Pick of the Week: Eleanor and Park
I remember being a teen in love and being told dismissively by the adults in my life, that these feelings were just 'puppy love'. Rainbow Rowell has written a book that perfectly captures the intense, almost exquisitely painful feelings of a teen's first true love and she doesn't patronize nor dismiss these very real feelings. Neither does she provide easy answers for Eleanor and Park, two teens who meet on the school bus and initially bond over comic books and music. Both are targets for the high school's bullies and struggle to maintain their dignity in the face of almost daily taunts,threats and attacks. Both have built emotional armor to protect themselves, yet as they slowly get to know and trust each other they gradually let down this guard and reveal their true selves. Eleanor's home situation is awful and as he realizes just how awful it is, Park wants to help. But the more he tries to help, the worse it becomes.
This is a powerful and empowering book. Most of the adults in Eleanor's life are unable, unwilling or just too scared to acknowledge let alone face, the trouble she is in. Rainbow Rowell recognizes that teens' emotions are quite real and that often they are able to act on those emotions to solve problems that adults pretend don't exist.
I highly recommend this book for teens and adults who like a realistic love story with a realistic and satisfying conclusion.
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Pick of the Week: The Good Boy by Theresa Schwegel
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Mystery author Theresa Schwegel has written a heart-wrenching suspense story that plays out on the mean streets of Chicago with her new book, The Good Boy.
The action starts when 11-year-old Joel Murphy and his dog Butch follow Joel's teenage sister to a party because he thinks she is in danger. When Joel is spotted by some gang members who threaten to kill Butch, he runs away to protect his best friend. But Butch is more than the family pet -- he also is an officer with Chicago Police Department's K-9 Unit, working with Joel's dad, Pete.
Pete, who is determined to find his son and dog on his own, leaves his frantic wife, Sarah, behind at home. The stress of Joel's disappearance exacerbates the pain and tension the Murphy family has been going through. Pete and Sarah, whose marriage is on shaky grounds, barely speak to each other. Their rebellious teenage daughter McKenna is riddled with guilt because she blames herself for Joel's disappearance. And Pete is worried about his future as a cop because he was slapped with a lawsuit from a gang member who was bit by Butchie during a police stop.
The Good Boy isn't a murder mystery, but it is filled with suspense. Will Joel and Butchie survive with all the real dangers they encounter? Will Pete find his "boys'' before it's too late? Will the Murphys finally stop fighting each other come together as a family?
As a parent, my heart ached when Joel was trying to survive with $2 for a couple days on the mean streets of the Windy City. His relationship with his four-legged friend is endearing. Schwegel's characters can be frustrating because they don't always make the best choices, but that's what propels the story along. The Good Boy is a compelling book with its authentic Chicago descriptions and its sometimes noir-like feeling.
Pick of the Week: Someday, Someday Maybe by Lauren Graham
When I picked up this book, I was a little skeptical of an actor writing fiction, but Lauren Graham won me over with this funny, charming novel. Franny Banks is a struggling actress in New York City, taking acting class and waiting tables to get by. She's given herself three years to "make it," after which, she figures, she'll stop pursuing her acting career if she hasn't had any success. The book follows Franny through various escapades in acting class, commercial auditions, meetings with agents, even a movie premiere, and follows her ups and downs in her career and her romantic life. Things don't work out the way Franny expects them to, and yet everything comes together exactly as it should.
The book's chapters are punctuated by handwritten entries in Franny's day planner, complete with doodles, grocery lists, and a mileage log for her daily runs. These pages embody Franny's quirky, self-deprecating character (not unlike Graham's character on the TV show Gilmore Girls). Graham has given Franny a wry, humorous voice, and Franny always comes up with snappy one-liners, even if she’s feeling overwhelmed by awkward situations. She’s an endearing character, someone I’d like to hang out with. Franny is much more courageous and talented than she’s willing to acknowledge, and I went through the novel cheering her on. Pick up this book and you probably will too!Add a comment
Pick of the Week: The Husband's Secret
At the beginning of The Husband's Secret, Liane Moriarty recalls the Greek myth of poor Pandora, who couldn't resist opening a jar (yes, it was a jar, not a box) and releasing all the evils of the world. The author then brilliantly examines what her characters face when the proverbial jar is opened.
Moriarty's Pandora is Cecelia Fitzpatrick, who can't resist opening a letter she finds hidden in her attic written by her husband, John-Paul. The envelope instructs her to open it upon John-Paul's death.
At first Cecelia resists the temptation, but then succumbs, and must deal with the consequences of her husband's terrible secret. The letter will not only threaten the happiness of her marriage and family, but will also impact two other women, Tess and Rachel.
Filled with suspense, humor and complexity, The Husband's Secret is a real page turner. Highly recommended.
Pick of the Week: Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
Australian author Hannah Kent’s debut novel, Burial Rites, is a grim, heart-wrenching tale inspired by a true story from 1829.
When Agnes Magnusdottir is sentenced to death in rural Iceland for murdering two men, a farming family is forced to take her in while she awaits her execution.
The family naturally is horrified at the prospects of sleeping and eating next to a murderer. The only person who initially shows her kindness is an assistant minister who is assigned to give her spiritual guidance in her final days. But as the weeks pass by, the farm family learns more about Agnes’ side of what happened on the fatal night that claimed two lives.
Burial Rites is beautifully written and portrays the tough existence farmers had at the time. Kent adeptly imagines what it might be like facing a death sentence. Agnes is an unforgettable, tragic character who will stay with me for a long time.