Summer Reading: Vacation Destination Books

Photo by flickr user george.bremer
Photo by flickr user george.bremer

It’s summertime! And if you’re anything like me, that means finding a spot to curl up with a cool breeze, a tall glass of something iced, and a stack of good books. Now, I don’t always match my reading to the season, but sometimes I like my books to feel like an extension of the atmosphere I’m experiencing, rather than an escape from it. Especially if I’m lucky enough to be on vacation (or happily anticipating one); sometimes I want to read all about other people having the same disruption to routine that vacations bring, living outside of their regular schedules. And sometimes, y’know, I just want to savor the season as much as possible: sun, sand, water, just-picked fruits and veggies – celebrate the many incarnations of a summer vacation with the following vacation-themed reading.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Destination: Private island estatewe_were_liars

This is the book that prompted  the whole list of summer destination-themed titles; I devoured it in a single sitting (with a pitcher of iced tea, natch) and upon finishing was, a) blown away by the plotting – avoid spoilers!- and b) immediately ready for absolutely everything in my life to be summer-themed, because the setting was so deliciously drawn. Cady, our protagonist, is returning to her family’s summer retreat on a private island after spending the last two years away. She is suffering from excruciating migraines and trying to reclaim the easy, uncomplicated rhythms of the vacations she shared with her cousins in summers past, but she’s hindered by memory loss. As the incomplete flashbacks of previous years on the island draw the mystery closer to the dormant truth, the pages go by faster and faster until the truly shocking finale.


this one summerThis One Summer by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki

Destination: Lakeside cottage

This is the first collaboration between cousins Mariko and Jillian Tamaki since 2008’s much-lauded Skim (a personal favorite and a 2009 Best Books for Young Adults top ten selection), and like that nuanced, thoughtful graphic novel, this nuanced, thoughtful graphic novel is equally beautiful, with pitch-perfect dialogue and a subdued palette awash in blues and purples. The fully-realized characters are visibly bubbling over with complex, rich emotions, their relationships displayed with all the hesitations and missteps of real life. The gorgeously rendered scenes are alive with all the details of small beach town life; the magnificence of plunging into the water on a warm day, the lazy delights of an afternoon indoors after too much sun, the importance of marshmallows at a bonfire. I swear I could hear the gulls while I read. Continue reading Summer Reading: Vacation Destination Books

What Would They Read?: Parks and Recreation

parks-and-recreationThose of you familiar with the lives of the employees of the Pawnee Parks Department know how they feel about the Pawnee Public Library.  The presence of Ron Swanson’s crazy ex wife, Tammy, doesn’t help to mend the fences between these two village departments.  However, I would like to believe that this rivalry between the parks Department and the library would in no way hinder Leslie Knope and staff in their love of reading.  I mean, obviously they would probably have to get their books through Amazon or a bookstore so as not to encounter Tammy.  Let’s see what books the Parks Department would read!

Leslie Knope – Leslie is a very powerful woman who strives at excellence in everything she does.  When I think about disreputable-historyLeslie, I immediately think of Frankie Landau-Banks.  In 2009 Printz Honor book The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart, Frankie orchestrates a mission to infiltrate The Loyal Order of the Basset Hounds, an all-male secret society on her school campus, of which her boyfriend is a member.  Of course, being a member is not enough for Frankie’s ambition.  Instead, she starts to design school pranks and directs the Bassets in carrying them out.  Frankie is definitely a teen Leslie would be proud of if she were a citizen of Pawnee.  Another title that I would set aside for Leslie is Hope Was Here by Joan Bauer.  Bauer’s story includes a mayoral race in a small town.  When Hope moves to the small Wisconsin town from a fairly big city, she does not expect to get caught up in the situations of her new home.  However, when the owner of the diner she works at decides to run for mayor against a corrupt politician, Hope jumps into local politics with both feet.  Bauer’s book combines two of Leslie’s loves: politics and diners. Continue reading What Would They Read?: Parks and Recreation

One Thing Leads to Another: An Interview with E. Lockhart

Check out previous interviews in the One Thing Leads to Another series here.

It would be easy for me to jot down a list of my earliest and most formative books, books that resonated in some deep way, that seeped into my subconscious and became part of what I think of as me in my earliest incarnation–books I read (or had read to me) when I was four, five, six years old.  My list would include things like the Green Knowe series by L.M. Boston, the Oz books, Edward Eager and E. Nesbit–you get the idea.   My 5 1/2 year old daughter Nora loves many of my favorite books already, which is wonderful in a whole new way, and sharing my special books with her is one of the best things ever.  But you know what was even better?  Watching her discover a new special series of her own and I have the amazing E. Lockhart, who also writes under the name Emily Jenkins, to thank for that.

The Toys Go Out books weren’t around when I was a kid, so reading them was new for both of us.  Nora was enthralled.  She requested her own Stingray and Lumpy, and after an angst-filled week of agonizing over whether the other kids would understand, she took them in a little backpack to her very first show-and-tell.  She had rehearsed exactly what she wanted to say, including telling them about her favorite chapter, “Chapter Four: The Terrifying Bigness of the Washing Machine,” and it all went perfectly; her love and excitement was glorious.  We read Toy Dance Party and then Toys Come Home, the final book in the series. 

I don’t think I can convey what it was like, reading that last chapter aloud, watching the words sink slowly into her psyche and become part of her in a way that was totally her.  She got it and it mattered to her and it was brilliant and made me want to laugh and cry at the same time.  Sometimes when she echoes the words or sentiment of that last chapter I know she means to quote the book; sometimes the words pour out and they just come from her, because they’re her words now too.  There’s a thoughtful and generous piece of her personality that is pretty much a direct result of Stingray and Lumpy and the wisdom of Plastic.  I mean, just a couple weeks ago I overheard her explain to a teacher that it was important to help a sad friend because “we are here for each other.  That’s the whole point.”  Can you even?

Someday I’ll introduce her to Roo and Gretchen and Cady and especially Frankie and we’ll share that too, and I can’t wait.  But until then, I’m taking this opportunity to say thank you, Emily, for giving me that moment, and for giving Nora those ideas.  If you need us, we’ll be in the linen closet, with our friends.

Always Something There to Remind Me

2013LockhartBlueLowResPlease describe your teenage self.

I was voted worst driver in my senior class. My American literature teacher got angry at me for writing our Thoreau essay as a parody. I wore blue mascara.  I was terrifically ambitious and had no idea what to do with that ambition.

What did you want to be when you grew up?  Why?

I wanted to be an actress but by senior year of high school I realized I didn’t really have it in me to be a good one.  I wrote about this realization in Dramarama.

What were some of your passions during that time?

Boys. I was really interested in boys.

What were your high school years like?

I went to an arts high school in Seattle where I was miserable. Then I went to prep school and was happy.  The one school was dingy and competitive and socially toxic, whereas the other was bright and outdoorsy and charity-minded.  At neither school did my teachers single me out. Teachers have never much liked me. An adult who influenced my life was my boyfriend’s mother. (I know, I told you boys were my primary interest —  and it’s true — but by senior year I had settled down for a bit.)  This woman was a strong character, and she liked me. She used to lounge on her deck in a bikini and drink wine with dinner. Sometimes she’d yell about stuff and she always had cookies in the cookie jar. But she was also a well-known judge, so fierce on the bench people called her “the dragon lady.”  She appeared completely unafraid of being disliked, and in that way was a really fantastic role model.  Continue reading One Thing Leads to Another: An Interview with E. Lockhart

Forecast clear? Hit the Road and Read!

photo by flickr user seanrnicholson
photo by flickr user seanrnicholson

There are many kinds of road trips; you’ve got your epic cross-country odyssey, your basic weekend escape destination, your communing-with-nature car-camping expedition, your established scenic byway (Route 66, Blue Ridge Parkway, California’s coastal 101…) but when the weather (finally!) takes a turn towards sunny and warm, any and all kinds of travel on our myriad motorways start to call to me, and I love to see the same “hit-the-road” enthusiasm reflected in my reading.

Reading about a road trip gives me that vicarious travel thrill, and sometimes (usually) even inspires me to plan an adventure of my own when I’ve put the book down, even if all I can realistically manage is an afternoon picnic to the other side of town.

Below are three novels that take their road trip credentials seriously while simultaneously delivering believable characters and engaging plots.

Amy and Roger's Epic DetourAmy and Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson (2011 YALSA Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults)

Sometimes when you pack up a car and hitthe road, it’s a one-way trip. Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour is about the kind of road trip you embark on when you’re really leaving something behind, not just for a brief adventure or a temporary escape, but to actually start over again, geographically and emotionally. Amy has been tasked with getting her mother’s Jeep from southern California to Connecticut, where her mother waits with a new house and a new life for them both. But there’s a small problem; Amy hasn’t driven at all since her father died in a car accident months before, and the very thought of getting behind the wheel sets her on edge.

Continue reading Forecast clear? Hit the Road and Read!

What Would They Read?: Glee

Glee is a wonderful show that comprises a plethora of teen issues portrayed in both Glee-Themed-Karaoke-Revolution-Announced-2dramatic and comedic ways.  I’ve watched the show for years, but there is one thing that has always bothered me.  Why don’t any of the Glee kids read?  There is not one member who discusses a favorite book comments on what he or she is currently reading.  One of the few times the library gets any attention is when a small group of the Glee members sing M.C. Hammer’s “You Can’t Touch This” in the library in hopes of getting into trouble.  Sure, Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight Saga” is mentioned, but only in reference to Tina’s clothes and Principle Figgins’s fear of vampires.  So I’ve decided to take it upon myself to educate the Glee club on books.  They’ve been taught about acting, dental hygiene, Spanish, and several other topics.  It’s about time that they opened a book.

Finn Hudson – I understand that due to devastating real-life circumstances (the tragic death of actor Cory Monteith), Finn is no longer on the show.  However, I would still like to include the character in this experiment of Reader’s Advisory because the character is still important to the show.  Finn is an interesting character to analyze.  He was the first of the jock/popular crowdKnights of Hill Country to join the Glee club.  While at first, viewers may see him as a dumb jock, a deeper, more thoughtful Finn has been revealed over the course of the show.  I would recommend Knights of Hill Country by Tim Tharp.  The plot of this title can be compared to the relationship between Finn and Rachel.  Knights of Hill Country tells the story of a football hero, Hampton, who begins to see more than the football in a town that eats, sleeps, and breathes football.  He begins to notice Sara, a girl who usually would not speak to and would definitely not consider dating.  Knights of Hill Country is a thought-provoking story about creating your own identity instead of living the character created by others.  The death of his father has always been something on Finn’s mind.  He might be interested in reading a book about war and the effect it has on those left at home.  For a fiction title, I would recommend Personal Effects by E.M. Kokie, which discusses a teen whose brother died in Iraq.  If Finn preferred something from the non-fiction shelf, I would give him Ghosts of War: The True Story of a 19-year-old GI by Ryan Smithson.  In Ghosts of War, Smithson talks about his experiences in Iraq.

Continue reading What Would They Read?: Glee