Monday, July 3, 2017

Things I've Read Recently (51)

Time for another edition of "Laina reads random books off her shelves for fun and profit". Except there is no profit. Unless you guys want to buy me a coffee. You guys know the spiel about Things I've Read Recently being mini-reviews, right? Good, let's go.

The Secret Language of Girls by Frances O'Roark Dowell

Published: First publishes in 2004, my edition was released in October 2005 by Aladdin Paperbacks.
Genre: Contemporary MG
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 247
Part of a series? Yeah, this is the first of a trilogy.
Got via: I think maybe a yard sale? I'm not sure though.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): In the old days, when Kate had no interest in romance, she never cared what other people thought. Now, it appeared, love was turning her into a rotten human being.

Eleven-year-old Kate Faber wishes she could talk to her best friend, Marylin, about this. But Marylin is no longer her best friend. Or is she? Kate and Marylin were always the kind of best friends who lived on the same block for their entire lives, and who agreed on what kinds of boys were worth kissing and who should be invited to their sleepover. The kind of best friends who didn't need words to talk, but who always just knew.

But lately Marylin has started to think that Kate can be a bit babyish. And Kate thinks Marylin is acting like a big snob. Somehow nothing is the same, but secretly Kate and Marylin both wish it could be...

Thoughts: Well, this turned out to be a bit of an odd book. I thought I'd like this a lot more than I did. First, I was actually eleven in 2004. I did not go to any parties where I played Spin the Bottle. It didn't ring as entirely authentic, and almost a little dated. Like even dated for 2004. The plot was really disjointed, too, and the resolution didn't feel satisfying.

I also thought the voice was oddly removed. It read as though the author was writing for a much younger audience than the one the book was meant for. And at almost the end of the book, the tense switches from past tense to present tense. I wrote down what page, and it was 219. I don't understand why? Like at all?

So while this was kind of sweet, I found it strangely written and I didn't love it. The occasional fatphobia it decided to throw out for some reason didn't help. Because I have little to no actual shelf space for books, I'm going to be passing this one along.

Almost Home by Nora Raleigh Baskin

Published: Originally published in 2003, my edition was released October 2004 by Scholastic.
Genre: Contemporary MG
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 173
Part of a series? Nope.
Got via: It used to be a school library book, so I think I bought it from a book sale a school library near us did to fundraise money.
Amazon / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Twelve-year-old Leah Baer has been shuffled to and from various households for years, but now she is back at her father's house with his new wife. Although this move seems as if it might be a lasting one, Leah feels out of place both at home and at school.

Then an unconventional boy named Will befriends her and persuades Leah to try acting to express her emotions. As Leah begins to learn more about herself she also gradually finds out what it means to be home.

Thoughts: I dunno, I liked this one. It reminds me a bit of Witch's Fire, which I talked about recently. I think I would have liked this as a kid. It definitely has some problematic elements, and I don't know if I would let a kid I didn't get to keep read this, but I got this anxious child so hard, and it was better than I expected.

I'm probably going to keep this just because I could actually see myself reading this again. It is by no means a perfect book but it worked for me. It's one of those things, you know. I'm not saying I'd recommend it without stipulations, just that my brain went all, "Hey, I like this."

Dancing Through the Snow by Jean Little

Published: Some time in 2007 by Scholastic.
Genre: Contemporary MG.
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 239 plus an about the author.
Part of a series? Nope.
Got via: I bought it secondhand, and I think from a yard sale. Someone wrote their name in it, and glued a pocket and card in the back. And that is precious. I hope the former owner ran a good library.
Amazon and it looks like it's out of print, so here's an AbeBooks link too.

Summary (from goodreads): Min has nothing. No mother. No birth certificate. Not even a real birthday. Now, after four different foster families, Min's not surprised when she's dumped back with Children's Aid the week before Christmas. Still, a small part of her can't help aching for a miracle... and now she has an injured dog that needs a miracle too.

Thoughts: Okay, this is probably a little too perfect, but Jean Little's writing is so wonderful that it carries the book, and I'm just like, "Give me all the good things." It helps that it's set right around Christmas, too. While I'm reading this in May, and I have no idea when this will post, but I let a few things slide when it comes to Christmas stories.

It used some language that I wish would stop being put in children's books, but it is like a decade old so mostly I just sigh, and it at least doesn't come up more than once, at least, so mostly I just sighed. I adored Min and how prickly she was, I loved that Dr. Jess was an amazing First Nations woman, I loved how the book didn't gloss over some more serious things like the 2004 tsunami, and I absolutely adored how many references to real books there was.

I know it's probably too perfect, but Jean Little's writing is that it felt emotionally right and satisfying. I'm keeping this one. It made me go aw.

Also Known as Harper by Ann Haywood Leal

Published: Originally published in 2009, my edition was released in January 2010 by Scholastic.
Genre: Contemporary MG
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 243 plus the acknowledgements.
Part of a series? Nope
Got via: Garage sale or something.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Harper is an aspiring poet, and life is giving her a lot to write about just now. Daddy up and walked out, leaving them with too many bills, too little money, and an eviction notice.

Now Mama is scrambling to make ends meet, leaving Harper to stay home and take care of her brother. Their whole world has been turned upside down, which Harper could just about handle—if it wasn’t for the poetry contest at school. More than anything, she wants to get up on that stage and read her poems out loud. But how can she worry about getting back to school when she doesn’t even know where she’s going to sleep tonight?

Thoughts: This actually was a little too perfect for me. I realize I'm contradicting myself completely with this blog post, but this seems like it's trying too hard. It's trying to deal with like six different things in less than 250 pages, and none of them really get given the depth they deserve. Everything is resolved a little too easily, and somehow isn't resolved enough at the same time.

The homelessness especially - it's almost a little Boxcar Children and I don't think the author was trying to do that, but it did come off as a little glossed over. And I really wanted to like this one. I loved the idea of a MC who writes poetry, and the connection to Harper Lee, but it's not enough to carry the book through what didn't work for me. I also wish that the setting had been fleshed out more. I think it was in the South, but it was hard to tell where exactly it was set, and also exactly when it was set. There wasn't mentions of computers or cell phonse or anything, so it was hard to nail down a time period.

Lastly, there was also so much fatphobia. Like really nasty fatphobia, in a way that's kind of shocking. Just because you don't like someone doesn't mean it's okay to make jokes about their bodies. And those jokes don't just hurt them, they hurt other people who hear it, and you. I can't imagine being a fat kid and reading this, honestly. So I think I'm going to get rid of this one. I wouldn't reread it.

Okay, two out of four are going to be given to someone else. Not bad honestly.

What have you guys been reading? Is it summer reading time yet?

Peace and cookies,

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