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Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

eleanor__parkWow, I just finished Eleanor & Park a book about two misfits in love. Eleanor meets Park on the school bus where he is deeply into the music on his his Walkman (it's 1986) and reading a comic book, trying to avoid Steve and Tina behind him.  Eleanor is overweight, has a mop of messy red hair and is dressed in the weirdest thriftstore clothes with pieces of fabric pinned over the holes.  She's dirt poor and her mother is remarried to a maniac (her dad wasn't so great either, he's totally forgotten his kids). No one will let her sit next to them, so she sits next to Park.  She's irksome but funny and Park begins to like her.  When he sees her reading his comics over his shoulder, he begins to share them with her. They are both great characters; their relationship is so full of feeling. When you think you know where it's going,  the book heads off in a surprising way and the last section is amazing.  Eleanor & Park is due out February 26 2013.  If you like quirky characters and romance, don't miss it.  Also, the cover is great!

Eleanor & Park won the 2013 Boston Globe-Horn Book Fiction Award!

The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth LaBan

"The day I went to Irving I was the last to leave our house... I mean forever." This great opening line creates the mood of loneliness and dread that defines The Tragedy Paper. Tim's mother and her new husband are going to Italy half way through Tim's last year of high school and Tim is being sent to his stepdad's alma mater, a boarding school.  tragedy_paperTim is a loner; he has always been; he's very self conscious about being albino and has had few friends. On the way to the school he meets a girl, Vanessa, at the airport where they are stranded. He winds up having a great time with her and falls for her but doesn't tell her he's headed to Irving, even though he knows she goes there. Her boyfriend is the most popular guy in the school, and while Tim becomes obsessed about Vanessa, she seems okay with having a secret relationship with him and staying with Patrick, her boyfriend.

We learn the story about Tim from CDs he left the next student to get his room, Duncan. Duncan too is nervous about his senior year. He will have to write his tragedy paper, he has memoirs about some dreadful thing that happened to Tim last year, he avoided Daisy over the summer, and now he has Tim's old room and a bunch of tapes narrated by Tom explaining what happened.

The tragedy paper is a terrific book. It reminds me of The Chocolate War, though it's so different. I guess it's the bullying and the fact that it's so well written. The past and present intertwine with the annual tragedy paper, and tragedy is present throughout. It was hard to put down.  It will be released on January 8.

Also Known As by Robin Benway

also_known_asMaggie, aka Peggy, Margaret, Meg and more, the daughter of spies, is a safecracker. She’s been doing this since she was three, and now her family is going to NYC where she will have her first solo assignment. They’re leaving Iceland which was dull, so she’s excited. It turns out that a media mogul is about to publish an article that will uncover the Collective, the spy organization, including Maggie’s family and her job is to get the documents before they’re published. To make the connections needed for the job, Maggie is enrolled in a private school where Jessie, son of said mogul, goes.

Maggie’s never really gone to school and had friends. The first person she meets is fun and snarky Roux, a girl who’s on the outs with everyone there. Roux and Maggie get invited to a party at Jesse’s house where Maggie does some snooping, but more importantly falls head over heels for Jesse. What do you do when you’re supposed to be spying on the father of your new boyfriend and your parents are clamping down on your social life.

Also Known As is a fun book that should be popular with fans of Ally Carter.  Expected publication date is February 26th 2013 by Bloomsbury.

Being Henry David by Cal Armistead

being_henry_davidA boy wakes up in Penn Station with no memory of who he is, no wallet, and a weird guy asking if he can have "that."  That turns out to be a copy of Henry David Thoreau's Walden and the guy is grabbing at it, eating some of the pages when he does get it.   In the station he meets skinny, ugly Jack who gets him to buy him a meal and then  persuades him not to stay the night in the station. Jack asks his name and not wanting to reveal the truth,  he says Henry David. That's how he winds up sleeping behind a dumpster, getting involved in a drug deal gone bad and meeting the man, Magpie, who is using Jeff and his young sister Nessa and plans for Hank to become another of his kids in crime.  It's enough for Henry, who suffering from a knife wound gets out with some money he's stolen and takes the train to Concord, Massachusetts and Walden Pond where the sights and sounds are totally different and where he'll have to find out who he is and what he's done.

The opening of Being Henry David is vivid, with sights, sounds and smells of Penn Station coming alive. I was drawn in right away by the situation Hank finds himself in.  In one scene Armistead paints a graphic picture of what life is like in New York City for kids on the run. 

While Hank sometimes acts out of character, this is an compelling book with an unexpected plot.  The expected publication date is March 1, 2013 by Albert Whitman Teen

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

Blue has always known that she would kill her true love.  She is the daughter of a psychic and lives with her mom and raven_boysother psychics.  Though not one herself, her presence makes their psychic powers stronger.  Every year on St. Marks eve, Blue goes to the old, isolated ruins of a church with her mother to see the future dead follow on the corpse road.  Tonight she goes with Neeve though, her mother's half-sister.  While Neeve names the future dead, Blue writes down their names.  But tonight, Blue sees one boy.  His name is Gansy and according to Neeve the only reason Blue saw him is "Either you're his true love... or you killed him."  

