Sunday, February 28, 2016

Guitar Notes

By Mary Amato

On odd days, Tripp uses a school practice room to let loose on a borrowed guitar. Eyes closed, strumming that beat-up instrument, Tripp escapes to a world where only the music matters.
On even days, Lyla Marks uses the same practice room. To Tripp, she’s trying to become even more perfect—she’s already a straight-A student and an award-winning cellist. But when Lyla begins leaving notes for him in between the strings of the guitar, his life intersects with hers in a way he never expected.
What starts as a series of snippy notes quickly blossoms into the sharing of interests and secrets and dreams, and the forging of a very unlikely friendship.
Challenging each other to write songs, they begin to connect, even though circumstances threaten to tear them apart.
From beloved author Mary Amato comes a YA novel of wit and wisdom, both heartfelt and heartbreaking, about the power of music and the unexpected chords that draw us together.

This was a surprise. A good surprise. I enjoyed the story, and found myself smiling at the notes these two teens left each other, which started out snotty, then sarcastic, then teasing, then just friendly. I loved how music was what both brought them into each other’s radar, and also healed both of them from their own problems. Being a music lover this was great and made me wish my small hands could play the guitar. Best part of the book: They did not fall in love. This may be a negative to a lot of people, but for me it was perfect. They really love each other, but it’s because they made a connection that could turn into something more, but for this book, it’s that fierce love that comes with true friendship. I was also excited to find out after I read the book that you can go online and download the songs that Lyla and Tripp write! I spent at least 2 weeks listening to the songs. I loved them all, but the Pomegranate waltz and Tripp’s last song were my favorites.  This was a coming of age story, a friendship story, and a story about being who you are and doing what you love.

I give it a 4.25 out of 5

The Looking Glass Wars

By Frank Beddor

The Myth: Alice was an ordinary girl who stepped through the looking glass and entered a fairy-tale world invented by Lewis Carroll in his famous storybook. The Truth: Wonderland is real. Alyss Heart is the heir to the throne, until her murderous aunt Redd steals the crown and kills Alyss? Parents. To escape Redd, Alyss and her bodyguard, Hatter Madigan, must flee to our world through the Pool of Tears. But in the pool Alyss and Hatter are separated. Lost and alone in Victorian London, Alyss is befriended by an aspiring author to whom she tells the violent, heartbreaking story of her young life. Yet he gets the story all wrong. Hatter Madigan knows the truth only too well, and he is searching every corner of our world to find the lost princess and return her to Wonderland so she may battle Redd for her rightful place as the Queen of Hearts.

Before we begin, I have a confession: I hate Alice in Wonderland. It has a few quotable quotes in the story, but I’ve always disliked it, starting with the Disney version that gave me the willies as a kid. One word. Cheshire Cat. Just sayin’. Then I read the book a few years ago and all I could think was “what?” I do, however, like some of the re-tellings I’ve seen or read. Sci-Fi’s “Alice” was a fun take on the story (though very psychedelic on the drug thing). So, when I saw this I thought, hmm. I liked a lot of the choices that were made with the story. The revolution and violent nature of this book intrigued me, with the playing cards and the chess pieces fighting. I didn’t really understand the power of imagination thing that Alyss and the Queen had going on though. It was a little too up in the air for me (though that was probably the intention) I like rules to magic so I know where I stand as a reader. By far the coolest character was Hatter Madigan, bodyguard supreme. I wish he’d had a bigger role.  Overall it was interesting, but fell flat for me toward the end. Expectation was built up and then fell. I didn’t even have the urge to read the next book, so probably won’t finish this series.

I give it a 3 out of 5 

The Blood of Olympus (#5)

By Rick Riordan

Though the Greek and Roman crewmembers of the Argo II have made no progress in their many quests, they still seem no closer to defeating the earth mother, Gaia. Her giants have risen—all of them, and they’re stronger than ever. They must be stopped before the Feast of Spes, when Gaea plans to have two demigods sacrificed in Athens. She needs their blood—the blood of Olympus—in order to wake. The demigods are having more frequent visions of a terrible battle at Camp Half Blood. The Roman legion from Camp Jupiter, led by Octavian, is almost within striking distance. Though it is tempting to take the Athena Parthenos to Athens to use as a secret weapon, the friends know that the huge statue belongs back on Long Island, where it might be able to stop a war between the two camps. The Athena Parthenos will go west; the Argo II will go east. The gods, still suffering from multiple personality disorder, are useless. How can a handful of young demigods hope to persevere against Gaea’s army of powerful giants? As dangerous as it is to head to Athens, they have no other option. They have sacrificed too much already. And if Gaea wakes, it is game over.

I FINALLY got through this one! I really enjoy Rick Riordan’s books, and waited until I was in the exact right mood to read this (I am a mood reader, and heaven help the book I read if I’m not in the mood for a romance/adventure/fantasy etc.). I have loved the relationships in this series and the character growth that happens with each of the main characters. I usually don’t like switching perspectives in books, and I do have my favorites, but this was great because I liked all of them. But, Leo was the one I was desperately rooting for. There’s something about a funny, loyal, and underdog-like guy that I can’t help but love. I read this book really looking for his happy ending. That’s all I’ll say! Oddly, I found that with the Percy Jackson series, I had a hard time remembering how it ended…and it’s kinda the same with this one. The books that Riordan writes are all about the adventure, the tension, the deadlines to the apocalypse. When you get there, when it’s crunch time, I start to lose interest a little. (Sorry Mr. Riordan! I’ll still read all your books!) That said, I’m happy to have read this series, and say that I liked it even more than the first series. Keep the mythology rolling Mr. Riordan, and I’ll keep coming back for more.

