Friday, June 22, 2012

The Farewell Season, by Ann Herrick

The Farewell SeasonThe Farewell Season by Ann Herrick

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Eric Nielsen has been kind of a dick since his dad died unexpectedly a few months ago. He seems to have gotten stuck somewhere between the denial and anger stages of grief, and it's made him stand-offish and surly, even to his beloved cat! But his grouchiest grumblings are reserved for his Mom, and younger sister. It doesn't seem to occur to him that they might be hurting too, or that his attitude is making things even harder for them. Despite all that, it's difficult not to like Eric. He really doesn't know how to deal with his loss any other way, and he's hurting himself just as badly as he's hurting those around him. And now, with football season about to begin, the fact that everything has changed since last year at this time really can't be avoided any longer. And what's up with that new girl, Glynnie? If she's so determined to be dowdy, why can't Eric stop thinking about her, to the point of spending enough time with her to realize that he's not the only one with father problems.

This is really a lovely book, with a sweet tone and story that pulls you into its world subtly but deeply, until you begin to care deeply about the characters and the way they are all dealing with change, loss, grief, old pain and new beginnings. It's not a book about big events - it's a small scale story of one boy in a small town, but the emotional impact is still big. MC Eric, of course, is the focal point, but all of the characters are fully fleshed out, with real feeling personalities and voices. Not to slight the other side characters, but Glynnie is especially loveable. It's pretty cool for a YA family drama/romance to be written from a boy POV, but then to have the female character be the kind of quirky off-beat independent type we ususally see portrayed as a guy (like a Sarah Dessen boy, only she's a girl), is really quite amazing, and Eric is certainly lucky to have found her (and to have figured that out!) The vibe and flavor of the little town of Crystal Lake is beautifully portrayed, especially through all of the mouth-watering Scandinavian foods so lovingly and temptingly described. I'm not really a huge sports fan, and there's a lot of football in this book. But like Lance Armstrong so aptly said, it's not about the bike. It's about the emotional impact of Eric's commitment, about what football meant between him and his Dad, it's about how change comes to everything, in ways that we are going to have to deal with even if it's not fair, that make the football element relatable even for nerds.

This is a quietly emotional read that will sneak up on your heart (and tear ducts) if you let yourself sink into its world. I very much appreciate that author Ann Herrick provided me with a copy in exchange for an honest review.

View all my reviews

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Breathe by Abbi Glines - New Cover Reveal, Playlist and Other Awesome Memorabilia

A little less than a year ago, the gorgeous and charming YA author Abbi Glines (yep, that's her to your left, see what I mean?) e-pubbed the first book in her Sea Breeze series, Breathe. It was (and remains), a sweet Cinderella story of a girl and a talented pop star (kind of a Bieber guy, but with a more down to earth, less douchey personality). Abbi's had an amazing career since then, garnering a huge following for not only her Sea Breeze series of contemporary romances, but also for her awesome PNR Existence Trilogy, which began (coincidentally enough) with Existence, and her somewhat spicier YA contemp series The Vincent Boys. Wow, quite a year, Abbi, way to go!

So, just like a lot of us like to get new clothes for our birthdays, it's time for Breathe to get a new look too. I honestly kind of liked the old cover, it was cute and conveyed the innocence and sweetness of the story, but it didn't exactly capture the story's wistfulness and dreamy feel. But the new one is even more lovely, and definitely gives a clearer image of what you are in for. And this girl looks a lot more like my image of Sadie, too. So without further ado, here it is, the new cover of Abbi's beautiful novel, Breathe:

So, is that breathtaking or what?

Abbi's also given us a few more things to think about vis-a-vis Breathe. One of them is a cool playlist of songs. Honestly, I'm not sure if these are songs Abbi listened to while writing it, or that just kind of create the proper vibe for us to listen while reading, which they definitely do. One of the themes of the book is that Sadie is Jax's "air," that he needs her to live (hey, now I get the title!), and the songs all definitely relate to that idea. Here's a list of them, and a link to Playlist, where you can create free account and listen to them (honestly Abs, you had me at tswift, but that's prob just me):

Can’t Take My Eyes Off You by Muse
Don’t Ever Let it End by Nickelback
Breathe by Taylor Swift
Holding on to Heaven by Nickelback
No Air by Jordan Sparks and Chris Brown
Here Without You by Three Doors Down
Lullaby by The Spill Canvas
Take My Breath Away by Jessica Simpson

Did I mention that Jax himself is a singer-songwriter? He's inspired (totally getting with the breathing theme, here!) to write a song for Sadie, which honestly is about all she has left of him at one point, and I'm not sure if that was good or bad. Since it's Fathers Day as I'm writing this, I'd be happy to volunteer some advice to Jax on a more effective strategy for not making a girl cry, but hopefully by the end of the book he's learned his lesson. Nonetheless, here is an awesome recording of that song "Don't Cry," the lyrics to which appear in the book, and will hit you hard when you get to that part:

So, there's this thing now where people put up dreams casts of who they'd like to see playing people from books they love. I personally pictured Jax kind of like this: Ok, haha, that's my son, who will prob kill me when/if he sees this (as no doubt will Abbi, sorry girl!). Here's a more realistic bunch of eye candy to populate your pictorial portrayal of the Breathe bunch.

As the lovely Sadie White - Sasha Pieterse. She def captures Sadie's sweetness and beauty, imho.

Jax Stone?

How 'bout this guy? Max Irons? Jeez, good looks run in that family or what? Ok, he's no Jack LeBaron, but he's handsome, I'll give him that. Hope he's worthy of my sweet Sadie, or there will be some Fathers Day ass-kicking going on, just sayin'!

Finally, to round out our little crew, how about a young Chris Hemsworth to portray the beloved by some, mistrusted by me Mr. Marcus Hardy? He's got the look, but Chris, haven't you been in enough movies lately? It kinda gripes my cheese that he's kissing K-Stew, Natalie Portman, and most of my other fantasy flings. But fine, go ahead and be Marcus, too, you've got the look, just use your acting skilz more than your lips, that's all I ask!

Ok, y'all, that is the skinny on the new updated cover of Breathe and associated goings on. If you're interested, my review of Breathe is here, on Goodreads. This book really grew on me over the course of the past year, and I'm happy to help get the word out on an awesome author and her cute, dreamy sweet first book! Thanks Abbi, for including me in this blog-burst! I look forward to a long and happy careet for one of indie YA's most talented and nicest authors!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Printers Row Lit Fest 2012 and "I Hunt Killers" Giveaway

I must say I had an awesome time at Printers Row Lit Fest 2012, in downtown Chicago, just south of the Loop. Here's a bit of an impressionistic recollection of the event, from my admittedly skewed POV (especially off-kilter for a few minutes after that yummy frozen margarita from Flaco's Tacos!)

We set out, an intrepid four, from Downers Grove, some 25 miles or so west of Chicago, around 10 am. We might have gone earlier, but my son Jack qualified for the national speech tournament, being held in Indianapolis this year. We neeeded to get him packed, organized and out the door before we could leave. We hit the road with Mrs. Fred at the wheel, and my charming youngest daughter Eve riding shotgun. Here's a photo of her, I'm not quite sure why she was wearing a bowler hat and a Slytherin t-shirt, but to this old dad she looked pretty darn cute.

We arrived downtown and hit the Grant Park South parking garage around 10:45 or so. My "fire up your enthusiasm" pre-gaming involved the consumption of multiple cups of coffee, so finding a bathroom was a priority. We hit a Dunkin' Donuts on Michigan Avenue in hopes of scoring some quick relief, but no luck. So of course, I had to have more coffee, and in a tribute to the awesome Jessica Park and Flat-Out Love, I got a large Coolatta. Here I am, looking cheerful despite the desperation now seizing my bladder ever more intensely. .

Anyhoo, we made it to the fair, and the blessed precints of St. Pipi rather quickly. We browsed around for a bit at North End of the fair, where there were several event stages. I was not honestly that intent on purchasing additional books for the Bibliotheque LeBaron. That is Liz's obsessive quest. Instead, I was quite intent on seeing three authors: Barry Lyga, author of the amazeballs Boy Toy, which I have reviewed over at Goodreads; Lisa Wooten, author of Unforgivable (rats, we never did make a connection, I found out too late where she was :/; and Michelle Warren, author of Wanderdust, with whom I also failed to connect (hey, it was a big event with lots of authors, vendors and what-not).

Well, one out of three ain't bad, especially since Barry Lyga was so awesome! Here's a picture of the two of us, I felt totally cool hanging with Barry, he had a vibe sort of like Mark Ruffalo in The Kids Are Alright, bohemian but down to earth, funny and warm. Barry was also one of the authors on a panel that Eve and I attended. He had some interesting insights into writing, the editing process and the future of YA and reading. I didn't really try to take notes (it was super hot in there!) but he mentioned a few memorable things. First, before the event I went up and swimfanned him about Boy Toy, which he called "the book that almost killed my career," telling me that sales back when it came out weren't that great, and that it wasn't considered a success by any measure. He said he's mildly puzzled by why it's taking off in popularity now. Since I was tongue-tied, as I usually am when speaking with an author I greatly admire, I didn't observe that it's a great book, word of mouth sometimes takes awhile (it was recommended to me by the awesome Jolene B. Perry, btw, thanks Jolene!), and that I Hunt Killers, his current book, is getting a lot of attention. He talked about the writing process, and mentioned that when he started Boy Toy (can you tell I liked this book!), he had a specific idea of where he wanted the story to go, but as he got into it, it veered in a different direction. He pondered whether to force it back to the original or go with the way it was developing and opted for the latter, which turned out vastly superior, in his view. He likened writing to riding a horse - you can guide it, but if it decides to go somewhere else, it doggone well will! Here's Barry making his points on the panel.

I had Barry sign a copy of I Hunt Killers, and he was also kind enough to give us t-shirts promoting it. I'm not gonna lie, I'm queasy about reading I Hunt Killers. I don't like Dexter, it's too gory. C.S.I. makes me I.L.L. and Bones makes mine ache. So I have a deal for y'all and an awesome giveaway via Rafflecopter, below. I'm giving away the autographed copy of I Hunt Killers, and the I Had a Killer Time with Barry Lyga t-shirt. There's an extended preview of IHK if you want to do a gut-check before entering, also over at Goodreads, so take a look, and only enter if you can hack it. I do have some contest limitations, so see the note by the entry form.

By now it was getting to be lunch time, and there was some drama. My beloved oldest daughter Ann insisted that we go inside to eat (did I mention it was hot?), and suggested Connie's Pizza. With all due respect to Connie's, that idea kinda turned my stomach, and we ended up at Flaco's Tacos, a fun Mexican place with several Chicago locations in hipster spots. Because it is a hipster spot - I even saw a guy sporting a hipster handlebar and matching muttonchops! We had an awesome lunch with the aforementioned Margarita, and fought our way to a table. After enjoying our lunch and time together we headed out. The girls were intent on making purchases, but me, I just wanted to soak up the vibe. As luck would have it, there was a vibe-storm heading my way. On exiting the restaurant, as the girls headed South, I heard a haunting, beautiful voice, singing in French. It sounded like "Les Feuilles Mortes," but was too far to tell, exactly. I made my way through the crowd to the source of the sounds, only to see this amazing gentleman, Michelet Innocent.

Now, I've mentioned before that I am a bit of a Francophile, but I don't think I've dwelt on the music that drew me into my love of the French language, especially the songs of Jacques Brel and Serge Reggiani. Ok, ok, I'll save that for another post then, I can see your eyes glazing over. But in any event, Michelet's voice and guitar playing transported me to the time in spent in Paris in the 70's and to my days in the French House at the University of Michigan, where we spent so many nights drinking red wine, and listening to these enormously poetic songs. When he sang "Ne Me Quitte Pas," I was gone, and I ain't back yet. Here's a video of Michelet singing at another street fair, in Florida, that gives an idea of his soulful and tender renditions of these classic songs.

But then it was getting to be time to head home, graduation parties to go to, anniversary dinners to enjoy (congratulations Ann and Harold!), and an overheated hamster to attend to (hope Nuchacho is ok, Eve!). As we made our way back to the car, we passed beneath the el tracks, where I couldn't help but remember the words of Howl, by Allen Ginsberg: "I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness ...who bared their brains to Heaven under the El," Whew, I thought to myself, lighten up Allen. Things are cool here now, under the El. Teenage poets at Polyphony H.S., hundreds of awesome authors and zillions of books, all being appreciated by those who love them!

OK, As promised, awesome "I Hunt Killers," by Barry Lyga giveaway here!I'm sorry, but in light of postal costs, entries are limited to the U.S. only, and the only t-shirt I have to give away is a men's large. Please enter below, and I'll notify you if you've won when the contest is over! Thanks for playing!

a Rafflecopter giveaway