Review: Don’t Call Me Baby by Gwendolyn Heasley

 

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

This is the third novel of Gwen Heasley’s that I’ve read.  I enjoyed it, too, with just a few caveats.  The first being that I felt Don’t Call Me Baby is written for a younger a audience than her previous works, but then again, maybe that’s because Imogen isn’t from the same privileged background that Corinne is from.  Imogen doesn’t have Corinne’s sense of entitlement, or her abrasive personality.  Definitely a plus!  The other reservation, and this is by no means negative – I am a blogger, so I could see both sides of Imogen’s conundrum, as well as her mother’s.  This made it easier for me to sympathize with both of them, but if you have no interest in blogging, some aspects of the story might bore you.

Read more

Review: The Space Between Us by Jessica Martinez

 

Title:  The Space Between Us

Author:  Jessica Martinez

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

From the author of Virtuosity, a novel about two sisters and the secrets they tell, the secrets they keep—and the secret that could tear them apart.

Amelia is used to being upstaged by her charismatic younger sister, Charly. She doesn’t mind, mostly, that it always falls to her to cover for Charly’s crazy, impulsive antics. But one night, Charly’s thoughtlessness goes way too far, and she lands both sisters in serious trouble.

     Amelia’s not sure she can forgive Charly this time, and not sure she wants to . . . but forgiveness is beside the point. Because Charly is also hiding a terrible secret, and the truth just might tear them apart forever.


Contains spoilers!

Review:

Oh. My. GOD!  That is the only way I know how to express myself after reading The Space Between Us.  The book was not what I was expecting.  At all.  From the first page, I couldn’t put it down.  I kept hoping the puppies would go to sleep so I could read without all of their little distractions (like trying to chew on my rugs, dragging boots around the house, and wrestling over the millions of toys they have to play with!).  This is an emotional read, and the drama is built up entirely around Amelia’s feelings for her youngest sister Charly.  There were plenty of times when I didn’t like Amelia, but I always understood her.  She is enraged that Charly has completely derailed her carefully planned out life, and she can’t find it in herself to forgive her.  But even as she can’t forgive her, she wishes that life would go back to normal, that she and Charly could once again share that easy relationship that they once had.  Her resentment keeps getting in the way, though, and just keeps pushing them further apart.

Amelia has one goal in life – to go to Columbia.  Her entire school life so far has been dedicated to this goal.  She has exceled in her classes, studied her heart out, and always been the good girl.  Charly, on the other hand, is her exact opposite.  Fun loving, bubbly, outgoing, Charly thinks that life’s a game to be played all out.  Everyone loves her, and though she gets into a ton of trouble, her antics have been harmless.  Amelia is resigned that she will be bailing her out of one scrape after another, but with Charly’s unpredictable streak, at least life is never boring.  Until she starts hanging out with a bunch of losers, and she winds up pregnant.

Now, not being overly religious and not living in a small town, I didn’t sympathize with Amelia and her grandmother’s reaction to Charly’s condition.  Not even having a pastor father, who is a distracted and distant caregiver at best, could excuse their behavior and how they treated Charly like a tramp.  She’s pregnant, not a criminal!  She’s scared, suddenly alienated from her own family, and has no one to confide in.  The girls’ stern grandmother has decided that they will keep Charly’s pregnancy a secret from everyone, including their father.  They will both be shipped of to their aunt’s house in Canada, where Charly will take online courses for the rest of the year, and Amelia will be enrolled in the local high school.  Really?!  Sending them off to a relative they don’t know and  have only met once, at their mother’s funeral when they were babies, is the answer to Charly’s problem?  I hated their grandmother, I hated their clueless father, and I even hated Amelia for part of the book.  Everyone in her immediate family turned their back on her when Charly needed them the most, and I had a hard time forgiving them. 

Amelia is infuriated that she is being shipped off to the frozen north.  She wants nothing more than to finish out her senior year at her Florida high school, and then she’ll be free!  It’s off to Columbia for her!  Freedom from Charly and her shenanigans, freedom from gossip, freedom from always having to be the good girl.  Argh!  Amelia does not make a good impression on anyone once she gets to her aunt’s house, and she sees nothing wrong with her rotten behavior.  She takes her rage out on everyone.  I could understand how devastated she felt after her dreams shattered one by one, but come on!  You are supposed to be the mature one!  There were times that I was so frustrated with her that I did not like her.  But even then, I could still sympathize with her.  It is so hard to have your entire life shaken up like snow globe, so while I didn’t condone her actions, at least I understood them.

There is a lot of emotion packed into this book.  While it’s told from Amelia’s POV, Charly’s terror and unhappiness are painfully evident.  She’s a sixteen year old kid who, after one careless decision, ends up ostracized by her family.  The only caring adult in her life is the aunt she doesn’t even know.  Bree immediately tries to make both girls feel at home, but Amelia is so resentful and suspicious of her motives that she can only give her a hard time.  Ugh! I kept waiting for her to attain some measure of maturity, and it was a long time in coming.  Almost too late, really.  Amelia made me so angry!  I haven’t been this worked up reading a book in a long time!

