Sunday, July 31, 2011

Back When You Were Easier to Love
by Emily Wing Smith

Published in 2011. 296 pages.

Earlier this year I read Emily Wing Smith's first novel The Way He Lived. I wanted to love it - but, alas, I found it a little wanting. Perhaps my expectations were lower for Back When You Were Easier to Love - but I adored it. The plot is predictable, but the execution is so, so worth the read!

I enjoy explorations of the themes of conformity and being true to oneself, and Back When You Were Easier to Love does that well. I found the underpinnings of these words from protagonist Joy quite thought-provoking:

I didn't like any of the Soccer Lovin' Kids. I didn't like how easy it was for all of them, how they all were Haven. They knew the sport they were supposed to play, so they did. They knew what they were supposed to look like, so they did. They knew what they were supposed to believe, so they did. But none of them were real to me.

I did enjoy Smith's writing style in The Way He Lived - and I enjoyed it even more in Back When You Were Easier to Love. Here is a passage I liked for both its humor and its poignancy (again from Joy's perspective):
I eat. I eat and I eat and I eat and do not stop. I do not stop to talk to Noah. I do not stop to take proper breaths. If I stop I might realize I'm no longer hungry, and if I realize I'm no longer hungry, I'll have to admit to myself that all the buffets in Las Vegas won't fill the hole in my heart.

Emily Wing Smith is one of The Contemps, and author Lindsey Leavitt spotlighted Back When You Were Easier to Love here. Additional thoughts can be found at the blogs It's All About Books and Karen M. Krueger. Emily Wing Smith's blog is here.

By the way, I have to make mention that Back When You Were Easier to Love is set in Utah (near my home) and that Joy is a Mormon (as I am) - so in some ways I feel that Smith is writing about my people. (In response to Smith's - or Joy's - observations about the absurdities of Utah Mormon culture, my 15-year-old daughter exclaimed, "I think she's one of us!") I also have to confess that I love Barry Manilow's music and have had some of the songs mentioned in the book running through my mind since I finished reading. (I think my favorite song is "Weekend in New England," though, which isn't included in the book.)


Saturday, July 30, 2011

Library Loot in July - Part 2

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Marg and Claire to encourage bloggers to share what they’ve checked out from the library.

I think that the library is a dangerous place. I will need more reading time over the next several weeks if I'm going to read all of the library loot I've been tempted into picking up!

All the Flowers are Dying by Lawrence Block
(It's been about a decade since
I've read a Matthew Scudder novel.
This one was published in 2005.)

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
(Joy called this one "outstanding."
I thought I should read it sooner than later.)

Disney After Dark by Ridley Pearson
(I got this one to read
with my 12-year-old son.)

A Drop of the Hard Stuff by Lawrence Block
(This Matthew Scudder novel came
from the "new releases" display.)

I'll Walk Alone by Mary Higgins Clark
(I think I've read every one of MHC's
mystery novels. This is the latest.)

The Last of the Little Blue Envelopes
by Maureen Johnson
(This is the sequel to 13 Little Blue Envelopes,
which I read last year. My review is here.)

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson
(This is the August pick for Natalie's Book Club.)

Possession by Elana Johnson
(Written by a Utah author, this new release is
YA dystopian fiction, a favorite genre of mine.)

Sean Griswold's Head by Lindsey Leavitt
(This is one of The Contemps.)

The Stormchasers by Jenna Blum
(This is one of the Salt Lake County Library
Reader's Choice nominees

Then by Morris Gleitzman
(I chose this one off the "new releases" shelf.
I've since discovered that it is a sequel -
so I also need to get Once.)

The Tower, the Zoo, and the Tortoise by Julia Stuart
(This is another of the Reader's Choice nominees.)

Delirium by Lauren Oliver

Published in 2011. 441 pages.

I love young adult dystopian fiction, and this one - by the author of another book I loved, Before I Fall - is terrific!

Lena looks forward to receiving the government-mandated cure that prevents the delirium of love and leads to a safe, predictable, and happy life, until ninety-five days before her eighteenth birthday and her treatment, when she falls in love. [Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data]

Delirium is definitely not your "same old" - and, like all good science fiction, it provides some thoughtful commentary on current society and the human condition. Consider, for example, the implications of these passages:
A little shock pulses through me. In all the seventeen years and eleven months of my life I have never, not once, thought of it that way. I've been so used to thinking of what the borders are keeping out that I haven't considered that they're also penning us in. [pages 228-229]
The branches above us form a canopy that reminds me of the vaulted ceiling of St. Paul's Cathedral, where I used to sit in Sunday school to hear lectures about atoms and probabilities and God's order. [page 284]
They say the cure is about happiness, but I understand now that is isn't, and it never was. It's about fear: fear of pain, fear of hurt, fear, fear, fear - a blind animal existence, bumping between walls, shuffling between ever-narrowing hallways, terrified and dull and stupid. ... I know that life isn't life if you just float through it. I know that the whole point - the only point - is to find the things that matter, and hold on to them, and fight for them, and refuse to let them go. [page 383]

I also found Oliver's writing to be beautiful as well as entertaining. Here are two passages I particularly liked:
Sometimes I feel like if you just watch things, just sit still and let the world exist in front of you - sometimes I swear that just for a second time freezes and the world pauses in its tilt. Just for a second. And if you somehow found a way to live in that second, then you would live forever. [page 153]
I feel like I'm playing some giant video game, or trying to solve a really complicated math equation. One girl is trying to avoid forty raiding parties of between fifteen to twenty people each, spread out across a radius of seven miles. If she has to make it 2.7 miles through the center, what is the probability she will wake up tomorrow morning in a jail cell? Please feel free to round pi to 3.14. [page 210]

Tricia of Library Queue called Delirium "fast-paced, thought-provoking, [with] a great romantic angle." "Alex looks just like Zac Efron to me!" she said. (Tricia's full review is here.)

