Thursday, June 27, 2013

Reality Ends Here by Alison Gaylin

The reality show that is at the heart of the terrific new YA book Reality Ends Here by Alison Gaylin could actually be the sort of guilty pleasure  program you'd tune in to. The blended family of  6 year old sextuplets, their older sister Estella, and their Brady Bunch Mom and Dad is called Seven is Heaven. Every aspect of their life is filmed and has been since they were born. They are wildly popular, much to Estella's chagrin, because every one of her most embarrassing moments have been filmed, TiVoed, blogged about and commented on.
Not only that, her wardrobe has been chosen strictly by what looks good on TV, she's got a personal bodyguard, and the directors often mess with reality by creating scenarios that will work on TV like Estella's interaction with her red-headed camera savvy siblings, plus, much of what they eat is supplied by sponsors.
This book is often hilarious and at times touching and also has some drama. You buy into the premise and what someone involved in a reality show might have to deal with behind the fame and the cameras. The Recommender does not like to spoil surprises or ruin the fun of this very entertaining book, so I'll just mention you will meet some former child stars who could fill in for any former child star you can name...including a rather dreamy boy band member.
Reality Ends Here is engaging right from the start and would be a perfect book for summer or make that anytime you need a break to escape from your own reality!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Love Lift Us Up Where We Belong: "Chanson de l'Ange" by Paisley Swan Stewart

Chanson de l'Ange : Book One: The Bleeding Rose is a lush, romantic reinterpretation of  The Phantom of the Opera. In Ms. Stewart's version Erik hears a voice, from far below in the cellars, he is riveted by it. It is amazingly beautiful and he is haunted by it until he finally discovers who this heavenly instrument belongs to. A sad and lonely little girl, recently orphaned and taken in by the Ballet Mistress, Madame Louise Giry to train as a ballerina and chorus girl and be raised by her alongside her own daughter, Meg. It is, of course, the young Christine.
Erik is drawn to her. He keeps watch over her and hears her prayers to her father from behind the enormous two way mirror that hangs in her room. She begs her father not to leave her alone, but to send her the Angel of Music he promised her.
Angel of Music? Despite his cynicism, Erik's heart is touched. Here is a challenge. A project! Something to distract him from his isolation living 5 stories below the Opera House, where, although he has his music and all the things anyone could need... he doesn't have someone to care for and to care for him.
He goes to Madame Giry, his one friend at the Opera, and the one who brought him there as a boy when she was a young girl. He wants to provide for Christine. He wants to be her mentor, musically, and arrange to give her voice lessons, although, he does not want his masked visage to frighten her, he decides to teach her from the chamber behind the mirror.
In this story, Erik is a commanding figure, impeccably dressed, a musical genius and an artist, condemned by his face to live with that genius unrecognized. Christine is a lovely, warm and talented girl who grows to be a stunningly beautiful woman. And, of course, there is the dashingly handsome Raoul reaching out to the girl he knew by the seaside, who stole his heart back then and never let it go.
Without giving away any of the drama, let me say that Ms. Stewart has brought her Erik and Christine to life in a complicated dance of love and trust and learning that sometimes you can't always get what you paraphrase the Rolling Stones, no matter how much you want it.
The author has said that Chanson de l'Ange will be republished as a trilogy and will wrap up, hopefully, what took place in this addictive saga. I will be waiting and if you haven't had a chance to read the one volume edition, if you love the Phantom as much as I do, you'll want to pre-order this series or put it on hold at your local library and then lose yourself in this dark, passionate and beautifully realized world!
There is also a companion musical CD in the works:
Chanson de l'Ange: Original Music Inspired by The Phantom of the Opera

Monday, June 17, 2013

Whistling Past the Graveyard by Susan Crandall

9 year old Starla Claudelle is smart and outspoken and sticks up for even a girl in the neighborhood she doesn't like. Mamie (her grandmother) sees it differently, though, she's always getting on Starla to act like a lady and not to sass back and giving her restrictions, like she can't go to the 4th of July picnic and fireworks. Living with Mamie is cramping her style. Her Daddy's working on an oil rig and is hardly ever home and her mother Lucinda, or Lulu as she now wants to be called, had taken off for Nashville when Starla was still a baby, so she could get her big country music career going.
There's a lot going on in the news, too, this summer of 1963, what with all the civil rights coverage and the unfairness of things, it seems to Starla, but Mamie says the colored people like things the way they are with separate drinking fountains and bathrooms and whatnot.
Missing out on the July 4th festivities and feeling unloved Starla decides to run away and find her mother, probably now famous, since Starla found a record Lulu had once sent her and Mamie had thrown in the trash.
 Starla packs her bag and sets off for Nashville on a hot, hot day. Finally, she accepts a ride from Eula, a nice African American woman driving a beat up old truck who says she'll help her and who turns out to have a white baby sleeping in a basket also along for the ride.
So begins this funny, thoughtful and sometimes frightening journey that opens Starla's eyes to the world around her and what it is exactly that makes a family. "Whistling Past the Graveyard" could very well sit on your shelf along side "To Kill a Mockingbird", "The Secret Life of Bees" and "Huckleberry Finn". Starla's definitely good company and someone you can enjoy spending a hot summer afternoon (or anytime!) with as she takes you on this literary road trip!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

In Tune: "Eleanor & Park" by Rainbow Rowell

Fictional love stories range from the classics to those books with cowboys or Scottish guys in kilts on the covers and hey...who's to say what's right or wrong when it comes to love or who those characters should fall in love with?
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell is a very believable love story, set in the 80's,  about two people who seem to have nothing at all in common until fate steps in and makes them share a bus seat.

Eleanor is a curvy, red haired girl who is starting high school in a new place. She dresses differently, doesn't look like a super model and just doesn't fit in or so the kids on the school bus seem to think and your heart  breaks for her as she is shunned by kids seat after seat until there is just one space available... next to a surly half-Korean boy who moves away from her and closer to the window as she sits down. The kids at the back of the bus hoot and ridicule her and she tries to ignore it and ignore the way she's treated in gym or the halls. Her home life is, if anything, worse than school and worse than you can even imagine. She shares a narrow bunk-bed with a sister and younger siblings sleep on the floor. Her Mom is beautiful but never there for her or the kids as she cowers or placates her nasty loser of a husband. He is a bully and someone the author makes you dread and fear for Eleanor throughout this story.
Such is Eleanor's life. She notices the boy, now her bus seat-mate, reading comics day after day. And he notices her trying to read, he begins slowing down and leaving the pages open so she can read them, too. One day, he leaves a comic for her to borrow. From borrowing comics they progress to music and poor Eleanor can only dream of hearing the bands she's read about. She has written band names on her notebooks. The boy, whose name is Park, begins to make her cassettes. Is there anything sweeter than having a boy make you a mix-tape of the music that's close to his heart? They bond and Park begins to see the real Eleanor, a warm, caring girl with a quick mind who is capable of sarcasm and wit and is someone who is just fun to be with. She gets Park. Gets that he's different, too.
I won't spoil the pleasure of reading this beautifully written story by giving away too much because the Recommender hates going into a book with too much information. I like surprises! And so do you, I bet! So you'll have to buy it or borrow it from your library. Then be prepared to laugh... and cry. And clutch your book and yell "NO"! And fall in love with Eleanor and Park as they, slowly, fall for each other.