Thursday, August 31, 2006

Mercy, Unbound

Antieau, Kim. 2006. Mercy Unbound

Mercy is a fifteen year old girl with an eating disorder; she's on the verge of starvation when her parents send her to a treatment facility in New Mexico. But these facts, clearly evident to the reader, allude the patient in question.

Kim Antieau has created an incredible novel narrated by Mercy. Seen through her eyes, her warped, diseased perspective, Mercy is not sick. She doesn't need treatment. Her problem? No one believes what she holds to be true. Mercy is an angel-in-disguise whose wings are always days away from sprouting on her back. She feels the wings itching beneath the surface. She sees the world differently. She feels that once she is an angel she can help people...she could help ease some of the world's pain. As a human, she's useless...but as an angel there's endless possibilities for her to change the world. Food just stands in the way of her destiny. Angels don't eat. And she is almost there. If only people wouldn't pressure her, they would see the truth...

Mercy's breakthrough from almost-insanity to recovery leads the reader on an exciting, realistic journey of the psychological impact of eating disorders.


She'll Be Coming Round the Mountain...

Cooney, Caroline. 2006. Hit the Road

Caroline B. Cooney's latest novel, HIT THE ROAD, is without a doubt one of the funniest books I've ever read. Britanny is in for quite a surprise when she arrives at her grandmother's house to 'babysit' her while her parents are on an Alaskan vacation. You see, Nannie has plans of her own--none of which include staying home and watching tv--so Brit, relunctantly at first, joins her schemes little knowing how those adventures would change her life.

The plan? To pick up her former college roomates Flo, Aurelia, and Daisy and head to their 65th college reunion in Maine.

The problem? All of these ladies have been told by their adult children that they are NOT going to be allowed to go because they are too sick, too old, or too senile. In fact, Aurelia is in a facility for Alzheimer's under constant guard.

The solution? Using a rental car, and a newly licensed 16 year across New England, pick up Flo, and kidnap Aurelia, etc.

But Plan A is always being see it's not easy for Brit to follow the plan when her Nannie can't remember which town, which street, or even the last name of her best friend, Flo.

What happens along the way is both hilarious and bittersweet, as Brit gets to know these "girls" she learns some life lessons of her own.

Full of humor, action, adventure...HIT THE ROAD is an amazing novel.

If you enjoyed the intergenerational aspect of Hit the Road, try reading Joan Bauer's THE RULES OF THE ROAD.
For a wild and crazy teens-only road trip, try reading ALL THE WAY by Andy Behrens.


Wednesday, August 30, 2006

He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not

I bring you two reviews this time around, both of which are brand new YA books about Shakespeare's love life. The first entitled THE TWO LOVES OF WILL SHAKESPEARE is by Laurie Lawlor and published by Holiday House. The second is LOVING WILL SHAKESPEARE by Carolyn Meyer and published by Harcourt. While I find it rather odd that two books on a relatively obscure topic should both be published in the same year, it must be pointed out that they are quite different from one another.


Told from Shakespeare's perspective, THE TWO LOVES... is an account of how he just happened to file two marriage license applications on consecutive days for two different women both named Anne. One Anne is rich, beautiful, noble, intelligent, the inspiration of his sonnets, and the former fiancee of his best friend. The other Anne is ugly, poor, ignorant, ill-mannered (of bad temperment) but willing to sneak out of the house at any time for arranged trysts in barns, fields, wherever. Will Shakespeare is portrayed by the author in such a way that he comes across to the reader--at least this reader--as a bumbling, fumbling, immature idiot. He is not clever. He is not charming. He is not romantic. He has absolutely no integrity. He steals at least half of his sonnets from his sister Joan who puts up with her brother the best she can knowing it's her lot in life to take care of stupid men. Shakespeare is shown as a conniving, selfish, uncaring man who steals his best friend's girl, who recklessly sleeps with any woman he can...and who feels no remorse when one of his former lovers commits suicide because she's pregnant with his child, and who does not care about hurting his family or his family's reputation because he knowingly violates the law throughout the book...sometimes getting caught, other times escaping just barely. It is hard as a reader to have any empathy at all for this character. This book would perhaps be better titled the Dumb and Reckless Mistakes of Will Shakespeare. Or perhaps The Lusty Will Shakespeare. Now all this being said, it is not a criticism of the WRITING of the novel. It is just one perspective of how these people might have lived and behaved. In my opinion, not a very beautiful or endearing perspective to hold but a possible realistic one.


Told from Anne Hathaway's perspective, LOVING WILL SHAKESPEARE, is her memoir of sorts. Using the framework of her just having received a letter from her husband in 1611, the rest of the book is her recollection of her life up until that point...a sharing of sorts with the reader of how the then-famous Shakespeare had become her husband. Starting with her early childhood she recounts what life was like growing up in a rural village. Meyer provides the reader with a detailed, believable setting. For example, there are certain historical facts that most readers are intellectually aware of to some extent about this time period...the various plagues that were capable of appearing at any time and destroying entire communities and the ongoing struggle both politically and socially of Catholics and Protestants. But Meyer brings these two issues to life in her book. Anne loses not only her mother to the plague, but twenty years later she loses her fiance to the disease as well. And while none of the major plot lines revolve around religion, many of the minor ones do. As far as romance is concerned, Meyer presents a story where two people who have grown up in the same community become friends over a period of time and their friendship deepens and ripens when Shakespeare is beginning to come of age. It is an intellectual, mutual attraction of minds AND bodies when the time comes. That the young man later falls more in love with the stage and writing breaks her heart, but she accepts what crumbs she's given at that point. And although LOVING WILL SHAKESPEARE is a more romantic portrayal or perspective of "what might have been" is well grounded in that her characters are well-developed. Each character has strengths and weaknesses. Therefore her characters are easier to like and understand.


