Book Review – Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon

With her TITLE: Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon
AUTHOR: Patty Lovell
ILLUSTRATOR: David Catrow
FORMAT: Children’s
PUBLISHED: 2001
MY VERSION: 2017 for Imagination Library

 

As you may remember, my boss is 3 1/2, and he brought this to me the other day to read to him.

Molly Lou Melon is ridiculously tiny (the illustration reminded me of Cindy Lou Who), has huge buck teeth, and a terrible voice, which the author describes as “a bullfrog being squeezed by a boa constrictor” in the book (and which every review on the internet quotes – lol).  Her grandmother is The Most Amazing Influence, of course, and has always told her to be proud of herself and carry herself accordingly.
She moves away from her friends and her grandmother (ANYTHING BUT THAT!), and goes to a new school, complete with bully.  Ronald Durkin is every bit the turd we expect a bully to be, and she shows him up by simply being better/smarter/faster/whatever than he is at everything they have to do.  With her grandmother in heart, she stands tall and everything’s right in the end.

So, we know I have a soft spot for grandmothers, so of course this book got me because she had to leave her grandmother behind.  (My grandmother died in 2009, so anything that has a strong connection between fmc and Gramma gets me in the feels hard…)  So the book seriously resonated with me, which I’m sure added to my enjoyment.  But I loved that there was a character that happened to be a girl, but who wasn’t judged for being one.  It was kind of nice/refreshing, you know?  She’s a great strong character (regardless of gender) because her entire existence was ‘you know what?  this is me, and I’m totally okay with that.’  And that’s a lesson that we all need to keep close to heart, you know?   Be okay with you.  Everyone else is already taken.

I didn’t like the illustrations at all.  I guess they’d be much better as a stand alone piece of artwork, but I found them distracting, so they detracted from the story, and certainly from my enjoyment of them.  So there’s that.

The toddler’s reaction means more than mine, so I’ll tell you that he liked it, although he cared more about the illustration than the story sometimes, which is a little sad.  This book had a great message and he was too busy pointing out frogs to hear it sometimes.

But, I’ll give the book a 4/5 and the illustrations a 2/5.  I really wish the artist had a less-is-more approach, but it’s definite a story with reading, and I’ll certainly read it again if the boss wants to hear it.

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Book Review – Mates, Dates, and Inflatable Bras

TITLE: Mates, Dates, and Inflatable Bras
AUTHOR: Cathy Hopkins
FORMAT: Paperback
PUBLISHED: 2011

Mates, Dates, and Inflatable Bras is a coming of age book about Lucy, her friend Izzie, and new girl Nesta.

Lucy is short.  So short that they call her a midget (under 5 foot at 14).  Blonde but flat chested.  And doesn’t really have a clue where her life is going.  One day, on her way to Izzie’s house, she sees a guy come out of a store and realizes that her life would totally make sense if she had a guy like him.

Cue a bunch of problems on a bunch of fronts.  There’s the identity of the mystery guy of course, and there’s Nesta, who is fairly new to the school and monopolizing Izzie’s attention with her seemingly lavish life.

Everything comes to a head when she forces herself to hang out with Nesta and Lizzie together.  Turns out the mystery guy is Nesta’s brother.  NO! Gasp!  She hates Nesta!  How can THE MOST AMAZING BOY INTHE UNIVERSE(tm) turn out to be related to the Horrible, Terrible, Awful person trying to take her best friend from her?

Of course that’s not how it goes down.  She’s forced to examine a lot of things – how she looks at Nesta, who she is as a person, etc.

 

So, I found this book at my local thrift store while on a quest for the most bizarre book I could find.  No, this isn’t it, but the title made me giggle and I bought it (probably for about 50 cents) for me.  I thought by the title it was going to be chick lit, and it is, but I didn’t realize it was YA until I got it home and actually read the back cover (Note: I don’t care, just putting that out there.).

The book is very British, which I love.  I think it could have had a little bit more substance, but it’s geared towards the younger end of YA, so it fits the genre just fine.  Just a personal thing.

The only thing that reallllllly annoyed me about this book was that he planted a huge kiss on her just because he thought she should get a kiss from a boy.  Nevermind that he wasn’t at all interested (not as much my problem) and had a girlfriend (very much my problem).  And I guess it was a minor issue, but still.

In all, it was a decent book.  I don’t know that I’ll rush out to find the rest of the series, but if I come across them, there’s a good chance I’d read them.  It was a light, fast read, I liked how the characters went down, and it’s a nice deviation from books that weigh heavy long after I’m done with them.

In all, I’ll give this a 4/5 page rating.  It’s a great short read when you just want something fun.

 

 

 

Book Review – Lexicon

TITLE: Lexicon
AUTHOR: Max Barry
FORMAT: Hardback
PUBLISHED: 2013

 

Poets.  No, not the type that string words together into iambic pentameter.  Worse.  These poets understand words and language in ways that laypeople do not.  They can talk to somebody for ten minutes and understand what their segment is and know what words need said to end them entirely.

