Book: Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick, Blackstone Audio, 2008
Book Info: Audible Purchase. Running time: 7 hrs, 22 mins. Read by: Ray Porter.
Rating: 4 / 5 Stars
Listening to Matthew Quick’s The Good Luck of Right Now recently made me want to listen to the Silver Linings Playbook audiobook. I am already a big fan of the film, but thought it was time I circle back with the source material. And whoa, I never knew the book was so completely different. Reading Quick’s book gave me additional insight into the characters, and basically a completely new story. I can’t help feeling that if you love the book and then see the movie you will be disappointed because the tone is so different, but I still think both are successful in their own way. SLP features Quick’s signature quirky style and lovable misfit characters. Now that I’ve read three of his five books I’m on a mission to complete my Quick syllabus.
I’m sure you are all familiar with the book or the movie, so I won’t bore you with a long synopsis. SLP is about Pat Peoples, a man looking for his own happy ending after some troubled times. He’s finally home after spending a few years in a mental health facility for some apart time, and life has moved on without him. He wants his estranged wife Nikki back, but meanwhile is on a self-improvement mission to make himself worthy of her. He wants to impress his English teacher wife by reading the classic books she teaches, but is frustrated by their sad endings:
SLP book vs. movie:
- Pat Solitano is Pat Peoples in the book
- The Pat-Tiffany relationship is more friendly than romantic in the book. Also, book Tiffany is a little older than Pat (Jennifer Lawrence is 23 vs. Bradley Cooper’s 39)
- The dance performance is not really a competition in the book.
- Pat spends years in the mental health facility (the bad place) in the book, vs. 8 months in the movie
- Pat does not remember what he did to land in the mental health facility in the book until the end, while movie Pat is very aware.
- Pat’s relationship with his father is much warmer in the movie.
- Pat’s trigger song in the book is Kenny G’s Songbird, while it’s Stevie Wonder’s My Cherie Amour in the movie (fun fact: Quick wanted My Cherie Amour as the song in the book but couldn’t land the rights)
Returning to the book, my heart went out to Pat who is trying so hard to be worthy of his wife. As the reader you want Pat to move on, but he is so determined to better himself through his obsessive workouts and reading lists. His workout regimen is pretty inspiring actually. Football is also a big part of the story, and Pat gets reacquainted with friends old and new through tailgate parties and watching the Eagles play.
Quick does a great job of illustrating Pat’s troubled mind and showing his coping strategies. Some of his episodes are hard to swallow, but the humor mixed in keep the tone light. There is a hopeful quality to Quick’s books, such as Pat hoping to find that silver lining in the clouds. I do enjoy Quick’s take on mental illness and the respectful way he portrays his characters. And after reading the book, I’m even more impressed with Bradley Cooper’s portrayal of Pat.
I enjoyed watching the friendships and family relationships evolve over the course of the book. Pat and Tiffany in particular have a unique friendship where they seem to be the only ones who understand what the other is going through. Their relationship is interesting to follow and it’s great to see such a satisfying non-romantic relationship develop.
Ray Porter performs the audiobook and this is my first experience with his narration. I have listened to three of Quick’s book though, and his writing translates very well to audio in general. Similar to Bradley Cooper’s interpretation of Pat, Porter’s voice is sincere and hopeful. Porter uses different voices and accents for the characters but doesn’t overdo it, and he makes the audiobook even more entertaining. The 7-hour audiobook flew by. Take a listen:
If you liked the movie Silver Linings Playbook, I think you’ll be really interested to check out the book it’s based on. Did you read the book before seeing the movie? What did you think of the adaptation?
Mailbox Monday is a weekly event where we share our latest book arrivals. Link up and find new mailboxes to stalk at the Mailbox Monday blog! Hope you all had a great week- I can’t complain. Spring has definitely sprung in my neck of the woods. It always takes me a little while to get used to daylight saving time though. On to the books!
Screw Everyone by Ophira Eisenberg – This is a humorous memoir performed by the author/comedian, and it’s been optioned for a film. Thanks Audible!
Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham – Borrowed from the library. I’m glad I get to listen to this one to hear Lauren Graham’s performance.
Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson – Excited to snag this daily deal!
The Secret Side of Empty by Maria E. Andreu – Lovely book about an undocumented immigrant. I’ll have a review up this week. Thank you, Running Press!
Summer on the Short Bus by Bethany Crandell – Described as a non-PC YA Contemporary. Received from Running Press for a blog tour. Thanks!
The Lemon Grove by Helen Walsh – I like the cover on this one…so summery. It’s about a married woman who falls for her teenage step-daughter’s boyfriend. Scandalous!