Joy of Thoughts of Joy found the dialogue to be "very YA-like," which she didn't like. She also didn't like the statements or quotes at the beginning of each chapter - which is actually something I really liked, giving me insight into the world in which Lena lives. Joy concluded, "While I didn't find it to be stellar in writing or plot, I did enjoy reading it, and that's a good thing." (Her full review is here.)

Penelope of The Reading Fever gushed about Delirium - despite having three gripes - in her detailed review. In conclusion, she said, "Read this if ... you are a romantic at heart, you don't believe love is a disease, and you want to really feel what you read." (Her full review is here.)

A discussion guide can be downloaded here. The sequel Pandemonium has an expected publication date of March 2012. Delirium has been optioned for a film by Fox 2000.

I highly recommend this one! (By the way, up next in the YA dystopian genre for me is Elana Johnson's Possession.)


Friday, July 29, 2011

Sisterhood Everlasting
by Ann Brashares

Published in 2011. 349 pages.

As a big fan of Ann Brashares' Traveling Pants series - the fourth book of which I reviewed here - I found this sequel wonderful!

Picking up about ten years after the series ended but following the same format of varying viewpoints interspersed with quotes, the book does a fabulous job of putting the reader back into the minds and lives of the members of the sisterhood. I laughed, I cried, I feared, I cheered. I'm so glad to have been able to visit Carmen, Bridget, Tibby, and Lena again!

Here is a passage I really love:

Maybe you think you'll be entitled to more happiness later by forgoing all of it now, but it doesn't work that way. Happiness takes as much practice as unhappiness does. It's by living that you live more. By waiting you wait more. Every waiting day makes your life a little less. Every lonely day makes you a little smaller. Every day you put off your life makes you less capable of living it. [pages 276-277]

I love, love the cover of the book too!


Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Lover's Dictionary
by David Levithan

Published in 2011. 211 pages.

I'd previously read three of Levithan's collaborative efforts - two of my favorite reads from 2010, Will Grayson, Will Grayson with John Green and Dash & Lily's Book of Dares with Rachel Cohn, as well as Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist with Rachel Cohn - but not any of his other books. I just had to read this one, though, after I read raidergirl3's brilliant review.

By the way, this is more of an adult book than a young adult one, although my 15-year-old daughter read and enjoyed it.

From aberrant, adj., to zenith, n., this alphabetical tale of love is both compelling and charming. I read the book in one sitting, amazed by its uniqueness. The dictionary entries range from poignant to silly to mundane - just like life!

I do wish the book had been longer, because there are lots of things I still want to know about the characters. I'd love to see a second edition!


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Library Loot in July - Part 1

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Marg and Claire to encourage bloggers to share what they’ve checked out from the library.

I already have quite a hefty to-read pile on my nightstand, but does that stop me from picking up some more books from the library? Uh, no.

Back When You Were Easier to Love by Emily Wing Smith
(This is one of The Contemps. Isn't that cover adorable?)

Fixing Delilah by Sarah Ockler
(This is also one of The Contemps.)

Like Mandarin by Kirsten Hubbard
(This is one of The Contemps too.)

The Lover's Dictionary by David Levithan
(I read raidergirl3's review of this one and just had to get it!)

Okay for Now by Gary Schmidt
(Shelley at Book Clutter was raving about this one on Facebook!)

One Crazy Summer by Rita Garcia-Williams
(This one is a 2011 Newbery Honor Book,
as well as the recipient of a number of other awards!)

The Piper's Son by Melina Marchetta
(I am thrilled that this sequel to Saving Francesca
has recently been published in the U.S.)

Sisterhood Everlasting by Ann Brashares
(I'm so excited to visit Tibby, Carmen, Bridget, and Lena again!)

The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson
(YA author Gayle Forman picked this one as one of her five "The Year's Best Teen Reads" for NPR last December. I started "reading" the audiobook version during my commute this week.)

Sunday, July 10, 2011

More Six-Word Reviews

3 Willows: The Sisterhood Grows
by Ann Brashares

Published in 2009.
Audiobook read by Kimberly Farr.

The power of (younger) sisterhood redux!

One Thousand White Women:
The Journals of May Dodd

by Jim Fergus

Published in 1998.
Audiobook narrated by Laura Hicks,
with introduction and epilogue by Erik Steele.

Intriguing premise but too much bodice-ripping.

Code Orange by Caroline B. Cooney
Published in 2005. 200 pages.

Nearly perfect for middle grade boys.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

By the Numbers
One-Half of 2011

Total books read year-to-date: 44. (My goal for the year is 104 books. I'm 7 or 8 books behind right now, but I'm still hopeful that I'll reach the goal. I've got a weekend get-away and a week-long vacation coming up - during both of which I plan to do some serious reading. I'll also likely be working fewer hours during the next several months - which will free up some time for reading.)

Fiction: 37.
Non-fiction: 6.
Poetry: 1.

Audiobooks: 15.

On the Kindle: 2. (My Kindle was a Mother's Day gift. I wasn't sure if I'd like it or not, but I'm enjoying it very much!)

Books by male authors: 17.
Books by female authors: 26.
Anthologies: 1.

Published in 2011: 4.
Published prior to 1990: 1.

Historical fiction: 7.
Young adult: 24.
Juvenile: 4.

Read for my Teaching Through Literature class: 3.
Read with the "book lunch girls" (aka Natalie's Book Club): 4.
Read with my long-time book club: 4.

5-star rating: 1. (I adored The Invention of Hugo Cabret!)
4-star rating: 30.
3-star rating: 13.

What are your reading numbers for 2011 so far?