Monthly Archives: May 2014

The Kiss of Deception, by Mary E. Pearson

ImageToday is Lia’s wedding day, and she has no intention of attending. Princess Arabella Celestine Idris Jezelia and her lady-in-waiting, Pauline, manage to slip away just before she is forced to wed an unseen prince. They gallop away to a coastal town, shedding the bridal costume as they go. Once they arrive in Pauline’s home town, both young women begin working as barmaids under the watchful eye of Berdi, the owner. Lia works hard and tries to learn the flirty ways of the other barmaids, particularly after two handsome strangers show up.  The princess has begun to relax and believe that her disguise has been successful, but she does not know that one of these men is her jilted prince and the other is an assassin sent to kill her.

The first half of this novel is very nice. It’s just the kind of story that I enjoy most: a historical romance with a whiff of intrigue and a dash of the supernatural. The author shows tremendous talent by skillfully writing in a genre so different from her excellent sci-fi series that opens with The Adoration of Jenna Fox! Mary Pearson tells the tale mostly from Lia’s viewpoint, with an occasional chapter from one of the two men. Just past the halfway point, though, Pearson smacks the reader right between the eyes with a terrific twist, and what was a good book becomes an exceptional novel. The writing becomes more intense, and the story takes on more emotional complexity. I cannot tell you a single thing about it without giving away too much, but I will say that I was so sorry to reach the end of this 500-page novel, and the cliffhanger ending left me so happy that this is only the first book of the “Morrighan Chronicles.”

Very highly recommended. The Kiss of Deception will be released in July, so plan accordingly!

Disclaimer: I read an advance reader copy of this book. Opinions expressed are solely my own and do not reflect those of my employer or anyone else.

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What I Thought Was True, by Huntley Fitzpatrick

ImageGwen Castle has made a few mistakes in her life, and when you live in a place as self-contained as Seashell Island, everybody knows all about it. Gwen’s family belongs to the year-round crowd, those who clean, cook, and landscape for the wealthy families who arrive in the summer. When Gwen’s mom is not reading bodice busters, she cleans houses. Her estranged father runs a seafood restaurant where Gwen is part of the staff. Her cousin, Nic, lives with them and has been in love with Gwen’s best friend ever since they can all remember. They all take care of her little brother, Emory, especially Gwen. Things may not be great, but at least they’re predictable, consistent, and just as they should be.

Enter Cassidy Somers, Gwen’s big mistake. He’s supposed to be part of the summer crowd, but here he is mowing lawns—right next to the house where Gwen has a job caring for an elderly woman. No matter how rude she is to him, Cassidy keeps hanging around, reminding her of the last time she saw him and he made her a laughingstock in front of all his friends. Well, Gwen has learned her lesson, and she knows now that the islanders and the wealthy kids just don’t mix, and they never will. Still, she does love to watch Cass swim with the team.

Huntley Fitzpatrick writes a great teen romance. Her first novel, My Life Next Door, is probably my favorite contemporary teen romance ever, and that’s saying something for this teen book selector who reads lots of young adult novels. This new book is not quite up to that level, but it is also warm and sweet, with relatable characters and complex family relationships. There is a small amount of foul language in the book, as well as non-graphic sex.

For those of us who prefer to hide in the mediocre status quo rather than leap into the unknown, Fitzpatrick reminds us that life can be surprising, and that sometimes we can’t see that what we have always believed is not always what’s true. Recommended for older teens and adults.

Disclaimer: I read a library copy of this book. Opinions expressed are solely my own and do not reflect those of my employer or anyone else.

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Landline, by Rainbow Rowell

ImageGeorgie is a TV comedy writer in Los Angeles, working alongside her best friend, Seth. They’ve been partners since high school, and her husband, Neal, has learned to deal with it. Neal stays home and takes care of their two daughters, Alice and Noomi, until the Christmas that Georgie tells Neal that she can’t go with them to his mother’s house in Omaha because she and Seth have to write four scripts for the new show that will be the big break they’ve always wanted. Neal takes the girls and leaves, and through a series of strange occurrences, Georgie and Neal can never connect after that, although Georgie is able to reach the girls several times. Is Neal doing this on purpose? Wait, did he just leave her for good?

Georgie doesn’t want to go to her own empty house, so she ends up staying at the house where she grew up, along with her flirty mother, whose new husband is only three years older than Georgie, and his daughter, Heather. Something strange is happening on the landline phone in her childhood bedroom, and suddenly, Georgie’s driven, Hollywood life goes screeching off into a ditch. Because of Neal’s silence, she is forced to take a hard look at the choices she’s made, not just for herself, but for Neal and the girls, as well.

Rainbow Rowell raises some terrifying questions in this engrossing novel, such as: If you could put your finger on the moment in your life that is the crossroads, would you make a less selfish choice and change your life forever? Would you do it if you knew that you would suffer, but the ones you loved would be happier? What is a marriage, and why did you marry the person you’re with? Do you even make conscious decisions at all, or do you just go along with the path of least resistance?

