This book would have easily been a five if not for the last 1/4 being dedicated to philosophy. This is as much a reflection on me as it is on the book...moreThis book would have easily been a five if not for the last 1/4 being dedicated to philosophy. This is as much a reflection on me as it is on the book. I read it as a writer...and thought of it as another generation's ON WRITING (Stephen King). So when it diverged from the narrative of writerly advice and stepped into the topic of philosophy, I was let down. The philosophical chapters are still interesting...just not what I expected. It's a great read for writers--particularly playwrights and novelists. You'll get a lot out of it, if you're reading it for writing advice. Just be aware that the ending focuses not on writing, but on philosophy. (less)
This review is from my review site, Try This Book on For Size.
Parallel Visions was one of those books I just wanted to devour in one sitting. It grabb...moreThis review is from my review site, Try This Book on For Size.
Parallel Visions was one of those books I just wanted to devour in one sitting. It grabbed this reader from the first sentence! 'My chest hurts like my ribs are scraping my flesh with every breath, and I can already hear the wheeze.' Kate, the narrator of the story, has chronic asthma. Growing up with a brother who suffered asthma, that opening sentence practically made me hold my breath so I could listen for Kate's. What Rainfield did with the already present drama surrounding bad asthma attacks is pump up the severity of the action by adding foretelling visions to the character's attack experience. And she did it well!
A short read, Parallel Visions more than makes up for its size with its action packed goodness. The way Rainfield began the story with the immediate action of an asthma attack was a brilliant way to get the reader to become invested in the narrator. And the narrator's fears for what she 'sees' happening to the characters around her causes the reader to become invested with them as well. Kate sees a bleak future during her opening asthma attack...a future where death and mayhem occur. With her visions, Kate introduces us to a teen who is struggling with the destruction of her life at the hands of merciless and violent bullies. The visions also show us Kate's own sister, whose life is spiraling out of control at the hands of an abusive husband. The tone of the novel is set with the visions Kate experiences in this opening asthma attack. And the pace is put into full throttle as we move forward in a race against the possibly inevitable future Kate's visions have given her. But wait...this attack also introduces the reader to a possible hero (and love interest) in Kate's classmate, Gil. Gil is not only her classmate, but the brother of the teen Kate sees suffering at the hands of bullies. This draws Kate and Gil together, as they team up to figure out a way to save the day.
Rainfield is an excellent storyteller, and conscientious of the struggles facing today's teen community. Her books always deal with these hot-button topics in such an amazing way...a way that is neither preachy nor condescending. She makes her stories and characters approachable and real. She takes these issues and weaves wonderful stories around them. Readers can see her passion for justice and equality in every word...and they get a wonderful fast-paced ride of excitement thrown into the deal. Parallel Visions is no exception. This story deals with bullies, homophobia, abuse, rape, individuality and the struggles of being different. But beyond the task of tackling these tough issues, Rainfield delivers an exciting read. One you will remember for a long time. This is a story with bite. Just don't be surprised if you feel yourself gasping for breath along the way. Rainfield writes asthma like one who has experienced it in one way or another. Being someone who grew up around it, I constantly found myself panicked in the face of Kate's attacks. The writing is true and urgent.(less)
I recently re-read The Silver Linings Playbook in an effort to re-familiarize myself with the story prior to seeing the movie. I loved this story. I’...more I recently re-read The Silver Linings Playbook in an effort to re-familiarize myself with the story prior to seeing the movie. I loved this story. I’m always looking for quirky characters and Quick does an excellent job in creating them for this story of broken couples and broken people.
This is the story of Patrick’s decline. It is also a reluctant love story. Patrick’s friends and family want him to get better. After losing so many years to ‘the bad place’, all Patrick wants to do is get back with his wife Nikki. He wants the ‘apart time’ to be over so that the two of them can return to their normal life. What Patrick doesn’t realize is that he’s been locked away from the real world for a lot longer than he thinks. Life has moved on without him.
Enter Tiffany…another broken character. Tiffany and Patrick are set up on a date by family and friends. So begins the reluctant love story. This story is an exquisite look at how people can program themselves to think they’ll make it…that things don’t change if they don’t want them to. It’s a beautiful story of brokenness. The reader will love following Patrick along on his somewhat confusing journey from being lost to being on the mend. And Quick has given us some great characters to meet along the way. Not the least of whom, is Cliff Patel…Patrick’s new therapist, who eloquently crosses the line from therapist to friend simply by standing. The two share a love for a football team…and become regular tailgate party friends. Quick crossed this doctor/patient friend line effortlessly…I didn’t question the validity of this happening even once. And yet, it is something one couldn’t imagine happening in real life.
The relationship/non-relationship between Patrick and Tiffany is so brilliant. These are naïve people who have had some hard knocks. Their families don’t understand them. Their friends no longer get them. They are both navigating minefields…and neither have overly supportive people on their side. It seems the world can put up with broken for only so long before it gets frustrated by it. Quick is a master at painting the way relationships crumble under the stress of mental illness. But he is also a master at making the reader suspect that the crumbling will stop and the walls will be shored up. But nothing is certain in a Matthew Quick story.
I loved this story! I’m sure that if you pick it up, you’ll find yourself immediately immersed in its pages. I was rooting for Patrick all the way…and wildly frustrated with him for continuing to wait for ‘apart time’ to be over between him and his wife, Nikki. Quick is a master at bringing out a reader’s emotions…and having them want to read on to see the cracks filled and the dents pounded out. If you do snag this novel, and like it, don’t forget to check one of Quick’s YA offerings, Boy21. It’s another unique story, well told. These two books have made me a staunch Matthew Quick fan.
Now if I can just get to the movie on a day that it's NOT sold out!
SIZE: 5 -- I suggest you try this book on for size! (less)
"When I was twelve years old, I learned not to talk about death." ~ Stacy, Normalish
So begins a story of a young girl who eventually talks about everything. Stacy is a character I immediately liked. She's vulnerable and on the page, just like every great young adult character should be. She isn't afraid of telling the reader how she feels...it's her vulnerability that drags the reader in. We immediately trust her. This trust allows us to settle into the story and discover where it leads us.
Where the story leads us is onto a roller coaster of events that any young girl of fourteen/fifteen would be lucky to make it out of in one piece. As Stacy is so raw and forthcoming with her emotions, so straightforward with where she stands on everything, we the reader are confident she'll make it through to the other end. But it's still a roller coaster, there's still edge of the seat moments where you hold your breath and hope for the best.
When Normalish opens, the reader is given a few quick insights. Stacy does not have a best friend, she does not have a boyfriend and her father has passed away. These are big obstacles for a fourteen-year-old. She's dealing with the loss of her father, while attempting to ride the wave of no-best-friend-ness, while pining for the day she can say she has a boyfriend. Put into this complicated mess the fact that her sister--the one she shares her bedroom with--is going insane, and you have quite a life to navigate through.
Stacy takes us with her through every step of the story. We are there when the boy she has been losing sleep over finally makes his move and we are there when the wrong boy makes his move. When her sister is temporarily institutionalized, we are there to see Stacy discover yet another boy. As she falls head over heels, we are happy for her. But, of course, we are also reticent. She does, after all, meet this third boy in the institution where her sister is recovering.
I mentioned that Normalish skates on the fence of MG. I say this because Lesh does such a fantastic job of keeping Stacy's voice at her age level. I can't imagine how difficult that would have been. Stacy is fourteen when the story begins and fifteen when it ends. She goes through some pretty tumultuous circumstances in the story, yet she keeps the voice of a young girl at her age level. If not for the serious elements involved, I would suggest this would fit into middle grade as comfortably as it fits into young adult. It's only the issues that Stacy deals with that bumps it into YA only. And Lesh does an amazing job dealing with these issues. Stacy said at the stories onset that she learned not to talk about death, but then she walks us through her story. It is such a poignant look into the harsh reality that some young teens live.
I would happily recommend this book to anyone. I can't really go too far into the story without giving away certain elements. Just know that if you choose to read it, you can trust that Stacy will do a magnificent job telling you what happens to her. She will share the intimate details of her life and her pain...and eventually, her joy. Trust me, you'll want to be there when Stacy tries to discover what it is to be normal...or normalish. Lesh is a fine storyteller...one I will be looking for more from in the future!(less)
This is a beautiful book. I can't remember the last time a story had such a powerful impact on my day-to-day life. No matter what I was doing throughout my day, I had Sheila and Sigmund on my mind. I felt so emotional for those two weeks, like I was always one step away from tears. I actually had to give myself some time before I could get my thoughts down on paper. Only a handful of times in a reader's life do they come into contact with a book that causes such a rift in their sense of reality. Living Underground is one of those books for me. It left me breathless at every turn.
