Polly is a very quirky 12 year old. She is a precocious young reader who read Anne of Green Gables in fourth grade and a...moreReview originally posted here.
Polly is a very quirky 12 year old. She is a precocious young reader who read Anne of Green Gables in fourth grade and at 12 has just read Pride and Prejudice for the first time. She has requested that her computer be replaced with an old fashioned typewriter, learned calligraphy, embroiders and wears frilly dresses. She also talks like Anne at her most flowery and melodramatic. The book is a first person narrative from Polly's POV so the entire thing is written in this style. Which was cute at first but became annoying after a while. Polly did slip up every now and then, resuming 21st American tween speech, but the slip ups didn't occur nearly as often as would be realistic.
There were some amusing parts in the story one of my favorites being this exchange between Polly and a boy who has a crush on her: Boy: "I know. Mind if I call you sometime? Maybe tonight, and we can talk about...about the olden times or something. My dad used to have an Afro when he was in college, you know. And my grandpa, he's even older than that." Polly: "I...I am afraid I cannot commit to any telephone calls about your family genealogy at this time. Pleas enjoy yourself, and perhaps I may see you when school, once again, commences in the fall. Good day.
I was interested in reading the book originally because I saw a lot of reviews saying the story worked Jane Austen into it well and that its language was reminiscent of Austen's language. Except it's not. Jane Austen wrote in the language of her period and genre but her heroines never sounded as though they were vomiting up a Hallmark store on every page. The language is more like Anne waxing lyrical, but instead of it just popping up every now and then the entire book is written that way. As far as working in elements of Austen, that is definitely there. The book mentions both P&P and Persuasion. The title is a riff on Sense and Sensibility. Polly is playing matchmaker like Emma. However, her character most resembles Catherine Morland in Northanger Abbey. She is applying the romantic notions she has picked up in books on the world around her and trying to force real people into the roles of characters. She makes an absolute cake of herself and hurts some people in the process. As Northanger Abbey is a satire making fun of romantic melodrama and its effects I was left wondering what the author was trying to do with this. But that could be me, who wrote way to many English papers on Austen, overthinking the whole thing. Probably.
Overall it is a cute and fluffy story if you can stomach the language. It is best suited for its intended audience, 8-12 year old girls (particularly those who have shown a partiality to the types of stories mentioned). (less)
This is a light read, perfect when one is in the mood for something entertaining and light. In addition it benefits from being a story about knowing w...moreThis is a light read, perfect when one is in the mood for something entertaining and light. In addition it benefits from being a story about knowing who you are as a person before trying to tie your life into someone else's. There were places where this felt a little like a lesson which is why I didn't enjoy it as much as I may have otherwise. (less)
There are some authors you can just always count on. You know that they will not disappoint or let you down. Even if the...moreReview originally posted here.
There are some authors you can just always count on. You know that they will not disappoint or let you down. Even if they have in some way changed their style or grown, like an old friend, you know they are going to still fit you. For me Jeanne Birdsall is one such author. I have read many books I haven't enjoyed all that much in the past few weeks so when her latest novel, The Penderwicks at Point Mouette, arrived at my door yesterday I was positively gleeful. Because I knew that I was holding in my hands a book that I could wrap myself in and find comfort, a book I would love.
"The Penderwick Family was being torn apart."
With that dramatic line the next segment in the story of the Penderwick sisters and Jeffrey begins. The girls' father and stepmother are off to England for their honeymoon. Rosalind is going to New Jersey with her best friend for two weeks. Skye, Jane, and Batty are off to the beach in Maine with their Aunt Claire where they will be met by Jeffrey. This makes Skye the OAP (Oldest Available Penderwick). She is not at all happy about this and her sisters are a bit wary themselves. But the adults know what they are doing. They know that Rosalind needs a break, time to be just a 13 year old girl with no responsibility. They know that Skye needs the responsibility and the opportunity to prove to herself she can handle it. They know Batty needs to learn to function and be a person of her own without Rosalind to guide her.
And so a new summer of adventure begins. A summer that includes marshmallow roasts on the beach, soccer on the beach, music on the beach, searches for golf balls, Moose watches at dawn, and a naughty troublesome dog that introduces them to a new friend. Skye survives her stint as the OAP, barring one brief coup that gives the title to Jeffrey, with grace and new knowledge. Batty discovers she can defeat monsters without Rosalind ,and that she has a talent that no one expected that makes her unique from all her sisters. Jane learns a lesson about boys and romance that every girl needs to learn at some point. Jeffrey comes away from the summer with more new knowledge than he ever expected.
This third installment comes with everything I loved about the first two books. Birdsall knows how to write children well. She writes families and relationships well too. She can capture the magic in the world that is always there when you are young beautifully. The book, like the other two, is timeless in how any person of any generation could read it and identify. Anyone who has read the first two books will be in a familiar place within the pages of this one despite the change in setting. It is not just more of the same though. The girls and Jeffrey are growing and changing. I love this. Birdsall is not allowing them to stagnate. She is moving them forward and giving them experiences that will change them forever. Just as Rosalind was not the same person at the end of the second book, Skye and Batty are not the same at the end of this one. I liked watching Skye be a little unsure of herself and a little lost in her new role. It forced her to be less selfish and see all her sisters differently. Batty found her voice and place in this book in a way I was really not expecting. She has always been the cute little one, but now is becoming a defined character of her own.