Raven Boys, Maggie Stiefvater's richly conceived newest book is a modern day quest tale.  The raven boys attend a boarding school Aglionby Academy, and Gansy is their charismatic leader.  He has been researching ley lines,"straight, invisible energy lines that connected spiritual places" all over the US and in the British Isles.  A wealthy boy, Gansy has the help and loyalty of Adam, a working class student at Aglionby , and Ronan, a somewhat elusive student who likes to fight and who is on the brink of being thrown out of school for his poor grades. Mysterious Noah rounds out his followers.

As Blue joins the quest and gets to know the raven boys, they come alive for us.  Stievater's richly described world resonates.  A  pig car, woods that speak, the Monmouth, an old factory where Gansy lives, Latin classes and three curved lines all make for an intriguing read.

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

Patrick Ness took up writing this book after it's conceiver, Siobad Dowd died. Dowd was a great writer of YA books including A Sift Pure Cry, Bog Child and Solace of the Road.

monster_callsConnor O'Malley's mum is dying of cancer. Ever since she started her treatments he's been having nightmares of darkness and  screaming wind. Then one night the monster in the yew tree in his back yard smashes the window and comes into his room telling him that he will tell three stories, but then Connor will have to tell the fourth and it must be  the truth. In the morning he finds yew leaves on his floor.

Most incredibly, Connor is being bullied and hit by two guys at school because his mother is sick and he cannot fight back. Connor is isolated and alone, and won't talk to his best friend, Lilly. She was the one responsible for telling that his mother was ill, so now he is invisible at school and friendless. His father lives in the states with his new family and he hates staying with his grandma who just doesn't get him. He has only the monster to pave the way for him to understand how to deal with his mother's sickness.

A Monster Calls is a powerful book and the black ink illustrations by Jim Kay add to this story about the horror of dealing with a dying mother when you're a only thirteen.

The Crown of Embers by Rae Carson

The Crown of EmbersImage is a great continuation of The Girl of Fire and Thorns.  The only problem is I’ll have to wait at least 9 or 10 months till the next book comes out.  While the first book has a lot of action in the desert where Elisa had been kidnapped by her maid and then sided with her kidnappers and killed an animagi, here she is returned to Joya d’Arena, Allegro her husband the King has died and she has been named Queen Regeant.  But, all is not peaceful. Ruling is not as easy as fighting in the desert was.  There are numerous attempts on her life; clearly someone in her court is siding with the Inviernos.  Elisa falls in love; she discovers a prophecy of old and sets out on a dangerous quest to find the safira.  The end of the book is a cliff hanger, but we’ll have to wait.

Check out a Short Story Collection


Cinder by Melissa Marr

Image of cover of Cinder126 years after World War IV, teenage Cinder is a mechanic, who fixes androids and ports and coms and has a booth In New Beijing’s weekly market.  She is also a cyborg and lives with her selfish stepmother and two half-sisters, one of whom is her best friend.  Prince Kai’s father is dying from the plague which is ravaging the population of New Beijing and all six earthen kingdoms, and the lunar queen Levana wants to extend her power over planet earth by forcing Kai to marry her. Though Cinder’s stepmother accuses her of being human, Cinder comes across as fully human with emotions and feelings that get her into trouble.

Cinder departs in so many ways from the original, yet is tied to it by headings quoting from the original. It is the first of a planned quartet.  This futuristic take on Cinderella is quite enchanting.

Hattie Ever After by Kirby Larson

Having failed to prove up her late uncle Chester's homestead in Montana, Hattie is found at the opening of this sequel to the 2007hattie_ever_after Newbery Honor Book, Hattie Big Sky, as a cleaning lady in a hotel, but not for long.  From Montana she had sent letters to her Uncle Holt, who raised her for 5 years in Iowa, describing her ordeal on the homestead.  He had them published in his hometown newspaper as the Honyockers Homilies and now she has decided to become a reporter.  Hattie grabs the opportunity to go to San Francisco as wardrobe mistress for a traveling variety show,  That's pretty much what feisty Hattie does, grab opportunities and work hard to get what she wants.   

Arriving in San Francisco, Hattie takes a job as a cleaning lady at the Chronicle, an unusual stepping stone to becoming a  reporter, but it gets her inside the paper's morgue where volumes of old issues were kept.  She goes there hoping to find news about her late Uncle Chester,  and winds up learning research skills which will become very handy.  Characters from the first book show up.  Her childhood friend Charlie, home from WWII takes a job in Seattle for Boeing, and visits San Francisco for an air show, one of the most delightful parts of the book.  Perilee, her neighbor and close friend in Montana who taught her how to survive the winter is now living in Seattle and present through the letters Hattie writes to her.

I thoroughly enjoyed this sequel and though not  as strong as the first book. it is a quick, fun read  especially for those interested in historical fiction and feisty female characters.  Hattie is a delightful character and Larson seems to have left room for a possible sequel.  Let's hope so.  Hattie Ever After will be released on February 12, 2013.