Review: Okay For Now

Okay-for-NowBook: Okay For Now
Author: Gary D. Schmidt
Genre: Upper MG, Historical Fiction (1960s)
Rating: 4 Stars

Basic Plot: Doug and his family have just moved to a new town and he hates it there. But then he discovers Audubon’s book, Birds of America, in the library. He goes every Saturday and the librarian sets him on a path to to learn how to draw the birds. Soon he discovers that the birds are slowly being cut out of the book to be sold by the town council. That’s when Doug takes it upon himself to find the missing birds and return them to their rightful spot in the book at the library.

Note: This is a companion book to The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt.

WHAT’S COOL…

1) I loved learning about John James Audubon. Each chapter begins with a picture of one of the birds from the book. And I enjoyed the art lessons at the library with Mr. Powell! I was definitely rooting for Doug to get all the missing birds back into the book.

2) Doug’s English teacher decides that her eighth graders are going to study Jane Eyre (the 160-page abridged version, which for Doug is 160 pages too long). I love Jane Eyre and any book that uses this book as part of their plot is almost a sure bet in my eyes. I also love that this book (Jane Eyre) ends up inspiring other aspects of the plot.

3) I liked how the author had Miss Cowper’s “County Literacy Unit” fit into solving one of Doug’s problems in the book. I love this teacher.

4) The Baseball Quiz/Game at the work picnic for Doug’s father’s work was a fun chapter. Especially in light of the fact that Doug is dealing with some hard things at this time and here he really is able to shine. He’s the one that is able to help his “partner” go for the gold.

5) I loved the character growth and arcs for Doug’s brothers, his father, Coach Reed, Principal Peattie, et al.

6) The relationship with Lil is very sweet.

7) I liked how Schmidt worked the various themes into the book… The flowers (or lack of flowers) for his mother show the growth and the family’s ability to flourish (or not flourish). And the use of the various stages of the Apollo moon mission (Apollos 8 through 11) also is used well to show how much hope and hard work can accomplish.

8) Doug has a great voice in this book.

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) I felt that some of the teachers/classes were not necessary to mention. I kept getting some of the lesser ones mixed up with the teachers we needed to know about. (For example: I think the Geography teacher could have disappeared from the book and nothing bad would have happened.)

2) In one of the chapters, Doug lists the birds that are missing from the book. I wish this list had been repeated later on in the book with an update on which birds had been successfully retrieved and which ones were still missing. I even tried to go back to find that first list and couldn’t find it easily. That annoyed me.

3) The title of this book is just… OKAY. (Ha ha!) The Wednesday Wars (the companion book) is a great title. Okay for Now… Hmm, not so memorable. (I keep having to look it up to know what it is!)

FAVOURITE QUOTE

Can you imagine anyone buying tickets to Jane Eyre?

Can you imagine Joe Pepitone buying tickets to Jane Eyre?

Me neither.

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 4 Stars (out of 5) – Okay, so I LOVED The Wednesday Wars by the same author. This is a companion book and I LOVED this one just as much (almost as much?). If these two books had to be ranked in which one I liked better, I don’t know who would win. 🙂


YOUR TURN…

Have you read this book? What did you think of it? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

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Speaking of Spoilers

Have you ever had a book spoiled for you?

Usually, I find that this happens with books that deal with death in some way. Or with some secret. Often, the spoiler is unintentional. We assume the other person has already read the book. Oops. They haven’t.

I have tried to keep this blog post Spoiler-Free! So, even if you haven’t read these books, you should be good… I hope.


The First Four Years // by Laura Ingalls Wilder

TheFirstFourYearsThe first time I recall this happening was when I was about 10 or 11 years old. I was reading the final instalment of the Little House books. I was right in the middle of the story when we went on a family trip to visit some friends, people we only saw maybe once a year. During the visit, I told my friend what I was reading (because that’s the kind of nerds that we were).

And that’s when she said to me… “Oh, isn’t it sad when SO-AND-SO dies!”

My eyes probably nearly popped out of my head… because SO-AND-SO hadn’t died yet! In fact, I had no clue, saw no hint, that tragedy was about to strike. I was in shock.

But, I didn’t say anything to my friend. I didn’t tell her that she just spoiled the awful, awful secret of this book. Maybe she guessed. But probably not. I remember telling her that, “Yes, it was very sad.” Then tried to quickly move on to another topic.

Sigh.


Walk Two Moons // by Sharon Creech

Walk-Two-MoonsThis one happened more recently. Different culprit.

I had recommended the book to this person, because I knew the author’s work is good. And it won a Newbery. But, for some reason, I hadn’t read it yet.

This person returned the book to me and then proceeded to “discuss” the INSERT-SPOILER-HERE. Shades of The First Four Years came back to me. I closed my ears as best I could and tried to forget what I had just heard. In fact, I put the book away and didn’t even read it…

Until about a year later.