Sheila Martin's childhood is anything but wondrous. When a new tenant moves into her mother's basement apartment, Sheila is given the maid duties of keeping the apartment clean. Little by little, a communication is created between the tenant, Sigmund Maier, and Sheila. It begins when Sheila loses herself in her radio station one day, while going through her cleaning duties. Soon Sigmund is leaving music out for Sheila to discover and Sheila feels herself opening up to a whole new world she didn't even know existed.
Ms. Walker creates such a vivid picture of this unlikely couple and how they become connected--first as mentor and student, and then as more. The reader will delight in the way Walker seamlessly sews beautiful music into the exquisite and tightly woven fabric of this wondrous story. Sheila's eye-opening to the world of opera and classical music and the finer things she would never have otherwise been exposed to is soul-lifting. The reader is lifted with her, and almost grateful for Sigmund's presence in her young life. And such a proper, well-put-together gentleman is Sigmund...the real key to making this story sing was Walker's ability to make the reader believe in Sigmund Maier and his essential goodness.
Living Underground spans decades. The reader is taken along to Sigmund's childhood in Dresden, Germany, where an even stronger connection to this character is made. We see inside the world in which he grew up--a despicable grandfather, a mother who bends to her father's will and later finds an admirable strength and independence. From there, the reader steps into the adult life of Sheila. She is a wonderful and powerful woman. She is in the midst of building a music store empire (a product of Sigmund's influence on her earlier life), but her personal life seems to be in a state of chaos. Then the reader is taken into the dark world of suspicion and doubt. Could the man who gave the young Sheila a thread of hope when she needed it most...could he possibly be the same man as the monster being accused of heinous war crimes in Nazi Germany?
From the moment you pick up Living Underground, you will be enthralled. It burrows into your heart with a powerful and uncontrollable velocity...and it stays there not just until you reach the end of the story, but long long after you have reluctantly put it down. A book like this comes along every once in a blue moon. I guarantee you, once you get to the end you will want to embrace it. It's that kind of book. In my opinion, Ruth E. Walker has a well-deserved masterpiece on her hands.
EXPECTATION: I could NOT have expected what would happen to me as I read this book. To give you an example--At one point, my wife walked into our family room to find me in pieces. She was a bit skeptical as to how a book could hit somebody so powerfully. I read about 20 pages out loud to her. When I was finished, I looked over at her...and found her in pieces. I'm not exaggerating when I say this story got inside me. Even knowing Walker's ability to write beautiful prose and poetry--even knowing her mastery of the language and the subtlety of her pen--I was not expecting this. You can't expect a book like this one. You can love it, once you find it...but you can't expect it. GET THIS BOOK!(less)
15-year-old Lily MacArthur is not sleeping. Ever since her eccentric romance novel writing Aunt Su passed away, she's been wide-eyed and counting the days left of her existence. Lily knows humans can only live so long without sleep (she's Googled it). While the clock of doom counts down her dwindling seconds, Lily makes the most of her time left on Earth.
Lily is such an adorable character. She's saucy and introverted and looking for wonder. Her Aunt Su is a pivotal character in her life--the polar opposite of Lily's rigid domineering mother. Su wore muumuus, smoked (and grew her own) pot in her segregated cabin in the woods. She was worldly and she had a shelf full of best-selling romance novels under her belt to prove it. Clearly, Aunt Su is who Lily strives to be. She wants to be nothing like her control-freak mother, whom she not so endearingly refers to as General MacArthur.
Lily’s sleepless nights lead her to wandering the streets of her small town. And this leads her directly to the all-night fry place's drive-thu window and the new boy in town. She is immediately drawn to the morose Ben Matthews, who has a mystery she’s willing to get to the bottom of. Kerbel did a great job with the emotional landscape of this Ben character. He brushes the line of inappropriateness so often, it leaves the reader waiting to like him, but ultimately cautious. With whatever it is he’s going through clearly weighing deeply on his soul, Ben tends towards meanness when speaking to Lily. Kerbel set this up PERFECTLY because the reader is—by the time Ben shows up—completely invested in Lily. We are protective of her, as much as we are excited for her.
