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FatherCraneMadeMeDoIt

FatherCraneMadeMeDoIt

New Odds and Ends

Some of my newest poems and short stories are now available! Check them out at

 

https://www.wattpad.com/story/123123477-whispers-and-echoes-issue-2/parts

 

and

 

https://flashfictionmagazine.com/blog/2017/10/19/real-little-red/

 

And for more story updates, be sure to like my Facebook page (https://m.facebook.com/mckenzielrichardson/)  and/or follow me on Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16305073.McKenzie_Richardson)

 

Happy reading!

 

Surviving the Applewhites - Stephanie S. Tolan

I actually enjoyed this book more than I thought I would.

Is it realistic? Not in the least. Is it an interesting look at creativity, maturity, and growing up? Undoubtedly.

I will admit that the book didn't start off so well. It set itself up to be a cliche and was fairly predictable. You didn't know exactly what was going to happen next, but as soon as you met the characters, you had a pretty good idea of how it had to end.

However, how it got to that point was splendid. I loved following the characters (even though I didn't like most of them- they are all very self-absorbed) and all of the weird predicaments they found themselves in. I especially liked how everything tied together (Jake's story line, butterflies and metamorphosis, and the "color-blind" casting) to make the reader think about the way we see and judge people.

The book is a wild adventure with runaway goats, an off-again-on-again musical, lavender ears, and spicy "fried chicken". Every moment is a blast.

The whole home schooling set up is not plausible in the least, but if you set that aside, it was still a fun read. It is definitely a book you can relax with while still thinking about human nature and society as a whole.

A well-done book that is wacky and fun, while still remaining complex in its examinations of its themes.

At the Broken Places: A Mother and Trans Son Pick Up the Pieces (Queer Action/Queer Ideas, a Unique Series Addressing Pivotal Issues Within the Lgbtq Movement) - Mary Collins, Donald Collins

 

I received a copy of this book through Goodreads in exchange for an honest review.

Overall, I liked the book. It is composed of essays from Mary Collins and Donald Collins and interviews with other people who are trans and families of people who are trans.

The book details what Mary and Donald both went through in various stages of Donald's transition (Donald coming out as trans, starting hormones, perusing various surgeries). They discuss how their relationship changed and places they did and did not find support. 

The interviews were also interesting. They follow mostly white males, but also include perspectives from some people who identify as nonbinary.

The drawback for me with this book was I wanted to hear more from Donald's perspective. Looking back now, I see they have the same number of essays and roughly the same number of pages so maybe it wasn't the amount of material but rather the strength of the voice that put me off. Mary's sections were very domineering and reading them felt like the majority of the book. Perhaps it was because I didn't really like or agree with her perspective. She spends a lot of time talking about the people who did her wrong and less about her transgender son. I feel horrible saying that, because she complains about people telling her she was wrong and not supporting her, but I can't help but lean more in their favor. It was very brave of her to write this book, but it is very clear that she is still not 100% behind her son's decisions. 

A good book, especially for parents and families of people who are trans and looking for some perspective.

The book contains word banks with pertinent words such as "gender identity", "top surgery", "gender confirming". There is also a reading list including in the book with recommended works of fiction and non-fiction pertaining to gender and trans issues.
Savvy - Ingrid Law

I found a copy of this book in the Little Free Lending Library and was very intrigued by the cover.

 

Overall, a good book. I really enjoyed the idea of having a savvy and the various issues that arise because of them. The characters were interesting as well and I loved how different they all were. It was really cool to see how their interactions with each other changed as the story went on.

 

There were only two things I didn't like about the book:

 

1. It was unnecessarily long. Most of the stuff just felt like filler and it went on and on even though it could have been much more concise. The story itself was good, but it was so stretched out the it really dragged on at times.

 

2. I love reading books written for younger readers. It makes up for the fact that I read "grown up" books when I was a young reader myself. However, that tiny bit of adult inside me cringed quite a bit at this book. A lot of what happened could have been avoided.There are some not so great decisions made that in real life probably wouldn't have worked out so nicely in the end.

 

<spoiler> Like no matter how cowardly a stranger seems, don't stow away on their bus. Also, when you're in trouble, just call your completely understanding parents instead of letting them think you got kidnapped and have everyone out looking for you. <spoiler>

 

Overall, a fairly quick read despite the length. Cool story with a unique premise. A great look at growing up.

A Monster Calls - Patrick Ness, Siobhan Dowd

This was a good book. It's not like there was anything necessarily bad about it. Cool story and a creative way of approaching the subject of loss and grief.

I think my expectations were too high for it though. I had heard really great things about it and wanted to read it before seeing the movie. I didn't really know what to expect.

I have not read any of Patrick Ness or Siobhan Dowd's writing before, so I am not sure how this compares to any of their previous work. It is a good book, especially considering it was based on one author's ideas and notes that another author wrote into a book.

The story was good and I liked the plot, but the writing was really simple. Obviously it is meant for a younger audience, but often it just felt too simplistic. Conor's character didn't really resonate with me either. He felt very two-dimensional and easy to figure out.

It's a quick read that is pretty predictable. Right when the monster shows up, you pretty much know what has to happen by the end.

But the journey to the end is still interesting. I enjoyed the idea of the three stories and having Conor come up with the fourth. Very interesting idea of how to confront various emotions.

I do think this is a great discussion book for young readers, especially when looking at some of the discussion questions in the back of the book. There is a lot going on in this book; it is just hidden beneath a layer of simplicity that is kind of hard to sweep away.

I think this book is a 3.5, but I bumped it up to 4 stars because of its ambitious approach of the subject matter.

Overall, a good read and I want to see how the movie version compares.

The Historian - Elizabeth Kostova

This is an intense book. It took me about three months to finish, partly because it is very long, but also because it requires a decent amount of mental effort to read. It is not a book that you want to read after a long day. You really have to be in the right mood. But when you are in the right mood, it's a great book to binge read. It is very easy to get swept up in the story.

I thought it was a fantastic book. Well-written, intriguing plot. I loved the use of letters and the frame-stories-within-frame-stories-within-frame-stories format. It was a bit confusing at times, but definitely a great adventure.

The text is written in that kind of old-school way, much like Bram Stoker's Dracula, with lots of detailed descriptions and drawn out emotions. I think it was fitting for the themes of the story.

The reason I gave this book four stars instead of five, is that I think by the end, that drawn-out style worked against it. It took so long to get to the pivotal point, that when it finally occurred, it was kind of a let down. The end was a bit anti-climactic and didn't seem to fit with the rest of the book. It felt rushed and not as well planned out as the rest of the plot.

Overall, a great book, but I wished the ending was better. The rest of the book was absolutely fantastic. A wonderful vampire story filled with various mysteries lost over time. 

Youth - Isaac Asimov

 

Loved it! Such a great short story.

I loved the changing perspectives of the narration. The story progresses from multiple points of view, leading to a great twist.

A perfectly entertaining story for Asimov fans. 

Who Moved My Cheese?: An Amazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life - Spencer Johnson, Kenneth H. Blanchard

 

I've heard of this book and seen it around, but didn't really think I'd get much out of it. Then I found a copy in the Lending Library and figured I'd see what all the hype was about. It was worth it.

This is a very short, simple book. I was expecting a self-help book, but this one is actually more of a parable about how people react to change. The story itself was very simple, but eye-opening and interesting as well.

The book also contained a discussion section of how different people interpreted the story differently and applied it to various aspects of their lives. This was helpful to expand the interpretation of the story.

Great book. Short, simple, and easy to apply.

 

 

How To Not Give A F-ck In Ten Easy Steps: The Modern Lay Person's Guide To Enlightenment - Swami Pranayomama

I received a copy of this book through LibraryThing in exchange for an honest review.

Overall, I liked the book. It had some useful advice.

The writing was pretty simplistic and easy to follow. There were a decent amount of typos in the text, but it is easy to know what the author meant and the book is still readable. I'll give Freed credit, he did have one of the most creative approaches to typos I have ever encountered. At the start of the book he presents them as a sort of exercise for the reader to practice how to "Not Give A F-ck", which was pretty clever.

In a nutshell, this book is Buddhism with a humorous twist. Freed's presentation is manageable and he gives good advice throughout the text. He is pretty persuasive in his arguments that most things are not worth "Giving A F-ck" about and is a big promoter of meditation.

Freed himself admits that the book is the length it is so that he could print the title on the spine. I like his honesty. After reading the book, it is clear that he stretched a lot of the information to add pages to the book. By the end, it gets very repetitive. Appendix E pretty much sums up the entire book. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, since there is still a good about of information in the book, but it does get a little tedious to read.

A good text to help you sort through what to "Give a F-ck" about and what "Not to Give a F-ck" about that is humorous as well as enlightening.

No Country for Old Men - Cormac McCarthy

Overall, an interesting book.

It's good to know going in that McCarthy does not use quotations in this book. If you go in without knowing that, you might feel some resentment toward him. For the most part, the reader knows what's going on despite the lack of proper grammar. There were a few times I had to go back to figure out who said what, but in general, you can figure it out by what they say. The text jumps around a lot, which adds to the confusion, but for the most part you can figure out what's going on.

Plot-wise, this book was fantastic. The first three-fourths of the book had me reading like crazy to know what happened next. I don't really like crime stuff all that much, but this one was written in such an interesting way that it worked for me.

Then something big happens about three-fourths of the way in and the rest of the book is filled with a lot of symbolism and philosophizing. This in itself wasn't bad, but again, that resentment crept in and I was a little annoyed with the anticlimactic ending.

I have not seen the movie and had little knowledge of the plot going in, so I had no idea what to expect. There is definitely a lot going on in this book so if you want a book to read in order to relax, I would choose a different one. This was involves too much brain power and critical thinking. Again, not bad, but you definitely have to be in the right mood for it.

Ghostgirl - Tonya Hurley

I'm kind of conflicted about this book. There were parts I liked and parts I didn't like. So please excuse the ramble that is about to follow.