I give it a 3.75 out of 5

Guardians Inc. The Cypher

By Julian Rasado-Machan

A glimpse into a multinational company that is in reality the oldest of secret societies, one that spans close to seven thousand years of existence, weaving in and out of history, guiding and protecting humanity from creatures and forces that most of us believe are only mythology and fairy tales.
The other is the story of Thomas Byrne, a young man thrust into secrets he shouldn’t be aware of and dangers he shouldn’t face but, that he ultimately will, for he is a cypher. The only one who can steer humanity’s future.
The ultimate conspiracy theory is that Magic is real. Kept in check by technology but, every five hundred years the balance can shift and, if it does, technology will fail and those creatures we’ve driven into myth will come back with a vengeance.
To protect the present, Guardians Incorporated needs to know the future.

This was really hard to get into, and I had to force myself to read it. This just wasn’t my cup of tea when I read it. Perhaps if I had been in a different mood? Who knows? It was well written and the story was interesting. It’s your basic plot where a kid finds out he’s more than average, he has a certain power. He loses his parent/guardian and must make a decision about who to trust to get them back. The rest is a lot of magic and introduction to an outlier society of mystics and magicians. I think that this would be well received by middle school aged kids, but it’s not a great read for adults who like YA/kids books that can entertain a ‘kid at heart’.

I give it a 3 out of 5

84 Charing Cross Road

By Helene Hanff

This charming classic, first published in 1970, brings together twenty years of correspondence between Helene Hanff, a freelance writer living in New York City, and a used book dealer in London. Through the years, though never meeting and separated both geographically and culturally they share a winsome, sentimental friendship based on their common love for books. Their relationship captured so acutely in these letters, is one that will grab your heart and not let go.

I admit, when I found out about this book I was hoping for something along the lines of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, but this was something different. It took me a while to find out for sure, but this is an actual correspondence between the author and a gentlemen who lived in England during WWII. It’s a cute and real life relationship that we are able to see. It made me nostalgic for this time before e-mails and text messages. Where letters were written longhand and with a little more thought and personality. I blew right through this book in an afternoon, and at the end had a bittersweet feeling that wouldn’t leave me for days. It’s a sweet little read that I’m glad took my afternoon away from me.

I give it a 3.75 out of 5 

As You Wish

By Cary Elwes

Storm the castle once more.
Standing on the stage for the twenty-fifth anniversary of The Princess Bride, I felt an almost overwhelming sense of gratitude and nostalgia. It was a remarkable night and it brought back vivid memories of being part of what appears to have become a cult classic film about pirates and princesses, giants and jesters, cliffs of insanity, and of course rodents of unusual size.
It truly was as fun to make the movie as it is to watch it, from getting to work on William Goldman’s brilliant screenplay to being directed by the inimitable Rob Reiner. It is not an exaggeration to say that most days on set were exhilarating, from wrestling Andre the Giant, to the impossibility of playing mostly dead with Billy Crystal cracking jokes above me, to choreographing the Greatest Sword Fight in Modern Times with Mandy Patinkin, to being part of the Kiss That Left All the Others Behind with Robin Wright.
In this book I’ve gathered many more behind-the-scenes stories and hopefully answers to many of the questions we’ve all received over the years from fans. Additionally, Robin, Billy Rob, and Mandy, as well as Christopher Guest, Wallace Shawn, Fred Savage, Chris Sarandon, Carol Kane, Normal Lear, and William Goldman graciously share their own memories and stories from making this treasured film.
If you’d like to know a little bit more about the making of The Princess Bride as seen through the eyes of a young actor who got much more than he bargained for, along with the rest of this brilliant cast, then all I can say is…as you wish.

I never read stuff like this. I find them boring and hardly ever finish, but this...this was just so much fun! I loved all the behind the scenes stuff I learned, and after reading it I went and watched the movie and laughed at certain scenes because I knew what had happened and why Westley was sitting the way he was (broken foot!). I enjoyed the writing as well, which was friendly, down-to-earth, and engaging. It really felt like I was sitting just having a chat with Cary who was enjoying reliving a great time in his life (minus the broken foot). I loved the little quotes and stories from other actors as well. I’d heartily recommend this book to anyone, who like me, grew up running around their house saying, “Inconceivable!” “Anybody want a peanut?” or “Twoo Wuv!” It’s a heart-warming look at a beloved family film that we are now enjoying with the next generation of the family.

I give it a 4 out of 5

A Heart Revealed

By Josi Kilpack

Amber Marie Sterlington, the Rage of the Season in Regency-era London, has her pick of men, and she knows what she wants most in a husband: a title and a fortune. Why would she ever marry for something as fickle as love? And why would she ever look twice at Thomas Richards, a third son of a country lord?
But when Amber’s social standing is threatened, the character of her future husband becomes far more important than his position. After a public humiliation, she finds herself exiled to Yorkshire. Alone except for her maid, Amber is faced with a future she never expected in a circumstance far below what she has known all her life. Humbled and lonely, Amber begins to wonder if isolation is for the best. Who could ever love her now?

It’s very difficult to enjoy a book when you don’t like the main character. I had a hard time relating to or even feeling sympathy for Amber. She’s a brat. She’s totally vapid and doesn’t have one thought for someone else, she’s too fixated on her beauty and her ability to snag a rich husband. Even when things go horribly wrong for her and she has to start rethinking her life, I still held a grudge against this lady. I found myself latching on to the interesting facts I was learning about the disease that Amber has and the family history we learn as we read. I enjoyed reading this book, but I wasn’t sucked in or feeling any warm fuzzies at the romance. Thomas was way too good for her. I liked the maid better.

I give this a 3 out of 5