It’s difficult to read a book about 9/11 without thinking about where I was when it happened. I feel...moreReview originally posted on Rather Be Reading Blog
It’s difficult to read a book about 9/11 without thinking about where I was when it happened. I feel kind of shameful about it now, to be honest. I don’t think I ever really took the time to understand what all of it meant. I was a junior in high school, sitting in my English class when someone walked in to tell us a plane hit the Twin Towers. School was pretty much over as we knew it. No one was doing much in class. Everyone was on their cell phones. Rules had zero effect. I remember going home all day and being unable to get in touch with the boy I had been talking to because signals were down. I lived 10 minutes away from New York City, and many of my friends had parents who commuted. One of them waited all day and all night until her dad finally made it home. From one of the main roads in my hometown, you could see the skyline – suddenly filled with smoke that didn’t lift for a long, long time.
I originally thought I would include a snippet from my journal during that time but there was nothing that really stood out to me to share. A few days later, I did include this quote from The Green Mile (I loved that book!):
I’m rightly tired of the pain I hear and feel, boss. I’m tired of being on the road, lonely as a robin in the rain. Not never having no buddy to go on with or tell me where we’s comin from or goin to or why. I’m tired of people being ugly to each other. It feels like pieces of glass in my head. I’m tired of all these times I wanted to help and couldn’t.. I’m tired of being in the dark. Mostly it’s the pain. There’s too much. If I could end it, I would. But I can’t.
They are not my own words but I could see how I felt they were so relevant at the time.
Sometimes I feel so outside of the events of 9/11. I didn’t personally know anyone that died. But it did make my mother reconsider my dream of going to school in the city. It did make me realize how something can happen on any given day and even though you realize that, you can’t let it stop you from living your life. I think this is why I really liked the premise of Love is the Higher Law. Most of the books/movies, etc. were focused on people who had loved ones die during the attacks, and this was a story about three people who lived in New York and were affected by it in other ways.
Now I’ve only read David Levithan’s work in Will Grayson, Will Grayson, which I loved. One of my favorite reads of 2011. But I was so enamored by his poetic writing. He was able to evoke such emotion without unnecessarily over-hyping everyone’s feelings. It felt rightfully organic and there were so many times I felt so touched by the pain Claire felt or the detachment that Jasper was experiencing. One of the most beautiful scenes I have probably ever read was during one of Claire’s sleepless nights when she wanders into Union Square, where people had started a makeshift memorial for all the missing. It’s raining out, and all the candles are burnt out. But Claire and another woman work together to light every single candle standing out there. They didn’t speak more than a few words to one another, and Claire worked so diligently to feel like she was doing something.
Then you have Peter and Jasper. Two people who are flirty and free at a party before 9/11 and – two days after the world completely changes – are anything but, resulting in a disaster of a date (although Liza Minnelli is involved). I think it’s interesting to read their perceptions of one another as the chapters switch from person to person, just because these two people are experiencing the same moment so differently, and with Claire, we basically just see Claire. One of my favorite details about Peter is how much he relates music to how he is feeling. There’s a huge emotional moment towards the end of the book at a concert that had tears rolling down my face too. I didn’t even need to know the band or the song they were singing. It’s just amazing the things in life that make us connect and feel other people’s feelings.
That’s what this book is all about. Connection, disconnection, hope, fears, and the unknown. I was reading a review of Extremely Close and Incredibly Loud a few weeks ago and the critic started by saying that 9/11 isn’t something he is over or something he is ever going to be over. And it’s true… 11 years later, I feel the same way. Even if I was only 16 years old when it happened and the only World Trade Center I knew was from when Kevin visited them in Home Alone 2.