The Other Language by Francesca Marciano – This is a book of short stories that take place in exotic locales, like Venice, Greece, and India. Looks good!
The Last Time I Saw You by Eleanor Moran – A woman grapples with her college friends’ death and revisits the past.
Road to Somewhere by Kelley Lynn & Jenny S. Morris – A sister-roadtrip to LA for a singing competition takes a detour to their grandparents’ ranch in Texas.
Torn Away by Jennifer Brown – A girl loses her family in a tornado and moves in with her surviving relatives.
What’s new in your mailbox?
Book: Faking Normal by Courtney C. Stevens, HarperAudio, February 2014
Book Info: Audible purchase, Running time: 7 hrs, 45 minutes. Performed by: Emma Galvin. Also available in hardcover or e-book, 336 pages from HarperTeen
Faking Normal is Courtney C. Stevens’ debut novel, and it’s one I’ve had on my radar for a few months since I’m a realistic fiction fan. It’s about a girl dealing with the aftermath of a traumatic event, and how she copes, and who she can turn to in her darkest hours. The author explains it much better here:
We piece together a mystery in Faking Normal. We know that Alexi is hurting from an event that happened over the summer. We can see her hurt herself, and avoiding social events, but we don’t know why. Alexi keeps it all inside, like the title says, and can’t confide in her friends or family. Help comes from an unlikely source in the form of Bodee, a boy who is also suffering a great deal. Even though his pain is also so raw, or maybe because of that, he sees through Alexi’s façade and is able to get through to her the way that no one else can.
Though I haven’t been in Alexi’s specific situation, it felt to me that her behavior was realistic given the circumstances. We all have things we keep to ourselves, and the pain of Alexi’s secret felt very real. My heart went out to her, wanting her to reach out to someone for help, but understanding she was not physically or mentally ready to do so. She cuts as a coping mechanism, and another source of comfort are the lyrics the mysterious “Captain Lyric” leaves for Alexi on her desk at school.
Alexi’s friendship with Bodee is one of my favorite parts of the book. Sometimes people are there for you right when you need him, and Bodee is so sweet and careful with Alexi that he makes her feel truly safe.
I picked up the audiobook of Faking Normal, because I saw that one of my favorite narrators Emma Galvin performs it. Galvin does well with a variety of genres, but I think she’s particularly successful with action packed reads like Divergent. That said, Galvin connects with the characters and makes Alexi’s pain feel real. Galvin uses a Southern accent to go with the book’s setting, and makes both the male and female voices sound distinct. Lyrics play an important part in the narrative, so this book is probably just as powerful in print. Check out an audio sample:
Faking Normal is a powerful, emotional read along the same vein as Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. Alexi’s story arc is satisfying even though everything is not completely tied up at the end. Looking forward to reading more by this author.
Book: The Good Luck of Right Now by Matthew Quick, Harper Audio, February 2014
Book Info: Audible Purchase. Contemporary Romance. Running time: 7 hrs, 51 mins. Read by: Oliver Wyman. Also available in hardcover from Harper, 355 pages.
Rating: 4 / 5 Stars
Matthew Quick’s latest book, The Good Luck of Right Now, is a coming of age about a man learning to live on his own after his mother’s death. Bartholomew is pushing 40 but has missed a lot of social milestones, like making friends, having a drink with a girl at a bar, or getting a job. He’s working on his personal growth strategy by writing letters to Richard Gere, an actor his mother admired.
Like Quick’s other books, The Good Luck of Right Now is offbeat and filled with quirky characters, with a focus on mental health, religion, and personal discovery. It’s happy, sad, heartwarming, strange, and very entertaining.
Bartholomew Neil’s story plays out through his letters to Richard Gere. He spends his time going to church, talking with family friend, the recently “defrocked” Father McNamee, and studying up on Buddhism at the library. His crush on the “Girlbrarian” is another reason that Bartholomew needs a lot of study time.
Bartholomew also has an angry voice inside of him that eats at him and he has a lot to work through. Bartholomew’s grief counselor wants him to work on his self-improvement goals, and to be more independent. He meets a kindred spirit at a support group. Max is grieving his beloved cat, and his Tourette’s means the f-word appears almost every other word in his scenes. In what Bartholomew would call synchronicity, it turns out Max is the girlbrarian’s brother.
The action shifts from Philadelphia to Canada when the group of misfits leave town on an important cat/dad finding mission.
