Sunday, June 30, 2013


On Tuesday I posted my Top Ten Books Read so Far in 2013 and promised to highlight more of this year's favorites and offer them in giveaways. This is the YA giveaway.

This is open to anyone who lives where Book Depository ships for free.

Book Choices:

TO ENTER: Leave a comment below saying which book looks most interesting to you and leave a way I can reach you if you are the winner. (email address or twitter handle-If you are using Twitter it would be helpful if you followed me,@brandymuses, in case I need to DM you.)

Entries after Monday, July 1 8:00 PM EST are invalid. The winner will be drawn as close to 8 as possible. 

Yes, I still do my giveaways the old fashioned way.

Friday, June 28, 2013



On Tuesday I posted my Top Ten Books Read so Far in 2013 and promised to highlight more of this year's favorites and offer them in giveaways. This is the MG giveaway.

This is open to anyone who lives where Book Depository ships for free.

Book Choices:

Can you tell I'm not feeling the MG realistic fiction this year?

TO ENTER: Leave a comment below saying which book looks most interesting to you and leave a way I can reach you if you are the winner. (email address or twitter handle-If you are using Twitter it would be helpful if you followed me,@brandymuses, in case I need to DM you.)

Entries after Saturday, June 29 at 8:00 PM EST are invalid. The winner will be drawn that night (when I return from the event I'm attending). 

Yes, I still do my giveaways the old fashioned way.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

City of a Thousand Dolls

I adore fantasies. I also adore murder mysteries. Combine the two and I am one happy girl, which is why I thoroughly enjoyed City of a Thousand Dolls by Miriam Forster.

In the Bhinian Empire there is a law stating that every family may only have two children. Boys being preferred over girls, it is the girls who are abandoned. The City of a Thousand Dolls was started to save the future generations. Families can send their daughters to the city where they will be trained to find a place in life as a wife, mistress, musician, healer, or scholar. Nisha is a resident of the city with no set place, the assistant of the Matron, her eyes and ears in the city. She has been trained in combat and music and is free to come and go in the houses as she pleases. Wherever she goes she is accompanied by one or more of the city's cats, whose voices she can hear. When girls in the houses start to end up dead and Nisha realizes her own future is not as secure as she thought, she begins working to find the killer. Hopefully in time to save herself.

Nisha is one of those characters that is special due to birth, but doesn't know it yet. She is still very young and there is so much she doesn't know. This book is a lot about her figuring that out, who she is and where she fits into the world. She has been kept in ignorance and that becomes a danger to her and everyone. This is not Nisha's fault and I really feel she did the best she possibly could with the knowledge she had. She also acknowledges her own weaknesses and shortcomings. There are so many other characters in this book that I had to flip to the character list in the front to keep everyone straight. Nisha and Jerrit (her cat best friend) are the most memorable though and I came to love both of them greatly.

The plot is an engaging one. It s one of those books that is difficult to put down. The murders, clues, and constant action kept me engaged. I did figure out the mystery early on, but not being able to guess the culprit is not a mark of a good mystery to me. Believing the investigator can't and seeing the clues and action unfold in a plausible manner matters more to me. I think this book does this well, especially as Nisha had no idea what she was doing.

The world building here is fairly typical. There is magic, kingdom politics that aren't all what they seem, different tribes of people who see history in different ways. I liked the way it all worked together here and Forster made it a real live place for me. The themes of gender equality (or lack thereof), freedom of choice (or the illusion of it), and politics in general were deftly woven into the plot.

This is a YA novel that skews younger and can be enjoyed by mature MG age readers as well. There are mentions of girls being trained as mistresses, but what a mistress does is not really defined. I would have no problem letting Bit read this if she wanted to, but it probably shouldn't get into the hands of a MG reader who knows nothing about such things.

I thoroughly enjoyed it and am excited to see there will be a companion novel sometime n 2014.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

TTT: Top Ten Books I've Read so Far in 2013

This week's TTT topic is Books I've Read so Far in 2013. (I am only including books already published and not books I've read ARCs for that have not been released yet.)

It is always hard to narrow the favorites down to 10. There is always a temptation to cheat and list all the books. I am being ruthless and limiting to 10. Sort of. I have devised a way to include more books, just not in this post and that way could possibly benefit you, Dear Reader. How? Check out the end of the post.