There’s a constant struggle to make sense out of these enormously horrid things that happen during our everyday lives. (Even the smaller atrocities too.) I think Love of the Higher Law is a true representation of our generation, one that has seen the effects of an event like 9/11 and how it has changed our perception of the world around us. It pinpoints hard-to-swallow and hard-to-work-through problems without being preachy or over-dramatic or pretentious or pompous. We can be strong even when we lack the understanding of certain events and the reasons behind them. (less)
This book is so beautiful, I can't deal with it fully. The language is flowy, amazing, and meaningful. The story is about identity, self-worth, creati...moreThis book is so beautiful, I can't deal with it fully. The language is flowy, amazing, and meaningful. The story is about identity, self-worth, creativity, and discovery. Love of all kinds. I've read a lot of books this year, and in my life, and I don't think anything has touched me quite like this. I feel so full of this book, and I am desperately sad that it is over.(less)
If you haven't read an Anastasia book you are truly missing out. This is pre-Judy Blume, pre-Alice McKinley. What great female characters are made of....moreIf you haven't read an Anastasia book you are truly missing out. This is pre-Judy Blume, pre-Alice McKinley. What great female characters are made of. She has spunk, a good heart, she loves to write, and she wants to make sure she fits in some explicit sex in the mystery novel she is writing. (Oh, and Nancy Drew bores her because it's not subtle enough.) Her dad is a professor/poet; her mom is a painter; her brother Sam is a pip. He acts like the oldest 2-year-old I have ever met. There is also the added pleasure of reading an early 80s novel where it was okay for kids to drink the foam off their dad's beer. It's sort of liberal, hippy and even more entertaining. Lois Lowry rules. I hope I have a kid just like Anastasia, and I raise her to be an intelligent, creative girl who speaks her mind. No matter how insane it is. (I also hope I don't lose that in myself.)(less)
Once in awhile I am lucky enough to read a book I cannot stop thinking about. I want to send carrier pige...moreOriginally reviewed on Rather Be Reading Blog
Once in awhile I am lucky enough to read a book I cannot stop thinking about. I want to send carrier pigeons and take out an ad on TV just to inform people of its pure genius. After reading over 90 books so far this year, The Gap Year easily fits in my Top 5 of 2011.
First, writing style – Bird alternates chapters between Mom (Cam) at present day and daughter (Aubrey) exactly a year before. The imagery is crisp and the sentence structure flows perfectly in its simplicity. (While this book is description heavy — something I normally don’t love, it is engrossing here.)
Second, the mystery of how these two stories will end remains until the very end. It doesn’t seem like the kind of book that would remain predictable for so long but Bird has carefully created these characters and their histories so much that the drive to discover them is always existent.
Mother and daughter relationships are never easy, and to watch Cam obsess over the navigation of her daughter’s life – and for Aubrey to have some major life epiphany during her senior year of high school – is completely intense. From start to finish. As a reader, I could relate to both on many levels and at the same time I was frustrated by their actions.
And regret. Many write it. It can easily fall into the realm of cliché. But both of these women (and the other characters we meet throughout the course of the novel) have their own unique responses to it. That’s what makes The Gap Year so real: Bird is able to take the complexities of this trying year in this particular household and consistently express them in such a down-to-earth manner.
Easily a favorite for life, I’m looking forward to reading more of Bird’s work, as well as urging everyone I pass on the street to pick it up n o w! (less)
All I can say is my god, high school is rough and I’m glad to be out of there. Magan warned me in advanc...moreOriginally reviewed at Rather Be Reading Blog.
All I can say is my god, high school is rough and I’m glad to be out of there. Magan warned me in advance that this book was disturbing and I think that’s why it took me a little longer than normal to finish it. But I am so glad that I did.
Lani isn’t into being defined. And Claire may show off a positive outlook on life, but it’s as fake as the smiles in her pictures. They are an unlikely pair, and even though their friendship is short-lived, it’s like they have known each other for years.
Claire is dealing with an alcoholic mother, the possibility of having a cancer relapse, starving herself, and a somewhat absent father. Her “friends” are just not the kind you confide it. Instead they are the ones who play “chicken” and get her into dangerous pickles. Her friendship with Lani puts her reputation on the line, and Lani can’t stand clear of multiple forms of harassment.