I’ve read all four Rainbow Rowell novels now, and this one brought to light a particular talent of hers: Ms. Rowell writes completely loveable male characters. Oh, sure, she can write an ogre like Eleanor’s stepfather, too, but her quiet heroes are wonderful in a way that only men can be.  Lincoln, in Attachments, is so tentative that you want to give him a pep talk, but he is kind to his mother and even to the old woman he shares his dinner with. Park is amazing (and has parents that make you proud to be a parent), and Levi, in Fangirl, is adorable. In Landline, you’re so convinced of Neal’s goodness that you don’t know what you want Georgie to do. Well, you do want a happy ending, but even though Georgie is the main character, you’re pretty sure that Neal is a much better person than she is. He’s so worthy of her love, but you’re not sure she’s worthy of him. That is such an achievement for a writer! Georgie is a great gal, but the reader’s emotions are conflicted because the male character is so noble.

This is, at its most basic, a novel about marriage—marriage as the most fundamental, life-changing relationship that it is possible to have. Georgie realizes that she has taken her marriage for granted, just because it’s so easy to do that when another person ceases to exist as “other,” and instead becomes intertwined into the self. Rowell’s gift for dialogue shines here, but she also has a couple of beautiful and witty passages that I’m dying to quote for you, but I read an advance reader copy, so I can’t do that. I highly recommend the book for adults and older teens. If you’re married, it will make you want to go hug your spouse. If you’re not married, it will make you want to skip over the cool guys or the gorgeous guys and look for the good guys.

*Coming in July, 2014. If you plan to borrow it from the library, get in line now.

Disclaimer: I read an advance reader copy of this book, provided by McMillan Publishers. Opinions expressed are solely my own and do not reflect those of my employer or anyone else.

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The Martian, by Andy Weir

MartianMark Watney’s team watched him die on the surface of Mars. A metal spike sliced into his chest during a dust storm, and the other astronauts were forced to leave him before their vehicle flipped over and they would all be stranded on Mars forever.

In reality, though, Mark wasn’t dead. When he regained consciousness later, he was the lone human being on the uninhabitable surface of Mars. He only had enough food to last a short while, and he had no way to contact Earth. Back home, they were holding a memorial service for him while he was using his wildly resourceful brain to figure out how to use the Thanksgiving Day dinner potatoes to grow a crop in the sterile Mars dust.

On Earth, NASA personnel scramble through layers of bureaucracy, hungry media types, urgent deadlines, and fear of failure. Meanwhile on Mars, Watney battles to find oxygen, conserve water, ration food, and endure the endless disco music and ‘70s television left behind by a colleague. His adventures are by turns engrossing, amusing, and terrifying. Mark’s good humor and amazing powers of invention make this survival tale warmly human.

Although I am probably not the target audience for this novel (*cough*guys*cough*), the humor and MacGyver-esque elements make it much more accessible than most space-type science fiction stories. Did I hear that the movie rights had already been sold? If not, they’re missing a great opportunity for a blockbuster film. But, oh, the math! There is so much math, especially in the beginning, that I tended to skim those parts. However, if you are a NASA nerd, this book is for you. I happen to know one, so I put the book right into his hands.

Disclaimer: I read a library copy of this book. Opinions expressed are solely my own and do not reflect those of my employer or anyone else.

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Marcus Sedgwick

ImageWhen I posted a breathlessly admiring review of Midwinterblood on January 26th, just hours before it won the Printz Award, I had no idea that I would be able to meet its author, Marcus Sedgwick, just a few months later. My friend, Danielle, emailed me a couple of weeks ago and asked if I would like to go see him at Quail Ridge Books (support your local, independent bookstore!!), and I said, “Yes! Yes! Yes!” I knew that he had a new book coming out, too, and when She Is Not Invisible arrived at the library the day before his visit, I took it home and read as much as I could before his presentation, and then finished it the next day.

Mr. Sedgwick sat down with us and talked in that charming British accent that makes Americans swoon. (Why is that?) He told us that his latest book helped him to work out his curiosity about coincidences, as well as his obsession with the number 354. If you look closely at She Is Not Invisible, you will see that every chapter title has words with three, five, and four letters. One four-page section is written entirely in words with those same numbers. Even the dedication to his daughter, Alice, has two 3-5-4 sequences. The characters in the book also run into this number continually.

ImageThe main character, Laureth, takes her younger brother, Benjamin, from England to New York— without their mother’s knowledge— on a hunch that they might find their father there. She has no idea where he is, but he hasn’t been answering her texts, and she is worried that her parents’ squabbling may mean that he is doing more than just research for his next book. As risky as it is for any sixteen-year-old to travel to another country, this trip is even more complicated by the fact that Laureth is blind.

Sedgwick related his experiences while doing research at the school for the blind in England. He got to know many of the students well, and when he asked them what bothered them most about dealing with sighted people, they said that it was when people treated them as if they were invisible. It was not uncommon for them to have had sighted people talk to the person beside them about them, as if they were not there or could not hear. Hence, the name of the book.

Does coincidence have meaning? Do certain numbers have universal significance? Sedgwick delves into Jungian psychology, physics, and the lives of writers in order to investigate his fascination. She Is Not Invisible is carefully crafted, mysterious, and appropriate for anyone twelve and up. It will make you think.

ImageMy heart, however, still belongs to Midwinterblood. As a librarian, I rarely buy books, and when I do, I have usually read them already and know that they are the cream of the crop. I happily purchased a copy of Midwinterblood with the thick, gold Printz medal on the front and chatted with Marcus Sedgwick as he signed the black title page with a silver pen. It is now sitting on the “signed editions” shelf of my bookcase. I can’t wait to read it again!

Disclaimer: I read a library copy of She Is Not Invisible. Opinions expressed are solely my own and do not reflect those of my employer or anyone else.

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