Roddy Doyle, the Irish author of some of my favorite books, including Paddy Clarke, Ha, Ha, Ha, and The Barrytown Trilogy (The Commitments, The Snapper, and The Van) has written a teen novel called A Greyhound of a Girl. I was thrilled to receive an advanced copy from the publisher and Netgalley for review.
Summary: A Greyhound of a Girl is the story of four generations of women. twelve-year-old Mary, has a lot on her mind. Her best friend has moved away and her gran, Emer, is on her deathbed in the hospital. Letting go is hard to do, until she meets a kind older lady on her way home from school one day. It turns out this familiar looking young woman with an odd manner of dress and speech is the ghost of her great-grandmother, Tansey. Tansey was a young mother when she died of the flu, leaving Mary’s gran motherless. Tansey never stopped watching out for her little girl and is eager to ease her daughter’s fears about dying, but she needs Mary and her mother, Scarlett to help. Together, they devise a plan for Tansey and Emer to meet and revisit the past as Mary and Scarlett prepare for a future without Emer.
My thoughts: The first words that come to mind to describe this short little book are charming and touching, but it’s missing the charisma and wit that I expect from Doyle. I loved the descriptions of the family farm and the stories of Emer’s youth. Tansey was a wonderful and lively character, and I loved her take on the after life. However, not much happens in the book and the dialogue at times feels forced and even dumbed down for a younger audience. Despite the serious content, this book felt more like a middle grade than a teen novel. Overall, a sweet, simple read.
I was out on an end-of-the-year book buying mission and I could not pass up these books. Yes, I totally judged the books by the covers, but you have to admit the titles are pretty snazzy too! Sorry for the small pictures. The titles, in order, are Noogies, Wedgies, and Cooties. Tee hee.
I wasn’t until they landed on my desk and I started reading that I discovered that Lenore is not new. I did a little pokin’ around on the old internet and learned that Lenore first appeared in 1992, but it wasn’t until 1998 that she got her own comic series, which ran until 2007. Then in 2009 her story started up again and we now have them beautifully bound as Noogies, Wedgies, and Cooties. On his blog Dirge describes Lenore as both horror and dark humor. I like. It doesn’t hurt that Lenore is reanimated, has a cast of bizarro friends, and is prone to potty humor and murder.
I have only rifled through the first volume, but I am so pleased with this fantastic find. I especially like this quote from the Los Angeles Times: “Sweet and strange and slightly discomforting…An unholy union between Tim Burton and Dr. Seuss.” I plan to savor these over the weekend. I will probably also be spending some time exploring Spookyland, Lenore’s online home.
The end is near and I am getting a bit emotional about it. I have loved every book in the Ranger’s Apprentice series by John Flanagan and I only have one book left. Two, if you count the collection of short stories. I am torn between snatching up the last book and reading it right now and waiting, just to delay the inevitable. Confession: I snatched the book up. Now, do I read it or finish the things I have already started? While I struggle with this personal dilemma you can read about Halt’s Peril. Be warned that you will encounter spoilers if you have not read the previous eight books. If that is the case, stop reading this and immediately run to the library/store/internet and get yourself a copy of The Ruins of Gorlan. You can thank me later. Anyway, moving along.
Halt’s Peril, Ranger’s Apprentice book 8 by John Flanagan, 2010
Will, Halt and Horace are back on the trail of Tennyson and his cult, the Outsiders. They have tracked the charlatan and his men back into the Rangers’ homeland of Araluen. Their journey is fairly eventless until they are ambushed by Tennyson’s hired assassins, the Genovesans. During the ambush Halt is nicked by what turns out to be a poisoned crossbow bolt. Their pursuit of Tennyson comes to an end as Will sets out to get help for his dying mentor. Can Halt survive long enough for help to arrive? How will Horace and Will face the Lady Pauline if he does not? And what will become of Tennyson and the Outsiders? You’ll have to read Halt’s Peril to find out!
