Slow-paced, horror, suspense novel. Slow-paced and suspenseful? Yes. Scowler is also both a psychological horror novel and a blood-and-guts horror nov...moreSlow-paced, horror, suspense novel. Slow-paced and suspenseful? Yes. Scowler is also both a psychological horror novel and a blood-and-guts horror novel. There were several moments that were gut-punchy heartbreaking because Ry is so broken and other moments that were oh-my-god-is-this-really-happening-I-might-have-just-puked-in-my-mouth-a-little disgusting. Daniel Kraus really gets to the meat (pun intended) of true horror - that what's most terrifying in the world may be inside of us. There were times I just had to look away.(less)
I am a creeping fan of Sarah Ockler's, which is an awkward term I just coined that is supposed to mean that my being a fan of hers crept up on me. Lik...moreI am a creeping fan of Sarah Ockler's, which is an awkward term I just coined that is supposed to mean that my being a fan of hers crept up on me. Like, I never noticed I was a fan until I suddenly realized I've read all her books and eagerly anticipate when the next comes out. At ALA Midwinter, I walked by the S&S booth gazing longingly at their single ARC of The Book of Broken Hearts a dozen times. I asked at least two reps if I could have it (they said no). I waited in line at the end of the conference to see if I could snag it (I couldn't). Finally, I waited until it was published and available through the library. I stayed up until 3:30 reading it and then woke up early and finished it before work the next day, where I immediately recommended it to my coworkers. So, I guess I like Sarah Ockler okay.
In The Book of Broken Hearts, Jude has just graduated from high school. Her father has early onset Alzheimer's, and this will be, in a very real sense (but perhaps not literal), her last summer with him. Jude is the youngest of four daughters, an "oops" baby, seven years junior to her closest sister. She has always lived in the shadow of them, all her memories and experiences leftover, hand-me-downs like the clothes she wears. Then Jude finds her papi's old Harley in the barn. His brain awakens with stories of his travels through South American before he emigrated from Argentina to the US, stories that Jude's sisters never knew, and suddenly this bike is their thing, Jude and her papi's. The problem is, the young, charming, dimpled mechanic they hire to fix it up is a Vargas, and Jude has sworn a blood oath never to get involved with a Vargas brother, since two of them broke her sisters' hearts. Yet while her friends have bailed, unable to deal with Jude's family problems, and her sisters are adults off living adult lives, Emilio Vargas is always there. Sweet. Understanding. Handy. Dimpled.
This is what The Book of Broken Hearts does really well: -representing multi-cultural families -making me want to eat a lot of empanadas -making me want to get a motorcycle -having a heart throb who is also like, a real guy and a nice guy, who I just really like a lot. phwoar. -describing how friendships can just fall apart (actually, I think Ockler is a master at this generally. Her friendships are so complex, that even when the friends aren't in the book very much they never feel like sidekicks. They are never tacked on or only there when convenient. They are a real, breathing, vital part of the MC's story. Even when it's hard. Even when it falls apart.) -having a heroine who isn't helpless. I loved how she teaches Emilio how to drive a stick. -describing the ridiculousness of hormones. I adored Jude's sense of humor about her attraction to Emilio in the first half of the book. While she eventually falls for him, she doesn't take her attraction too seriously in the beginning, and I don't think Emilio does either. I laughed so much at these scenes, especially the one when Jude tries to talk to Emilio's friend. Yeah right. -that father/daughter relationship. THERE'S your broken heart.
Oh, Izzy. I just want to give her a big hug, despite the fact that I know she'd feel awkward and stiff and try to pull away.
In The Last Word we find I...moreOh, Izzy. I just want to give her a big hug, despite the fact that I know she'd feel awkward and stiff and try to pull away.
In The Last Word we find Isabel Spellman at her most vulnerable, confused, and messy. I always remember and recommend the Spellman books as being funny, which obviously they are, so I am surprised every time when they also make me cry. Isabel, who never tells us how she feels, tells us early on that news from Henry feels like "that time I stole my brother's LSAT prep book and he sat on my chest until I gave it back. Actually, it felt worse than that." I always feel for Izzy and her Avoidance Method, which is, of course, why I love these books so much. And I really relate to her constant efforts to grow up, even though she doesn't exactly know what that means.
I think in The Last Word, she does actually get there, as much as any Spellman can. Which is why, as far as I can tell, this book really is the last word (I've thought other Spellman books were the last ones though, so maybe I'm not the best judge of this).
Lisa Lutz ends her acknowledgments, which I read even though she recommended I didn't, with this, which I love: "Finally, I'd like to thank my reader for staying with me all these years. I especially want to thank the ones who understand that the world isn't made up of happy endings, but messy, complicated, and untidy ones." (less)
I didn't like this one as much as I expected to. It was no Amy and Roger's Epic Detour. I thought this book was looonggg. She started summer vacation...moreI didn't like this one as much as I expected to. It was no Amy and Roger's Epic Detour. I thought this book was looonggg. She started summer vacation in what, May? And it goes all the way through August? What kind of school does she go to? A four month summer break? It was a little distracting. I also rolled my eyes when at the beginning she tried to blow off a summer lake house in the Poconos as not fancy at all. Uh huh.
The whole dragged out affair of what happened that summer five years ago (yes book, I got that it had been FIVE YEARS. Quit repeating yourself) was fairly anti-climatic. I thought she must have done something really bad, and when the reveal came I was like, "that's it? and everyone's still mad? hello, it's been FIVE YEARS." :)
In conclusion, I think this book would have been better if it had been shorter.(less)
My Life Next Door is a really sweet summer romance that also has some real conflict and depth. I knew going in that something Bad was going to happen...moreMy Life Next Door is a really sweet summer romance that also has some real conflict and depth. I knew going in that something Bad was going to happen and I kept twitchily anticipating it, like I was playing that hand slap game with Huntley Fitzpatrick. Maybe it's just me, but it's almost like Tim, while well-realized and fully dimensional, is a red herring character. Spoiler alert: he's a good guy. In fact, all the worries I had about what this book would be or what the characters would do never materialized. (I had just read a couple of not-great books, and that is probably why I came into this one so skeptically.) Samantha never lets her mom's prejudice against the Garretts really be a thing; even when Jase inevitably asks if she's embarrassed by him it's natural and adult instead of overblown and melodramatic. They have a responsible AND swoony relationship. Jase also manages to be a really great guy while also actually being a really great guy. And normal! In YA lit, that counts for a lot. He's not secretly creepy or troubled or soul-matey or overly perfect. When the terrible thing does happen, Samantha handles it in a way that doesn't make you want to punch her in the face. Her conflict makes sense, and the issue of doing the right thing when you don't know who to do the right thing for is real and important. I don't know how many times I can say this, but this is a really good book that had a million opportunities to plunge into melodrama and NEVER DID. Kudos, Ms. Fitzpatrick. There were a few loose ends at the close of the book, and we don't know what exactly so-and-so decided or if Nan would ever talk to Samantha again, but you know, that's life. Last but not least, I love Jase's little brother George. What a cutie. Also, hilarious.(less)
This book has been getting a lot of buzz, and while I liked it, I didn't love it. I don't see it winning a prize (but what do I know! I can never pred...moreThis book has been getting a lot of buzz, and while I liked it, I didn't love it. I don't see it winning a prize (but what do I know! I can never predict these things), and I think it's too young for the Printz, which is the buzz I've heard. Anyway, I thought See you at Harry's was really sweet and sad, and I did, you know, cry like a baby when Fern talks to her dad under the picnic table and then finally talks to her mom, but I thought the end resolved kind of strangely, especially r.e. Holden.(less)
It is rare that I agree with a blurb on a book, but I have nothing to add to Laura Lippman's blurb on the back of Trail of the Spellmans, except maybe...moreIt is rare that I agree with a blurb on a book, but I have nothing to add to Laura Lippman's blurb on the back of Trail of the Spellmans, except maybe, "Izzy, why are you using the Avoidance Method (TM) on US?"
"Lisa Lutz's Spellman books are always hilarious, but Trail of the Spellmans reminded me how serious funny books can be. As precocious as the Spellman kids have always been, they're only now really coming of age and the result is, yes, hilarious, but also tender and melancholy and full of hard-won wisdom. This one's going to stay with readers for a long time." - Laura Lippman(less)
Another fantastic novel from Melina Marchetta. This is on a few mock Printz lists, but I don't think I'll be putting it on mine because, well, I don't...moreAnother fantastic novel from Melina Marchetta. This is on a few mock Printz lists, but I don't think I'll be putting it on mine because, well, I don't think it's really YA. The story is both Tom's (age 21) and his aunt Georgie's (age 42) and it doesn't really fit the YA category, despite being published that way. Other than the age of the protags, it's hard for me to explain why I feel this way, except to say that maybe it's because the novel is so much about the past and what went wrong and how to move on, while YA generally tends to look more towards the future and who am I and what kind of person will I be. Make sense? Probably not... (less)