Wil Parke is a man on the run, and he doesn’t know why.  He’s got total amnesia.  Hell, he isn’t even sure that Wil Parke is his real name.  Oh, and a poet has gone rogue and wants him dead.  So two men kidnap him from the airport and spend much of the book just trying to keep his sorry ass alive.

The book flips between two story lines – one starts with Emily Ruff, who is recruited in California and becomes a poet.  The other story line centers around Wil.  Who is he, how can they keep him alive, and why does somebody want him?

The two stories come together in two places about as different as they can be – Broken Hill, Australia, and Washington, DC.   I know I’m not doing a good job explaining this, but really, I don’t want to give things away too much, and I’m not smart enough anyway. Max Barry was a friggin’ genius with this story.

I loved the background about the poets and that setup, and a lot of the information they were sharing about words is true. So it made the book extra realistic.

That said, I saw how the two stories were going to come together about halfway to when they did.  I didn’t mind, and I still enjoyed the book, but I could see how that might upset some readers a little bit.  Still, I thought the book was strong enough that it didn’t matter.

Max Barry is good about making you care about his characters, so even though you’re expecting xyz, you still want to see how it plays out.

Very happy with this one.  I give it 5/5.

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review – Such Small Hands

TITLE: Such Small Hands
AUTHOR: Andres Barba
TRANSLATED: Lisa Dillman
FORMAT: Paperback
PUBLISHED: 2017 (Original Spanish Version – 2008)

 

At the very beginning of this story, there’s a car accident involving seven year old Marina and her parents.  Her father died immediately, her mother later at the hospital, as they tell you several times in the book.  She’s sent to live in an orphanage with a random group of possessions and a doll whose eyes quit opening and closing like they should.

The other girls in the orphanage are unsure of how to act around her, and what ensues from that is a weird dance of small children who want to know each other and yet can’t bring themselves to say what they mean (or perhaps lack the ability to do so).

 

There’s something about Spanish fiction.  It’s like this beautiful string of poetry that dances in on a gentle breeze, twirls around you a few times, and then leaves you breathless.  Unlike American fiction, there’s no fucking blue chair to understand (ie, no heavy descriptions to bog you down), you get a strand of blonde hair here or a white scar there, never before you need to know about them, and never again after their usefulness is done.  Because it’s not about the overly described thing in the corner that doesn’t even matter, it’s about the moment and about you being a part of it.

The skin around the scar contracted in a fleeting spasm and the girl opened her mouth as if she wanted to devour everything: the air, Marina’s arrogance, her own fear.

This book is in three parts.  Part one is the accident and getting Marina to the orphanage, all Marina’s point of view.  Two and three switch between the other girls, who are seen as a descriptioneless collective.  Parts of a whole that we never talk about individually because they aren’t ‘the other girls’ if we do.  In fact, their names are mentioned individually and then as one collective long name with no spaces.  To Marina they are one, so to us they will be too.  Part 2 is about Marina and the other girls seeing each other and keeping their distance.  Part 3 is about the contact between them.

I want to talk more about part 3.  About how something so sad and so helpless can be made so beautiful.  But I also don’t want to give away what happens.

The book was terribly sad, but in a beautiful wrapper in such a way that I hungered for more.  I felt like the girls, who just wanted to reach out a finger but were afraid of interrupting the magic if they did.  I wanted to know more about so many things, but I knew as soon as I did, it would have the subtlety of a pencil to the butt and that wasn’t at all what I wanted.

It’s only a novella, or maybe even a novelette (My very basic word count estimate is 20k, so novella, but it’s definitely not an accuracy level I’d swear by) which actually enhances the story.  This could be a novel, but you wouldn’t want it to be… it needs to be the single movement and not the whole symphonic performance for the night.  So I give it a very high 4/5 – read the book, somewhere quiet with no distractions, and let it be your own music.  But I don’t think you’ll need to read it more than once, because I think this one will haunt you for a long time to come.

 

 

Book Review – The Other Side Of Oz

TITLE: The Other Side of Oz: An Autobiography
AUTHOR: Buddy Ebsen
FORMAT: Hardback
PUBLISHED: 1994

This book lets Buddy tell the story of his acting career.  I picked it up at the dollar store brand new a couple weeks ago  (who the heck is stockpliling quantities of Hardback books for twenty years?!), and it was a fairly quick read.

Fundamentally, I had a few issues with this – first of all, Buddy Ebsen was cast as the Tin Man and acted for just a couple weeks before the costume tried to kill him and he ended up hospitalized while his lung re-inflated.  So titling your book after the most famous role you never had seems weird.  Clearly he was trying to cash in on that fame, even though he never got to have any of it.  (I don’t think it’s much of an argument to say that The Wizard of Oz has way more staying power than any of the roles he ever had.  A lot of them are very dated to the time period they came out of.  TWoO seems to have a little bit better longevity as far as that sort of thing is concerned.)

