Review: Hey Harry, Hey Matilda

Hey Harry, Hey Matilda
Hey Harry, Hey Matilda by Rachel Hulin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Hey, Harry, Hey Matilda gives us a quirky, snarky set of correspondence between adult twins. The hinge point of the story is that Matilda has told her boyfriend that her twin died. It’s what bonds them together in their not-so-fantastic relationship: his twin died, “too.” It’s time to bring said boyfriend home to meet Mom but, what to do? Harry, Matilda’s very not-dead twin brother will be there, too.

Despite being a somewhat humorous look into the communication between two close-knit siblings, neither of them was likable enough to keep me caring. The story also progressed slooooowly. I found myself impatient with the whole thing. Eventually there are two more “big” reveals, but what they really reveal are just more self-centered people who take no responsibility for the impact their actions will have on those they supposedly love. What is the message here? Everyone lies? Lying about life-changing things is okay? Maybe it’s an exploration into how lies warp a person’s ability to develop as an adult? (view spoiler)

This is a good beach read or stuck-in-an-airport read, because Hulin has a fun writing style. However, if you have a long to-read list and don’t have infinite time, this is not a must-read.

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Review: Eggshells

Eggshells by Caitriona Lally
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

So, first I want to say that Catriona Lally has an amazing way with words, setting the scene, and creating a character. After a few pages, Vivian felt like a real person. Lally had me right there with her, taking the walking tour of Dublin, yearning for a passageway to the land of faerie, and relishing the feel of all those lovely palindromes. She made us root, wholeheartedly, for VIV. But this book gradually stopped holding my interest. Variations of the same thing happen each day. There are hints at the sadness (and, perhaps, brutality) of Vivian’s upbringing, but nothing else happens. The tale does not progress. This would have made an excellent short story with skillful editing.

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Review: The Girl Who Fell from the Sky

The Girl Who Fell from the Sky
The Girl Who Fell from the Sky by Heidi W. Durrow
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am not sure I have the words for this book, but it’s very worth reading. The Girl Who Fell from the Sky tells a story of the aftermath of tragedy, of several tragedies, of a family that just can’t catch a break. This story broke my heart, and then broke it a few more times. In another writer’s hands, this could have been voyeuristic or sensational, but Durrow writes with deep caring for both the characters and the reader.

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Review: The Wanderers

The Wanderers
The Wanderers by Meg Howrey
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Wanderers tells the story of three career astronauts who have been recruited by a commercial space travel company to be the first to go to Mars. Chapters switch between the thoughts of each astronaut, selected members of their families, and one or two of the company’s employees, charged with observing their behavior around the clock during their training and space flight simulation.

“Who are these people that can withstand such a trip, the danger, the isolation, the pressure? What can these people teach us? Because if we – the species – might eventually do something like move to another planet, it would be better if we made a few improvements on ourselves, first, if possible.” [p.58]

Indeed, each of the astronauts continually tries to improve, tries to be (or project) an ideal, what they think is expected or desired from them. Their children and partners back on Earth do the same. Although I enjoyed myself while I was reading this book, it left me empty, their characters and experiences separated from anything genuine, a simulation of feeling to go with their simulated trip to Mars. Nothing happens in The Wanderers, nothing is resolved, and it was not enough for me.

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Review: If You Could Be Mine

If You Could Be Mine
If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If You Could be Mine tells the story of two Iranian girls on the cusp of adulthood. Since they were children, they have known that they love one another. Although being lesbian is illegal in modern Tehran, being born in the wrong body is not; one of the girls considers [legal] sexual reassignment surgery in hopes of preventing her beloved’s arranged marriage. Touching, moving, beautiful. I especially appreciated this realistic and unromanticized view into city life in today’s Iran.

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Review: Investigating Sherlock: An Unofficial Guide

Investigating Sherlock: An Unofficial Guide
Investigating Sherlock: An Unofficial Guide by Nikki Stafford
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Definitely for the obsessed. I am not that big a Sherlock fan. I often find the story trajectory contrived, Sherlock just tooooo facile with his mind palace. But my family are fans, and I love being with them while they watch and argue over plot lines. And, I’m reading this one because we’re doing a display (at the library) on what to read while waiting for the next season of your favorite tv series to come out on DVD.

Best part of this book: I absolutely loved the introduction of the character Mary to this show and I’m glad that she’s written about here. I adored Amanda Abbington in Case Histories and might watch her in anything. (Nikki Stafford, why is she an add-on in Martin Freeman’s chapter? Why does she not get her own section of the book?) Also worth reading are the “From ACD to BBC” bits, in which the author shows what was changed and what was woven in from the original Arthur Conan Doyle stories.

Drawback: Stafford treats the series episode by episode, in order, and provides detailed analysis but no plot summaries. Lots of spoilers, but if you don’t remember the story line exactly, reading this won’t help.

Fun bit. Written before the most recent series aired, everyone’s wrong about Redbeard.

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Review: The Wild Robot

The Wild Robot
The Wild Robot by Peter Brown
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In The Wild Robot, Peter Brown has given us an inventive meditation on observing nature, how to survive in the unexpected wilderness, the essence of what makes a family, and how to be a friend. And it’s all wrapped up in an adventure story that the grades 3-6 set can thoroughly enjoy. Beautiful and exciting, with a unique ending that will leave readers something to think about.

This almost makes the give to your favorite kids bookshelf but doesn’t, only because it starts with a nearly-no-survivors cargo ship capsizing, and my favorite kid (who otherwise would have loved this) has a parent who works on cargo ships!

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