The title plays very much into the philosophy of the story, and refers to the flip side of bad luck. Bad, terrible things occur to the characters in the book, and Bartholomew’s mother taught him to put a positive spin on bad luck. Maybe their bad luck means someone else will have good fortune. It’s a theme that comes up time and again.
I listened to the audiobook, performed by Oliver Wyman. Wyman does an outstanding job with the narration, and really inhabits the characters. His Bartholomew is kind and sincere, but Wyman also brings that angry voice to life as well. I also really enjoyed his voice for the cat obsessed, foul-mouthed Max. The book is so cinematic in feel like Quick’s Silver Linings Playbook and benefits from Wyman’s skilled narration.
Though this book is written with an adult audience in mind, I think that it definitely has YA appeal, with its unconventional coming of age story. I really liked this offbeat story, and since there is a movie in the works, I’m already trying to cast it in my head. I hope Richard Gere makes a cameo at least! If you like quirky, heartwarming books about road trips, mental illness, and self-discovery, or Matthew Quick’s other books, this one might be right up your alley.
Rock It is the first book in the New Adult Rule Breakers 4-book series by Jennifer Chance. Rock It is about what happens when a girl’s dreams about a rock star become reality years later when her PR firm is hired to work with him. If you like bad boys, rock stars, and new adult books, this is the series for you.
Rock It is fun, escapist romance. Lacey has obsessed over rock frontman Dante Falcone since she was sixteen, making scrapbooks, writing him letters, and seeing him in concert. Now it’s six years later and she has a job as a junior talent agent and has to be Dante’s handler on tour. She is career driven and needs to remain professional though her rock fantasy has come to life.
Author Jennifer Chance also writes the historical YA Maids of Honor series under the name Jennifer McGowan, and this is her first foray into the contemporary NA world.
The first book in the Rule Breakers series is fun and flirty, with a relatable hook. It’s easy to connect to Lacey’s teenage obsessions and imagine what would happen if you came face to face with your idol. There are some embarrassing moments for Lacey, though she tries to hold it together as best she can.
Dante is not a typical bad boy rocker, or maybe he’s just ready to settle down a little. He’s achieved all his rock star dreams and aspires to something more. Seeing Lacey’s enthusiasm, fresh ideas and belief in him makes him think he can take his career to the next step. Plus, she seems to get him like no one else does.
There’s a little dramarama from Lacey’s agency to create some angst in the story. But it’s refreshing that there aren’t any third parties in the romance.
Rock It is a fast, enjoyable read, and I liked that workplace and career drama was a focus as well as the romance. And I’m a sucker for music-themed rocker books, what can I say. The next book, Fake It, is due out in July and focuses on Lacey’s friend Anna. Hopefully we well get to check in with Lacey and Dante in the next book as well. Rock It is on sale now.
Here’s a sneak peak of Rock It from Random House Loveswept. It’s a scene when Lacey sees Dante on stage and they share a moment:
Dante Falcone, Rock God (Excerpt 1)
Dante Falcone was clad in head-to-toe black leather that hugged and cupped and stretched over his body as intimately as a second skin. His jacket was ripped open, his gleaming chest showing one of the reasons why he was so popular in a multimedia world—Dante wasn’t just an amazing singer, he had the body of a male model, his face and physique apparently undamaged from eight hard years of living on the road. As Lacey fought to keep her footing despite the mass of bodies behind her, pushing her ever closer to the stage, she drank in the sight of him. He was all dark eyes and beautiful mouth, his heavenly voice now practically screaming into his mike as his eyes roamed the stadium, drinking in the adulation like a king. Or a god. Or an angel.
He was worth every penny anyone ever paid him, she thought fleetingly, just as one particularly shrill voice screeched in her ear, “Dante, I love you!”
Then Lacey felt a brutal push against her hip. She stumbled forward, crushed up against the stage for a moment until she straightened, desperately trying to regain her footing even as fans surged over and around her, spilling onto the stage.
The horde pulsed as the security guards finally moved into action, and Lacey’s hands balled hard into fists as another frantic girl tried to climb up to the stage by way of Lacey’s back. Someone was going to die if this kept up, but just as her eyes swept the stage, she saw Dante Falcone staring down at her. And only at her.
And it totally wasn’t a daydream this time.
He really was looking at her. The pressure of his gaze seemed to clear a space around her . . . Well, that and the security guard, who’d finally made his way across the floor, opening a path as the crowd fell back.
“You okay?” the burly man shouted as he stopped in front of her.
“I’m fine—thank you!” Lacey’s words were automatic, her gaze still fixed on Dante. He moved in perfect rhythm with the music as he watched her, smiling between the words of the song, letting her know that he’d seen her distress and had somehow come to her aid.