Rosalind is present in the story only in the first and last chapter. I thought I would miss her presence in the book more than I did. As an oldest sister myself, she has always been the Penderwick I understood the most. With her not there I really enjoyed the other three more than I had before. I am interested in going back and seeing if it changes my reading of the first two books any.
If you enjoyed The Penderwiicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy and The Penderwicks on Gardam Street, you will feel like you have been reunited with old friends. If you haven't read those books you should get on that. Right now.(less)
Back When You Were Easier to Love by Emily Wing Smith is a fluffy light read with an interesting concept. Who doesn't like book...moreOriginally posted here.
Back When You Were Easier to Love by Emily Wing Smith is a fluffy light read with an interesting concept. Who doesn't like books with potentially awkward road trips in cool cars? The book certainly delivers in terms of that promise. It also delivers in terms of writing. The style works well for the plot and the imagery is very good. I think there are many teen girls out there who will be able to identify with the main character and enjoy going along for the ride. I don't necessarily think that's a good thing.
When the story began I really felt a connection to Joy. She loves reading and books. She is the new girl at her high school and I know how that feels. I also moved my junior year of high school and that is not an easy time in one's life to make such a transition. When I came across this part I thought Joy was going to be my literary BFF: "I'd purposely waited until last to unpack my books. I loved my books too much to shove on a shelf willy-nilly. Books equaled permanence." And here I thought I was the only one weird enough to think that. I also liked how Joy was questioning her world. She is a Mormon and has recently moved from a town with a small community of Mormons to Haven, Utah where that is all the community to be had. She doesn't wish to rebel against the religion she was brought up in. She just doesn't like what she sees about it in Haven: "Even now that I live in a town where it's hard to tell where belief ends and culture begins-I don't like the culture, but I do like the belief." I really liked this insight. This is something everyone should sort out no matter what belief system they are being raised with. So I was immensely disappointed as the book continued and Joy kind of pulled a Bella Swan.
From the synopsis I really thought this book was about something other than a girl who goes psycho when her boyfriend leaves her and decides to follow him in stalker fashion all the way to California. Because he is her love for all eternity and they belong together and he just needs to see her to know that. Because with him she is a better version of herself (Joy 2.0) and without him everything loses its glow and she can't breathe. Wanting closure and a defined relationship status is one thing, this is something else entirely and far more dire. Even when she sees Zan again and realizes he is the world's biggest jerk I was still concerned for Joy's stability, because not half an hour later she is actively thinking of Noah as a romantic interest. That is not an exaggeration, it happens that fast. I think the author was trying to pave the way for this switch. Anyone who reads the synopsis has to suspect that is the way it is going to go and the author does try and make it seem as though Joy has feelings for Noah all along she doesn't want to own up to. It didn't work for me though. Joy was just far too unhealthily obsessed with one boy who she defined herself by. When she lost him it seemed like she latched on to the next available boy for her to do the same thing with. We are supposed to believe that things with Noah are different because Joy has thoughts and feelings about him she never had with Zan. Then one has to question what the psycho stalker show over Zan was all about. Joy doesn't need another boyfriend, she needs to figure out who she is and what she wants. That idea isn't even flirted with though.
I very much enjoyed the few hours it took me to read this book cover to cover. Anna's voice drew me into the st...moreThis review was originally posted here.
I very much enjoyed the few hours it took me to read this book cover to cover. Anna's voice drew me into the story right away and it was very easy for me to relate to her. I felt like Anna's experiences being in a foreign country were just as realistically portrayed as her new girl experiences (I too have been paralyzed by terror in Paris, France at the thought of ordering off a menu). Etienne St. Claire is a great hero. He's your classic romantic nice guy but his character has a depth to it you don't often find in romantic chick lit novels. I think what I liked best about the book is how Anna and Etienne are friends. Friends who happened to be very attracted to each other, but their friendship is still very real. I loved how, through the character of Anna's father, Stephanie Perkins makes fun of Nicholas Sparks. And I'm all for anything that makes fun of Nicholas Sparks.
There were a couple of things that detracted from my absolutely loving the book unequivocally. For the first two thirds of the book I was really engaged and felt the communication between all of the characters was portrayed realistically. But then all the misunderstandings started to get to be a bit much. It was almost as if the author decided she couldn't resolve the situation until a certain time of the year had come or page number had been reached. The teenage drama and miscommunication in the last third of the novel became tedious to read because I felt like it was being forced. It just didn't flow as naturally as the rest of the book did. My other quibble is a minor one, but it tripped me up every time it happened. Eteinne, who has an English accent because he grew up in England, says "me mum" a lot. Each time I felt his character had been overtaken by an evil version of the Lucky Charms leprechaun. I lived in England for four years, granted it was a long time ago, but I don't remember people there switching out their my's for me's.
