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“Mayasri Mukherjee is the only “brown” kid in her Manitoba school. She’s skinny, wears braces, has to wear her hair in childish ponytails, and has two pimples. Her parents insist that she take ballet and piano lessons, and forbid any sleepovers on school nights. Although born in India, she was an...”
“Mayasri Mukherjee is the only “brown” kid in her Manitoba school. She’s skinny, wears braces, has to wear her hair in childish ponytails, and has two pimples. Her parents insist that she take ballet and piano lessons, and forbid any sleepovers on school nights. Although born in India, she was an infant when her parents immigrated to Canada, and she doesn’t even speak Bengali. She hates being different: I am Nowhere Girl in my Nowhere Land, between Canada and India. When her cousin Pinky arrives from India for a visit, Maya is first awed by her confidence and poise, and then jealous of the attention paid to Pinky for her exotic differences. Then, just when Jamie Klassen has started to pay attention to her, she learns that her parents are contemplating a move to California. Maya borrows Pinky’s statue of Ganesh, a family heirloom, to pray that her troubles will be over.
Be careful what you wish for.
I read children’s and YA books because I have nieces and a nephew for whom I buy books. I had high hopes for this children’s book (ages 10+). I expected some valuable lessons on being true to yourself, the meaning of true friendship, the importance of family, and the stumbles we all suffer on our road from childhood to adolescence and adulthood. Banerjee does include such lessons, but they are delivered in a rather heavy-handed way. Midway through the book, the very realistic story takes on a fantasy element that seemed forced. A skilled writer can incorporate magical realism or fantasy in such a way that it is totally believable and furthers the story. Not the case in this book. The second half of the book just stretches credulity too far and left me completely dissatisfied. I can’t imagine that any of the children I know would buy into it either.
*** SPOILERS AHEAD ***
I feel that people reading this review might want more detail on what I felt was wrong with the book …
Maya’s statue comes alive and grants her wishes … she is instantly taller, more developed, without braces or pimples, has a modern feathered haircut, a totally new wardrobe, parents who give in to her every desire, and a boyfriend who is completely devoted to her (in fact, he quickly becomes a stalker). By the time she realizes that she no longer wants all obstacles removed from her path, Pinky has returned home with the statue. Maya goes to India to track down Pinky and the statue so she can have Ganesh reverse the spell. Pinky has traded the family heirloom (a solid-gold statue with diamonds for eyes) to a shopkeeper for a beautiful silk sari. Maya actually steals the statue and runs into the woods where she spends the night praying to it and crying. When she returns to her family no one blames her for stealing, or staying out all night, and she and her father begin the journey back to Canada. The statue does come alive again briefly, but before she knows whether her world will return to the way it was she spontaneously gives the valuable statue to a boy on the train who needs a heart operation. When she gets back to Manitoba and is in the car with her parents she simply tells them that what she wants is for them to be back to normal. And VOILA … they are her usual parents again, and she is skinny, with braces, and her hair in ponytails. No, this isn’t just a dream sequence … and that’s the problem with the book. I simply couldn’t suspend disbelief.
Daniel G. reviewed a book.
“Thoroughly enjoyed this story. Well written and well paced with a very believable protagonist/narrator. Looking forward to the rest of the series.”
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Michael E reviewed a book.
“I learned a lot of facts from this account of the 1881 Garfield assassination, and I was moved by the plight of good people handicapped by the lack modern advances in presidential security and medical care. But I wasn’t enthralled with how the pieces of the book came together or with the limited...”
“I learned a lot of facts from this account of the 1881 Garfield assassination, and I was moved by the plight of good people handicapped by the lack modern advances in presidential security and medical care. But I wasn’t enthralled with how the pieces of the book came together or with the limited reflections on the big picture.
I liked the foreshadowing method Millard employed near the beginning with a visit to the 1876 science and technology exposition in Chicago. There we get Lister failing to persuade the backward American medical profession to adopt his methods of antisepsis, and we get a view of Alexander Graham Bell demonstrating the telephone for the first time. The lack of sanitary precautions by the doctors caring for Garfield’s bullet wound led to his slow death by infection over the 80 days of his survival. Bell’s inventive genius gets harnessed in story with intensive efforts to create a metal detector which could pinpoint where the bullet was located in Garfield’s body. But we never get much detail on the efforts of more enlightened doctors to wrest control of the case from the dishonest quack Dr. Bliss who took over the case, and the device invented by Bell proved ineffective and would not have helped with Garfield’s care if it was.
