Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Funny How Things Change by Melissa Wyatt

Funny How Things Change is very much a character study. It is not a plot driven novel, but a story of one teen boy, recently graduated, that must choose whether to stay in the small mountain town he loves or leave to follow his girlfriend while she attends college. It is relatively quiet, there are no major plot twists, no explosions, nothing to shake up the reader and it is all the more beautiful for that.

Remy is a solidly drawn, believable, and totally likable character. His girlfriend Lisa is a little less well-rounded, but I thought that fit. We really see Lisa through Remy's lens and so since he is somewhat blinded by his feelings she comes off nice, but a little flat. Dana, the visiting artist, in contrast is much more robust. More interesting, more compelling, and so she should be, as we're also viewing her through Remy's eyes. And as an "outsider" naturally she would be more interesting, more exotic than the people he's known his whole life.

This is also the story of a beloved dying coal mining town. Remy's family have lived there for generations. There is history, there is community, there is little opportunity to make a living. The choices Remy is facing are the same choices everyone in the town has to make.

If I have one complaint, it is that the resolution with Remy's girlfriend was handled a little awkwardly. It wasn't what happened, but rather how it happened. The reader sees it coming, it isn't a surprise, it just could have been smoother. On the whole, a small complaint for a very beautifully written book.

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Reluctant Heiress by Eva Ibbotson

Guy is a self-made man. A foundling who worked his way up into the upper echelon of society, but doesn't care particularly for its trappings (he actually refused a knighthood). Tessa is a princess who has fallen on hard times, but doesn't mind because she lives to serve art. Nerine is Guy's insufferable fiance who finds it hard to be in love with anyone because she is so incredibly in love with her own face.

I feel like Ibbotson enjoyed writing this. I feel like she wrote it with tongue firmly in cheek. I feel like she would be a freakin' hoot to hang out with. All this is based on nothing except for her strangely unrealistic fluffy historical romances that don't seem to be based in any sort of factual reality and yet are still amazingly un-put-downable.

"Maxi's face fell. He had spent five minutes arranging the feather in his hat at an angle which would give pleasure to his intended, and though he tried not to be vain about his legs, he would have been foolish not to know that few men could carry off lederhosen the way he could."

"The English were swine of course, everyone knew that, but they did understand breakfast."

That, in a nutshell, is why I must now hunt down the rest of Ibbotson's books and read them all.

Previously: A Countess Below Stairs.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist - Movie Edition

So everyone loved the book. I didn't. Which bothered me - because when EVERYONE loves something so much you want to like it too. You wonder why you can't connect to it. At least I do... Anyhow, I figured I would give the movie a chance. Love Michael Cera - even if he is essentially the same character in every movie. He's so cute. And he wasn't exactly the same in this. I thought he showed a bit more seriousness.

Soooooo.....the movie totally freakin' charmed me. It's like someone read my mind and took out every single thing that bothered me about the book and kept all the good parts. It was fabulous. That awful almost sex scene in the ice room at a hotel? GONE! The gratuitius swearing? GONE! The strange irritating band references? GONE!

The one thing that would have made it perfect? Michael Cera wearing this hat. I just felt like he should have been wearing something like that.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Reality Check by Peter Abrahams

Cody is not much of a student, but is a hell of a football player. At least he was until a knee injury takes him out of playing in his Junior Year. His girlfriend, Clea, left town at the beginning of the school year to attend an exclusive boarding school. In his opinion, there’s nothing left to stay in school for and so he drops out, gets a job, just plain gets on with it. Then he hears Clea is missing. Without a second thought he jumps in his car and takes off to find her involving himself in a high stakes game that he might not make it out of alive.

Our hero Cody is pretty average. A working class kid who loves football who has secretly harbored hopes that he’d make it to the NFL. He’d never share these dreams with anyone of course. Certainly not with his father, a semi-violent drunk who’s goal in life seems to be to make sure Cody doesn’t set his dreams too high. Although part of this, as strange as it seems, probably stemmed from a misplaced desire to protect his son from a broken heart.

I really liked the juxtaposition of Cody, a regular working class kid against the very privileged kids at the boarding school. I liked that no one was a stock character, that everyone was nuanced. In fact, the author made it a point to show that no one is who you think they’ll be. Certainly not Cody, a dropout who is nowhere near as dumb as he thinks he is.

The suspense was great. I really enjoyed how Cody put together the pieces and how I suspected each person in turn. Cody wasn’t sure who to trust and the reader isn’t either. It makes for really thrilling page-turning reading. I love it when I come across a well written book for older teen boys.

The Grossest Thing I've Ever Seen

Read it and weep

(Thanks Michelle)

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Perfect Fifths by Megan McCafferty

This post will contain ***SPOILERS***

Ok. So. I was happier with the fourth book than I was with the third, but still not as in love as I was with the first two. That is your background. As anxious as I was to read the fourth, I was even more so to read the fifth. Would Marcus still be a smug unattractive shell of his former self? That was my main worry - not that they wouldn't end up together, because, come on people - every one knows the whole point of this fifth book was to give the readers the happy ending they wanted. The one where Jessica and Marcus ride off into the sunset knowing that they would be togethah forevah. The worry was, in its essence, would the journey feel right? And I'm pleased to report that it did.

I loved that McCafferty changed her style. No diary or letter - instead a third person narrator telling us a blow by blow account of thoughts and feelings of BOTH Jessica and Marcus. Yes, both of them! And that saved Marcus. We got to hear his actual thoughts! Be privy to his insecurities! See the inner workings of his mind! All at the same time as our narrator dissected him. It was fabulous and returned Marcus to his former sexy bad-boy intellectual glory.

