Library Loot: August 26-September 1

Library LootLibrary Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Eva and Marg that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries!

Here’s what I checked out this week:

  • Black Bird v.1 by Kanoko Sakurakoji
  • A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle (a must after reading When You Reach Me)
  • Tripping by Heather Waldorf
  • Libyrinth by Pearl North (Libraries, labyrinths, futuristic, sci-fi — a mashup too interesting to resist)
  • Uglies by Scott Westerfeld (about time)

Plus, I recheckedout:

  • Crash Into Me by Albert Boris (not sure I’m going to get around to reading this one…we’ll see)
  • Tempo Change by Barbara Hall

Plus, I bought:

Currently Reading: Carter Finally Gets It
Current Checkouts: 61
Current Holds: 7

Waiting on Wednesday: Heart's Blood

Hearts BloodHeart’s Blood by Juliet Marillier

A haunted forest. A cursed castle. A girl running from her past and a man who’s more than he seems to be. A tale of love, betrayal and redemption…

Whistling Tor is a place of secrets, a mysterious wooded hill housing the crumbling fortress of a chieftain whose name is spoken throughout the district in tones of revulsion and bitterness. A curse lies over Anluan’s family and his people; the woods hold a perilous force whose every whisper threatens doom.

And yet the derelict fortress is a safe haven for Caitrin, the troubled young scribe who is fleeing her own demons. Despite Anluan’s tempers and the mysterious secrets housed in the dark corridors, this long-feared place provides the refuge she so desperately needs.

As time passes, Caitrin learns there is more to the broken young man and his unusual household than she realised. It may be only through her love and determination that the curse can be lifted and Anluan and his people set free . . .

Loved Wildwood Dancing and enjoyed Cybele’s Secret so I’m very much looking forward to Heart’s Blood!  It will be released November 3, 2009.

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill from Breaking the Spine.  What are you waiting for?

Review: Ruined

Ruinedby Paula Morris

A native New Yorker, Rebecca is being shipped off to New Orleans to live with her “Aunt” Claudia while her dad goes on business to China for six months.  Aunt Claudia isn’t really her aunt but she’s the closest thing Rebecca and her father have to family, despite the fact Rebecca’s only met Aunt Claudia and her daughter, Aurelia, once.  It doesn’t take long for Rebecca to realize that she doesn’t like New Orleans.  She can’t stand the constantly gray skies, the warm, damp air, or the odd smells and she can’t stand the snooty girls who go to her new private school.  In New York, how old your money was or your family’s lineage didn’t matter, neither did skin color or ethnicity.  In New Orleans, specifically in the neighborhood Rebecca is living in, money and family lines mean everything, more than Rebecca knows, more than anyone will tell her.  One of the only people with whom Rebecca feels most comfortable, one of the people she would call a friend is not a person at all, but a ghost.  Lisette is a young black woman about Rebecca’s age.  She haunts the cemetery across the street from Aunt Claudia’s house and she has a sad, gruesome history.  The other person who has been nice to Rebecca is a heart-throb named Anton.  He is one of the elite but he seems to strain against his familial bonds and is interested in knowing and being involved with life outside the sheltered streets of his New Orleans neighborhood.  Ultimately, though, Rebecca is an outsider, and the families of the neighborhood do not take kindly to outsiders.  Secrets and mysteries shroud the mansions, and one of the most volatile of the mysteries is tied to Lisette, her life and her death.  Rebecca’s friendships with both Lisette and Anton are about to bring about some serious and dangerous consequences.

Reaction: Overall, a pretty solid ghost story.  The setting was perfect.  I loved the scenes in the cemetery — Rebecca sneaking in at night to see what her stuck up classmates are up to or visiting during the day to hunt down and talk to Lisette.  I also loved when Rebecca and Lisette walked together, hand-in-hand through New Orleans and Lisette introduces some of New Orleans’ plethora of ghosts to Rebecca.  Some had been around longer than Lisette, some were new, all had sad stories, though some much worse than others.  The saddest part about this walk, to me, was that some of the ghosts were stuck haunting stretches of land that at one time were filled with houses or prosperous businesses but are now highways or abandoned warehouses.  In places, the writing could have been a bit tighter and I thought a few of the characters acted a bit young for their age, but I was intrigued by the mysteries and histories of the prosperous families and Lisette’s sad tale and was frantically trying to figure out what exactly Rebecca’s role was in it all.

I did have one semi-big, spoilery complaint(ish) (did I just use any real words??).  Here it is, so read at your own risk:

I didn’t understand why Rebecca’s dad would let her go to New Orleans.  He and his wife completely severed ties with their families and changed their identity and Rebecca’s birth date and year to try to protect her.  If he went such great lengths to avoid the curse and keep anyone from New Orleans from finding them, why would he listen to Aunt Claudia and let Rebecca live in New Orleans and let the curse run it’s course?  Doesn’t make sense, at least to me.

End Spoiler.

There were several points, like the one above, that seemed forced, like the author was trying too hard to make the story work.  In the end, these didn’t detract too much from the many good points of the novel, and if you enjoy a good, spooky, ghosty thriller, give Ruined a chance.

One final thought: the cover. Gorgeous, right?  And if you look up pictures of the Lafayette Cemetery, the gates on the cover are much like the gates to the actual cemetery in New Orleans.  I have one problem, though.  The ghost on the cover looks like a blond white woman in a negligee.  The ghost in the story is a teenaged black girl with a torn white blouse and a black skirt.  Is this another case of whitewashing covers?? (read about the Liar controversy if you haven’t already)  Sad, very, very sad.

