Monday, May 20, 2013

The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson

Once in a great while, a book comes along that reaches into you. It makes your brain remember your heart and your true desires in life. Although it seems like just a little young adult novel, just a little bit sci-fi, a little bit romance- to me it was a lot more.

All we know at the beginning is that Jenna Fox has awakened to a world she doesn't remember. She doesn't know her parents or the grandmother who seems to hate her. She comes to learn that she has been in an accident, an event that she is not to speak of to anyone. But then who would she tell? She has no friends and her parents are keeping her outside contact to a minimum. So she watches videos of her life, one for every year. Her memories begin to resurface, making her feel like an alien in host body. It is not until she demands to have her own life and is allowed to go to school and venture outside that she begins to put the mystery of her life together. But is it really her life to live?

The writing in this book is so interesting that it drew me in immediately. Told from Jenna's point of view, at first the language is stilted, halted, like a robot delivering some lines in a play. But then it is interspersed with short interludes, a kind of poetry, that lets us into Jenna's thoughts more deeply. By the end of the book, when Jenna finally understands her situation and grows into who she is going to be, the style is more that of a "normal" teenager, albeit a very thoughtful one.

The other thing I love about this book is knowing that there are sequels. BUT this book also could stand alone. The ending, while perhaps a bit different than we hope, is satisfying in itself. If you wanted to only read this one book, it would be fine - still an excellent book on its own. This is how a series should be done. But I know that this will not be the last Jenna Fox book for me. I will soon have to read The Fox Inheritance, book two in the series. But until then, I will not forget this beautiful, emotional book for all ages.

The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin

A book club friend donated this book to the library, and then another told me she could not put it down, so I thought I would finally take the time to give it a read. It is the kind of book you can sit and think about long after you're through.

It is the story of William Talmadge who was born to grow the many kinds of fruit trees in his orchard. His mother and father start from nothing, and pass on this reassuring, cultivating work to Talmadge. Talmadge is a common man who struggles with the loss of his sister, who mysteriously disappears into the forest one day. It is this event that shapes him, just as he shapes the trees to bear better, hardier fruit. Then one day he is faced with another struggle when two young girls, both pregnant and running away from he knows not what, enter the orchard to steal his fruit. Instead of chasing them away, he chooses the hard decision of cultivating them also. Their relationship to each other fascinates him, and he can't keep himself from helping them. His life in the orchard makes a shift then, from being all about him, his grief, and the land he is on. It shifts to become about love and the true sacrifice that love takes.

Perhaps it is the beautifully detailed writing, the characters that feel like real people when you're done, or the unique description of life cultivating a fruit orchard. Perhaps it is my own dear connection to my own sisters, or my father's life-long interest in fruit trees and grafting. There are a lot of reasons for me to love this book, and I hope you'll find your own.

Carry the One by Carol Anshaw

When we're young, there is a part of our brain that is sadly undeveloped. This part tells us that we are invincible - that whatever we do, it will all work out. We don't seem to get the fact that one action(or lack of action), one decision can change the lives of many, many others forever. It is this one, defining minute that defines the characters' lives in Anshaw's Carry the One.

A beautiful wedding, an unexpected mingling of lovers, and a celebration to excess - and then the accident. An accident that two sisters, their brother, and their friends have to cope with, remember, and live (or die) with forever. How can they cope with such an event? How do they get over the guilt? The siblings all try their whole lives, not only to escape, but to atone for the accident in their different ways. One dives into chemicals, one into art and love, and one into protest. Time goes on, life goes on, but can they ever outrun their connected story? Can they ever do the victim justice? Do they deserve to just move on and live their lives, striving for their own happiness?

While this sounds like a really depressing, heavy book full of dark emotions, it is so much more than that. It has humor, too, and the beautiful, realistic writing style that brings these unforgettable characters to life. It's a book that makes you think, and a story that carries you forward. Let me know what you think!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

From the first page of Khaled Hosseini's new novel, the reader is drawn in and held captive by the beautiful writing and enthralling story filled with wonder, sadness, and impossible choices. A book club friend was kind enough to lend me her advance reader's copy, I could not put it down once I started. I think it will take a high spot on my list of favorite books.

In the opening of the book, we are first entranced by the folktale that is told to a young boy and his sister. The tale tells of a much-feared div or ogre who steals a child and whose father is so torn apart by grief that he devotes his life to finding him. But what he finds at the ogre's mountain is a place far better for his son than the poor home he could provide. Is the beautiful home, riches, and education offered by the ogre better for the boy than the simple love of his father and the sureness of family? Can the father stand to leave his son and sacrifice his love? This becomes the real choice that the storyteller must face. This choice, this time involving a daughter and a rich acquaintance, begins the chain reaction that unfolds into a family saga spreading across the world: Kabul, Paris, San Francisco, and Greece.

If you enjoyed Hosseini's The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns, then you will not want to miss this one which will be available on May 21, 2013. Please let me know what YOU think!