Archive for the ‘Love’ Category

Clare and Aiden have 12 hours before she departs for Dartmouth in HelloGoodbyeNew Hampshire and he jets to Los Angeles to attend UCLA. The question that so many teens face but hasn’t been written much about in YA literature is what do they do. Having been dating for 2 years Aiden is of the impression that long distance romances can work and there are so many folks who have married their high school sweethearts. Clare, on the other hand, thinks that they should break up now, while on an up streak, rather than wait until it fizzles out over time and seeing each other on college breaks becomes awkward. However, Aiden, always the joker, hasn’t been keen on discussing this subject.

So, on their last night together in the suburbs of Chicago, Clare the anal one and list maker in the relationship, has created a list of places of importance to their relationship that they must visit before leaving for separate coasts. Aiden, the unromantic one of the duo, isn’t quite sure what occurred at some of these spots but he’s going along with Clare.

In the 12 hours from 6 PM to 6 AM the next day, Clare and Aiden come to a decision. Along with this, readers get a glimpse of both Aiden’s and Clare’s parents, who play a major role in how the teens react to their situation. Additionally, they get to know their best friends, Scottie and Stella, who also impact their decision.

ComebackSeaspmHello, Goodbye and Everything in Between is a great title because the book is a 12 hour roller coaster of emotions. Should they? Shouldn’t they? Saying goodbye to friends and family is tough even if it isn’t permanent.

I’ve been a fan of Jennifer E. Smith from The Comeback Season, to StatisticalProbabilityThe Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight to Hello, Goodbye and Everything in Between. While at the beginning of the book, it wasn’t my favorite, by the time I got to the end, it was high on the list (I think The Comeback Season will always be my favorite since it was my first (and her first) Smith book). You know what to expect with Smith. A great story. Great characters. A great ending. And possibly a teary eye at the end.

I’d put Jennifer E. Smith up there with Sarah Dessen, and new favorites Emery Lord and Morgan Matson.

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TheLittleParisBookshopLet me start of by saying The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George is not a guy book. I don’t normally segregate books by the gender of the reader, but in this case it’s the truth.

Jean Perdu (which means ‘lost’ in French) is truly lost. His lover, Manon, left him 21 years ago and he still hasn’t gotten over it. His apartment is devoid of furniture and he has a huge jigsaw puzzle on his floor, which he takes apart on completion and begins anew.

He lives in a small apartment building inhabited by a peculiar group of neighbors. One is a young and acclaimed writer, Max Jordan, who is hiding from his adoring fans, especially those expecting a new book which is not forthcoming. A new arrival is Catherine who has been in a loveless marriage for 20 years and has recently been thrown out by her husband with nothing but the clothes on her back. It is inevitable that Perdu and Catherine, two lost souls, would meet.

Perdu is a book seller (which is what attracted me to the book initially). His shop is a barge docked on the Seine and he considers it a Literary Apothecary. According to him, he can see into people’s souls and know exactly what book to prescribe to mend a broken heart or a broken soul.

For reasons you need to find out for yourself, Perdu impulsively pulls anchor and embarks upon a voyage. Of course you know it’s a voyage of self discovery. At the last minute, Max jumps on board and the two experience this life voyage together. As per the Publishers Weekly review, “Though George’s prose is sometimes a bit overwrought and the “physician, heal thyself” plot device has been done to death, her cast of engaging characters [on the river voyage and in the apartment building] keeps the story moving. Her sumptuous descriptions of both food and literature will leave readers unsure whether to run to the nearest library or the nearest bistro.” I agree, and the recipes she includes at the end of the book are an added bonus.

George’s prose do get a little bogged down, but there are some gems as well. Such as when Perdu is pondering his life,  “Where did the last twenty years go? The south is a vivd blue, Catherine. Your color is missing here. It would make everything shine all the more brightly.” Her discussion of literature is way beyond my comfort zone, both the real and the fictional literature. I much prefer her descriptions of the river towns the duo stop at and the quirky people that inhabit them.

I consider myself somewhat of a romantic but the story was a little over the top for me. Yes, we all have regrets and we’ve all suffered romantic heartbreaks, but to have put ones life on hold for 21 years seems a bit much to me.

The Little Paris Bookshop is an ode to love of the life long kind. I’m sure it exists and I wish I had experienced it as a young man. In some respects I’m jealous of Perdu. But in many others, I’m glad I’m not him. Your opinion?

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GoodbyeStrangerRebecca Stead, author of When You Reach MeLiar & Spy and First Light has penned another thoroughly enjoyable middle grade book in WhenYouReachMeGoodbye Stranger.

