Needby Carrie Jones

Since her father (her stepfather really, but he raised her since she was a baby) died in front of her eyes, Zara has been practically dead inside.  Concerned for her daughter’s emotional state, Zara’s mother sends Zara to live with her grandmother in middle-of-nowhere Maine hoping the change of scenery will help Zara deal with her grief.  What Zara has kept secret is that a man has been following her, and he’s followed her all the way to Maine.  Not only that, but the small town where her grandmother lives has secrets of its own.  Boys are disappearing.  A voice is calling for Zara from the woods.  Howling wolves keep her up at night.  Gold dust finds its way in the strangest of places.  What is going on?  What does it have to do with Zara?  And what can she do to stop it?

Reaction: Pixies.  An fairly original manifestation but basically just fairies.  And weres — wolves, tigers, owls, bears — which I liked.  Overall, I enjoyed the book but I found it a bit lacking.  Events happened too quickly.  Zara’s sudden transformation from dead-inside-teenager to in-love-alive teenager seemed abrupt after so many months of grief.  The pixie king’s need seemed to escalate much quicker than I would have expected given the history presented.  Zara’s attachments to friends and their attachments to her seemed too instantaneous.  Also, I found it odd that there was no mention of any friends or even a life back in her hometown.  And I thought that Zara’s solution to the problem was a bit weak.  I wanted more development all around.  I liked the concept and generally liked the characters so I’m happy that there is going to be a sequel.  Maybe some of the leaner parts will get fleshed out.

Cover: Awesome!

The Thirteenth Tale

Thirteenth Taleby Diane Setterfield

Vida Winter is a storyteller in every sense of the word.  Renowned for her fictitious life stories as she is for her novels, Ms. Winter has become the puzzle every journalist hopes to piece together.  No one knows where Ms. Winter came from, there are no records to be found to give any clue, but as Ms. Winter faces her mortality she decides it is time to tell her story.  Margaret Lea is the chose recipient of Ms. Winter’s story.  Margaret is a quiet, solitary woman.  She works for her father in his antique bookstore and occasionally writes biographies of unknown dead people.  She has never read one of Ms. Winter’s novels and has never written about someone who is still alive.  Why Margaret?  It soon becomes apparent that Ms. Winter and Margaret share a similar secret, and despite herself, Margaret becomes enthralled in the horrid and sordid tale that Ms. Winter has to tell.

Reaction: I’m having a hard time putting my thoughts on the book into words.  It was complex and dense and gripping.  The atmosphere was great.  Foggy moors, a secluded estate, a crumbling mansion that turns to ruin.  Awesome.  Vida Winter’s story was a slowly unraveling mystery that I didn’t figure out despite the hints.  It is also a very, very sad tale where pretty much all of the main characters were complete nut jobs, for lack of a more technical term.  What I loved the most was the timelessness of the story.  The setting could have been now or 20 years ago or 50 years ago, who’s to say and I’m not sure it even matters.  What I didn’t like so much was Margaret’s weird visions of her dead twin.  I could understand her feeling of loss and the psychological damage of that loss but I didn’t understand the visions or how Margaret believed her twin haunted her.  I also didn’t understand how she resolved her twin issue at the end of the novel.  Her recovery seemed abrupt to me.

The Thirteenth Tale received two thumbs up from the bookclub and I’m not sure they had the same issues with Margaret that I did.

And the Winner is…

Disreputable History of Franki Landau-BanksThe Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart for the YA Fiction Category!

Check out all of the winners here.  There are some not surprising winners — The Graveyard Book and The Hunger Games for the Middle Grade and YA Fantasy categories respectively — and some titles I can’t wait to read, like the London Eye Mystery, MG Fiction winner, and The Year We Disappeared, Nonfiction MG/YA, whose story I just saw last night on 48 Hours (I think that’s the show’s name).

I had an awesome time participating in the Cybils this year.  Remember, if you are a fan of the Cybils and are interesting in purchasing one or more of the winners, use the links to Amazon on the Cybils page and some of the procedes of your purchase will help support the Cybils!

My Fair Godmother

My Fair Godmotherby Jeanette Rallison

After Savannah’s boyfriend dumps her for her older sister, Savannah is sent a fair godmother (not fairy because her godmother is not good enough to be a full-fledged fairy godmother, just a fair one) who says she will grant Savannah three wishes.  Savannah’s godmother, Chrissy, proceeds to mess up everything Savannah wishes for — how hard could it be to find Savannah a suitable date for prom?!  Savannah’s final wish turns out to be the Chrissy’s worst screw up.  Chrissy sends one of Savannah’s classmates, Tristan, back to the Middle Ages where he must stay until he either becomes a prince or dies.  Savannah feels horrible for her inadvertent meddling in Tristan’s life and decides to go back to the Middle Ages to try to save him.  Will Tristan and Savannah find their way back to their own time?  Will any of Savannah’s wishes actually come true?

