Tag Archives: Friendship

The Accidental Bestseller

 accidental bestsellerby Wendy Wax

Reviewed by the Fourth Tuesday and Mystery Book Club

This book describes the behind the scenes process of writing and publishing a book in the highly competitive New York publishing market.  That, however, is not what the story is really about.  It is about four women.  They meet at their very first writers’ conference, become close friends, and are still close a decade later.  Kendall Aims, whose marriage is in shambles, is facing a deadline and hides in a mountain cabin to avoid distractions.  She also faces writer’s block—no ideas.  Her friends come to the rescue.  Each one writes a portion of the novel, incorporating secret aspects of their own lives.  Mallory St. James is a workaholic.  Tanya Mason is a single mom who works at juggling two jobs, two kids and multiple deadlines.  Faye Truett is married to a famous televangelist.  She has financed their lives and his religious work by secretly writing “inspirational romances.”  Each of the four writers bases their part of the book on their secret lives.  They help Kendall meet her deadline and more.  Her once promising writing career, recently on the skids, is reborn.  The friends’ joint effort, much to their surprise and concern, becomes a massive bestseller.  The secret writers implore Kendall to take full credit as the author for fear of exposing their personal lives. 

            This is a very entertaining book, perhaps it is too easy to guess what will happen next, perhaps it is a bit too long, but it is a novel that is a good light read.  It is fast paced, well plotted and well written.  The book also has a satisfying conclusion.  It is enjoyable and worthy of your time.  “The Accidental Bestseller” is a bestseller.  It is rated very high and is highly recommended by the club members who read it.

Key Ideas from different club members

 Enjoyable read, perfect for summer;  Great friendships;  Provided great insight into the writing and publishing world;  Writing industry very cutthroat;  Would like to see a sequel, to find out what happened to each of the writers;  I’d like to read the book that the friends wrote;  “Page turner chick book”;  Enjoyed book and characters, liked knowing the outcome of each author’s life;  Couldn’t put it down.   

The Club Members rating this book:

Linda Bowman, Pat Kuna, Helen Skalski, Linda Troll, Rae Ann Weaver, (Sharon Shaffer, and William Simmons)

Club’s Average Rating: 4.5 of 5                Rating Range: 4 to 5

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Filed under Adult Fiction, Fourth Tuesday Book Club Books

James and the Giant Peach

1996 Puffin Paperback Shown

By Roald Dahl

Published by Alfred A. Knopf

Copyright © 1961

 

“James and the Giant Peach” is a story, as it were, of a young boy and a little magic that turned him into a real hero to his new and rather unlikely friends.

 

James was happy boy with loving parents, but one day his parents die and he is sent off to live with his Aunts. Now if such an unfortunate thing as losing your parents must happen, you would be glad to have loving relatives to take you in. Unfortunately for James, his Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker were anything but loving. For the last three years they have made him work all day and called him horrid names.

 

However, one day a weird old man comes by and gives him some “tiny green things” that are full of magic. He also gives James instructions on how to use these magic things, but all does not work out the way James had planned. James trips and drops his “tiny green things” and they escape into the ground, but all is not lost because this is how he ends up as the captain of a giant peach, filled with new friends, just ripe for a journey.

 

Once again, Roald Dahl worked his magic and created a fantastical story of a poor young man up against hard and impossible circumstances who comes out on top with the help of the fantastic. What I love about Dahl’s protagonists is that even though they are what some might consider the poor and wretched, they are not bitter. They are inherently good. When poor James is stuck with his Aunts he isn’t concerned with the fact that they don’t give him much materially; he is upset because he wants other children to play with. Dahl has a way of showing us what is really important in life – family, love, and integrity. James Henry Trotter is certainly on a par with Charlie Bucket. (Great book for children 8 and up.)

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Filed under Adventure, Families, Fantasy, Friendship, Junior Fiction

The Fingertips of Duncan Dorfman

By Meg Wolitzer

Published by Dutton Children’s Books

Copyright © 2011

I enjoy playing Scrabble®, but I never would have thought that they actually held Scrabble tournaments. I also didn’t think that I would ever be reading a novel about Scrabble, never mind being completely sucked in by it, but Meg Wolitzer has done just that.