I definitely enjoyed my experience in Paris with Anna and Etienne and am looking forward to reading the companion novel Lola and the Boy Next Door when it comes out in the fall of this year.(less)
I went up to bed last night around 10:30 with the intention of reading the first 2-3 chapters of Saving Francesca by Melina Marchet...moreReview posted here.
I went up to bed last night around 10:30 with the intention of reading the first 2-3 chapters of Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta. At 1:00 I closed the book. I just couldn't stop. I don't read much contemporary fiction, it has never been a genre that has interested me. This was my first foray into YA contemporary fiction. I may have to pay closer attention to this genre in the future.
Synopsis (from author's website): Francesca battles her mother Mia constantly over what's best for her. All Francesca wants is her old friends and her old school, but instead Mia sends her to St Sebastian's, an all-boys' school that has just opened its doors to girls. Now Francesca's surrounded by hundreds of boys, with only a few other girls for company. All of them weirdos - or worse. Then one day, Mia is too depressed to get out of bed. One day turns into months and as her family begins to fall apart, Francesca realizes that without her mother's high spirits she hardly knows who she is. But she doesn't yet realize that she's more like Mia than she thinks. With a little unlikely help from St Sebastian's, she just might be able to save her family, her friends, and especially herself.
"There are thirty of us girls at Sebastian's and I want so much not to do the teenage angst thing, but I have to tell you that I hate the life that, according to my mother, I"m not actually having."
Francesca does indeed hate her life and that's mostly because she is wallowing in her anger and resentment of her situation. What I like about how the beginning of this story is written is that Francesca does not sound like an angsty teenager, making you want to roll your eyes and tell her to grow up. She simply sounds human. This is not a coming of age story but a story about a person who goes from wallowing to being the proactive controller of her own life. Francesca is in high school which makes this a YA novel but the story is one any age reader can identify with. Francesca is not always likeable. Her character has flaws making her relatable to the reader.
Francesca's thoughts on her school in the beginning: "Girls just don't belong at St. Sebastian's. We belong in schools that were built especially for us, or in co-ed schools. St. Sebastian's pretends it's co-ed by giving us our own toilet. The rest of the place is all male and I know what you're thinking if you're a girl. What a dream come true, right? Seven hundred and fifty boys and thirty girls? But the reality is that it's either like living in a fishbowl or like you don't exist."
Francesca's thoughts on her school in the end: "I love this school. I love how uncomplicated it is and the fact that we come from almost two hundred suburbs, so we have to work hard at finding something to hold us together. There's not a common culture or social group. There's a whole lot of individuality, where it doesn't matter that we're not all going to be heart surgeons and it doesn't matter whether you sing in a choir, or play a piano accordion, or lose dismally at rugby league, or are victorious in basketball."
This change in perception does not occur simply because Francesca changes but because she and her new friends and their changing dynamic change the school too. Every society is made of individuals and each individual impacts the society. Marchetta demonstrated this truth brilliantly simply by telling one individual's story.
The plot of the novel is grounded in reality. There is no reliance on overly dramatic or near tragic events. The events occuring in Francesca's life, the troubles of her family are ones that millions of people experience everyday. I loved all of the supporting characters of the novel as well. Francesca's friends are just as real and human as she is and there is no reliance on overused stereotypes in depicting them. The ending left me with a sense of completion but it wasn't perfectly clean and tidy because there never is a perfectly clean and tidy ending in life. Life is messy and an ongoing series of events. The end balanced that reality with a nice sense of closure at the same time.(less)
I laughed my way through this entire book. Sandra is a wonderful character and narrator. Her knowledge of trends and her...morePart of a review posted here.
I laughed my way through this entire book. Sandra is a wonderful character and narrator. Her knowledge of trends and her resultant distaste for them coupled with her practical common sense and snarky humor made it easy for me to identify with her and get caught up in the story. She is also a little clueless and mean-spirited at times but it all comes together wonderfully. The scary thing about this book is that Willis didn't have to over exaggerate most of the situations she was depicting. I have wasted more of my life than I like to think about at meetings the likes of which HiTek employees attend. All of Willis' books have made me think and this one was no exception. I spent a lot of time yesterday analyzing my resistance to trends and how I managed to develop such a high level of resistance to them. Also, I know what a bellwether is now and I didn't before.(less)
Tragedy ripped the Finch-Mackee family apart at the seams and in the aftermath Tom is left alone and with no wish to cop...moreReview originally posted here.
Tragedy ripped the Finch-Mackee family apart at the seams and in the aftermath Tom is left alone and with no wish to cope with the reality of his world. He escapes into a life of partying, alcohol, drugs and indiscriminate sex in an effort to not remember and not feel. At the beginning of the novel he has hit his bottom, having fallen off a table and cracked his head while high. It isn't this that forces Tom to reexamine his life though. This is followed by his flatmates kicking him out (not as a result of the drugged up head cracking) and forcing him to seek shelter with his Auntie Georgie. Her conditions for his staying with her are no drugs and that he has to get a job. Tom complies and, by coming into contact with his family, and then choosing to work closely to the friends he abandoned, Tom begins to piece his life back together. What results is a story of the bonds of friendship and love, the strength of good community, the power of forgiveness, and hope that makes life livable. These are common themes in Marchetta's novels but she always manages to come at them in new and fresh ways.
Tom was one of my favorite parts of Saving Francesca so seeing where he was at the beginning of this book was truly heartbreaking. He is broken, partly by his father's actions, but mostly by his own. I like how Tom's story demonstrates just how much devastation one person can have. When you decide to blow up your own life in a nuclear holocaust of self destruction, it is not only you who is blasted, everyone around you is hit with the fallout. Tom starts out throwing a massive woe-is-me-pity-party for himself, but slowly starts to realize that he has caused as much devastation as he has been a victim of. With this he begins to reconcile with the people around him, but the two people he hurt the most, his mother and Tara, are the ones who least deserved it, and those are the hardest for him to face. It was so sad to watch them all go through it, and at the same time, very beautiful. To contrast this, there is also Tom's reconciliation with his father. In that case it is Tom who has to forgive and that forgiveness does not come easy.
Not only is this Tom's story, but it is also Georgie's. The point of view is third person limited and it switches between Tom and Georgie. So while you see Tom's struggles with himself, through Georgie you also see the family's concern for Tom and Georgie's own personal struggles as well. Through both of them you see the struggle of the entire Finch-Mackee family. It is a story about all different types of relationships and how one effects all the others in a person's life. It is messy and complicated, very true to life.
I was impressed too by how Marchetta demonstrated how every person is different in their struggles with mind altering substances. While the roads to addiction are many and varied, so are the roads to recovery. Tom's father needs AA and jogging. Tom completely disassociates himself with the people who enabled his drug taking, and that works for him. It was not made to look at all easy, he realistically struggles with wanting to go back sometimes but he has a pretty strong will and, by making contact with his family and friends again, accountability. His way wouldn't work for everyone, just as his father's wouldn't work for him. Again, very true to life.
On a lighter note, the interactions between Tom and Will Trombal (Francesca's boyfriend) were some of my favorite parts. They want to hate each other so much, but don't, and they're such boys about it.
Seeing how, five years later, the characters from Saving Francesca were getting on in life was a bonus to a story that is perfect on its own merits. It was nice to see that Francesca was doing what made her happy and that, though messy, her life had all she wanted in it.
Note on Content: I'm tagging this as both a YA and an adult novel. All of the main characters in this novel are adults, and the book reflects that. It certainly is not intended for a younger, immature, teen audience. This is a book with a 21 year old, often angry, male as its protagonist. The language and references to sex reflect that. The content of both is higher in this novel than in Marchetta's previous novels, but as in everything else she does, this is portrayed realistically and not as a glorification of any of those things.(less)
This is one of those books that sucks you in from the first sentence, which happens to be, "My father took one hundred a...moreReview originally posted here.
This is one of those books that sucks you in from the first sentence, which happens to be, "My father took one hundred and thirty two minutes to die." From that point on I barely breathed for the three hours it took me to read the rest. Just being able to suck a reader into a story does not qualify a book to be a great book though. There are plenty of books that suck in readers that are just awful. This one is a good book in every sense of the word: good story, strong characters and a light handed touch to the themes.
The story is complex and the pieces are given to the reader a bit at a time. However, the execution of this is so brilliant it is actually a simple book to read. There is Taylor's story and then there is the story in Hannah's manuscript which is only given a little here or there. The places where Hannah's written story are inserted flow perfectly with Taylor's story. Piece by piece they are information and Taylor hugs every bit of story she has read close to her heart and goes over them again and again. "So I go back to the stories I've read about the five and I try to make sense of their lives because in making sense of theirs, I may understand mine." The five suffered a lot of tragedy. Taylor has too. At one point I did pause and think exactly how many bad things can happen to one group of ordinary people. I thought about it for a moment and realized it was exactly this many and a whole lot more are possible. Despite all the bad things that happen though the book is not at all depressing because it is balanced with a great sense of wonder and hope. It is life.
The story is told in first person from Taylor's point of view. The synopsis describes Taylor at the beginning pretty well but as the book progresses she takes more risks. She steps out of her self imposed boundaries and starts to connect with people a little more. And then she begins to trust them too. The difficulties in a person deeply emotionally scarred doing this are realistically portrayed. What I love about the way this is written is that despite the fact that Taylor is telling the story it is not just her story. It is also the story of Jonah and Chaz and Raffy and Ben and Jessa and the five kids from the past. This is what I really love about Marchetta's writing. She manages to convey community so well. No individual, no matter, how hard she may try, can live her life isolated. Everything we do as an individual affects a community of some sort and the ripples are far reaching. The friendships of Taylor, Jonah, Chaz and Raffy are a small picture of this. There is nothing at all tragic about the lives of Chaz and Raffy. They are, however, affected by the tragedy of Taylor's and Jonah's. How the four of them interact in their fights, their play time, their moments of joy, their moments of grief and their understanding paints a vivid picture of what true community with your friends can be. With the story of the five it is also shown how one generation impacts another, and not just the older generation the younger. Taylor and her friends have an impact on the adults in this novel too, changing their perceptions on things they were too close to see all the angles of. I love this.
