Friday, September 28, 2012

The Great Gilly Hopkins

The Great Gilly HopkinsThe Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Have you ever made a decision that had consequences you never could have imagined?

Eleven-year-old Gilly is an angry child. She has bounced from foster home to foster home since she was three. Unloved, she does everything possible to make herself unloveable, proud of her power and status as the county’s most unmanageable brat. This latest placement is the worst yet. Forced to live with the gigantic Maime Trotter and the bizarrely timid little William Ernest in the filthiest house she’s ever seen, she hatches a plan to get her mother to come rescue her. You know what they say about plans, though: they oft go awry, and this one sends shockwaves through the lives of the family she never thought she’d have.

The theme of this book is timeless, although some of the details are now a bit dated, such as Gilly's shock at having a black neighbor and a black teacher. No, the book isn't racist, despite Gilly's early prejudices, and modern children will probably be confused by her reactions, since the world is quite different today than it was thirty-plus years ago.

Katherine Paterson doesn't pull any punches or sugar-coat her stories. They are real--bad things happen, and actions have logical repercussions. I love that about her books!

For readers' advisors: character doorway. Some swearing, as you might expect from a wounded, out-of-control preteen.

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Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Inn at Rose Harbor

The Inn at Rose HarborThe Inn at Rose Harbor by Debbie Macomber
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It took me several tries to get into this book. Not because it wasn't interesting, but because it hit a little too close to home and revived memories of deep, dark fears.

The book opens with the story of Jo Marie, a recent widow who lost her husband after only a few months of marriage. She was in her late thirties when she met her soulmate, Paul, and they fell in love immediately. Despite his deployment to Germany two months later, they managed to sustain their relationship, and he proposed when he flew home at Christmastime on leave. They married in January, and right afterward his unit was sent to Afghanistan, where he died in a helicopter crash in April.

This is pretty much my nightmare scenario. This is what had me jumping every time the phone rang for the first year of my relationship with my (now) husband while he was deployed to Kabul. I was petrified I would lose the love of my life after having finally found him. I imagine this is the nightmare scenario experienced by all military spouses, girlfriends, and boyfriends: having your future together ripped away in one moment of violence. Then again, given recent headlines in the local newspapers, perhaps this is a fear we all share, military or not.

At any rate, by the time I finally managed to get past the first chapter and into the rest of the book, my egalley copy from NetGalley expired. ARGH! So I had to put the physical book on hold at my library and wait until it was my turn.

The Inn at Rose Harbor is actually the story of three people whose lives intersect one weekend: Jo Marie, newly minted innkeeper of the B&B she bought with the life insurance money, and her first two guests, Joshua Weaver and Abby Kincaid. Josh has returned to Cedar Cove to deal with his dying stepfather who hates him, and Abby must face the guilt she has carried for the fifteen years since her best friend died in a car accident. All three need and receive healing over the course of the long weekend.

For readers' advisors: It was hard to decide how to categorize this novel. It's not a straightforward romance, although there is some romance involved. It doesn't quite fit into "magical realism" either, although the angels/ghosts make it lean into the paranormal. I think it will appeal to people who enjoy Debbie Macomber's Cedar Cove series, and fans will recognize some secondary characters. It's a contemporary "clean read," with no sex or bad language--a very sweet novel. Character doorway is primary, and setting (Cedar Cove on Puget Sound in Washington) is secondary.

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Thursday, September 20, 2012

You Hear Me?: Poems and Writing by Teenage Boys

You Hear Me?: Poems and Writing by Teenage BoysYou Hear Me?: Poems and Writing by Teenage Boys by Betsy Franco
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I picked this poetry collection up because it was on a list of banned or challenged books, and I was curious. These boys are amazing! They blew me away with their honesty, pain, hope, and humor. They made me laugh and moved me to tears. One of the boys died of a drug overdose before the book was even published--a heartbreaking loss of potential and talent.

Yes, some of the language is rough and raw. A few of the boys use words I do not like. But it's authentic, and choosing less-graphic alternatives would not give the same impact.

For readers' advisors: language doorway. This is a book for older, mature teens and adults.

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Saturday, September 15, 2012

Paris in Love: A Memoir

Paris in Love: A MemoirParis in Love: A Memoir by Eloisa James
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What a delightful treat of a book! Author Eloisa James has turned a series of Facebook and Twitter posts from her year living cancer-free in Paris with her family into an engaging and funny memoir. She edited the posts into vignettes and short essays--snippets of life, love, and laughter abroad. It makes for perfect reading on lunches and breaks because it's easy to pick up and put back down without losing track of the "action." I now want to visit Paris if for no other reason than to visit all the chocolatiers!

For readers' advisors: character doorway is primary, setting and language are secondary.

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Monday, September 3, 2012

I Love the Earl

I Love the Earl (The Truth About the Duke #0.5)I Love the Earl by Caroline Linden
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I can't remember exactly how I came to download this ebook. Perhaps it was mentioned on Facebook? But I didn't realize until I'd finished it that it was only a novella. Which is fine--I just wish I'd known. Ah, well.

I liked the concept: spinster sister and bachelor brother unexpectedly inherit a fortune and, in the case of the brother, a title. The new duke decides to give his sister a 40,000 L dowry, which attracts the fortune-hunters. Conflict arises between the siblings when he objects to her choice.

I wasn't sure I would like the book when Rhys, the impoverished earl, acted like an arrogant jerk at a garden party. His "you are destined to be mine" attitude rubbed me the wrong way. Perhaps it was meant to be romantic, but it felt like a power play.

However, that attitude disappeared, and the story improved. Plus I appreciated Margaret's maturity and independence.

For readers' advisors: story & character doorways, with setting doorway as well, since it was set in mid-18th century England.

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