Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Review of Hurricane Coltrane

I met author Taya Okerlund last summer at a conference (Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers, charmingly abbreviated to WIFYR.  I'm kind of kicking myself for not registering again, because it was fabulous last summer).  We were in a week-long workshop together, and she brought the first twenty pages of her manuscript, HURRICANE COLTRANE.

I told her I kind of got a crush on her main character Merrill from those 20 pages.

AND NOW IT'S A BOOK!  With a gorgeous cover.  See:

Image result for hurricane coltrane taya okerlund 

And I got to read an advanced copy!  I started last night and had to finish because it was so delightful.  Hurricane Coltrane is set in Hurricane, Utah (pronounced 'Hurricun,' I understand, although I think I'll ignore that because I prefer having it rhyme with 'Coltrane').  Merrill (my crush) is a smarty-pants high schooler with an activist mom and a peaches-dehydrating grandma and no known father, and he is dying to get out of town.

He meets Robbie, a buttoned-up kid who's escaped from the nearby polygamist compound.  And who is also a musical genius.  

These two plot together, get Robbie an alto sax, and land Robbie a spot on an X-Factor type of reality show.  Merrill even gets to play his trombone as backup.  But Robbie's mom and sisters are suffering back on the compound because Robbie got out, and Merrill's starting to unravel the mystery of who his father might be--and whether that means he'll never break out of Hurricane, Utah.

I have a soft spot for friendship stories, because that's such a huge part of high school and is something I don't see in books as much as I'd like.  Merrill and Robbie have an unlikely friendship, and they both have to navigate the social waters of high school.  

I really, really loved the setting for this story.  I've never been to southern Utah, so diving into the peach harvesting and pomegranate dehydrating and the Mormon community and the polygamist compound and the heat and the small-town vibe was fun.  

And Merrill is just as charming throughout the book as he was in those first 20 pages.  

And, since I love deals almost as much as I love books, here's one for you:  Hurricane Coltrane releases in a couple of weeks, but until then the Kindle version is on sale for $1.99.  

Happy reading!  And congratulations to Taya.  

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

March's Best Books

Image result for graceling

I re-read this old favorite since I was in the mood for escape.  This world!  It is so creative and full of visual details.  The premise in this fantasy is that certain people are graced with a gift--for fighting, for reading minds, for sleeping well, for sniffing out fresh fish--and different kings take advantage of these Gracelings in various ways.  The Graceling Katsa has the gift for survival, and she frees herself from the service of a wicked king, falls in love, and uses her gifts to save a princess.

I enjoy the unfolding of the friendship between Po and Katsa that blossoms into a romance.  Katsa has a huge chip on her shoulder, but this book is a case study in making a fairly unlikable character shine and grow and win our hearts.  Po is such a sympathetic character that his friendship with Katsa softens her.  I did keep waiting for a reason why Katsa was so set against having children--that seemed odd to me, but then I'm a baby person (I never wonder why when someone says they don't want a pet, cause I get that!).

Not in the Script is a fun and delightful story about a famous teenage actress who is cast in a new TV series with two guys: her long-time crush and her best friend's crush.  And she falls in love with the wrong guy.

This book is a page-turned: it's funny, the dialogue is snappy, the pacing is tight, and it offers an interesting peek into the shooting of a TV sitcom.  I chuckled over the director's casting theory and other tidbits about the industry.

I especially admired how the author made these celebrities more than caricatures.  The sexy underwear model, the hot mean girl, and even the bad-boy famous actor all had depth to them.  I expected the main character to have dimension and to be sympathetic, but I was impressed with how the other characters met the same standard.  They felt well-rounded and human.

We know two families who have moved to LA so their girls could act (and they've done well!  Modern Family!  Selfie!  Girl Meets World!), so I kept thinking of those friends while I read this book.

Bonus:  It's squeaky clean--I handed it off to my daughter without a second thought.