The story also explores romantic relationships of many different types. Intense romantic connection, romantic relationship that didn't work but where the people are still crazy about each other, romance that ended in tragedy, former best friends having feelings towards each other, married life with kids, it's all in this book. The central one being the relationship between Taylor and Jonah. What I like best about these two is that they are both working hard to not repeat the mistakes of their parents. Taylor recognizes some of her mother's weaknesses in herself and wants to overcome them. Jonah is doing the same thing. Nothing about their relationship is easy. Jonah is a really great match for Taylor despite their equally screwed up pasts and he is pretty awesome as a person in his own right. Okay, not pretty awesome. Really awesome. I have to say that this book is brim full of really awesome guys. At least five. And as much as I love Jonah and Jude, the one that caught my heart the most was actually Chaz. There is one point where Taylor thinks, "I'm very disturbed to find out that the leader of the Townies has a soul and I'm beginning to develop a bit of a crush on him." Oh me too. (The other two I was counting were Webb and Ben.)
Note on Content: There are many disturbing topics touched on in the story. Death, abandonment, abuse (in all its forms) and suicide are all included in some way. There are two sex scenes neither of which are overly detailed. There is also some strong language used. None of this is gratuitous though. All of it fits into the characters and themes of the story.
There is so much in this novel and yet it is so simply written. I am in awe of the artistry of it. (less)
Andrew Clements has an amazing way of conveying large ideas within a few pages. This 146 page book is ab...moreThis is taken from a longer review found here.
Andrew Clements has an amazing way of conveying large ideas within a few pages. This 146 page book is about communication, the power of words, the power of silence and how we respond to the people around us. It also shows how we effect the wider community with our words and actions. As always in a Clements book there are two stories being told. One is of the children and what they are experiencing and learning. The other is of the adults and how they are reacting and ultimately learning too. A child reading this will definitely get a sense of empowerment from what the kids in this book are able to accomplish. Hopefully, they will also learn a little about how adults tend to look at children, particularly noisy ones, that will explain some of the reactions they get. For adults reading it, it is a good reminder of how young minds work and exactly how creative they can be. (less)
Magic Realism isn't my favorite genre but I like Sarah Addison Allen's books when I am in the mood for something light and romantic. They do the trick...moreMagic Realism isn't my favorite genre but I like Sarah Addison Allen's books when I am in the mood for something light and romantic. They do the trick every time. Read this book on a full stomach because no one describes food or can make you want it as well as this author can. The sexuality in this book is more prevalent than I care for but not nearly as much as you find in most typical romance novels. (less)
I can't tell you how many online discussions of The Cardturner I've read in which someone has stated, "I just don't thin...moreReview originally posted here.
I can't tell you how many online discussions of The Cardturner I've read in which someone has stated, "I just don't think kids will enjoy reading a book about Bridge." That does this novel (not to mention teen readers) a huge disservice. This is not a book about Bridge. It is a book about life. The people who are living life in this book happen to play Bridge. It's not actually quite that simple though. Because Bridge is anything but simple. Kind of like life. Which is why this novel is so absolutely brilliant.
Alton is an unapologetic loser at the beginning of this novel. He gets played all the time, particularly by his best friend. I seriously wanted to reach in the book and shake him at times. I felt for him though and I loved his voice, which sounds authentically like a teen boy. He is insecure, apathetic, a little clueless and rebellious in a passive aggressive way. He is also clever and funny. (Hmmm...a lazy but smart hero with a passive aggressive streak and a sense of humor. Not surprising I liked him so much.) His uncle really becomes his mentor but neither one of them acknowledges this. Alton learns to play far more than Bridge by the time the book is finished.
Trapp, Alton's uncle, is wonderfully rendered. Blind and rich, the only real passion in his life is Bridge. But it is not his only love. He is surly and a bit bitter from some of life's experiences but he is also philosophical and generous. He doesn't like being played. I liked that Sachar didn't fall into writing, "the cantankerous old codger who learns to love" trope. Trapp is not Scrooge and Alton is not Tiny Tim. Their characters and relationship are far more complex than that.
When I said this is not a book about Bridge that didn't mean there isn't a whole lot of Bridge in it. There is. The game is almost a character itself. It is a metaphor for life and in the hands of a lesser author it could have been disastrous. But this author is Louis Sachar, so it wasn't. What Sachar does with the metaphor was brilliant and he did it with a light touch. Not many people know a lot about Bridge and Sachar acknowledges the difficulty of this. Alton mentions how when he read Moby Dick he was drawn into the story until it became all about the technical aspects of whale ships. So whenever technical aspects of Bridge come up he puts a little whale on the page so you know you can skip that part (but don't because there is good stuff in there). Can you read and appreciate this book and know nothing about Bridge? Absolutely yes. I sure didn't know anything about Bridge when I started reading it.*
So yes, in a way it is a story about Bridge. But it is also a story about lost dreams, love, relationship, generosity of spirit and the never ending pursuit of knowledge.
The subtitle for the book is "A Novel About a King, a Queen, and a Joker". Who is the King? Who is the Queen? Who is the Joker? There are actually several possible answers to all three questions. I'm not sure which ones are the ones Sachar intended. Which is probably what he actually intended. (less)
"Nothing creates a buzz like an Executive Deluxe day planner...I hug the planner to my chest and slowly brush the leather. It'l...moreOriginally posted here.
