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Saturday, October 13, 2012

Review: Always and Forever by Karla Nellenbach

Mia's first reaction is outright disbelief. Obviously, a mistake has been made. Sixteen-year-old girls don't die. But, when the diagnosis is confirmed, she dives headlong into anger. If she has to die, why should it be of cancer? In fact, anything would be preferable to cancer. Better for her to say when, where, and especially how.

Determined to meet death on her own terms, Mia devises scheme after scheme to get the job done. A “fall” down the basement stairs, driving her car off a bridge, and even a dance with a train all end in her survival.

And through it all, Mia keeps her family and friends at arms' length with her destructive and hurtful behavior. With each failed suicide attempt and burned relationship, she slowly realizes that it’s not the dying that she’s afraid of, but the life she’ll be leaving behind. Now, that life is in a shambles. As time begins to slip through her fingers and death is upon her, Mia fights to rebuild the bridges she has destroyed, but can she do it before the clock runs out?

I'm a little torn up over what to say about this book because it had me going in many different directions. For the first quarter, everything made sense. I liked Mia, I thought her friends were hilarious, and boy did I want her and Kal to get together. The whole idea of a teenage girl getting cancer - after surviving a first round of an entirely different type was a unique set up. It was heart breaking and perfectly logical for her to want to keep the diagnosis to herself. Then Mia starts behaving a little irrationally. As it says in the summary, she keeps inventing ways to kill herself before the cancer does. At this point it was hard to put myself in Mia's shoes. Would I not want the cancer to kill me? Sure. But to throw yourself headfirst towards death seemed a bit selfish. She was taking away precious time that her family, friends and boyfriend had to be with her. Besides that, something seemed like it was missing. Fear. No where during her suicide attempts does Mia show any fear of death, and that seemed a little strange to me. 

I think with a topic like cancer, it's hard to know what a person would really be feeling, and therefore hard to capture what a person goes through unless you've been there yourself. You hear all these stories about the fighters, the ones who are always smiling, taking things as they come and not letting the disease get to them. Nellenbach even includes a character like this in the story. And I admit, I wanted Mia to be like that. Perhaps that's unfair, and certainly it's unrealistic. Who's to say how a person would feel when they're hit with the news that they're going to die (and not a pretty death)? A range of emotions is to be expected and anger is certainly one of them. I guess what I'm trying to say is that when Mia began acting out her anger, I kept shaking my head, wanting her to get it together. I kept thinking, dang it Mia, you need these people. You're wasting precious time. Stop pushing everyone away! It's good when a story gets me yelling at it, but it's even better when it listens. *big grin* Without being too spoilery, let's just say that the last third of the book totally made up for the frustrations I was having. I zipped through the ending, not exactly smiling (because hello, cancer) but satisfied. And sobbing. Yes, you will need to arm yourself with a box of Kleenex's for this one. The final scene - whoa. Just whoa. So beautiful. 

The writing: Karla Nellenbach has a way with words. The descriptions and prose were beautiful. The dialogue was spot-on without trying too hard, and boy did I love this line: I don't have a pony in that race. I was grinning when I read that one. Nellenbach definitely has a pony in this race, and I look forward to her next book.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Monday poetry

Let's move poetry to Mondays, yay?

Drunk As Drunk by Pablo Neruda
Drunk as drunk on turpentine
From your open kisses,
Your wet body wedged
Between my wet body and the strake
Of our boat that is made of flowers,
Feasted, we guide it - our fingers
Like tallows adorned with yellow metal -
Over the sky's hot rim,
The day's last breath in our sails.

Pinned by the sun between solstice
And equinox, drowsy and tangled together
We drifted for months and woke
With the bitter taste of land on our lips,
Eyelids all sticky, and we longed for lime
And the sound of a rope
Lowering a bucket down its well. Then,
We came by night to the Fortunate Isles,
And lay like fish
Under the net of our kisses.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Books of September

Wow, I appear to be slowing down even further. Got just five books read this month, and the upcoming month doesn't look too good either. Trying to get a few middle grade books in there as they tend to be faster reads and I have a SNI for a middle grade that I'm toying with. Always looking for some good recommendations so let me know what your favorite book was this month!

65. Forge by Laurie Halse Anderson** Second book in the series that started with Chains. It's about two run away slaves during the American Revolutionary war. This one, told in Curzon's POV wasn't quite as moving as the first book, though I loved it all the same. I look forward to see what happens next with these characters. Oh, and I LOVE this cover rather than the other one which I own.

66. Wringer by Jerry Spinelli** Excellent middle grade novel that addresses the expectations of how boys/men behave (being tough, killing things, etc). In many ways the ending was predictable, but I don't think that young people would pick up on this, so... still giving it 5 stars.

67. The Betrayal of Natalie Hargrove by Lauren Kate Okay, I have to say that I did not get this book at all. The MC is very unlikeable, which is all fine and good as I like an unlikeable character (heck I write unlikeable characters), but I still expect them to learn something from their experiences. To grow. With this one I kept waiting... and waiting... and waiting... and by the end I was ready to throw the book against the wall. In other words, don't waste your time. I do really like the cover though.

68. The Guardians by Lily Raye * Review here. Sweet characters. Gorgeous cover.

69. Huntress by Malinda Lo* This is the second book I've read by Malinda Lo, and I would probably say that I liked Ash better. This one takes place many years (decades or centuries) before Ash and has a bit of a Midsummer Night's Dream thing going on.  ML's ability to write gorgeous scenery is something I could learn from, but some of the POV shifts in this one were abrupt and didn't work for me. Also, um yeah, she doesn't actually ever use that huge stick.



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