Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Diving in: "The Start of of Me and You" by Emery Lord

Paige Hancock is just starting her junior year of high school. For the past year she had been known by the label "the Girl Whose Boyfriend Drowned". She was the class widow, the one who got "the look" from teachers, classmates, people on the street. She was devastated by the loss of Aaron, her boyfriend, but they had only been going out for two months...
So, it was time to start fresh. She would never forget Aaron, but she had a long life ahead of her. She had three great girlfriends, divorced parents who shared time with Paige and her younger sister, and a wonderful Grandmother who she could spill her secrets, hopes and dreams to...though she did seem a little forgetful these days.
She decides to write a list, a set of challenges to help her move forward and rejoin high school society and, well, life in general. It began with the title How to Begin Again and included parties/social events, joining a new group, traveling, swimming (something she used to love but since Aaron's accident had developed a phobia about), and ... dating!
She had a boy in mind, when she wrote that word on her list. Ryan Chase. A boy who  used to have a popular steady girlfriend, was athletic... but also very kind to his sister who had recovered from cancer. And he understood what "the look" was all about because of that. One day, Ryan overhears Paige responding to someone's concerned query about Aaron. He sympathizes with her and before they part ways he tells her they would "make it a good year in Honors English" which both had on their upcoming school schedule.
Preoccupied with Ryan and finding herself seated next to him in that very English class... the teacher has other ideas and mixes the seating arrangements up, and Paige now finds herself sitting next to Max Watson, Ryan's super smart, nerdy cousin.  Was this switch going to be a let down for Paige... or the beginning of something she wasn't expecting?
Ms. Emery's characters are people you enjoy spending time with. We follow Paige as she struggles with her feelings, pushes herself in new directions and slowly relearns to embrace what life throws at her.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Lean on Me: "Goodbye Stranger" by Rebecca Stead

When Bridget Barsamian was eight years old, she roller-skated into traffic and later woke up in the hospital where the doctor told her she shouldn't be alive, and later, a nurse commented that she must have been put on earth for a reason.
She missed third grade, went through numerous surgeries...and skip ahead a few years and here she is, starting 7th grade. On the third Monday of the new school year, she started wearing a headband with black cat ears attached to it, that seemed to become a comfortable part of her personality.
Bridge is such a wonderfully realized complex girl as are her closest friends, Tabitha and Emily. They have been friends since the fourth grade when Bridge came back to school after her recuperation from the accident. They decide they should be a 'set" of girls who do things together such as drawing on the corners of their homework and later, as their friendship grows over the years, they become the set of girls who never fights.
Goodbye Stranger is also the story of Bridge's brother, Jamie, and of a mysterious un-named alternate girl narrator, and of Sherm Russo, a thoughtful boy who becomes something special to Bridge. Possibly, a best friend.
These girls (and the boys) grow and experience new challenges and ethical dilemmas over the course of the year. As they struggle for acceptance from peers, try to do the right thing and just learn about themselves we come to love them and fear for them and cheer them on in the right directions. These are the kind of kids you'd want to hang out with if you were in 7th grade. And this is a book the Recommender loved so much she just wanted to hug it! I'm betting, once you read it, you will, too!
* Note: This book comes out in August, but I wanted to help get the word out. Thanks to NetGalley for the DRC!

This great song by Bill Withers compliments this wonderful book!
(thank you, Youtube)

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Games People Play: "The Deception Artist" by Fayette Fox

The Deception Artist, by Fayette Fox, takes you into the world of Ivy, a delightful little girl with a big imagination, growing up in the 1980's. She is always ready to play pretend and doesn't understand when her best friend seems to be growing away from her and their games and why the other girls at school seem to laugh at some of her ideas. These things may bother her but she's very much her own person and not afraid to be creative... even if it means stretching the truth once in a while. Her parents love her, though they can get annoyed, sometimes, like when she draws up a design for her brother Brice's bedroom to suit herself while he's recovering from appendicitis in the hospital. That doesn't mean she doesn't love him, or worry about him... it's just being practical. Why let that bigger space go to waste if he's not using it?
She is also a talented artist and always drawing. She likes to imagine what life will be like when she grows up... she can practically see herself, there, in the future... painting at an easel, finally having her own cat, but that's just pretend. Or is it? Why does that young woman seem to be looking back at her, too?
This is a wonderfully captivating story and Ivy is an endearing and memorable little girl who, though often puzzled by the relationships around her, carries on trying to do the right thing, in her own plucky way.

This song has nothing really to do with this book... but I think Ivy would agree with the sentiments.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Dream a Little Dream of Me: Hugo and Rose by Bridget Foley