While this book is difficult to read, Claire’s character development is worth it. Lani teaches her that life gets worse before it gets better, and the strength that Claire finds is truly remarkable. Lani teaches her volumes about herself, actually. (less)
There are very few examples of movies inspired from books that are better than the actual books. (Th...moreReview originally posted on Rather Be Reading Blog
There are very few examples of movies inspired from books that are better than the actual books. (The Notebook is the only one I can think of.) So I’m not sure why a) I waited so long to pick up this book because I’ve see the movie only a billion times b) I was expecting not to like it much.
Despite the differences, I found myself really loving this first book and I’m pretty much ready to gobble up the rest ASAP. First, Mia is such a relatable character even if she just found out she was a princess. She deals with body image issues, a know-it-all best friend, her mom dating her algebra teacher, and the arduous wait for her first kiss. She’s semi-dramatic but super intuitive even if she sucks at telling people how she feels. (Did I mention she is in love with the most popular guy in school?)
I do love that this book upholds the diary style and doesn’t break out of it to create scenes. Instead we learn about Mia’s life (and “secret” life) through her words and eyes entirely. If you’ve seen the movie as much as I have, this first book is basically the uber slow-mo version of what happened in most of the beginning of the flick. One of the huge differences is that her father is still alive and her grandma is absolutely nothing like Julie Andrews. (Maybe we’ll get to that point somewhere down the line.)
The key to the first book in a series is to feel invested enough to pick up the next one. Of course, being me, I am a little too invested in Mia’s love life but I also want to know if her best friend Lily’s always going to be so boisterous, if her parents are really over one another, and what about this mysteriously sweet Michael Moscovitz? While there are plenty of subplots going on, it’s never overwhelming and only adds to how much we learn about Mia’s universe.
Really, my only issue is how I am going to find the time to read a series of ten books. Ah! Wish me luck! (less)
As soon as I finished this book, I texted Magan: “I think I wrote this book my senior year of high s...moreReview originally posted on Rather Be Reading Blog
As soon as I finished this book, I texted Magan: “I think I wrote this book my senior year of high school.” I’m serious. I was feeling lukewarm about Scott after reading Stealing Heaven a few months ago, and I’m so glad I decided to read Bloom next. I was not disappointed. Not at all.
Here’s the thing. You are in a relationship. It is deemed perfect on the outside. The person seems perfect on the outside and you just feel stuck. Your needs are not getting met. You meet someone else, or reunite with them in Lauren’s case and bam. You just cannot deny you are unhappy with your current situation anymore and you just want to be swept away.
Immediately I thought of:
1. Jo Dee Messina lyric: “Oh, one day you get what you want / But it’s not what you think / Then you get what you need." 2. When Dawson’s super cool aunt tells Joey about meeting someone that makes her feel alive and making a hard decision. (Yes, I take Dawson’s Creek lessons to heart.)
I feel pretty bad for Lauren. She likes to read and play the clarinet in jazz band but she feels the need to keep both of these a secret because of the group that she is involved with in school. That’s a lot of pressure. Not to mention, pretending everything is perfect in your relationship and at home when you dad is never even around to have dinner with.
Bloom does a great job of accurately painting Lauren’s insecurities (even though I wish she would just admit who she is and what she likes); even the development of the secondary characters is well done. At times when Scott could have ventured into cliches, she didn’t. All I can say is: yay. The chemistry between Lauren and Evan is intense and all- encompassing.
Most of all, I liked how Scott wrote Lauren as a character who was concerned she was repeating the mistakes of her parents. It’s the reason she sort of stayed still and didn’t make any rash moves. She played it safe. It’s amazing how much pressure she put on herself, even without the help of her parents.
I was left wondering though: did Evan really have to be a character from her past? One way or another, they were sort of siblings at some point. Would the story have progressed any differently if he was just some new guy in class?
You tell me. Add this book to your to-read list. Please? (less)
I know you aren’t supposed to choose a book by its cover but How to Say Goodbye in Robot is probabl...moreReview originally posted on Rather Be Reading Blog:
I know you aren’t supposed to choose a book by its cover but How to Say Goodbye in Robot is probably the best-looking book I’ve picked up all year. Brilliant hot pink pages pinpoint each month that goes by during Beatrice’s senior year at a new high school. At this point, Beatrice is used to moving around a lot as her dad finds better and better teaching positions at colleges but her mom comes off a little bi-polar and obsessed with chickens. This is where the title comes in — Beatrice’s mom calls her a robot when she fails to feel anything for a dead gerbil. She starts to question whether her mom is right — is she detached from her emotions?
At school, Beatrice strikes up an unlikely friendship with Jonah, dubbed as Ghost Boy by the rest of his graduating class. While this move is not the best for her social standing at school, Bea and Jonah begin to depend on each other. They also listen to a late-night radio show filled with some of the most interesting characters I’ve ever come across. In no way is this your typical high school YA and I think that’s why I loved it so much. Instead of being obsessed with clothes, the popular crowd, or falling for each other, both of these characters are struggling with real problems and seeking solace in each other. Kind of. Jonah likes to push Bea away, and she has trouble dealing with that. He gets jealous when she goes on dates, ignores her for a long periods of time, and then jumps back into her life.
It’s not healthy. Not even close. But I could relate to the hope that Bea clinged to. That Jonah would realize how much he needed her, how much their friendship meant in the grand scheme of things… this novel is very well-written. From start to finish, it’s better than a lot of the adult fiction I’ve been reading. (Although, unfortunately, this seems like a growing trend.) The tone is melancholy yet down-to-earth. I felt Jonah and Bea were some of the more relatable YA characters I’ve come across, at least when it came to my own middle school and high school experiences.
I can’t sit here and psych all of you up for a happy ending. The way things went down may have been the best thing for both characters but it doesn’t make it any less heartbreaking.
By the way, any book that opens with Truman Capote quote — it’s got the goods. (less)
One of the authors on the back said she wanted to live inside this book, and I totally agree. It's an easy read, but it hits home. Such familiar feeli...moreOne of the authors on the back said she wanted to live inside this book, and I totally agree. It's an easy read, but it hits home. Such familiar feelings, and the love of a beach house in the summer. Reminded me of some Judy Blume "Summer Sisters" (which is one of my favorte books of all time!) Can't wait to read the other two!(less)
I’m going to go out on a limb and assume many of you reading this aren’t accomplished bridge player...moreReview originally posted on Rather Be Reading Blog:
I’m going to go out on a limb and assume many of you reading this aren’t accomplished bridge players or know a whole lot about bridge to begin with. If you are like me, my familiarity with bridge is limited to the hands they put in the newspaper. (Have you seen those?) I’m not even sure where I got the idea where bridge was a game that “old people played” but hey the stereotype is there and it’s not an unpopular one because well, it’s all over this book.
When I first saw The Cardturner in the bookstore, I was just interested in reading about what Louis Sachar was up to. As a kid, I was a huge fan of his Wayside School series, There’s a Boy in the Girl’s Bathroom, and in college again, when I read Holes. (Don’t miss that one!) Like all of those stories, The Cardturner has real heart. Even when it feels a little long and slips into long explanations about bridge. (Sachar is genius though – he begins his diatribes about bridge with a whale icon. If you aren’t all that interested in the teeny tiny details, just skip ahead to the box where there is a small summary of what Sachar is trying to get at.) It is not a book that is obsessing over the hierarchy of high school or sex or a love triangle. This feels like an old school YA book with a unique background story.
The major highlight is the narrator – Alton, a high school kid who is roped into helping his blind uncle play bridge. I don’t read many books with male narrators so this was refreshing. Alton is funny. He talks to the audience, makes it known that HE is the one writing his story down. He’s also sort of a pushover, and not exactly the big man on campus. But I liked that about him. He had feelings. Even if he wasn’t so good at expressing them. It can’t be easy for your best friend to be dating your ex-girlfriend and see he is also kind of interested in your new crush.
He also seems to be searching for some kind of acceptance from his uncle. Alton is able to pick up on bridge pretty quickly, and his uncle makes him feel like a total idiot sometimes and underestimates him completely. These are some of the funniest moments in the book when he is expressing his frustration over knowing what was going on, and pretending like he doesn’t really care.
Bridge is what brings change into Alton’s life, for sure. Throughout the book, we see him steadily learn the ins and outs of this game, establish a connection with this uncle he never really knew, and make friends with a lot of other people. I also loved the dynamic between him and his younger sister, Leslie. She was probably one of the sanest people in this book since Alton’s parents were so obnoxiously annoying and only cared about one thing – money.
This isn’t the most fast paced book. In fact, it took me a lot longer to read it than I thought it would. I wasn’t addicted to it like I normally get with others. I was reeled in more at the halfway point when I got to know the characters more and things got a little bit exciting and somewhat, suspenseful. (Yes! For real.) I even shed a tear at one point. So The Cardturner is certainly worth sticking with if you can be patient. You may even find bridge to be interesting. (Honestly, it’s still hard for me to grasp the game without actually seeing people playing it but I’m curious enough to watch some videos on YouTube.)
But Louis Sachar has a way of taking a realistic story and making it feel like a fairy tale. Not necessarily with the ending you envisioned. But there are wacky characters, a blind uncle who can impressively memorize his own cards and the hands of the other players, and a “scandalous” family history mystery. It has a little bit for everyone.(less)
Hear me out. Let it Snow is dubbed as “three HOLIDAY romances” and as my husband keeps telling me...moreReview originally posted on Rather Be Reading Blog --
Hear me out. Let it Snow is dubbed as “three HOLIDAY romances” and as my husband keeps telling me, the holiday is over. I’m still giving it another week. But really, who cares? We read summer books when it’s not summer so why not read holiday books when the holidays are over? I’m kind of impressed with how I justified that one.
If you live in a place like I do (New York) that is known to get a lot of snow (so excited we have been spared so far), you know the evil of these storms. The sore backs, the badly iced roads, the slipping, the sliding. Sure, it’s pretty and sometimes you get a school day or are able to stay home from work. But it can be downright awful. In Let It Snow, it is one of these annoying storms that creates complications for its characters but also causes them to meet new people, better understand themselves, and discover love.
Each short has been written by an author I’ve read previously – Maureen Johnson (13 Blue Envelopes), John Green (Will Grayson, Will Grayson) and Lauren Myracle (Love, Peace & Baby Ducks). For the most part, I thought each story was well developed (even though they run about 100 pages each) and did a clever job of expanding on some of the details in the other stories. I loved Maureen’s Jubilee Express and John’s A Cheertastic Christmas Miracle best and felt that Lauren’s The Patron Saint of Pigs fell short. There, the main character, Addie, was reeling from a breakup with her boyfriend Jeb (who we first meet in Jubilee Express). The story was set up like a modern day Christmas Carol where the main character has to undergo some kind of personality change. To me, the transformation was just not believable. I didn’t see her work for it.
It’s been awhile since I’ve read a short story, and I think this might be my first time reading YA short stories. I was just completely impressed with how much was packed into 100 pages, and best of all, how real the characters were. Each story managed to feature many different characters yet I never felt like someone was left out or that I didn’t understand why they were there. Plus I never knew so much excitement could take place in proximity of a Waffle House.
I definitely think Let It Snow is a must-read. It’s also a great chance for readers who haven’t experienced these authors yet to be introduced to them. It’s heartwarming without being corny and cheesy, and it’s pretty telling when you care so much about characters that you don’t spend a full novel with. (less)
A bit slow in the beginning, and most enjoyable when talking about the different people who decided to move to the "Disney town". Fascinating, and at...moreA bit slow in the beginning, and most enjoyable when talking about the different people who decided to move to the "Disney town". Fascinating, and at times, disheartening. But all together, a hopeful story about the birth of a new town.(less)