Book Review: Don’t Stop Now

I love all of Julie Halpern’s books. This is no exception. Into The Wild Nerd Yonder is definitely still my favorite, so if you haven’t read this author, I’d start there. But this book is wonderful, too. The cover is blah. If I didn’t love the author I would have passed this by on the shelf. Her other covers are outstanding. Book covers matter a lot to me, I’ve realized.

What I loved about this young adult book is the premise of girl and boy being best friends, but sending signals that indicate otherwise while girl hopes for more and finally takes that risky leap. I loved Josh and Lil’s friendship. Of course I hoped she would get the guy, but their friendship was so lovable, it was really all I needed to get me through the book. I really didn’t care very much about Penny, the girl who faked her own kidnapping the day after high school ends, which causes Josh and Lil to take a road trip (quest) to find her. I think it mixed in an element of higher drama than the rest of the book could hold up, and shouldn’t have been forced to. I was definitely in it to see where Josh and Lil ended up. And I like where they landed.

Julie’s writing is so funny. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: humor is in the funny-bone of the the beholder. Sometimes you just match humor and Julie’s sense of humor is definitely the same as mine. And I think because of that, I relate to her characters and they seem so damn lovable. I will read all of Julie Halpern’s books. And, check out her blog, too. Also funny.

Sidenote: How awesome is it that I read this on vacation while in Portland after just having visited Powell’s City of Books? Very awesome!! Why? Because Josh and Lil visit Powell’s City of Books in this story. I kind of wish I would have bought this book from that store.

Seeing Us In Them

I haven’t blogged about family in a while. Partly because the older the girls get the more they read the blog, so the more at risk I am for embarrassing them. But, I can share the following story safely. I think all parents and relatives have a keen eye for who looks like who in the family or which kid has a personality more like so-and-so. It’s this sort of game families all play, the Mugeles included. The  other day I watched a conversation between the girls and was left laughing at how exactly that looked like Josh and me. So here’s a fun game for my family and friends: In the story I tell, which kid is more like me and which kid is more like Josh.

Kid X and kid Y are sitting in the stairwell, squished close together on the same step, waiting for me to finish whatever I was doing in the kitchen so that we could all go to dinner. X was chewing bubble gum. Y was watching X. X began to blow a bubble but sucked it back in and said to Y, “Don’t pop it. I want to see how big I can get it.”

Y agrees, but keeps a steady eye on her sister as she blows a bubble. X proceeds to blow a very big bubble and Y points her finger at it. X leans back as Y’s finger gets closer, then retracts, then finally pokes a hole in the bubble. X looks at Y and says with equal parts frustration and disappointment, “I told you not to.”

Y says guiltily, “I know. I couldn’t help it. It was so tempting.”

X tries to resign herself to her sister’s nature. “Ugh. I know, but I really didn’t want you to do that.”

So, who is Eleanor in the story and who is Magnolia? AND: who is Jody and who is Josh?

Fourteen Years

So today marks fourteen years of marriage for Josh and me. That seems like sooooo many years. I guess it is. Josh asked me what year was the best so far. It’s a little like asking which season is the best when you live on the California coast. They’re all good. Sure there was the year of El Nino, but other than that, it’s mostly delightful. And I guess that describes our married life. Sure there was the year of the dot.com bust, oh! and let’s not forget the year of Ella’s colic. But other than that it’s been swell. It really has.

I was looking for some kind of medical records or something the other day when I found our wedding vows. We wrote our own because I sure wasn’t going be pledging obedience and all that shit. And here’s what Josh wrote and recited me all those years ago (written on a memo pad from gemini metals corporation):

Well, Jody, our parents have given their blessing, our friends and family have all come as witnesses, and the minister will make our marriage legal. But it’s this–you and me, speaking together–that is the most important, the most valuable part of the whole wedding. These promises I’m making are not for our parents, they’re not for the church, they’re for you. And, really, I don’t need to make them. You know, Jody, that without speaking, because of our life together, how much I love you and how committed I am to you. But in front of all these people, I promise out loud, to learn to love you and to stay with you as long as we live, Jody. And, of course, I promise to respect you, encourage you, and grow with you . I promise to have babies with you and grow old with you. These things go without saying–they’re written in every aspect of the life we share. But more than these promises, these vows, Jody, I will work with you, Jody, and most of all I will try my very best to be a good husband. After all, isn’t that what love is? Isn’t that, really, what life is? — working together and knowing we will fail often, still doing the best we know how to do.

Well, yes. And failed we have. And loved we have. What a life it has been. A really good one.

