. Debard and Aliette," "Majorette," "Blythe," and the final title story which just gutted me. (less)