Lacey shook her head, hard, to clear it. Dante couldn’t have any idea who she was—much less care—but he was staring at her as if it was she who had captured his attention, she who held his world. A distant, vague part of her mind registered the beefy security guy at her side, knew that she had just been written into the night’s act as the fans screamed their approval and her face flashed all over the Jumbotrons. But none of that mattered, not right then.
With one soft smile, Dante Falcone had made her feel wonderfully, sweetly, hopelessly sixteen, all over again.
Follow the tour and win some awesome prizes including:
An iPod Shuffle (open to US entrants only, if international entrant is chosen they’ll receive a $50 gift card to the eTailer of their choice).
Additionally, Random House is sponsoring the tour with a $50 e-giftcard, and swag including a Loveswept mug and tote (open to US entrants only).
Click here to enter —> Rafflecopter giveaway
Check back tomorrow for an exclusive guest post from author Jennifer Chance!
Book: Scarlet (Lunar Chronicles #2) by Marisssa Meyer, Macmillan Audio, Feb. 2013
Audiobook Info: YA Fantasy, library audiobook, Audio length: 11 hours 10 minutes, read by Rebecca Soler.
About the Book:
Cinder, the cyborg mechanic, returns in the second thrilling installment of the best-selling Lunar Chronicles. She’s trying to break out of prison – even though if she succeeds, she’ll be the Commonwealth’s most wanted fugitive. Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit’s grandmother is missing. It turns out there are many things Scarlet doesn’t know about her grandmother or the grave danger she has lived in her whole life.
When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to her grandmother’s whereabouts, she is loath to trust this stranger, but is inexplicably drawn to him, and he to her. As Scarlet and Wolf unravel one mystery, they encounter another when they meet Cinder. Now, all of them must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen Levana, who will do anything for the handsome Prince Kai to become her husband, her king, her prisoner.
I read Cinder over two years ago, so I’m a little behind at reading this sequel. I kind of like waiting until I have a stockpile of sequel books to read so the cliffhangers don’t get to me too bad. And now I get to read Scarlet and Cress back to back! Fairytale retellings are not usually my thing but maybe the SciFi element of this series makes it more appealing to me. Strong characters, fast paced action, romance, and a creative setting make this a standout series.
I was worried that this installment features a whole new cast, since I liked Cinder so much in the first book. But, there is still a lot of Cinder in this book, and the new characters fit right in. Scarlet features a cool twist on the Little Red Riding Hood story, with a tortured love interest in Wolf, and the mystery of the missing grandmother.
Though it’s been a while since I read the first book, it was easy to catch up. The book picks up where Cinder left off, with Cinder locked up. She meets a cocky spaceship “captain” Han Solo-type named Thorne in jail and they become partners in crime.
Scarlet is a fearless new character. She is self-reliant and kick-ass and just wants to save her beloved grandmother. She doesn’t know if she can trust Wolf, and the reader is understandably wary of him too, considering the source material. But at the same time this bad boy romance works, even though this bad boy is a member of a wolf pack.
The action alternates between Cinder’s and Scarlet’s stories, so we learn a lot more about the political developments and backstories through each character’s eyes. Other fan favorite characters from Cinder also feature in the book, including Prince Kai and Cinder’s android pal Iko.
I loved Rebecca Soler’s performance in the Cinder audiobook, so I’m sticking with that format for the series. Soler gets to play more with accents in this installment since Scarlet’s story is set in France. Her accents are subtle yet effective and help make the character’s voices distinct. Soler’s Scarlet voice lines up with the character’s headstrong and impulsive personality. Soler continues to do a solid job with her performance, and makes the story more intense and exciting. I have the Cress audiobook in hand happily and can’t wait to dive in.
Overall this series is a lot of fun. We are halfway through the four-book series and I can’t wait to see where it’s all going. I liked Scarlet a little less than Cinder, maybe because I missed the Kai/Cinder dynamic in this book, and there are so many balls in the air. We learn more pieces of the puzzle in this book, but I still feel a little in the dark. The new characters bring a freshness to the series though, and I look forward to seeing how the relationships develop. If you’ve been putting off reading the Lunar Chronicles, it’s a good time to catch up on this inventive series! Cress is out now, and the final book Winter is due out in 2015.
Listen to the first chapter of Scarlet, performed by Rebecca Soler:
Mailbox Monday is a weekly event where we share our latest book arrivals. Link up and find new mailboxes to stalk at the Mailbox Monday blog!
