Books & More for Santa Cruz Readers...
"...you may perhaps be brought to acknowledge that it is very well worthwhile to be tormented for two or three years of one's life, for the sake of being able to read all the rest of it."
from Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
Monday, May 20, 2013
Title: The Fall of Alice K.
By: Jim Heynen
This is an American novel, but one with such a different point of view from most I am exposed to that it kept startling me. At first I wasn’t sure that I could get into the story, but something about Alice suddenly grabbed me, and I had to finish the book. Alice K. is a very intelligent and responsible high school student with a troubled family, living on a well-run farm in Iowa that is failing due to market conditions. The setting is a devout and traditional Dutch-settled area of the state. Alice’s cross-cultural friendships and intrepid character propel her into and out of trouble. The author really gets inside Alice’s teenage head in a way that does credit to his understanding of a young woman’s feelings, although there are a few passages that I find unrealistic. I love the way he describes her relationship with the big red Ford 150 pickup she drives. My only serious disappointment was how he chose to end the story. Read it yourself and see if you feel the same way.
Saturday, May 18, 2013
Title: The Miseducation of Cameron Post
By: Emily M. Danforth
When Cameron Post’s parents die in a car accident, she’s relieved that they’ll never find out that she had been kissing her best friend Irene. Now her grandmother and Aunt Ruth have come to live with Cameron in her small ranching town of Miles City, Montana. Aunt Ruth is a conservative Christian, so Cameron knows that being gay is wrong in her aunt’s eyes. But she can’t help it if she has feelings for girls. When she becomes too close with another one of her friends, Aunt Ruth finds out and sends Cameron to God’s Promise, a program designed to help her heal her same sex attraction. While at God’s Promise, Cameron realizes it may not be what it seemed at first. She begins to wonder if people are actually being healed, and if there’s truly something wrong with her at all.
In The Miseducation of Cameron Post, Emily M. Danforth writes as though Cameron is speaking directly to you. It’s written as though a friend is telling you the story; you immediately care about what is happening to Cameron, even though at many points what’s happening isn’t always nice.
Monday, May 6, 2013
It left me thinking long afterwards…
Title: Liar & Spy
By: Rebecca Stead
Rebecca Stead understands that the best spy stories leave you guessing right up to the end.
This middle-grade story introduces the 12-year-old protagonist, Georges, a wonderfully quirky, underdog loner who is going through a big upheaval in his life. His father's lost his job, forcing the family to relocate to an apartment in Brooklyn and his mother to work extra shifts at the hospital. If that's not enough, Georges has lost his best friend at school to the cool crowd. Vulnerable and susceptible to influence, he strikes up a friendship with an odd boy his age in his new building named Safer, and Safer’s younger sister, Candy. At first, Georges is curious and excited to be a part of Safer’s Spy Club, and to join the quest to learn the secrets of the mysterious Mr. X who lives in the apartment upstairs. However, as the plot unfolds, the limits of their new friendship are strained.
How far should anyone be willing to go to keep a friend? As the tale unravels, it continues to surprise the reader with unexpected twists and turns, all the way up to a deeply insightful ending. Stead does an excellent job of depicting the imaginations, alliances, and inevitable betrayals of adolescents, as well as infusing her characters with the heart, intelligence, and good humor to transcend these trials.
A funny, intelligent coming-of-age/mystery story.
Sunday, May 5, 2013
By: Colin Meloy
What would you do if your baby brother was abducted by a murder of crows and carried into the Impassable Wilderness, a swath of forest so thick that any who venture into it are neither seen nor heard from again? Why, you’d go after him, of course! But not before stopping to think, misleading your parents, gathering some supplies, and allowing a slightly annoying yet noble and determined classmate to tag along. So it is that Prue McKeel and Curtis Mehlberg of Portland, Oregon embark upon a rescue mission armed with nothing more than a Swiss army knife, a bag of gorp, a “Bear-Be-Gone” air horn, and an overdue library book, the Sibley Guide to Birds. What Prue and Curtis discover is their own mysterious connection to a complex otherworld snugly ensconced within our own, 21st-century landscape. Wildwood, which features walking, talking, and in some cases impeccably dressed fauna (and some surprising flora), owes a great debt to C.S. Lewis’s Narnia. Yet story and characters are so richly imagined (and beautifully illustrated) through a contemporary North American lens that this tale feels wildly original. After crossing into Wildwood, Curtis and Prue are separated and placed on opposite sides of a civil war. Separately, they must navigate thickets of allegiances to find not only Prue’s baby brother, but also the answer to the question of why they alone can breach the barrier that separates Wildwood from the outside world. As the adventure comes to a climax, the story confronts a question common to all dual-world fantasy, yet rarely answered: why not simply stay in the magical otherworld? Why return to school and parents and the humdrum, workaday world? The answer to this question will send readers reaching for the next book in the series, Under Wildwood. Happy reading!
Thursday, May 2, 2013
Title: My Invented Country
By: Isabel Allende
Isabel Allende’s moving memoir about the country she loved and left is read so perfectly by Cristine McMurdo-Wallis that I almost want to say: Don’t read this book; you must listen to it! The many voices of Allende’s writing -- irony, tenderness, humor and harshly honest journalistic modes -- are beautifully performed. I did not hear one false note in the entire reading. If you are a critical listener, you will appreciate the sensitivity and maturity of this performance. And every listener will be educated, amused, and perhaps inspired to visit Chile. We are both charmed and sombered by her memoir, which weaves together political history, Chilean landscapes, personal decisions, and family stories.
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