Saturday, March 30, 2013

Glory Be

The summer of 1964 in Hanging Moss, MS, is set to be the same as ever for Glory:  hot.  She's looking forward to spending her days in the community pool and the library, but before she can even plan her July 4th birthday celebration, the pool is inexplicably closed.  The sign on the gate says the pool is closed for repairs, but Glory doesn't believe it.

Suddenly, she is seeing Hanging Moss in a new way.  There's a new girl in town visiting from Ohio who is challenging Glory's world and revealing her best friend in a new light.  Laura doesn't understand why water fountains and restrooms should be segregated, let alone swimming pools, and Glory is starting to question things she's never even considered.

Meanwhile, Frankie, her longtime best friend, seems to be more willing to listen to his hateful and mean-spirited older brother and father everyday.

She's also got her older sister, Jesslyn, to deal with.  Glory and Jesslyn used to be close, but now Jesslyn cares more about her pep squad friends and her lipstick than she does about her sister.

With everything that's happening, Glory has a lot to figure out.  Luckily she has help from her housekeeper Emma and an open-minded librarian.

Read Augusta Scattergood's debut novel about a time of change in the American South.


Radley was in Haiti volunteering in an orphanage when things broke down in America.  It didn't take long the American People's Party took over that the riots began.  Now the president has been assassinated, and Radley can't contact her parents.

She leaves Haiti believing they will get her message and meet her at the airport, but they don't.  She has no money; no one will take her credit card, and no one is answering the phone at home.  So she starts walking.

This is the beginning of a journey that will take Radley across miles and into her own memories.  In her quest to be reunited with her family, she will make new friends and discover new levels of deceit and violence.

Through it all, she will learn what it means to shelter and protect in a world gone mad.

Karen Hesse's new novel is supplemented by over ninety of her own photographs.  This is a fascinating but difficult novel to read in that the author presents a world that has lost all sense of law and order with just a political push.  But it is also a beautiful novel that reveals the power of friendship and compassion in spite of the chaos.

Friday, March 29, 2013


Seraphina lives in a world where humans and dragons live with an uneasy peace.  Some of the Saar live among humans in human form, but dragons are not humans; they are logical, mathematical, and they generally despise humans and their emotions.

The people of Goredd are preparing for the anniversary of the peace treaty and the arrival of the Ardmagar, leader of the dragons.  Amidst the bustle of the preparations, Seraphina senses something is amiss.

Seraphina has spent her life in hiding at the request of her father, but now that she has a position as assistant music mistress in the palace, it will be difficult to keep a low profile.  In a world were people hate dragons and dragons hate people, she is what the impossible, the thing no one wants to believe exists.

To make things worse, she is having completely inappropriate and irresponsible feelings for the man who just happens to be a prince and engaged to be married to the girl who is third in line to the throne.

Now Seraphina must keep her secret while she guards her heart and tries to uncover a dangerous political plot.

I love this book!  It's one of the best fantasies I've read in ages.  It's smart, complex, and compelling.  Fans of Christopher Paolini's Eragon series will love it!

You must read Rachel Hartman's debut novel.  You don't want to miss out on this one!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

A Curse Dark As Gold

This book is a couple of years old, but I love a good fairy tale adaptation, so when I saw it on audio from the public library, I decided to jump in.  I'm so glad I did!  This retelling of the Rumpelstiltskin tale is layered, complex, and dark.

When Charlotte Miller's father dies, she and her younger sister, Rosie, are left to run the family woolen mill.  Life at Stirwaters has never been easy, and no Miller has even been able to pass the mill on to his son.  Each generation the mill has passes to a cousin or uncle or some other Miller relative, but now Charlotte and Rosie, as the last of the Miller line, are determined to be successful.

The only problem is nature, circumstances, and the mill seem to be conspiring against Charlotte, and they are close to ruin before they can even get started.  The mill workers and villagers hint at dark magic and curses, but practical Charlotte won't hear it.  Even when a mysterious man who calls himself Jack Spinner shows up to save the day in a decidedly magical fashion, Charlotte ignores the truth.

This is only the beginning of a spiral of lies, magic, and ancient rage that jeopardize the mill, the village, and everything Charlotte holds dear.  Will Charlotte become the next victim of the curse, or will she find a way to save the mill and her friends?

This is a beautifully written story filled with characters who have depth and personality.  Elizabeth Bunce's first novel is a perfect mix of history, romance, mystery, and fairy tale.

Friday, March 22, 2013

The Girl With Borrowed Wings

I finished this book last night, and I'm still not sure how I feel about it.  I'm still thinking and puzzling it out in my mind which is a good thing, I guess.  It's beautiful and lyrical with just the right mix of fantasy and realism.  I really loved most of it!  I think my problem is that I don't want it to be a romance.  I think I would have liked it better if Frenenqer, the protagonist, had been a little more independent in the end.  I would love to know your thoughts, so read it and get back to me!

Frenenqer's father created her from his thoughts on a pilgrimage in Spain.  She would be the perfect daughter.  Even her name, Frenenqer, means "restraint."  This is how her father has raised her, closing off each little part of her creativity, freedom, and heart, until she obeys out of habit, until she is too shut off to fell anything but doubt, shame, and fear.

Because of her father's job, Frenenqer has lived all over the world.  She doesn't really have a home, and she always feels like an outsider.  For several years her family has lived on the oasis, a small habitable cage in the middle of the deadly ocean of middle eastern desert.  Even in the oasis, the air is deadly hot, and the social customs and rules of behavior feed into her father's desire to control and shape his daughter.