In the last few days we’ve gotten lots of rain, which we desperately need. Good time to stay indoors with a good book! I don’t usually get a lot of books in the mail, but of course this week I got several wet and soggy packages. Luckily the books inside were fine though.
Cress by Marissa Meyer – Thanks Audiobook Jukebox and Macmillan Audio! I just finished listening to Scarlet so I’m ready to dig into this.
Tilt by Ellen Hopkins – Thanks to Simon & Schuster Audio! A favorite author and favorite audiobook narrators = happiness!
Biggest Flirts by Jennifer Echols – Thanks to Simon Pulse! This is the first book in the Superlatives series about two people that are voted Biggest Flirts in their yearbook elections.
Happily Ever After by Elizabeth Maxwell – Thanks to Touchstone/Simon & Schuster! This is about a middle aged erotic novelist who meets her fictional romantic hero in real life, at Target!
The Last Forever by Deb Caletti – Tessa and her dad go on a roadtrip to heal after losing her mom.
100 Sideways Miles by Andrew Smith – Andrew Smith gets the most interesting book covers, matching up with the unique stories within.
Sublime by Christina Lauren – The “Beautiful Bastard” writing team has a new YA book! Sublime is about a boy in love with a ghost- he can only see her when he’s on the brink of death himself, so that encourages his risky behavior. What an epic cover, huh?
Maybe Someday by Colleen Hoover – Well, this is going to the top of my TBR! CoHo’s latest is about a musician whose life is turned upside down when she catches her boyfriend with her good friend. She falls for another musician next door.
The Only Boy by Jordan Locke – This YA dystopia is about a future world without men. But one guy did survive, and now he’s masquerading as a woman to avoid execution. Mary has never seen a boy but she’s drawn to Taylor.
The Wicked We Have Done by Sarah Harian – A New Adult dystopia! A beta reader on Goodreads describes it as The Hunger Games meets Lost.
Never Eighteen by Megan Bostic – Thanks for the trade, Lisa! Never Eighteen is a YA contemporary from 2012 about a dying boy who journey’s to say goodbye and make peace with the important people in his life.
What’s new in your mailbox?
The Movie Date is a weekly feature where we discuss movies that may appeal to YA readers. Andrew is The Reading Date’s resident movie critic and this week he shares his thoughts on the Oscars.
It’s Oscar time again, and I actually saw most of the films this year! With only two exceptions (noted below), all the nominated performances and directing took place within the nine Best Picture-nominated films, so I’ll just run down my pre-show thoughts on each of those. I’ve ranked the nine films in the same order that Entertainment Weekly has assigned their odds of winning Best Picture, most likely first.
A female scientist with no desire to be an astronaut is nonetheless stranded in space and must summon inner strength and confront her fears to survive. It’s less a sci-fi spectacular than a fascinating and emotional character story. No film has ever combined the sprawl of space with one’s turbulent inner landscape so brilliantly, so I won’t mind if it wins both Best Pic and Best Director (Alfonso Cuaron) as it’s expected to. Sandra Bullock isn’t expected to win for her emotional and nuanced performance, but it’s still a very good one.
The subtitle of the 1853 source novel tells the tale perfectly: “Narrative of Solomon Northup, citizen of New-York, kidnapped in Washington city in 1841, and rescued in 1853, from a cotton plantation near the Red River in Louisiana.” Well-told, compassionate yet unsentimental tale of a very smart man in a very bad situation; as well as being important, it’s fascinating and very watchable. Lupita Nyong’o is favored to win Best Supporting Actress for her role as an abused yet spirited female slave, and to some degree she’s the film’s emotional core.
Mash up Goodfellas, Silver Linings Playbook, and Argo and it might come out a little bit like this. A funny, thrilling, and poignant tale of scammers scamming each other and ultimately themselves, based on real events but not real people, for the most part. It’s like watching a great crime picture, retro 70s comedy, and character drama all at once. All four leads are nominated for their performances, with Jennifer Lawrence and Amy Adams showing the best odds.
A brilliant and utterly decadent stockbroker builds an empire worth billions by flagrantly defying the law. Like American Hustle, this film also resembles Goodfellas in its structure and tone, which is unsurprising since it’s directed by Martin Scorsese. If you’re along for the ride it’s massively entertaining, but it’s an easy film to misunderstand: it’s an epic 3-hour comedy that unflinchingly portrays sexist males treating women like playthings. It’s easy, too, to miss the subtle self-loathing in Leonardo DiCaprio’s otherwise headlong plunge into debauchery.
