From that time on, the world was hers for the reading....

Monday, November 30, 2009

Dave Eggers: The Wild Things

Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak is one of my favorite children's books of all time. As the line in the book goes: I could eat it up, I love it so. I didn't get to see the movie adaptation when it was in theaters, so I decided to read The Wild Things by Dave Eggers to tide me over until its DVD release.

Max is the product of a broken home. His parents are divorced. His Dad lives in an unnamed big city. Max lives with his Mom and fourteen-year-old sister Claire. Sometimes his Mom's boyfriend Gary stays at the house. Because of this, Max is a little wild and often takes his anger out on his family. He doesn't understand the anger or why he acts on it and causes so much stress, but he does know that he feels bad about it.

One night Max puts on his wolf costume and begins howling and stirring up mischief. He pushes his Mom a little too far by standing on the kitchen counter and shouting, "Woman, feed me!" Then the chase around the house begins, but unlike times before his Mom catches him. And he bites her. That's when Max decides to run away to a place where he can be wild and free.

While in the woods near his house Max discovers a sailboat and sails away. He wants to sail to his Dad in the city but ends up on an island inhabited by The Wild Things. Much like the Sendak classic, Max tames the wild beasts, becomes their King, and takes them on a wild rumpus. But Eggers creates a more intricate, darker world where The Wild Things have distinct personalities and feelings, and they really don't like it when you dismiss their feelings or hurt them. In fact, some of them really want to eat Max up.

At first, the story is magical. The lush descriptions of this dream-like landscape and the eccentric larger than life creatures are captivating. But, as the story progresses, the politics of the island make the story disturbing and scary. Basically, it's just like life and growing up.

I enjoyed it. The story was well-crafted and interesting. I was glad the core theme of the story remained the same--Max wanted to be "where someone loved him best of all." And, at the end of the day, that's all anyone, young and old, wants.

It was nice to revisit a childhood classic through adult eyes. I checked out the children's book to compare and contrast, which was a great trip as well. Now I look forward to seeing the movie on DVD.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Susane Colasanti: When It Happens

I was excited to unexpectedly find When It Happens by Susane Colasanti at the library last week! I really enjoy her writing.

Sara and Tobey are different. Very different. In fact, on the surface, it would appear that all they have in common is the fact that they're seniors at the same high school.

Smart and determined, Sara wants to get into the college of her dreams, feel what it's like to be part of the popular crowd, and to fall in love. After waiting all summer for popular jock Dave to call, he finally asks her out. Sara's on her way to achieving all her dreams.

Focused on his music, Tobey cares more about the here and now. He doesn't give much thought to college and wants more than anything to win the school's Battle of the Bands competition. Little does Sara know, Tobey's goal is to fall in love too. And he's got his heart set on her.

When Tobey and Sara become partners in class, an unlikely friendship forms and they both start to realize that they aren't happy with the paths they chose to follow. Sara is learning that popularity isn't all it's cracked up to be and that Dave is definitely not her true love. Tobey wants to change is slacker ways to impress Sara, vowing to raise his grades and get into college. And soon they find themselves falling in love, dealing with jealous exes, and trying to figure out their futures.

When It Happens covers senior year from the first day of school through graduation and is told in alternating first-person chapters. Readers get to experience falling in love through the eyes of both Tobey and Sara. I was very impressed with Colasanti's ability to provide a realistic male voice to the story.

Though some may find the nod to "Say Anything" (complete with Tobey standing outside of Sara's house hoisting a boom box over his head) and the characters' frequent analysis of John Mayer lyrics to be a bit trite, I found those aspects endearing.

When It Happens perfectly relayed the emotion of first love and how it envelops your whole life. Susane Colasanti has a knack for writing realistic dialogue that made the characters come to life. She knows how teens speak and how they think. I look forward to reading more of her stories.

Glen Ebisch: Grave Justice

Last year I found out one of my favorite college professors, Glen Ebisch, was a writer and decided to pick up one of his books (The Crying Girl) at a local bookstore. Recently, I discovered another one of his books, Grave Justice, on the shelves at my local library.

Amanda Vickers and Marcie Ducasse work for Roaming New England Magazine. The stories they research primarily focus on supernatural happenings throughout New England.

They're currently on assignment in West Windham, Maine to investigate claims of a dark creature with a long neck and eerily similar to the Loch Ness Monster, which is rumored to inhabit the deep, murky waters of Lake Opal.