One day in the animal souk, she sees a mostly dead cat locked in a cage.  This will be the first time she defies her father.  Life is more important than anything, right?  But once she's saved this cat, she discovers he is not what he seems, and though he quickly becomes enamored of Frenenqer,  she can only be the creature her father created. 

Fans of Nancy Werlin will enjoy Rinsai Rossetti's debut novel.  Cool fact, the author was eighteen when she finished this book!

Walls Within Walls

The Smithfork kids are not happy about moving to Manhattan.  Having a dad who is a the designer of one of the most popular video games sounds great, but when Bruce Smithfork suddenly became a success, the family moved from there beloved Brooklyn neighborhood to a strange apartment that is part of an old mansion.  The people there are weird, not friendly like their
Brooklyn neighbors.  Plus, their dad now spends all of his time at work instead of spending time with his family and letting them test out new video games, and their mom spends all her time shopping and decorating, so she has none left for the kids.

CJ, Brid, and Patrick are left with a cranky nanny and loneliness.  It doesn't take long, however, for them to discover that there are secrets buried in their new home, secrets that might lead to a treasure that's been lost for decades.

As soon as they start investigating, weird things begin to happen.  Are their neighbors really who they say they are?  Will searching for this treasure put the kids in the path of criminals and kidnappers?  Besides, how can three kids solve a mystery that has stumped detectives and adults for decades?

Read Maureen Sherry's book to find out.  Will you solve the mystery before the Smithforks can?

Overall I enjoyed this mystery, but the characterization was a little weak at time for me.  I was confused as to why some of the characters were in the book at all.  I did enjoy the mystery and the National Treasure style search for clues.  I recommend this book for fans of The Westing Game and Chasing Vermeer.

Monday, March 18, 2013


In the future, America is divided into two generations.  When the spore wars came, children and the elderly were the first to get vaccinated, and now everyone in the middle is dead.  The Enders control everything:  money, power, jobs.  Because of genetic advances, it is now common for people to live for two hundred years.

The children, Starters, are left to fend for themselves if they didn't have an older relative to "claim" them when all the parents died.  It is illegal for the them to work, so they are homeless scavengers.

Callie and her former neighbor, Michael, now spend their lives hiding from the marshals and trying to protect and feed Callie's little brother Tyler who is constantly sick and malnourished.

Callie feels her only option is Prime Destinations.  It's illegal, but it pays enough money to set Callie, Tyler, and maybe Michael up for life.  What is Prime?  Wealthy Enders pay to rent teen bodies.  There are contracts and penalties, but you can never be certain what someone does with your body when you're asleep.

Everything is going well with Callie's time at Prime until she wakes up in the middle of a rental.  This isn't supposed to happen.  Should she return to Prime?  What if they refuse to pay?  Callie doesn't know what to do until a voice in her head warns her not to return to Prime.  This is the beginning of a strange partnership to uncover a dangerous plot.  What's really going on at Prime, and is there any way Callie can escape?

This is the first in a new science fiction series by Lissa Price.  If you like the first book and can't wait for the second, there are two short stories available as ebooks on Amazon.  I really liked the concept of this book, but I'm not so sure about the execution.  The characterization and motivation were sketchy in places.  I would recommend this for fans of Legend and The Hunger Games.

My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece

When Jamie was five, his sister died in a terrorist bombing in London.  His family was destroyed by this event, and even five years later Rose's death haunts them.  Now Jamie's parents are separated, and he has moved to the country with his sister, Jas, and their father.

Jas is Rose's twin, and their parents tried to keep Rose alive by dressing Jas the Rose always did.  One day Jas came home in black clothes and pink hair.  It didn't go over well.  Jas struggles to honor her sister while finding a way to live her own life.

Jamie's mother left the family for a man from her support group, and she hasn't even come to visit her children in their new home in the country.  Jamie hasn't given up hope that they can be a family again, but every day of his mother's absence makes Jamie feel less important.

Jamie's father blames all Muslims for what happened to his daughter and keeps Rose's ashes on the mantel where he can look at the urn and sometimes pretend Rose is still alive and sometimes be shattered by grief all over again.  While he didn't physically abandon his children, he has deserted them through his depression and alcoholism.

Everyone has always defined Jamie by his sister's death, but he sees this opportunity in a new town at a new school to redefine himself.  No one has to know about the sister he barely remembers.  But it's not that simple.  The school bully seems to single Jamie out immediately, and the only person who wants to be his friend is Sunya, a Muslim.

Annabel Pitcher's first novel deals with the aftermath of mass violence and terrorism in a tender and heartbreaking way.  Jamie's story is about the death of a family and the painful but hopeful idea that life can begin again.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Splendors and Glooms

Lizzie Rose and Parsefall are orphans indentured to puppet-master Grisini.  He is gifted with the puppets, but he is a cruel and sinister master.

Clara is the only surviving child in her family, and her house is always in mourning.  She has seen Grisini's fantoccini (the puppets) in the street and wants nothing more than to have him perform at her birthday party.

When Clara disappears, everyone suspects Grisini.  What could have happened to Clara, and what does it all have to do with Cassandra?  The old witch is the prisoner of the fire opal, the source of her power and the thing she desires most.  It is also the object that will kill her if she can't find a way to get rid of it.

Read Laura Amy Schlitz's dark, fantastical, and complicated Newbery Honor book to find out!

There were parts of this book that I really liked.  You all know I love a dark and creepy fantasy, so that was a plus.  I also enjoyed the Dickensian feel of the story.  (That means it has some similarities to books by Charles Dickens.)  The book has a great start with creepy Cassandra, but the whole of part one dragged a little for me.  I liked part two much more.  I read the second half in one sitting, but I'm still not sure how I feel about the ending.  Other students at Campbell have given this book positive review, and I liked it overall, but it wasn't my favorite.