Thursday, December 24, 2015

Audiobook / TBR Pile: Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer

Kid Lawyer is the first book in the Theodore Boone series by John Grisham. The son of two lawyers in a small city, Theodore Boone is well-known by the kids and adults in the area. He's always curious about what's going on around him, especially the exciting new murder trial coming up. But murder is a new depth for Theo, and he may be biting off more than he can chew by getting involved.

(picture taken from Goodreads)

Conclusion:  This was a solid read by Grisham. I haven't read any of his before, but judging by what I've heard, this is what I expected. It's for kids, but the focus is lawyers and intrigue--pretty unique for the age group. The characters were pretty interesting. The tone is adventurous without actually involving Theo or the other children in direct violence. And it ended with kind of a cliffhanger. I find some people's criticisms of the book funny. I saw one that said there's not enough action to keep kids interested. This is a really popular series with kids in my area. Also, it's more of an intrigue story rather than an adventure. One person claimed that Theo isn't relatable or realistic, which is only somewhat true. All main characters are special in some way, but the facts that he plays golf or doesn't use a cell phone every five seconds aren't what sets him apart. I did find it a little strange that classes would be separated by gender, which isn't something I've seen in public schools. Overall, this was a fun read.

Recommendation: This is a good book for kids or adults who want an intriguing boy lawyer character and a little suspense.

This is my eleventh read for the 2015 Audiobook Challenge and my eighteenth read for the 2015 TBR Pile Challenge. I hope all of you have a wonderful holiday weekend! I'll be spending Christmas with my extended family and no computer, but I'll try to update all of my blog challenges for you next week and wrap-up the year!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Diverse Books / TBR Pile: Out of My Mind

Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper is the story of Melody, a fifth-grade girl with cerebral palsy, and how her life changed (and didn't) when she found a better way to communicate her thoughts to the outside world.

(picture taken from Goodreads)

Conclusion: This book is very profound in its simplicity, and I think this would be a good book for kids as an introduction to cerebral palsy. It's true that Melody's situation is not typical. In my own limited interaction with kids and adults with cerebral palsy, they had a much lower ability to communicate their thoughts than she does. That being said, I think it's important that her situation be somewhat special in order to get the point across of what she is capable of with the right help and technology, and to give this story its chance to sink in with the reader. I hope this can shed some light on the intelligence and mental capacity of people with cerebral palsy. Draper's treatment of Melody's peer interaction is what I really appreciate about this book. There are moments of connection and humor, but the kids never fully accept Melody as one of them, and I think that's accurate. I also like the way she builds the characters through the story. When the climax hits, each character's role makes perfect sense.

Recommendation:  I would probably recommend this primarily to kids and teachers, but I thought it was well done and worth the read.

This book is my June "Visible Disabilities or Deformities" choice for the 2015 We Read Diverse Books Challenge and my seventeenth read for the 2015 TBR Pile Challenge.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Mailbox Monday: Kickstarter Goodies

Mailbox Monday is a weekly meme started by Marcia of To Be Continued. It's a fun focus on what books and book-related items you're getting in the mail each week. I always love to get mail (especially when it's literature), but since I'm stuck at home with a virus right now (yuck!), getting packages in the mail has been a highlight for me. So, what did I get, you ask? Well, I don't know how many of you have heard of Kickstarter, but it's an awesome site where you can back all sorts of projects people are working on around the world.  And I mean all sorts of projects. Anyway, I've supported a few book projects in the last few months, and my books from those campaigns are arriving! Here are the goods, in the order they arrived (unless mentioned otherwise, pictures taken from links given below):

Ladies of Literature: Volume 2
Curated and edited by Arielle Jovellanos and Janet Sung

Over a hundred artists joined together to make art based on their favorite female characters from books, and the result is breathtaking! Page after page of amazing female characters rendered in various, original art styles--and in the back, there's a description of the character and why they were chosen by the author. I just want to hang these pictures up all over the place (I might have to buy another copy just for that) and read every book in which these characters show up!

The Last Fairy Tale
Written by E.S. Lowell

"Olivia Wickworth lives in Orphanage Nine, a refuge for the genetically-modified children living in the final days of a dying Earth. In what could be our near future, mankind has completed the widespread implementation of cellular computing - but with devastating unforeseen consequences. Just when all hope seems lost, Olivia enters Aeldyn, a land created thousands of years ago when man exiled magical creatures from Earth. Although Aeldyn seems like the world of Olivia’s dreams, it is not without its own darkness. There is evil in the land that threatens to corrupt Aeldyn just as Earth has been corrupted, and Olivia is the only one who can stop it. On her quest to defeat this evil, Olivia forges friendships, meets fantastic creatures, and rediscovers the lost art of magic. But can she save both Aeldyn and what is left of mankind?" That description is from the inside cover. I haven't read this one yet, but the characters and little pictures intrigue me. Also, look at how they sent it to me, all wrapped-up and wax-sealed with a little notebook, bookmark, and bracelet!:

Ellen and the Winter Wolves
Written by Jamin Still

May is here, and Winter is still in full swing where Ellen lives. Her father is a trader who travels by boat and hasn't been able to come home in the cold and ice. Ellen knows something is wrong. Following directions from a mysterious voice in her dreams and the howling of some distant wolves, she sets off on a quest to make things right. The artwork in this book is beautiful, and the Winter Wolves are chilling! Gabe loves Ellen's story and can't stop talking about those Wolves and Ellen's trek through the snow. This is a picture book, but the story is a bit long for the number of pictures, so I'd probably recommend it for a slightly older child. Gabe is three, and I had to bring him back a few times making the same sounds as the wolves and things like that. But it was well worth it! A beautiful, unexpected treasure. I hope to see more from this author.

