Sunday, September 18, 2011

Garth Stein. THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN

Wow, what a brilliantly written, lovely, moving story! If you have a dog, you'll love this, period. You don't even need to keep reading. Done. But...be polite and read anyway.

We join Enzo on the night before his death. He's telling us a little about his life and then he flashes back to the beginning when his owner, Denny picked him out of the litter. Oh - Enzo's a dog, by the way.

Enzo is lovable right from the start. He is learning all that he can because he believes he will be a man in his next life. (He learned that from television special about Mongolia.) Denny is a race car driver. Enzo watches videos of his races and loves racing just as much as Denny. He and Denny become the best of friends. They understand each other.

Then when Denny brings home Eve, his new wife, the balance changes a little. Enzo isn't the only one Denny loves. Eve doesn't trust or love Enzo yet. However, by the time their baby is born, Enzo is able to win over Eve by vowing to protect Zoe, which he does faithfully throughout the book.

Remember, this is from Enzo's point of view. That may sound strange at first, but the author pulls it off brilliantly. We feel Enzo's struggle to communicate through gestures alone. We feel his love for his family. Most of all, we feel the strong bond between Denny and Enzo - a man and his dog.

The story is dramatic and heart-wrenching. But the writing is what really shines. I have so many post-it note pages that I can't even choose one to share here, like I normally would. There are too many wonderful parts. You must read it for yourself to understand. You will love it! If you're like me, you've often pondered what your dog might be thinking or if he understands you. Well, after this book, you may never look at your dog the way same again.

While reading it, I couldn't help thinking how it would be such an amazing movie. Well, lo and behold, a movie is in development. I'm so excited! Patrick Dempsey is said to be the lead, which is perfect casting, since he races cars in real life. I hope they cast the Enzo narration perfectly too. (Morgan Freeman would be my choice).

One final note - this is an adult book. It's on many of those lists of "adult books for older teens," and teens will love it. But it is an adult book. I just want to be clear.

There is another adapted version of the story for younger readers.

But you'll notice that the title is slightly different, which keeps you from confusing the two. I'm not sure how much is changed in this younger version, although the reviews say that the themes may still be too mature. Younger readers may not enjoy it as much as older readers. I'm sure the demand will be high though, especially after the movie.


If you'd like to see what other books Garth Stein has written, check him out here.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Jacquelyn Mitchard. ALL WE KNOW OF HEAVEN

Bridget and Maureen have been best friends forever. One icy night while driving back from a cheerleading competition, their car swerves and hits an oncoming truck. Both girls are so badly hurt that it's difficult to identify them. The paramedics make an identification based on which girl was driving. Maureen dies and Bridget is badly hurt and left in a coma.

Friends and family mourn Maureen and hold vigil by Bridget's bedside. Danny, Bridget's boyfriend, visits Bridget almost daily to talk and sing to her. Several weeks later, everyone is thrilled when Bridget wakes up. The doctors begin a physical therapy program for her and say that it will be a long road, but that she will begin to get better. All Bridget can say at first is a few syllables. One day when one of her doctors looks at her teeth to begin reconstruction on her jaw, he notices that her dental records don't match her mouth. After putting a few pieces of the puzzle together, including a DNA test, the doctors realize a huge mistake was made. Maureen didn't die - Bridget did.

Both parents are understandably confused, horrified and shocked. The fallout makes for an amazing story. But that's really only the beginning. Maureen's struggle to re-learn how to speak and do basic tasks like grab a glass of water is the real meat of the story. Not only does she have much to overcome physically, but she also struggles emotionally. She feels like people see her as the girl who should've died. She feels like Bridget was the girl everyone loved and she was only the shadow following her. To complicate things further, Danny is spending a lot of time with her. Maureen wonders if he is only trying to stay close to Bridget or if he really likes her. Will she be able to overcome her physical and emotional obstacles and begin to live a normal life again?

The author is incredibly talented to be able to move between so many points of view so easily. I could really feel the emotions behind all of the characters. So many people were affected by the events in the story. Each family was thrown into a tailspin by the accident, and then again when told about the mistaken identity. You can imagine the roller coaster of emotions. The reactions of the family, as well as the entire town were brilliantly written. Maureen is an amazing character. She displayed the frustration you would expect, along with the determination and courage to persevere. Her added sass at the end definitely made her my hero!

This is a moving book that you won't soon forget!
Click here for more young adult novels by Jacquelyn Mitchard.


Also, click below to check out the cool trailer from the author's website: 









Tuesday, September 6, 2011

David Macinnis Gill. SOUL ENCHILADA

I'm not sure if I've ever read a book with a more curious combination of characters and events. Eunice "Bug" Smoot is an eighteen-year-old living on her own and making a modest living delivering pizzas in El Paso, Texas. We join her at a time when her biggest problem is finding a new job after being fired.

But that problem seems minor shortly thereafter when she finds a demon sitting next in the passenger seat of her car. She discovers that her late grandfather, Papa C, made a deal with the devil for that classic Cadillac she now drives. It seems that Papa C was supposed to give his soul to this demon when he died. But Papa C gave him the slip, so now the demon, called Beals, is there to take the Cadillac instead - oh, and her soul too.

Bug is not alone in dealing with this quandary. Her friend Pesto works for demon immigration, so he knows a thing or two that may help her. Pesto's mom is helpful with seances and other non-traditional solutions. Finally, we have the attorney, E. Figg, who represents Bug when dealing with Beals and another more well known demon, Lucifer. Between all of them, surely someone can work something out to save Bug's soul.

This was a barrel of fun. It's a modern, hysterical twist on the "making a deal with the devil" theme. The characters really bring it to life. I dare say that Bug may be the feistiest female I've come across in a long time. The El Paso setting brought a richness to the book. I felt like I was there with Bug and Pesto walking the streets during the Día de los Muertos celebration.

Read more about David Macinnis Gill here. This is is first YA novel. He has another one out now called BLACK HOLE SUN. I've heard great things about it!
To get a feel for the book, enjoy out the trailer for SOUL ENCHILADA: