Wednesday, April 20, 2016

I Wish this Book had been around when I was a Kid

SummerlostSummerlost by Ally Condie
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This would be a delicious summer read for a kid. Yes, it's about loss, but it's also about finding a best friend and having adventures together and helping each other through hard times. There's a bit of mystery thrown in and some comedy, too. Even a bit of ghostliness. It might even spark a kid's interest in Shakespeare because of its vivid Shakespearean festival setting. A rich, heart-warming read.

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Monday, March 21, 2016

All Better Now

All Better NowAll Better Now by Emily Wing Smith
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

All Better Now is a memoir, written for a YA audience, detailing Smith’s young life as the thank-God-she-got-hit-by-a-car girl. She uses episodic chapters to tell the story of her awkward and angry childhood and the aftermath of a car accident that was also a blessing. The chapters are interspersed with such things as pictures, medical records and letters from her imaginary boyfriend, “Rembrandt,” which serve as a reminder to the reader that this is not fiction, but a real person’s story. The narrative is so rich in detail that it reads like fiction and Smith’s voice so vivid on the page that she could be sitting next to the reader, telling her story as a good friend would tell secrets to another. She’s funny, quirky and real. A must read for anyone who’s ever felt broken, awkward or alone. I loved this book.

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Wednesday, May 13, 2015

A Practically Perfect Middle Grade Read

Survival Strategies of the Almost BraveSurvival Strategies of the Almost Brave by Jen White
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Welcome to the most perfect middle grade book I've read in a long while.
It has
1. an endearing 12-year-old protagonist who takes her job as protector of her little sister very seriously.
2. a heart-pounding plot, where the palpitations begin on page one.
3. achingly beautiful prose in which every word seems to be exactly the right one.
4. enough fun and interesting animals facts woven throughout to delight boys and girls alike.
I thought about this book long after I finished it. I'm pretty sure you will, too.

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Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Go Behind the Scenes with Not in the Script

Not in the Script (If Only . . . #3)Not in the Script by Amy Finnegan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

For me, one of the things that elevates a book to I'll-read-it-again status is when the characters feel like friends. Not in the Script has that quality in spades. The characters are multi-layered and so well imagined and written, that I felt like I would recognize them on the street (or the TV screen) if they walked by. Their banter is real-sounding and laugh out loud funny at times. By the end of the book, I had warm feelings for all of the characters, even those who'd made some questionable choices.
Another thing I enjoy is when a book takes me to a place I've never been before. I most often have to read fantasy or historical fiction to get that fix, but Amy Finnegan did that for me with a contemporary. Her behind-the-scenes at a TV series is fascinating, and from what I've read from those in the know, she nailed the details.
What a fun read!

Friday, May 23, 2014


The End or Something Like ThatThe End or Something Like That by Ann Dee Ellis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

One day my best friend named Kim died.

So begins Ann Dee Ellis’s quirky, funny and sweetly sad novel, THE END OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT.

Ellis’s simple opening sentence accomplishes several things at once. The reader learns the problem, that a best friend, Kim, is dead. We understand, through the short, clipped prose, that the protagonist is hurting. And we take our first taste of Ann Dee Ellis’s concentrated style of writing. Her words are spare but each practically shouts in the voice of the protagonist. We hear Emmy talk, see the world through her eyes. By not very many pages into the book, she’s as real to the reader as though she were sitting next to us, telling her story aloud.

And that’s important because Emmy’s story is strange. It might even be unbelievable if Emmy weren’t so darned believable. Her dead friend, Kim, has made Emmy promise to try to contact her. Emmy tries but it’s the dead science teacher who appears instead, and Emmy didn’t even like her. Through flashbacks, we learn the story of Emmy and Kim’s friendship and come to know quirky Kim through Emmy’s memories. We ache with Emmy and we learn with her.
I loved this book.

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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Happily Ever After

My family's a little behind the times, but we finally caught up with the series, "Lost." As we neared the end, I had mixed feelings. I'd heard complaints about the last episode, but I'd also heard good things. And so I wondered whose side I'd be on.

As we watched the finale, I found myself on the thumbs up side. I won't say more than that to avoid spoiling it for anyone slower than us at catching up. But I will say what, for me, makes for a satisfying ending.

1. The story needs to come full circle. Somehow the end needs to tie back to the beginning--questions posed there need to be answered. That doesn't mean every loose end needs to be tied up, but enough that I feel a sense of completion.

2. I enjoy a story with a big bang near the end, but the bang can't be the ending. A story needs to linger long enough for me to say good-bye to the characters. If an author has done his or her work well, I feel close to the characters and need that closure with them.

3. I need to feel a sense of hope. The ending doesn't necessarily have to be happy, but I'd like to feel that the potential for happiness is there, if not immediately, then somewhere down the road.

I believe the writers of "Lost" did all that.

Do you agree or disagree? Why? What makes a good ending for you?

Friday, May 25, 2012

The Mistborn Trilogy, a Fantasy Favorite

Mistborn Trilogy Boxed Set (Mistborn, #1-3)Mistborn Trilogy Boxed Set by Brandon Sanderson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Brandon Sanderson has some sort of twisted brain that allows him to come up with the most interesting and unique magic systems. I'd recommend the Mistborn trilogy for that reason alone--to walk around in a world created by that gifted brain and see what it can do.
The trilogy isn't perfect. It seemed a bit slow at times and some of the characters weren't developed enough for me. Kelsier's crew members, especially in the first book, seemed to blend together. It took me quite a while to remember who they were and what they could do.
Other characters, though, felt quite real and I was surprised how much I came to care about a certain Kandra (who shall remain nameless for spoilers sake).
And then there are the endings--Sanderson definitely has a knack for finishing a book in a surprising but satisfying way. If the books could be judged by that alone, I'd give them all five stars.

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