Review: Ana of California by Andi Teran.

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Title: Ana of California

.Author: Andi Teran

Genre: Young Adult

Rating: 3.5/5

Publisher: Penguin Books

Release Date: Jun 30, 2015


 It’s Ana, one n, like ‘fauna’, not Anna like ‘banana’

About the book:

In the grand tradition of Anne of Green Gables, Bridget Jones’s Diary, and The Three Weissmanns of Westport, Andi Teran’s captivating debut novel offers a contemporary twist on a beloved classic. Fifteen-year-old orphan Ana Cortez has just blown her last chance with a foster family. It’s a group home next—unless she agrees to leave East Los Angeles for a farm trainee program in Northern California.

When she first arrives, Ana can’t tell a tomato plant from a blackberry bush, and Emmett Garber is skeptical that this slight city girl can be any help on his farm. His sister Abbie, however, thinks Ana might be just what they need. Ana comes to love Garber Farm, and even Emmett has to admit that her hard work is an asset. But when she inadvertently stirs up trouble in town, Ana is afraid she might have ruined her last chance at finding a place to belong.

My thoughts:

Ana of California is a coming-of-age novel, inspired by Anne of Green Gables. Just like Anne, Ana Cortez has spent years in the foster system. She’s finally being sent to live with Abbie and Emmett at the Garber Farm in Hadley, Northern California.

Ana and Anne are different, yet the same. Much like Anne, Ana is dramatic, dreamy, talkative and has an uncontrolled hair, in her words; the bane of my feral existence.

My mouth gets me in trouble all the time; you can ask Mrs. Saucedo or any of the foster parents or teachers I’ve had in, I don’t know, the past ten years.

Ana is also nothing like Anne. She’s Mexican. She looks like Frida Hayek. She likes art and poetry. Her favorite novel is Kafka on the shore. Her best friend Rye is a Chinese Native American. And The Hex is her life’s soundtrack. She’s a fierce spirit nevertheless.

Before reading the novel I was very skeptical about the idea of retelling of one of my favorite classics. Andi proved me wronged. Not only she managed to keep the spirit of the original characters but she added a modern-day twist to them.

So if you’re looking for an excellent diverse YA to read this summer. Hurry up and grab a copy of Ana of California.

About the author: 

Andi Teran is a writer and performer originally from the deserts of West Texas. She has written about fashion, film, and culture for Vanity Fair, MTV, New York, and Monocle, as well as written and performed for various New York stages. She lives in Los Angeles. Ana of California is her first novel.

You might also enjoy:

Ana of California: A Playlist. 

Diversity in YA.

– Does Race Matter If Books, Like ‘Anne of Green Gables,’ Touch Your Heart?

Book Club Kit.

Thank you NetGalley and Penguin Books for the review copy!

Interview: Katarina Bivald, author of The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend.

 

Katarina Bivald. (Photo by Cecilia Bivald)
Katarina Bivald. (Photo by Cecilia Bivald)

 

Following my review of the beautiful The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend, here’s a little interview I did with the author:

-First let me ask the obvious, Why Broken Wheel, Iowa?

I made up my mind early on that if I was going to make things up, I might as well do it properly. And I have to think about my own amusement as well – part of the charm in writing a book is to get to visit the places you make up. So I chose Iowa precisely because I knew nothing about the state. Or almost nothing – I knew that they had once had a library cat named Dewey Readmore Books

-Have you been to Iowa before writing the book?

No, I haven’t. I haven’t even visited the United States. Although in a way it felt like I had still grown up there – with Fannie Flagg and Annie Proulx and Louisa May Alcott and all the other great authors and books I’ve read all my life.

-You worked in a bookstore for almost 10 years how did that influence your writing? Are there any books that inspired The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend?

I did indeed. At the time when I worked in the bookshop, I thought it was all about the books. I used to look upon customers as just a crude interruption in my reading. But when I set out to write The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend and looked back at my time in the bookshop, I realized it was just as much the people I remember – who came in looking for books, sometimes, or just someone to talk to or a way to make time go by a little bit more quickly. 

-Where did you write the bulk of the book? And how long did it take you to finish it?

I wrote the first draft while traveling in Ireland. I spent three weeks alone there, going from Dublin to Belfast to Galway and spending time with Amy and Sara and George and the rest of my new-found and imaginary friends as I went along. Then I rewrote it when I was back in Sweden, sent it to some publisher, and got universally rejected. Rewrote it again. Got rejected. Rewrote it. And so on, until finally, there it was – a finished book; all my imaginary friends in other people’s head as well. 

