Street Gang by Michael Davis. I've always been a huge fan of Sesame Street, so it was interesting to have this glimpse behind the scenes of the show. The book actually begins with an older era of children's shows, because many of the staff of Sesame Street got their start on other shows. It helped put Sesame Street's impact into perspective. The book starts with the idea of the show, then backtracks to follow all of the staff's lives and previous work. It was refreshing that this book didn't focus heavily on Jim Henson, as many works do, because there was so much about this show and the creators that I had never known! It was a great read and has inspired me to research the show even more.
Where She Went by Gayle Forman. Read on the nook, bought the day it was released. I've read a lot of books since I read If I Stay, the precursor of Where She Went, and I probably should have re-read it right before this book was released. However, I remember If I Stay as being very emotional, and not just because it centered around death. I felt very close to Mia, very in tune with her thoughts and feelings, very aware of who she was as a person. Where She Went is set three years after If I Stay, and is told from Adam's (her boyfriend in the first book) point of view. I'm not sure if it was the time lapse or the character himself, but I didn't feel any emotional ties to the book. I don't feel like I know Adam on a deeper level than "Oh, he's a rock star." That was pretty disappointing. While I liked the setup of the book, I think the beginning was a bit too rushed to get us to that place, and then the middle stretched on much too long without anything pushing it on, and then the end rushed again. I'm glad I read it, though only to have finished the story that If I Stay told.
Never Knowing by Chevy Stevens. I was contacted by the publisher to receive a free ARC of this book. I read it in two days. Stevens knows how to write an amazing suspense novel. I should have suspected some continuity from the title - Never Knowing... Still Missing? Yes, this book also stars Nadine, the therapist from Stevens' first book. I like the idea that we're getting a peek into her case files, but I also hope that Stevens' next book is different. I think this one could have been more suspenseful if it wasn't told within the framework of therapy sessions. It worked for Still Missing because we were hearing about what had happened before. In Never Knowing, the story is happening as we read. I felt removed from the action because I was being told secondhand, through the sessions, instead of actually "experiencing" it. I think the sessions gave too much introspection and analysis to the action, almost telling the reader what to think instead of allowing ourselves to interpret.
There was also the twist ending, much like the one in Still Missing. I hope this is also discarded in Stevens' next novel. Some people may think the whole premise of the novel is far-fetched, but in my opinion the twist ending makes it more unbelievable. When things were wrapped up and twenty pages remained, I knew what was coming. In Still Missing, the twist helped wrap up the case. In Never Knowing, it seemed like Stevens was trying to pack in more punch. I think the story would have been stronger without it.
Like I said - I read this in two days. When I wasn't reading it, I was telling people about it. When I wasn't talking about it, I was thinking about it. It gets stuck in your head and makes your heart pound the entire time. I was reading it in broad daylight and it still creeped me out. It got under my skin. I loved it, and will re-read it and still be entertained by it.
Black and Blue by Anna Quindlen. This story followed a woman as she left her abusive husband, bringing her son along as they started a secret new life. There were vivid flashbacks, but also a lot of current action. It had a good narrative structure, but overall felt very stream-of-consciousness, which worked perfectly. As the woman adjusted to her new life, you were living day-to-day right along with her. When she was struck by fear of her husband finding her, you were jolted into that emotion as well. It was very powerful, very realistic, and very suspenseful. The prose was beautiful in many parts, but never too flowery. The characters were realistic and likable, and I find myself thinking about them even after finishing the book.
A Girl from Yamhill by Beverly Cleary. This book was very well-written, with vivid descriptions and language both child and adult can enjoy. A lot of Cleary's childhood is inspiration for her books, and it always made me smile when I read a bit that had been adapted into one of her stories. Cleary grew up during the depression, and this book covers that time until she leaves for college (where her next book, My Own Two Feet, picks up). For addressing a sometimes-difficult childhood, the book lacked emotion, which might be because of the distance from her childhood, or because she's learned to let a lot of hurt feelings go. A must-read for any Cleary fan, as well as those who have an interest in the Depression era.
It reminded me of stories my Gran used to tell, so I loved reading it and envisioning my grandmother's life on her family farm. It's been especially nice to have this book in mind while reading some of my Gran's childhood memories and looking at her old pictures.
A Friend at Midnight by Caroline B. Cooney. As a kid, I loved Cooney's books because they were suspenseful and edgy. Maybe it was because I was young, maybe it's because I've progressively read more twisted things and it takes more to disturb me, but I only finished this book out of obligation. I didn't like it at all. There was so much potential to make it disturbing, or even to explain what had been set up. Instead, I didn't get a lot of it. A father abandons his 9-yr-old son at the airport with no food, money, or belongings. It's kept a secret for awhile, then the family finds out and doesn't even get incredibly angry or decide to take any sort of action against the dad... I didn't understand that at all. The whole thing lacked emotion for being such a sensitive topic. Definitely donating this one to the library. SOON.
Aftermath by Brian Shawver. I've never read Russell Banks' Affliction (to which a comparison is made on the back cover), but this book reminded me a lot of Banks' The Sweet Hereafter. (In fact, I could have sworn I saw the comparison somewhere, but endless Googling tells me I must be crazy. I probably saw Banks' name and linked it to his other novel.) Shawver's novel seemed like a more modern telling of The Sweet Hereafter, which explores a town's emotions after a bus crash kills or injuries many of their children. In Aftermath, the town boys are divided and fight in a local restaurant's parking lot until one boy is critically injured. The book is told from two different points of view - the restaurant manager's, and the injured boy's mother. I love how diplomatically Shawver presents both POVs, so at times you're on each character's side, hating the other. He makes it very hard to pick sides in the way you traditionally would when reading such a news story, because he delves into the characters and makes them seem completely real. Each time I'd end a chapter, I'd convince myself to read just one more. It was very compelling.
I'm still rolling the resolution around in my head. It didn't come out of the blue, but I think there could have been a little more foreshadowing, or even just a few details stressed more in the beginning that would have made it seem like less of a jump. As it was, the resolution didn't shock me either way - I wasn't disappointed by it, but it didn't really "resolve" things like I thought it would. Still a great book, one I will re-read.