I really liked the concept of the book. It took an old concept (ghostly unfinished business) and put a cool new spin on it. There were parts of the plot that really made me want to keep reading and I was intrigued by the storyline.

However, I absolutely hated the characters. They all felt so interchangeable. They didn't seem like individual entities, but like they were based off the same snarky, sarcastic archetype. Charlotte was the worst. She was just so dense, it was irritating. It's hard as a reader to know the character is doing everything wrong, but are too wrapped up in themselves to realize it. I finished this book quickly, partly because I wanted to get as far away from Charlotte as possible.

The writing wasn't that great either. There were some typos and a lot of awkward phrasing. I had to read a lot of sentences many times to figure out what the author meant to say. Also, many of the events are just not plausible. I'm not talking about the fantasy elements, I'm talking about the real, everyday stuff that would never happen (driver's ed debacle, everything surrounding the dance- convincing adults to use that location, cleaning up in time, etc.)

Most of the book is based on mean girl stereotypes and obsession over popularity. This led to many eye-roll moments as a reader and really frustrated me. The girls in the book are all horrible to each other (slut shaming, stereotyping, bullying, taking advantage of each other) and a lot of that doesn't really get resolved. Also, many of the comments came at awkward times and seemed out of character for the person who said it, reinforcing the whole interchangeable character thing. Most of the time it just felt like the author wanted to gain popularity by showing how snarky she herself could be. How's that for ironic for you.

I did like the cover, which was the reason I bought this book out of the clearance section in the first place. I also enjoyed the little shadow illustrations at the start of each chapter. It is definitely a cool little book.

But another tiny, little thing that impacted my opinion of this book was the physical book itself. I was first drawn to it, because of its tall, thin, coffin-like shape. However, once I started reading it, I realized how annoying this design decision was. It hurts your hand to try to read one-handed after a while, because it is so tall. But when I read it with two hands, I kept having to reposition my fingers, because they were always in the way of the text since the book is so narrow. It's a tiny point, but it definitely made reading this book less enjoyable.

So I'm still conflicted. I loved the idea of the book, but I hated the execution. I'm settling with 2 stars, because I think the things I didn't like outweighed what I did like about this book.

Junie B. Jones and the Mushy Gushy Valentime - Barbara Park, Denise Brunkus

 

Found a copy of this book in the Lending Library and decided to check it out for an easy read.

The story is simple, the writing is okay, but I really did not like the narration. Junie's narration really bugged me with her misprounciations and incorrect use of past tense verbs. I understand why it was written that way, but for me it was very irritating.

I also didn't really like the whole Valentine theme. The girls turn it into a competition between them, which I don't think was resolved in a very satisfying way. An important teaching opportunity was clearly missed.

Okay book. 

 

Diary of a Wimpy Kid - Jeff Kinney

 

I saw the movie version of this a while ago and while I wasn't a huge fan of it, I've been wanting to give the book a try. I found a copy for a few bucks in the clearance section and read most of it in a day.

I can't stand Greg Heffley. He is one of the most irritating characters I have even encountered. Self-centered, selfish, and clueless, I really don't understand how this kid has even one friend. This is less of a diary of a wimpy kid and more of a diary of a total jerk. He never thinks of others, including his supposed "best friend". He makes fun of everybody and is overly focused on his popularity even though he hardly engages with any of his peers, besides writing about how stupid they are. Greg thinks he's better than everyone and isn't afraid to express it.

The worst part of the whole thing was that Greg learns nothing in the book. I'm a sucker for stories where flawed characters gain even a little insight into how horrible they are, but Greg is just too dense. Beginning to end, he is too focused on himself to even realize that other people have thoughts, emotions, and feeling.

I don't like overly sentimental books either, but this one had no depth at all. It's just a list of events that might be remotely humorous if I didn't hate the character so much.

A very quick read, but I did not enjoy it. 

Junie B. Jones Is a Beauty Shop Guy - Barbara Park, Denise Brunkus

 

This is the first book I have read in this series.

The antics of Junie B. Jones are reminiscent of Ramona Quimby, but the first person narrator really got on my nerves. Having Junie narrate the story with all of her age-appropriate grammatical errors was very irritating to me. It really took away from the experience. It made me like Junie less. She just annoyed me through most of the book.

The story itself was okay. Pretty predictable and not all that unique.

Okay read. Very quick. 

The Big Pets - Lane Smith

 

The pictures in this book are phenomenal. Very whimsical and dream-like.

The book itself doesn't have much of a story, it is more just a description of the world. But the book is still fascinating because of the pictures.

Great for young children, especially cat-lovers. 

Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse[LILLYS PURPLE PLASTIC P][Hardcover] - KevinHenkes

 

A very cute story with a great message. A great teaching moment for young children about following the rules, coping with anger, and apologizing when you make a mistake.

I really enjoyed the range of emotions Lilly felt in the story. Many children's books only feature happy and positive emotions, but I think it is important to show characters who are sad or angry as well, especially female characters.

This is an excellent story about what not to do when you are upset as well as how to fix the situation if you do something you regret.

Great story and I loved the illustrations.