Since they hadn't seen each other for three years we get some memories thrown in. Marcus was devastated after his marriage proposal was rejected (as well he should have been) and didn't take it with his easy peasy life is as life is philosophy. Which made me ecstatic. I wanted him to be wounded - if only because he had annoyed the crap out of me for the previous two books. I loved that he threw himself into an unhealthy and ultimately regrettable relationship that showed him that Jessica was the one he had let get away.

I loved Jessica's connection with Sunny, her contemporary Korean version of her high school self. It added much needed snark into the story. It added heartbreak and tension and humanized Jessica.

The sexual tension that was so sadly lacking in the past two books was back in full effect. Would they or wouldn't they? We knew they, in due course, would and that we didn't want Jessica running full tilt away from the first moment they ran into each other (literally) because they were smoldering together.

In addition to the narrator there were also poems - my favorite being the interactive haiku. Pure genius. I loved the flirty, slowly more and more revealing haikus that they wrote back and forth. It seemed like McCafferty was playing with style in this final book and it worked. Much more so that the same old diary format would have.

I am so relieved and happy that this was the ending to their story. I’m sad it’s over, but happy to send them on their way.

Read my review of Forth Comings.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

No Such Thing as The Real World: Stories About Growing up and Getting a Life by various

A short story collection with some big names and stories with big things going on in them. There were three stories that really struck me and I am going to talk about those individually. Don’t read this if you don’t want ***spoilers***.

Complication by An Na

I had to read this one twice. On my first read through I wondered about Fay, the girl who goes to clubs and ends up somehow picking up her dead boyfriend’s brother, which is kind of convenient since she has plans to blackmail him. I did wonder, “what kind of club is she going too?” And I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that even after my second read I still didn’t know. I’m going to say it’s probably a sign of my vastly boring and sheltered life that I couldn’t figure it.

“She may be young, but she has lived long enough to know, shackles come in many forms.”

That line really tied the story together for me. Except that in her plans to blackmail him she opened herself up to much more serious shackles. You know…like jail? That aside, there was an emotional intensity to this story that really appealed to me.

The Projection: A Two-Part Invention by M.T. Anderson

Color me impressed. I loved this story, it was my stand out favorite of the bunch. I loved that it jumped around and made you guess and by the end there still isn’t a clear answer as to what is going on. Is it just two drama students (one who may be a stalker and completely unhinged) improvising? Or is it a futuristic tale where a husband created projections of himself before his death and the wife is able to speak with a pre-programmed hologram? Which is it??? Fun, fun, fun. I loved the banter and I loved the unresolved storyline.

Survival by K.L. Going

Another extremely strong story. Rachel tells us about how she can never quite measure up to her sister. Her sister is the golden child, the beloved twirler, the beautiful, the perfect…the complete sociopath. This is actually never mentioned, but I think it is true. Rachel always wanted to be like her sister, but when it gets to be too much she tries to break out on her own. She joins track – her sister joins track. She likes a boy – her sister gets the boy. Maybe she’s just a terrible older sister, but in my opinion SOCIOPATH!!!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Goldengrove by Francine Prose

Francine Prose has written both for adults and teens. We often ask why a book has been published for teens when it seems clearly adult (although I find this is often code for "but its too good to be wasted on teens") but I don’t think we spend as much time asking why a book has been published for adults, when it could just as easily appeal to teens . The cover, yes, yes, very adult (and by that I mean boring). The story? In my opinion Goldengrove could have just as easily been YA. A sophisticated YA, but YA nonetheless.

Goldengrove chronicles what happens to 13 year old Nico and her parents after their beloved sister/daughter accidentally drowns. It is a heartbreaking, beautifully written story. Nico, seeks out the attentions of her sister’s boyfriend. A relationship clouded by her father’s thought that the boy has a ‘screw loose.’ And whether or not he does, his grief certainly causes him to act in unhealthy and dark, twisted ways. Nico and his growing relationship is not what anyone could label as healthy.

Margaret, even after her death, overshadows the family much as she did when she was alive. Beautiful, artistic, and adventurous, Margaret was adored by her family. After her sudden death everything stops. The book tells us about the summer after, the grief that stops their appetites, drives them away from each other, and then finally the way in which they are able to come back together.

My only complaint is that the ending is a bit sudden – we take almost all of the book to get through one summer and then 3 pages from the end Nico is grown up with children reflecting back. I know we often wonder what happens to a character after the story ends. It just seemed a little unnecessary – I think it stole some of the easy flow out of the story.

The One Where the Gods Stop Laughing

So Margo Rabb interviews Sherman Alexie and much is explained!

MR: Your next young adult novel, Radioactive Love Song, was originally scheduled to be published this spring, but it’s been delayed. What’s happening with it?

SA: We’ve tabled it because I’m working on the sequel to True Diary immediately. We decided to hold off on that because nobody wants something else—everybody wants the story of Arnold’s sophomore year!

To read the full interview (and you really, really should).

I feel better now. I really like being in the know. Many Thanks to Joanna for passing this along and soothing my broken heart :)

Friday, May 1, 2009

The one where I read the preview of Sherman Alexie’s new book and wonder if the Gods are laughing at me.

I found a preview of Radioactive Love Song in a dusty corner in one of our library offices - it is at least a year old. Just a chapter or two, 30 pages total of his new book. I consumed it in 10 minutes or less. 10 minutes of rapt reading filled with laughter and me reading aloud choice lines to my colleague. I flip over the book and it says coming in April 2009. But it isn’t. I’ve checked our vendor. I’ve checked other vendors. It is not available! What is up with this people? How could Little, Brown tease us like this?!? Not kind, people, not kind.