By that time, I couldn’t quite remember what the spoiler was. And so I finally read the book. And really enjoyed it. And when I did get to the SPOILER, it partly came back to me. But it was still a good book…


Jane Eyre // by Charlotte Bronte

Jane Eyre

Well, don’t think my friends are the only culprits who blab about spoilers. As it turns out, I can be just as guilty.

I made the assumption that a friend of mine had already read Jane Eyre. Or seen the movie, or something.

I mean, hasn’t everybody?!

So, I made some witty statement to her involving the words “secret”, “mad”, and “attic”… (which, if you don’t know, is a HUGE spoiler in the book). Now this friend of mine (unlike cowardly me) was brave enough to tell me: “Um… I haven’t actually read Jane Eyre.”

Oops! Sorry…

Just try to forget everything I just said.


What about you? Ever had a book ruined by a spoiler? Have you ever been guilty of dropping a spoiler?

Review: Romancing Miss Bronte

51WvuAc7ByL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Book: Romancing Miss Bronte (a Novel)
Author: Juliet Gael
Rating: 3 Stars

Basic plot: A novelized version of the biography of Charlotte Bronte. The book covers her days at Haworth leading up to becoming an author, along with her sisters, to her untimely death.

WHAT’S COOL…

1) It’s about Charlotte Bronte. Need I say more?

2) Having studied the life of Charlotte Bronte myself years ago, I can say that the author was able to capture her life amazingly. The book reads like a biography, yet also like a novel. Well done!

3) I loved, loved, loved the stories of the events that led up to the publication of Jane Eyre.

4) I thought she did a good job weaving Arthur into the story. The book begins with his arrival at Haworth, and he keeps popping up throughout. [SPOILER] (Of course, he’s very much the focus in the latter part of the book when he reveals his esteem for Miss Bronte and eventually convinces her to marry him.) [END SPOILER]

5) The passages dealing with Branwell were heartbreaking (in a good, but sad way)… how the sisters have to deal with their brother.

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) [SPOILER] Arthur is no Rochester. I really wanted to root for him and Charlotte as a couple, but I felt something lacking in him as the “hero” of a romance. This may be a casualty of fiction vs. real life? I feel the author tried to somehow morph Arthur into a Rochester-mold towards the end of the book. And yet, I wasn’t fully convinced. Again, it’s hard to put this into words. [END SPOILER]

2) Every so often, the dialogue/narrative would give what I came to realize are nicknames for various people. For example: Emily and Anne call Charlotte “Tally” which threw me a few times before I realized to whom they were speaking. And Elizabeth Gaskell seems to be “Lily Gaskell”? Who’s Lily? Is that Mrs. Gaskell herself or perhaps it’s her daughter??

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 3 Stars (out of 5) – I enjoyed reading this book. Biographies about my favourite authors are usually a safe bet for me. I liked how she was able to weave the biography part in with the novel part.

Review: How Nancy Drew Saved My Life

41G6qx0cmCL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Book: How Nancy Drew Saved My Life
Author: Lauren Baratz-Logsted
My Rating: 1 Star

I’ve had one of those throw-down-the-book-in-disgust moments. The book in question? How Nancy Drew Saved My Life. I had read a short essay by the author and wanted to try one of her novels. I guess I picked it out for sentimental reasons; I loved Nancy Drew as a kid.

WHAT’S COOL…

1) The cover. It’s whimsical. I like it.

2) The main character (a nanny/governess) is named Charlotte Bell. If you are a real Charlotte Bronte fan, you will realize this is a combination of Bronte’s first name and her pseudonym Currer Bell. Now, I didn’t realize the Jane Eyre influence when I first picked up the book, but it’s there. In fact, the story line has more to do with Jane Eyre than it does with Nancy Drew. I love Jane Eyre! So this was a very pleasant discovery that made me happy.

But that’s where the pleasantness ended. (At least for me.)

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) I found the book to be borderline blasphemous. An example of this was the repeated use of the term WWNDD (What Would Nancy Drew Do). IMHO, that is just clever… in the **wrong** way!

2) Actually, I found myself skimming a lot. The main character spends far too much time in bed (and she’s not alone in bed either). For a character based on Jane Eyre, it goes against everything Jane stands for. Jane would be horrified.

3) SPOILER HERE: By the end of the book, Charlotte’s pregnant (Hmm. That would NEVER have happened to Jane Eyre!). There seem to be no realistic consequences for Charlotte. It’s like the author is saying, “Good for you, Charlotte. This baby will solve all your loneliness issues!” She never even takes into account that she’s single and will have to provide for this baby… in New York City, no less, which is one expensive place to live! And she doesn’t even have her nanny job anymore! (Although the book hints that she may get back together with the baby’s father, even though he’s not yet divorced from his wife). END SPOILER.

4) I couldn’t really tell you how Nancy Drew Saved Her Life.

FINAL THOUGHTS

This book had so much potential. I wanted to like it. But I can only give it 1 Star. And that’s mostly for the cover artwork. 😦