I find it kinda funny that I was *so* sure I would love the Divergent series that I waited for the third book to be released and then read the books back-to-back-to-back. And after that, I *had* to read this collection of short stories as soon as it came out… Yet I still haven’t seen the Divergent movie, and I even forgot about actually posting a review for this book for three months! I guess life just gets away from me sometimes, and taking a trip to the movies with a girlfriend isn’t always at the top of my list of priorities. Still, I should probably plan a girls’ night in to watch Divergent pretty soon, right? ;-)
After listening to What I Saw and How I Lied, I was excited to check out Blundell’s second book. So many books were piled up on my “to be read” list, though, that this book got bumped… and then I forgot about it. (Ack!) Sometimes, thankfully, fate will intervene and remind me about a book I’d forgotten to read. In this case, my audiobook ended while I was out and about. Since I didn’t have another CD audiobook on standby, I browsed the OverDrive app on my phone to see if any of my “wish list” downloadable audiobooks were checked in. Boy, am I glad this one showed up! Continue reading
Thanks to this audiobook, I now know that September 8th is the anniversary of the day that Stargirl (aka Susan Caraway) first laid eyes on Leo Borlock. As she strolled through the Mica High cafeteria with her ukelele and sang Happy Birthday to some other unsuspecting stranger, she saw the fear in Leo’s eyes as he worried that she might come and sing to him. Of all the stuff that happened in this story, Stargirl’s remembrance of that day was a pretty small thing, but it really stuck with me. Why? Because *MY* birthday is September 8th! Though I seriously doubt Jerry Spinelli wrote that into his book for me, I wonder if he’s friends with Jon Scieszka and used that reference as a shout out to him. (Yeah. I share a birthday with Jon Scieszka — and Jo Knowles – how awesome is that?!?)
Anyhow… I like the fact that this book was written as a letter from Stargirl to Leo in diary form. It was cool to see things from her perspective this time. I mean, it was easy enough to see from Leo’s narration (in Stargirl) that she was a free spirit, but it was kinda cool to see exactly how her thought process worked. I am most definitely a “Type A” personality, so it took a lot for me to get into her head and to understand where she was coming from, but it made a little more sense as she explained herself. Living without clocks, for example, seems kinda cool — but I think I would go batty after only a day or two.
This book is kinda hard to categorize by my usual standards. First of all, it’s technically a book for adults, which I don’t usually read (let alone review on here). BUT, Rainbow Rowell is a popular YA author and I think some older teens might check this one out after finishing Fangirl or Eleanor and Park. I mean, if she got *me* to read a book for grown ups, anything is possible! ;-) But, I digress… The main reason this book is hard to categorize is because it’s mostly realistic/contemporary fiction, but there’s a small science fiction/fantasy element wherein Georgie (the main character) is able to use the landline at her mother’s house to call her husband, Neal, back when he was still in college and hadn’t yet proposed.
I think this book resonated so much with me because I have been having a crazy time trying to find a good work/family balance in my life and Georgie’s life is my worst nightmare. She’s in over her head with work, her kids don’t really seem to miss her when she’s not around, her husband is resentful that she often puts work first, and she isn’t even sure if it’s possible to turn things around enough to save her marriage. As I read this book, I kept thinking about my own recent choices in which I put work first and wondered whether I had started straining my own marriage. I must have asked my husband at least 15 times over the course of 4 days whether he was OK with how things are going, so I’m pretty sure he’s happy that I am done with this book and will stop projecting Georgie’s problems into my life! I think my inability to separate the story from real life, nevertheless, is simply proof that Rainbow Rowell is a great author who knows how to write relatable and believable characters. If I had had the energy to stay up all night reading, I definitely would have finished this book in one big gulp.
With her parents off traveling all the time and her brothers away at school, Lucy has learned to enjoy being alone much of the time. Since she doesn’t really have a lot of friends, let alone a boyfriend, and rarely leaves her apartment except for school, her parent’s aren’t even worried to leave her alone in the apartment as they travel the world. They figure, apparently, that she can’t get into too much trouble on her own. Lucy’s whole world gets flipped upside down, though, the day she gets stuck in an elevator with Owen during a massive blackout. Lucy had been heading up to her family’s 24th floor apartment and Owen was heading up to the roof to escape his basement apartment (he lives there because his father recently became the building superintendent). After getting rescued, the two wander the dark streets of NYC and enjoy the fantastic world in which ice cream vendors give away their melting wares and stars are actually visible above the city that never sleeps. When the power comes back on, nevertheless, they are jarred back into their very different realities. Lucy is soon whisked away to live with her family in Europe, because her dad got a major promotion, and Owen ends up heading west with his father, after he finds himself jobless again. Based on a conversation they had about cheesy postcards (during the blackout), they end up staying in touch via postcards instead of the standard text messages and emails most teens now use. Fans of Sarah Dessen-style romances should definitely read this book.
From looking at the cover of this book, I assumed it would have been a historical romance novel. I honestly thought it would have read like The Luxe or Manor of Secrets, and I was hoping for a Downton Abbey fix. And though there was a touch of romance, my assumption was pretty far off. Gemma Doyle’s experiences in a London finishing school [in 1895] were historically accurate, and she did experience some romantic entanglements, but the plot was primarily focused on the supernatural forces at play in Gemma’s life. While part of me wishes I knew about this book when it first came out, part of me is happy that all three books were already published and available as audiobooks so I could listen to them in rapid succession!
Gemma had a fairly uncomplicated life until the day a strange creature attacked her mother in an Indian marketplace. Rather than be captured by the creature, her mother committed suicide. Gemma’s father insisted on telling everyone that his wife died of an illness, but Gemma knew the truth and was racked with guilt over the fact that her mother was only in that area of the marketplace because she (Gemma) had run off in a snit. After witnessing the attack/suicide, Gemma started having visions — and the visions only got worse after she was sent off to Spence Academy. Trying to make new friends and to succeed in finishing school while also figuring out what was behind the visions proved extremely challenging, but these challenges were no match for Gemma’s pluck and determination.
I think this would have been an excellent book to have read the summer before I went away to college. Although I am not an overly shy person, I was kinda freaked out about the concept of rooming with someone I had never met before. I find it odd that it never crossed my mind to try to get in touch — and that my college didn’t really try to foster early communications either. Things may have been strained that first semester, but I still lived to tell the tale.
Aside from the obvious worries about classes and living with a stranger, Elizabeth and Lauren also have family relationships and friendships that are about to change. Lauren is only moving about an hour away [from San Francisco to Berkeley] so staying in touch with family and friends should, theoretically, be easy enough. Elizabeth, on the other hand, is going to be moving across the country [from New Jersey to California], so she won’t be able to take any quick visits home to see her mom or her friends. Still, distance is not the only factor that determines how hard a move will be. Lauren is leaving her tight-knit family full of younger siblings whom she typically helps to care for and worries that she will miss them too much or that they won’t be able to manage without her. Elizabeth, on the other hand, is all too used to being alone in her house and is excited to get away from home. She is also hoping to spending some quality time with her father [who owns an art gallery in San Francisco], but doesn’t really know how to start up a relationship with the father who’s never really been there for her. Readers get to peek into the minds, and emails, of each of the girls as she prepares for moving in with her new “roomie.” I’m certain that fans of Sara Zarr (Story of a Girl, Sweethearts, How to Save a Life, Lucy Variations) will love this, and I’m desperately hoping for more YA from Tara Altebrando.