A significant portion of the book is devoted to the life and madness of Garfield’s assassin, Charles Guiteau. Because Garfield’s shooting came in the first months of his presidency, there is little sense of the tragedy and import of an interrupted political agenda as with the Lincoln and Kennedy assassinations. All we learn is that Garfield sought to reform the patronage system in the civil service and supported rights for blacks. Because the historical consequences of Garfield death are unclear, the motivations and life trajectory of Guiteau did not fascinate me. The fact that there was virtually no security for the President is an interesting fact that just hangs there. That the Secret Service wasn’t tasked with presidential protection until after McKinley’s assassination 20 years later is another baffling fact. The issue on the insanity defense in Guiteau’s trial did interest me, but all we know is that somehow the jurors were not swayed, and an execution by hanging resulted.
Ultimately, the characters in this history didn’t quite come alive for me, so I wasn’t emotionally engaged at the same level I attain in works by other popular historical writers I love, such as McCullough, Goodwin, Ambrose, and Sides. Still, Millard’s talent in writing, her pacing, weaving of themes, and marshalling of quotes, was impressive, and I look forward to exploring her other work and future books. Her light touch in this book in focusing on highlights serves readers well who are interested in the skeleton of an historical story. Maybe her reticence to jump onto an agenda or take a stand in interpretation makes her a more objective historian than my favored authors, but my pleasure meter is moved more by writers who take a clear stand and go out on a limb in their judgments.
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Book Concierge reviewed a book.
“Lt Col Bull Meecham is a Marine fighter pilot – No – he is the GREATEST Marine Fighter Pilot. Just ask his family or any of the men serving under him. This novel gives us a glimpse of one Marine’s family. Lillian is the gentle, Southern-born wife who tempers her husband’s erratic drive with a...”
“Lt Col Bull Meecham is a Marine fighter pilot – No – he is the GREATEST Marine Fighter Pilot. Just ask his family or any of the men serving under him. This novel gives us a glimpse of one Marine’s family. Lillian is the gentle, Southern-born wife who tempers her husband’s erratic drive with a cool, steady demeanor. She is the buffer between Bull and their children. But as their first-born, Ben, moves toward high school graduation, he is increasingly at odds with his father. No matter how he excels – at sports or academics – it is never good enough to please the Colonel.
I really disliked Bull and yet I really liked the novel. Conroy completely drew me into this dysfunctional family and their complicated relationships. I loved the way he gave us insight into his characters by showing us examples of their strengths and weaknesses: Ben one-on-one against his father shooting baskets in the driveway; Mary Anne masking her pain with a smart retort; Bull coming to Ben’s defense against the town bullies; Lillian pleading with Ben to bring his father home.
As much as I disliked Bull, I grew to love Ben. He is a sensitive boy, growing to manhood, and he is able to glean the good lessons from his father – loyalty to your family and friends, championing the weak, hard work and never giving up – and recognize the poor example as well, vowing to never be like his father in those ways.
The person I was most infuriated with was Lillian. Her blind devotion to the man she married – or the man she hoped he was – drove me crazy. Even when confronted with specific evidence she refused to see how harmful Bull’s behavior was to her and her children.
I have had Pat Conroy on my reading radar for a long time, but never read any of his novels before this. I’m certain this won’t be my last Conroy work.
BeccaBooks reviewed a book.
“I finished this book yesterday, and am still reeling – but don’t be mistaken – this isn’t one of those books that mercilessly pulls on your heart strings and brazenly attempts to make you fall victim. No, this is a rare literary find, a story that feels brutally honest, full of intrigue and...”
“I finished this book yesterday, and am still reeling – but don’t be mistaken – this isn’t one of those books that mercilessly pulls on your heart strings and brazenly attempts to make you fall victim. No, this is a rare literary find, a story that feels brutally honest, full of intrigue and poignancy, with layer upon layer of twists and turns you can’t possibly predict. This is the first book by Thomas H Cook I have read, and I will certainly be reading many more.
The story in brief: Paul Crane, a young man working for a foreign affairs think tank, is invited by Thomas Jefferson Danforth to hear his story of WWII and its aftermath, on the premise that he may be able to provide valuable insight into the horrors of 9/11. Danforth, now in his nineties, begins his story when he was a young man in 1939, and became involved in an American espionage and sabotage ‘Project’ in Europe.
The key person in this ‘project’ is Anna Klein, a mysterious young woman who can speak at least nine different languages, and whose resolve and steel in the face of adversity is apparently unbreakable. Danforth finds himself increasingly falling under Anna’s spell, and when suddenly their cover is blown and the pair are separated, learning Anna Klein’s fate becomes Danforth’s life-long obsession - and so the Quest for Anna Klein begins.
At every stage of Danforth’s quest he faces both physical and psychological peril; he must question everything he thought he knew to be true about Anna, learn the horrors of the depths of human depravity and betrayal. In telling his story Danforth is brutally honest, as his quest for Anna leads him to seek the true meaning of innocence and to understand the need for revenge.
A story masterfully told, intelligent literary excellence – I recommend it to everyone.
Bev reviewed a book.