So, we have an interesting storyline that pulls us along at a great pace. Lily’s aunt dies—Lily stops sleeping and knows that eventually this could kill her—Lily meets the new town hottie before anybody else gets a chance to—Lily’s mother is a control-freak with a daughter who seems on the cusp of rampant disorder. These are all intriguing storylines. Throw in the fact Aunt Su willed everything she owned to Lily, the fact that new social movement—a movement Lily is none to impressed with—attempts to bring Lily into its fold and the dark tale of loss spiraling out behind Ben that is about to put him in very real and immediate peril and you have a fantastic novel in Under the Moon!
Kerbel establishes a wonderful character in Lily…one the reader is compelled to love. And then she takes her (and the reader) on a wonderfully quirky adventure. I won’t say this novel is perfect—there are no perfect novels—but I will tell you I loved it. I couldn’t put it down. There are a couple coincidences in the story that are a bit timely…but they are EASILY forgivable. Lily is a character you will remember for a long time after reading her story. Which is what I think you should do right now—you’ll have to find out for yourself if things work out for her. After breaking the world record for staying awake longer than the last person who died of sleeplessness, there’s not a lot of options for Lily. Kerbel does a phenomenal job of making Lily’s future look bright while simultaneously keeping her perilously awake and in danger of dying. Enjoy the read!
It has been a while since I read a middle grade novel…at least a few months. My first thoughts on Small Medium at Large were; kid-friendly, a delight to read, fun and funny, well written in a great age-appropriate voice and, well…FUN (It bears repeating).
Lilah Bloom is 12. She comes from a broken family (that term really needs to be refreshed—a lot of families these days are not so much broken, as they are realigned). As the story opens, we are at Lilah’s mother’s wedding. Everything is going well until the real fun is about to begin—the dancing. At the outdoor reception, Lilah is literally on the threshold of the temporary dance-floor when the skies darken and a tempest brews.
This is when Lilah is struck by lightning!
Thankfully, she makes a speedy recovery. No lasting damage, but a challenging new talent. Lilah becomes aware of disembodied voices. Levy has written these voices so tremendously well that the reader can sense she had a blast bringing this story to life. What must have been a difficult task for Levy was keeping a story like this so utterly kid-friendly. With humour, excellent characters, friendly and mischievous—but by no means dark—ghosts, and a plot that could stand on its own without the supernatural element, Levy accomplishes this in spades!
Throughout the course of the story, the reader is introduced to several ghost characters. One of the delightful things I found about these characters is that they were actually so well portrayed I could envision what each of them looked like, even though, obviously, there were no physical descriptions to speak of. We have Lilah’s Bubby Dora (her grandmother), Prissy LaFontaine (fashion icon extraordinaire), Mr. Finkel (Andrew Finkel’s father—Andrew being the boy that Lilah is head over heels for) and also watch for the young boy ghost Lilah runs into in her school.
There are some truly delightful scenes in this book, scenes that will make your middle grade reader giggle and totally relate to. Keep your eye out for the bra shopping scene and slumber party—truly authentic! Also, there are some great father/daughter scenes with Lilah and her dad—funny, poignant and powerful scenes (also funnily awkward scenes as Lilah and Dad discuss his new dating life).
A sign of a great middle grade book is its ability to resolve the issues of the main characters without coming off as too cheesy or predictable. Small Medium at Large does this. There are plenty of things going on in this story. Levy deals with bullying, divorce, death, first crushes, jealousy—you name it. Her ability to tie up all the threads in a satisfactory way is astonishing. Perhaps one of my favourite threads was the one with Lilah and her grade eight nemesis, ‘Dolly’ Madison. Of course, Dolly was going to be the bully of the story—she’s far superior to Lilah and her friends, being as she’s in grade eight and they’re mere grade sevens. Thankfully, though, Levy played this thread perfectly. Another sign of a great middle grade story is that not all bad characters are all bad and not all good characters are all good. I’m confident readers will love the way this thread plays out. I won’t go into details—as I don’t want to give away any spoilers—but sometimes help comes from the most unlikely of places.
If you have a young reader in your life, share this book with them! I’m sure it will become an instant favourite for them. Lilah’s a good kid—they’re gonna love her! (less)