Since both books are purely fictionalized accounts with no evidence or proof either way--simply not that much is known about Shakespeare's least not his thoughts and motivations. It is simply a matter of choice which perspective the reader wants to entertain in their mind as being "true." If you're a romantic at heart looking for a charming, lovable Shakespeare...chances are you'll love LOVING WILL SHAKESPEARE. If you're a skeptic...particularly a skeptic when it comes to Shakespeare having authored at least some of the work accredited to him, then you might enjoy THE TWO LOVES OF WILL SHAKESPEARE.


Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Birthday Nightmares

Meyer, Stephenie. 2006. New Moon.

Life is far from normal for Bella Swan during her senior year of high school. True, her life is full of drama and boy troubles, but for Bella who sees herself as a danger magnet life holds much much more. Edward Cullen, her ever-handsome boyfriend who just happens to be a vampire, breaks her heart when he leaves after Bella receives a near-fatal paper cut at her eighteenth birthday party. Realizing that his family no matter how determined to avoid human blood, can within seconds be overwhelmed with tempation and violence leads him to place Bella’s safety ahead of his own desires. To say that Bella is devastated is an understatment, she becomes zombie-like in her loss, a fact which is finally realized when Bella and one of her friends are watching a Zombie movie. “It wasn’t until almost the very end, as I watched a haggard zombie shambling after the last shrieking survivor, that I realized what the problem was. The scene kept cutting between the horrified face of the heroine, and the dead emotionless face of her pursuer, back and forth as it closed the distance. And I realized which one resembled me the most. . . But it was ironic, all things considered, that, in the end, I would wind up a zombie. I hadn’t seen that one coming. Not that I hadn’t dreamed of becoming a mythical monster once--just never a grotesque, animated corpse. . . It was depressing to realize that I wasn’t the heroine anymore, that my story was over.” (106) But Bella’s story is far from over. Reintroduce into the picture, Jacob Black, the young man who first shared with Bella the fact that she was falling in love with a vampire, this new friendship reenergizes Bella’s existence and gives her a reason to continue on. But is her friendship with Jacob any safer for her than her relationship with Edward was? Or is Jacob hiding a dangerous secret of his own? Is Edward out of the picture for good, or will he make a comeback to try to reclaim her heart?

Stephenie Meyer’s novel NEW MOON, sequel to TWILIGHT, is an exciting read, and one that I highly recommend.


Introduction, Favorite Summer Reads

My name is Becky and I love to read. Here you will find my book reviews, booklists, as well as my general opinions on various authors.

I have spent a lot of time this summer reading books, mostly YA books. Some of my favorites include New Moon by Stephenie Meyer, Specials by Scott Westerfeld, Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan, Just Listen by Sarah Dessen, and Hit The Road by Caroline B. Cooney. I have also discovered some great YA writers that have been around awhile but are new to me. One of my new favorites is Joan Bauer. I love her book HOPE WAS HERE.

My favorite authors at the moment include Orson Scott Card, Scott Westerfeld, Stephenie Meyer, and Sarah Dessen.


Review Policy

I am interested in reviewing books and audio books. This blog focuses on books written for middle grade on up (essentially 10 to a 110). I review middle grade fiction and young adult fiction (aka tween and teen).

I also review adult books.

I read in a variety of genres including realistic fiction, historical fiction, mystery, romance, science fiction, fantasy, literary fiction, and chick lit. (I've read one western to date.)

I read a few poetry books, a few short story collections, a few graphic novels, a few nonfiction books.

I am especially fond of:

  • Regency romances (including Austen prequels/sequels)
  • Historical fiction set in the Tudor dynasty
  • Historical fiction and nonfiction set during World War II
  • Jewish fiction/nonfiction
  • dystopias
  • apocalyptic fiction
  • science fiction (especially if it involves time travel and alternate realities)
  • fantasy
  • multicultural books and international books

I am not a fan of:

  • sports books
  • horse books
  • dog books if the dog dies (same goes with most pets actually except maybe fish)
  • westerns (if it's a pioneer story with women and children, then maybe)
  • extremely violent books with blood, blood, and more blood

I am more interested in strong characters, well-written, fleshed-out, human characters. Plot is secondary to me in a way. I have to care about the characters in order to care about the plot. That being said, compelling storytelling is something that I love. I love to become absorbed in what I'm reading.

If you're interested in sending me a review copy of your book, I'm happy to hear from you. Email me at laney_po AT yahoo DOT com.

You should know several things before you contact me:

1) I do not guarantee a review of your book. I am just agreeing to consider it for review.
2) I give all books at least fifty pages.
3) I am not promising anyone (author or publisher) a positive review in exchange for a review copy. That's not how I work.
4) In all of my reviews I strive for honesty. My reviews are my opinions--so yes, they are subjective--you should know my blog will feature both negative and positive reviews.
5) I do not guarantee that I will get to your book immediately. I've got so many books I'm trying to read and review, I can't promise to get to any one book in a given time frame.
6) Emailing me every other week to see if I've read your book won't help me get to it any faster. Though if you want to email me to check and see if it arrived safely, then that's fine!

Authors, publishers. I am interested in interviewing authors and participating in blog tours. (All I ask is that I receive a review copy of the author's latest book beforehand so the interview will be productive. If the book is part of a series, I'd like to review the whole series.) Contact me if you're interested.

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Board books and picture books = new is anything published after 2013
Early readers and chapter books = new is anything published after 2013
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Speculative fiction (sci-fi/fantasy = new is anything published after 2007
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