When she was six years old, Rose received a bicycle for her birthday. One summer
day, a few months later, her father takes her out to teach her to ride. He runs along side her encouraging her until she is pedaling on her own... though once she realizes her dad has let go she flips over and cracks her head.
As she lies in a coma in the hospital she finds herself on an island, an island with pink sand and beautiful, clear water and... a boy. A boy a little older than her with chocolate brown eyes and sandy hair. A boy who smelled of caramel. The boy says to her "It's about time you got here". This boy is Hugo.
Together he and Rose have adventures on this wonderful island, fighting giant spiders and sailing in the Plank Orb and forever trying to get to Castle City where everyone else was supposed to be.
From the moment Rose wakes up and comes back to her parents, she will never again dream of anything other than her brave and beautiful and heroic Hugo. And the island. And her best self. The brave and beautiful and heroic Rose she is in her dreams.
Daily life goes on, though, and Rose meets and falls in love with and marries Josh who will become a surgeon and they will have three children who want more, more, more of the adventures of Hugo and Rose. They will invent games based on their mother's dreams and pretend to be them when playing.
Rose should be content, but the physical self of the real world makes her long for the strong and able Rose of her dreams. The Rose who is still young and beautiful. She is filled with doubts and insecurities and forever running kids to play dates here or there and once, when there was a rained out soccer game and the line to the MacDonald's was too long, Rose looks for another drive-thru and finds a place called Orange Tastee. It looks like any other third rate fast food place but it is here where Rose's life is about to change.
 Bridget Foley's Hugo & Rose is a book so beautifully imagined and visual you'll find yourself longing for the island. It's a love story on many levels... but the connection between Hugo and Rose is the one that will haunt you even after the last page is turned. One of my favorite books of this year... or any! Highly recommended!
The catchy, classic song "Downtown" is referred to in Hugo & Rose (thanks Youtube!)

Monday, February 9, 2015

Days of Future Passed: The Country of Ice Cream Star by Sandra Newman

I just finished a book (thank you Edelweiss!) that is so riveting and bonesse and if you have not spoken that word, before, believe me, that after you finish the amazing Country of Ice Cream Star  by Sandra Newman... you will find yourself adding words to your vocabulary from its inventive language that seem so real and so perfectly descriptive and lyrical they are almost Shakespearean.
Ice Cream Star is 15. She and her brother Driver and the other Sengles, their nomadic group, live and hunt and love and war in a future that is over-shadowed by an AIDs like illness that kills you before you reach 20. A lot of life is packed into those years for these survivors of a past plague that killed off a good part of the planet including most Caucasians. Driver, who is also the sergeant of the Sengles, is 18. He has been taken with posies, their word for the illness that is a death sentence for any who become infected.
The Sengles scavange the wasteland of the former USA, pillaging ruined homes and developments for food and anything else they come across that might be useful. Often they find the long dead bodies (or sleepers) of the former tenants. It is on one of these expeditions they discover a Roo, a man of a white race they manage to capture. Who this captive is and how he affects Ice Cream Star and her people will be revealed... but not by the Recommender!
Ice Cream Star is such a brave, thoughtful, resourceful and just smart young woman that you would follow her anywhere, and you will, in her journey through this addictive book.  I knew nothing about this story before I was approved for the DRC so I think the less you know about something so surprising and wonderful and with such a bellesse and vally heroine the better. This just might be my favorite book of 2015 and... word is, there is a follow-up in the future! In MY future, as well!

* After you've read the book, here is a link from Ms. Newman's blog with an edited out scene: Of My Horse Money

Sunday, January 25, 2015

A Voice in the Darkness: "All the Light We Cannot See" by Anthony Doerr

It is the 1930s. Marie-Laure, a young French girl, living with her father, finds herself losing her sight. Her father, who works at  a Natural History Museum as master of all the keys, is devoted to her and will help her to reach independence and to keep her inquisitive intelligence despite her blindness.
Meanwhile, in Germany, a German orphan named Werner lives with his sister, Jutta, in an orphan home run by an older French woman. He, too, has an inquisitive mind, and one day brings home an old radio he finds on an excursion and figures out how to make it work. This opens up a whole new world for him, his sister and the others living in the home as they listen to music and news and late at night, he and Jutta listen to a lone voice talking about science and the world of the mind and Werner sees his future before him. Or does he?
Will these two cross paths one day? What awaits them at the onset of WWII and all the tragedy and deprivation and horror that will bring? Mr. Doerr's All the Light We Cannot See is a luminous masterpiece of storytelling. These young people and the world around them come alive as we follow them through this tale of survival of the spirit and of bravery in the face of all odds. Highly, highly recommended.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Trick or Treat: "The Well" by Catherine Chanter

One of the most stunningly written works that the Recommender has read recently is The Well by Catherine Chanter, a realistically futuristic look at a Great Britain devastated by a long drought and a London couple who have purchased a country farm that seems immune to the problems and hardships that plague their neighbors and the rest of society.
It begins with Ruth Ardingly's release from prison and her return to the Well, her farm, and her subsequent House Arrest for something we will discover as the story unfolds. What happens is frighteningly plausible. The Well, a character in itself, is a gorgeous farm with an almost supernatural water source, from its active stream to the mysterious rainfall that only falls there and not on the neighboring farms and villages. Crops thrive, wildlife, plants and trees flourish. Is it a miracle? Or something darker?
As we get to know Ruth and her back story, we learn she been happy in London. It was her husband, Mark, who wanted to leave for reasons which will be revealed, and Ruth supported him in the search for a refuge away from the city, away from her friends and a way of life she will leave behind. They come across the Well on a drive in the country and soon are the owners of that vibrant piece of land, one that they hope will change their lives. How it changes them may not be what they had in mind.
I won't give any more away, as you will want to discover the secrets of The Well for yourself. And, let me just say, you will never complain about a rainy day, again!
This book won't be released until May, but I wanted to get the word out, because it's that good!
And below, a lovely song that compliments the story.