Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Close to Famous

Sunrise was at 6:54, sunset will be at 7:35.

Wet, gray, the maple tree is covered in moss and the sidewalks are lined in green. There's supposed to be another major rain storm coming through and avalanche warnings are in effect in the mountains.

There've been gorgeous sunsets, though, a last little hurrah before the end of otherwise monochromatic days, gold shot through with pink and aqua shining through a gap between the clouds and the Olympics.

I have a wicked headache and my hands are tingling and numb with carpal tunnel problems. I've thrown a load of laundry in and am thinking about throwing something into the slow cooker but I really just want to go back to bed and cocoon.

I've been reading a lot lately (okay, I read a lot anyway-) for a book awards committee and for the store's spring kid's book talk. We are having a book talk on Thursday night and I read the books that I want to talk about 6 months ago at least. So I've been re-reading and I have to say that they still stand up to a second time through. I finished Piper's Son yesterday with tears, laughter, and a deep desire to re-read everything else Melina Marchetta has written (and since I have her entire oeuvre on my shelves, not hard to do). People are complicated animals and PS shows just how much we only see the world as how it relates to us.

Great book, great characters, not just for teens with its complex adult relationships weaving through the younger people's relationships. Tom is our "hero", a boy whose family is messy at best. A beloved uncle and brother dies, the best one of them all, and the family falls apart, leaving all the unanswered questions of their lives raw and dangling. Grief overwhelms them and they don't deal with it well. And I love that. I love that they grieve so loudly and don't really know that's what they're doing. I love their friends, who are grieving, too, and aren't allowed to show it. I love how deeply depressed Tom is and what a total shit he is about everything. It's just so real. They all have to face their demons and figure out how they're going to climb up out of the pit.

It's REALLY good and you should read Saving Francesca, too. Read it first, if you can, just because you'll have a little better idea as to why these people do and say what they do. Oh, and it takes place in Australia. What more do you need? 14 and up. (Candlewick. Available now.)

I also re-read Close to Famous on my home (I love riding the bus). This is Joan Bauer's newest venture and, yes, it was also really good. It's written for a much younger demographic, and showcases her ability to come up with characters who deal with adversity well, often making lemonade out of those lemons life gives them.

Foster has big plans. She wants to be the first teen to have her own cooking show on the Food Network. She bakes the most amazing goods, muffins and cupcakes that can find the piece of your heart that needs healing. But when she and her mom have to leave Memphis to get away from a man who's turned violent, they end up in little Culpepper. No job, no money, they are given a trailer to stay in and decide to try and make the best of it. Culpepper is a town in transition, a prison has been built and inmates are interred, but the promise of shopping locally and hiring locals has not been honored and the town is dying, but Foster and her mom are nothing if not resourceful.

Foster bakes up some muffins and cupcakes and takes them to the local restaurant, Angry Wayne's, and gets the very reluctant okay to sell her goods there and her mom gets a job in the local hardware store. Things seem to be going along okay, until Huck, the man they are running from, finds them.

Foster is a wonderful character, upbeat, happy, strong in her convictions, well-loved, high self-esteem (and when was the last time the main character in a book was okay with herself?), and flawed. She can't read and has taken great pains to hide that from everyone. Until she meets someone who has been through the same thing and is willing to help her learn to read.

I loved this book. It's full of good people willing to help others, great characters who love each other, high ideals, good recipes and people who know that with work they can achieve their dreams. I can't wait to hand it to someone else to read, knowing that they'll be smiling when they are done, too. Age 9 and up. (Viking. $16.99. Available now.)

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