"Nothing creates a buzz like an Executive Deluxe day planner...I hug the planner to my chest and slowly brush the leather. It'll cost me a third of my Christmas money, but this baby has monthly and weekly calendars, financial graphs, to-do checklists...and did I mention the sweet, sweet leather?"
After a beginning like that there was no way that I could not like Payton. I felt an immediate connection to this obsessive nerdy girl and that connection held throughout the entire story. Payton's voice is spot on perfect. She is funny, self-deprecating, and very sympathetic. She is behaving like a bit of a brat at times in the story but you can't help but understand and empathize with her. Partly because she freely admits she is being a brat and her confusion over her feelings and the tumultuous mess her life is becoming makes it impossible to not like her. Also her parents and her best friend kind of deserve what she is dishing out.
Then there is Sean.
I really enjoyed the relationship between Payton and Sean and how it developed. It is sweet and simple and lovely. They genuinely have things in common and enjoy each other's company. Sean is not a typical 14 year old boy. He is more mature, focused, and understanding than most boys his age but his character was still very real. There are 14 year old boys like him out there, they are just not prevalent. He is just as prone to confusion, anger, and pouting as any typical boy his age. I didn't even mind too much when Payton came up with a ridiculous reason for avoiding him because I could see a scared and confused high school freshman doing something exactly that stupid.
As great as the romantic element of this story is I enjoyed it most as a story about a girl who is figuring out how to realign her life after it has been completely shaken up. The relationship between Payton and her family is also well developed and all the characters are distinctive and stand out. This is a wonderful light story about family, friendship, life, and first loves. I am very interested in reading Ms.Leavitt's other books now as well.
Note on Content: This is YA but could definitely be read by a younger audience who enjoys romance in their books. Sean and Payton's relationship is very much PG and I think that younger girls would also be able to relate to Payton's feelings and experiences. (less)
Alison is in trouble. After years of trying to suppress and hide the strange way she perceives the world through colors and sou...moreOriginally posted here.
Alison is in trouble. After years of trying to suppress and hide the strange way she perceives the world through colors and sound she finds herself in a psychiatric hospital suspected of killing one of her classmates. The problem is there is no body and little evidence. Alison was the last person to see Tory. They fought and then Alison came home upset, with blood on her hands, out of control, and claiming she saw Tory disintegrate. When Dr. Sebastian Faraday turns up at the hospital and not only discovers the reason for Alison's strange perceptions, but also completely believes her story about Tory she has new hope. And it doesn't hurt that Faraday is good looking with an entrancing accent either. Just when Alison thinks things might improve they go from strange to stranger and she discovers a whole new world of knowledge.
This story has a lot going for it: mystery, suspense, psychological oddities, a little romance, and then the other stuff that you have to read the book to discover. There are several elements of it that could have gone horribly wrong or been terribly awkward if Anderson were not so good at what she does. She took some real risks with this concept and they were definitely worth it.
Alison is the one telling us her story and it is told in first person. If you don't like unreliable narrators this book will drive you crazy. Alison, as a patient in a mental hospital on anti-psychotic drugs, is the very definition of unreliable. I like unreliable narrators and Alison is one whose voice will capture you even if you don't completely trust her. She is extremely sympathetic and you can't help but want her to be telling the truth.
The relationship between Alison and Faraday is quite possibly the best executed part of this story. It could have been super creepy (and not just because of the age difference and the whole doctor/patient thing), but Anderson managed to avoid the disturbing relationship issue while also turning out a stomach fluttering romance.
I was also impressed with the portrayal of Alison's hospital and experiences in it. The hospital workers and doctors are portrayed as real people, some of whom are dedicated to their jobs and some of whom are simply earning paychecks. None of them are evil or abusive. Some of them are kind of clueless but you find those people anywhere. Overall they are portrayed as helpful professionals. The other patients are portrayed sympathetically, even the ones that hurt Alison and make her miserable. The books referenes to psychiatry and psychiatric drugs are delivered in ways that allows readers to draw their own conclusions (and in my case do some internet research).
The only small complaint I had was that the last couple of pages were a little less subtle than I would have liked. According to R.J. Anderson's website there will be a sequel coming out in 2013, which seems an awful long time from now. Though in the meantime her fourth Faerie book Swift will be released in the UK so we have that to look forward to.(less)
From looking at the cover you might come to the conclusion that those kids are creepy an bizarre. They are not creepy, b...moreReview originally posted here.
From looking at the cover you might come to the conclusion that those kids are creepy an bizarre. They are not creepy, but they are a bit bizarre. Otto doesn't speak (by choice), Lucia is uncomfortably forthright and Max is super smart and likes to sit on the roof. This is their story and I have a great love for books about siblings who adventure, suffer, and succeed together so I was expecting to like the Hardscrabbles. I was not expecting them to earn a place in my heart next to the Bastables, Pevensies, and Penderwicks, but they have.