I would hate to spoil the story for anyone, but I have to say that I think this was the most suspenseful and funniest volume yet. We meet some old friends (and enemies), Will and Horace both have to make difficult decisions, and the constant banter and teasing among the three friends is practically non-stop (except, of course, during the tragic parts…). The ninth volume is not short on action, adventure, or clever battle manuevers. I’ll even confess to getting a little teary-eyed at the end. Fans will not be disappointed (except for the fact that they are one book away from the final, for real end).
Readalikes: Cinda Williams Chima, Garth Nix, Michael Scott
My seven-year-old nephew started a new tradition this year for New Year’s Eve-rice pudding with an almond in it. This is actually a popular Christmas Eve tradition in Norway, Denmark, and Finland. According to the tradition the cook places one whole almond in the rice pudding and whoever gets it in their serving will have good luck for the year or get an extra present. Well my friends, I got the almond and so far I’ve been feeling pretty lucky. Two lucky things happened last Friday.
1. I received a phone call telling me I won a box of books from Amazon Publishing after being 1 of 15 randomly selected winners of a School Library Journal giveaway. I am excited to see what I won!
2. Author Antony John generously offered to do a Skype interview with my book club after we discuss his book, Five Flavors of Dumb! They don’t know this yet (unless they are reading this) but they will find out when we meet in February. How cool is that? We will be talking with Mr. John in March so if you have any questions for leave him, me a comment and I will do my best to get them answered for you. In the mean time, go out and read his book if you haven’t already; it’s a great feel-good read.
I’d say things are looking good so far. How about you? Is 2012 going to be your good luck year too?
I thought I would try something new this year. On Fridays I will share something fantastic that I came across during the week. For my first fantastic find I present a quote from the book I have been listening to this week.
“…I knew not to give the best of me to the worst of people.”
From Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King pg. 197
I don’t think I need to say anything else. I’ll just let you think on that.
Here it is, the first book review (and the first book read) of 2012. I am congratulating myself for picking this wintery book for a wintery weekend read. Further thoughts:
Winter Town by Stephen Emond is the past, present, and future story of Evan and Lucy. The teens have been best friends since childhood, despite the fact that Lucy has lived in Georgia for the past five years and only returns to Connecticut for winter break. The winter of their senior year everything changes. Lucy has a new look and a new attitude that Evan does not understand. Something is wrong, but Lucy won’t talk about it. Putting his misgivings aside Evan struggles to find the “Old Lucy” and rekindle their friendship. The result is a heartbreaking romance and doubts about everything Evan believed he wanted.
I have mixed feelings about this book, but in the end I was able to overlook the things that bothered me and enjoy the story. I really liked the comic strip and illustrations throughout the book. Evan’s comic strip does an excellent job of filling in some of the story that I feel is missing from the narrative. Evan and Lucy are both likeable characters, despite being underdeveloped. It’s difficult to put my finger on the exact problem, I just wanted more from and about them. The secondary characters, however, really shine. Evan’s friends seem to bring out the best in him and make him more likeable in my eyes. I did not particularly like Evan’s parents, which is unusual because I love a story with a stable family, but Gram is a gem. She is smart, wise, and unconditionally accepting of both Evan and Lucy. It is refreshing to get a male point of view, especially on relationship issues and I appreciated Evan’s initial willingness to follow the path that he thinks has been decided for him. He is a good kid who gets good grades, and is eager to please his family, but he doesn’t seem to realize the price he pays in order to please others. Lucy wants to be a good kid, but can’t get over the injustices she has suffered and lashes out. Both teens feel trapped in roles that they did not choose for themselves, but together they may just figure things out. Overall, this is a touching look at childhood friends struggling to stay connected and figure out what they want out of life. I found the ending and the extra material satisfying and I love the cover. It fits the story beautifully. I will recommend this to fans of contemporary fiction and non-sappy romances.
Things to be aware of: smoking, drinking, and a mention of sex. Nothing graphic.
Readalikes: Paper Town by John Green, Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King, and Every You, Every Me by David Levithan