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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Moon and More - Sarah Dessen

My fave YA author, Sarah Dessen has a new novel coming out, The Moon and More, and I was lucky enough to get a copy at ALA.  As with Hattie Ever After, I waited and waited to read this one, wanting to have it waiting for me instead of having it be finished.

I've found something interesting with Sarah Dessen's novels.  I love her work - strong characters, a little romance, set at the beach usually, good conflict, everything I want in a novel.  And yet, for some reason it takes me a little while to let her books sink in before I really love them. I like this one a lot, don't get me wrong, but I do not love it like I love the Truth About Forever or Just Listen my two very, very favorites of hers.  I do not even love it like I love What Happened to Goodbye or Along for the Ride. And yet, I remember feeling the very same way when I first read those books.

For some reason, her books have to percolate around a little for me.  I might even have to read them for a second time.  In part, I'm sure it's that once I start, I am full steam ahead.  In part, though, I think it's that there's so much to think about, so many layers, so much happening underneath the surface, that I can't process it all at once, and so I let it sit, and I think about it vaguely, or sometimes something happens to make me think about it wholeheartedly, and then suddenly, one day, I'm just like, that was a terrific book.  It's interesting.

This story has cameos by many Sarah Dessen characters, but is focused on a new character, Emaline, who's about to go off to college, Emaline's longtime boyfriend, Luke, and a perhaps new love interest, college hipster, Theo.  Emaline's (unhappily) working for the family business and her father, with whom she's had minimal contact with over the years, has just moved to town with her ten year old half brother. Over the last year, her father had gotten her all keyed up to apply for top tier colleges that he said he'd help pay for, only to suddenly change his mind and say he couldn't help her with anything and basically start ignoring her yet again.  What the what?  Turns out her father's in the process of divorcing his second wife. Ugh.  If that weren't enough, things aren't great between her and Luke, and the very high maintenance clients in one of the rentals want her to run interference between them and a local artist.  It's a little overwhelming, but if Emaline can hang on and get through it, she just might make it to the moon and more.

On sale June 4th.

Updated May 2nd HERE'S a new video just posted about Sarah and her new book :-)

Hattie Ever After

Have you ever read a book that just really stuck with you?  Of course I have, but it's not so often the YA book that do that for me.  Kirby Larson's Newbery Honor book, Hattie Big Sky was one of those books for me.  Hattie just wormed her way into my soul from her Montana homestead and took up residence.  I rooted for her and loved her and cried with her when things got difficult.  I didn't expect, however, to ever see her again once I'd finished Hattie Big Sky.  So perhaps you can imagine my excitement when I heard at the ALA conference that Hattie was back, and then they even gave me an advanced reader's copy.  Can I just tell you that I left it sitting on my shelf for more than a month because I didn't want to read it?

And here's why I didn't want to read it.   On the one hand, I was afraid it wouldn't hold up to the original.  Writing a sequel is a tough thing to do, at least in my estimation.  Well, actually, I should say, writing a good sequel.   I was a little worried I wouldn't love Hattie as much in book two.  That Hattie might have changed in ways I wasn't prepared for.  On the other hand, I knew it was going to be so good that I didn't want it to be over too soon.  I wanted to have that experience still waiting for me.  It's kind of a weird thing I have with authors I love.  I know once I start reading that in just a few hours the experience will be finished, and then I'll be waiting again.  I don't want it to go too quickly, so I give myself time to just look at the cover and imagine what might be.

What might be in Hattie Ever After is pure brilliance.  I think I might have actually liked it more than I liked Hattie Big Sky.  The writing in both books is beautiful. But I think that Hattie as a little bit older character has even more appeal for me than she did as a younger woman.  She wasn't a little girl in the first book, but she's more mature in this one, even though she's still quite young by today's standards.  She's looking to discover herself (even at the cost, perhaps, of the relationship with her boyfriend). She's looking to start a career as a reporter, one that's really interesting, and one that requires courage and determination for a young woman at the time.  Seems like a perfect set-up for a girl like Hattie, don't you think?

Kirby Larson does an amazing job of creating a character I can see so very clearly in a town (San Francisco) I can see so very clearly, too. It's as exciting for the reader to live vicariously in San Francisco as it was for Hattie, I think. So many exciting things are happening at that time, and Hattie gets a chance to experience them. In turn, I did, too.

Books like Hattie Big Sky and Hattie Ever After are the reason I love historical fiction and I highly recommend them. Anyone else out there vote for a third book in the series???

Playing catch-up - story of my life!

I read several books during our spring break trip to Hawaii which I haven't gotten to blogging about, but I'm determined to whip out some serious posting today.

First up I read the Printz winner, In Darkness by Nick Lake which was available through Multnomah County Library as an e-book.  Good choice for the title, b/c it was seriously DARK.  It's set in Haiti, and I like that there is now a YA book set there, because I can't think of another one.  Someone chime in if you know of one.  The book takes place in the slums of Haiti just after the big earthquake and is super intense, depressing and creepy. The main character, Shorty, is a gang member, and he's been mixed up in some seriously bad stuff. In the novel, he's trapped in the rubble, sure he's going to die, and telling his life story mixed in with visions of the Haitian liberation from the early 1800s.  I didn't love this book. It was a little too intense, violent and weird.  And it's definitely not the kind of book I usually read on vacation! But by the last third of the book, I really did care about Shorty and was engaged in the story.  If it hadn't won the Printz, I probably wouldn't have stuck with it, and I think that will be the reaction of all but the most sophisticated teen readers, but I'm glad I did.