I hope you all enjoyed this glimpse into my mailbox! There's only a week and a half before Christmas, so hopefully I'll get more fun things this week!

Friday, December 11, 2015

Audiobook / Diverse Books / TBR Pile: The Rosie Project

The Rosie Project is the first book in Graeme Simsion's Don Tillman series. The main character, Don, is a genetics professor with Asperger's Syndrome who decides that finding a wife will greatly improve his happiness. He creates "The Wife Project" and begins handing out questionnaires of suitability to potential candidates on dates and at social gatherings. Then he meets Rosie, who is the opposite of a suitable candidate for "The Wife Project." He rules her out but decides to help her with a project of her own, and a roller coaster of events inevitably follows!

(picture taken from Goodreads)

First Impression: This is really cute. It's a little funky, but I love how subtly Don connects with people. He really tries but doesn't understand basic motivations for actions. And yet, he draws a few people to himself with his wit and his ability to be selfless when faced with others' troubles. For instance, his decision to celebrate Daphne's birthday even when she starts to forget, or his attempts to help Rosie find her father even though he sees no benefit for himself. It's obvious that he's already crazy about her, but their interaction keeps meeting communication problems. Even though they fight every other track, I can't wait to see their relationship play out. Gene, on the other hand, is a horrible person. I imagine the only reason he and Don are friends is because he doesn't mind Don's straightforward questions and social confusion. Also, he probably likes feeling superior, sleeping around while Don has trouble even making friends. Pretty sure Claudia doesn't know or at least doesn't approve of Gene sleeping around.

Conclusion: I loved this book! This is probably my new favorite modern romance, although it's not as romance-focused as most of them. It would probably be one of my favorite books overall except for a few characters (primarily Gene). As for Rosie, with the exception of the smoking habit and the anger at her father for something that wasn't his fault, she is exactly the outspoken feminist with which I would like to be friends. She sounds like a lot of fun without the crazy risks typically assigned to similar characters. She kind of reminds me of a modern Elizabeth Bennet. Don was obviously very affected by the death of his sister earlier in life, and I would have liked to hear more about her. That being said, I think Simsion stayed true to Don's first-person narrative by not sharing more about his sister. Don wouldn't have shared his feelings on the subject without better inducement. And what a great ending! I love Simsion's distinction that the ability to express love and recognize certain emotions in others is not the same as the ability to feel love. Let's call this an intelligent romance! It had dashes of humor and good fun, as well as some social and medical commentary. Very good.

Recommendation: This book is witty and romantic--a great modern read for anyone who loves Austen!

This is my tenth read for the 2015 Audiobook Challenge and my sixteenth read for the 2015 TBR Pile Challenge, as well as my September choice for "Country" in the 2015 We Read Diverse Books Challenge.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Audiobook: Mr. Toppit

Mr. Toppit by Charles Elton is about a children's book series author and how his life, death, and work have affected everyone around him.

(picture taken from Goodreads)

First Impression: I'm already halfway through this book but haven't had a chance to write about it yet. The story is pretty dark, starting out with Luke unhappy as an adult and then switching to when Arthur dies, his series unfinished and his family despondent at the end of his existence. Apparently, Elton was inspired to write the book when wondering how Christopher Robin's life would have been if he'd grown-up in the modern age of media and exposure. (Christopher Robin being the real boy who inspired the Winnie the Pooh series.) This to me is a really fantastic idea, albeit a little depressing and strange to read. My audiobook is narrated by Simon Vance, and I'm not a big fan of his voices for women, but they are distinguishable both from the male voices and from each other, so that's more important I suppose. I also find the timeline a little strange. So far, there hasn't been much point to starting the book later in Luke's life other than to cast a tone that nothing will get better for him. And Laurie's character is just strange. I don't really know what to make of her or how to understand her relationships with Marge and Alma. I'm a little curious how things will go later with Rachel and Claude or Martha and their German friend. Also, how will the story with Jordan play out, and what significance will it have in Martha and Arthur's relationship?

Conclusion: I did not expect how this book ended. Maybe I should have, given the rest of the story and the characters. Let me start with the writing style. Elton has a really great balance of dialogue and prose. His characters are very well-rounded--even some of the side characters who don't play much of a role until later. I also think his plot was somewhat realistic, given the circumstances of the characters' lives. That being said, I felt frustrated a good portion of the time reading the book--mostly on Luke's behalf. It's unfair that everyone feels justified taking over parts of his life just because a character in a children's book was named after him. Everything spins out of control, and he's caught up in the outcome. So, I'll conclude with this: I like Elton's style of writing, and I don't think the book would be much different in print than audio. The idea for the story was a unique and inspired one which grabbed my attention, and the subtle backstory that drove everything was brilliant. He made some characters appealing that I would not usually like--such as Rachel, the drama queen addict sister who probably suffers the most from everything that happens. But I couldn't fully enjoy the story, because it dragged me down quite a bit. I felt emotionally drained after finishing it. Also, I felt like Laurie should have had a crappy ending for being a crazy jerk, but maybe that's not fair. Martha is a social hog and makes everyone suffer for a mistake she made as a young woman. Alma got a crappy ending for trying to protect her ignorant daughter. I don't know--I have very mixed feelings about this book. I may read another by Elton just because his writing style was so good, but I need some time to shake this one off.

Recommendation: If you like dark fiction or family drama, this would probably be a good book for you. Think Lord of the Flies--very well-written, very depressing, and very complicated.

This is my ninth choice for the 2015 Audiobook Challenge.