And, um, Josh? When you promised to have babies with me, you really didn’t have to make good on that on our honeymoon. But, thank you for this wonderful life we have. Thank you for the commitment, respect, encouragement, and for staying true to these words. I love you. Happy Anniversary.

 

Book Review: Fixing Delilah

So, last year I was doing this thing where I kept trying to like Sarah Dessen. (I realize I’m reviewing Sarah Ockler’s book. Bear with me here.) I’m a fan of romantic books, and Sarah Dessen is the go-to romantic writer of YA fiction. I see review after review about how much everyone loves her books: teen girls and authors alike. Yet, Dessen books just don’t resonate with me. I leave them feeling kind of meh. I recognize good writing and good story, but for whatever reason, I don’t end up wanting to hug her books.

Sarah Ockler is MY Sarah Dessen. Ockler’s books make me feel…romantic. Even a little gushy and huggy. I will easily forgive little things like the dudes always being a whisper of a hint away from flawless. And the monologue sometimes going long. Because I feel her books. And as a young adult book writer, I have things to learn here.

I love watching my girls pull her books off my shelves, too. I can’t say that about all the authors on my shelves. But, when they grab for Ockler’s books, I know they’re getting great girl characters to follow around, and an author with solid, thought-out web presence. (I hate the notion of a platform, but maybe it applies here?) Basically, I think I love what she stands for, and talks about.

Apparently this is more of an author review.

A Bit of Nostalgia: The Couch

When I first began dating Josh, we spent a lot of time reading. Outside on the college campus, on rooftops, and in parks he’d read me The Once and Future King. On our very first date we went to a bookstore and we read Lafcadio, The Lion Who Shot Back. For our Contemporary Lit class he read Cat’s Cradle to me. By that time I’d fallen in love with him, and was falling in love with literature.

When he graduated college and took a job at Independent bookstore, he’d read me poetry. Sometimes he’d recite it. Still does. I wonder if our kids think that all kids’ dads recite poetry at dinner (and sometimes scrawl it in secret corners of the basement walls). Probably they know its just their dad. But of all the places Josh has read books to me, the couch is my favorite. The first couch Josh ever owned was something out of an old lady’s house. It was a light olive color, the fabric shiny and puckered with buttons. The back of the couch had a curve to it. It was a long couch, fit for a tall bookish man almost 6’5″ and still growing. What’s weird is that while I remember reading on the couch time and time again, I don’t remember a single book we read there. I was probably too busy watching him, hearing him, feeling him. I know I promised myself I’d remember those times reading on that couch. I was very busy memorizing the scene, it seems.

This last weekend and today Josh has been at the hospital quite a bit and I am well into book number three. It’s been me on the couch, alone with my books a lot during this intern year. And I don’t know what it is these past few days that make me need to read like a dog needs a treat. I just can’t get enough. Whatever it is, I was satisfying that hunger again tonight when Eleanor came and sat with me on the couch. To Read.

I smiled and smiled and was a little sad when I had to tell her to go to bed. And then I yelled at her for dog-earing the page of the book she was reading. Gah! She knows better. She just can’t be bothered with the details like that. Anyway, I hope she has memories of reading that are wonderful for her. Or maybe it will Magnolia who remembers her sister reading to her every night–the Harry Potter books in order, the way that Eleanor hates. I have no idea why you’d read them out of order, but for Eleanor it’s satisfying. It’s kind of mysterious to me why books are so satisfying. But they are. They just really are.

Book Review: Drought

I loved Pam Bachorz’s book CANDOR so much! It was one of my top five last year. And so this going to sound a little assy, but because I loved CANDOR, I figured DROUGHT probably wouldn’t be as great. So, I’m happy to say I’m wrong. I loved this one too. Maybe it’s my fascination with cult-like mentalities and situations, but I get riveted by Pam’s stories. I wish that M. Night Shyamalan would come along and turn both these YA books into movies.

I read this young adult book in less than 24 hours. What Bachorz does best is suspense. I’m so glad I had the day to read and get absorbed. I dug the romance as well. The characterizations of both the MC and her mother were fascinating to me, as well. I like that Pam isn’t afraid to show so much darkness in the parents in her stories. And given that darkness, she still brings out the loyalties of the teens to the parents as well as their urges and needs to be individuals free of their parents. It could so easily be cliched and obvious young adult book material, but Pam makes it interesting. And given the ending she chose for CANDOR, I wondered if she’d give a similar one in DROUGHT. I will only say I was happy with this ending, as I was with the ending in CANDOR.

I look forward to whatever is next from Pam.

