Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Bullies Beware!

Invisible by Jeanne Bannon is a delightful tale of one teenager's struggle against the stigma of being different than the crowd.  Lola is a senior in high school and not only does she not fit in there, she doesn't fit in her own family. Her parents and sister are all tiny, willowy and wacky.  Lola, is a tall, big girl with a penchant for writing.

When Lola experiences a particularly cruel attack by the school bullies she disappears.  She struggles to figure out what happened until it happens a second time and she shares the secret with her beloved Grandma Rose.  She is able to explain to Lola what is happening to her.

Lola's best friend, Charlie, another social outcast at school, helps her gain control of her power to disappear.  Together they plot revenge on the bullies.  When tragedy strikes, Lola must decide what course of action she will take into the future.

This is a great story that anyone who's ever gone through the teen years can enjoy.  Who hasn't wanted to disappear at some point?  The lessons are valuable and uplifting.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Debut Hits It Out Of The Park

There's been a lot of talk about Chad Harbach's debut novel, The Art of Fielding.  After reading it, I understand why.  It's a wonderful story with characters you can embrace and care about.  The writing draws you into their world and makes you feel a part of it.

Henry Skrimshander is a short-stop with big-league potential.  Mike Schwartz discovers Henry at an away game and is mesmerized by his ability.  He recruits Henry to his school, Westish College, on the shores of Lake Michigan.  There he works with him over the next few years to make him into an all-round athlete.

At the school, Henry rooms with Owen Dunne, another player on the team. Owen is brilliant, witty and gay.  Henry envies his confidence as he moves in the world.

The school's president is Guert Affenlight, who's claim to fame is a book he wrote on Herman Melville and Moby Dick after discovering that Melville had given a lecture at the school.  Westish embraced all things Melville, even naming the baseball team the Harpooners.

Guert's daughter, Pella, arrives at the school to stay with her father after fleeing a bad marriage.  She hopes to make a fresh start and get back to her studies.

As the lives of these five intertwine and relationships develop the complexity of the characters is revealed.  Their failures and insecurities make them real.  When Henry makes an errant throw it shakes more then Henry's confidence.  It shakes the very foundation of all their lives.

Harbach spins an enthralling tale that will hold you spellbound to the very end.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Bikers, Intrigue & Life Lessons for the YA

Eileen Schuh's "The Traz" which is the first novel in the BackTracker series is a compelling read that will keep you turning pages.
The heroine, Katrina, is orphaned at 13 and left with nowhere to go and no one to turn to.  She is brilliant (a member of Mensa), wealthy and beautiful.  She meets Shrug, a much older biker and member of the The Traz motorcycle gang. 

She goes with him to live at the Traz's compound in the backwoods of Alberta.  At the compound Shrug protects her from the other gang members but uses her intelligence and youth to discover intel on the gang and their drug dealings. 

With what she has learned about the gang's dealings she realizes she will never be able to leave the compound alive.  That's when Chad, an undercover cop joins the gang.  Will he be her ticket out?

This is a great novel with some life lessons to be learned.  It is classified as Young Adult but adults will enjoy it too!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Not Happily Ever After

Bonnie Trachtenberg's "Wedlocked" begins the day of Rebecca and Craig's marriage.  The wedding and reception are one disaster after another.  From the nephew kicking a hole in the wedding cake to Rebecca hearing never before revealed dark secrets about her new husband.

Bonnie then takes us back in time to Rebecca's youth and the path her life took to lead her to that moment at the altar next to a man she's not sure she knows - let alone loves. Her love of acting takes her from the theaters of New York to the studios in Los Angeles. Her experiences there eventually force her back to New York where she meets Craig when she is at her most vulnerable.

After the wedding comes the honeymoon from hell.  A fairy tale trek through Italy that is more Brothers Grimm than Cinderella. Although a knight in shining armor arrives to help Rebecca in her time of need.

You'll laugh, you'll cry but most of all you'll enjoy the journey with this wonderful character.

It's a great story. I did find it a little slow through some of the Hollywood section but overall a very strong debut by Bonnie.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

This Devil Will Surprise You

Another great read! The Devil Stood Up by Christine Dougherty is packed with chilling images, heartrending drama and a Devil you may actually root for.

A woman brutally murders her child and a lawyer with far-reaching political ambitions manages to get her set free. The heinous nature of the crime and lack of justice attracts the Devil's notice. The Devil decides he must stand up for the poor child and comes to earth. He's determined to track down the arrogant lawyer and bring him to hell for early punishment. Once here he encounters a cast of characters who are either determined to send him back to Hell or aid him in his search for justice.

A word of warning - this novel is not for the easily squeamish. The murder the child is brutal and extremely disturbing. That being said, Christine has created a brilliant story with characters that come alive. Some you'll hate and some you'll love. The story twists and turns and keeps you guessing.