But first, the books (in alphabetical order, links are to my reviews for all but first):
 A Coalition of Lions by Elizabeth Wein: If you were unaware that Elizabeth Wein was writing awesome historical fiction that takes place in Ancient Ethiopia prior to her Code Name Verity fame, you should acquaint yourself with these books now. I haven't written a review yet because I want to finish the rest of the series first. But for now know this is SO GOOD. Hard to get a hold of, but worth it.

A Corner of White by Jaclyn Moriarty 

Doll Bones by Holly Black

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Going Vintage by Lindsey Leavitt

Jinx by Sage Blackwood 
 Kiki Strike by Kirsten Miller

Mirage by Jenn Reese

 Stolen Magic by Stephanie Burgis

Summerkin by Sarah Prineas

There are a lot more books that I have thoroughly enjoyed this year. As a way to highlight more of them and share them with you I will be hosting two giveaways. Each giveaway will be short, only lasting 36 hours.

MG Giveaway will post Friday, June 28 at 8:00 AM EST and end Saturday, June 29 at 8:00 PM EST.

YA Giveaway will post Sunday, June 30 at 8:00 AM EST and end Monday, July 1 at 8:00 PM EST.

Stay tuned for details!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Shorter Musings: Contemporary YA

Sometimes I read a book, and I even enjoy it, but I don't have much to say about it. I jot down a few thoughts and then I move on. Some of those are starting to pile up so I thought I would put them all together in one post.

Some recent Contemporary YA reads, one of which I LOVED:

The Beginning of After by Jennifer Castle 
This is a well written and heart wrenching account of grieving and the process of moving on from tragedy. It is not a happy book to say the least, though it does have its lighter moments and the end is hopeful. It certainly had an effect on my mood when I was reading it, which says a lot for the strength of the writing. It is long and very character driven, there is little excitement in the plot. It is about a girl coming to terms with losing her family, being at peace with the person responsible, and making a new life for herself. I can't say I enjoyed it because it made me seriously gloomy, but I appreciate it what it for what it is. 

Love and Other Perishable Items by Laura Buzo
I really liked Amelia. I think she is genuinely teen in a world where too many YA protags are not. She is also smart and thinks about things. Chris I had a harder time with, and not because he was such a jerk loser sometimes. I love characters who are flawed, and he could have been a bigger jerk. At least he knew he couldn't and shouldn't fool around with Amelia. I guess my problem is I really liked him but wanted to see him realize he could do better for himself? He is getting there by the end of the book, but he has a looooong way to go. I couldn't help feeling he was a lot like Tom in The Piper's Son, but I respected Tom more. Maybe because he chose to face down his demons rather than run from them? One aspect of this book I loved was the discussions on gender roles and feminism. That part was fabulous. This should be required reading for every teenager for that alone.

The Summer I Became a Nerd by Leah Rae Miller
So. Much. Fun. This is a wonderful, light, summer read. I had a hard time connecting with Maddie at first because I never really cared much about the whole popularity thing, and I thought she was a little over the top with her need to suppress what she really loved. Yet I felt sympathetic towards her and I love the whole world of this novel: the comic shop and the role playing. And I adored Logan in all of his nerdy awesomeness. It didn't hurt that he's a DJ. As my husband was an awesomely nerdy DJ when I met him this made me inclined to fall for Logan right along with Maddie. 

This is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith
I really enjoyed The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight and was looking forward to this. This is another attempt at the same sort of story: unlikely meeting, relationship that develops through communication rather than physicality, stressful family issues. It didn't work as well with this set up though. There was a little too much going on and at times it goes over the top. It is still a light fun read but not nearly as engrossing or engaging as I was expecting.  


Thursday, June 20, 2013

Cover Love AND Review: The Wells Bequest

I can not tell you how much I love the cover of The Wells Bequest by Polly Shulman. I was therefore excited when I realized I was planning on scheduling the review for the same day as Cover Love. I decided I would gush over the cover and the contents at the same time.
Cover Love is hosted by Bookshelvers Anonymous and is for the purpose of sharing the love of amazing and wonderful covers.

 The picture of the cover is pretty amazing, but it's nothing to the beauty of seeing it up close. The colors are deep, rich, and gorgeous. I just adore the details too. How Leo is in motion, because he always is. And Jaya standing there so determined and fierce. Then there's the clock and the shifting city around them. Love. Love. Love

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Leo never imagined that time travel might really be possible, or that the objects in H. G. Wells’ science fiction novels might actually exist. And when a miniature time machine appears in Leo’s bedroom, he has no idea who the tiny, beautiful girl is riding it. But in the few moments before it vanishes, returning to wherever—and whenever—it came from, he recognizes the other tiny rider: himself!
His search for the time machine, the girl, and his fate leads him to the New-York Circulating Material Repository, a magical library that lends out objects instead of books. Hidden away in the Repository basement is the Wells Bequest, a secret collection of powerful objects straight out of classic science fiction novels: robots, rockets, submarines, a shrink ray—and one very famous time machine. And when Leo’s adventure of a lifetime suddenly turns deadly, he must attempt a journey to 1895 to warn real-life scientist Nikola Tesla about a dangerous invention. A race for time is on!

"Would you really want to live in a world where only the possible is possible?"
Shulman introduced the New York Circulating Material Repository and its special collections in her novel The Grimm Legacy, a book I thoroughly enjoy and find to be tons of fun. The Wells Bequest is even better. It is a true companion novel and not a sequel. If fairy tale fantasy isn't your thing, but science-fiction is you can read this on its own.

Leo comes from a family of scientists. He is not going to be a great scientist in the traditional sense. He is a tech geek and does amazing and creative things with tech. When he discovers time travel is possible via seeing himself doing it, and with a gorgeous girl no less, he starts shifting his creative scientific brain in that direction. This leads him to the Repository where he is astonished to find the girl he saw with him when he time traveled. Jaya Rao is tenacious, determined, and creative. Readers of The Grimm Legacy will recognize her as the 10 year old little sister of Anjali-now a teen page herself. The intervening years have only made her more stubborn and lively. I loved watching the friendship and partenership between Leo and Jaya develop. They make a spectacular team. He needs someone to motivate his innate brilliance, she needs someone to inject some caution into her frantic headstrong rush through life. I enjoyed the dynamic between the two of them tremendously.

I also enjoyed how the whole time travel element was dealt with in the story. When Leo first starts to contemplate time travel he is desperately afraid he will mess up things up, disturb the timeline of history in horrible ways. What is interesting about the time travel devices is that they all act the way they do in whatever work they came from, making the Wells machine the most powerful and dangerous, because in it you can alter anything and cross your own timeline. I love how the possible paradoxes and consequences are discussed in theory, but not in an overly technical or boring manner, and what is important isn't the the theory but the actual result. 

The plot is fast paced and engaging from start to finish. It is a fun story full of adventure, action, and just a touch of romance. This is a perfect read for anyone who loves being caught up in a good time-travel story. 

I sincerely hope that we will be getting books from Ms. Shulman about the two other special collections at the Repository, the Lovecraft Corpus which houses the paranormal, and the Gibson Chrestomathy which houses cyber technologies. The want factor for this is pretty high for me.

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Cadet of Tildor

When I first heard of The Cadet of Tildor by Alex Lidell I was intrigued. I love political intrigue fantasy and this seemed to have all that. When my library got a copy I put it on hold straight away.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
There is a new king on the throne of Tildor. Currents of political unrest sweep the country as two warring crime families seek power, angling to exploit the young Crown's inexperience. At the Academy of Tildor, the training ground for elite soldiers, Cadet Renee de Winter struggles to keep up with her male peers. But when her mentor, a notorious commander recalled from active duty to teach at the Academy, is kidnapped to fight in illegal gladiator games, Renee and her best friend Alec find themselves thrust into a world rife with crime, sorting through a maze of political intrigue, and struggling to resolve what they want, what is legal, and what is right.

The plot is even more complex than the synopsis gives it credit for. There are a lot of layers and depth to all of the conspiracies, who is cheating who, and what is at stake. This is a story that is full of shades of gray, making it clear that few important decisions are black and white. I appreciate the realism of this. I was able to understand why the characters were doing what they were even if I didn't always agree. So many different loyalties are at play here. Loyalty to law, loyalty to justice, loyalty to government, loyalty to family, and loyalty to friends-which is the most important? And when these loyalties are in conflict with each other, which takes precedence? That is never an easy decision to make, and when the lives of people you love and care about are at stake it is even harder. Weighed against the fate of a nation, what do individual lives matter? These are all interesting concepts explored through the plot, a plot also full of adventure, danger, and magic.

Renee finds herself unwittingly at the center of this conflict and forced to decide which of her loyalties take precedence. It was interesting watching her perception and understanding of the nuances of her world grow. She starts out idealistically wanting to fight for law and country, but soon realizes that they are not always right. The contrast between how she, Savoy (her commander), and Alec respond to these different questions and the choices they make are interesting. In a way every character in the book is forced to make a choice regarding this. It is the driving force of the novel and real food for thought. In addition I really enjoyed both Renee and Savoy as characters. They were simply fun to read about, and I would love to read more about them. 

I like that there was no romance in this story. It absolutely does not need it. It had enough going on, and adding that too would have made it too much.

The world building is pretty standard fantasy. There are no new twists or anything particularly special about it. It is comforting in its familiarity for fans of this type of fantasy. 

This is a YA novel but can be read by middle school readers looking for meatier fare. I will be recommending it to my students who like these sort of books.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Implausiblity in Fiction

I have been seeing a lot of reviews lately that mention something being "too implausible". I have been guilty of questioning whether belief was being stretched too far, though I hope I have never used this bold a statement. I have been pondering this expression quite a bit. Is it possible for fiction to be too implausible, particularly fiction directed toward children?

The second half of that question is because I have seen this phrase used several places in regards to Holly Black's book Doll Bones. Yes, the kids do things kids typically wouldn't get away with. But when did that become a problem in a book? I am preparing to read From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg with a group of 4th-6th graders, as I have done many years. Kids love this book and the implausibility of the situation is part of that love. Children want to believe they can run away from home, live in a museum, and succeed at it, only returning on their own terms. Kids want to believe these things are possible, live in a museum, sail a boat after only reading about it, star in a Broadway play, climb through their closet and find another world. And if they can't, they want to think that there are other kids out there who can. And why not? Why is this considered a criticism of a book? After all, isn't this part of the job fiction sets out to do?

I will say there are times a book stretches my belief too far and ceases to work for me. (Swiss Family Robinson being the worst offender I can think of.) However, I try to recognize that this may just be a personal issue and not a fatal flaw in the book itself. Hopefully that is the way I usually present it. I read fiction for many reasons, and one of those reasons is to sometimes escape the rules and strictures of the real world. I say bring on the implausible. It makes it so much more fun.

Is anyone else seeing this more lately? What are your thoughts?

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Shorter Musings: MG Fantasy

Sometimes I read a book, and I even enjoy it, but I don't have much to say about it. I jot down a few thoughts and then I move on. Some of those are starting to pile up so I thought I would put them all together in one post.

Here are some MG Fantasy books I have read recently with my thoughts.

In a Glass Grimmly by Adam Gidwitz
I enjoyed this one more than I did A Tale Dark & Grimm. Jack and Jill are likable heroes and I enjoyed following them on their journey. I positively loved Frog, best fairy tale sidekick talking animal ever. I just think Gidwitz isn't a good fit for me as a reader. I hate narrators who talk to me and interject commentary, and for some reason this narrator annoys me even more than usual. I also feel like there it isn't so much of dark element of the fairy tales being shown as the gross element. Fairy tales are meant to be dark, but the darkness serves a purpose greater than raising the ick factor in the reading experience. I feel like Gidwitz misses this for the sake of trying to add as much blood, guts, and vomit as possible, whether necessary or not. Kids, I'm sure, won't have such qualms with it though.

Rump: the True Story of Rumplestiltskin  by Liesel Shurtliff 
This is a fun retelling of the story of Rumpelstilitskin. It's quite a lighthearted romp to come from what is really such a dark tale. I like that about it. There is a lot of humor and many of the questions the story brings to mind find answers through this story. I loved the nod to all the other fairy tales in it as well. I can see why so many kids are enjoying it. I didn't really feel connected to any of the characters and therefore had a hard time caring what happened to them. This is going to be such an easy book to sell to my students though.
Tilly's Moonlight Garden by Julia Green
Tilly's Moonlight Garden is a quick lovely read about a little girl trying to cope through some scary changes in her life. Eight year old me would have loved this book so much. It made adult me feel all nostalgic. I enjoy stories where there are gardens and old houses to explore. There isn't a lot of action. The story is just an exploration of Tilly's world and how she responds to it. I don't know how well this will go over with most kids but I enjoyed it.  

The Vengekeep Prophecies by Brian Farrey
The Vengekeep Prophecies is a wonderful hero/quest story full of magic starring a not so stellar thief. It is a whole lot of fun, quick paced, mysterious, and full of action and adventure. It is a bit predictable in places, at least for me, but that small flaw can be forgiven for how much pleasure and amusement comes from reading it. This is one that is sure to be a kid pleaser. 

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Reece Malcolm List

The Reece Malcolm List by Amy Spalding surprised me. Enough people I trust enjoyed it so I knew I would like it, but wasn't expecting to like it as much as I do. It is a really great book that is fun and has real heart and soul too.

Things I know about Reece Malcolm:
1. She graduated from New York University.
2. She lives in or near Los Angeles.
3. Since her first novel was released, she’s been on the New York Times bestseller list every week.
4. She likes strong coffee and bourbon.
5. She’s my mother.
Devan knows very little about Reece Malcolm, until the day her father dies and she’s shipped off to live with the mother she’s never met. All she has is a list of notebook entries that doesn’t add up to much.
L.A. offers a whole new world to Devan—a performing arts school allows her to pursue her passion for show choir and musicals, a new circle of friends helps to draw her out of her shell, and an intriguing boy opens up possibilities for her first love.
But then the Reece Malcolm list gets a surprising new entry. Now that Devan is so close to having it all, can she handle the possibility of losing everything?

The thing I like about The Reece Malcolm List the most is its realism. Now some people may question here whether I've lost my mind, because there is a lot of wish fulfillment sort of stuff in this book. Still I say realism, because the characters are so real. I don't often read contemporary novels with difficult situations I haven't experienced where I feel the characters act exactly the way I would in said situation. So yes, for me this book was perfect. If I had to go live with a mom I had never met at age 16 I would react like Devan. If I had a 16 year old daughter I never expected to see again drop in my life I would react exactly like Reece. I really like how much alike they were and also that they had very real differences. The whole development of their relationship happened very naturally as well. Devan's behavior as a new girl in school is highly relateable too. I moved around a lot and I had her same expectations and patterns of behavior. Still do actually. I loved how she was so happy to find a group of real friends-what she always wanted-and yet was also frustrated by her lack of space for herself. Yes. 

My one quibble with the book was the romantic element. I would have liked this book even more without that, but I freely admit that teen readers will probably like that part. It wasn't that I thought it was handled badly, I just didn't care as much. Also I feel like Devan's guy has issues he needs to work out before he dates anyone, but at least Devan seems to understand she is getting a not-entirely-together boyfriend. I did like the relationship between Reece and Brad. It is a rare thing to see healthy adult romantic relationships in YA novels. 

I don't know how this book will work for readers who aren't interested in theater and music. Musical theater specifically. Having been a part of the drama/music crowd in high school myself I loved that aspect. It is filled with details of auditions and productions which made it all the more real and alive. It also made me want to listen to all the Sondheim. And that's never a bad thing because Sondheim is amazing. 

Note for Concerned Parents: Strong language and some mention of sex

Sunday, June 9, 2013

48 HBC: The End!

So technically I still have 45 minutes, but I'm wrapping up now because the Tony Awards are on at 8 and I need a shower first. 

The books I've read today:
The Madman's Daughter by Megan Shepherd (my rage filled thoughts)
The Fellowship for Alien Detection by Kevin Emerson (my thoughts)
Love and Other Perishable Items by Laura Buzo (my thoughts

Here are the final totals for the whole 48 hours:

Pages Read: 3,498

Time Reading: 28 hours 25 minutes

Time Reviewing: 2 hours 50 minutes

Commenting/Twitter/Etc: 2 hours

Time Sleeping: 10

Here is a tally of what I read:
2 Adult Books (1 Romance, 1 Mystery)
4 YA Books (3 Fantasy, 1 Conemporary)
5 MG Books (3 Contemporary, 2 Fantasy)

My favorite read: The Real Boy by Anne Ursu

I had tons of fun and am thankful to have my TBR down at least a little. It is still so massive though.

48 HBC: Udate the Third

Lamest. Update. Ever.

I totally crashed last night. Ah well, I knew it was coming.

Book Read:
The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King (my thoughts)

Pages Read: 347

Time Reading: 3 hours, 50 minutes

Time on Social Media: 10 min

Time Blogging: 10 min

Time Sleeping: 7 hours

I hope in this final stretch to get at least three more books read. My family is home today and I'm letting my husband sleep in. (He deserves it.) Fortunately, my kids are finally at an age where they can feed and entertain themselves until he is up. (Oh glorious day, I'm excited it has arrived.)

I still hope to read:
The Madman's Daughter by Megan Shepherd
The Fellowship for Alien Detection by Kevin Emerson
A Wounded Name by Dot Hutchinson

Saturday, June 8, 2013

48 HBC: Update the Second

So after a few hours of napping I was able to get back to it.  I got through more of my TBR because I ended up DNFing the longest book I was planning to read today.

The Books I've Read:
The Kingdom of Little Wounds by Susan Cokal (Read 51 pages-why I DNFed it)
Hound Dog True by Linda Urban (my thoughts)
City of a Thousand Dolls by Miriam Forster (review coming later this month)
The Real Boy  by Anne Ursu (review coming closer to release date

Since Last Update
Number of Pages Read: 735

Time Reading: 7 hours, 25 minutes

Time on Writing Reviews: 1 hour, 15 minutes

Time on Social Networking/Commenting: 1 hour

Time Spent Sleeping: 3 hours

I have a feeling I will be sleeping more this next segment, so my goal is to finish two books before tomorrow morning:
The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King
The Madman's Daughter by Megan Shepherd

48HBC: Update The First

12 Hours In!

The Books I've Read:
The Chocolate Rose by Laura Florand (my thoughts)
The Problem with Being Slightly Heroic by Uma Krishnaswami (review will post closer to release)
The Cadet of Tildor by Alex Lidell (review coming soon)
Secrets of Shakespeare's Grave by Deron R. Hicks (my thoughts)

Number of Hours Reading: 10 hours (I'm pretty impressed I hit it exactly. I wasn't even trying.)

Number of Pages Read: 1,436

Time on Writing Reviews: 1 hour; 5 minutes

Time on Social Networking/Commenting on Blogs: 25 minutes

Time Spent Sleeping: 0 !!!!!!

So I read 4/5 books in my first goal. AND managed to not fall asleep. The books were too interesting. The no sleeping thing is over for now. Things are starting to blurr and I'm feeling woozy. I'm going to take a nap, but I will be back to update again this evening after getting some more reading in hopefully.

Goals by next update:
The Kingdom of Little Wounds by Susann Cokal
Hound Dog True by Linda Urban
City of a Thousand Dolls by Miriam Foster

Friday, June 7, 2013


 I'm officially kicking off the 48 HBC now. (Ms. Yingling is hosting this year and there is still time to join in the fun!) I am going to see how long I can go without sleep but am not fooling myself that I won't have to stop and take naps. I am going to try my best not to, but I like sleep. It would be nice if I didn't have to though because this is the current state of my TBR:

And this doesn't include the e-galleys and recently purchased e-books on my Nook.

So to say that I need this 48 hours is an understatement.

Here is my goal for the first 12 hours:
The Chocolate Rose by Laura Florand
The Problem with Being Slightly Heroic by Uma Krishnaswami
The Cadet of Tildor by Alex Lidell
Secrets of Shakespeare's Grave by Deron R. Hicks
The Kingdom of Little Wounds by Susann Cokal

Honestly, I'll be happy if I make it through half of those by 8:15 AM tomorrow, when I will update. I read at a pretty good pace, but I slow down as I get tired so who knows what will actually be accomplished. Also a couple of these are rather long. And three of them are on my Nook, which also slows me down. I have tea, Pepsi, dark chocolate, ice cream, and a huge bag of Red Vines to help me through. My husband is most helpfully taking the kids on a day trip tomorrow. Bit was rather put out when she learned she was expected to visit her grandparents. She wanted to do the challenge too so she is going to be unofficially joining in when she returns tomorrow.

I'm ready to start.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Eleanor & Park

Finally! I feel like I've been waiting to read Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell forever. It's really only been months but still. My library was taking ages to get a copy and I had to wait until it fit in the book budget. Yay for birthdays! I really enjoyed this book. Rowell is great at really making you feel the emotions of her characters. I was not surprised at the announcement on Saturday that it won the Boston Globe Horn Book Award. It is certainly deserving of it.

Eleanor is surviving life and that is the best she can currently hope for. Starting a new high school, her first day gets off to the worst start when no one makes room for her to sit. Finally a begrudging boy orders her to just sit next to him and he's not exactly friendly. Park doesn't want to share his bus seat, especially with some one as odd as Eleanor, but as the weeks pass little things begin to intrigue him, like the song titles she writes on her book covers and the fact that she is covertly reading his comics along with him. Soon he slowly begins to share his passions with her. She borrows his comics and he makes her mix tapes with the songs she wants to hear. They begin talking, they get to know each other, they fall in love. But Eleanor's life is a disaster waiting to explode into devastation, and even the power of first love isn't going to be able to fix it.

Eleanor & Park is a sweet and wonderful love story, but that is not all it is. The way the romance between Eleanor and Park unfurls is everything a great first love should be. I loved the slowness of it all, and how epic a moment simply holding hands is for these two. The descriptions of their interactions are great, and it was wonderful to see an actual relationship develop where there was communication. This is nowhere near love at first sight, it is a gradual thing. Underneath the sweetness of this story there is a seething ugliness to contrast it. Eleanor's life is a desperate struggle. She shares a room with four siblings. She has few clothes and only one box full of possessions she can call her own. Her step-father is a monster. Her entire family lives in daily terror. This is heart breaking to read.

Eleanor is a wonderful character, one who is likable and sympathetic but has definite flaws. It is easy to see why Park finds her so weird at first. It is easy to see how he gets frustrated with her, but seeing the bigger picture of her life makes her a truly dynamic character. Park is not as well developed, and if it weren't for one particular scene I would have come away saying he is too good to be true. Even with that he seems a little to ideal, but I can't mind because Eleanor needed that kind of hero in her life.

I love the way Rowell writes, so simply and yet with layers of meaning. She is a writer who says much with few words and I always respect that. She also wrote one of the best metaphors of all time: She's what would happen if the devil  married the wicked witch, and they rolled their baby in a bowl of chopped evil. It's funny, it's heartbreaking, it's real. Sometimes a little too real for me to enjoy without qualification. Generally, I  don't mind strong language in books particularly if it lends realism to the story. The language in this book certainly does that. However, there were so many instances of using God and Christ along with other words that it made me as personally uncomfortable. I know this was the intent though. This book SHOULD make you uncomfortable, and the language that is used, not just what I would find personally insulting, but how it is directed toward Eleanor is key to understanding the harshness of her existence. 

So is this YA or adult? I think it is both. This is why age designations for books bother me so much. Yes, it's about teens and teens will enjoy it and find themselves in it even with the 1986 setting. Adults will appreciate this book, even ones who don't regularly read YA because they should also find themselves in it.

Note for Concerned Parents: There is a lot of strong language and some intense romantic situations. There is also quite a bit of violent and ugly family dynamics going on.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday: Being Sloane Jacobs

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill of Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

Meet Sloane Emily Jacobs: a seriously stressed-out figure-skater from Washington, D.C., who choked during junior nationals and isn’t sure she’s ready for a comeback. What she does know is that she’d give anything to escape the mass of misery that is her life.

Now meet Sloane Devon Jacobs, a spunky ice hockey player from Philly who’s been suspended from her team for too many aggressive hip checks. Her punishment? Hockey camp, now, when she’s playing the worst she’s ever played. If she messes up? Her life will be over.

When the two Sloanes meet by chance in Montreal and decide to trade places for the summer, each girl thinks she’s the lucky one: no strangers to judge or laugh at Sloane Emily, no scouts expecting Sloane Devon to be a hero. But it didn’t occur to Sloane E. that while avoiding sequins and axels she might meet a hockey hottie—and Sloane D. never expected to run into a familiar (and very good-looking) face from home. It’s not long before the Sloanes discover that convincing people you’re someone else might be more difficult than being yourself.

I adore Morrill's book Meant to Be, so much so that she is now an auto-buy author for me, and that usually doesn't happen after just one book. Even without that I would want this book so much simply for the concept. And then there is the cover. (Which is going to look gorgeous on my shelf next to Meant to Be.) The wait for January 7, 2014 is going to be a long one. Sigh.