Thursday, April 25, 2013

Author visit at my library

Hi everyone! For those of you who have read Cal Armistead's debut novel, Being Henry David, and if you live in the Boston area, you might be interested to know she will be visiting my library this coming Tuesday. I'd love for you to join us for her presentation and Q&A. Here are the details:

Gleason Public Library, Carlisle, MA
Tuesday, April 30, 7 p.m.

Come meet local author and former Carlisle resident Cal Armistead, whose first novel, Being Henry David, was just published in March. She'll talk about her background and how she came to get her work published, her writing process, and her inspiration for writing Being Henry David. Then there will be a Q&A session, followed by a signing. Copies of Being Henry David will be available for purchase.

Set mostly in Concord, Massachusetts, Being Henry David follows a 17-year-old boy who can’t remember who he is, why he’s waking up alone at Penn Station in NYC, or why his only possession is a beat-up paperback copy of Henry David Thoreau’s Walden. Taking the author’s name as his own and shortening it to Hank, he sets off to find his identity and starts the best place he can think of: Walden Pond. This is Cal Armistead’s first novel.
If anyone is interested in reading a short review I wrote, you can see it here. Otherwise, feel free to ask me any questions!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

A note on what happened in Boston and Watertown

Poster found on Facebook. I thought it pretty much summed it up.
This has been quite a week, especially for those of us in the Boston area. First the bombings at the marathon, followed by a few days of processing and trying to heal, then the day of terror yesterday. I live in Watertown, about 1-2 miles from where everything happened yesterday, and I just wanted to extend my thanks to the police and officials who worked so hard to ensure our city is safe. I commend them for not only capturing the suspect, but capturing him alive. I thank God that no one else had to die to come to this, the best outcome we could hope for.

Yesterday was a very scary day. It all started at just before 3 a.m., when we got a reverse 911 call warning us of an incident in progress and telling us to stay in our homes. We immediately started following the news, huddling underneath our comforter on the floor, away from the windows. It continued into the day. We were all in lock down, afraid to leave our houses for fear of accidentally running into a terrorist described as armed and extremely dangerous. I would get spooked by normal things, like a car driving by (seriously, why are you driving around Watertown, go home), people walking around, or a gust of wind that sounded like it could be a far-off explosion. At one point someone was bouncing a basketball next door, and I got very worried. I made my husband check to see if our basement door was locked, apparently twice. We were all on edge. I couldn't even concentrate to read to get my mind off things until late into the afternoon, when I read maybe 20 pages in a Virgin River book.

Watching the news coverage, I recognized the stores I pass on a daily basis, the Armenian shops and bakeries where I buy food, streets that are just around the corner from my church. It was surreal.

And when they finally ended it, when it was all over, I was so happy to see the celebrating citizens on Mt. Auburn Street. I wanted to go join them, but at that point I was too exhausted and was happy to just spend the evening at home with my husband and our friends who lived in the apartment downstairs. It was a long day, but it ended in relief, celebration, and knowing that we were being protected by a dedicated and excellent police force.

So thank you, Massachusetts police, thank you Watertown police especially. Thank you to God. Thank you to everyone who worked to make sure we are once again safe in this city we love.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Book review: "Nantucket Blue" by Leila Howland

Title: Nantucket Blue
Author: Leila Howland
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion; May 7, 2013

Cricket is looking forward to summer vacation, especially after her best friend Jules Clayton asks if she wants to spend the summer with her and her family on the island of Nantucket. She can't wait to spend the summer lying on the beach and working on becoming the girlfriend of Jay Logan, the guy she's had a crush on since 8th grade. But when Jules and her family must deal with a devastating loss, Cricket is left to figure out her own way to spend the summer on the island—while trying to figure out why Jules won't talk to her anymore. Things just get even more complicated when she begins to see Jules's younger brother in a different light.

For the most part I enjoyed this summery read, but it's not my favorite for a number of reasons. One of the first things I noticed (though this was a smaller thing) was how looks-obsessed Cricket is. There is a lot of body image stuff, and she even complains at one point how a boy can be larger and use it as a personality trait while girls have to feel insecure about their non-existent cellulite. I took issue with this, mostly because I didn't appreciate her dismissal of boys and body image. Boys have body issues too, and to say they can use it as a personality trait makes it seem like no boys are self-conscious of their bodies. There were other instances where Cricket is pretty critical of bodies in general, like with Liz (who doesn't care at all by the way, which I loved) who is apparently more full figured. But anyway, that was a minor thing that just bothered me. And to be fair, I can't really remember all the details, so I might be off base; let me know if you think so.

Another issue I had was with the characters. I didn't really feel like I understood why all of a sudden Jules was such a terrible person to Cricket, who granted pushed herself way too far into the Clayton family. Possible spoiler, but not really: Okay, Jules did lose her mother, but from what Cricket describes the way she reacts seems too far off base for me to get why she completely severs their friendship and becomes such a mean person. I couldn't suspend my disbelief considering how inseparable they were prior to Jules' mom's death.

Cricket isn't my favorite person either, mostly because she can't seem to make a good decision until the very end of the book. I kept yelling at her in my head to NOT DO THAT while I was reading, but alas she couldn't hear me. I never really felt like I connected with the characters or understood the reasons behind their actions, and if I did I didn't really care. Zack was the most likable main character, as he seemed like a real person and more fully developed, though Liz is thoroughly enjoyable as a secondary character (new friend from England, works at the same hotel Cricket ends up working at).

Despite these flaws, there were some things I liked about the novel. My favorite element was the use of the book of Emily Dickinson poetry that Cricket's mom used as a diary when she spent a summer on the island, a book that Cricket ends up with because she has the same summer reading her mom did when she was in high school. Cricket tries to help her mother get out of her depression caused by her divorce from Cricket's father, trying to find clues in the diary to lure her out to Nantucket to meet someone and start dating again. I do like a little mother-daughter understanding/bonding.

The setting was also wonderful. I've only been to Nantucket once, but it made me want to go back for a vacation and just enjoy what the place has to offer. I can't wait for beach weather.

Even though there are certainly elements that turned me off from the book, Nantucket Blue has enough redeeming qualities to make it a decent summer read, provided you like drama and romance. I would recommend it for the lovely setting and the bit of mystery surrounding Cricket's mom's diary, but that's just me.

Disclosure: I got a e-book for review via NetGalley.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Book review: "Things I Can't Forget" by Miranda Kenneally

Title: Things I Can't Forget
Author: Miranda Kenneally
Publisher: Sourcebooks, 2013

In this third novel by Miranda Kenneally, she continues to write about teens in the Tennessee community of Hundred Oaks High, though this time it's summer and Cumberland Creek camp is the setting. Kate Kelly is a good girl who has always followed what she was told God wants for her life, until her best friend gets pregnant and needs her help with getting an abortion. Consumed with guilt, she heads off to her Christian camp where she is a counselor for the summer, hoping to find some sort of peace but not counting on it. What she does find is an unexpected friendship with classmate Parker and a very unexpected romance with an old friend. But she'll need to learn to forgive herself and let go of the past if she's going to be able to move forward.

Known for her teen romances that fuse sports with faith and personal struggles, Kenneally moves away from the sports aspect in this book and focuses on the rest. Kate used to play soccer, but her athleticism was almost completely taken away from her after tearing her ACL before the beginning of this book. She has to figure out what to do with herself and redefine herself without soccer, and without her best friend in her life.

There are a lot of great things about this book. I think it fills a niche in the YA market—a book examining belief while at the same time dealing with real issues. I feel like usually when I read books that talk about Christianity or religion, they are either super Christian with a clear message, only slightly touch on faith, or end up with the main character really not sure what they believe anymore. This is a refreshing take, for me, because it does deal with faith and religion, but also with issues like sex that confuse many young people if it clashes with what they've been taught. What I loved was how Kate looks at what she personally believes despite what others try to tell her, whether the "others" are the people at her church or her friends. In the end, she begins her journey toward figuring out her religious and moral beliefs. I could directly identify with her struggles, as I remember going through that myself, and I don't think you need to be a Christian in order to understand or relate.

There are a lot of subplots sprinkled throughout the novel, but they all tie in to what Kate is going through. Everything that happens to her contributes to her evolving worldview and makes her into a stronger person. I was also glad to see how much her father supports her in pretty much everything; at first it seems like he might be a bit controlling, but it becomes clear that Kate is wrong about what her dad wants for her. He just wants her to be happy, and I love that.

Though this isn't the best-written novel out there, it definitely has a place in today's culture. I would highly recommend this to teens who are dealing with this confusion, or anyone who enjoys teen romance with some depth. I'm looking forward to Kenneally's next book, Racing Savannah, out in December.

Disclosure: I got this e-book via NetGalley.
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