Tag Archives: Book

Worst Class Field Trip Ever…. A Bookymom Review

The Worst Class Trip EverThe Worst Class Trip Ever by Dave Barry
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Worst Class Field Trip EVER is a middle grade novel about a group of pre-teens from Miami who head off to Washington, DC. From the get go, the kids run in trouble and become entangled with men they believe are terrorists.

I was hoping for a laugh a minute story from humorist Dave Barry. Sadly, the book did not meet my expectations.

I will say the ending of the book when the main character saves the president is just about laugh out loud funny!

My kids (6 and 9) liked the book and I could hear the occasional chuckle coming from the backseat as we listened to the audiobook.

But, at the end of the day, it is not going down in the middle grade book hall of fame.

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China Dolls Lisa See’s Newest Book Isn’t Her Best: A Bookymom Review

China DollsChina Dolls by Lisa See

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I really loved Lisa See’s other books so when this came out I was eager to give it a try. Sadly, the book did not meet my expectations.

China Dolls follows the story of three women– one of whom is NOT Chinese– during the depression, through the war and into to the post-war period.

For me, the characters never really gelled. In other Lisa See books, the characters really came alive. They pulsates with individual spirit and emotion. Even when I read Dreams of Pearl and found Pearl to be obnoxious, she seemed like a real person. In China Dolls, the women are just that dolls, rather lifeless characters following a plot without believable emotion.

If you want to avoid spoilers stop reading now!!

They go through so many things– dead husbands and children, love triangles, Japanese interment, out of wedlock children, marrying gay men, murder, jail! It’s more of a soap-opera than a meaningful picture of their lives. So much happens and so much is revealed that your head is spinning from minute to minute. And, all the drama the emotions and experiences of the characters are either over done or incredibly shallow!

See also doesn’t paint the picture of time and place like she has in her previous novels. In her past works, the location and time period are so well created they almost become a character. She allows the read to be immersed in the period. That did not happen here. What was pre-war San Fransisco Chinatown like? What about post war Miami?

All and I all I recommend skipping this book and reading Lisa See’s other much better novels.

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Zombie Baseball Beatdown: Why Middle Grade Books Are So Hard…

Zombie Baseball BeatdownZombie Baseball Beatdown by Paolo Bacigalupi My rating: 2 of 5 stars First of all, I would qualify this as a middle grade book. In general, I find middle grade books very difficult reads. So many kids I know are reading above grade level and get into the middle grade books at younger ages– don’t get me wrong, this is a good thing. However, the content of middle grade books can be rather ify. The language is boarder line with insults like ‘dumbwad’ (used in this book and the wimpy kid series). The plots and subplots also cross the line at times. For example, I don’t really care for the anti-biz and pro-illegal alien messages in this book. They are not appropriate for the age group and I would consider a subtle form of propaganda. I loved the Origami Yoda series until the Princess Leia book. Again, it dealt with the issue of students being gay. I simply don’t think that is appropriate content for a middle grade book. So, if I was frustrated with the content and language, why 2 stars and not just 1? The story flowed well and kept me and the kids interested. The author did a nice job of knitting the plot together and coming up with devises for the kids to be on their own and without parental supervision during a zombie brake-out. Also, for a book called Zombie Baseball Beatdown, I didn’t feel as if there was enough baseball action in the book. The baseball content skirts the beginning and ending of the story and is missing from the middle! Personally, I don’t recommend the book, but other readers are free to make their own choices. View all my reviews

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The Dinner: Summer Reading Anyone?

The DinnerThe Dinner by Herman Koch

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Food and family always seem to go together, take Thanksgiving for example. This combination is played out in Herman Koch’s The Dinner. Two brothers meet for a meal to discuss the state of the children as readers are offered a glimpse of a dysfunctional family. (Reading about dysfunctional families seems to be a trend for me this summer!)

I won’t say much more about the plot, it has a few twists and turns. (Although particularly, surprising). I am sure you will want to come to the book with fresh eyes!

Personally, I disliked all the characters, from start to finish. But, I think that may be Koch’s point. The story is told from the point of view of Paul–one of the brothers. He fixates on all kinds of small details over the dinner— the price of the food, the wait staff, his brother, his sister in-law. I get the point, but after awhile I was tired of his obsession with the staff and their over explanation of all the food.

