Friday, January 29, 2016

What I Read in September 2015 Part I

What I Read in September 2015 Part I ...

All Four Stars by Tara Dairman-- Middle Grades Fiction

All Four Stars Gladys Gastby loves to cook and longs to be a restaurant reviewer. She has two problems standing in her way: 1) she's only 11 years old and 2) her parents' idea of cooking is to nuke something in the microwave until it loses all edibility or to order take out from a greasy fast food joint in their New York suburb East Dumpford. When an essay she writes for a grade school contest is mistaken for a job application, Gladys is asked by the New York Standard to review a new dessert restaurant in New York City. Gladys has never wanted anything more badly in her life, but after an incident with a blowtorch, her parents have banned her from all cooking related activities for 6 months! How can she make her dreams come true?

This is a cute story in the tradition of Roald Dahl. Once you wrap your mind around that fact and come to terms with the fact that her parents are really, really stupid, the story improves. I soon got caught up in it and wondered if and how Gladys would make it to New York to review the restaurant. (Which I wish was real so I could go there but Serendipity is the closest equivalent). The plot relies on a lot of really improbable circumstances but it's cute and I enjoyed it. I even found some new recipes I might want to try. I wish the recipes were in the back of the book. The author has some on her website but others you have to hunt for.

Gladys is an endearing heroine. I admired her determination and tenacity to achieve her dream. I can't relate to her much but I wanted her to find a solution to her problem. I can relate better to her friend Parm. Parminder's parents are from India and Parm refuses to eat any of their food. She eats two things and boy can I relate to her. Her parents have a good way to get her to voice her complaints properly and I will pass the tip on to my sister. I felt bad for her that she felt betrayed by Gladys and liked the outcome. Sandy is also a great character. I get the impression his peers probably find him a bit odd but that helps him form a friendship with Gladys. He's clever and resourceful like Gladys and his mom is pretty cool too. Charissa bothers me. She's a Queen Bee spoiled rich girl. She doesn't really have a backstory or explanation about why she is the way she is except for a few hints. She made me cringe with her behavior and I wonder how she will behave towards Gladys in the sequel.

This book is definitely for children 7-12. Adults might enjoy it like I did but won't like Mr. and Mrs. Gatsby at all.

The Stars of Summer (All Four Stars, #2)The Stars of Summer by Tara Dairman-- Middle Grades Fiction

Gladys Gatsby is excited to be on summer break with plenty of time to review new restaurants, but when Charissa Bentley gifts Gladys a summer at Camp Bentley, Gladys is dismayed. She doesn't know how to swim, she's not into arts and crafts and worst of all - Charissa has pulled strings to get Gladys a CIT role. So CIT work could be fun, especially since Gladys gets to work in the kitchen, but she faces opposition in a lunch lady who prefers serving salty meat on white bread to Gladys's gourmet creations. Then there's the weird kid - Hamilton Herbertson, the bestselling author of Zombietown, USA who won't stop staring at Gladys. Then she gets her newest assignment- find the best hot dog in New York! Hot dogs! That's kid stuff! Gladys is determined to do the assignment justice if she can figure out how to avoid telling her parents about her job. With Sandy away and off the grid and Parm away too, Gladys has to come up with a grand plan all of her own or trust in her new friends for help.

I didn't like this book as much as the first. I can't stand hot dogs so that didn't appeal to me at all. I'm with the campers - simple, plain sandwiches are better than "poop on butt bread." I preferred the variety of foods of the first book. I also didn't like the tween relationship drama. Ugh. 12 is way too young for that sort of thing.

The characters from the first book are all back except Gladys's teacher. The Gatsbys manage not to be annoying. I liked getting to know Charissa better. She's not such a mean girl after all. Sandy is away but still charming and irrepressible. Parm is also away, which was too bad because I like her the best. I just don't know HOW she can eat clumpy pasta though. It at least needs butter... Gladys changes in this story and I liked the changes. I liked how she looked at her parents and her friends and both matured and acted like a "real kid" as her dad says. The one new character is Hamilton Herbertson. At first Gladys gives him 0 stars and I would agree. He's egotistical and downright bizarre. He's kind of borderline creepy stalker. Once we get to know more about him and his family, we begin to understand him better and like Gladys, revise our opinion of him. Except I didn't. I still didn't like him much at the end though I felt bad for him a bit.

This book is probably best suited to the target age group.

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