Showing posts with label friendship. Show all posts
Showing posts with label friendship. Show all posts

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

The Lonely Balloon by Gemma Mallorey, Cleoward Sy

Rating: WORTHY!

The very title of this made me laugh. I am so far out of the intended age group for it, yet I couldn’t help but read it! That’s the importance of a good title. Good art also helps, and the amazingly-named and equally talented Cleoward Sy definitely stepped up there. The illustrations are awesome: colorful and beautifully rounded as you’d hope for in a book about a balloon. The writing is good, too, full of question and feeling, replete with wonder about where this little balloon will end up.

The poor balloon seems to be above everyone. Is that why finding friends is hard? Birds aren’t interested, neither are the flags – but at least they wave! Maybe the toys in the little kid's bedroom will befriend a balloon? I liked this story and commend it for young children. It’s full of hope and persistence, and there isn’t a better combination to be had.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Rebecca Finds Happiness by Gina Harris, Hayley Anderson

Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

This was a short, sweet tale which I thoroughly enjoyed. It's about a young girl who can't seem to be happy no matter what. She has toys and candy, but nothing she tries, not even dancing seems to make her happy except for the very short term; then she meets and befriends Tara who seems to be happy no matter what. In emulating Tara, Rebecca finds a way to be happy herself.

I liked the story and the positive and useful message from Gina Harris. I liked the easy style of the colorful illustrations by Hayley Anderson. I felt this could have stood to have been longer, but it's fine as it is and sends a good message. The illustrations were rather small, even when viewed on an iPad in Bluefire Reader. I could enlarge them by spreading a thumb and forefinger over each image, but it felt like they ought to be maximized to begin with when viewed in large format. it was the same in Adobe Digital Editions, and on my phone it was so small it made reading rally hard. Just FYI!

Those quibbles aside, I liked this story and I recommend it.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

The Lido Girls by Allie Burns

Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

This novel was a delight. Rooted in real history, it takes a slightly whimsical and largely fictional turn, pursuing two women to the fictional English resort of St Darlestone, where they try to figure out what to do with their lives. Each has their own cross to bear and they each deal with it in different ways. You can read an interesting mini-biography of the real Prunella Stack here. It's as brief as the shorts these girls wore, but it moves just like the shorts: actively and with purpose! Prunella is a bit like the tornado in Wizard of Oz. She doesn't have a lot to do with the bulk of this story, but without her, the story would not have happened in the first place!

On the fictional side of things, Natalie Flacker seems a bit rebellious and lackadaisical to be a vice principal in a prestigious girls' school, but it seems she was sheltered by the principal. Now that her mentor is retiring die to ill-health, Natalie's future seems a bit uncertain. It becomes downright lost when she's photographed attending a women's physical fitness convention - and one which is frowned upon by the male-dominated society in which Natalie moves. She is soon out of a job, and for want of something better to do, she decides to summer at St Darlestone with her dearest friend Delphi.

Their prime goal is to secure useful employment, which might be a bit hard to come by since Natalie can't exactly ask for a glowing reference from her last employer. Delphi is game, but suffers from some sort of catatonia or fatigue, and is often invalided by it. Fortunately Delphi's brother Jack is at the resort, working at the Lido swimming pool where one of the summer highlights is a beauty pageant.

I know, I took a vow never to read another novel with a main character named Jack in it because it's the most over-used go-to name in the entire history of literature, and I'm sick of it. I'm sick of authors over-using the name, hence my vow, yet here I am reading one! In my own defense, I didn't know this one would be hi-Jack-ed until I started it. On top of that, a beauty pageant? Fortunately, that's not the most important thing going on here! There's a much better story being told of friendship and perseverance, and this made all the difference for me.

Natalie's life seems to be falling apart at the seams at first, with Delphi growing increasingly distant and her own hopes of employment seemingly limited, but she perseveres and makes friends and eventually manages to earn a decent living, but even as she does so and grows closer to Jack, Delphi seems to be growing ever further from her.

The best thing about this novel is that it was warm and sweet, and completely unpredictable; just when you thought it would go one way it went another and this was the main reason I enjoyed it so much because it did exactly what I love authors for doing: it wandered off the beaten track into new territory, and I was happy to follow because that made it so much more interesting. I have no time for cookie cutter novels with everyone jumping on the successful author's bandwagon and trying to clone her or his best seller. I much prefer authors who carve their own path, and this one did exactly that, and it was the better for it.

This was an advance review copy as I mentioned so there were some minor issues with it, which I imagine will be fixed before the finished version this the shelves (or whatever the e-version of shelves is!). At one point I read, "with curls as luscious as Ginger Rogers'..." This should have read "Rogers's" since her name isn't a plural! Another one was a minor pet peeve of mine: " the poisonous snake at her feet." Snakes tend not to be poisonous - you can eat one with no ill effect, but they can be venomous!

Since my blog is more about writing than anything else, I have to point out that there were some unintentional writing issues such as where I read, "...swimming alone might be a reckless thing to do, but the pull was too strong." I think that could have been better worded (the attraction was too strong, maybe), since 'the pull was too strong" might be conflated with an undertow or a riptide in the water. Again, it's a minor issue but these things are worth expending some thought on if you're all about your writing.

There were also some formatting issues as usual with the crappy Kindle App that Amazon uses. Sometimes the next line would not be indented, particularly if it was a single line, and at one point I read "The redhead was busy devouring..." but the word 'The' was on the next line, superimposed over the first word on that line! This has nothing to do with authorship or writing, just with Amazon having a substandard format for ebooks.

But these were minor issue and inconsequential given that the book itself was so good, so I fully recommend this as a worthy read.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Friends With Boys by Faith Erin Hicks

Rating: WORTHY!

This comic was available online for a short time while it was being created, but now you can only get it from a store or as I did, from my excellent local library. I saw it on the shelf recently, and was immediately attracted to it.

The title was what drew me in. I think it was great and when I looked inside, the story looked pretty entertaining, and it turned out to be exactly that: pretty to look at, and entertaining. It was a fast and fun read, and although there were some issues with the execution, I consider this a worthy read.

Main character Maggie is about to start high school after being home-schooled all her life to this point. Her mom, who schooled her, has up and left the family. This was one issue with the story - there didn't seem to be any real explanation as to why mom left - she just left, everyone accepted it, and no one seems to have any ongoing problem with it. That was weird and underdeveloped, and it made for a noticeable hole in this story. It was one of several. Maggie's dad is the local police chief in this small town (which begs the question as to how it manages to support a large high school!), and his only real involvement in the story is that he has to get his hair cut for his new job.

Taking of weird though, I read one negative review which seemed to be based solely on the odd questions asked of Maggie when she started high school by someone who had no idea what home schooling was all about and so was asking really dumb and ignorant questions. Having been home-schooled herself, this reviewer then made the same mistake the fictional character made, but approaching the issue ignorantly. She took this personally and ranted on and on about it! She simply did not get is that this was fictional - that it was not a prescription for behavior, or a how-to manual! It's simply a fictional tale which feature, briefly, some dumb kid asking dumb questions.

What the reviewer didn't get was that there are, in real life, dumb people who ask dumb questions, or ignorant people who ask inappropriate questions in their ignorance - people whose mind isn't broad enough to encompass something outside of the cozy rut they are in. In downgrading a novel for depicting real life, this reviewer showed that she, too, is in the same kind of blinkered rut that the fictional character had occupied. I found this amusing and those criticisms invalid.

Maggie has several brothers, two of which are twins who seem to be fighting with each other more than ever before, since one of them seems to be seeking some sort of independence or differentiation from his twin, whereas the other seems fine with the way things are. She has an older brother who keeps a watchful eye on her, but in general, her brothers leave her to find her own way through high school, just as they had to when they started school.

Maggie's biggest problem though, is that she's led a very sheltered life and knows no one at this school except for her brothers, whom she now sees have all kinds of friends, including many female ones. She soon partners up with a female friend of her own named Lucy who has a partially-shaven head (for fashion, not from some medical condition). Lucy has a brother, Alastair, and the two are very close (and very close shaven), but Alastair seems not to be liked by Maggie's own brothers. This is made out to be rooted in some big bad secret: that Alastair is a bad person, but this was another plot problem: when the reveal comes, it's really nothing at all, so this set-up fell flat.

The third issue was the ghost. Maggie sees this ghost of a woman in the cemetery, and the ghost comes and looks at her face to face, but it never says a thing to her no matter what she says to it. Maggie cannot figure out what it wants, and that's how the story ends: the ghost drifts off down a cemetery pathway and disappears, and we never do find out what it wanted or why it was haunting Maggie. This was a disaster.

That aside though, the story itself was fun overall, and interesting, and it featured a lot of idiosyncratic activity and events which amused me greatly. So overall, and despite three big issues, this writer/illustrator of this black and white line-drawing comic still managed to make me rate this as a worthy read! See? It can be done!

Sunday, September 20, 2015

The Race by Janet Hurst-Nicholson

Rating: WORTHY!

