Friday, July 19, 2013

Spark by Amy Kathleen Ryan

Spark  by Amy Kathleen Ryan is the second novel in the Sky Chasers trilogy, following Glow .  It had been a while since I had read the first book before I began this one, and I had forgotten a few details, but luckily it started to come back to me as I read.  The premise is this: several hundred years in the future, two ships have left a ruined Earth in search of a new planet.  The ideologies of the two ships are very different and some disagreement has arisen as to which will better serve the people who make it to New Earth.  In this second book, events in the previous novel have left only children to run one of the ships.  It is impossible not to see ghosts of Lord of the Flies in there somewhere and in some situations it is more pronounced than others. 
One thing I am really enjoying about this series is the exploration of the way religion affects the creation of a society.  Ms. Ryan has said in an interview that she was very interested in the way that the religion of the early Puritan settlers of America impacted the creation of a nation and its politics for centuries.  Will a more religious society or a more secular society offer the most to the future citizens of New Earth?
As I said about Glow, no character is all good or all bad.  Many of the characters do horrible things, but with the best of intentions.  Once these actions are set on course, the consequences are often unforeseen and irreversible.  How does one correct a mistake, large or small?  Can we ever forgive and move on from what many would consider the unforgivable?  One section I thought was particularly timely was this:
"'So we condone spying on our crew members?' Waverly spat, then coughed.  Her throat still felt scratchy and weak.
'We are all afraid,' Alia said simply.  'Fear makes people do terrible things.'
'Well, it shouldn't go against people's rights,' Waverly said stubbornly."
I read this book quickly and I was fully engrossed.  The third book in the series was initially set for release Summer 2013, but that date has been pushed back to January 7th, 2014.  I know exactly on what I'll be spending those much hoped for Amazon gift cards from Santa. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

A Little Bit Wicked by Kristin Chenoweth

I am not usually a big non-fiction reader, but every once in a while I like to read a bit about the real world.  I adore Kristin Chenoweth and while I never had the opportunity to see Wicked  while she was part of the cast, I love listening to her on the recording of the original Broadway cast.  Her book, A Little Bit Wicked was as wonderful as you might expect from seeing her in movies, on television, on talk shows and in interviews. 
In her memoir, Kristin Chenoweth reveals fun tidbits about herself such as her real name is Kristi, but she was advised to changed it to Kristin so that people would take her more seriously.  She also delves into her personal life, relationships and struggles.  Running through it all is the role Kristin's faith plays in her life.  There are a few snippets I would really like to share, if you don't mind too terribly:
Speaking about her grandmother's funeral:  "I never really knew how many friends she had until her funeral.  Lots of ladies from lots of faiths, each bearing a gift of lemon bars, shoofly pie, or Tater Tots hotdish because Jesus told us to feed each other, too.  (The one delicacy not available on the Upper West Side: church-lady cuisine.)"
I nearly died laughing when she told of questioning her mother as a child about how babies are made.  I'll leave that one for you to read for yourself.  It is precious.
When a former boyfriend mentions that he has become a father, he says, 'What are you in the end if you don't have a child.'  "As he walks away, I stand there feeling like I've just been bludgeoned with my own biological clock."  I love the way she says that.
I learned a lot about the process of creating a big Broadway show.  In workshops, the production is created and often changed.  "Lesson learned:  it's dangerous to be SuperGlued to anything in any show.  (Or in life.)  You have to let go of what's not working no matter how dearly you wish it would work."  She's right- that is good advice.
And then there is the little "fairy tale" she includes near the end of the book. 
She calls it The Princess and the Bogsnart.  
Oh, how I would love to type it out for you here word for word, but I won't do that to you.  Essentially, it is the story of how some men, Bogsnarts, will trick a young woman into believing he is a nice guy.  Then the Bogsnart  will pull the rug out from under her, saying something like, "It's a pity.  Such a beautiful evening and I'm stuck here with this ugly girl."  How awful!  But we've all known a Bogsnart, haven't we? 
She ends the tale with, "So remember, all my glittery princesses, we must never allow a bogsnart (or a prince, in fact) to tell us who we are, no matter how handsome his disguise, no matter how needy our own hearts.  Our best and truest refection is found in the eyes of those who love us." 
Isn't that wonderful?!  I borrowed this book from the library, but I'm considering buying my own copy just to have that one little section to reread myself and especially to read and reread to my daughter. 
I really did love this book.  If I were to point out any flaw it would be that the time line is a little screwy and the narrative feels a bit stream-of-consciousness.  Still, it was so much fun to read.  And I adore her tag line:  "Life's too short.  I'm not."  At 4'11", that's saying a lot, but what a big life she's had so far. 

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Jane by April Lindner

My favorite book has always been Jane Eyre  by Charlotte Bronte.  I struggled through most of the classics in high school because I didn't enjoy reading something that I didn't get to pick for myself.  Jane Eyre  was the exception.  I have read and reread it and I really do love it.  So many girls say, (insert syrupy sweet tone of voice here) "Oh Pride and Prejudice  is so romantic.  I just love Mr. Darcy."  And to an extent I agree with them, but it never quite captured me like Jane Eyre  did.  Jane is a character with just so much... well, character.  She has integrity and self-respect and while she knows that her prospects are not great, she still has high expectations for herself and the people around her.  THIS is the kind of role model we should be promoting for young women today.
And then I found Jane  by April Lindner.  This has been on my list for a while now and I'm so glad I finally read it.  Oh, it is just wonderful.  Jane  is a modern retelling of Jane Eyre  and it does not disappoint.  In this version, Jane is a young woman forced to drop out of Sarah Lawrence at the end of her freshman year when her parents die in a car crash.  Don't worry.  I'm not giving anything away that isn't stated in the first page or two.  Jane then goes to a nanny placement service and is hired to work for an insanely famous rock star, Nico Rathburn.  How perfectly can you see Mr. Rochester morphed into a tortured rock star with a shady past?
This book does not talk down to the reader and while it is considered a YA novel, it doesn't feel like one.  Jane is only 19, but she acts years older.  Also, she is the youngest character in the book, aside from Maddy, her charge, so it doesn't turn into some sad Jane-Eyre-in-high-school ridiculousness.  It was written to appeal to all fans of Jane Eyre not just teenage girls.  Just a disclaimer:  While this book is in the Young Adult genre, you might want to preview it before handing it to your twelve-year-old.  Some of the language is much more what one might expect from a rock star and there is an adult situation or two. 
I loved this book.  I borrowed it from the library, but I will soon be purchasing my own copy so that I can reread it whenever I like.  Of course the original is beautifully written and this contemporary version won't take it's place at the top of my metaphorical bookshelf, but I did truly enjoy it and I was pleasantly surprised.  Pick it up and tell me what you think.  Are you a fan of rewrites or should well enough just be left alone?

Friday, July 5, 2013

A Tangle of Knots by Lisa Graff

After seeing several book reviewers list A Tangle of Knots  by Lisa Graff as one of the top ten books to read this year, I added it to my summer reading list.  This one I read just for me, but my children would have loved it.  Centering around several different story lines, A Tangle of Knots  takes place in Poughkeepsie, New York.  This is a very special version of the world in which most people have a Talent.  These Talents can be anything from knot-tying to plant-watering or even spitting.  One eleven-year-old girl possesses the Talent of knowing exactly which kind of cake will be someone's favorite and the head of a home for orphaned girls is Talented in knowing exactly which family and which orphan go together. 
I also loved that between several chapters, the author includes recipes for some of the characters' perfect cakes:  Miss Malory's Peach Cake, Will's S'more Cake, Marigold's Lime Pound Cake and even one called Zane's Garlic Cake.  I'm not sure I'd like to try that last one, but it says it is "a cake that's not as terrible as it seems, on the surface, to be."
And finally the moral of the story is all wrapped up in one man's advice to Cady, the last orphan,
"'Just remember this,' he said. 'It's the way we deal with what Fate hands us that defines who we are.'"
That's good advice for all of us, young or old.
This book was a quick read and a lot of fun. I think my niece will love it so I've already put it on my Christmas list for her!  Shh...don't tell her.