Finding himself HIV-positive in the mid 80s, a very straight Texas cowboy smuggles life-prolonging drugs into the US, helping himself and hundreds of others. This one’s all about Matthew McConaughey’s brilliant performance as a good ol’ Dallas boy gaining sympathy for his largely gay clientele, and about Jarid Leto’s utterly committed part as McConaughey’s strutting, transgendered business partner. This is a fascinating and frequently hilarious little caper story that’s a lot more fun than it might sound.
Glorious black-and-white Midwestern tale of an old man determined to claim a dubious sweepstakes prize and his skeptical son getting dragged along for the ride. Both Bruce Dern and his movie wife June Squibb are nominated but not likely to win. I hope this fine, sweet, and very funny picture gets some recognition on Sunday night; it deserves a much wider audience than it’s gotten thus far.
Lucy saw this film but I did not. It’s essentially the story of a lonely man who falls in love with his affectionate, Siri-like artificial-intelligence interface. I was skeptical about this one but Lucy assured me it’s great. I certainly salute the restraint of putting box-office bombshell Scarlett Johansson in a film without showing her bodacious form (she plays the voice of the operating system).
Didn’t see this one either. I found the Somali pirate phenomenon fascinating but was satisfied with the drama A Hijacking and documentary Stolen Seas (both on Netflix Watch Instantly). It’s said to lessen in intensity partway through when Tom Hank’s titular character is taken off the ship and towed in a lifeboat. I’m sure I’ll see it and love it at some point.
Charming story of an aging woman tracking down the son she gave up for adoption and the journalist who helps her on this curious quest. I haven’t seen Judi Dench in much other than the Bond series, but I was really thrilled with her performance as a woman finally finding her strength late in life.
BLUE JASMINE – Cate Blanchett
Not a Best Picture nominee and I didn’t see it, either. Blanchett’s favored to win, and if she doesn’t it’ll likely be due to child-abuse allegations against the film’s director Woody Allen.
JULIA ROBERTS; MERYL STREEP – August: Osage County
Not up for Best Picture either, and didn’t see this one. Both have won Oscars before, which is perhaps why they’re both running a distant fifth in both of the actress races.
Who and what are your favorites from the past year, nominated or not? Let me know in the comments, and see you on Oscar night!
In Returning to Shore, a girl reconnects with the father she barely knows on a picturesque beach setting.
Clare’s mom marries for the third time, leaving her behind while she honeymoons in France. Clare’s mom arranges for Clare to spend some time getting to know her estranged father who now lives nearby on Cape Cod. Clare has lots of questions about the dad she hasn’t seen since she was three. Richard is quiet, but his passion for turtle conservation bonds the two over the summer.
I like quiet, slice of life books like this and thought Returning to Shore was lovely. And the Cape Cod summer setting is an especially welcome distraction from winter.
Clare has some complicated daddy issues. Previously, she only knew her biological dad from holiday cards and birthday phone calls. She was quite close with her stepfather but now that her mom remarried she’s uncertain about maintaining that relationship. She’s nicknamed her newest stepfather Tertio, though she keeps that fact to herself.
Clare’s dad, Richard, is a bit of a mystery for Clare to unravel. Slowly, she learns his reasons for keeping his distance, and it’s heartwarming to see their relationship strengthen over the course of the book.
Along with the father-daughter relationship, environmental issues are featured in Returning to Shore. Richard is very involved in conserving the Northern diamondback terrapin, and tracks and tags them and helps to protect their nests. Clare comes along on kayak rides and beach walks to learn the ropes and bond with her dad. The breakthrough between Clare and Richard is subtle but satisfying.
Clare meets some other teens on the island and let’s just say they lack Richard’s respect for their island surroundings. Richard has a reputation as the nutty old guy on the island for his environmental views, and that’s something else for Clare to digest.
Corinne Demas has a keen eye and develops the father-daughter relationship beautifully. The character voice is strong in this sweet and quiet novel.
I received a review copy of Returning to Shore from the author via Netgalley/Carolrhoda Lab. There were no bribes of a Cape Cod vacation home, or pet turtles exchanged. Add a copy to your shelf on March 1: Amazon * B&N * IndieBound * Goodreads
Sometimes life just isn’t going your way and you don’t know how to dig yourself out. If you’re Andrew, you make a Thanksgiving dinner escape and join a group of circus performing Freegans for a road trip adventure.
Andrew has been in a funk since his parents’ divorce. He lives with his mom, who is also the headmaster at the all-girls school he attends. He’s always in trouble for not living up to his potential, and when his bullying cousin ruins Thanksgiving he can’t take it anymore. An impromptu plan to visit his beloved Grandma is a bust once Andrew’s mom confesses that Grandma died this week. With Into the Wild in tow, he hitches a ride for a journey of self-discovery with the band of teenage misfits he meets at the bus station.