When Bridget Barsamian was eight years old, she got hit by a car. Skating down the Manhattan street ahead of her friend Tabitha, she turned to look back, and when she turned back she realized that a car was coming through the cross street and it was unavoidable that she and the car were about to meet. One year and four surgeries later, Bridget was as good as new, but she had changed. Every now and then when she saw a car coming she froze. Also, she no longer felt like a Bridget and shortened her name to Bridge. Lastly, when she was discharged from the hospital, a nurse told her “…You must have been put on this earth for a reason, little girl, to have survived.” The question that was stumping her, though, is what is that reason?

Bridge missed third grade but when sheFirstLight returned the following year for fourth grade, Tab introduced her to Emily and the threesome became the ‘set of three’ among the entire fourth grade class, a set that would remain in tact through seventh grade.

Fast forward to the third Monday of seventh grade. For some unknown reason, Bridge  wore a pair of black cat ears to school. While at first they felt odd, by Wednesday they became part of her ensemble. It is this year that is recounted in Goodbye Stranger. The book deals with some issues prevalent in the lives of today’s kids. While it follows the seventh grade escapades of Bridge, Tab and Emily, some of which are fun, it also delves into serious issues. It is during seventh grade that boys become a part of their lives when Bridge meets Sherm and Emily meets Patrick. Each must deal with the complicated feelings that surround boys; a boy–friend vs. a boyfriend. Another major story line recounts Sherm’s reaction when his grandfather leaves his wife of 50 years for another woman. Both lived with Sherm and the one moving out creates quite a hole in his life.

LiarAndSpyThe book also follows an anonymous person on Valentine’s Day (which is the title of each chapter dealing with her disillusionment) as she recounts the events leading up to it, her realization that some people are just downright mean and most likely not someone you want to be friends with, regardless of the fact that you are drawn to them.

The convergence of Bridge and Anonymous came as a surprise to me, although my daughter figured it out.

Goodbye Stranger is certainly a ‘coming of age’ story in that the girls must understand their feelings about friendship and love. They must also deal with a situation that they both know is wrong, but weigh friendship against rightness.

Rebecca Stead has populated Goodbye Stranger with some spectacular characters primarily Adrienne, the barista (would be boxer) in Bridge’s dad’s coffee bar, Celeste, Tab’s older sister, and Anonymous.

My one criticism? One significant issue, while handled realistically (probably/possibly), seemed to be minimized…in my mind anyway. Despite that, Goodbye Stranger is a fun read. Some authors write the same book over and over and then others, like Rebecca Stead, keep reinventing themselves, which only increases the anticipation for the next book as soon as you’ve finished the current one.

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There is just something so nice about a Jennifer E. Smith book. You go in knowing it’ll be fun and GeographyOfYouAndMeromantic and you smile all the way through, knowing love will triumph in the end. And so it goes with The Geography of You and Me. (This isn’t a spoiler because all her books are feel good books.)

My first exposure to Smith’s books, the one that got me hooked was The TheComebackSeasonComeback Season. It was sad at times but I loved it. So, start there and keep going. The Geography of You and Me is a tad like her previous book, The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight or how one moment can change everything.StatisticalProbability

In the current book, Lucy and Owen, who don’t really know each other are in a stuck elevator. There’s a power outage in New York City. It is completely dark. After being liberated, they spend the next 12 or so hours with each other, sleeping on the roof of their apartment building, looking at the stars.  Then, for some reason, fate sets in and they don’t see each other. Was it love? Was it nothing? Was there even a connection?

You’ll love the characters. You’ll love the teenage angst. You’ll love the plot.

I was thinking last night that some authors are so steady. Smith reminds me of Sarah Dessen. Their books are love stories. You know what’s coming but you don’t care. It’s not the destination. It’s the journey. You finish one and you can’t wait for the next one. Treat yourself to a fun read.

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StoriedLifeOfAJFikryI guess Book Page said best. The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry “…is as enchanting a book as you will read this year.” And so it is. Although it is a love story, it is NOT, I repeat, NOT chick lit. There is a cop in it, so guys, you can read it and not be embarrassed.

So, I said it is a love story but it is the love of a man and literature, the love of a man and a child, the love of a man and a woman. It is not false or mushy or contrived. It is genuine love.

I’m finding that less and less do I want to summarize the plot of some of these wonderful books that I’ve recently read. Even a short synopsis may taint your opinion before opening the cover. So instead, the format is interesting. Each chapter begins with A. J.’s short analysis of a short story, because to him good short stories are the ultimate in writing achievements. Then it goes on to tell the story, somehow relating it to the critique.