Real Mermaids Don't Need High Heels by Helene Boudreau. I didn't realize this was the second book in the series when I read it, but I didn't feel like I was missing any information, so it clearly worked well as a stand alone. For some reason, I just love mermaid books. I'm not sure why, but they're just fun. And while I did enjoy this book overall, I thought it was a little too mermaid-y, a little too obvious or 
overdone.   Jade is half mermaid and half human, and not everyone knows she's a mermaid, so she has to deal with some interesting problems. Luckily, her boyfriend is also half mer. In fact, there are quite a lot of mer-people in the town, perhaps there were too many?? anyway, things are going crazy in the mer-world in the lake in Jade's town, and she and her friends have to do their best to try and get things figured out. I read an advanced reader's copy of this book.

Things I Can't Forget by Miranda Kenneally. I thought this was a great storyline, about a girl, Kate, who'd helped a friend who wanted to get an abortion even though she firmly believed abortion was wrong.  Kate couldn't quite forgive herself for helping her friend or her friend for aborting the baby, and she was miserable.  Kate hopes that spending the summer as a church camp counselor might send her the sign she's been seeking, that she's forgiven.  There's a romance in the story, and some typical petty girl stuff, and normally I'd be all in favor of this type of story.  I thought, however, that the Christian aspect of this book was way too over the top for many readers. I don't have a problem with authors bringing in religion or religious ideas. I know they're important to many people and they're issues young people struggle with.  Heck, adults struggle with them.  Unfortunately, I thought this book was too heavy handed and I think it will turn many readers off. I read an advanced reader's copy of this book.

Going Vintage by Lindsey Leavitt. I just love Lindsey Leavitt, and this book reminded me why.  It's terrific.  Fun and funny, but with serious issues woven in as well.  Mallory's boyfriend Jeremy has been cheating with her via an online girlfriend.  When Mallory finds out, her reaction is a little overboard, but it leads to a great story.  Mallory swears off all technology - no Internet, no Facebook, no cell phone. Can you imagine? I mean screen free week is one thing, but this is something else altogether. And that's not all.  She's also found an old list her grandmother made in the 1960's of things to do, and she wants to do everything on it.  She wants to, for example, sew a prom dress.  Does she know how to sew?  No.  She wants to start a pep club at school.  Does she know what a pep club even is, really?  No.  All of these things lead to some very funny results, and they all have some unexpected consequences.  I think you'll find yourself charmed by Mallory in her vintage period if you can get your hands on a copy of this recently published novel. I read an advanced reader's copy of this book.

Double Crossed  by Ally Carter was a super short fun read that combined her two worlds of the Heist society novels and the Gallagher girls novels (one of my all time fave series).  It's actually available for the Kindle (or on the Kindle app if you have an iPad or iPhone) for FREE here. It's only about fifty pages, but it's a great introduction to both series if you've never read them, and I thought she did a great job mixing the two worlds.  There are excerpts from both series with the download, too.

Garment of Shadows by Laurie R. King is the most recent installment of the Mary Russell series, written about sherlock Holmes and his wife Mary Russell.  I quite love this series, and although I was a little disappointed in the last one, I decided to give this one a try.  SO glad I came back to it because it was great.  In this story, Mary Russell has a case of amnesia, to the point of not knowing who she is, let alone who Holmes is. When the story begins, doesn't even know where she is or why her head hurts so badly.  Piece by piece, bruise by bruise, the story unfolds and readers discover with her, what happened when she disappeared with the little boy who doesn't speak.  Fabulous series which I highly recommend to lovers of the Sherlock Holmes stories.

So that was my spring break.  Have you read any great books on vacation lately?

The Language of Flowers/ and Unbroken - Grown up book club books

The Language of Flowers was a book I thought I would love!  I adore flowers, and to learn they had their own language?  What's not to love?  I'll tell you what.  The main character.  Couldn't stand her.  She drove me nuts.  She made terrible choices over and over and over again.  I should have had more sympathy for her, given her background, but I couldn't find it.  I felt kind of bad about it, too.  Still do, actually.  Which is kind of a little weird, isn't it?  I mean, she's not real.

This book, though, led to some awesome discussion in our book club.  Hardly anyone liked that main character, but she gave us lots to talk about and explore.  She made us stop and examine how our society deals with children in foster care, for instance, which most of us never even give a moment's thought to.  She made us think about guilt and how that affect people. We discussed post partum depression and post natal care.  So many rich ideas came out, that while I went into book club feeling like I didn't really like this book, I came out thinking differently.  I didn't like the character, but the book was worth reading.

And the language of flowers itself?  Super cool. Recommended for book groups.

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption is also an adult book club book which I am sure will lend itself to all kinds of great discussion.  The book chronicles the life of Olympic track runner Louis Zamperini, focusing mostly on the period from when his airplane was shot out of the sky by the Japanese through his capture and imprisonment as a POW. I thought the writing in this book was excellent, and the story was also excellent.  The events are intense and suspenseful, gripping the reader's attention.

There was too much violence for me, though.  I think that some examples of the barbarity and inhumanity inflicted on the prisoners would have been enough to get the point across, but that Hillenbrand put too many examples in the story, and it became wearisome.  I'm not sure if that's more a poor commentary on me - like I want to bury my head in the sand and pretend those horrible things didn't happen - or if she really did put too many details in, but that's how I felt. I did listen to this book on audio which did not allow me to skim sections, which I probably would have done had I had the actual text.

History buffs and those who like biographies and/or war stories will be intrigued by this powerful story.