Written by the talented author of Bheki and the Magic Light, this is another winner. The story is about a "clumsy" left-hander named Vicky and how, with the support of her close friend, she finally realizes she isn't clumsy and awkward, just left-handed in a right-handed world. The story is fun, if a little predictable, and has a warm ending. It also has a lot of information about left-handedness, and i recommend it for any parent who has a kid who is left-handed, and also for parents who want their kids to appreciate and enjoy diversity instead of fearing or jeering it.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Lettuce! by Diana Kizlauskas

Title: Lettuce!
Author: Diana Kizlauskas
Publisher: Diana Kizlauskas Illustration
Rating: WORTHY!

As I mentioned for the other review I posted today, some children's authors unfortunately feel that young children are an easy mark and not worth much time, and the path to success is via a series of cheap illustrations and a silly rhyme, and you're in business. This author/illustrator isn't one of those, I'm thrilled to report!

I've been lucky with the children's books I've reviewed, and I've found very few of them to be sub-standard, but I get to chose which ones I review, so I have an advantage! I try to review these books positively if I can because while children don't deserve less than adults, they are, bless their little cotton socks, far less critical and are willing (as I am in fact), to forgo excellence and finery if they can get a great story and/or some engrossing art work, and especially so if it's educational. This is one reason why I was so thrilled with the two books I'm reviewing today, because both of them are really, really excellent. On the other hand, it is Friday, so maybe I'm just in a thoroughly good mood. Naw, these books are great any day of the week!

This particular one has remarkable art work by the author, to which the sample images on my blog certainly do not do justice. It's the story of rabbit and his lettuce farm. He plants his seeds as usual, but the lettuce gets out of control. These things are humongous. They've lagomorphed to giant size. Rabbit doesn't have a clue what to do.

The author tells us what he does do in delightfully well-written rhymes. All of his friends come over and each of them has a suggestion, all of which advocate maximizing rabbit's fun and/or profitability. None of these weird and wacky ideas helps rabbit make up his mind at all. And yes, I'm giving him the male gender, but so is the author. Why this female author went haring off after a male farmer instead of a female, I don't know! It's enough to make you stamp your hind limbs!

Rabbit veg's out thinking hard, but he can't decide and calls up his sick friend owl, who does nothing but rabbit on about how sick he is, so while it was nice not to have the clich├ęd wise old owl here, this does give rabbit a brilliant idea of how to maximize value in a lettuce faire economy! I recommend this for the rhymes, the story, the good feeling this book delivers, and the beautiful art work. Buy it and burrow into it! You can't Pika better book!

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Carrot by Vanita Oelschlanger

Title: Carrot
Author: Vanita Oelschlanger
Publisher: VanitaBooks
Rating: WORTHY!

Illustrated by Kristin Blackwood.

DISCLOSURE: Unlike the majority of reviews in this blog, I've neither bought this book nor borrowed it from the library. This is a "galley" copy ebook, supplied by Net Galley. I'm not receiving (nor will I expect to receive or accept) remuneration for this review. The chance to read a new book is often enough reward aplenty!

Yes, it's Vanita Oelschlanger again, with Kristin Blackwood at the richly colorful paint brush and today's topic is Carrot is a cat. I'll bet you'll never guess what color she is.... She has a great life, inexplicably chasing mice, but also tending to one who has the flu. She loves her home and family, and the opportunities for a fish dinner at Finney's(!). I had a cat of the same hue, named Ginger. Still no idea what color she was?

One day Carrot sees a luxury yacht (probably pronounced Mangrove-Throat-Wobbler - and if you get that reference, you probably like flying circuses....) cruise by, and espies a gorgeous white fluffy cat on the deck playing with a toy mouse. The cat's name is Buffy. No word of whether she fights vampire cats.

This sight is a bit too much for Carrot, who now finds her days occupied not with having fun and tasty snacks, but with thoughts of what her own life would be like if she had the opportunities and life-style enjoyed by Buffy. She daydreams her time away in idle imaginings.

Being a practical cat - a practi-cat, no doubt - Carrot soon realizes the futility of her day-dreaming. She begins to understand that not all is not well in Buffy-world. Buffy doesn't have a host of family legs to rub against. She doesn't have real organic USDA grade A-1 mice to chase, nor does she have yummy snacks from Finney's. She leads a rather sad and isolated life, surrounded by fish but none to eat.

Carrot rather quickly and quite fully realizes what she would lose, and she re-values her own life, deciding that the catnip isn't always greener on the other side of the mouse. This is a great story for kids who might sometimes wish they had been born someone else, or who might look enviously at the life others lead. We cannot always control what happens to us, but we can control how we feel about it and how much we take or lose out of each day that we have. Worthy of a look for cat lovers and their children!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Amelia's Notebook by Marissa Moss

Title: Amelia's Notebook
Author: Marissa Moss
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Rating: WORTHY!

Illustrated by Marissa Moss.

This one I picked up on close-out because it was so hilarious and so irreverent that I couldn't leave it sitting there unloved.

Amelia is a young kid who has to move away from her school and friends, starting over in a new locale. She makes random notes about her experience and about anything and everything she deems worthy of a note in hardback notebooks. You know the ones: those with the cover looking like it already has ink-blots galore on it. In some ways, she's rather like a modern, much more funny, and far less creepy .

I love the way she draws a lot to illustrate her text, and the way she's completely unafraid to tell it how it is. She rambles on about her sister, her friends - old and new - and her teachers. In some ways she actually reminds me of me when I was so young. In particular it's really funny the way she illustrates various noses she's encountered, and the way that she tinkers with the 'useful information' - you know, those obscure weights and measures - inside the back cover of the book. This particualrly reminds me of how much I loved to re-write such things.

I found this book to be completely hilarious. Hopefully that's not just me, and children of the right age will find it entertaining too. There's a host of similar material written by Moss which is worth pursuing if you liked this one.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Iris and the Aloha Wedding Adventure by Lynelle Woolley

Title: Iris and the Aloha Wedding Adventure
Author: Lynelle Woolley
Illustrator: Karen Walcott
Publisher: Markelle Media
Rating: WORTHY!

DISCLOSURE: Unlike the majority of reviews in this blog, I've neither bought this book nor borrowed it from the library. This is a "galley" copy ebook, supplied by Net Galley. I'm not receiving (nor will I expect to receive or accept) remuneration for this review.

This is obviously one in a series (it follows Rosie and the Wedding Day Rescue and is succeeded by Starr and the High Seas Wedding Drama), and it’s a great idea to demonstrate cultures outside of your standard US mainstream, by showing wedding customs, although Hawaii really isn't that far out! I’d like to see this series stretch its legs, and hopefully it will. If there's one thing we get way too much of with children's and young adult novels it's that the USA is the only nation on Earth. It’s rather sad. But this series has the potential to go far and bring a lot back from its travels. I hope that's not an opportunity wasted.

The main character is Iris (all the characters in Iris's club seem to be named after flowers), and she is a member of Flower Girl World™ (FGW) along with friends Rosie And Starr, who were all flower girls at a wedding. I'm not going to get into the propriety of pulling up flowers to toss under the bride's feet at weddings. It's tempting to assume that these flowers were specially cultivated for that purpose, but it looks like the girls simply go grab them directly from flowers and trees growing wild. And am I going to mention the issue of flower girls vs. flower boys? So, moving right along…!

Iris learns she can be a flower girl once more, this time at a wedding in Hawaii, so six months later, off the family travels and Iris meets a new candidate for the FGW. Her name is Hana, which also is a word referencing a flower. Suspiciously convenient, huh?! Hana turns out to be my kind of girl: a real feisty handful of a tomboy, who tends to get very off-task if not closely supervised. She and Iris hatch a plan to catch a fairy known as a menehune, which they then hope to use to do the work of creating leis and other drudge-work for the wedding. They set up a box-trap primed with a cookie under a tree one night and the trap seems to work, but a fierce storm breaks out and they run indoors before they can find out what they caught!

The next day, the entire yard is trashed because of the storm, ruining all the work they'd done the previous day. A power outage also ruins the leis they made and the food they'd prepared, too. Since no storms were predicted, Hana and Iris think they caused all this by trapping the menehune (not that they ever saw what they trapped). Hana, Iris, and Leilani, Hana's older sister troop-off to pluck more blossoms. I have to say there's not much parental supervision going on here, and it badly backfires. Hana, of course, goes charging up the trees and crawling along ever thinner branches, eventually falling. Leilani tries to break her fall and ends up almost breaking her ankle in the process.

But in the end, things tend to work out, and Iris even gets to learn to hula dance. This story seems to me to be a little more 'fluffy' than I’d like, but then it's hardly aimed at me, and it does have some educational content, so with the caveat that I’d like to see this series stretch more and educate a bit more, and also be somewhat more inclusive of the male gender, I'm happy to rate this one as a worthy read. The grey-scale illustrations are charming and the tone upbeat. Like I said, I'd like a little bit more weight and a bit more of the culture in a story like this, but this one is a good start!