Book Review: Where She Went

This was a wonderful sequel to my favorite book of 2010. It definitely lived up to my hopes and expectations. The only thing that bothered me was that the hardback cover to this book complements the paperback version of the first book. I’m sure it was a marketing thing, but it bugs me. Still, if that’s my only complaint, which it is, then I think it speaks for the story. I love Mia and Adam! I’m so happy that the author ended this book/story as she did. I thought we were headed in another direction, and I was steeling myself for that ending – one which I would have accepted, but I definitely feel satisfied with where it ended up. I hope I can write this well some day!I’m surprised these two books sold as YA books. I think these read far more like adult stories. The first one less so, but Where She Went felt very adult to me. On the other hand, I like that these are YA, and wish the norm was something that had a bit more of an adult feel, as these books do.
This is the shortest book review ever. But very simply, I love this book. I love them both.
Addendum: My friend Caitlin asked a great question on Goodreads that I wanted to add into my blog, here. She said:
I’m interested in your last comment, Jody, about the difference between YA and adult stories. Can you put your finger on what made this book “feel very adult” to you? And why do you prefer that? (I realize that this is an easy question to ask, and a hard one to answer. But I’d be interested in your thoughts.)

My answer was this (WHICH CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR IF I STAY) Well, I guess it starts with the fact that Adam, the main character is living on his own. He’s become a rock star who is dating a famous older woman, so right away there is nary a parent to become independent of or rebel against. Adam is angsty to be sure, but it is because of his love for Mia, which he himself claims was always more than a high school romance. Those questions he battles in the book: why did she leave? what happened to our love? were drawn and explored in a way much much beyond first kisses and the awkward loss of virginity. But that doesn’t account for the first book.

In IF I STAY you have Mia, a senior in high school, who’s been in a car wreck with her parents and eight year old brother. She is in a coma and aware of all that is happening around her in the hospital. She must choose to die, or go on living without her family. This is the perfect metaphor for a coming of age story. So, I accept that wholly as a YA book. Though Mia is a bright, talented, and very mature girl. So, in this way it’s just the characterization that made it feel adult. She was in no way angsty, in my opinion. I loved that. It was refreshing and wonderful to see a teenager who wasn’t angry, depressed, or bitchy.

A Few Thoughts on Motherhood

Yesterday after brunch I celebrated mother’s day by driving the girls around I-465 with the windows down and music blaring. At one point I looked back and both of them had their heads out the window. One of my kids even had her mouth open. Her cheeks were flapping.You know which girl it was.

It felt good to be a mother yesterday. Breakfasts in bed are getting more sophisticated. My coffee arrives almost right. The gifts I receive are as thoughtful and beautiful as ever. I feel like my kids know me. And like me. And that makes me feel satisfied. I don’t know what the upper teen years with them will be like, but so far I love it. Perhaps it is the calm before the storm. We are all as carefree as ever right now, and motherhood is …dare I say…kind of easy.

Tammara Webber Publishes BETWEEN THE LINES

My critique partner and friend, Tammara Webber is boldly opting to E-publish her YA book Between The Lines. It is now available at Amazon.com. A huge  congratulations to Tammara for taking the leap! I’m declaring the week over here at Sparks and Butterflies Tammara Webber  Week!

In this book, actress and teenager, Emma has landed the role of a lifetime, playing opposite the smoldering teen superstar, Reid Alexander, in a movie that is slated to be a modern teen-centered adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. While this happens to be Emma’s favorite book, she’s unsure whether the movie will do it justice. On the other hand, it’s good for her career, right? Her father and her agent seem to think so. And, hello! She gets to kiss REID ALEXANDER!

Reid, on the other hand, could care less about the critical acclaim of the movie; he’s already taken the screen and the world by storm. But, when Brooke, and old flame lands a part in the movie, Reid’s confidence is shaken. Further, his crush on Emma may not withstand the pressure of the spotlight. And for the first time, it seems he may actually want more than an on-set romance.

Once again, a big congrats to Tammara for getting her book out to the world. I’m so happy for you.

Where Donna Galanti Interviews Me

Yesterday I did an interview over at Donna Galanti’s blog. We connected during the time I was writing my first YA manuscript, in which a high school girl joins the Navy. One of key pieces in my research was a slim book called, Letters From Boot Camp. It is filled with letters she wrote as she went through boot camp as a young adult.They are wonderful: sad, exciting, frustrating. I have NO idea where she found the energy to actually write them, as boot camp is clearly an exhausting few months.

Donna is also writing fiction now, for adults and young adults. Check out her blog: http://donnagalanti.wordpress.com/ to learn about her work. And of course check out her interview with me where I answer questions about writing, having a failed book submission, what inspires me to write, and more.