All and all, the book is a quick read and it is certainly worth a bit of summer entertainment. Friends have recommended his other books as well, but I think I might pass on them.

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The Family Fang: Easy Summer Reading…

The Family FangThe Family Fang by Kevin Wilson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Family Fang features a family of four. The parents Caleb and Camille engage in a strange type of performance art where they attempt to disrupt the world around them by acting in bizarre and unexpected ways. The “art” is based on how normal people react to their chaotic stirring up of reality. Almost from birth, the parents force the children into being a part of the strange scenes they create. They begin recording the “art” and submitting it for grants and other awards. In the “art” pieces the kids are referred to by A and B.

We join the story once A and B have grown up and both move back home after life’s normal chaos takes over their lives. Shortly after returning home, Caleb and Camille disappear. The police contact A and B because they suspect that Caleb and Camille have been killed. The kids think it’s another performance art piece.

I won’t tell you any more to avoid spoilers. But, as you can already tell the story is about issues of self and parental control.

It is a snappy quick book that thrives on the quirky and absurd. The book entertains and compels the reader forward with the desire to know if they parents are dead or crazy. A fun, light, book read perfect for summer.

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Best Book on the Plantagenets Yet!

The Conquering Family (The Plantagenets, #1)The Conquering Family by Thomas B. Costain

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Originally published in 1949, Thomas Costain’s Conquering Family is a history of Henry II and his family. It is the first volume in a series about the Plantagenet Dynasty and is told from a wonderfully British perspective.

The work discusses the succession problems created when Henry I’s son died in the White Ship crash. He continues through the death of that famously hated king, John.

Costain uses his British style to introduce readers to the Plantagenet’s with detail and an entertaining voice. For example, in describing Richard the Loinheart: Richard was always the knight, never the king.

The author also addresses court rumor and works to help readers distinguish fact and fiction. However, because the book has an older publication date there are a few things that historians have discovered in the past 60 years. It seems history is always coming to light. One example of this is Henry II’s illegitimate son, William. New research has discovered William is not Rosamund’s son– the child of one of Henry’s other mistresses, Ida.

Throughout the work, the author provides useful asides. For example, he gives a good description of Strongbow’s conquest of Ireland, the Robin Hood Legend and the life of a villen during the period. These details help paint a picture of the times beyond just what was happening to the Plantagenet dynasty.

One aspect that maybe tough for new readers to this period of history are the author’s speculations. Every once in while he adds his own opinion of events. I enjoyed his ideas, however, people less well versed in the period my be confused and take his musings as fact. As long as you give the book a close reading, I don’t think readers will be confused.

I was reading this concurrent with The Plantagenets: The Warrior Kings and Queens Who Made England by Dan Jones. Jones’ book is more recent (2013) but Constain’s book is much better, more entertaining and readable. Over and over I found myself wishing I was reading Costain’s when I was reading Jones’.

Finally, I had the extra treat of listening to Conquering Family on audio and the narrator David Case does a wonderful job. His voice, accent, and timing add a lot to the book!

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Welcome Back Bridget!

Mad About the Boy (Bridget Jones, #3)Mad About the Boy by Helen Fielding

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ha! Ha! Ha! Bridget Jones is back! Please stop reading here if you don’t want to read any SPOILERS!

I enjoyed the original books (although the second one was not as good) and I was bit nervous to catch up with the crazy Ms. Jones turned Mrs. Darcy all these years later.

In book 3, Darcy has passed away and Bridget is now a “geriatric mother” of two young children and SINGLE. Much like the past books we follow Bridget the ups and downs of dating, only this time we see her as a cougar trying to date a man who is 21 years younger than herself.

Fielding stays true to the character and points out the absurd in everyday life without making us feel guilty and with her snappy brand of humor.

Some of the details are just too real– too many plastic toys from Amazon for Xmas and the ubermom at school.

I also love Bridget’s friends (although they play less of a role in this novel than in the previous ones). And, Tom’s Paltrow obsession is too funny!

The only draw back to the book is the very end. I wish Bridget would have kept going on her own instead of finding a new man. It’s too much like the old ending with Darcy. Plus, I think it would be a good message to women that they can go it alone and don’t always have to the quickly wrapped up happy ending.

I also could have done without all the farting and vomit talk, but I’ll over look it!

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