The adventures of the Hardscabble children will captivate young readers. What child doesn't love the idea of being on their own in a big city? Or living in a miniature version of a castle complete with its own carousel? Or finding and exploring a secret passageway? Or brilliantly outwitting all the grownups? These kids argue and fuss with each other like any other group of siblings. There are characteristics in them all kids could identify with, but at the same time they are so different, and having such a strange adventure that their story is engrossing. It is the perfect combination.
I really enjoyed the style of the writing here as well. From the beginning it pulls you in: "There were three of them. Otto was the oldest, and the oddest. Then there was Lucia, who wished something interesting would happen. Last of all was Max, who always thought he knew better. They lived in a small town in England called Little Tunks. There is no Big Tunks. One Tunks was more than enough for everyone."
This is one of those books where the story is told in third person by a first person narrator who provides commentary for the reader. Normally that type of narration drives me nuts, but it worked for me in this book, probably because the narrator is one of the children and not some unknown supercilious adult. The narrator's identity is meant to be secret, as this is the story of all three children and not just one. The narrator, not necessarily agreeing with this edict, gives the reader plenty of information to make an accurate identification. I absolutely love the narrator's wit, such as: "They hooted and laughed and staggered around like a pack of drunken idiots as the Hardscrabbles walked by. If I ever become like this when I am a teenager, I hope someone smothers me in my sleep." and "Here is my most important message to you: All great adventures have moments that are really crap."
The ending is a bit rushed, which I'm noticing a lot in books lately. It is described in the book as bittersweet and I think young readers would agree. As a mother, I found it to be really really sad. Don't worry, everyone, including the cat, is alive and well in the end. Happy even.
If you know a kid who loves adventure, humor, and mystery then put this book in their hands. If you are a lover of those things yourself, you should read it too. (less)
Okay, this book has a number of flaws. Polly Shulman's writing has improved a great deal between writing this and writing The Grimm Legacy. But, oh my...moreOkay, this book has a number of flaws. Polly Shulman's writing has improved a great deal between writing this and writing The Grimm Legacy. But, oh my, was it ever fun and I loved reading it. It had me smiling from start to finish which was just what I needed this weekend.(less)
John Green is a master wordsmith. I love how he puts together ideas. He is funny and ironic without being supercilious and overly sarcastic. I laughed...moreJohn Green is a master wordsmith. I love how he puts together ideas. He is funny and ironic without being supercilious and overly sarcastic. I laughed out loud in several places of this book. All that humor was intertwined into a story that was tragic and hopeful. Also, I felt, very realistic. I don't agree with a lot of the philosophies of the story or the conclusions the protagonist reaches in the end, but I felt his journey there was portrayed meaningfully. What struck me the most was the accurate depiction of how a tragic event impacts an entire high school. Even those who were nowhere near what happened, or those involved, believe themselves to be at the center of the tragedy. This is partly because teenagers are as egocentric as toddlers but, it's mostly because these type of events remind them of their own vulnerability. The grieving process of the whole community depicted in this story behind the forefront of the story of those impacted the most was well done. (less)
Could I live in the Casson house? Absolutely not. Could I enjoy an extended stay? Absolutely not. Would I enjoy an after...moreReview originally poster here.
Could I live in the Casson house? Absolutely not. Could I enjoy an extended stay? Absolutely not. Would I enjoy an afternoon visit? Maybe. Visiting them through the pages of their story is my ideal. That way I am not literally experiencing the mess or chaos.
Saffy and the search for her angel are certainly the core of the book but the heart of the story is all the Casson children. Saffy is distant and temperamental but obviously loves her quirky siblings very much. Caddie, Indigo, and Rose are devoted to her and to each other. The way they understand each other and assist each other amid such chaos and despite their idiosyncrasies is heartwarming.
The senior Cassons on the other hand...If I read this as a child I might have found them to be just different, and kind of quirky, like the kids. As an adult I just want to find them a therapist. This made me feel even more attached to the kids. I want to bake them cookies and let them play at my house (provided they leave their rodents and paints at home-they probably wouldn't enjoy it here). Which I guess makes me Mrs Warbeck (a character in this book I found delightful and often misunderstood).
I am very much looking forward to reading the further adventures chronicled in the lives of the Casson siblings.(less)
I found this book highly enjoyable. Hamlet is a character very easy to relate to. Her quirky family, friendships, troubl...moreReview originally posted here.
I found this book highly enjoyable. Hamlet is a character very easy to relate to. Her quirky family, friendships, troubles with boys, jealousies and rivalries will strike a chord with anyone who is or ever was in middle school.
This is not what I liked best though. What did I like best? Hamlet has parents who love and support her. They are good parents. (Yes, good parents in a MG novel. Who would have thought it possible?) They are sometimes consumed with their own lives but they do talk to their kids and attempt to make changes where needed. Also, the drama in the book is typical to life. There was no overly dramatic climax to steal away the reality of the book.
Many mentions of A Midsummer Night's Dream abound so it gets extra points for that as well. (less)
I was interested in Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler, I admit, largely because I wanted to see what the author of The Series o...moreOriginally posted here.
