Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Review: Nantucket Blue

Sometimes I find myself completely surprised by a book, and its a feeling that I love. How often can we say these days that our expectations were not only met but far exceeded? That's exactly what I got from Nantucket Blue by Leila Howland. I wanted to take a look at it because I knew it would be of interest to some of the teens at my library, but I wasn't exactly excited to read it. 

And then I couldn't put it down. What a wonderful feeling, to be so intrigued by something that seemed like just another typical teen romance at the outset.

That's not to say that it's not a typical teen romance in many ways. Main character Cricket is the odd girl out at her school - a scholarship kid surrounded by the way-too-rich-for-their-own-good who is just starting to get noticed by the hot guy.

Things take a turn, though, when Cricket's best friend's mother dies suddenly, a woman she considered as close as her own mother. Things chill between the two friends unexpectedly, leaving their summer plans of hanging around together on Nantucket up in the air.

There's nothing terribly earth-shattering about this book (although teens who have dealt with a death in the family or in the community may find some comfort), but it all felt real enough that I wanted to keep reading. Cricket felt very understandable to me, and the level of plausibility was just high enough to not make me want to throw the book across the room.

I can't wait to start handing this out to some of my kids. I know it will be right up their alley.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Review: Under The Dome

I am a devout Stephen King fanatic (I'm pretty sure I scare people off when I start talking about The Dark Tower). Or rather, I should say that I am a formerly devout Stephen King fanatic. Like many other Constant Readers (hi, Mom!), I have a predilection for his earlier stuff, which are all (for the most part) whole stories. It's the newer stuff that starts out strong, with lots of atmosphere and a huge cast of well-defined characters, but always end up devolving into a mush, leaving you feel left down. My mother and I now call these "Stephen King" endings, no matter who writes them.

I think I first noticed this with Cell, which starts out stronger than a lot of SK's books (perhaps only for Bostonians like me, though - how could we forget that first scene on Boylston Street and Arlington Street). The ending, though, left multitudes to be desired. And routinely, just about all his books that I've read since (Duma Key excluded) have stumbled sadly toward mediocrity.

And yet somehow, I keep coming back for more. With Stephen King, the journey is what matters (see? I can work Dark Tower into anything). I've come to mind the bad endings less and less, just enjoying the ride. I don't excuse them, but if I assume they're coming, I'll be less disappointed in the long run.

Case in point: Under The Dome. I've been meaning to read this since it was released, but its size kept pushing it down my list. But when I heard that the book was being turned into a mini series for CBS this June, written by Y: The Last Man author Brian K. Vaughan, I knew I had to get it read ASAP.

I opted for the audio book, since I was still a bit daunted by the size, and I had so many other physical books on my to-read stack. Somehow, 30 discs seemed more manageable than the book itself. And I surprised myself at how quickly I flew through them! I give full credit to Raul Esparza, who did an excellent job managing different voices for a huge cast of characters. It felt like I was listening to a whole cast reading the book instead of one man.

The book itself is typical latter-day King, rushed bad ending and all. I actually yelled at my radio when it the actual bad guy was revealed. But the journey to the bad ending was highly enjoyable, filled with twists, turns, and plenty of gore. I may have hated the ending, but I'm waiting not-so-patiently for the show to air next month.