Wednesday, December 30, 2015

More Books Read, November - December 2015

Hilarious, sharp, and incredibly smart. I had to stop every few pages to look up various pop culture references. If I had read this in a physical format, instead of on my Kindle, I would have finished the book with a dried up highlighter. Tina Fey is awesome. But you knew that already.

This book has appeared on a lot of "best of" lists for teens, but I didn't particularly care for it. It's told from the alternating perspective of two teenage boys, both named Will Grayson. Even though the voices of the alternating narrators were different, it still took me a chapter or two to realize they were different. I like that it's LBGTQ-friendly but in the end, meh.

Another Kindle First that seemed promising...but didn't really have an end. There are three interwoven narratives spanning several centuries: one in the past, one in the present day, and one in the future. But they didn't intersect enough to be compelling. So, I didn't find the plot compelling nor the characters compelling. Theres not much left to care about in a book. At least I didn't stay up late at night reading to see what happens next...the nice part of the book was that I learned a bit about composition and color in a painting.

This is the first chapter book that I read to my son. He was a little wary at first (a giant! a little orphan girl possibly in danger! ugly giants with gruesome features and even more fearsome names!), but was soon pulled into the narrative. Frobscottle! An excellent introduction to chapter books thanks to my dear Roald Dahl.

After my first Emily Giffin book, I was eager to check this book out from the library and was not disappointed by this, yet again, character-driven well-written novel. It could be cliche, but it isn't.

My son's second chapter book. I thought he would enjoy this even more than The BFG, as he seemed more intrigued by the premise of the book, but he was stressed throughout much of the reading. He seemed to think that Ralph was constantly in imminent danger. Also, perhaps the more old-fashioned dialogue made it a bit harder for him to follow along. I, however, thoroughly enjoyed reading it to him.

Ugh. I wanted the literary equivalent of a sugar cookie. This was another Snickers bar. How can it be a New York Times bestseller? I disagree with Booklist's assessment that it is a "funny, clever, and well-paced read," although I wholeheartedly agree that it "lacks polish" and "sends mixed messages about body image, self-esteem, and seeking male approval." Totally unrealistic characters - I do not believe for a second that a woman who was driven enough to escape her emotionally distant family and small-town upbringing to attend Brown would be content to just stay at home, shop, and work out with her hot trainer. As soon as I was done, I returned the book. Blurgh.

I finally got my sugar cookies! Both are quick reads featuring smart, funny heroines. Unsurprisingly, all the romantic interests are tall, not necessarily dark, and handsome. But they're enjoyable and well-written. Smart Girls Get What They Want is the stronger of the two, as the Zoe book has some plot holes. But both are great vacation reads. And I love having books that feature female heroines that are worthy of emulation.

Oh Rainbow Rowell, how I love thee novels. Kudos for writing fiction that features characters with real bodies in real situations with real interests, who don't have to look like they must also be Abercrombie model-worthy to be so likable. Thank you for legitimizing interests that may be considered alternative or fringe, but aren't really. You root for fan fiction writer super-geek Cath (Fangirl) and sensitive Lincoln (Attachments) to overcome their anxieties. You're thrilled that the protagonists don't hew to tired traditional gender stereotypes. These are the books whose passages I bookmark and read and re-read.

Gilmore Girls was one of my favorite TV shows, and I loved Lauren Graham's work on the show. So I was intrigued to find out she had written a novel. Here, I think all the accolades are well deserved. It's well-written, light, warm, and charming. The plot is well paced. What's not to like?

From the author of Side Effects May Vary, I think this second book is a stronger work than her first. I like how it portrays and challenges issues like body size, self-acceptance, and beauty pageants. And, I now know how to walk in high heels like a queen. It's so much better than Big Girl Panties.

A search for more sugar cookie novels (hey, it's the holidays!) led to these two books. Again, both are quick easy reads that are fairly enjoyable. Epic Fail is a loose adaptation of Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice, while The Trouble With Flirting is another Jane Austen adaptation, this time of Mansfield Park. Epic Fail seemed to be quickly written and poorly edited, as I came across at least a couple of typos. Also, as a huge fan of Pride & Prejudice, I found this version to be boring. While it was modernized nicely, I knew what was going to happen and the details itself weren't particularly compelling. I thought The Trouble With Flirting was a much stronger work and a lot of fun.

