Welcome back to the RealityLapse Christmas Countdown! It’s day two and the theme for today is MG & YA Realistic Fiction and Contemporary! Hope you enjoyed day one! We’re officially eleven days closer to Christmas, so to celebrate–we’re starting off with one of my five star books. Garth Stein’s your man.
Enzo knows he is different from other dogs: a philosopher with a nearly human soul (and an obsession with opposable thumbs), he has educated himself by watching television extensively, and by listening very closely to the words of his master, Denny Swift, an up-and-coming race car driver.
Through Denny, Enzo has gained tremendous insight into the human condition, and he sees that life, like racing, isn’t simply about going fast. On the eve of his death, Enzo takes stock of his life, recalling all that he and his family have been through.
A heart-wrenching but deeply funny and ultimately uplifting story of family, love, loyalty, and hope, The Art of Racing in the Rain is a beautifully crafted and captivating look at the wonders and absurdities of human life…as only a dog could tell it.
Initially, I had no idea what the difference between THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN and RACING IN THE RAIN was other than the fact that one dog on the cover was old and one dog on the cover was young. Well, I guess that should’ve been my clue right when I saw the covers for the first time. Yup, you guessed it. RACING IN THE RAIN is the kid’s version, and after having read both I have to say that I am thoroughly impressed with Garth Stein’s skill. They were my first Stein books, and immediately after I finished I became a fan of his work. I love the concepts to his writing and the deepness to every word in his stories. I fell in love with Enzo and Stein’s writing.
Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone.
Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken.
Minny, Aibileen’s best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody’s business, but she can’t mind her tongue, so she’s lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own.
Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed.
I almost never read this book. Just wasn’t all that interested. But I am a curious person, and when a book gets a lot of praise–even in a genre I don’t typically read, as long as I am mildly interested in the concept–I will give it a try. So I bought this book in an airport in a last-minute impulsive decision between Lisa See’s SHANGHAI GIRLS and this. I did end up reading SHANGHAI GIRLS later on, and it was good, but I have to say that I do not regret my decision. I thought this book was really good and by far one of my favorites for that time period. I’ve read my fair share of good and bad books because of hype, and the hype for this book is deserved and legit. If you’re on the fence, please just humor me here and read it. You won’t regret it.
By sixth grade, Miranda and her best friend, Sal, know how to navigate their New York City neighborhood. They know where it’s safe to go, like the local grocery store, and they know whom to avoid, like the crazy guy on the corner.
But things start to unravel. Sal gets punched by a new kid for what seems like no reason, and he shuts Miranda out of his life. The apartment key that Miranda’s mom keeps hidden for emergencies is stolen. And then Miranda finds a mysterious note scrawled on a tiny slip of paper:
I am coming to save your friend’s life, and my own.
I must ask two favors. First, you must write me a letter.
The notes keep coming, and Miranda slowly realizes that whoever is leaving them knows all about her, including things that have not even happened yet. Each message brings her closer to believing that only she can prevent a tragic death. Until the final note makes her think she’s too late.
Endings are extremely important to me. Even if a book is on the four star track, it could head to two stars in a few pages, or vice versa, depending on the ending. It could go from five to one. This book was not only on the 4.5 star track, it also had a killer ending. This was one of the first middle grade books that really stuck out to me. That’s not to say the MG books I had read before this one weren’t brilliant, they were just brilliant in their own ways. Familiar concepts. Magic. Mysteries. Dragons and princesses. Foster kids and adored grandfathers and dying from sickness and spunky girls. You know. This book blew my mind for the first time in MG.
It also made me appreciate A WRINKLE IN TIME better. I say that I will try never to discount good time travel, and that’s partly because of this book. It’s also partly because so many people try and fail to do it right. The first time I read this book, I had it read aloud by my teacher. My advice: JUST READ IT. It’s hard to understand this book as it is, and I constantly find new things to understand each time I read it. This story is one of my most memorable middle grade reads, and if you have a list of MG books to read before you die, I’d really suggest putting this one up high on your list.
This is the remarkable story of one endearing dog’s search for his purpose over the course of several lives. More than just another charming dog story, A Dog’s Purpose touches on the universal quest for an answer to life’s most basic question: Why are we here?
Surprised to find himself reborn as a rambunctious golden-haired puppy after a tragically short life as a stray mutt, Bailey’s search for his new life’s meaning leads him into the loving arms of 8-year-old Ethan. During their countless adventures Bailey joyously discovers how to be a good dog.
But this life as a beloved family pet is not the end of Bailey’s journey. Reborn as a puppy yet again, Bailey wonders—will he ever find his purpose?
Heartwarming, insightful, and often laugh-out-loud funny, A Dog’s Purpose is not only the emotional and hilarious story of a dog’s many lives, but also a dog’s-eye commentary on human relationships and the unbreakable bonds between man and man’s best friend. This moving and beautifully crafted story teaches us that love never dies, that our true friends are always with us, and that every creature on earth is born with a purpose.
Don’t ask me why the dog writing this felt the urge to put a human in the spotlight and use a pen name. Obviously it’s a pen name. I mean–look at that writing. It’s so… sentimental. Bittersweet. Real. Beautiful. The concepts, everything about this book. It has to be written by a dog.
Okay, okay. It’s joking guys. Joking. But seriously. I meant what I said and I said what I meant, this reader is hooked 100%. That’s it, I’m done! I promise. (At least for the rest of this review.) Anyway, seriously. This book was one of the first that I read back on my dog phase, and I was mad at W. Bruce Cameron for the rest of that phase–because I found very few books that could measure up to this one. I loved the story behind this and the voice of Toby, Bailey, Ellie and Buddy measured up almost to Enzo, which is impressive in and of itself. Highly recommended to all dog lovers.
Eleven-year-old Melody has a photographic memory. Her head is like a video camera that is always recording. Always. And there’s no delete button. She’s the smartest kid in her whole school—but no one knows it. Most people—her teachers and doctors included—don’t think she’s capable of learning, and up until recently her school days consisted of listening to the same preschool-level alphabet lessons again and again and again. If only she could speak up, if only she could tell people what she thinks and knows . . . but she can’t, because Melody can’t talk. She can’t walk. She can’t write.
Being stuck inside her head is making Melody go out of her mind—that is, until she discovers something that will allow her to speak for the first time ever. At last Melody has a voice . . . but not everyone around her is ready to hear it.
With both this and WHEN YOU REACH ME, I love the way the authors write. Even more so than that, I love the way that their characters feel. And even more than that, I feel like I really, honestly, truly know their main character. Both Miranda and Melody felt really close to me, and they helped change the way I looked at characters and at books in general. What Percy Jackson, Artemis Fowl and Will Treaty did for me in action and adventure–this two did for me in contemporary.
There’s been a lot of hype on the book WONDER by R.J. Palacio, and I can’t say that hype is entirely undeserved. I mean–I liked the book. I can see why people go all soft and sympathetic when they read it. I did too. I felt bad. I really liked August. The thing is though–this book was for me what Wonder was for all the people who loved it. I thought (and still do think) Melody was amazing. Her bravery, everything she did, how kind and great she was, it all made me really respect her as a character. And her journey meant a lot to me. It may just be that Sharon Draper’s writing sticks to me more, but if it were between this book and WONDER, I would pick this one.
New to town, Beatrice is expecting her new best friend to be one of the girls she meets on the first day. But instead, the alphabet conspires to seat her next to Jonah, aka Ghost Boy, a quiet loner who hasn’t made a new friend since third grade. Something about him, though, gets to Bea, and soon they form an unexpected friendship. It’s not romance, exactly – but it’s definitely love. Still, Bea can’t quite dispel Jonah’s gloom and doom – and as she finds out his family history, she understands why. Can Bea help Jonah? Or is he destined to vanish?
If you read a lot of my reviews, you may say, ahh. The infamous HOW TO SAY GOODBYE IN ROBOT. Finally we meet. Yes, I do reference back to this book every once in a while. But in my defense, I cried at the end of this book. No joke. Not many books can make me even feel like crying, much less actually do so. I LOVED Jonah and Bea. Everything about them. And that plot… geez. This book has inspired me in so many different ways, it’s ridiculous. I love this story, and it’s another one of my five star books. To read some more reflections on this book, click here.
Well, that’s it for today. Come by tomorrow for Day Three: MG and YA Action & Adventure of the RealityLapse Christmas Countdown 2013!