I was interested in Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler, I admit, largely because I wanted to see what the author of The Series of Unfortunate Events could do in the world of contemporary YA. And writing from the PoV of a heartbroken 16 year old girl. Then it went an earned itself a Printz Honor and I became even more interested.
This is a realistic and heart wrenching portrayal of a girl who has had her heart smashed to pieces, just as much by her own reckless wantings as by the boy who betrayed her trust. I loved that. I loved Min had a sarcastic and bitter tone through the book, but those things weren't directed at Ed (all the time), they were directed at herself. As she parses through all the moments in their relationship you can practically see her face-palming and hear her muttering, "Stupid, stupid, stupid." This book could be subtitled: What Happens When a Smart Girl Starts Thinking With Her Hormones, A Cautionary Tale. It is a dissertation on the importance of guarding your heart even when the boy who comes knocking on it is a hot basketball star who makes butterflies dance in your stomach. It is not an easy book to read. You know where it is going to end and, even if the title didn't give that away, it is obvious from the get go Ed is bad news for Min. The writing is on the wall, she is too bedazzled by lust to see it. This scenario plays out so often in real life that this book will most definitely find an audience who can relate. I really liked how in the end all Min really has is regrets. There is no "It is better to have loved.." sentimentality. There is no "at least I learned a valuable lesson". There is just "wow, how could I not see this for what it was".
My only complaint is that the narrative is almost stream of consciousness at points, which fits with the idea that this is a letter from Min to Ed, and it also helps us get to know Min better as a reader. It made the book really long though. If this was actually a letter it would have taken Min a couple weeks riding around in Al's truck to write it and Ed would never make it past page 30.
Note on Content: The book has quite a lot of strong language and some sex. Parents of younger YA readers might want to know this is there. (less)
There is a lot going on in this novel and many characters, but McKay juggled it well. It is never too much. All of the Cassons, Sarah, and Michael are...moreThere is a lot going on in this novel and many characters, but McKay juggled it well. It is never too much. All of the Cassons, Sarah, and Michael are back in this volume. Tom, a new character, joins the melee'. He is a friend of both and Indigo and Rose, who has family issues of his own. Rose rather annoyed me in the first book, but it in this one I enjoyed her more. I wanted to scoop her up and hug her. I also wanted to throttle the parents at several points (a recurring theme). My favorite part of this book was Indigo though. It was wonderful watching him grow and stretch himself. This did seem to be more of a Rose story overall though.(less)
Bruiser is the story of four individuals, two sets of siblings, and how their lives become permanently intertwined by th...moreReview originally posted here.
Bruiser is the story of four individuals, two sets of siblings, and how their lives become permanently intertwined by the knowledge of a strange and mysterious secret. Tennyson and Bronte are twins, children of literature professor parents whose marriage is in crisis. When Bronte decides to date Brewster "Bruiser" Rawlins, Tennyson is not happy about it. He is used to his sister taking in strays but the kid voted "Most Likely to Get the Death Penalty" is more than he can stand for. Bronte refuses to back off. She knows that Brewster is not like everyone says, but her and Tennyson both soon discover there is a reason he is a loner and has no friends. Caring about people is dangerous for Brewster. It is, in fact, painful. Often it is all he can do to endure his love for his reckless younger brother Cody. As all four of their lives become increasingly intertwined they learn some important lessons about love, friendship, family, and sacrifice.
The book is contemporary realistic fiction with a dash of the strange and unknown. Brewster's secret is different and strange. The paranormal label doesn't fit and neither does a straight fantasy label fit it. Sci-Fi doesn't work either. I guess this book is one example of why the label "magical realism" was invented.
The story here is told by the four main characters. The first narrator is Tennyson and I loved his voice. This is what immediately pulled me into the story and did not make me happy about performing my parental duties for the rest of the night. He is the snarky lazy type and we know what a sucker I am for those. I very much enjoyed Tennyson's character arc through the entire story. How he goes from bully and snob to ally to friend and then becomes a victim of his own selfishness and how he overcomes it in the end, this is good reading. Loved every bit of him. Bronte was more difficult for me to enjoy because I felt she was incredibly stupid on a lot of fronts. Also incredibly self absorbed, and not in the painful conflicted way of her brother, but in an oblivious-want -to-smack-her way. Which is a realistic portrayal of a selfish person,but it was hard for me to like her. Cody's narration was surprisingly enjoyable. He sound genuinely eight years old in his sections. This is difficult and many authors fail at authentically voicing so young a narrator. It is easy to love Cody, who adores his brother and becomes quite a little hero by the time all is said and done. Brewster's sections were difficult for me to sink into, partly because they were written in the form of modern poetry, and partly because he is difficult to relate to. I was frustrated with him not just explaining things to Bronte and for being a bit of a door mat. However, I can understand how it could be confusion being him and making the choices he has to make given what he can do.
The four narratives combine to tell a gripping story. I was enthralled from beginning to end, anxious to see how it could all possibly end. I only had a small quibble with the way story resolved. there is one element at the end I found to be cheesy and sentimental. This aside I like that the book ended with some uncertainty as to how things would turn out.
Bruiser is an interesting study in relationships, the motivations behind them, and how easy it sometimes is to unknowingly use people for our own selfish ends.(less)