Seriously? I Read That?

Archive for January 2009

General Warning: Reading journal entries may contain spoilers.

Entry Date: 1/21/09
Reading: The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp

I’m only about 70 pages in, but I’m feeling slightly uncomfortable while reading this. Around page 10 a creeping feeling of “This just isn’t right” started to overcome me. Is it the main character, Sutter, that makes me uneasy? Or, is it his frank admission and justification of alcoholism that has me slighty on edge? I like Sutter, so I think I’ll go with the latter. God, I sound like such a Puritan. (I swear I’m not.) I generally detest preachy didactic books. I’d rather feel uneasy and uncomfortable while reading than have a moral bashed into my head. The uncomfortable books are the ones that stick with me.

Perhaps Sutter’s drinking and his rationalization unnerves me, not because of philosophical or moral opposition to alcohol, but because I can’t help but wonder what horrible fate will befall him? Or am I expecting/hoping for something tragic? Is that what I’ve come to expect, not only from books but from life?

It always amazes me how much one’s reaction to a book can reveal more about the reader than the book.


Girl at Sea by Maureen Johnson
2007; HarperTeen. 323 pages. Young Adult

Seventeen year old Clio Ford is content to spend her summer working at an art supply store and getting closer to her co-worker and crush, Oliver. But one phone call causes Clio’s plans to come crashing down. Her mom is being sent to Kansas for a fellowship and Clio’s not invited. Instead, she’s being shuttled off to Italy to spend the next few weeks with her dad while he, his new girlfriend, his girlfriend’s daughter and his crew cruise the Mediterranean on a luxury yacht searching for a secret archeological treasure. Clio, reluctant to leave her home and her friends to spend time with a father she doesn’t quite trust, has no idea what kind of mystery her summer has in store for her. Girl at Sea offers readers a healthy dose of danger, romance, friendship, and adventure.

Ok. I have to comment on the cover. WTF? That girl on the cover could never, ever be Clio. I’ve noticed a pattern with Maureen Johnson’s books: Find a picture of a pretty, slim girl (with no face). Put her in tight pants and a tank top. Add in a few pieces of plot-related decorative flourishes. And Voila! A cover girl that has nothing at all to do with the strong heroines Johnson writes.

I’m probably overreacting, but this really bothers me. This cover is so generic that it short-changes what’s inside. I’m glad I didn’t judge this book (or 13 Little Blue Envelopes) by its cover. If I had, I likely would have assumed the novel would have been another formulaic teen romance drama. Which it definitely is NOT. If I wasn’t lazy, I’d start a petition to stop this cover design travesty. 🙂

Ok, onto more serious matters… Girl at Sea has a great pace and likable characters. There’s a bit of everything here: mystery, romance, drama. It was a great book to read while stuck in winter misery.

I’m quickly growing into a huge Maureen Johnson fan, almost entirely because of her heroines. Johnson does not write stereotypical teen girls- they are all fully fleshed out young women with diverse talents, desires, and motivations (which is why the covers bother me so much). Clio is highly relatable, even though many girls probably can’t even imagine living the life Clio has cruising around the Mediterranean. But Clio’s feelings, her relationships, her fears, and her weaknesses are all very real. The exotic locale is just that: a setting. It adds interest to the story, but does not serve to alienate readers. While most readers might not be able to imagine how it would feel to jump off the deck of a yacht into the dark sea, most can probably relate to being hurt by a friend or fighting with a parent.

Another thing I like about Johnson’s heroines is that they have romantic interests but do not need to be rescued. Clio does not need a boyfriend or a kiss to complete her. Clio needs to find something inside her- even though crushes and first kisses seem to take priority in her life, it’s not really what she’s looking for. While Clio gets what she wants in the love department, the other things she gets, the things she didn’t know she was looking for, are so much more
meaningful, satisfying, and life changing.

The inclusion of old letters keeps the mystery going and clues readers in on details related to the secret search that Clio is not yet aware of.

I highly recommend this book.

Rating: 4.5 sunken ships out of 5.

Book 2 for the Well-Seasoned Reader challenge
J Author for the A-Z Challenge

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

This week, the book I’m most looking forward to being released is:

Cold Hands, Warm Heart by Jill Wolfson
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
ISBN: 9780805082821
Publication Date: 3/31/2009
Pages: 256
Reading Level: Young Adult

Book Description (from Amazon):
Dani was born with her heart on the wrong side of her body. In her fifteen years of life, she’s had more doctor’s appointments, X-rays, and tests, and eaten more green hospital Jell-O than she cares to think about. Fourteen-year-old Amanda is a competitive gymnast, her body a small package of sleek muscles, in perfect health. The two girls don’t know each other, don’t go to the same school, don’t have any friends in common. But their lives are about to collide. Acclaimed author Jill Wolfson tackles this fascinating story with her trademark honesty and wit.

About the Author (from Amazon):
Jill Wolfson is the author of the highly acclaimed novels What I Call Life and Home, and Other Big, Fat Lies. She lives in Santa Cruz, California.

More Info:
Author’s web site

These books came into my home this week:

Dirty Laundry by Daniel Ehrenhaft
The Haunted Bookshop by Christopher Morley
Chocolat by Joanne Harris
My Kitchen Wars by Betty Fussel
Please Don’t Kill the Freshman: A Memoir by Zoe Trope
Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld
Shift by Jennifer Bradbury
Kissed by An Angel by Elizabeth Chandler
The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp

Find more Mailbox Monday posts at Marcia’s blog The Printed Page.

These bookcases and cabinets designed by Vincent Lemen are my new obsessions.
They’re so marvelously Dr. Seuss-like.

More of VIncent Leman’s wonderful designs can be found at Dust Furniture.

I know I said I wasn’t going to take anymore challenges, but I just couldn’t pass this one up.

So, I’ll be taking the Unshelved Reading Challenge.

The goal is to read three books (from February 2009 – June 2009). The three books chosen must come from Unshelved Book Club Archive.

My tentative choices (which all happen to be in my massive TBR pile) are:

  1. Audrey, Wait! by Robin Benway
  2. Fun Home by Alison Bechdel
  3. Skullduggery Pleasant by Derek Landry

J. Kaye at J. Kaye’s Book Blog has been so kind to award this blog the Rated E For Excellent Award. Thanks so much J. Kaye!

I’d like to pass this award on to an excellent blog I found recently:

Book PSmith’s Blog. The reviews at her blog are well-written and interesting. Quite a few of the books she’s reviewed have made their way to my TBR list! An all-around great blog.

Where else you can find me:

Books That Go Bump in the Night- Halloween and scary books for kids and teens. My other blog.