When forgiveness does finally come, there is still an awkward strain between the sisters.  Amelia has fallen into a pattern of thinking that constantly blames her sister for everything, and dismisses her unfairly.  I think my only disappointment with the story is that I felt that some of the issues that had pushed them so far apart weren’t settled enough for my satisfaction.  That space that developed between Amelia and Charly, and even between Amelia and her father and grandmother, had grown so great that I am not convinced it could ever be bridged.

Grade:  B+

Review copy obtained from my local library

Waiting on Wednesday–The Language Inside by Holly Thompson

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.

Holly Thompson’s Orchards was one of my favorite reads in 2011.  I loved the book, and it got me hooked on novels in free verse; previously, I wouldn’t touch them with a 10 foot pole.  Her latest release, The Language Inside, will be in stores 2013.  I can hardly wait!

 

 

A beautiful novel in verse that deals with post-tsunami Japan, Cambodian culture, and one girl’s search for identity and home.

Emma Karas was raised in Japan; it’s the country she calls home. But when her mother is diagnosed with breast cancer, Emma’s family moves to a town outside Lowell, Massachusetts, to stay with her grandmother while her mom undergoes treatment.

Emma feels out of place in the United States, begins to have migraines, and longs to be back in Japan. At her grandmother’s urging, she volunteers in a long-term care center to help Zena, a patient with locked-in syndrome, write down her poems. There, Emma meets Samnang, another volunteer, who assists elderly Cambodian refugees. Weekly visits to the care center, Zena’s poems, dance, and noodle soup bring Emma and Samnang closer, until Emma must make a painful choice: stay in Massachusetts, or return early to Japan.

What are you waiting on?

Interview with Patricia Dunn, Author of Rebels By Accident

Patricia Dunn is the author of Rebels By Accident, a young adult coming of age tale that takes place in Egypt during the revolution that recently swept through the country.  Patricia dropped by the virtual offices to chat about her book.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.

[Patricia Dunn] I am the tangential queen. When I tell a story I take you around the world to bring you right back to where we started only with some new discovery, hopefully.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about Rebels by Accident?

[Patricia Dunn]  It’s the journey of an Egyptian-American teen who in our post 9-11 world is very disconnected from her culture, and how she finally figures out what it means to be Egyptian and American. It’s also a love story. Not just the girl meets boy story, but a story that also includes falling in love with a place and a people, and friends and family. And let’s not forget that it’s about Revolution on the outside and on the inside.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?

[Patricia Dunn] It didn’t start off as a choice. I was in a writing class with Cassandra Medley, at Sarah Lawrence College, she’s an amazing teacher and playwright. Through a series of writing prompts, the voice of Mariam started to come through. Someone once said it was like I channeled her. And I must have, because I’d never have consciously written in the voice of a teenager. Teens are tough. But whenever I tried to go back to a more adult narrator Mariam kept fighting her way through and winning. When I finally accepted Mariam as my narrator, I let her tell her story, and there were many variations. After the recent Egyptian revolution, I knew that was part of her story and so with the help of a wonderful editor, and my then publisher Evelyn Fazio, and with the help of my best friend and agent, this version emerged. And like any story I write, revision, revision, and revision, and trial and error, lots of it. The more I worked on this book, the more I learned about my characters and the more the story revealed itself.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What kind of research did you conduct for this project?

[Patricia Dunn] I’ve been to Egypt many times, so I could visualize a lot of the places I was writing about. But to get the events and the feel for a lot of the scenes at Tahrir square, I spent hours looking at YouTube videos and reading posts on Facebook and Twitter, and asking everyone I knew who was there or who had family there at the time. I also had many readers looking over the book and helping with fact checking. When it came to some of the Arabic translations, I made sure that these were checked and rechecked. I really tried to make sure that the transliteration was true to the way things are said in Egypt as opposed to other Arabic speaking countries. For example, in Egypt a “th” sound is used in a lot of words whereas it’s not used in other Arabic speaking countries. Oh, and I also talked to as many teenagers as I could to get a sense of what felt believable. I was constantly reading sections to my son and asking, "Does this sound like something a teen would say?" Or would your friends do this? Or would they do that? Then there was all the research around social media. It was amazing to me how the youth in Egypt were not only using Facebook to share news about fashion or friends but they were using Facebook to organize, to change the world.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three words best describe Mariam?

[Patricia Dunn] Loyal, funny, gutsy

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are three things Mariam would never have in her purse?