While Marcie is covering the Lake Opal Monster investigation, Amanda finds herself attending a seance held by multimillionaire Martin Chastain whose wife Larissa was murdered six months ago during a shopping trip to Portland. Martin wants to be in contact with Larissa's spirit in hopes she will reveal her killer. What the medium, Anastasia Narapov, reveals leads to danger for everyone involved, as someone tries to rob a grave and an innocent bystander is injured by an unknown attacker. The closer people get to finding out the truth, the more danger they find themselves in. If Larissa's murderer was willing to kill once, will he kill again? Marcie and Amanda join the investigation and try to juggle the stories of a town filled with mystery and suspects.

As a fan of mysteries, I enjoyed this book. Both storylines were given equal time and intertwined perfectly. The supporting cast of characters--especially Ben Hanson, the cemetery caretaker, who not only has photographs of the Lake Opal Monster but also claims to have seen vampires roaming the cemetery--added personality to the town and investigations.

I'm looking forward to seeing what Amanda and Marcie investigate next!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Coming Soon: The Carrie Diaries

I am ridiculously excited for the publication of The Carrie Diaries by Candace Bushnell (April 27, 2010/HarperCollins)!

Before Carrie Bradshaw hit the big time in the City, she was a regular girl growing up in the suburbs of Connecticut. How did she turn into one of the most-read social observers of our generation?

The Carrie Diaries opens up in Carrie's senior year of high school. She and her best friends -- Walt, Lali, Maggie, and the Mouse -- are inseparable, amid the sea of Jens, Jocks and Jets. And then Sebastian Kydd comes into the picture. Sebastian is a bad boy-older, intriguing, and unpredictable. Carrie falls into the relationship that she was always supposed to have in high school-until a friend's betrayal makes her question everything. With her high school days coming to a close, Carrie will realize it's finally time to go after everything she ever wanted.

Rabid fans of Sex and the City will love seeing Carrie Bradshaw evolve from a regular girl into a sharp, insightful writer. They'll learn about her family background -- how she found her writing voice, and the indelible impression her early friendships and relationships left on her. We'll see what brings Carrie to her beloved New York City, where the next Carrie Diaries book will take place.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Suzanne Collins: Catching Fire

After finally getting the chance to read The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins in August, I put my name on the library waiting list for its sequel Catching Fire. When I received an email last week letting me know the book was ready for me to pick up, I raced out the front door. Once back at home, I began devouring the book.

There is absolutely no way to review this book without giving away the ending to The Hunger Games, so I have placed the review behind the cut. You have been warned.


In The Hunger Games Katniss Everdeen and fellow district tribute Peeta Mellark defied all odds--and the Capital--to be the last two standing and, for the first time ever, dual winners in the yearly televised fight-to-the-death tournament.

Now they're home and living the spoils of victory: a nice house, plenty of food, and the comfort of knowing their families are well cared for. Katniss is happy to be home with her family and friends, especially Gale. However, trying to reconnect with him--while keeping up the pretense that she is in love with Peeta--is proving to be very difficult.

Unfortunately, time at home is short lived and Katniss and Peeta have to pack up and go on a Victory Tour where they'll visit each of the districts in Panem. While on the tour, they learn their victory has made them the poster children for rebellion. Worse, there is talk of unrest and an uprising in several of the Districts. President Snow is not happy and warns Katniss that her loved ones may be in danger unless she follows the rules and does everything she can to keep from adding fuel to the fire.

As if Katniss doesn't have enough on her mind, Panem begins to prepare for the 75th Hunger Games, where something out of the ordinary is planned. The Capital wants revenge, and these Games promise to be more bloody and heartbreaking than the rest.

I'm usually not a fan of sequels. They rarely live up to the hype. Catching Fire far exceeded my expectations. I didn't want to stop reading, but I had to. There were times when I'd just have to sit the book aside, think about what I had just read, and say, "Oh my God! No way!" The Hunger Games, with its violence and senseless deaths at the hand of a greedy, controlling government, was hard to read. Catching Fire was ten times harder to read because, by now, I had grown to love and care very deeply about these characters.

Suzanne Collins, once again, crafted an intriguing world filled with smart, sinister, fascinating characters. I cannot wait to see what happens next!
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