WoW: Dark Water by Laura McNeal

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

Dark Water
Laura McNeal

Amazon description: Fifteen-year-old Pearl DeWitt and her mother live in Fallbrook, California, where it’s sunny 340 days of the year, and where her uncle owns a grove of 900 avocado trees. Uncle Hoyt hires migrant workers regularly, but Pearl doesn’t pay much attention to them . . . until Amiel. From the moment she sees him, Pearl is drawn to this boy who keeps to himself, fears being caught by la migra, and is mysteriously unable to talk. And after coming across Amiel’s makeshift hut near Agua Prieta Creek, Pearl falls into a precarious friendship—and a forbidden romance.

Then the wildfires strike. Fallbrook—the town of marigolds and palms, blood oranges and sweet limes—is threatened by the Agua Prieta fire, and a mandatory evacuation order is issued. But Pearl knows that Amiel is in the direct path of the fire, with no one to warn him, no way to get out. Slipping away from safety and her family, Pearl moves toward the dark creek, where the smoke has become air, the air smoke.

I say, "Forbidden romance and wildfire? ... How hot can it get?"

What books are you waiting on this week?


Every Little Thing in the World by Nina De Gramont: Young Adult Book Review

Every Little Thing in the World
Nina De Gramont
Realistic; Young Adult
March 2010

Before she can decide what to do about her newly discovered pregnancy, sixteen-year-old Sydney is punished for "borrowing" a car and shipped out, along with best friend, Natalia, to a wilderness camp for the next six weeks. (BWI description)

Sydney’s not a “bad girl,” but an average, sixteen-year-old teen who accidentally gets pregnant after dating a boy a handful of times. She can’t believe it happened. She’d listened to her teachers in the sex-education classes at her private school. She and her long-time boyfriend had always taken precautions. It’s only after they break up that she forgets to be careful, resulting in the pregnancy that threatens to change her life forever. She’s sure that her parents wouldn’t understand, and in the beginning, they wouldn’t. So she puts off telling them. It takes until the end to resolve the issue of the pregnancy, and to tell her mother, if not her father, about what happened. Most of the book takes place during a month spent at a wilderness adventure camp in Canada, where Sydney’s dad has sent her after her mother can no longer handle her acting out.

In the ongoing conversation about whether abortion is or isn’t murder, and whether a pregnant teen should have the baby and keep it, or give it up for adoption, Ms. DeGramont does a thorough job of examining the possible repercussions of each choice, while writing a thoroughly entertaining, and though-provoking, novel.

Not everyone would make the choice Sydney and her mother believe is the only right one in this situation. But it’s right for their values, which enables DeGramont to shade the meaning and the attitudes into those that are upbeat and convincing.


Covered Bridge at Manning Rye

This is the last covered bridge in our area. I did not take the picture, above, but I did take the pictures, below. I was standing up above the bridge, looking down at it from our River Ranch.


Something, Maybe by Elizabeth Scott: Young Adult Book Review

Something, Maybe

Elizabeth Scott
Simon Pulse
March 2010

Seventeen-year-old Hannah does everything she can to avoid being noticed due to the scandalous occupations of her parents, but she might have to make an effort to change that after she develops a crush on two guys at her part-time job. (BWI description)

This was a slight, but enjoyable, book, a quick read. If you’ve ever read any Elizabeth Scott’s novels, you know she is very talented. Living Dead Girl was one of the most disturbing books of 2008. By contrast, Something, Maybe is a more simple story of a girl who wants one guy, but discovers that a better one was always there, just waiting for her to notice.

What makes the book unusual is seventeen-year-old Hannah’s embarrassing, infamous parents. Her mother earns her living as an erotic web-chat hostess, and her father was fashioned after Hugh Hefner. Jackson (the Hefner-type character) was in his 50’s when he had a two-year relationship with Candy, Hannah’s nineteen-year-old mother, impregnated her, promptly dumped her, and would never have claimed his child, were it not for a paternity suit. Unfortunately, Candy refused to take any child support from wealthy Jackson, thus Candy and Hannah only scrape by from payday to payday. Candy is portrayed as reasonably likeable—she’s not overly vain, and she tries to be a good mother, though spending all of her time strutting around in scant, sexy undies in front of a webcam. That she wouldn’t accept any financial support from Jackson made her seem very stupid to me.

Though not ordinary parents, Scott rendered them realistically and, in fact, they are the most interesting aspect of the story. In a bid to improve his image, Jackson, who is now in his seventies, sends for Hannah. While spending time with him, she gets an eyeful about his lifestyle.

When not feeling embarrassed by her overly libidinous parents, Hannah works at the call center for a drive-in burger restaurant. Josh, the gorgeous poet and activist that she pines for, is totally unattainable. Finn, an awkward but nice, guy-next-door type, is constantly doing what he can to get her to notice him … until, one day, she finally does.

Hannah is a likeable girl. Instead of making her too cynical, which Scott could’ve done, she rightly gives her a cheeky quality that is entirely appropriate, given her parents. Irreverence is always easier to take than unrelenting cynicism. Scott’s dialogue catches the way teens talk, and what they talk about, superbly.


