Monday, February 24, 2014

Totally Unrelated by Tom Ryan

At a little over a hundred pages, this is a quick read for sure. If you have read many of my reviews, you know that I love books about music and that's why I sought out this one - particularly since it involves Celtic music.

Neil is the member of a family Celtic band who has made quite a name for itself locally. His parents and siblings can all play multiple traditional Celtic instruments, but Tom can really only play guitar. He's tried the others, but could never master them. He tried dancing, too, like his younger twin sisters, but he is not that coordinated. To top it all off, he is the only one without red hair and freckled skin. Yes, Neil is a bit of an outsider in his own family.

As his family's annual summer tour gears up, Neil and his friend decide to form a band (not Celtic) to perform in a battle of the bands contest (ok, his friend had to practically beg him to do it). With the addition of a new cute girl as their lead singer, they are surprised with their own potential.

Now, I could go on but I'm afraid I will tell you the whole story (again, it's pretty short). Besides you will miss the humor and fun of following Neil through his two musical journeys.

For more info, check out the Evergreen Library catalog and the author's website.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

What are the odds of two people finding each other in such a large world with so many others? It is a rhetorical question, but it is kind of a miracle when it happens.

In their own ways, Eleanor and Park are set apart from the crowd. Park is the son of a Korean mother and an ex-military father. Park is not the tough, athletic guy his dad would like him to be. He prefers rock music, wearing black shirts and reading comics.

Eleanor is the new girl in school. Her red hair and unique way of dressing (second hand mostly) make her stand out and an easy target at school. She has recently moved back in with her mom and her horrible new step father after being abandoned at a family friend's house for over a year. Eleanor is very careful at home because her step father could explode at her at any time.

Call it fate or whatever you wish but on the first day of school, Eleanor has no where to sit on the bus except next to Park. It is not love at first sight - in fact it is avoid any contact at all on first sight and for several days after. It is only a small connection at first that breaks the barrier between them and it grows from there.

There are more complications than I am willing to spell out here. I will say that Eleanor's home life make it difficult for her to trust anyone and causes her to hesitate to let anyone see her for who she really is. For his part, Park is crazy about Eleanor and only hopes she will eventually see in herself what he sees in her.

Rainbow Rowell has created a story of two young people who need someone and unexpectedly find each other. I was particularly happy with the later stages of the story even as I cringed at the potential danger that could be coming. The story is set in the 1980s. Having been a teen myself then, I liked the many references to the time.

For more info, check out the Evergreen Library catalog and the author's site.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The F--- It List by Julie Halpern

I don't have a bucket list - you know, a list of things you want to accomplish before you 'kick the bucket.' It's not that I've done everything I have ever wanted to. I just don't feel the need to write these things down. Becca, on the other hand, has been making a list for a long time, but now is the time for her to act...

Becca has cancer. The prognosis for recovery is good, but why take chances? Knowing she will be sick and too weak to work on her list, she gives it to her best friend Alex to do some of it for her. 'Bucket list' is too morbid (especially since Alex knows Becca is not going to die), so they call it the F--- It List.

It's unfortunate that Alex went to the first day of school not knowing anything about Becca's condition. They had a falling out (over a guy) and had not spoken all summer. And Alex could have used her best friend since she was dealing with the sudden death of her father.

We follow Alex through her life coping with her father's death, her friend's cancer (and treatment which is sometimes worse than the disease) and Leo, a guy she may be dating but not exactly. The time with Leo makes Alex's life more complicated for many reasons, one in particular is that Alex feels guilty for having fun while Becca has lost her social life, her strength, her appetite and her beautiful hair. Alex loses herself in horror films dreaming of the day when she can make her own.

This story is not about completing items on the list. That occurs, but it does not drive the story as much as Alex's relationships with the people in her life.  Alex and Becca both need each other and it comes through in their conversations. They are funny, honest and sometime harsh.

For more info, check out the Evergreen library catalog and the author's site.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Somebody Up There Hates You by Hollis Seamon

Richie has cancer and he is going to die, soon. He's been fighting it for over half his life and is out of options. Now, he lives in a hospice (filled mostly with old people) waiting out his last days. He could be laying in bed dreading the end, but Richie is a teen after all. At this point, what does he have to lose? So he keeps life as interesting as possible for himself. It helps that another teen, Sylvie, is across the hall.

With Sylvie, there is the possibility of at least having a girl who likes him. Sylvie is way too pretty and out of his league - Richie knows there is no way he would have had a shot with her if they were both healthy. But now here she is, still beautiful in her frail state and hanging out with him.

Richie's mother has raised him all on her own refusing help from even her own mother. She is strong and has worked hard to give them both a good life. Her constant vigil in his room makes it difficult for Richie to be free, so one week when she is sick and not allowed in the hospital he takes advantage of it.

Two teens with little time left can create much chaos for their parents and the hospice staff. Even the staff who want Richie to be his 17 year old self are uneasy with some of his behavior (like a few Halloween pranks on hospital visitors). And Sylvie's dad might literally kill Richie if he is caught with Sylvie again.

This could have been an incredibly depressing story about a teen with cancer, but is instead a humorous look at a young man making the best of his situation. He is surrounded by people who love and support him even when he makes bad choices (you know, how all teens should be). Even though death is never far, his head is full of normal teen thoughts - fun, sex, childhood and his family.

For more info, check out the Evergreen library catalog and the author's site.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Ketchup Clouds by Annabel Pitcher

I'm not one of those people who look at the end of a book before I read it. I understand why people do that, but it would ruin the experience for me. That being said, I was tempted to peek at the end of this one because the suspense was almost too much.

'Zoe' tells her story in a series of letters to a randomly chosen death row inmate in Texas who she found on the internet. She feels connected to the inmate because she killed someone, too. And there's the suspense. We don't know who and we don't know how. We do know that it is one of the boys she is interested in.

Zoe (that is the fake name she gives the inmate, Stuart) wants to tell someone her story, but does not want to tell it all right away. She wants Stuart to understand how it happened, so she begins with how she met Max, the popular guy all the girls like, and Aaron, the guy she instantly connects with who seems to have a girlfriend already. She also talks about her constantly fighting parents, her ailing grandfather and her deaf baby sister.

Not knowing who is dead borders on excruciating at times. Zoe is not a killer, so how did it happen? Definitely a story that made me want to read it faster just so I could get some answers.

For more info, check out the Evergreen library catalog and the author's site.