Lauren DeStefano wrote about painful and scary topics like suicide and loss and she did so with grace and respect. In her author's note she discussesLauren DeStefano wrote about painful and scary topics like suicide and loss and she did so with grace and respect. In her author's note she discusses how this book came to be and it makes it all the more lovely and bittersweet. While I completely agree with other reviewers that younger readers shouldn't read this one alone (subject matter for one, and, well...it can be a bit scary too!) I still highly recommend it to readers of all ages and at a time when I'm craving standalones, I couldn't be more thrilled that this one is a series!
I had such a great time with this one that I'm VERY eager to track down all nineteen other novels (the mother of all binge-reads?) and get started froI had such a great time with this one that I'm VERY eager to track down all nineteen other novels (the mother of all binge-reads?) and get started from the beginning. I would love to see how it all began: from Lori's realization that Dimity was a real person (she had always assumed Dimity was a character her mother made-up) to the inheritance of the journal and cottage, to meeting Finch's other residents as they move in. If you're not already familiar with Dimity, don't wait years like I did. Aunt Dimity & the Summer King is a quick and easy one-sitting read (and from what I can tell, the rest of the novels all hover around the 200-page mark as well) that was a ton of fun and full of great characters! Now if only I can find the time to read the rest (this is a valid excuse for calling off work for the next few weeks, right??)
Tabitha Crum would put Orphan Annie to shame. Her parents use her as their own personal maid (when they actually remember and acknowledge her existencTabitha Crum would put Orphan Annie to shame. Her parents use her as their own personal maid (when they actually remember and acknowledge her existence, of course,) she has a terrible haircut, sleeps in the cold attic, and her only friend is a mouse named Pemberley. As if that wasn't bad enough, after some rather shady bank transactions, the Crums announce they're going on holiday to Spain...and that they're sending Tabitha to the local orphanage. As fate would have it, however, Tabitha receives a sealed envelope that changes her life: the reclusive Countess of Windermere has invited Tabitha to her (haunted??) mansion, along with five other children, none of whom know why.
Glow is the kind of novel I want to shout about, the kind of novel I want to shove into the hands of complete and total strangers. I’m floored that itGlow is the kind of novel I want to shout about, the kind of novel I want to shove into the hands of complete and total strangers. I’m floored that it’s a debut and I’m a tiny bit angry with myself for not discovering it sooner. This is a book written for me. A family deep-rooted in the South, heavy-hitting themes tackled respectfully but without sugar-coating anything, a well of faith, and just a hint of magic. Glow is a phenomenal novel that left me breathless. Not only will I be itching for whatever Tuccelli happens to write next, but you can bet I’ll be pushing this novel on whoever gets within shouting distance! Do yourself a favor, guys. Read this book.
If you're into creepy settings (This silence here was somewhat heavier, lonelier than the preceding one. The former was an elevator silence; this oneIf you're into creepy settings (This silence here was somewhat heavier, lonelier than the preceding one. The former was an elevator silence; this one was a walking-through-the-woods-by-night silence.), rooms that lead to nowhere, secret pasts, awesome characters, quirky formats, The X-Files, and historical fiction (the novel takes place in the 90s, but were it not for a few specific references to television shows, I could have easily believed this took place far, far earlier), this is the book for you. From what I can tell, this is Cantero's debut in English. If the rest of his books are this fun, I'll keep my fingers crossed for translations!
The House at the End of Hope Street is that rare kind of story that initially comes across as wholly unassuming and it isn't until you look up and see it's going on 3am that you realize this book has completely enchanted you. There are few books I'll read in a single sitting and even fewer that I'll sacrifice sleep for, but with this book I happily ignored the rapidly-approaching dawn. For 280 gorgeous pages I lived and breathed this story. When I finally finished I wanted to hold the book close, somehow make it a part of me. I seriously considered starting over again, turning back to the very first page - and I have never reread a book immediately after finishing.
At 19, Alba Ashby is well on her way to a bright future. She was Cambridge University's youngest student (15) and is now the youngest PhD student. Her world collapses in an Unspeakable Moment - throughout the novel the truth is hinted at, though never fully detailed until later on - and she sees herself with no option but to leave school. Not wanting to return to a home where her siblings hate her (Lord Ashby's children prefer the latest and greatest, not understanding their youngest sister's passion for books and history) and finds herself at the door of 11 Hope Street.
As if she fully expected to see Alba on her doorstep, an older woman introduces herself as Peggy and invites the girl in. She invites Alba to stay in the house for ninety-nine days while she gets her life back on track. Once inside, Alba notices the photographs lining the walls. Hundreds on photos of famous women, all of whom had taken up residence in the house at one point or another. Beatrix Potter, Florence Nightingale, and Sylvia Plath had found the house in their time of need and now it's their turn to offer advice to Alba - literally. The house on Hope Street isn't an ordinary home, it's a living, breathing place ready to provide inspiration and assistance to any woman who finds herself at the door.
The characters in The House at the End of Hope Street are just as magical as the house itself. Along with Peggy and Alba, there are two other women who have taken up residence in the house. Greer, a starlet pushing forty, recently discovered her fiance entertaining a woman young enough to be her daughter and Carmen, a beautiful Portuguese woman who fell in love with a musician and is now holding onto a dark secret. The story's narrative alternates between these four women and nothing - nothing - makes me happier than some multiple narratives! There's Stella, a ghost only Alba can see, who has filled the role of friend and confidant that was missing from Alba's life. There's also Mog, a cat who has been in the house for decades - and let's not forget the photographs! The entire time I was reading this book I kept imagining Harry Potter-esque photos. The women in the frames are fully capable of interaction and, whether Alba wants it or not, are quick to offer advice. At the very end of the book there are a few pages devoted to these women which give mini-bios. There are suffragists (Millicent Garrett Fawcett, Emmeline Pankhurst), writers (Daphne du Maurier, George Eliot), actresses (Elizabeth Taylor, Vivien Leigh), scientists (Caroline Herschel, Mary Somerville) and so many, many other remarkable women and let it be noted that my interest is definitely piqued. Don't be at all surprised if future reviews include a biography or two!
The House at the End of Hope Street is a book I could keep talking about for AGES. For such a tiny novel, there's so much to be said about this story! It's also one of those books I loved so much that I fear anything I say could never do it justice. There are novels that I enjoy enough to declare a top pick for the year. This one, however, has gone above and beyond. It's achieved that special status: a favorite not just for the year, but overall. Some books I like enough to reread - at some point. This time I know I'll be revisiting these characters.
Whether you're a Young Adult reader who's looking to dip your feet into the Adult genre or a reader who's looking to get lost in a beautiful world, I cannot recommend this book enough. It had everything I didn't know I had been looking for and Menna van Praag is an author I'll now be keeping my eye on....more
After the recent loss of her mother, Ophelia travels with her sister and father to a museum where her fatherthis review will go live on the blog01/30
After the recent loss of her mother, Ophelia travels with her sister and father to a museum where her father is working on a sword exhibit. While exploring the various floors one afternoon, Ophelia discovers a mysterious boy who's locked behind a door. He tells her his name was taken from him three hundred years ago by a group of wizards and that he had been sent to defeat the Snow Queen. Being a child whose beliefs lie in science rather than tales, Ophelia initially shrugs him off - this boy doesn't look a day older than she does yet he insists he's 300? As she hears more of his stories, however, she comes to realize there might be something to them after all. Unfortunately time is running out and the pair only have three days to beat the evil Snow Queen before the world ends.
As much as I wanted to love this one, I just couldn't get into it. I should know better than to automatically leap at comparisons, yet the first mention of Roald Dahl had me hooked. While the similarities were abundant and clear, Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy would have needed something more for it to work.
Throughout the book, Boy's own story is told and these chapters were my favorite. There was definitely a fairy tale-like quality to them that I loved and the giant owls, the wizards, the King - they were all so vivid and full of character. Back in the present, however, I couldn't connect with Ophelia's story. Numerous times her mother talks to her and even after reading I'm still unsure as to whether that was real or if it was all in Ophelia's head (with this story both options are entirely plausible).
Toward the end I was skimming more than reading and the big fight scene was over in such a rush it felt completely pointless. I had high expectations for Ophelia and the Real Boy and, sadly, they fell flat. Despite my lackluster feelings, I do think this book will find its fans and I'm disappointed I was not one of them....more
Last year's Rain of the Ghosts was a quick, fun read that kept me entertained but left me with a few questionsthis review will go live on the blog7/8
Last year's Rain of the Ghosts was a quick, fun read that kept me entertained but left me with a few questions. The sequel, Spirits of Ash and Foam was one I was really looking forward to and I couldn't wait to get back to the Ghost Keys. Unfortunately, it seems this book suffers from the dreaded Second Book Syndrome. The bad outweighed the good here.
There's a string of islands in the Bermuda Triangle known to the locals as the Ghost Keys. Rain Cacique and her family run an inn on one of the islands and she recently inherited a magical bracelet from her grandfather. The zemi is just one of nine and Rain isn't the only one who's searching for them.
With literally no time elapsed since the first book, Spirits of Ash and Foam kicks off the morning after Rain of the Ghosts ended. Rain is still coming to terms with everything: magic, her new-found ability to see ghosts, her recently-deceased Grandpa 'Bastian-turned-ghostly sidekick...and the beginning of the new school year is just around the corner. It was a joy to see Charlie and Miranda again (although Charlie's massive crush on Rain still hasn't gone anywhere) and there were some new faces too. While the other characters were beautifully crafted, Renee was little more than a Mean Girl stereotype. Miranda unknowingly sits in a seat Renee had wanted, and now Renee is out for blood. She enters their group, goes along with them on adventures...all the while intent on getting revenge. She wouldn't let it go - even AFTER they finally became friends. Did this girl really have nothing else going on in her life?
The only thing I enjoyed about Spirits of Ash and Foam was that, in the first ten pages, I had answered to the questions I had from the first book. Everything was spelled out for me and I appreciated that. Sadly, that was where the good ended.
In a novel this short - 280 pages - there's only room for so much. Whereas I had been under the impression this series was about the mysterious zemis and Rain's quest to find the rest of them, here there were numerous plots and hardly any of them went anywhere. Callahan, the Bad Guy, is back. The inn has new guests and Rain's forced to babysit the three unruly children. A murder or two. A search party. Mermaids and ancient legends. Charlie's crush. There was so much packed into these pages and I felt that there wasn't enough attention devoted to any of them. Cut out a few storylines and the book as a whole would have been far stronger.
A large chunk of this book was devoted to a strange woman/manatee the children glimpse one afternoon. Rain is told the tribal tales of the woman and how she's an evil witch that, for centuries has been luring children away from their families and they're never seen again. Centuries, remember. Many, many years. 'Bastian simply asks her to return the missing children (the guests at the Cacique's inn) to their parents and that's it. Hundreds of years of suffering could have been avoiding if the parents had simply asked nicely. Turns out this woman was never evil at all, just misunderstood and lonely. Right.
Another issue I had was with the logistics. There are a handful of ghosts in this book and, for the most part, they're free to come and go as they please. They can walk through walls and floors with ease. Yet they still need to take ferries to get from island to island. I couldn't wrap my mind around this concept.
It's such a shame when a solid first book is followed by a lackluster sequel. It wasn't until the very end that Rain discovered the second zemi. There are still seven more to find and if the rate is one per book I really don't see myself keeping up with this series. While I enjoyed Rain of the Ghosts, Spirits of Ash and Foam was such a downgrade that, unless something drastic changes in the third book, my time with this series is over....more
Cracked is a novel that came out of nowhere and took me by surprise. Initially I wasn't expecting more than a run-of-the-mill YA Paranormal. By the end of the first chapter, however, I was completely hooked!
Meda isn't quite sure what she is, but she knows it isn't good. See, Meda eats souls. And she likes it. Meda's mother always knew Meda wasn't like the other children - public schooling (or any schooling, for that matter) couldn't handle Meda and her tendency for violent outbreaks. Her mother's gruesome death has left Meda to fend for herself and Meda is more than capable of doing so.
After gaining admittance to an institution, Meda finally has her target cornered. She's had her sights on this man for a while, and now it's time for action. Unfortunately, there are others - some like Meda, some not - who arrive with plans of their own. When she's 'rescued' by a well-intentioned young man, Meda decides to make the most of it; Chi is a Crusader, a Templar seeking to rid the world of Demons. These demons he fights sound startlingly familiar to Meda. Here's her chance to find out just what she is - and possibly catch a snack or two in the process.
Cracked was, well, delicious. It was a fun, take-no-prisoners novel that I hadn't realized I needed. Meda was a fantastic character - though readers will either love her or hate her. She's snarky and rude and doesn't hide the fact that she is what she is. She had very few redeeming qualities - if any at all - and it's this anti-hero trait that made her so refreshing and enjoyable. The Knights themselves were all a great bunch too: Chi, the fearless leader who's just a few crayons short of a box; Jo, the no-nonsense girl who's haunted by a wound; Uri, the most adorable 12-year-old who practically worships Chi. I found myself truly caring for these characters and one scene even left me teary-eyed.
Not only did Crewe turn the likeable main character idea on its head, but she also did an absolutely wonderful job with the romance. The romance is between two secondary characters and I was rooting for them the entire time. If you squint a bit, there's a sliiight chance that Meda might have her own romance in the next book, but it really could go either way - and for once, I don't mind. Meda's character and the story itself are strong enough on their own to where I'm fine with the lack of a love interest.
Cracked was a short story, but one I was fully invested in and enjoyed immensely. If you're looking for a story that's outside the usual YA Paranormal, check this one out. This is a great start to a new series and I can't wait for the sequel!...more
One of the first reviews ever posted on the blog (back in August, 2011!) was Don't Breathe a Word, a deliciously creepy novel about the disappearance of a little girl who went off to marry the King of the Fairies and never returned home. That novel was my introduction to Jennifer McMahon and has stuck with me ever since, a perfect combination of horror and reality and how blurred the lines separating them really are.
Two years later I've got another McMahon novel under my belt and I'm itching for a third (and fourth and fifth...). Going off the two I've read so far it's clear McMahon has something of a formula, a recipe of sorts, that she uses when writing. Don't Breath a Word had a cop-out ending that I didn't care for at all - the final destination made the entire journey feel a bit worthless - and was a little worried the same would hold true for The Winter People. Despite my worries, I jumped right in and discovered a novel even better than the first.
She remembered her parents' warnings when she was little: Stay out of the woods. Bad things happen to little girls who get lost out there.
The first thing you should know about me: I love dual time periods in novels. I live and breathe multiple eras so right off the bat The Winter People was looking good. The second thing you should know about me: the more character perspectives there are, the happier I am. The Winter People had a huge cast of characters, and the story played out over many of their points of view. Giddy from the get-go, I only came to love this book more and more the further I read.
An old farmhouse in West Hall, Vermont holds its share of secrets (some, literally). In the late 1800s, Sara Harrison grew up in the house with her siblings, father, and Auntie. Auntie's strange and otherworldly beliefs ostracized her from the rest of the townsfolk, yet when they needed a surefire way to win the eye of someone or needed a remedy the doctor couldn't provide, she was the person to go to. While growing up, Sara had heard whispers of sleepers, those returned from the grave, and on one occasion saw a classmate in the woods not long after having attended her funeral.
Now grown and with a child of her own, Sara Harrison Shea still lives in her childhood home. Unfortunately Gertie is in a terrible accident and her untimely death is too much for Sara to handle. As she sinks deeper and deeper into depression (or, as her husband and brother-in-law believe, madness) she faithfully pens her diary, filling it with knowledge Auntie had passed down.
Since then, multiple families have come and gone, and now Alice and her two daughters reside in the old farmhouse. As far back as the girls can remember, Alice has made it clear they are never to go into the woods, especially not the Devil's Hand as the locals call it, and if anyone should ever knock on the door they are never to open it. Never. Alice's sudden disappearance one morning sends the girls on a manhunt through states and decades as they discover hidden diary entries and realize the town's legends might be real after all.
The Winter People had me thoroughly creeped out in the middle of the afternoon! I think that's a pretty good testament to McMahon's skill as a writer, don't you? Broad daylight with the sun shining through my windows and there I was, jumping at every sound. More than once I steered clear of the closets, fulling expecting to be greeted by a sleeper. This novel is very much a winter read and not just because of the title. There's a stark coldness that's ever-present, and a resounding sadness that left me thinking in shades of blue and grey. Death is also a key theme and the novel explores the lengths some people would go to in order to see a loved one for one more day - or, in this case, one more week.
It's been a while since a novel has captivated me from beginning to end, but The Winter People did just that. In one case I was reading well into the night (not my best decision!) simply because I could not put the book down. I came to know and care for these characters: Ruthie and her little sister Fawn; Katherine and her anguish over the loss of both her husband and son; Sara with her sorrow and excitement. Despite the number of characters and eras, McMahon wove the story together flawlessly.
Again, however, the ending loses a bit of its magic. Ruthie doesn't so much make a decision as accept what's thrown upon her. While it does leave room for a possible sequel, I had hoped for more. Despite that minor bump I absolutely loved The Winter People and highly recommend it. If you're in the mood for a quick and compelling novel that will keep you guessing, this is it....more
At first glance, Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer might come across as a spin on the Pride and Prejudice andthis review will go live on the blog10/11
At first glance, Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer might come across as a spin on the Pride and Prejudice and Zombies-esque books that have been fairly popular over the past few years. Upon closer inspection, however, this book is far different - and extremely entertaining!
After Colette's father recently took off, she moved into a tiny apartment with her mother and younger brother. Once used to the best of everything, Colette's wardrobe now largely comes from thrift stores and vintage shops and the only way she's still able to attend her prestigious all-girls school is with a scholarship. For the past year she's been keeping her new life a secret from everyone - including her two best friends. Hannah in particular is the classic definition of a Mean Girl: if she thought for a second Colette could no longer afford expensive shoes she'd do everything she could to make Colette understand she was no longer part of the In Crowd. Or any crowd.
A class trip to France provides Colette with the opportunity of a lifetime: travel, experience new cultures, meet cute Parisian boys, see masterpieces of art and architecture. What Colette doesn't expect, however, is the arrival of a serial killer. A serial killer who might not be entirely human.
Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer completely surprised me! Going into it I assumed it'd be an easy read but ultimately forgettable. Instead I got an incredibly quick story that had me eager for more. Ms. Alender isn't afraid to get down and dirty - and gory. If you're familiar with the way Marie Antoinette died you'll be able to guess how her victims were killed. For those of you who aren't, let's just say it ain't pretty.
I'll admit that for the first half of the book it felt like I was reading two different stories: an American-in-Paris contemporary and a dark historical fiction. Colette was having a grand time traveling abroad and taking in all the sights and sounds Paris has to offer. A ghost was seeking revenge. It wasn't until the two storylines met (with the explanation of Colette's and the victims' families and their ties to the monarchy) that everything came together to feel like one book.
Apart from that, however, I had such a great time with this book! Everything from the romance (no love triangle!) to the action to Colette's character growth and her confrontation with Hannah was entertaining and beautifully well-done. Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer is a perfect one-sitting read that has something in it for every reader: romance, murder, mystery. If Alender's Bad Girls Don't Die trilogy is anywhere near as captivating as Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer, I have a feeling those books will find permanent residency on my shelves!...more
The Bone Season has received an insane amount of hype leading up to its release. Personally, I'm extremely hesitant to give in to any book labeled The Next ______ (especially when it's the next Harry Potter). While I definitely wouldn't say this series is the next HP, the hype is certainly deserved!
2050s London is far different than it is today. In the late 1800s, a seance-gone-wrong (or right, depending on how you look at it) ushered forth clairvoyants, normal humans with abnormal abilities. 200 years later, clairvoyants are still on the run from the Big Brother-esque Scion. With a father in the government, Paige Mahoney has a lot to lose if her true nature is discovered. Using a false job as a cover, she spends her time in London's seedy underworld, working for a man with questionable ethics.
Some clairvoyants can read tarot cards or palms. Paige is a dreamwalker, a person with the ability to not only enter others' minds, but - as Paige discovers - their bodies as well. A rather disastrous train ride sets Scion's sights on Paige and she quickly learns there's much more to her world than she ever thought possible.
If you're a fan of massive world-building, The Bone Season is for you. In fact, there's so much to learn it can be slightly overwhelming. Initially I was a bit confused - the first few chapters are bogged down with lots of info and terms - but as the novel progressed these ideas and phrases became second nature and by the end of the book I was fully immersed.
NOTHING makes me happier than opening a book and finding a big ol' map staring at me. I absolutely love it and this one was a complete surprise. It's not as large or as detailed as some of the other maps I've come across in books (although those typically encompass entire worlds rather than a single city), but it made me feel right at home. There's also a chart in the very beginning of the book - even before the map! - that I didn't fully understand until later in the story. It breaks down the seven orders of clairvoyance and once you understand what each ability means, this chart becomes absolutely fascinating. Probably the most helpful though was the nine-page glossary. Trust me on this one: you'll need it. Between words like mime-crime, threnody, and Amaurotic, there's a LOT to learn and you'll quickly become good friends with those nine pages.
The characters were another hit and each one was beautifully crafted (particularly Warden ♥). Whether they were minor, one-scene characters or main characters seen throughout the course of the novel, I got a feel for every single one. Yes The Bone Season is a fantasy novel, but when you get down to it, these characters are still human (some of them at least!) and they're not without flaws and strengths and fears.
I don't want to give away any spoilers, but the ending seriously left me wanting more (plus the romance I was starting to suspect wouldn't happen!). While I'm a bit unsure of how the story will play out over seven books, you can bet I'll be eagerly awaiting the sequel! Don't go into The Bone Season expecting to return to the world of Harry Potter. Honestly, apart from the same publisher and series length, the two are nothing alike. If you go into it with thoughts of Hogwarts and Quidditch you will be let down. However, if you're looking for a fun and exciting new series with an excellent world and class system, The Bone Season is for you!...more
Thirteen-year-old Rain Cacique and her parents live on a series of islands in the Bermuda Triangle known asthis review will go live on the blog12/03
Thirteen-year-old Rain Cacique and her parents live on a series of islands in the Bermuda Triangle known as the Prospero Keys, the Ghost Keys to the locals. The height of tourist season is upon the Keys and the Caciques' home/inn is currently serving as a haven for some very odd guests - including the creepy Callahan. Rain's only escape is an area of the jungle dubbed the NTZ: No Tourist Zone. It is in the jungle that Rain and her friends find peace and quiet and, more importantly, no camera-snapping, flower shirt-wearing tourists.
Shortly before Rain's beloved grandfather dies, he gives her a special armband and Rain discovers it grants her the ability to see ghosts and spirits. In an attempt to put her grandfather's soul to rest, Rain aids his spirit in one final mission - but it soon becomes clear that Rain isn't the only one who knows about the armband's power.
Rain of the Ghosts is a tiny morsel of a novel, barely clocking in at 200 pages. In those pages, however, is a thoroughly engrossing and enchanting tale. The story is seen through the eyes of Opie, Rain's ever-present guardian. To be honest, I'm still not entirely sure just what Opie was - at times I thought both he and Maq (his partner and sidekick of sorts) were spirits or humans. Toward the end of the novel I got the impression they were dogs, yet there were scenes where Maq speaks with people. In the end I reached the conclusion that, in a novel like Rain of the Ghosts, it makes sense that it doesn't make sense. That said, I'm hoping the sequel will provide some answers!
While Opie is the story's narrator, he sees all and knows all, providing some wonderful insight into what the characters are feeling and thinking. It also sets up a potential romance quite nicely - or a possible heartbreak. Rain's best friend Charlie has been harboring a long-time crush while Rain is totally oblivious. Rain of the Ghosts was romance-free, and I'm looking forward to what lies in store for these two.
The magical element was superb and one I think many readers will enjoy. There was that fantasy side without being overtly paranormal and it worked. Rain is the only person able to see and communicate with these spirits, which makes things wildly entertaining in the scenes where Charlie attempts to help out. 'Bastian, Rain's grandfather, was a pilot in WWII and carried the weight of regret with him his entire life. He led his men through multiple battles only to be the only survivor of a horrific accident back home. He can't rest until he makes amends and Rain is the key.
The novel ends by opening the doors to a mystery: why is Rain's armband so special? Why are other people looking for it? Why are there eight more?Rain of the Ghosts is chock-full of genres: it's one part paranormal, one part mystery, a dash of coming-of-age and I had a wonderful time reading it. The setting was great, the characters were fantastic. The writing was a bit on the simple side - think more Middle Grade than Young Adult - but its fast pace and short chapters made Rain of the Ghosts a delightful one-sitting read. Its sequel, Spirits of Ash and Foam comes out in May and I'm eager to jump back into the Ghost Keys and find out what happens next!...more
The year the ghosts came started like this: The Maestro kicked open the door, dropped his suitcase to the floor, and said, "Voila!"
Olivia Stellatella used to have a great life. Her father, maestro of an orchestra; a wonderful mother and grandmother; a warm house. Now her mother is gone, simply leaving the family one day. The orchestra that had once made her proud is now failing and the music hall is falling to pieces. In an attempt to save money - and the orchestra - Otto moved what was left of his family into the hall; the cold storage room is now home. Olivia retreats into herself, ignoring her once-large group of friends and pushing others away.
Life at the hall is both unbearable and mortifying - until four ghosts make their presence known. Suddenly Olivia is caught up in their world, the fascinating (& terrifying) world of Death and Limbo and the awful shades. These ghosts need her and Olivia is determined to help.
"Midnight," Frederick smiled dreamily. "How poetic of you. Important things always happen at midnight."
Let it be known that I love Claire Legrand. Absolutely ADORE her. I recently read her debut, The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls (my review here!), and it blew me away. The second I finished I knew Claire would be an auto-buy author. Naturally, I was a little worried before starting The Year of Shadows: I thought so highly of Cavendish, what if this new one fell flat? What if Claire was just a one-hit wonder and her debut was simply a fluke?
It turns out my fears were totally silly and ridiculous: The Year of Shadows is just as lovely as Cavendish. 12-year-old Olivia is hurt and upset and embarrassed over her new housing situation and I felt for her. Not only did she just lose her mother - with no explanation! - but her father is becoming obsessed with a dying orchestra and Olivia's stuck living in a storage room! She's so angry with her father that she no longer calls him Dad, he's simply Maestro.
Along with her grandmother, Igor (a cat that more-or-less adopted the family as opposed to the other way around), and a sweet couple who run a tea shop and allow Olivia to help out after school, Henry - usher at the hall and fellow classmate - refuses to give up on Olivia. Henry used to sit at the popular table. Now he's sitting with Olivia. Olivia's not the only one hiding secrets and Henry won't let her hide from the world.
While the living characters were fantastic, the ghosts really stole the show (and made me more than a little teary-eyed!). There are four haunting the hall: Frederick, Jax, Tillie, and Mr. Worthington. Although they lived during different times, they're bound to the music hall and it's impending destruction will also bring about theirs. The only way they can safely cross over is to find their anchors - the object that's keeping them in this world. Unfortunately, once dead, the ghost forgets all memories of living and the only way to recover those memories is through a living body.
Now, possession is an ugly word. The ghost prefer the term sharing, as in, they're be sharing Olivia's and Henry's bodies as well as sharing their memories. Also, they'll share their moment of death and any pain they might have gone through. Obviously Olivia and Henry are both hesitant, but ultimately they decide it's for the best. The scenes through the ghosts' eyes, so to speak, broke my heart. Especially Mr. Worthington's scenes. He had been my favorite throughout the entire novel and learning how he died was too much for me.
Have you ever watched people when they don't know you're watching them? Like in a movie theater or a concert. When people get caught up in watching something, their faces change. The lines on their faces get softer, because whatever they're watching has made them forget how they think they're supposed to be looking. Instead, they just are - just sitting there, listening and watching and being real.
There were numerous twists and turns, including some I truly hadn't expected! While everything wrapped up very nicely, I wouldn't mind another book featuring Olivia and Henry. Particularly with their super-adorable-and-obvious-yet-unspoken crush on one another. SO. CUTE. And Igor? Crazy awesome.
With two books under her belt, Claire Legrand has proven her immense skill as a writer and I stick by my initial judgement: if you have an auto-buy author list, Claire deserves a place on it....more
Mistwalker is the kind of book I feel was written for me. Deadliest Catch marathons are not uncommon in my hthis review will go live on the blog02/04
Mistwalker is the kind of book I feel was written for me. Deadliest Catch marathons are not uncommon in my house and there were SO many delicious references that only someone like me would get (ONTD and the Weasley family, anyone??).
Willa Dixon's town lives and breathes fishing. The main source of income comes from the season's catch and Willa's father is struggling to make ends meet. Willa grew up on the boat - she feels just as comfortable on the water as she does on land, but her brother's death turned the family upside down and she feels responsible. In an attempt to cut off a rival fisherman, the two sneaked off in the middle of the night to confront him on their boat, but only Willa came home. Since that night she's been reeling from the guilt and the loss is taking its toll on the family.