Sara and Amy’s friendship is special.What inspired these characters?

Amy was always there. In the first draft, she was alive when Sara got there. Unfortunately, that meant that nothing ever happened. Sara arrived, they met, they drove from place to place to place, sat around talking, and so on. I was talking about it with my sister one evening, and then we sort of just turned to each other and said: “Amy has to die” – “You have to kill Amy.” It was sort of a sad time, but in the end, I think she became more alive because of it – allowing her to speak directly through her letters, all the while knowing she wouldn’t be with them for much longer. 

– Do you think writing books makes you happier or unhappier? 

Short term: happier. Long term: I don’t know. They can help you distance yourself from life, which I think is a bad thing, but they can also allow you to experience it more thoroughly.

-If you could go on reading holiday like Sara and you had to choose 13 books only to take with you what would you choose and why?

Some for comfort; old friends that I’d read before (Bridget Jones or Jane Austen, perhaps). Some for distraction; a new crime novel from a reliable author (e.g. Lee Child). Some for slow thoughts; an interesting biography or non-fiction. 

Sara describes Terry Pratchett as one of the most reliable authors. What would Sara recommend to someone who has never read Pratchett before?

You can jump in anywhere you want, but books with the witches are always great (Witches abroad are about how stories work, so that is always a favourite)

– Shelves are different in Sara’s bookshop. Sex, Violence and Weapons shelf. Small-Town Life. Chick Lit to Curl Up With. For Friday Nights and Lazy Sundays. Short but sweet, Reliable Authors. Happy Endings When You Need Them.  Name one book you think is a must on each shelf.

I think some of my ideas are already in the book (Hemingway for Short but sweet, for example, although he’s not exactly sweet, is he?). I’m always more interested in what other people would place – I’ve had a great week on Twitter reading other people’s suggestions when my publisher @vintagebooks made a campaign about it. 

Amy says in one of her letters: “There’s no author I admire more than Joyce Carol Oates.” Which author can you say the same about?

So many of them. Since becoming a writer myself, I tend to admire anyone knowing how to write and sticking to it. Agatha Christie, Georgette Heyer – all those women who wrote book after book after book and here’s me struggling with my third one. But of course, I have to mention Fannie Flagg. Her Fried Green Tomatoes at Whistle Stop Café is a work of art. 

Amy has several copies of an old fashioned girl and Jane Eyre. Do you have multiple copies of a certain book(s)?

I often do; I tend to by many copies so as to be able to force all my friends to read it. At the moment, I own three copies of The Great Mortality – an Intimate History of The Black Death, the most devastating plague of all times. Haven’t really got anyone to read it yet.

Sara cries while reading Jane Eyre. What was the last book that made you cry?

I love crying when reading, so any sad part can set me off. I cried to H is for Hawk, and We are all completely beside ourselves.

Broken Wheel is a town of non-readers until Sara finds the right book for each person, well everyone except Tom. Sara promised to find him a book one day. What could that book be? 

I think she’s still working on it. Perhaps The Great Mortality? I can imagine the look on Tom‘s face when she suggests it. 

Which books might we be surprised to find on your shelves?

I have so many bookshelves that there’s hardly room for any surprises. I have art books (mostly my sister’s), novels, classics, chick lit, romance, vampire novels, fantasy, biographies, feminist political theory, scientific methodology… but perhaps you would be surprised at the entire shelf dedicated to books about the first world war, including many collections of war poetry and a book about slang used by British soldiers. 

– Who are your favorite Swedish writers

Very difficult question. I love some of the working class authors, such as Moa Martinsson. But I guess my favourite author probably has to be Astrid Lindgren.

– Books or people? 

I used to say: books. Books every time. Like Sara, I argue that even if you prefer people, they are much more interesting in books. But since I became an author, I’ve started to realize that there are a lot of interesting, strange people out there. People you meet, talk to for a while, and think: “I could never have made him or her up” or “If I put this in a book, no one would believe me.” 

– Your new book is coming out in Sweden this August. *congratulations* Tell us a little bit about it?

Thank you! It’s called Life, Motorcycles and Other Impossible projects. It goes like this:

The summer Anette Grankvist turned 18 she set herself three goals in life: to learn how to drive a motorcycle, to buy a house and to become completely self-reliant. 

Now, nineteen years later, though she’s managed to become self-reliant, the other items on her list remain elusively uncompleted. The state of things was endurable – enjoyable even – while her daughter lived at home, but when Emma leaves home to start university, Anette soon realises she has an abundance of what she’s been missing for the last couple of decades: time. 

What better way to spend her time than to start taking motorcycle lessons; jump straight into an impossible project; get to know her own slightly senile mother; and throw herself head of heels into romance? 

As it turns out, looking for ways to spend one’s free time and searching for adventure can lead to the most unexpected complications… 

Thank you Katarina for your time & your answers.

Review: The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald.

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Title: The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend

.Author: Katarina Bivald

Genre: Contemporary

Rating: 4/5

Publisher:Random House UK, Vintage Publishing

Release Date: Jun 18, 2015


What I say is: a town isn’t a town without a bookstore. It may call itself a town, but unless it’s got a bookstore it knows it’s not fooling a soul. -Neil Gaiman

About the book:

Sara is 28 and has never been outside Sweden – except in the (many) books she reads. When her elderly pen friend Amy invites her to come and visit her in Broken Wheel, Iowa, Sara decides it’s time. But when she arrives, there’s a twist waiting for her – Amy has died. Finding herself utterly alone in a dead woman’s house in the middle of nowhere was not the holiday Sara had in mind.

But Sara discovers she is not exactly alone. For here in this town so broken it’s almost beyond repair are all the people she’s come to know through Amy’s letters: poor George, fierce Grace, buttoned-up Caroline and Amy’s guarded nephew Tom.

Sara quickly realizes that Broken Wheel is in desperate need of some adventure, a dose of self-help and perhaps a little romance, too. In short, this is a town in need of a bookshop.

My thoughts:

Sara and Amy exchange letters and opinions on books and life. After two years Sara decides to visit her pen-pal Amy. But when she arrives at Broken Wheel, Sara finds herself all alone in a rather depressing small town. With nothing much to do, Sara decides to open a bookstore. A bookstore for everyone, even those who ‘never read books’ or ‘preferred films’. A bookstore with unusual bookshelves.

If you’re looking for Of Mice and Men check Small-Town Life shelf.

Bridget Jones? For Friday Nights and Lazy Sundays shelf!

In the mood for some Hemingway? Try the short and sweet shelf.

There’s always a person for every book. And a book for every person.

In one of her letters, Amy writes: “You’ve got to be something of a dreamer to enjoy books, at least to begin with.”

Sara without a doubt is a dreamer.She lives in books more than anywhere else. One of my favorite parts of the book is when Sara is reading All Families Are Psychotic at the bookstore for hours and the whole of Broken Wheel come and watch her. ‘For God’s sake, woman, haven’t you got anything better to do with your time than read?’ Someone asks her. This scene means lot to me because I’ve been told my entire life; there is more to life than books.

Although Amy and Sara share almost the same taste in books, they have different opinions when it comes to people. Books or people, Sara asks in one letter, for her the answer is simple: Books. Even people in books are better. Amy writes to Sara: “How fun is it to read a fantastic book if you can’t tell others about it, talk about it, quote from it constantly?” later she adds: “Live a little. Read a little.” God! Everyone needs an Amy Harris in their lives.

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend is a phenomenal book about books and reading. Do yourself a favor and buy a copy now.

About the author: 

Katarina Bivald grew up working part-time in a bookshop. Today she lives in Älta, Sweden, with her sister and as many bookshelves as she can squeeze in. The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend is her first novel.  Her second novel Livet, motorcyklar och andra omöjliga projekt (Life, Motorcycles and Other Impossible Projects) is coming out in the middle of August.

You might also like:

Thank you NetGalley and Random House UK, Vintage Publishing for the review copy!

Review: The Truth according to Us by Annie Barrows.

the truth according to us

Title: The Truth According to Us.

Author: Annie Barrows.

Genre: Historical Fiction.

Rating: 3/5

Publisher: The Dial Press

Release Date: Jun 09, 2015


About the book:

In the summer of 1938, Layla Beck’s father, a United States senator, cuts off her allowance and demands that she find employment on the Federal Writers’ Project, a New Deal jobs program. Within days, Layla finds herself far from her accustomed social whirl, assigned to cover the history of the remote mill town of Macedonia, West Virginia, and destined, in her opinion, to go completely mad with boredom. But once she secures a room in the home of the unconventional Romeyn family, she is drawn into their complex world and soon discovers that the truth of the town is entangled in the thorny past of the Romeyn dynasty.

At the Romeyn house, twelve-year-old Willa is desperate to learn everything in her quest to acquire her favorite virtues of ferocity and devotion—a search that leads her into a thicket of mysteries, including the questionable business that occupies her charismatic father and the reason her adored aunt Jottie remains unmarried. Layla’s arrival strikes a match to the family veneer, bringing to light buried secrets that will tell a new tale about the Romeyns. As Willa peels back the layers of her family’s past, and Layla delves deeper into town legend, everyone involved is transformed—and their personal histories completely rewritten.

My thoughts:

Set in Macedonia a small town in West Virginia during the Great Depression. It’s 1938 and Macedonia is celebrating its 150th anniversary.

The Romeyns family, a well known family in Macedonia is getting a new boarder, none other than Layla Beck, daughter of Senator Grayson Beck. The senator decides to teach his daughter a lesson and she ends up living with The Romeyns and writing a book for the Federals Writer’s Project about the history of Macedonia.

The Romeyns family is not your average American family. Josephine “Jottie” Romeyn, lives with her brother Felix and his two young daughters Wilhelmina “Willa” and Bird. Jottie takes care of her nieces when their father is away on business which happens quite often.

I have never read anything set during this time period before. The details of people’s lives are quite extraordinary. The characters are very real. At the beginning we get this image of Layla being a spoiled and ignorant child who had never worked a day in her life. But a few chapters in Layla surprise you with how she takes control of her life and finish her book.

A good history book includes different perspectives.

The story is mostly narrated by Willa, Jottie and Layla. Willa’s chapters are the only ones written in first person narrative which was great in giving an eye into the thoughts of a 12 year old child in a household full of adults. There are also plenty of letter correspondences between Layla and her family and friends which remind you instantly of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.

Buy a copy from Book Depository.

About the author:

Annie Barrows is the author of the children’s series Ivy and Bean, as well as The Magic Half. She lives in northern California. She is the co-author of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.

Thank you NetGalley and The Dial Press for the review copy.

Review: The Worrier’s Guide to Life by Gemma Correll.

9781449466008_frontcoverThe Worrier’s Guide to Life by Gemma Correll

Release Date: 05/26/2015 Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing Pages: 112


About the book:

If you’re floundering in life, striking out in love, struggling to pay the rent, and worried about it all — you’re in luck! World Champion Worrier and Expert Insomniac Gemma Correll is here to assure you that it could be much, much worse. In her hugely popular comic drawings, Gemma Correll dispenses dubious advice and unreliable information on life as she sees it, including The Dystopian Zodiac, Reward Stickers for Grown-Ups, Palm Reading for Millennials, and a Map of the Introvert’s Heart. For all you fellow agonizers, fretters, and nervous wrecks, this book is for you. Read it and weep…with laughter. My thoughts: I’m not much of a worrier but I really did enjoy this book. It’s quite short and full of quirky and funny illustrations. Here are some of the hilarious pages in the book: horror                              google wheel and my personal favorite.curses Buy a copy for your worrier friend, they’ll love you forever!   About the author: Gemma Correll is a cartoonist, writer, illustrator and all-round small person. She’s the author of A Cat’s Life, A Pug’s Guide to Etiquette and The Worrier’s Guide to Life. Find more here.

Thank you NetGalley and Andrews McMeel Publishing for the review copy!

Review: B by Sarah Kay.

 

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B by Sarah Kay

Release Date: 04/28/2015

Publisher: Hachette Books

Pages: 48

 

 

 

About the book:

A whimsical love letter, a shared promise, a thank you note, and a whispered secret to mothers and daughters everywhere. The perfect gift, B celebrates the bond that exists between a parent and a child. Short, touching, and lovingly illustrated, it is a family tradition waiting to begin.

My thoughts:

Sarah Kay‘s famous spoken-word poem ‘B’ has been recently republished as a beautifully illustrated book by Hachette Books with a new glorious cover by Sophia Janowitz. B, first performed at TED 2011 has now over seven million views.

I absolutely love Sarah Kay and her poetry and this powerful and heartfelt poem that celebrates mother- daughter relations means a lot to me. I almost listen to it regularly.

If you are obsessed with this poem like me, you definitely need a copy on your shelf. It’s also a perfect gift for mother’s day.

 

This world is made out of sugar.

 

The Type another amazing poem by Sarah Kay never-before-published in book form is set to be published by Hachette Books next year.

 

Thank you NetGalley and Hachette Books for the review copy!