Duncan Dorfman and his mom have moved fromMichiganback toDrilling Falls,PAwhere his mom is originally from. She lost her job inMichiganand her Aunt Djuna has invited them to come stay with her, and has lined up a job for her at Thrifty Mike’s Warehouse. Soon after he arrives at his new school, as is so common with new kids, he becomes the target of the resident jerks.Duncanjust can’t take it anymore, so he decides to show them his power. This gets him and automatic invitation to the Scrabble team.

April Blunt lives inPortland,Oregonwith her sports crazy family. All of her siblings are large and athletic, while she is small and brainy. Her family just can’t understand her enjoyment of Scrabble, and she can’t understand why they don’t see her chosen game as real sport; a sport of the mind.

Nate Saviano is a skater boy fromNew York City. All he wants to do is ride his skateboard, listen to his music, and go to public school like a regular kid. His dad, Larry, has decided that he wants him to be homeschooled so that he can spend every waking hour training him to win the Youth Scrabble Tournament; the same tournament which haunts him to this day, because he lost there so many years ago.

These three, and their partners, will come together for a competitive and fun filled weekend inYakamee,Floridafor the National Youth Scrabble Tournament. They all have different reason for wanting to win, but no matter what happens their lives will change forever after this event.

In this book Meg Wolitzer emphasizes the need to be honest in all of our dealings, because it will inevitably come back to haunt us somehow. In that vein, one of the few things I would change about this book is that Meg doesn’t go all the way in makingDuncancome clean about his dealings. All in all though, she really does emphasize honesty. I also appreciated how she highlighted the theme of acceptance. Each of our three main characters, and even some peripheral characters, are seeking acceptance in some way from family, schoolmates, or tournament acquaintances. It really carries a subdued anti-bullying message which is so important today.

In the way of criticism – In the beginning the author seems to be telling separate stories that seem a bit disconnected, even when you realize that they are bound to culminate in these characters meeting at the Scrabble tournament. She does meld them together fairly well though. I also feel that there are places in the book that the author builds the reader up for conflict that never really comes to fruition. However, Wolitzer did such a good job of creating hanging questions and of accumulating likeable and less-than-likeable characters that nearly anyone could relate to, that it kept me wanting to know their answers and outcomes.

Wolitzer has written a very engaging book for children ages 10 and up. If it were merely about Scrabble it would bore me out of my mind. However, she has really written us a book about family, friendship, honesty, and acceptance that everyone should enjoy. If you are a diehard Scrabble Gamer you love this book all the more for its description of game scenarios and its useful Scrabble word lists.

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Filed under Elementary/Middle School, Families, Friendship, Games/Hobbies, Junior Fiction, Single Parents

Eight Keys

By Suzanne LaFleur

Published by Wendy Lamb Books

Copyright © 2011

Elise and Franklin like to play out in Uncle Hugh’s workshop in the barn.  The Workshop is downstairs. The second floor is off limits and it has eight doors; all of them locked. One day just after the start of the new school year Elise notices a key hanging in the barn with her name on it.

Elise is moving from elementary school up to middle school and she is finding the adjustment to be difficult. She is getting more homework, less teacher support, and more attention for all the wrong reasons. Much of the unwanted attention is coming from her locker partner, Amanda, who is a generally unhappy girl that seems to enjoy yelling, name calling, and lunch squashing.

Elise feels that part of her problems are brought on by her childhood friend Franklin whose innocent nature gets him and her pegged as babies, and therefore easy targets, by Amanda and her friends.  In addition, a new baby moves into her house, and Elise is having trouble getting used to not being the center of her Aunt and Uncles attention.

How is Elise going to deal with all of these changes in her life? After reading a letter written by her dad before he died she begins to think that answer lies behind those eight locked doors in the barn.

Suzanne LaFleur has written about middle school life, as well as troubles with friends and identity so realistically that it will be easy for many youths to relate to it. In addition the puzzle that is left behind by Elise’s father for her to discover adds a touch of mystery and surprise that heightens the anticipation for each chapter. Reality fiction at its best, this coming of age story is accessible to children (9 and up) and yet has emotional impact that even adults can appreciate.

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Filed under Coming of Age, Elementary/Middle School, Families, Food, Friendship, Junior Fiction, Loss/Death

OKAY FOR NOW

Okay For Now

By Gary D. Schmidt

Published by Clarion Books

Copyright © 2011

Doug’s father has lost his job again and he has an offer of a job in a paper mill in a little town in upstate New York called Marysville. Doug isn’t really enthused about moving away from the city and his favorite team the New York Yankees, but it is no use to complain because his father will probably yell at him and pop him in the mouth. Things are going okay for Doug he makes a few friends, learns he has a talent he didn’t know he had, and even gets a job of his own. But if there is anything that Doug knows it is that when things are going too good something bad is bound mess it up. His brother and his dad seem more than willing to oblige and make things worse for Doug. Doug’s father has no problem stealing from his own son, and his brother, who has a habit of making the wrong impression, gets a reputation that unfairly attaches itself to Doug. Can Doug find a way to deal with his dad, and prove everyone in town wrong?

“Okay For Now” is complex tale of survival and betterment. Set in 1968 against the backdrop of the Vietnam War, the Apollo space missions, and of course Doug’s beloved baseball player Doug Pepitone playing for the Yankees, Doug not only has to learn to Navigate a new town with new people but he has to navigate his home life with an abusive father and brother and the return of his oldest brother who comes home from Vietnam with life altering injuries. To cope with this Doug throws himself into his job of delivering groceries, learning to draw from the works of John James Audubon, and ultimately taking up his mission to make a special book whole again. In addition to all of this “Okay For Now” tells a tale of how important it is not judge people or places by their appearance, relations, sex, career, or etc. because often the conclusion that we come to are the furthest thing from the truth.

I found this book to be a moving and occasionally funny book of survival, recovery, redemption, and so much more. As I’m reading this book I’m thinking how badly I want Doug’s father to get what’s coming to him, however Gary Schmidt even finds a way to weave some redemption in there for him giving Doug hope for life to improve. This was one of those stories that once I got started I just had know how every thing would be resolved. I finished it in a day; it was that good. I highly recommend this book for children ages 10 and up.

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Filed under Art, Coming of Age, Communities, Elementary/Middle School, Families, Friendship, Historical, Junior Fiction, Loss/Death, Love/Romance, Nature/Animals

Freak the Mighty (Must Read)

By Rodman Philbrick

Published by Scholastic

Copyright © 1993

Max is big and dumb at least that’s what he thinks of himself. He hates school, he has no friends, and he is always picked on. But things are going to change when he gets new neighbors Gwen and her son Kevin. Kevin has a disease that has caused him to remain small, but he is the smartest and most fearless person that Max has ever met. Max and Kevin form a tight friendship that will help them both cope with their personal struggles.

“Freak the Mighty” is a moving book about two teens with different disabilities and abilities that complement each other. Max has a learning disability and emotional scars from the death of his mother; while he is physically imposing the reader can tell that he is quite obviously gentle and kind. Kevin on the other hand has a genetic disorder that causes among other things a small stature, abnormal spine curvature and heart, lung, and liver problems, however Kevin is extremely smart and inventive. These two have obvious physical and mental differences, but such things don’t stop either one from helping the other and forming a friendship that Max will never forget. And when Max needs help the most it will be Kevin who comes to his rescue.

This book will quickly move to the top of my favorite books list. There are no superheroes, faries, vampires, or mutants. This is just a beautiful story set in reality that shows how friendship and imagination can help people endure life’s struggles. I highly recommend this book for youths age 10 and up and for all adults.

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Filed under Coming of Age, Elementary/Middle School, Families, Friendship, High School, Junior Fiction, Loss/Death, Myths & Legends

Copper

By Kazu Kibuishi

Published by Graphix

Copyright © 2010

Copper is a compilation of cartoons by Kibuishi about a young man, Copper, and his dog, Fred. The first couple of cartoons are slightly dark and depressing, and then they turn quite optimistic, fun, and meaningful. Kibuishi really hits themes of the difficulties of finding real love and finding purpose, meaning, and joy in life in a way that will really resonate with teens and even many adults.

These cartoons are longer than your usual Sunday Paper fare, and the story lines are a little more thoughtful than most cartoons as well. The art has clean lines and solid bright colors that keep you visually interested. Some of the artwork is really quite stunning and makes the book worth the read just to look at them. I love his scenes of nature and especially the giant mushrooms. This book is also a great read because of the information that Kibuishi provides in the back of the book about how he makes a cartoon, it serves as great inspiration and education for aspiring cartoonists and graphic artists. Love this cartoon collection and recommend it for everyone.

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Filed under Animals, Asian Influence, Coming of Age, Fantasy, Friends, Graphic Novels/Comic Strips