Saturday, July 21, 2012

The One and Only Ivan

     Ivan is a gorilla living at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall with an elderly elephant and a stray dog.  He spends his days trying to paint what he sees in his cage so Mack, his owner, can frame the paintings and sell them in the gift shop.  When Ivan was small and cute, Mack made lots of money from visitors coming to the mall to see the animals.  Now that Ivan is a Silverback, hardly anyone comes to see him or the other animals.  Mack is stressed about the lost money, so he buys a baby elephant to bring more visitors.  Although Stella is an elderly, disabled elephant, she cares for Ruby, the baby elephant, as if she were her own.  Stella's dying wish is for Ivan to save Ruby from the mall.  His promise to Stella changes all of their lives.
     This book is based on a true story about a gorilla who lived alone in a mall cage for twenty-seven years before being rescued.  You can read about the true Ivan here.
     The chapters are only a page or two, which is good for reluctant or young readers.  The story is told from Ivan's perspective, which can be a bit confusing for an inexperienced reader.  
     I liked the book, but I thought it was a bit heavy-handed in parts.  It felt like Katherine Applegate was forcing me to care about the animals, rather than letting me develop that relationship with the animals as the story developed.  I recommend this book for animal lovers of all ages.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Frankenstein: Lost Souls

     Note to self - Look to see if the book you want to read is a sequel.  Not only is Frankenstein:  Lost Souls by Dean Koontz a sequel, it is Book 4 in the Frankenstein series.  For most of the book I had no idea what was happening, but didn't really care.  The writing is mediocre.  Most of the characters are superficially developed.  There are so many people in the book, they almost fight for attention.  It was impossible to keep track of any of them, so I didn't care which humans were killed by the replacements.  The book was very slow, even though there were brief scenes of intense action.  Dean Koontz knew he was going to make another book, so he doesn't even try to bring the book to any kind of conclusion.  The book just stops.  I hated the book and will not go back and read the earlier books or the next one in the series.  Unless you are a fan of the series already, I do not recommend this book.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Waiting for Normal

     Waiting for Normal is going on my list of favorite books. Addison "Addie" Schmeeter is only twelve, but she is wise beyond her years.  Addie's dad is dead, but Dwight is a wonderful stepfather.  The family is happy for awhile with Addie and the two new baby girls that join the family.  However, Addie's mom "Mommers" is bipolar and her chaotic mood swings and actions cause trouble for the family. Mommers kicks Dwight out of the house and asks for a divorce.  After Dwight leaves, Mommers takes off and leaves nine-year-old (at the time) Addie to take care of her baby sisters alone for three days.  Dwight gets custody of his daughters, but he has no legal rights to Addie.  Addie and Mommers move into a trailer on a busy street corner.  Addie continues to take care of her mom while she settles into her new life.  She finds friends in unexpected places and learns how to show and receive love.
     I LOVE, Love, love this book!  Addie deals with poverty, neglect, death, divorce, her mother's mental illness, and loneliness.  Through it all she never loses hope, faith, or her optimism that life will get better for her.  The characters are so well-developed, I fell in love with nearly all of them.  Addie's mother could have been portrayed as a horrible woman, but she was a sympathetic character that truly loved her children, but needed help dealing with her mental illness.  The dialogue and setting are realistic and poignant.  I couldn't put the book down once I started it.  I even read it in the car, and then had to go through the store with red-rimmed eyes from crying.  
     This book is too difficult for reluctant middle school readers, but is a wonderful book for older students or advanced readers.  It would also be great for any kids going through abuse, neglect, or living with someone with bipolar disorder.  This book has won several awards, including the ALA Top 10 Best Book for Young Adults.  This is a book that I wish I had written.  That is my highest praise.  

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Beginner's Goodbye

     I wish I could say The Beginner's Goodbye was another amazing book by Anne Tyler, but it was just mediocre.  When she writes well, this woman is untouchable.  Unfortunately, the last few books have lost their edge.
     In The Beginner's Goodbye, Aaron's wife Dorothy dies in a freak accident.  Aaron is devastated by her death.  He is still struggling to live again a year later, but Dorothy's spirit returns to help Aaron find a new beginning in life.
     The story was okay, but the characters were flat and stilted.  Without an attachment to the characters, it was difficult to care about what happened to them.  One of the things I love best about Anne Tyler is falling in love with her characters, but I didn't even get to know them in this book.
     If you love Anne Tyler, reread her other books instead.  If you haven't read any of her books, read her Pulitzer Prize winning book Breathing Lessons or my favorite, Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant.