Tuesday, January 31, 2012
rain splattered against the cold window
my breath fogging up the glass as I said
my address and slumped against torn navy blue
leather, thick purse straps falling down, down
and it hit with a thud and she’d ask what do you
have in there, anyway? rocks? but I’d always
laugh it off, but now I wish I’d showed her what
I kept, my cosmetics, knock-off Coach wallet
and a journal with her faded picture skotch taped
to the first page, I wanted to throw it at her
see! you know I love you, best friend, but
that time is now long gone. Watching the meter
run, run with blood pumping through my veins
ragged gasps for air, sweaty brown locks sticking
to the back of my neck, tear streaked cheeks,
she said I was going to be a runner one day,
maybe even beat her time. Well, all I know
is that I did beat her time, but not
in the way she intended. The cab stopped. I went
to pay but he refused. It’s on me, he said, before
driving back the twenty miles to the city.
Sunday, January 29, 2012
Saturday, January 28, 2012
When Alice's Aunt Polly passes away, she takes with her the secret to her world-famous pie-crust recipe. Or does she? In her will, Polly leaves the recipe to her extraordinarily surly cat Lardo . . . and then leaves Lardo in the care of Alice.
Suddenly Alice is thrust into the center of a piestorm, with everyone in town trying to be the next pie-contest winner ... including Alice's mother and some of Alice's friends. The whole community is going pie-crazy . . . and it's up to Alice to discover the ingredients that really matter. Like family. And friendship. And enjoying what you do.
Thursday, January 26, 2012
Wednesday, January 25, 2012
Twelve-year-old Fern feels invisible. It seems as though everyone in her family has better things to do than pay attention to her: Mom (when she's not meditating) helps Dad run the family restaurant; Sarah is taking a gap year after high school; and Holden pretends that Mom and Dad and everyone else doesn't know he's gay, even as he fends off bullies at school. Then there's Charlie: three years old, a "surprise" baby, the center of everyone's world. He's devoted to Fern, but he's annoying, too, always getting his way, always dirty, always commanding attention. If it wasn't for Ran, Fern's calm and positive best friend, there'd be nowhere to turn. Ran's mantra, "All will be well," is soothing in a way that nothing else seems to be. And when Ran says it, Fern can almost believe it's true. But then tragedy strikes- and Fern feels not only more alone than ever, but also responsible for the accident that has wrenched her family apart. All will not be well. Or at least all will never be the same.
Tuesday, January 24, 2012
Wax dripped from lit candles, smelling of autumn leaves
and apple cider, into a small clear glass jar on a table
set for two, pearl-white china plates and wine glasses
atop a warm mahogany wooden table with a dark red
tablecloth adorning the intimate setting. Oil paintings
from local artists lined the walls in gold frames and
crystal chandeliers hung from the ceiling, accentuating
the antique setting as if taken straight from an old
Victorian house. The waiter, in a crisp tucked-in white
shirt with ironed black slacks, would present the courses,
first of which a spinach salad with fresh strawberries,
walnuts and her favorite dressing, second, a medium-rare
steak with buttery mashed potatoes, lightly salted, third,
a slice of warm molten chocolate cake, drizzled with
caramel and as the live string violinist played, they’d
share dreams of traveling to Europe in their youth and
become owners of a little bakery in the city. She sips
her iced water glass, smudging her lipstick, before
closing her netbook and putting it into her purse and
placing a few wrinkled dollars for the bill and tip.
Another restaurant, another false hope.
Monday, January 23, 2012
Goodreads Review: Mirabelle's art teacher tells her she has talent, but what good is it doing her? Almost fifteen and friendless, Mira is plagued by dark thoughts. Her body seems to be changing daily. Her mother is domineering and half-crazy and her father — well, he's her ex-father, mostly out of Mira's life and awkward when he's around. Then she meets free-spirited, confident Catherine, a knockout who makes the boys' jaws drop. Not only is Catherine good at art like Mira, she also knows about kissing boys. Mira has never kissed anyone and doesn't understand the hungry way boys are beginning to look at her. Now that Mira's finally found someone she can talk to, her dark thoughts are vanishing. But as her friend encourages her to come out of her shell, Mira finds that her new-found confidence can still be shattered in an instant. Only after Mira faces a betrayal and a tragedy can she begin to put the fragmented pieces of herself together.
Saturday, January 21, 2012
Want Books: Moby-Duck: The True Story of 28,800 Bath Toys Lost at Sea and of the Beachcombers, Oceanographers, Environmentalists, and Fools, Including
When the writer Donovan Hohn heard of the mysterious loss of thousands of bath toys at sea, he figured he would interview a few oceanographers, talk to a few beachcombers, and read up on Arctic science and geography. But questions can be like ocean currents: wade in too far, and they carry you away. Hohn's accidental odyssey pulls him into the secretive world of shipping conglomerates, the daring work of Arctic researchers, the lunatic risks of maverick sailors, and the shadowy world of Chinese toy factories.
Moby-Duck is a journey into the heart of the sea and an adventure through science, myth, the global economy, and some of the worst weather imaginable. With each new discovery, Hohn learns of another loose thread, and with each successive chase, he comes closer to understanding where his castaway quarry comes from and where it goes. In the grand tradition of Tony Horwitz and David Quammen, Moby-Duckis a compulsively readable narrative of whimsy and curiosity.
