Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Art of Forgetting

Marissa's best friend Julia has always had the perfect life:  she's beautiful, a talented dancer, her wealthy parents dote on her.  Life always seems to go her way until she is involved in an accident that leaves her with brain damage and an altered personality.  Marissa has always felt inferior to Julia despite her intelligence and wit, and her talent for writing.  She is short and a little chubby and has had to fight a battle with her weight her entire life, as her mother continually points out.  She has also let Julia and her mother say and do things their way, electing to keep the peace rather than confront them and stand up for herself.  After the accident Marissa has the chance to come out from Julia's shadow.  She discovers that she is capable and confident, and able to move forward with her life in a way that she couldn't when Julia was calling the shots.
Marissa becomes a mentor for young, underprivileged girls through a running program.  The program teaches them about self-esteem and other empowering topics while they train for a race.  Marissa learns as much as the girls do.  She is able to take control of her life in a way she never did before Julia's accident.  She makes momentous decisions about her career and relationships without needing Julia's opinion for the first time in her adult life.

What I liked about the book:  It made me think about my attitude, whether or not I am able to see beyond people's imperfections and love them for who they are.  Marissa realizes that thinking about her former boyfriend in the rosy light of memory is unrealistic and damaging to her current relationship.  Marissa also learns to love herself with all her imperfections and to forgive herself.  I liked seeing Marissa change and become a more confident person.

What I didn't like:  I did not like Marissa's wishy-washy personality.  She didn't really find her strength until almost the end of the book so it was a struggle to read it at times. 

Was it clean?  No, there were several f-words, mostly in one paragraph.

Would I recommend it?  Yes, if you like books about relationships you will probably like this one.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper

I cannot imagine what it would be like to have an intellect that is above average, gifted even, and to be thought incapable of learning.  Melody, a spunky 11-year-old with cerebral palsy, has lived with that her entire life just because she is unable to speak. 
I loved this book by Sharon Draper.  Because it is written from Melody's point of view we can get a small idea of the frustrations she deals with on a daily basis, including spending most of her day in a special ed class where she is bored, not being able to yell out in an emergency, and just desperately wanting to be included and treated like everyone else.  Melody eventually is able to communicate via computer and it opens up the world to her, even better it lets the world get to know Melody.

My 10-year-old daughter loved this book so much that she hoped there was a sequel.
It is written for ages 9-12 but I enjoyed it too.

Here is a fabulous study guide with discussion questions and ideas for book reports. (I'm going to have to remember this for my 10 year old):

What I liked about the book:  Being in Melody's "head", experiencing things as she did.

What I didn't like:  I had to wonder why she didn't have an advocate in the school to make sure her needs were addressed.  She should have had the computer much earlier.

Was it clean?  Sure was!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

If You Were Here by Jen Lancaster

Jen Lancaster usually writes humorous memoirs about her life with her husband and dogs, her family and friends.  This is her first foray into writing fiction.  Turns out it is a thinly-disguised story about her life with her husband and dogs, her family and friends.  To be fair, I haven't read any of her other books and they are supposed to be quite good, or at least some of them are.  She wrote Bitter is the New Black and My Fair Lazy, along with a few others.  I think maybe she should stick to what she does best and leave the fiction-writing to others.
It started off okay in a lightweight summer beach read sort of way.  Mia, a writer of teenage Amish zombie romance novels, and her husband Mac are fed up with their city neighborhood and go looking in the Chicago suburbs for a house to buy, one that they can use the skills they learned from watching HGTV.  Mia finds the perfect house, one used in the movie Sixteen Candles, a film by John Hughes whose films she adores.  She grew up longing to live in the homes she saw in his films.  The house turns out to be more work than they thought it would be.
The book is filled with pop culture references and sarcastic asides (mostly in footnotes) which are funny sometimes although I wonder how many of them most readers would get.  There are many references to HGTV programs and John Hughes movies but also to the movie Mean Girls and Stephenie Meyers and Mr. T and Charles in Charge and so on and so on, so many that the weight of them was just too much for the weak plot that it eventually fell in on itself, just like the floor did in the book under the weight of the dropped toilet.

Things I liked about it:  It really was funny in parts.  It's also exciting in a way when you "get" a cultural reference.  Makes me feel like part of a club or something.

Things I did not like about it:  The thin plot combined with the overuse of footnotes and pop culture and too much  cutesiness (the landlord was a trust-fund 20-something named Vienna Hyatt) got to be too much for me.  Another issue for me was the excessive profanity.

Was it clean?  No, not at all.  Lots and lots of f-words.

Would I recommend it?  Nope, don't bother with this one.  There have got to be much better beach reads out there.

Friday, July 8, 2011

We Have a Winner!

Congratulations to TaraW, winner of a $20 Amazon gift certificate!!! Winner picked via

Thanks for participating everyone!  This was a lot of fun so I'll definitely be doing it again.  Thanks also for all the kind comments and new followers!

Have a great weekend everyone and happy reading!
What will you be reading this weekend?