Review: Skinnybones and the Wrinkle Queen by Glen Huser

Skinnybones and the Wrinkle Queen
by Glen Huser
Rating: ***
Date read 9/28/2013

I enjoyed this story of a kid in foster care and a woman in elder care who come together serendipitously and go off on a big adventure. There was no warm fuzzy sweater drawn over the realities of the nursing home, and all the adults involved in administering foster care seemed quite real and well-meaning if sometimes wrong-headed. I dug the principal characters, who traded off chapters. Fun without being smarmy.

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: 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: Evolution, Me & Other Freaks of Nature by Robin Brande

Evolution, Me & Other Freaks of Nature
by Robin Brande
Rating *
Read 7/23/2013


I didn’t like this book even a little bit. I found the Christian science teacher unlikely, and her willingness to engage a student in discussion, even outside of school, about her religious convictions even more unlikely. There was an awful lot of telling in the book, and I didn’t resonate with any of the characters. I didn’t get what the love interest saw in the protagonist, I didn’t get why the parents were such meany-pantses, I didn’t get why anyone would ever, in a million years, go to a church like that. Mostly, I just don’t get organized religion, so this was probably not the book for me. I think, given the title, I was expecting a conversion from strict Biblical literalist interpretation to something more in line with accepted scientific thinking. What I got was[the tearful scene in the car, where nothing really changes for anyone and the parents are still hateful and the kid is still made to feel guilty.  I suppose there must be people like this abusive, cruel family out there somewhere. I don’t want to have to read about them.

Review: The Road Home by Ellen Emerson White

The Road Home
by Ellen Emerson White
Rating: *****
Read 7/15/2013

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: Uses For Boys by Erica Lorraine Scheidt

Uses For Boys
by Erica Lorraine Scheidt
Rating: ****
Read 7/6/2013

Spoilers below.

Powerful, spare, heartbreaking and oh-so-familiar. The prose, though present tense, is clean. Anna’s voice is a true one, I think, and I was on her side from the very first page.

I really identified strongly with two characters in this book. It was a very interesting, engrossing, almost hallucinatory ride for me. I recognize many parts of my own life in Anna’s. And now that I’m old, I’m Sam’s mom, worrying about the Annas who stumble through my dining room. Unlike a lot of other reviewers, I found the whole thing completely believable with the sole exception of the details of what happens at the abortion clinic. Either clinics have changed substantially since I worked in one (which I’m not ruling out, of course) or the one in this book is crazy posh.

I hate first person, though. Hate it. I know that convention says it makes the action more immediate, but for me it nearly always takes my attention out of the story and puts it on the present tense wording. That did keep happening here, but maybe it was a mercy- bringing me up to the surface and out of the intensity. I relived some things I thought I’d forgotten, reading this book. A beautiful song to the not-quite-lost ones, this.

Review: The Color of Rain by Cori McCarthy

he Color of Rain
by Cori McCarthy
Rating: ****
Read 6/11/2013

Mmmm, science-fictiony whores & pimps. Points for fresh, in other words. Rain is desperate to get off of Earth with its (poorly explained) disease that’s making people “touched” and ships out with the first bad boy she finds. Engrossing but sometimes scary and sometimes hurtful adventures ensue. I never had a lot of doubt that things would come out okay for Rain in the end, but there’s enough collateral damage to not let me say it’s got a happy ending. A worthy debut, and an author I’m looking forward to seeing more of. My free review copy came from ALA Midwinter.

Review: Fat Angie by E.E. Charlton-Trujillo

Fat Angie
by E.E. Charlton-Trujillo
Rating: *
Read 6/9/2013

Issue. Issue. Issue. Issue. This book is stuffed full of issues, what my friend Wendy calls “guidance counselor fiction” I think. Our protagonist is fat, unpopular, bullied, abused, maybe gay, has a lousy relationship with her mom, her brother is adopted and abusive, her sister is missing in Iraq. Lots and lots of slang done in what struck me as an obtrusive manner. If our protagonist hasn’t enough issues, no worries! We get secondary characters who include cutters, mean girls, clueless adults. There’s just too much going on here. The plot, when I could dig it out, was engaging enough, and Angie’s growth felt very believable. I wanted to like her, but the author buried her in so many issues it was too hard to care. My free review copy came from ALA Midwinter.