Books Recently Read, September - October 2015

Recently I've been on a reading binge, courtesy of an accidental Amazon Prime membership. To make a long story short, in an effort to make the most of my Amazon Prime membership, I started reading fiction again, starting with the Kindle First program. Then, I figured out how to access two local library ebook catalogues.

The book that started it all. Well, it was free (damning with faint praise?). But I found the antagonist's internal monologues annoying and repetitive. The characters are also more caricatures than complex, believable people.

For a narrator suffering from a major flaw (he's a zombie!), he's remarkably eloquent. Well-written with some interesting thoughts on life, love, and growing yourself as a person (zombie?).

Teenager Alice is diagnosed with leukemia and everyone, including her best friend who has loved her since childhood, Harvey, and Alice herself expects her to die. Then she goes into remission. The book alternates between Alice and Harvey's point of view, and between Then (when Alice has cancer) and Now (when Alice is in remission). Alice is not a likable character, but she is real. And Harvey is a touching portrait of nostalgia and loyalty, someone you really root for.

Lovely story about a teen girl with cerebral palsy, who decides to truly experience her senior year of high school by having fellow students act as her aides instead of professional adult aides. An honest and complex portrayal of young adults, including disabled teens. The only quibble I have with the book is that Stanford doesn't give merit scholarships.

I'm glad I stumbled across this book at the library because Emily Giffin writes lovely character-driven stories.

A Kindle First that is a winner, a story about a woman whose husband comes out of the closet the day she is diagnosed with cancer. It's probably a bit Elizabeth Gilbert (haven't read her books), but enjoyable nonetheless.

Australian author writes about charming and clever teen girl with a crush on fellow supermarket cashier, a charismatic (but annoying to the me, the reader) college boy. Great discussions about literature and feminism, though.

I decided I don't likes book series, because even if the first book is poorly written, I feel compelled to read the remaining books just to find out what happened. Then, I'm left feeling like one does after a fast food meal: overly full, leaden, and still unsatisfied. Also, just because a book is a "best-seller" doesn't mean it's any good. Denise Grover Swank's books are cheesy, unrealistic, and over-the-top. It's like the last time I ate a Snickers bar, after I have become used to eating quality chocolate. It was too sweet and I was annoyed I had spent my calorie budget on that instead of on some quality European chocolate. Now Jenny Han was somewhat more compelling except...the character of Belly did not make sense. I'd still be willing to read some of her other works, though, while I'd avoid the former's other works.

I liked this book. I wish I could have been this witty and quick with my repartee as a high school student (is the dialogue even realistic?), but it was fun and honest. Best friends have made a list of things they never will do in high school to avoid becoming cliches, but at the start of senior year, realize that this list may have kept them from fully experiencing high school.

A quick read. Realistic high school student dealing with the awkwardness of adolescence and figuring herself out. The plot is fairly predictable, but you root for her. It wasn't a book that I wanted to savor when I finished though...

Ah, I've finally got to the much-hyped Rainbow Rowell book and this woman deserves all the praise she gets! We get away from Beautiful People and instead have real, relatable characters. Finding one's self and path while abused and/or alienated, with the help of young love and a lot of '80's rock.

I liked this one, told from the perspective of a male protagonist. Yes, the catalyst of change in his life is a manic pixie dream girl, but I liked the literary references. It made me feel like I ought to read those books that usually appear on high school English book lists, but which, for whatever reason, did not appear on my high school English book list.

A charming book aimed at middle schoolers, set in the 1930s.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

"What's the difference besides the price?" I've always asked myself at the drugstore when comparing the national brands to the store brand.

Well, I seem to have found my answer.


Getting the kids to take Advil-brand ibuprofen is a little bit easier than the store brand. And since they particularly hate being cooperative when sick, this is an important note to keep in mind.

Saturday, June 30, 2012