[Patricia Dunn] Mariam wouldn’t carry a purse, a backpack, but not a purse. Three things she’d never carry in her backpack are a romance novel (that’s Deanna, her best friend’s thing), a cell phone (her parents wouldn’t let her have one), and a red lipstick (Deanna wouldn’t approve of the color.)

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is Mariam’s single most prized possession?

[Patricia Dunn] She doesn’t realize it until later in the book, but I would say it’s the dress that her grandmother gives her. The trim on the sleeve is not finished. Mariam likes it this way because as Sittu tells her, "It’s good to be reminded that nothing is perfect in this world, and still there is so much beauty in this imperfection." Or something like that.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are your greatest creative influences?

[Patricia Dunn] I have to say my son does a lot to inspire me. Encourage me. Also, to kick my butt when he thinks I’m slacking off.

And the women of my writing group; they are tremendous writers who have so much care and love for their craft and each other that I’m always so grateful for their being part of my life.

My students. I have the honor of teaching at the Writing Institute at Sarah Lawrence College. Most of my students have families, full time jobs, more obligations in a week than many have in a year, and yet they manage to write their five pages or more a week, and they come to class giving as much to the other students in the class as receiving. They are always an inspiration to me. How hard they work. How determined they are. No matter what, they keep writing. Sometimes watching them shames me because of the excuses I will use to not write, but more often, they inspire me.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things do you need in order to write?

[Patricia Dunn] 1. My Writer’s Group, or what I call my “writer’s support group.” We meet every week to talk about our writing and our lives. We have each other’s backs and we keep each other going. Let’s face it, writing is hard work, and often there’s not a lot of payoff.

2. One song that I can play over and over again. When I’m starting a new project, it helps for me to find a song that matches the mood of the book, and often to the dismay of those around me, playing it over and over again keeps me in the right head and body space needed to get me writing forward.

3. Time. I think this is true for all writers. I don’t mean just hours. I mean the kind of focused time where there are no external or internal distractions. I’m not thinking about paying the cable bill or scrubbing the toilet while I’m writing. I’m there in the world my characters have helped me to create.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is the last book that you read that knocked your socks off?

[Patricia Dunn]  There have been so many. As someone who teaches a novel class and who is always working with other writers, a lot of what I read are works in progress, or works not yet published. The book not yet published that most knocked my socks, and boots, off was Jimin Han’s novel. It’s beautifully written and suspenseful. I couldn’t put it down.

The last published book to do that to me was the Kite Runner. The story was honest and compelling. The pacing was marvelous. I loved how it starts off slow, slow enough for us to really learn about the character and the world he grows up in. The pacing felt true to the way I remember experiencing childhood. Summer days that go on forever. Then the pacing speeds up and you can hardly breathe, or stop reading, until you get to the end.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you had to pick one book that turned you on to reading, which would it be?

[Patricia Dunn]  Escape from Warsaw by Ian Serraillier. I remember pulling it off the shelf in third grade. Up until then, I had never heard about the Holocaust, or even much about World War II. This book was about how the war separates this family and what they do to survive and find each other. I don’t remember a lot of the details and, actually, I’d like to read it again. I will never forget how it made me feel. I was so caught up in the characters’ world that I worried for them even when I wasn’t reading the book, though I read every chance I had. I couldn’t stop reading. I had to find out what happened next. I even read when I could have been watching television. Now that says a lot about how engaged I was with the story and the writing.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

[Patricia Dunn] Travel. Having Netflix marathons with my son, like watching every episode of the Twilight Zone in three days. Acting like a local roadie for my boyfriend’s cover band. I never had any interest in being a roadie or a groupie when I was younger, but at 48 it’s fun to be a band’s number one fan, especially when the bass player is such a cutie. He doesn’t make a living at his music; that he does in other ways. He plays for the fun of it. And it’s so much fun watching him and the other guys play. I have to say watching others write isn’t quite as entertaining.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How can readers connect with you?

[Patricia Dunn] Website Patriciadunnauthor.com

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/patricia.dunn.9066

and twitter @shewrites

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!

You can order Rebels By Accident from your favorite bookseller or by clicking the widget below:

About the book:

A Troubled Teen Sent to Cairo Finds Revolution is Everywhere, Including in Ourselves

When my first party ends in jail, I think things can’t possibly get worse. But then my parents send me to my grandmother in Cairo, and I’m sure my life is over. My sittu is Darth Vader’s evil sister, and I’m sure the only sites I’ll get to see in Egypt are the rooms in her apartment.

Turns out she’s not so bad. We ride camels by the pyramids and ice skate at a mall.
As Sittu says, “Sometimes a moment can change your life.” But it can change the life of a country too. When a girl named Asmaa calls the people of Egypt to protest, I find myself in the middle of a revolution, running from tear gas and guns.

Oh yeah, and I meet the cutest guy I’ve ever seen. Fall in love for the first time. And have my first kiss.