A Small White Scar by K.A. Nuzum: Young Adult Book Review

A Small White Scar
K.A. Nuzum
Young Adult: Historical; Realistic; Rural

Fifteen-year-old Will Bennon leaves his family and begins life as a cowboy, but his twin brother with mental disabilities follows him and joins the journey. (BWI description)

Nominated for four awards. Recipient of Booklist Editor's Choice Award: 2006.

When I first bought this book for the library, back in 2006, I thought it sounded somewhat intriguing, but also like the plot of so many Westerns I’ve seen in my lifetime. Also, I live in the country, and am surrounded by cowboys and country women. I am a country woman. We’re different in the rural west; we truly are. We have true grit.

I was worried that the book had been written by someone who might never have been on a horse. Someone with absolutely no idea what country life is really all about. You get my drift. So I passed on it, until I came across it again recently, and decided to give it a try. I need not have worried. Nuzum understands country living. She understands the human heart, and she is a truly wonderful writer.

Since his mother died seven long years ago, it’s been fifteen-year-old Will’s job to look after his twin brother, who has Down’s Syndrome. It’s 1940. They live on a ranch in Colorado, and that’s what his dad needs and expects of Will. But Will wants to be a man. He wants to do a man’s job, not look after his retarded brother. He's getting awfully tired of having Denny follow him everywhere, and so he decides to run away. He plans to join a rodeo. To be sure, he feels guilty about it. But he’s also angry, and it feels like a solution to him. But then, on the day Will runs away, Denny follows him on horseback. Will does everything he can to convince Denny to go home, but like something you just can't get rid of, Denny stubbornly refuses. Despite all, Will loves Denny and feels protective toward him. The two ride on. They run into predictable obstacles, such as rattlesnakes and raging rivers. Eventually, Will joins a rodeo. In the end, Denny confronts his father and they work out some solutions.

From the plot description, the book sounds like so many books you’ve read or heard about, or TV Westerns. But it is completely realistic. The setting is vividly drawn. There is no sentimentality or toxic nostalgia, and none of the didacticism that you might expect to find in in a book with a plot description like this, and especially one written for youth.

The quality of the writing is everything. It rises to the top like thick cream in a jug of fresh milk.


Wheat Harvest 2010

Wheat harvest is in full, dusty, and glorious swing.
I love the sound of combines as they travel down a road. I think it's the sound of the hydrostat, (whatever that is). I need my husband to help me with this post. The header bounces along. Combines remind me of ginormous grasshoppers--don't ask me why--they don't jump!

The tires stand almost as tall as me (5'4"). To get inside the cab, you have to climb a pull-down ladder with about 10 steps. In the fields, they are incredibly maneuverable. We used to run green combines (John Deere), but for the past couple of decades we've been running red (Case).

View from inside the cab. Wheat is gushing out of the arm into a waiting truck. From the truck, it's taken, in our case, to on-site grain bins. After harvest is over, we empty the bins, one semi-load at a time, and haul it 25 miles to Almota, along the Snake River. From Almota, it's put on barges. The barges follow the Snake until it meets the Columbia, and then it gets unloaded in Portland. Our soft white wheat markets are mostly in Japan and China.


Paper Towns by John Green: Young Adult Book Review

Paper Towns
John Green
Realistic; Young Adult
October 2008

11-state award nominees; Best Fiction for Young Adults 2009; Capital Choices 2009; Edgar Allan Poe Award: 2009; Booklist Editor’s Choice 2008; Kirkus Best Young Adult Books: 2008; SLJ Best Books for Children: 2008

One month before graduating from his Central Florida high school, Quentin "Q" Jacobsen basks in the predictable boringness of his life until the beautiful and exciting Margo Roth Spiegleman, Q's classmate and neighbor, takes him on a midnight adventure and then mysteriously disappears. (BWI description)

Just as Quentin is about to graduate, his larger-than-life neighbor, Margo Roth Spiegleman, asks him to help her mete out justice to her cheating boyfriend and her best friend, with whom her boyfriend cheated. In a series of highly entertaining, and sometimes law-breaking antics, the two wile the night away, ending it by breaking into Sea World. The next morning, “Q” hopes to talk to Margo about it, but she has vanished. Not into thin air, though—she’s left behind a solid trail of clues to her whereabouts. On the morning of graduation, "Q" pieces together the last piece to the puzzle. Skipping their graduation ceremony to go find Margo, “Q” and several of his friends set out on a hilarious road trip to find her.

I doubt that anyone could read this book and be disappointed except, maybe, if you live in Orlando, and love your town and state. John Green grew up in Florida and almost didn’t forgive his parents for raising him in the state that is filled with “Paper Towns,” “Paper High Schools,” “Paper Proms,” and yes, “Paper People.” In other words, John Green couldn’t find any history, or reality, to the Florida landscape. To him, it was all about phoniness and ostentation.

If that doesn't get your goat, you will probably find the book very entertaining, like a Hardy Boys mystery for teenagers, with delightfully comical characters, and comic situations, thrown in.

But there is also food for thought. John Green posits the question: how much do we really know each other? Who are we, really, beneath our images? Can you ever really know someone? Whomever you think someone is, how much of it is real, and how much is simply your version of that person?--The facet of the person that you notice?

The reference to Paper Towns is an interesting one. Apparently mapmakers will often put a fictitious town on a map, to protect their work against copyright. It’s in one such fictitious town that Margo Roth Spiegleman is finally found.
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