Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Summer of No Regrets (Review)

Title: The Summer of No Regrets
Author: Katherine Grace Bond
Publication Information: Sourcebooks, Trade Paperback, 2012, ISBN 978-1-4022-65044
Genre: Young Adult Fiction

Plot: Teenage Brigitta lives in a small town in Washington State and is home schooled so has only one friend, Natalie, who is obsessed with celebrity gossip and always thinks she “sees” famous people in unexpected places. So when Natalie becomes convinced that Brigitta’s new neighbor Luke is really movie star Trent Yves, Brigitta is unconvinced. Sure, there is a resemblance but why would Hollywood’s bad boy be living in rural Washington and why would he be interested – as he seems to be – in an ordinary teenager like her? Rescuing, or trying to rescue, two cougar cubs brings this unlikely pair together, and Brigitta ignores all the clues that indicate Luke is not an ordinary boy next door with an ordinary mother. Luke does not confide in Brigitta, and Brigitta does not confide in Natalie, which results in disaster, at least temporarily. When Brigitta feels that everyone in her life has abandoned her, she runs away to the one place she has always felt comfortable, the farm in Indiana which once belonged to her grandparents. Along with Brigitta, the reader waits anxiously to see if anyone cares enough to follow her.
What I liked: This was an unusual and vivid story, with quirky characters. Isn’t it every girl’s fantasy that a gorgeous movie star will move in next door and fall for her? Or even just that a mysterious stranger will move in next door and fall for her? (I guess this is a natural progression from the genre of books where girl hopes for a girl her age to move in – Betsy-Tacy, Amy Moves In, Little Plum and many others) While Brigitta’s parents were too busy with their weird new-age healing center (I would have liked them more if they seemed more sincere about their beliefs but the father especially came across as an opportunist) to pay attention to her, I liked her relationship with her older sister Mallory. I also enjoyed Brigitta’s blog entries and the pseudo-gossip magazine articles, which were very funny.

What I disliked: The story started slowly yet there was an awful lot going on: lonely homeschooled teenager in the midst of her first crush; father whose personality has changed after the loss of Brigitta’s grandparents; living in a new-age enterprise with parents who have become unfamiliar gurus; an older sister involved with a repulsive college professor; and a mysterious cougar that Brigitta identifies with in an unhealthy but convincing way – and that is before the handsome stranger moves in next door! I felt at times there were just too many plot lines going on and the author’s transition from topic to topic was a bit awkward, and it took a while to draw me into the narrative. Also, Brigitta was awfully dim about the identity of her neighbor and dim to think that a blog about him would not be discovered; while her cluelessness was important to the plot, it was kind of annoying.

Source: I got this from the local library (after I suggested the purchase). This is the first book I have read from Sourcebooks’ new YA imprint, Fire.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Candidate (Review)

Title: The Candidate
Author: Paul Harris
Publication Information: Vantage Press, trade paperback, July 2012, isbn 978-1936467389
Genre: Suspense

Plot: Trailing in the polls, slightly before the Iowa Caucuses, Jack Hodges is a virtually unknown presidential candidate. Then, on one cold night, there is an assassination attempt – Hodges instinctively shields his wife and they survive the attack. Overnight, he is proclaimed a hero and his candidacy picks up steam and overtakes the female frontrunner. But his campaign manager, a crude but canny Louisiana native named Dee Babineaux, sends Mike Sweeney, an idealistic campaign worker, to figure out who the would-be assassin is and what she may be hiding that could damage Hodge’s ascent. Mike is the book’s most interesting character as he longs for a candidate he can support wholeheartedly. He believes Senator Hodges can deliver meaningful change, but as he investigates the mysterious assassin (languishing in jail in Iowa after the campaign has moved on to primaries NH and SC) he becomes more and more fearful of the truth. The investigation eventually takes him to Guatemala in pursuit of a dangerous secret that threatens to destroy more than Mike’s idealism.
What I liked: The story is fast paced and extremely entertaining. I was sure I knew what was coming but was surprised several times. The author did a great job weaving plot elements together, connecting Mike’s family in depressed upstate NY with the stresses of the campaign. The down and dirty descriptions campaigning reminded me of Farragut North which I liked so much I saw the play and then the movie, The Ides of March, with George Clooney and Ryan Gosling.  Author Paul Harris is a reporter who covers presidential campaigns for British newspapers.

I read this while I was listening to Game Change in my car, which was an interesting contrast as it is a fascinating look behind the scenes of the 2008 election. Alternating between these two books made me think I was in wintery Iowa or New Hampshire instead of a steamy Indian summer day. Both were perfect reads for a political junkie like me and many of my friends.

What I disliked:  The conclusion was clever: I admired the author for avoiding a clich├ęd happy ending but at the same time I was a little disappointed and
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felt that Mike would not have abandoned his family and friends permanently.

Source:  I received this book from TLC Book Tours, which you can visit to find the other stops for the Candidate.   TLC and the author are also providing a copy for me to give away (US/Canada only) -- please leave a comment if you would like it!  If there's more than one request, I will do a lottery.