July 7, 2010

Book Review: When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

“So Mom got the postcard today. It says Congratulations in big curly letters, and at the very top is the address of Studio TV-15 on West 58th Street. After three years of trying, she has actually made it. She’s going to be a contestant on The $20,000 Pyramid, which is hosted by Dick Clark.”

I loved The $20,000 Pyramid when I was growing up, so I was instantly hooked. Taking place during 1978-1979 in New York City, When You Reach Me is a unique, well-paced coming-of-age story, centering around Miranda, her mother’s quest to be on the game show and even more than that, around a series of mysterious letters Miranda receives. At first she doesn’t know what to do with them or what they mean.

I read this book very quickly, as it is only 197 pages. It manages to be sweet, interesting and humorous in parts without being too gimmicky. There’s enough going on plot-wise to keep the reader’s interest without getting too bogged down in extraneous detail. It was exactly what I needed. The past few books I’ve read have been sad, dystopian affairs, which while awesome, can take an emotional toll.

I have one quibble: I think Miranda was aged too young. She’s 12 in the book but to me, the story felt more like it had a 14 or 15 year old narrator. Miranda makes leaps that I didn’t feel a 12-year-old would make.
Another part I might have been able to do without was a plot point where Miranda & 2 of her friends work at a lunch counter during their school lunch breaks. It just didn’t work for me – it felt implausible & contrived, especially considering their age, even for the 1970s. However, given that I was born shortly before the setting of this novel(and not in NYC), perhaps that is an unfair assessment. I certainly don’t know what it was like to grow up in that time period or environment.

Overall, I would definitely recommend When You Reach Me and look forward to having a chance to read it again. It would make an excellent rainy day re-read or a wonderful crisp fall day first read. Just a suggestion.

May 5, 2010

A Few Of My Favorite YA Books

I’m putting them in a bit of an order. I can’t help it, I like lists. The important thing is, this order is just how I feel about these books today. For the most part, I’m loathe to say one book is really better than another. These are 10 books that have touched my life in some way, in the past or recently.
I’m not really giving a synopsis, instead telling you what I like about the book, what impressions it made on me, etc.

10. King Dork by Frank Portman, published in 2006, I read it in 2006.
I like a book that knocks Catcher in the Rye a little. Don’t get me wrong: I love Catcher & I admire Salinger’s writing. That said, I like the idea that there isn’t a big cult of hushed tones & reverence around it, even if it’s depicted in fiction. I grew up reading it, liking it but when it started to be assigned in school, I started to feel like Tom Henderson does. Anyway, Portman infused King Dork with a unique humor and it was well worth my time.

9. Weetzie Bat by Francesca Lia Block, first published in 1989, I read it in the early 1990s, maybe 1991.
This was the book that in part, made me crazy because I read it when I didn’t fully understand it. And in part, made me so happy because it gave me such an appreciation for using a place like Los Angeles. Block made L.A. seem sort of like anywhere but not. It’s hard for me to describe quite adequately.

8. This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen, first published in 2002, I read it in 2002.
This was the first YA novel I’d picked up in years. I had graduated college, was living at home, and when wandering around my public library one summer, I saw this face out on a shelf. I liked the cover – a hand holding a paper cut-out of a heart. It’s the story of Remy, a cynical girl who doesn’t believe in love. Or so she says. I read it in about a day with my bedroom windows open & a breeze spiraling in. I loved the romance of it immediately. Dexter was a boy like the boys I had crushes on in high school. He was in a band, wrote silly songs. I could see who I’d want to play him in a movie.

7. You Know Where to Find Me by Rachel Cohn, published in 2008, I read it in 2008.
A book about a girl whose left confused, sad & lost when her cousin kills herself. To Miles, Laura had everything a person could want: a doting parent, beauty, brains, popularity. So, why’d she do it? It’s what Miles struggles with throughout the novel, eventually learning she’s not as alone as she thought.

6. Bloom 2007/Perfect You 2008 by Elizabeth Scott.  I read them in 2008.
I am being honest here: these are my two favorites by Elizabeth Scott. I cannot pick between them, so there’s technically 11 books on my list. I never formally reviewed them, so I’m going to give you a snippet here. Bloom features Lauren, a sort of shy girl who has a boyfriend that she likes but it seems like she needs more. Then, from her past, arrives Evan. Romantic with moments that made me squee, but also sad moments where Lauren realizes what she’s done wrong, Bloom is genuinely touching.
Perfect You’s Kate likes Will. But she doesn’t want to like Will. He’s everything she hates: good looking & he knows it & a girl magnet. Kate’s family life is a bit messy – her dad’s quit his job to sell vitamins that he thinks changed his life, her mom’s at her wit’s end & she’s got a clueless college graduate brother who loafs around the house. Then her grandma arrives & becomes a thorn in everyone’s sides. But one bright spot is that Kate & Will grow close, bickering & sniping at each other at the same time. The payoff happens right near then end. Oh, it’s a good one!

5. Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr, published in 2007, I read it in 2007.
When Deanna’s caught in the backseat of her brother’s friend’s car, she’s instantly the target of rumors & snide comments. Her father stops talking to her. This novel made me sad because I take offense to the idea that women & girls are made to feel ashamed for being female and enjoying sexuality, closeness. It’s not that Zarr seems to feel this way. I’d definitely say she doesn’t. It’s the way Deanna’s held to the classic double standard. She’s a slut because she was in the car with an older boy, but what of the older boy? What happens to him? Where is the parity?

4. Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty, published in 2001, I read them in 2001. These books are hands down, the books that everyone reads & loves most when I recommend them. So I keep doing it. I love telling people how funny, acerbic and even annoying(at times) Jessica can be. Getting to know her & everyone else in Pineville was fun. Sometimes I’m sad the series is over but I’m also happy with how it ended.

3. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, published in 1999, I read it in 2000. This is an epistolary novel. I was reading a lot of those at the time I read Chbosky’s novel and it stood out. I actually wrote my senior project of college as an epistolary story, but that’s a tale for another time. Charlie is relatively friendless when the novel begins but as it goes on, he meets older students and suddenly has adventures and learns things about his family and himself.

2. How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff, published in 2004, I read it in 2007, maybe. I also listened to it on audiobook in the car.

1. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, published in 2006, I read it in 2006 & again last month when I listened to it on audiobook in the car.
This book occupies the top spot on my list on purpose. The others might be able to be shuffled but I cannot move this book. I have not really been able to formally review this book because to say anything about it feels like ruining the bittersweetness this novel offers. I was amazed, horrified and in love with it all at once. It had the honor of being the book that has made me cry the most. Ever. And that’s honestly saying something. It’s the most wrenching book I’ve ever read.
So there you have my list. I did try to pick books that maybe not everyone has read or has read recently, but they are all, as I stated above, books that have sparked something in me for whatever reason. I love them all.

April 25, 2010

Book Blogs are Awesome!

There in the title, it’s a simple truth, isn’t it? I think book blogs are awesome. Bloggers, their writing, opinions, passions,  likes & dislikes. They never fail to inspire my own passion, agreement, disagreement(respectfully, of course!), and admiration for an opinion well written.
Book blogs encompass many of the things I love about reading, actually: going to a new place, meeting new people, seeing new things, learning something new.

Adele @ Persnickety Snark, a blog I’ve been reading for about a year now, posted a YA Community Thanksgiving post week & as I read it, I found myself nodding after every point on her list.

Things I love about the YA Community/YA blogs are:

1. The different daily themes. Whether In My Mailbox, Waiting on Wednesday, Vlogging. What I like, especially about vlogs, are seeing someone talking about their opinions or what they’ve got to read next, what they want to read, etc. Voices, facial expressions, laughter. It’s fun to see the people whose words I’ve been reading voraciously!

2. The many varying styles of reviews and the varying opinions. For example, whether you’re on Team Gale or Team Peeta, you can appreciate that what’s important is the love of The Hunger Games stories & the tale that Suzanne Collins is telling. Everyone can find something to discuss about something you’ve read. A disagreeing opinion need not turn into an event. I’m never sorry I read a certain review, even if I don’t agree, because it has usually made me think of something I hadn’t considered before and that is in fact, why I read.

3. The volume of reviews available. Some bloggers are reading machines, I kid you not.  I don’t know how they do it. My own reading pace has slowed considerably. I take full advantage of my public library’s audiobook selection, so I almost always have a story to fall into, but I’m happiest turning pages and seeing the words.

It was the blogs that I read that served as inspiration – I wanted to join the fun and community. I can only hope to be as fine a blogger as the rest of you!

April 11, 2010

Up to My Ears…

In homework, but not just that. Every day, I can’t wait to get in my car & drive to work because I’ve been listening to The Book Thief by Markus Zusak on audiobook. It’s a great/sad/beautiful way to spend my commute. I’m almost finished with it – probably about 45 minutes left to listen to, then a review to write. I won’t pretend it won’t be a challenge with this book. I think it will, but I’m so in love with this book that I must at least make an attempt.

I read it in 2006 or 2007, I can’t remember which year at the moment. It’s even more engaging this time, for some reason. Perhaps it is that I just adore being read to. Even when a story is sad, there’s comfort in hearing the words.

Do you listen to audiobooks? Any favorites I should consider?

March 16, 2010

Which to purchase?

Does anyone else have trouble deciding what to purchase for books? I have access to 3 libraries and in an effort to keep my budget under control, I use them as much as possible. However, I’ve got 1 gift card to a bookstore, 1 25% off 1 item coupon. What should I purchase? The card has about $10 on it, so I’m thinking paperback.

Some Girls Are or Cracked Up to Be both by Courtney Summers, neither of which I have read yet.

Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta, which just came out in paperback. I’ve read this one, but I borrowed it from  my library because I wanted the paperback. I loved it intensely & want to read it cover to cover a billion times.

or some other book that I haven’t mentioned?

Suggest one!