Old superstitions are still alive and well for these villagers and legends like the Grey Man are taken as fact. Depending on who you speak to, the Grey Man is actually a Grey Lady and it's not hard to find someone whose uncle/second cousin/great-grandmother once had a sighting. What they don't know, however, is that Grey is actually a 17-year old boy and has been for quite some time. The Grey Lady once called to him and he followed. Now he's part of the lighthouse, bound and tethered until the day he collects 1,000 souls (in a century there have only been four deaths on the water) or someone is willing to take his place.
A widely-known fact about me: I. LOVE. Dual narratives. Love them! Unfortunately many authors are unable to pull it off without sounded stilted or repetitive. Mitchell's talent shines in Mistwalker and the alternating chapters between Grey and Willa are fantastic. I got a unique feel for both of them and the insight into their worlds was great. Willa's anguish felt real and the look into life in a fishing family was very interesting - Mitchell certainly did her homework! Grey's existence was just as real and he had his own set of hardships. The lighthouse provides him with anything he could ever want (he received a computer after wanting news on the outside world; contemporary books - yes, Twilight was among them - appeared after he exhausted the lighthouse library's supply), yet it can't - or won't - give him the one thing he truly wants: freedom.
While I'm not sure Mistwalker will appeal to everyone, I can certainly say I enjoyed it. I read this book in a single sitting and it left me wanting more - in a good way! If you're a fan of quick chapters, solid research without being dry or bogged down with technical details, and no romance, be sure to pick up a copy of Mistwalker. It surprised me in the best way and I'll be sure to go through Mitchell's backlist. Mark my words: Saundra Mitchell is an author to keep your eye on!...more
"Mortals. I envy you. You think you can change things. Stop the universe. Undo what was done long before you came along. You are such beautiful creatures."
There are very few things that can compel me to move a book - especially one clocking in at nearly 600 pages - to the top of my To Read list, but I'm a total sucker for Jeremy Irons. Naturally I had heard of this series and even went so far as to include it in my list of series to read in 2013. A few months ago I saw the movie trailer and thought it looked interesting and a few days ago saw it again while Matt & I saw The Hobbit. A second dose of Mr. Irons was more than I could handle and I promptly went to my library and checked out the first book.
Going into this series I knew nothing about the story. Zip. Nada. Nothing. Imagine my surprise when it relies heavily on a Civil War-era plot! (The Civil War was my area of focus in school and any book about the War - fiction or non-fiction - is a must-read for me). Add in multiple references to To Kill a Mockingbird and you've got yourself a triple whammy.
There wasn't much we wanted to know about any town but our own, and if your granddaddy or great-granddaddy couldn't tell you, chances were you didn't need to know.
Beautiful Creatures was a delight to read for the simple fact that the narrator was a boy. Ethan Ware, sixteen, one of the star players on his high school basketball team. I was overjoyed at a male perspective, although the more I read, the more I realized that the only things separating his POV from the countless female protagonists in YA were the pronouns. Once the action started and especially once the romance began developing, Ethan could have easily been any female MC. He just didn't sound like a 16-year old boy. That said, I liked him.
Ethan lives in the tiny town of Gatlin, famous for its buttermilk pie and a Civil War battle. The previous year his mother died in a car accident and since then his father has been shut inside his study, still too hurt to return to his old life. Amma, Ethan's nanny? housekeeper? practically raised him and I enjoyed her immensely.
"Harlon James's been injured, and I'm not convinced he ain't about ta pass over." She whispered the last two words like God Himself might be listening, and she was afraid to give Him any ideas. Harlon James was Aunt Prudence's Yorkshire terrier, named after her most recent late husband.
Gatlin is a town very set in its ways. It's a town where everyone knows everyone and has for generations. There is a DAR group as well as the Sisters of the Confederacy and the famed Southern hospitality is alive and well.
One day a new girl arrives to the town and immediately her name is on everyone's lips. Lena Duchannes. Macon Ravenwood's niece. Despite the Ravenwood being the founding family of Gatlin, the residents still treat Lena as a complete outsider and her taste in black clothing doesn't help matters.
Of course Ethan is inexplicably drawn to her and the two discover they can communicate telepathically, which instantly brought to mind Kami and Jared's relationship in Unspoken. What Ethan doesn't know is that Lena is a Caster - a witch - and on her sixteenth birthday she'll be forced to take part in a Claiming ceremony where her future will either be one filled with Light or Dark.
Macon Melchizedek Ravenwood was the town shut-in. Let's just say, I remembered enough of To Kill a Mockingbird to know Old Man Ravenwood made Boo Radley look like a social butterfly.
Other reviewers make mention of the abundance of Southern stereotypes, but I didn't see Beautiful Creatures that way. I was thoroughly sucked in and tore through this massive book in just a few days, which is really saying something, considering the time it usually takes me to read and factoring in the holidays. I absolutely enjoyed this book and can't believe it took me this long to read it.
I'll admit that toward the end the plot lost a bit of its steam and started throwing in plot twist after plot twist, ultimately leaving me with more questions than answers (so what really did happen to Ethan's mom?). I'm hoping these loose ends will be tied up in the following books.
As you all know by now, I'm a BIG fan of dual narratives. Ethan and Lena's story was intertwined with the story of a Confederate soldier and the Caster girl he loved and although theirs was only told through flashbacks I adored it.
I had spent so many hours in it as a kid, I'd inherited my mother's belief that a library was sort of a temple.
While Beautiful Creatures did have its flaws (hello, super-insta-love!), I wholeheartedly, absolutely, utterly loved it. It got to the point where I stayed up well past a reasonable hour just to keep reading. I'd reward myself after doing housework by reading a chapter or two.
Its enormous size could definitely have been shed a couple hundred pages and the deus ex machina ending made me roll my eyes, but I savored every moment and there's no doubt in my mind I'll be continuing the series....more
Sixteen-year old (almost seventeen, thank you very much) Lori Chase has just made the move from a swanky hotel in Philadelphia to history-obsessed Gettsyburg, PA. Her brother is stationed in Ghana and her parents thought it would be fun to renovate a Bed & Breakfast. Once July rolls around, business is booming: spectators and reenactors alike flock to the town for the anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. For three days 1863 is alive and well: the townsfolk are decked out in giant hoop-skirts and Union blues and replica rifles send the scent of gunpowder into the air.
Lori is less than enthused with her new home - until the night she captures a ghost on film. A Skype session with her brother must have been all-too tempting for the young soldier, for an image appeared on the screen. Lori wasn't alone in her bedroom. After a few more encounters with the boy, Lori learns his name is Nathaniel Pierce. He grew up in Punxsutawney and enlisted as a member of the 93rd Pennsylvania regiment when he was nineteen. He shocks Lori by sharing with her the true nature of his death: it wasn't the battle that killed him. He's convinced he was murdered and needs her help solving the mystery. Unfortunately, he only has three days - once July 3 comes, the reenactors will pack their things and Nathaniel will depart as well.
Okay, guys. It's SO not a secret that the Civil War holds a special place in my heart. I've gone to Gettysburg multiple times - yay for only living a few hours away! - so right off the bat this book and I got along well. Allow me to fly my bias flag: if a book deals with any of the battles (particularly Gettysburg), you can bet I'll be reading it. It's one of my things. A YA dealing with a Civil War soldier and his suspicious death? SIGN ME UP!
When I read, I'm constantly doing research or googling certain figures/events/paintings/what have you. In Rebel Spirits a great deal of the novel was devoted to the Kalunga Line, something I had never heard of before! Basically, it comes from certain religions in the Congo and refers to a 'line' stretching across the Atlantic Ocean that was the path between the world of the living and that of the dead. I'm all about stuff like this and absolutely loved its inclusion in the book.
As for the characters, there were quite a few, but they were fun and well-developed. Lori's parents are ever present and that was a refreshing change from the usual absentee parenting typically found in YA. Nathaniel was a sweetheart, but I just couldn't get into the romance aspect. Over the course of three days the two only met a handful of times for a few minutes at most. Yet somehow they fell in love. Sorry, but no. It was cute when Lori tried to explain modern technology and I easily could have accepted a friendship, but more...? I'll admit I delighted in Lori's dad calling her out on her insta-love!
Any reader of historical fiction knows research can make or break a novel. There were a few things Nathaniel didn't know about that would have existed during his day. Punxsutawney Phil/Groundhog Day as we know it didn't officially begin until the 1880s, yet it's origins go back to Celtic tribes and Germany's Candlemas Day. I suppose that could be splitting hairs, since Groundhog Day wasn't a part of American tradition until German settlers came over in the 1880s, but it's certainly been around for quite some time. Anything thing unknown to Nathaniel was the word cahoots. Unfortunately, a quick google search shows this word first entered the English language in the 1820s - 40 years before Nathaniel's death.
Apart from a few tiny issues, I had a lot of fun with Rebel Spirits. I'd say the mystery was more Middle Grade in nature - it's pretty obvious from the start who the bad guys were - but I was able to overlook it and go with the story. If you enjoy Civil War settings, or want a fun story to entertain you for an afternoon, pick up a copy of Rebel Spirits....more
Somebody killed my father. I don't know who did it or why, but I'm going to find them.
I'm a girl.
I'm a witch.
I'm a Shadowcull.
Someone is going to pay.
I went into this book fairly blind - I had never read any book by Sean Cummings prior to Poltergeeks nor was I a big paranormal reader. The plot intrigued me and having a strong mother-daughter relationship was a definite plus. Now that I've read it, I'm glad I took that chance.
Julie Richardson is your average 15-year old. Except for the fact that she's a witch. And can see spirits. Her best friend Marcus is her constant companion and one of the few people who knows what Julie truly is.
What initially seems like a typical poltergeist turns out to be far more menacing. An attack on her school has left Julie shaken and her mother in the hospital comatose and under a powerful (and fatal) spell. In an attempt to save her mother's life, Julie makes a deal with an immortal and with the help of her guardian and some friendly advice from the spirit of her father, Julie prepares to face down her demons. Literally.
Poltergeeks is a fairly short book that can easily be read in an afternoon. It was a pretty average read - nothing horrible, but nothing remarkable - and there was a cute romance (and no love triangle!). Unfortunately, I felt the Big Reveal was a bit of a letdown and more than once I was confused and not quite sure what was going on or why the villain did what they did.
It doesn't seem like Poltergeeks will be a series, but the ending is written in such a way that it's certainly possible.
Over the course of the novel, the writing style seemed much more suited to a Middle Grade novel, yet there's quite a bit of profanity thrown about. Originally I would have definitely said Poltergeeks would be right at home with 10-ish year olds (mainly due to the writing style), but once multiple f-bombs were dropped, I reconsidered.
Fans of paranormal YA will most likely enjoy Poltergeeks. There's nothing mind-blowing about this novel, but it's a quick, enjoyable ride nonetheless....more
Even though this book has all the makings of a paranormal romance novel - hello, living woman from the present and dead man from the 1860s fall in love - it doesn't read like one. In fact, if it weren't for the constant reminders Tristan's dead, Spirit of the Rebellion could easily be hailed as a regular ol' romance novel.
I'll keep this one short and sweet: our two main characters, Shae and Tristan, meet when Shae takes a position translating Civil War documents. She moves back to the United States (she had been living in Norway for the few years prior) and is given temporary residence at the Starling Plantation.
It's no secret Starling is home to multiple spirits. People don't enjoy spending time there and anyone who attempts to settle in has been driven out quite forcefully by a particular spirit. Unfortunately for him, Shae is as stubborn as they come and having papers scattered about her desk isn't nearly enough to scare her off.