I first found out about this book around Thanksgiving time when I was looking for books/movies centered on that holiday. It seems like many Thanksgiving family dinners are awkward affairs, and in this book things are so bad Andrew takes off before the dinner even begins! Road trip books are such great backdrops for coming of age stories, and this wayward journey is just what Andrew needs to find himself.
Andrew doesn’t have the best social skills and is shy and awkward at school. This fresh start with a van full of strangers shows him compassion and gives him a boost of confidence that he can make friends, survive on his own, and make a difference. This makeshift family includes teens that ran away for a variety of reasons, and helps Andrew to see life from a new perspective.
On the road, the group earns their supper by working on a farm, street performing, and washing dishes in a restaurant. A lot of their food on the road comes from dumpster diving in the back of big-box stores.
We get to know some of the backstories of Andrew’s new friends, especially the two girls he travels with. G is the girl who recruits Andrew and shows him the ropes. And Emily is the unattainable dreadlocked girl that Andrew is smitten with. Andrew has never had much game with the opposite sex but gains some confidence on the road.
Sashi Kaufman’s debut is quiet, quirky and observant. I liked the male voice of the outsider Andrew and seeing how his character evolves over the cross-country road trip. I’m sure a lot of teens will relate to Andrew’s feelings of being stuck and need for escape. This book also shows a different sort of survival story than we usually see in YA, and inspires compassion for those that choose an unconventional path. This heartfelt book provides a lot of food for thought and would be great to discuss in a book group.
I received a review copy of The Other Way Around from Carolrhoda Lab/Edelweiss, and no bribes of smoked tofu dinners or Smurts t-shirts were exchanged. Pick up a copy for your shelf on March 1: Amazon * B&N * IndieBound * Goodreads
The Movie Date is a weekly feature where we discuss movies that may appeal to YA readers. Andrew is The Reading Date’s resident movie critic and this week he has a double feature review of two Oscar nominated films: Philomena and Nebraska.
In the movies, road trips are a great way for two very different people to understand and appreciate one another (think of the great late-80s pictures Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, Rain Man, and Midnight Run). Recently the “senior road trip” subgenre has emerged, in which a younger person must take an aging friend or relative on a trip, as in 2012’s The Guilt Trip with Seth Rogen and Barbra Streisand. Last fall saw a couple very good examples in Steven Frears’ Philomena (based on a true story) and Alexander Payne’s Nebraska.
In Philomena, out-of-work British journalist Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan) learns of an elderly woman (Dame Judi Dench as Philomena Lee) whose son was given up for adoption as a toddler. Young, pregnant, and unmarried, Philomena was forced to work at an abbey in Ireland, whose staff of nuns raised her boy while she worked in the laundry. Keen to turn her tale into a human-interest article, Sixsmith takes her to visit the abbey, but the current staff claims the records were destroyed. When the reporter learns that the child was likely sold to American parents, he insists on flying Philomena to the States to plead her case with immigration. While in Washington, D.C., Sixsmith uncovers a lead that could lead them quickly to the missing son’s whereabouts.
Coogan and Dench are, of course, wonderful as a woefully mismatched pair; at first, proud Sixsmith thinks this touchy-feely story is beneath him and barely tolerates the earnest Philomena’s chatty demeanor and awful taste in literature. But she soon exhibits the kind of courage only found in aging souls with nothing left to lose, and Sixsmith gets genuinely caught up in her cause. The discovery of the son’s remarkable existence and encounters with his loved ones create challenges that Philomena gamely accepts as she struggles with her Catholic faith. Dench imbues her character with both gentleness and strength in a moving and memorable performance.
In the film Nebraska, aging and doddering Woody Grant (Bruce Dern) has received a bogus sweepstakes letter and is determined to visit Lincoln, Nebraska to claim his million-dollar prize—even if he has to walk 832 miles to do it. To keep him safe, his concerned son (Will Forte, Saturday Night Live) offers to drive Woody all the way from Billings, Montana to Lincoln. En route, they decide to visit Woody’s old hometown, where his brother still lives. After drinking with the locals, Woody lets slip that he’ll soon be a millionaire, turning him into an instant celebrity. But soon friends and relatives come calling, demanding that he repay old debts with his (nonexistent) newfound wealth, and it’s up to David and his brother Ross (Bob Odenkirk, Breaking Bad) to keep the wolves at bay.
It’s clear that director Alexander Payne really loves the desolate beauty (shot in evocative black and white) and the gentle people found in these Midwestern “flyover states.” The film’s a comedy, but it never gets laughs at what another director might portray as simple folk; rather it respects their dignity, wisdom, and kindness. Bruce Dern is so convincing in the dizzy, addled role that I had to find recent interview clips to be sure he still has his wits about him (happily he is still sharp as a tack). Forte makes a fine foil for Dern and June Squibb, who plays Woody’s wife Kate. She has a hilarious scene in a cemetery, explaining to Dave the sordid lives of Woody’s relatives buried there. Remarkably, this impossible quest results in a feel-good finale, as David understands the motivations behind Woody’s desire to be rich.
Both films are nominated for multiple Oscars, with the fine performances of Squibb, Dern, and Dench called out in particular. Though Academy Awards season is typically the time for heavy and demanding movies, these two gentle, rewarding tales go down easy. Hope you can catch one or both before Oscar night. (Nebraska is now available on DVD, and Philomena is in theaters (limited) and coming to DVD in April)
Note: Though the events of Philomena took place over a decade ago in 2003, the real Philomena Lee is still alive and well and doing press for the film.
Book: The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson, Brilliance Audio, January 2014
Book Info: Audible purchase, Running time: 9 hrs, 10 minutes. Performed by: Julia Whelan and Luke Daniels. Also available in hardcover or e-book, 368 pages from Viking Children’s
The Impossible Knife of Memory is about PTSD and how it effects the sufferer and those around them. Laurie Halse Anderson is never one to shy away from tough subject matters, and tackles PTSD with honesty and emotion. This issue is realistic and topical, and this edgy story is sure to resonate with many readers.
Hayley and her father Andy have never put down roots – Andy is a truck driver who home-schooled Hayley on the road. But now Andy thinks it’s time to settle in to his hometown so Hayley can attend high school. Andy is a war veteran with severe PTSD from his time serving in Iraq. Hayley grew up without a mom and has had to in many ways be the parent to her dad. He has daily struggles, and his flashback triggers bring on alcohol and drug abuse, and Hayley has to stay on top of him to take care of his basic needs.
Considering that Hayley has far more adult responsibilities than her peers, it’s hard for her to relate to the carefree students at school. She doesn’t have the luxury of planning for college like the other students – who will look after her dad? She calls them zombies:
How many girls in my gym class had to clean up gunpowder and barrel oil after school?
Maybe that was why I want to slap so many of the zombies; they had no idea how freaking lucky they were. Lucky and ignorant, happy little rich kids who believed in Santa Claus and the tooth fairy and thought that life was supposed to be fair.
We get a glimpse of Andy’s state of mind through brief chapters in his POV. It’s clear he is in a troubled state of mind, but he chooses to self-medicate to cope rather than accept the medical and counseling help he needs.
Hayley has two non-zombie friends, her neighbor Gracie, and Finn, a nice guy at school who sees through to the real Hayley. Finn surprises Hayley by having demons of his own, and that helps to strengthen their bond.
Another complicated relationship is with Hayley’s sort-of stepmother Trish, who broke Hayley’s heart by walking out on the family. Now that she’s back in the picture, can Hayley forgive her and accept her help?
Andy and Hayley have a lot of healing to do and I wanted them to get the support they needed. Hayley is smart and funny and could have a bright future but she is in this holding pattern. She loves her dad dearly but doesn’t know how to help him at this point. Can she dare to hope for something more for her future- could she walk away?
I listened to The Impossible Knife of Memory, and Julia Whelan performs the nine-hour audiobook, with Luke Daniels performing Andy’s chapters. I’ve listened to Julia Whelan many times, and she’s good at inhabiting her characters. She performs Laurie Halse Andersons’ lyrical words with care and helps the story shine. And Luke Daniels illustrates Andy’s tortured state of mind with his delivery. This is a powerful story made more so by the riveting audio performance.
Laurie Halse Anderson has still got it, and her latest heavy-hitter doesn’t disappoint. Strong voice, character development, and story – you’re missing out if you’re not reading her books.
I would usually link to an audiobook sample here, however I couldn’t find one to share. But-I found this great Q&A series with the author on Penguin Young Readers YouTube channel. Check it out if you have a chance.
In The Impossible Knife of Memory Hayley has a hard time adjusting to high school. She’s bright and a clever writer but struggling in math, and is a frequent visitor to detention. Her guidance counselor struggles to get through to her, and Hayley is someone who could easily fall through the cracks without the right motivation. Laurie Halse Anderson talks about US high schools below, and I think she makes some great points: