Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Absolutely Almost Review

Absolutely Almost

Book talk: Albie has always been an 'almost'.  No matter how hard he tries his work is only ever almost good enough.  So he wasn't surprised when he found out that he was only almost good enough for his private school and he had to leave it for a public one.  That means no more school with his best friend, one in a set of two triplets whose family is now starring in their own reality TV show.  But Albie is starting to make new friends at his new school and they have a special math club there that is way better than sitting through regular math class.  Perhaps this new school year will be better after all. Or perhaps it will just turn out to be another 'almost.'

Rave:  I love how heartfelt this novel is without ever becoming saccharine (unless you count all the doughnut references.) I also like that it's a slice of life without any false climax or easy resolution.  Everything about the novel from the way the characters are drawn to the way events plays out seemed realistic to me except perhaps for how awesome his babysitter is but these flukes do happen.  Let me talk for a minute about the babysitter and the way she gets Albie to take his mind of his problems by making a cardboard tv and remote for him that she places in front of the window.  The math club teacher was another favorite of mine with his proclivity for puns ("Why didn’t the quarter roll down the hill with the nickel?...Because it had more cents") Albie's friends, both the camera-shy reality tv star and the new friend he makes, are great characters too.  The way the model airplane pictured on the cover becomes a physical manifestation of his relationship with his dad is at turns clever, heartbreaking, and hopeful.  The book is full of great characters, memorable small moments, and valuable life lessons.  If you're looking for a realistic school story this is an excellent choice.

Every book its reader:  Albie is in 5th grade but he reads as younger and I'd say it's fine for younger kids curious about older grades.  It would make a great class read-aloud because it's fairly fast paced and easy to understand with plenty of humor but brings up a lot of great discussion points

Bait & Hooks:  
puns, protagonist of color (Albie is half Korean, half Swiss), humor, school story, superstar teacher, learning differences, inspiring artist, bullying, baked goods


Lisa Graff has a great page for the book with interviews, reading guides, and further reading suggestions.

Source: ebook from public library

Absolutely Almost by Lisa Graff: buy it or check it out today!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Salvage Review


Book talk:  Ava dreams of Earth, but she has never set foot on solid land.  She lives on a Crewe ship where everyone knows their place and there's plenty of work to do.  She longs to learn how to fix things or go down to Earth, but that's men's work.  Women have their own work like tending animals and children or cooking and doing laundry.  The other women tell her that the longing for Earth and other things she can't have will go away once she gets married and starts having children.  As the captain's daughter the odds are good she'll make a fine match--maybe even as a first wife.  But just when everything seems to be coming together disaster strikes, and she has to flee everything she has ever known for the perils of a life on land.  

Rave: How could I not be intrigued by the premise of polygamists in space?  Reading about this society with its mythology and social constructs was fascinating in and of itself.  And that's just the beginning of the fully developed settings Ava lives in. For a while she lives with a single mom in a house on stilts over a giant mass of garbage in the Pacific Ocean and later she spends a good deal of time in India both in the slums and a posh suburb.  Being able to compare and contrast these very different settings and the characters that populate them was one of my favorite parts of reading the novel.  The characters are as richly layered and diverse as the settings and had a way of staying with me.  The overall effect reminded me of the TV show Firefly.  It's set in the future and largely in space and there are aspects that are advanced and shiny but a lot of it is gritty and hasn't changed much from today.  Moreover I loved the unconventional way romance is dealt with in the novel and how long it takes for Ava to come to terms with her past.  Character growth is slow and there are no magic wands to fix her problems (which just keep coming at alarming speed.)

Every book its reader:  I'd give this to fans of gritty space dramas like Firefly and readers drawn to rich settings with well-rounded characters.  The romance gets pretty intense especially at the beginning of the novel and there's a fair amount of violence and disturbing situations Ava finds herself in.  I'd say it's best for 8th grade and up.

Bait & hooks: outer space, competent adults, feminism, protagonist of color, economic diversity, set in a foreign country (India), moral ambiguity, strong characters, strong world building, gritty setting, unconventional romance


Alexandra Duncan has her own website subtitled "Science Fiction. Fantasy. Feminism." love it!

Source: ebook from public library

Salvage by Alexandra Duncan: buy it or check it out today!