Review: Long Live the Queen by Ellen Emerson White

Long Live the Queen
by Ellen Emerson White
Rating: ****
Date read 9/25/2013

I’m probably never going to love this as much as many of my friends. But it’s engrossing and riveting and well-written. It’s not my favorite, not even my favorite by this author, but it’s really, really, good. Meg is utterly believable, if someone you never want to try to make friends with. Let alone date.

I love the snarky humor. I hate the commas.

Review: White House Autumn by Ellen Emerson White

White House Autumn
by Ellen Emerson White
Rating: ***
Date read 9/23/2013

I loved the Vietnam books by White so much. This series is good, but I think it suffers in comparison. I’m just not as involved, though I really like the character of the President a lot. I’m also ambivalent about the updating of older books, which seems pretty clunky in this case.


Review: The President’s Daughter by Ellen Emerson White

The President’s Daughter
by Ellen Emerson White
Rating: ***
Date read 9/15/2013

I started out reading the original and the updated one side-by-side. I switched to just reading the original a few chapters in, because I thought that it would help me stay in the story.

I’m thinking this is going to be received as heresy by some of my GR friends, but I’m also thinking I’m going to end up liking the revised, updated one BETTER.

I cried a few times, reading this. The idea of a woman president is so close to my heart and yet so impossible in this country as it stands that reading about Meg’s mother’s election brought me to tears.

Now I want to read all the originals, then all the updates, then the originals again.

Review: When We Wake by Karen Healey

When We Wake
by Karen Healey
Rating: ****
Date read 9/12/2013

I had a blog once where every entry’s title was a Bob Dylan song. So when I picked this up and saw that every chapter title was a Beatles song, I knew I wanted to read it. I enjoyed this book for reasons other than the chapter titles of course, but they added to my enjoyment.

A believable dystopia with engaging characters. I liked the central conceit, and I liked the unsentimental narration. Some of the situations were a little pat, but served the plot very well. I’m a fan, and I’ll be reading the rest of these when they come out.

Review: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

A Wrinkle In Time
by Madeleine L’Engle
Rating: *****
Date read: 9/17/2013

I am hitting the audiobook comfort reads hard this fall. This is another that I know nearly by heart, that I love unreservedly. I never really finished my L’Engle retrospective a few years ago, but now I think I want to start over and read them all.

Meg is such a wonderful protagonist, so very real and angry and confused and earnest and maddening. Of course I love her family, but I don’t know now if I love them because of this book or because of all the books that come after.

Review: A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck

A Year Down Yonder
by Richard Peck
Rating: *****
Date read 9/2/2013

Listened to this with my true love. I wasn’t the only one sniffling at the ending.

I love this book with all my heart. Grandma Dowdel reminds me a lot of my own grandmother, and listening to this brings her back a little. I love the cats in the cob house, and what happens when the tornado comes to town. I love how Joey is and isn’t here for the whole book, just like real life.

It’s absolutely splendid, and a lovely narrator doesn’t hurt a bit. Highly recommended.

Review: Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan

Two Boys Kissing
by David Levithan
Rating: *****
Read 11/10/2013
I started this as an audio book, late at night. I listened for maybe 3 minutes before my face was leaking. Fifteen minutes in, I was weeping wholeheartedly. Levithan, with his Greek chorus, conjures a generation of the dead. My generation, a lot of them- voices I remember, voices I still mourn. The gravitas and love the chorus brings to this book is gut-wrenching and so moving. I love the conceit, I love the slightly ponderous tone, I love the contrasts with the teens of today, I love everything about this. I had to buy the print book too, because I needed to hold these words in my hands.

I don’t know if this hit me so hard because of my age or because of the ghosts it conjures from my own past, or because it’s infused with wisdom and beauty and heartbreak. I do know that this book is my favorite book of 2013 by head and shoulders, pecs and navels. It’s an extraordinary novel.

I remember the time of the ghosts. I remember them. Hearing their voices again in this novel is hallucinatory and vertiginous. I kept stopping reading this and going back to the beginning, so I wouldn’t have to come to the end. I kept thinking, each time, surely I won’t cry so much this time. But no. The ghostly chorus speaks from such a sore place, I can’t not cry.

This book has kicked my feet out from under me, and I’m dazed, eviscerated, and asea. I’m so much older than I was when first I cracked it open, so much further from the center. I’m nearly in the chorus myself.

Aside from the chorus, this is also the story of several young men who are just beginning to come into their own. Some of them are in love with each other, some are broken, some merely wounded. There are those with supportive families, and those without. Their stories weave together under the eyes of the chorus, and the chorus calls out the little details that make the stories poignant.

I love this book with all my heart. I haven’t cried so much, reading a book, for years. I haven’t followed people around, reading snippets, for years. I think it would be well, and proper, and obedient to read first Shilt’s _And The Band Played On_ (…) and then this directly after, but I don’t know that I can stand it.

Review: The Road Home by Ellen Emerson White

The Road Home
by Ellen Emerson White
Rating: *****
Read 8/20/2013

8/2013 I had to come back to this and re-read it after reading the four Zack Emerson Echo Company books. I love it more, now that I’ve read them. I’m flummoxed as to why it’s not packaged as part of the Echo Company series, and have been engaged in some fairly robust debates as to whether it truly IS part of the series. When I read it first, I thought it could stand alone. Now that I’ve read the Echo Company books, I think it’s much more satisfying, more complete. The backstory is there, and things which are alluded to in this book are whole and have depth and breadth and, well, mass.

A phenomenal series with a spectacular cap, that’s how I’m thinking of them.

7/2013 I was a little girl when we finally got out of Vietnam. I remember going outside and banging pots and pans together, my mother crying. And so many people I loved just missed being there, through luck. My starter husband had a really high number. My uncle went to Germany. My dad got out just in time. My true love kept Cape Cod safe. And there are people I love who didn’t just miss being there. People who still flinch when a Chinook flies over. People who just don’t talk about it.

So. This book, which starts in country and stays tightly focused on the war throughout, was tremendously affecting for me. It’s also very well-written. The characters are so, so real, and one roots hard for them to be okay. So hard, in fact, that one finds one’s self up all night, holding the book in a death grip, reading in a tiny pool of light. Well, maybe that’s only me. I didn’t get much more than 3 chapters in before I ordered the first 4 Echo Company books through Inter-Library Loan.

By turns brutal and tender and introspective and broken. Incredibly well-done.

Review: The Echo Company books by Zack Emerson

Welcome to Vietnam
by Zack Emerson (Ellen Emerson White)
Rating: ****
Read 8/13/2013

Oof. Vietnam. So many things in MY head, reading this. The boys, of course, the boys are the ages of my own boys, more or less. Some of ‘em younger, even. And of course I can’t help putting them in this scenario and then I get the shakes. Also, so many of my grown friends, old men now, were there, were these very boys. There’s vertigo. And then there’s Story. And Ellen Emerson White is a storyteller for sure. Even when she’s pretending to be Zack Emerson, writing for boys.

Hill 568
by Zack Emerson (Ellen Emerson White)
Read 8/15/2013

This book brings home what the war in Vietnam must have felt like, smelled like. How terrifying it was, and how the kids fighting it were exactly that, kids. Michael, who I first met in the fifth book of this series, makes a lot more sense to me now. And oh, how I love Snoopy.

Mostly, it’s giving me a horrifying window into the war that loomed large over my childhood.

‘Tis The Season
by Zack Emerson (Ellen Emerson White)
Read 8/17/2013

This is Rebecca’s backstory, what you miss inĀ The Road Home. Solid characters in an untenable situation, doing the best they can. So achingly true, so well written. I need to have this whole series of books. They surely do pass the 3 a.m. test.

Rebecca is such a wonderful person, complicated and fierce and devoted and broken. I think there needs to be a sixth book. And maybe a seventh.

Stand Down
by Zack Emerson (Ellen Emerson White)
Read 8/19/2013

This series is phenomenal. Why did it ever go out of print? The fourth installment was every bit as good as the first three, and I grew more enamored of Rebecca. I didn’t think that was even possible. And the guys, oh, how I love the guys. I had to get the fifth book again to re-read, now that I know them all better.

There’s more grim detail here about the everyday business of war in the jungle. And it’s so realistic that there are times I could actually smell it. The guys, doing their heartbreaking best, fighting a war they don’t understand under conditions that can only be called intolerable. Yet they tolerate them, and even find some beauty, some humor.

Georgy Girl! And the shout-out to Sue Barton, Student Nurse made me tear up.

Read these. In order. Because those people who told me I could just read the last one and then decide if I wanted to go back and read the first four? Those people, while technically correct, are wrong.

Review: The Things A Brother Knows by Dana Reinhardt

The Things A Brother Knows
by Dana Reinhardt
Rating ***
Read 7/29/2013

I really dug the STORY but I hated every minute of the first person, present tense. It nearly ruined the book for me, because it kept intruding into the narrative. I get why people think it contributes to the immediacy, the import, but oh, man do I hate hate hate it.

That being said, I did like the exploration of how a family member’s military service in wartime affects the family left behind, and how reintegrating into that family after one’s service is over can be problematic and fraught with all sorts of peril.