A. J. Fikry is the owner of Island Books on Alice Island, Washington State, thus the book connection. That is the extent of my synopsis. You’ll have to take my word and the word of most of the critics who have reviewed the book. It’s worth reading. As a matter of fact, I’m toying with the idea of buying a copy (I borrowed my library’s copy). That’s how much I liked it. It’s on the top of my list of 2014 adult books. I think teens might like it as well. The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry. After you read it, let me know what you think.

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DeathOfSantiniGosh, what to say about The Death of Santini by Pat Conroy. I could and will say that if you read The Great Santini, you’ve read some of this Conroy biography, but certainly not all of it. I could say I liked the book but it’s not a book you ‘like’, it’s a book you get sucked into because there’s so much raw emotion going on…love, hate, racism, abuse, family, sorrow, joy. When I first started reading The Death of Santini, I was appalled at Don Conroy’s treatment of his wife and children and no one would have faulted me for putting the book down. But on I went, to the very last page.GreatSantini

The Death of Santini is a raw book, not filled with flowery language. It is the factual recounting of Pat Conroy’s life as the son of Don and Peg Conroy, the union of an Irish Catholic from Chicago and a poor southern girl from the Appalachian mountains whose mother abandoned her family at the height of the depression, leaving them with nothing. Pat and his six siblings moved around a lot, the life of a Marine family, were the recipients of beatings from an abusive father and the fallout from this was everlasting and widespread and powerful.

I’m not sure why Conroy felt compelled to write this book since it’s predecessor, though fiction, pretty well recounted many incidents in the current book. It felt like he had to purge himself of his demons, his guilt at standing idly by while siblings were abused, his hatred, or more accurately love-hate emotion towards his father, his adoration of his beautiful but surely imperfect mother, his dives into the depths of depression, his distance from his sister.

But as you read, you see Conroy’s problem. Children love their parents, typically, yet both his parents, to some extent, were abusive. What is a boy and then a man supposed to feel? Two of his siblings were spiraling towards mental illness, yet his parents refused to acknowledge it and Pat was powerless.

As Conroy introduces you to his northern and southern relatives you learn so many things: (1) abuse, while maybe not genetically transferred, certainly runs in families and is transferred to following generations, nor is it limited to liberally or conservatively thinking people, (2) racism is not only a Southern emotion, (3) the impact of dysfunctional families is widespread and deep.

I’ll conclude by telling you, as I did in the beginning, I’m not sure I ‘liked” The Death of Santini. I’m glad I read it and will highly recommend it to others, but did I like it? Hmmmm. No. If you’re looking for a literary masterpiece with flowery language, I suggest you look elsewhere. The Death of Santini is, at times, disjointed (as is this review) and repetitious within itself. However, it has a cast of interesting, unimaginable characters that some of the most able fiction writers could never conceive. It didn’t make me laugh. It didn’t make me cry. Coming from a ‘relatively’ normal family, I think it made me sit there in disbelief.

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There is something so sad about If He Had Been With Me by Laura Nowlin. Having lived IfHeHadBeenWithMea good portion of my life already, it saddens me to see or read of wasted time, things that should be that aren’t. Nowlin’s book describes just that. Autumn and Finny lived next door to each other since birth. Their moms are best friends and it was always their hope that their children would take their own best friendship one step further. But you know how middle school and high school blur the ‘what should be’ with cliques and odd friendships and boyfriends and girlfriends, so that what should be doesn’t happen or is delayed.

So it is with Autumn and Finny. They get sidetracked. The sad part is that one word from either of them would get them back on track, but that doesn’t happen. And so we follow Autumn and her friends from eighth grade through high school graduation, the getting togethers and the breakups and the sex and the drinking…and mostly Autumn’s epiphany about Finny and her regrets.

And while If He Had Been With Me is nicely written and the main characters come to life, there were things that bothered me, although probably minor things. (1) None of these high school kids had summer jobs. They basically spend the summers bumming around, going to the mall, and drinking a bit. These are the cream of the crop, honors students. No summer jobs? It seems odd to me. (2) So little talk about college and where everyone should go so that they could maintain their relationships. Honors students are obsessed with college. Not these, however.  (3) The ending. I won’t tell you about it, but I couldn’t get my hands around it. Sorry. Some may find it sweet. Some may ask why. Some may groan. I was the guy who asked ‘why’? Why that? Couldn’t it have been different? The whole thing doesn’t ring true. (I guess your opinion might help me accept the ending…or not.)

I admit something about the book compelled me to keep reading, to find out what disaster occurred because you know from the beginning that a disaster occurs, but you don’t know why. Maybe I could have gotten there faster. Maybe I was tired of Autumn and Finny’s reticence to make the move. I don’t know.

You might say after reading this that I’m ambivalent about the book and as I write this, I guess I am. Don’t get me wrong. I liked it, it’s just that I was bothered by the things I mentioned earlier. Was anyone else bothered?

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