Reaction: Not exactly what I was expecting, but cute.  First, my dislikes, of which there are a lot but they don’t add up to enough to make me dislike the the book:

  1. Hunter only liked Jane when she got a makeover and looked exactly like her sister, and who gave her the makeover, Savannah.  So basically, Hunter only became attracted to Jane when she looked like the girl he was already dating.  Eww.  Why couldn’t he have liked her before her makeover simply because they had more in common.  This would have made more sense and made me like Jane and Hunter more.  I really didn’t like either of them.  Kinda thought they were scummy and superficial.
  2. Just because Savannah is not into school and studying and likes hair and makeup does not make her a bad person.  Savannah has already found something she likes to do and she’s good at — being a beautician.  This is an admiral profession and not everyone can do it well (I’ve had my fair share of bad hairdos).  Why does everyone insist that she needs to pay more attention in school and get better grades?  It doesn’t seem like she’s failing, she’s just doing average which is ok!  Not everyone has to be super smart and want to go to an ivy league college.  And just because she wants to be a beautician and doesn’t particularly like the learning part of school does not mean she’s dumb.  Let her be who she is and stop trying to make her into Jane.  I mean, Jane already looks like Savannah, Savannah doesn’t need to be smart like Jane then they’d be the same person.
  3. Chrissy is mean and slightly evil and self-centered to the extreme! When I picked up the book, I thought that Chrissy was going to be a bad but well-meaning screwball.  NO, she’s horrible.  I’m not even going to go on.  She’s just bad.

So, I know it sounds like I didn’t like the book, but I did!  I really did!  I really liked Savannah, even if she did some ditsy things now and again, she was basically smart and caring.  I liked Tristan.  I thought he was a good counter part for Savannah.  And I thought he seemed pretty hot.  I liked watching them navigate the weird world of a fake, fairy tale Middle Ages.  Even though I pretty much hated Chrissy, I liked that she tried to teach Savannah that, in reality, fairy tales doesn’t exist.  It was fun watching Savannah clean and become disillusioned by the pompous prince as Cinderella and try to convince the dwarfs she wasn’t dumb as Snow White.  If you’re looking for something light, cute, and funny, I would definitely recommend this book.

Wondrous Strange

Wondrous Strangeby Lesley Livingston

Seventeen-year-old Kelly Winslow is trying to make it big as an actress in NYC.  She has landed a role in an off-off-off-waaaayyy off Broadway production of Midsummer Night’s Dream as the understudy to the role of Queen Titania.  Not long before the play is to open, the lead injures herself and Kelly is now the leading lady.  Little does she know, though, that she is more than playing the role of a faerie queen, she is in fact faerie royalty.  Kelly is the long-lost daughter of King Auberdon of the Unseelie Faerie Court.  It is because of Kelly’s abduction long ago that King Auberdon closed the gates that connected the mortal world to the faerie world but the gates, which are located in Central Park, are about to open for nine long nights during Samhain.  Sonny, one of Auberdon’s Janus Guards, will watch the gates with other Janus Guards and slay any fey that try to pass into the mortal realm.  Kelly and Sonny’s paths cross, both connected yet distanced from the faerie realm, both drawn to the other for some inexplicable reason, and both forever changed by the events that take place Samhain night, the night the gates are their weakest.  What does the future have in store for Kelly and Sonny?

Reaction: Wondrous Strange is a very solid, well-written, and interesting new addition to the ever-growing collection of faerie (or fairy) stories.  I was not as in love with this book as Kristi was, so definitely check out her review, but I am still very interested in seeing what the author has in store for the characters.  There were a couple of interesting plot twists (which I did guess) but make the future, for Kelly especially, very interesting.  Wondrous Strange is the first book in a trilogy.  I love trilogies because you get more of the characters you love but the hope of resolution.  I love resolution.

Also, check out the interview Kristi @ The Story Siren did with Lesley Livingston and check out this video of Lesley talking about Wondrous Strange:

Cover: Ok, I couldn’t end this post without mentioning the cover.  Isn’t it gorgeous!

2009 Top Ten BBYA

This is a bit late, but I still wanted to post it.  Every year YALSA releases its Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults from that year.  Here is the list for 2009:

  • It’s Complicated: The American Teenager by Robin Bowman
  • Waiting for Normal by Leslie Conner
  • Mexican WhiteBoy by Matt de la Pena
  • Bog Child by Siobhan Dowd
  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  • Ten Cents a Dance by Christine Fletcher
  • Baby by Joseph Monninger
  • Nation by Terry Pratchett
  • Skim by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki
  • The Brothers Torres by Coert Voorhees

Though these are the top ten, there is a compete list of 86 “best books” of the year.  Check out the entire list here.