The best reads of the past month:
Ninth Key, Reunion, Darkest Hour, Haunted, and Twilight by Meg Cabot
I blew through this series and it was sort of a blast. The not-so-faint hint of menace in these books shows that Cabot can turn her hand to any genre she wants and still tickle her audience. The Suze/Jesse/Paul triangle worked for me and I liked how Paul inhabited the gray area between irredeemably vicious and uncertainly vulnerable. Happily, Cabot worked out the perfect ending. I've been on a real paranormal/urban fantasy jag lately and this series was just the thing for a lighter dark mood.
The Last Summer (of You and Me) by Ann Brashares
I haven't read any of the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants books and I haven't seen the movie. But when I read about Brashares' first adult foray, it sounded like the right time to give her a shot. The Last Summer is just lovely. The writing tripped along as pleasantly as waves washing up on Fire Island. Main trio Alice, Paul, and Riley try to navigate their post-adolescent years while holding their difficult relationships intact. The quiet, clean writing fit the way the characters were moving into adulthood. Slowly. Reluctantly. If they must. The way we all do.
Girl at Sea by Maureen Johnson
My first Maureen Johnson book. I frequent her blog. I follow Free Monkey's progress across the nation same as the next girl. And Ms. Johnson is so endearing and genuine in her fight against the Senseless Banning of the Books (SBotB) that I thought it high time I picked up one of hers. I started with her newest and much fun was read following Clio on her zany treasure hunt off the Amalfi Coast. Johnson has been compared to the ubiquitous Sarah Dessen, but after reading Girl at Sea I think Johnson is definitely the more entertaining writer of the two. Her characters feel somehow realer, more rounded, like I'd still want to know them when all is said and done.
Starcrossed by Mark Schreiber
Starcrossed (don't you love that it's one word?) was one of those "I'm on vacation. In a new bookstore. I'm going to just pick up the first interesting-looking book I see and read it on the plane ride home" books. I love those books. They never disappoint. The title tipped me off to the Romeo & Juliet aspect of it, so I was most interested to see how Schreiber ended his version. But the beginning scene is what did it for me. Girl meets Boy in plastic surgeon office waiting room. Being the only two people in the room, Girl and Boy are forced to strike up the dreaded conversation. "So. What are you in for?" Turns out they're both in to have tattoos with their former flame's (FF) name in them removed. Even better, they each share the same first name as the other's FF. Awesome. Winner of this month's Best Last Line Award.
Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr
Marr's first novel is an absolute treat. A delicious dark urban fantasy--it felt like Holly Black meets Tamora Pierce. And yes, if the thought of that combination leaves you tingling with delight, I give you permission to stop reading this blog and go out and buy it Right Now. At the same time it kept reminding me of Laura Wiess' Such a Pretty Girl, which I read not long back. I think because the two central characters, Meredith and Aislinn, are such tough, haunted girls. Granted, their demons don't inhabit the same world (literally). But they are demonish in the same disturbing, gut-wrenching way. Marr's blend of gritty, wrong-side-of-the-tracks realism with the decadent fantasy of the Faery courts was pitch perfect and her descriptions of the clashing Faery kingdoms and the humans caught between left me shivering for more.
Lean Mean Thirteen by Janet Evanovich
13 Stephanie Plum books! It boggles the mind. And it's beginning to be the sign that summer is here. My old friend CK from Readerville turned me onto the Plum saga when she asked me if I was a babe or a cupcake. I did not know the answer to this question so I started One for the Money. The two men in Stephanie's life, Super Bounty Hunter "May Actually Be Batman" Ranger and Trenton Cop Joe "Reformed Bad Boy" Morelli, refer to her by these nicknames respectively. Roundabout book six I knew I was definitely a babe, being all about the Ranger. Seven books later, Aaron and I read each new installment aloud together, just waiting for another classic Plum moment when all hell breaks loose and Lula stun guns Joyce. Or a stuffed beaver explodes in her living room. I'm still all about the Ranger, but I have to admit (because he's proven it time and again) Morelli's one of the good ones and I'd really miss him if he were gone.
What My Mother Doesn't Know and What My Girlfriend Doesn't Know by Sonya Sones
And so continues my growing penchant for novels in verse. I was skeptical but I have come to see the error of my ways and am now rapidly working my way through the really great stuff that's out there. Thanks to Meg Cabot's glowing recommendation, I picked up Sonya Sones' companion novels. They are sweet, funny stories told in verse about fifteen-year-old Sophie and her hilarious friend Robin Murphy. Sophie is part of the popular crowd, while Robin is....not. He's so not popular that ever since grade school his last name has been synonymous with loser or an act of extreme loserness. As in "Don't be such a Murphy." Junior high sure was fun, wasn't it? *gag* I liked Sones' spare writing style and I really liked Sophie and Robin--two teenagers who aren't immune to all the heinous social pain/baggage that comes with high school but who learn how to watch each other's backs and make it out alive. We should all be so scrappy.
Best reread of the past month:
Looking for Alaska by John Green
This was the selection for my book group this month. My choice. I really wanted to reread it and see what seeped in on a second, more leisurely read. Mostly what struck me this time was how therapeutic the story is for someone who has lost a close friend or family member tragically. At least it is for me. Pudge, the Colonel, Takumi, they are all forced to deal with crippling grief and the inescapable fear that she was gone because they let her go. Green seems to always come through with everything you can ask from a storyteller: real humor, real pain, and in the end real hope.