Second of all, this book is not an autobiography.  An autobiography is supposed to cover your entire life up to that point.  A memoir, otoh, covers a specific aspect of your life.  So a book that barely says anything about his childhood, overlooks any aspect of his family life except for a few random mentions of things (“By this time I was divorced and had a new wife.  She suggested I take this role..”)  and doesn’t cover the duration, is certainly not an autobiography.  Honestly, I lose a little faith any time a publisher can’t manage to get those details right.  Then again, they couldn’t manage to sell this volume for 20 years so maybe that explains a lot.

With that said, the book is pretty much Mr. Ebsen telling stories.  Each chapter has a different focus (Shirley Temple, Vaudeville with his sister, acting without his sister, The Beverly Hillbillies, etc).  Unfortunately for a book about somebody that spent his time on the screen, there’s very little content about any of his shows.  “Walt Disney put a show on and there I was…”  isn’t really a description about Daniel Boone.  And if you’re covering fifty years in a career, maybe you *should* explain something or other about the shows because there’s a good chance your fans haven’t been around for all of it, and it’d be cool to get a better understanding of the show anyway.

The book suffers horribly from lack of content and organization.  At first it’s in order, then it skips around.  One chapter pretty much just exists to say that he worked with a famous but now dead actress.  I feel like somebody took a bun, added lettuce and ketchup, and then gave it to us before they put the burger patty there.  In other words, they forgot t he meat of the book.  Plus, don’t let the binding deceive you – the pages are thick and glossy, there are a ton of photos, and the font is large and much bolder than it needs to be.  In a more standard book format, this book would have been half the thickness.

I guess it’s not totally bad.  Some of the stories were entertaining.  It’s just not what I expected when I grabbed it at the store.

Over all, I’m only going to give it 2/5 stars.  If you like Hollywood or were a fan of Buddy, go ahead and give this a read if you come across it.  But just be aware that there’s a lot of fluff and it’s not as it appears.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review – The Ice Dragon

TITLE: The Ice Dragon
AUTHOR: George R R Martin
FORMAT: Hardback
ILLUSTRATIONS: Luis Royo
PUBLISHED: 2014 (this edition – story originally 1980)

 

I picked The Ice Dragon up at a bookstore because it was cheap and also short.  I estimated it to be a novelette.  I love GRRM’s stories, but I’m not always a fan of his writing style.  In fact, the last thing of his I read I found incredibly boring.  But I quite enjoyed Fevre Dream in graphic form and Game of Thrones on the screen.  So I wanted to give him another shot.

Four dollars later, this was mine.

As far as I knew, I was reading a short story that he did, and I was a little surprised to see it in chapter form, but not totally.

The story follows Adara, who is different and also the reason her mother died in childbirth.  While her father adores her siblings, she gets left to mostly her own devices, and ends up befriending an Ice Dragon, which nobody does.

I liked the story.  It was written more simply than his normal stuff, which means I wasn’t bogged down by unnecessary words and overly-long descriptions.  I found out later that the reason was that it’s actually a children’s book (Note: the bookstore hadn’t specified that.  I found it on the internet when I tried to look up word count)

So I guess the key here is that GRRM needs to write for Children for me to want to read it.

Still, the ending was annoying to me.  It was predictable and went in exactly the opposite direction from where I wanted it to go.

So a rating.  Whatever genre you want it to be, it was a nice story up until the very end.  I’ll give it a healthy 3/5.  Go ahead and give yourself a bit to read it, but don’t expect the most amazing story ever.

 

 

 

Book Review – Go To Sleep, Little Farm

TITLE: Go To Sleep, Little Farm
AUTHOR: Mary Lyn Ray
ILLUSTRATOR: Christopher Silas Neal
FORMAT: Board Book
PUBLISHED: 2014

Go to Sleep, Little Farm is an adorable fat board book about the farm going to sleep at the end of the night.

The color scheme is a mostly muted blue/grey with occasional pops of muted reds (like the barn, or the little girl’s pajamas), and it’s absolutely beautiful. Serene and peaceful like it was undoubtedly intended.

The book starts “Somewhere a bee makes a bed in a rose…”  and goes on from there.  Not your normal “the cow goes to sleep, the donkey goes to sleep” type stuff here.  Not-so common animals (even an earthworm!), illustrations and text that show where and how they sleep, and it’s just so precious.  As all the animals settle down, we see the little girl reading under her covers with a flashlight.  The farm settles in, dad turns off the light, and mom and dad tuck the little girl in so she can dream about all the animals that are sleeping.  The author even included the “slippers, asleep on the rug” and holy cow.  Since the toddler is currently in his “What’s your shoes doin’?” phase, that line was like the most perfect thing ever.

This is so much better than *gasp* Goodnight, Moon – and I love that book.

5/5 very sleepy pages.

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