Monday, November 13, 2017

Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper


Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper is a darling book about Melody, an eleven-year-old girl with severe cerebral palsy. Melody has lived her entire life not being able to walk, sit up, or even talk. So many people think this means that Melody doesn't have any thoughts in her head, but they couldn't be more wrong. Not only does she have thoughts, Melody is extremely bright and has a nearly photographic memory. Melody also has wonderful parents who fight very hard to make the world see that she is intelligent, but it is often an uphill battle.

Told from Melody's point of view, the reader gets to hear every thought, every word Melody wishes she could express. This is a perspective many people won't have considered and it is a fantastic learning opportunity. Some of this story was quite sad, but mostly it was a book about a girl fighting hard to be heard and not giving up when people don't listen. I really liked this book and I can't wait for my own 5th Grader to read it. I hope she enjoys it as much as I did.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld


Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld had been on my to-read list for a long while when it was nominated as our next book club book. I was really excited because sometimes I find I need a little push to read certain books. As the cover of this one mentions, it is a "modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice" which is a book I read so long ago, I'm not sure it even counts. Of course, I've seen the film version as well as a modernized film version and I am familiar enough with the storyline that I wasn't in need of a refresher. In this version, Liz is a thirty-eight-year-old special features writer for a women's magazine and has been happily living in New York for more than fifteen years. Her sister Jane, almost forty (GASP!), is a yoga instructor also living in NYC. The remaining Bennet sisters still live at home in Cincinnati with their parents in their rambling, and crumbling, family home. Darcy is a neurosurgeon and Bingley (who goes by his first name Chip) is a doctor in the Emergency Room. Two very eligible men, five single women, and a mother determined to see her daughters married well. That is Pride and Prejudice, but what Sittenfeld does with it...well.

P&P is one of those books that women the world over claim as their favorite. "It's so romantic!" I, however, have never felt that way. I don't find rude, ill-mannered men attractive and while the original Darcy overcomes whatever social handicaps he possesses to tell Elizabeth how he really feels, it was always too little, too late for me. I've also always been irritated by the Bennet family, Jane and Elizabeth aside; they are really awful. At least in the original work, there is a good reason for Elizabeth to stay with, and defend, her family, and for her sisters to all still live at home. In the updated version, when all of the sisters are meant to be fully grown adults, I just can't understand their lack of independence and responsibility. Every fault or irritation I felt with the original Bennet sisters and mother are only exacerbated in Eligible. Lydia and Kitty are both in their early twenties and plenty old enough to be self-sufficient, but neither is. They are rude and obnoxious beyond belief and really aren't likable at all. Mrs. Bennet is so loathsome and overly dramatic as to make her intolerable as a character. Even Mr. Bennet loses his charm in this updated book.

As hard as Sittenfeld tries to remake this classic into something modern and fun, what she really does is take a classic work of literature and shine a bright iPhone flashlight onto all the worst parts of it. She tries adding in a twist or two, shaking up a few of the characters, but it just didn't work for me. 

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling


I love the Harry Potter books. I love the Harry Potter audiobooks. I really like the Harry Potter movies (although how anyone who hasn't read the books can have any idea what is going on- they leave out so much information!- is beyond me). When Harry Potter and the Cursed Child was released, I was really excited to reenter the world of Harry Potter. Then I heard from fellow Potterheads that it wasn't very good and my disappointment allowed it to fall far lower on my TBR list. Last week, while wandering through the library, I saw it sitting on a shelf just waiting to be read and I thought it was time I gave it a chance.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child picks up right where we left off at the epilogue of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. It is nineteen years since the Battle of Hogwarts and Harry's second son Albus is going off to Hogwarts for the first time. When the Cursed Child picks up the story, we race through Albus' first few difficult years at school and see how his relationship with his father has deteriorated as he has grown into a teenager. Soon a dark cloud begins to swirl around him and he is pulled into a Harry Potter-esque adventure of his own.

Firstly, I did not care for the format of this book. It is the script of a play and so the reading is quite different from Rowling's other books. With this new format, the reader loses so much of what made the Harry Potter series so wonderful- the descriptions, the narrative, the atmosphere. Secondly, I simply could not stop the feeling that I was reading fan fiction. This didn't sound like Rowling's writing at all and the storyline was just not up to her standards. Her name is on the cover, but I wonder how much of it she wrote and how much was written by the playwrights also credited: John Tiffany and Jack Thorne. What we wanted was more Harry Potter. What we got was, well, not. The Harry Potter series is the one set of books I wish I could read again for the first time, enjoying the wonder of the world Rowling created. This book did not satisfy that craving. I suppose I will just have to reread (or relisten) to them again and hope to recall those early days.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira


I have been reading about Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira on book blogs and on Goodreads for a while. I've been waiting patiently on the library reserve list for the past few months to have my chance to read this highly acclaimed book. And, well... I didn't love it as much as I had thought I would based on the reviews I'd read.

Laurel is just beginning high school and, as we know from nearly every other YA book out there, this is a difficult time. This transition is made even more formidable in the wake of Laurel's older sister's death. Not wanting to answer questions about the tragic events from that night, Laurel has transferred to a new school where she knows no one and no one knows her or, more importantly, her sister. Laurel and May were extremely close, but after their parents' divorce May changed and Laurel tried everything she could to hold on to her. Laurel's first English assignment of the school year is to write a letter to a dead person. The teacher implied that each student should write to a former president or other historical figure, but Laurel chooses instead to write to Kurt Cobain. She writes about her new school and what has taken her there. She writes about her sister and she writes about how lonely and heartbroken she is. She does not turn in the assignment, but keeps it for herself. The rest of the book continues in a series of letters to other dead people: Judy Garland, Elizabeth Bishop, Amelia Earhart, River Phoenix, Janis Joplin, Amy Winehouse, Heath Ledger, Allan Lane, E.E. Cummings, and Jim Morrison. We do eventually learn the details of May's death and we come to see how awful the past two years have been for Laurel.

Presented as a series of letters, this book reminded me a lot of Stephen Chobsky's the perks of being a wallflower, and just like that book, I was irritated by the writing style. I understand we are reading the letters of a fourteen-year-old girl and the writing should match that, but I still found it difficult to read. As the story progressed, the resemblance to Chobsky's book became even more evident almost to the point that I felt it was nearly plagiarism. I was quite surprised when I got to the acknowledgements at the end of the book to read that Ava Dellaira thanked Stephen Chobsky as a "dear friend and mentor". I guess if he doesn't have a problem with it, I shouldn't either, but the similarities were much too frequent for me.

There were lines that were almost like poetry, along with actual excerpts of poetry. Here, Laurel is writing to Judy Garland:

You used your voice like glue to keep your family together. And then to keep yourself from coming undone.

About Amelia Earhart, she says:

They sent out search parties, and we've been searching ever since. It's a testament to how much we loved you that we are still looking seventy-five years after your death.

Laurel provides a lot of background information about each of the people to whom she writes. I learned things I never knew about each of these real people who somehow became characters in Laurel's life. Early in my reading, I did feel like I didn't really want to continue reading, but I did, mostly so I could find out what happened. I didn't love it and my continued reading didn't make me love it more. It was okay. I'm not sure what other readers found so groundbreaking, but I was disappointed. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe you'll get more from it than I did. If so, I'd love to hear your thoughts.


The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen


Not unlike the last book I read, The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen deals with a difficult marriage that isn't what it appears to be to outsiders. This marriage has ended and the wife, Vanessa, cannot seem to let it go. Richard has moved on and we watch as Vanessa agonizes over his engagement and all that she has lost. Vanessa is obsessed with stopping Richard's upcoming nuptials and it is driving her nearly mad. She can't eat (an old friend from the past is actually envious of her sudden, extreme weight loss), she can't sleep, and the beloved aunt who has taken her in can't seem to get through to her.

We also get to watch has Richard's young fiancée, Nellie, prepares to become his wife. She will be leaving her best friend and roommate to move to the beautiful house in the suburbs that Richard has picked out for them. She will be leaving her jobs as a waitress and as a preschool teacher with the hopes that she and Richard will be starting their own little family very soon. Yet something feels not quite right. She feels like she is being followed, being watched. There is a woman who keeps appearing just on the edge of her vision and she has Nellie worried.

This book was similar to Behind Closed Doors and also to The Girl on the Train. It took me a little bit to catch on to the mystery, but it was very satisfying when I began to understand. The women in this book are flawed and make terrible decisions, but they are also young and naïve and taken in by a man who isn't what he seems. I am often frustrated when I read about weak women, but I am encouraged when those women grow. This book was entertaining and had me wanting to keep reading. I couldn't wait to find out what would happen and I loved all the twists and turns.


Friday, October 6, 2017

The Petrified Finger by Erin Mindes


I feel so fancy! A friend of mine is a budding author and I KNOW HER!! Yesterday I read her new short story, The Petrified Finger by Erin Mindes, which you can get for FREE for the next two days here!

A baker in a small village sees a scary old woman enter the town square. She reminds him of the legend of the witch that he and his friends used to scare each other when they were children. Something about the woman makes him worry for the safety of his own daughter and all the other village children.

This was a fun spooky story, perfect for  pre-Halloween festivities. Appropriate for children and fun for all ages, I recommend this short story. And I can't wait to read what Mindes has next!

What I've Seen- The Mountain Between Us

It is opening day for The Mountain Between Us starring Kate Winslet and Idris Elba. I read the book just last month and I was really, really looking forward to the movie. I could tell from the trailer that a few things had been changed, but the book wasn't perfect so I was willing to accept a few things that might help the story along. Well, turns out it was more than a few things that were changed.

The only thing they didn't change was the title!!!

I sat through the first half of the movie saying, "Wait, what?" After that, I just gave up. How can any screenwriter take one story and remove so much of the source material? So much of what gave the book heart was surgically excised; things that could have easily been left and things that were vital to the integrity of the characters.

Okay, so what if I were a movie-goer who hadn't read the book? Would I have been able to enjoy it then? No. Just no. One complaint I had about the book was the implausibility of some of the events and the survivability of the circumstances. The movie blew that completely out of the water.

I said the word 


so many times that I think I wore it out.

Seriously, nope. Nope. Nope. Nope. I know that people can survive some difficult things, but this? Nope.

I found this movie completely frustrating. This is a harsh statement, but I think this may be the WORST book-to-film adaptation that I have ever seen. It just wasn't at all the book and it wasn't a good movie on its own.

On the upside, I did get to eat Kettle Corn, so at least there's that.