Friday, January 20, 2012
The Barnes & Noble Review
Bringing back memories of her extraordinarily moving yet quietly told novel Belle Teal, Ann M. Martin (who also pens the popular Baby-Sitters Club series) takes us back to the 1960s, where we spend a not-so-typical summer with one girl and her mentally ill uncle.
Hattie Owen enjoys peaceful Millerton summertimes with "houses nodding in the heavy air," being in charge of Miss Hagerty's breakfast tray at her parents' boardinghouse, and drinking lemonade on the porch after supper. Yet this year, it's different -- Hattie's uncle Adam is coming home. Returning from a Chicago school that's just closed and whose existence is kept quiet by adult family members, Adam is a 21-year-old man with a child's mind, having a knack for talking quickly, a savant-like ability for remembering weekdays, and a passion for I Love Lucy. Hattie and Adam wind up spending precious time together -- including a visit to the recently arrived carnival with Hattie's new friend, Leila -- which makes her feel soulfully connected to her uncle, especially when he declares that she's "one of the people who can lift the corners of our universe." But when Hattie takes Adam on the ferris wheel one night, it sets off dramatic events that lead Hattie's family to strengthen its bonds and changes her life's outlook forever.
A novel with a flavor similar to Kate DiCamillo's Because of Winn-Dixieor Kimberly Willis Holt's When Zachary Beaver Came to Town, this absorbing look at a shake-up of one family's small-town normalcy will bring you to tears but leave you feeling ultimately triumphant. Martin paints her characters masterfully, letting Uncle Adam's unsure energy carry an unpredictable foreboding beneath the story while Hattie builds a gradual rebelliousness against the denial and unspoken truths that surround her. A powerful work that presses all the right emotional buttons and touches on all-too-human themes, A Corner of the Universe is one book that should not be missed.
My Review: As with all of the other YA books I review on this blog, they are random. They are books that have caught my interest in some way, whether it's the cover, the content or the author. This book is a Newberry Honor Book (good sign) and the author, Ann M. Martin, wrote the Baby-Sitters Club series (another good sign). Those two pluses, coupled with an interesting concept and a unique story line, seemed to spell success.
But for me ... not so much. I did enjoy Hattie and her family, but I felt like there wasn't enough to keep the book going. I agree with Hattie about the time frame, which is also the first paragraph in the prologue:
"Last summer, the summer I turned twelve, was the summer Adam came. And forever after I will think of events as Before Adam or After Adam." - A Corner of the Universe, prologue pg. 1
So while reading, it was Before Adam or After Adam. Adam is an interesting character, and it's never disclosed what exactly he has, although the reader can surmise that he's mentally-ill. I could feel the tension between the adults whenever Adam was in the room, and viewing Adam from a child's perspective was brilliant. Hattie doesn't consider her 21-year-old cousin as mentally-ill. Rather, he's another friend in her life.
But there wasn't anything that could keep the story moving. The only thing that was exciting, the only changing event, was the arrival of the carnival and Hattie's new friend who worked at the carnival who left as suddenly as she came into the story. Half of the story was based around Carmel's Funtime Carnival but I think it's all external. There are cases where Hattie's choices directly influence the next scene, but there's too many of them where they're coincidental.
When Hattie breaks the rules and tells Adam to sneak out of the house so they can go to the carnival at night, I can see that happening. That's believable. What's coincidental and annoying, however, is when they go on the ferris ride and it breaks down. Yes, these things do happen, but I don't like how it was completely by chance. Then, there were a handful of times where Adam seemed to like Angel Valentine. Cute comments. Adam staring at her breasts. Then Adam walks in on Angel and her boyfriend making out (perhaps more). Adam leaves and is missing. They don't find him. They've looked everywhere. Until, they find his body. Adam killed himself.
Hattie's convinced at first that Angel killed him because she had a boyfriend and Adam caught them doing inappropriate things while in the boarding house even though they aren't allowed to.
It's a nice puzzle and every piece fits into it perfectly, but some of the pieces seem extremely smoothed, like it's too easy for it to be placed. I liked how she tied in 'A Corner of the Universe' into the story. Also, I don't like books where halfway through I'm wondering, "Sooo what's going to happen next?" I like character choices, which this one is, but I feel like there needs to be a plot running alongside it. Even a loose plot. Having a carnival plop in the middle of a small town, for me, doesn't count.
It's an interesting read but I don't think I'll read it again. It's interesting to note that Ann M. Martin had a mentally-ill uncle as well, but she never met him because he died before she was born.
Thursday, January 19, 2012
Wednesday, January 18, 2012
At first it's just Jews--then everyone. People are leaving their families to survive. Sam's wife, Claire, is already stricken and near death. In a year or two, as she grows into adulthood, their daughter, Esther, too, will become a victim. Sam and Claire decide to leave Esther on her own, hoping a "cure" will miraculously appear. Sam's car is waved off the road at a government-run laboratory where horrific tests are being conducted to create non-lethal speech. Throngs bang on the doors to be subject volunteers; they're all carried out half-dead. When Sam realizes what's going on, he makes a desperate escape, vowing that if he dies it will be with his family, the only refuge of sanity and love.
Ben Marcus's nightmarish vision is both completely alien and frighteningly familiar.