As Shae comes to know the spirits (I loved how she introduces them to modern technology - they have movie nights, for example, and 12-year old Timothy is particularly intrigued by Lord of the Rings), she uncovers the truth regarding Tristan's past and the cause of his death. History branded him a traitor and as she translates documents, she discovers what really happened.
I have an extremely large interest in the Civil War and was eager to read this novel. Its faults are few and the writing is gripping. The story moves very quickly and the chapters are all fairly short (around 10-ish pages). Unfortunately for me, that wasn't necessarily a bad thing. lol multiples times I fell for the trap of "I'll only read one more chapter!" and, because the chapters are so short, wound up sneaking a couple more in. Before I knew it I was halfway into the book!
Before I started reading A Greyhound of a Girl, I had assumed it would be your average coming-of-age tale - and in many cases it is. What I wasn't expecting, however, was the supernatural element. Ha, and I really have no idea what that is; I suppose I wasn't paying attention when reading the summary?
A Greyhound of a Girl is the story of four women: Tansey (short for Anastasia), who died when she was just 25; Emer, Tansey's 80-year old daughter who was just three when Tansey passed away; Scarlett, Emer's daughter; and Mary, Scarlett's 12-year old daughter. Although Mary is the central character, the other three play equally vital roles and reading about each one - particularly Emer and Tansey - was a joy.
Mary's very best friend Ava just moved out of their neighbor and into another part of Dublin. Understandably, Mary is distraught until an odd woman suddenly 'moves in.' She looks young, but gives off the impression she's much older. Her speech and dress certainly give Mary pause, though she finds it comforting. After a few meetings, Mary discovers this is her grandmother's mother. A real ghost has come to visit.
Although Tansey never left her daughter's side, it is only now she feels the need to make her presence known. She knows her daughter's time is nearly up and wants to help her through. The moments with Tansey and Emer were absolutely lovely. In fact, the entire books could have been solely about them and I would have loved it!
A Greyhound of a Girl executes the multiple narrative flawlessly. I'm actually one of the oddballs who enjoys multi POVs. Unfortunately, not all authors handle this well, but Mr. Doyle did a superb job. Not only were there dual narratives, but these women lived during different eras. Definitely my favorite aspect of this book.
Where the novel lost points was in the characters' speech. I lost track of the number of times Mary said 'like.' Sometimes she said it more than once in a sentence! Also, 'so' and 'grand.' Scarlett quickly became my least favorite character and it was her manner of speaking that sealed the deal. Nearly every sentence ended with an exclamation point. There were a few instances where Mary pointed this out, and the dialogue looked like:
"What happened to the !!!s?" said Mary. "What?" "The !!!s" said Mary.
"Even your whispers end in !!!s" Mary whispered back.
It came to the point where I no longer found it cute or funny.
Overall, A Greyhound of a Girl is a sweet story about mothers and daughters that can easily be read in a single sitting....more
You know how there are certain authors who are practically deified their fans worship them so much? I'm not one to give in to hype - I've definitely been let down in the past. That said, guys. I wish someone would have given me a thorough shaking and forced Libba Bray upon me earlier. The Diviners was my first introduction to Ms. Bray and I can assure you it will not be the last.
Naughty John has come home. And he has work to do.
With an eerie childhood-lullaby-gone-wrong, John Hobbes announces his presence. It has been over fifty years since he was last among the living and he's ready to make up for lost time.
Meanwhile, in a tiny Ohio town, Evie O'Neill is eager to sprout wings and fly away. Her thoroughly modern ways are too much for the town and after a parlor trick exposes secrets, Evie finds herself on a train bound for New York to live with her uncle. Not that she minds of course. New York is far more her scene. She has big dreams and she certainly won't reach them back home in Zenith.
However, life isn't all fun and games for Evie and her friends. A string of gruesome murders happens and Evie's uncle finds himself in the midst of it all.
It's no secret I'm a HUGE fan of the 20s. The blog's name, after all, pays tribute to Gatsby! The Diviners sounded absolutely fantastic and it exceeded all expectations. The writing is flawless, the imagery and slang make you feel like you're actually there, and the horrors can feel all too real in the middle of the night.
"If you feel strongly about it-" "I do." "Then you may do what scholars do when they feel passionately about a subject." "What's that?" "You may visit the library," Will said.
There were a lot of characters in this book. Normally this leads to cardboard cutout, stock personalities. I'm overjoyed to say that is not the case with this book. Each character is beautifully fleshed out, from Evie and her Uncle Will all the way down to the minor characters who only show up for a few chapters. I really have to hand it to Ms. Bray: she knows what she's doing.
I was incredibly impressed with the explanation for how a dead man was able to return to life and continue his mission. A lesser author would have fallen flat on that one, but Libba Bray had an entirely believable story.
All the little shout-outs to things happening in the world at that time were great. The Fox sisters, the sudden popularity of Ouija boards, the Scopes Trial. Small things like that not only made me smile, but also showed Ms. Bray really did her research.
"Prohibition? I drink to its health whenever I can!"
The only thing about this book that bothered me was just how much Evie liked to drink. At times it seemed she was bordering on addiction. She accepts bribes of alcohol, and multiple times she goes on about how desperate she is for a drink. By the end of the story it seemed that this slowed a bit, but for that first half it felt as though all Evie thought about was gin.
I'm still a bit unsure of my feelings for Jericho's secret. The story behind it was fantastic, but I sort of feel as though the book strayed into steampunk territory. That said, he's still a wonderful character and I was left speechless at the end of the book.
Clocking in at nearly 600 pages, The Diviners is a lengthy book for any genre, let alone Young Adult, but I was captivated the entire time. I actually felt I read it a little too fast! This book could have been a few hundred more pages and I would have gladly gobbled it up.
If you still haven't yet read The Diviners, I urge you to do so. I absolutely loved this book and that cliffhanger of an ending will make the wait for the second book absolute torture....more