Thanks to: Carrie, whose review made me want to read the book.

Library Loot: August 19-25

Library LootLibrary Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Eva and Marg that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries!

This week was one of my biggest loot weeks in awhile and I got a lot of great books:

I also had a couple recheckouts:

  • Why I Fight by J. Adams Oaks
  • Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer (because I feel like I probably should and because it was the first time I’d actually seen it on the shelf w/o a hold in probably two years)

Currently Reading: Ruined and Carter Finally Gets It by Brent Crawford (this one is going to take me awhile–I don’t do well w/ socially awkward and the whole book, while funny, is cringe-worthy)
Current Checkouts: 54
Current Holds: 11

When You Reach Me

When You Reach Meby Rebecca Stead

Some facts about When You Reach Me:

  • The main character’s name is Miranda.
  • She is in 6th grade.
  • The story takes place in 1978 and 1979.
  • Miranda’s favorite book is A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle.
  • Miranda’s mother is selected to be a contestant on The $20,000 Pyramid with Dick Clark.
  • Miranda’s friend Sal got punched for no reason by a boy they didn’t know.
  • The boy who punched Sal is named Marcus; he is socially awkward, super smart, and believes time travel is possible.
  • Sal decides he doesn’t want to hang out with Miranda anymore.
  • Miranda becomes friends with Annemarie and Colin.
  • A crazy man lives on Miranda’s corner; he sleeps with his head under the mailbox and practices high kicks during the day.
  • Miranda begins receiving mysterious notes by an anonymous writer predicting things that happen in the near future, asking her favors, and proclaiming he is here to save one of her friend’s lives.

When You Reach Me is a realistic story about a girl living her realistic and complicated life but with a fantastical twist.

Reaction: Pretty amazing.  Its mystery elements reminded me of one of my favorite books, The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin, though I can’t explain to you exactly why–just a feeling.  When you hear about the book you probably most often hear about the mysterious notes Miranda receives and the mystery she has to solve because of them, but about 85% of the book is nothing mysterious at all, though relevant to the mystery, it is simply Miranda living her life: Miranda trying to recover from her best friend’s rejection; Miranda making new friends; Miranda feeling jealous or petty then feeling bad for feeling that way; Miranda upset with her mother because her mother doesn’t cook or clean or act like her friends’ parents; Miranda helping her mother prepare for her game show.  Every snippet of Miranda’s life is precise, concise, and relevant, and brings the reader one step closer to solving the mystery but it is also dead on accurate of the trials and emotions of a 6th grade girl.  One passage particularly struck me, mostly because it is something that I still struggle with:

Sometimes you never feel meaner than the moment you stop being mean.  It’s like how turning on a light makes you realize how dark the room had gotten.  And the way you usually act, the things you would have normally done, are like these ghosts that everyone can see but pretends not to.  It was like that when I asked Alice Evans to be my bathroom partner.  I wasn’t one of the girls who tortured her on purpose, but I had never lifted a finger go help her before, or even spent one minute being nice. (144)

Miranda learns the being mean is not simply acting against someone but can also be simply not doing anything at all.

When You Reach Me
is one that I’m planning on rereading, not right away because I want to forget a little, but I think that I will definitely get more out of it the second time around.  Oh, and I really need to read A Wrinkle in Time!  I’m sad to say I never have and I think it would give me an even better appreciation for this wonderful book.

Souls Squared: A Review of Two Books

Last week I was looking for good recommendations for girly fantasy titles not involving vampires or fairies.  No one had any but that’s ok because not long after posting that I received My Soul to Take by Rachel Vincent and Meridian by Amber Kizer in on hold at the library.  You can guess what I’ve been doing the past couple of days! :)  I didn’t realize how similar these two books were when I originally requested them but reading them back to back made me think that they would be perfect paired together for review.  Both books deal with death and the release of a person’s soul after death.

My Soul to TakeI picked up My Soul to Take first, which was a bit surprising because I really had no interest in the title when I first heard about it…a girl who uncontrollably screams when someone dies, nuh uh, but the whims of a reader never make sense (at least my reading whims).

Kaylee Cavanaugh has lived with her aunt, uncle, and cousin for most of her life, ever since her mother died in a car accident and her father, deciding he couldn’t care for young Kaylee on his own, dropped her off and headed to Ireland.  Despite her father’s abandonment, Kaylee’s life is mostly normal, except for her attacks.  Her aunt and uncle, doctors, everyone seems to think these episodes are run-of-the-mill panic attacks, and Kaylee just needs some drugs and she’ll be fine.  Kaylee knows that’s not the case, she knows screaming endlessly for hours for no apparent reason isn’t normal but it’s not a panic attack and she’s not crazy and she doesn’t need drugs.  After a night out at a dance club, things simultaneously get better and worse for Kaylee.  The good: Nash, one of the hottest guys at school, seems to be interested in her and doesn’t even freak out when she has an “episode,” in fact, his presence and the songs he sings to her help calm her down from the worst of the attack.  The bad: Nash knows a secret about Kaylee, one that can explain everything she’s going through, a secret that her family has kept from her her entire life.  Also, Kaylee learns she screams when someone dies, and lately, Kaylee has been screaming a lot.

MeridianNext, Meridian (pretty cover, right?)  Death has followed Meridian her whole life, attracted to her like a magnet from the time she was a baby.  At first it was just insects but as Meridian grew, so did the size of the creatures that sought her.  Meridian has also almost always been sick.  She has trouble sleeping (I suppose anyone would if they woke up with dead things going bump in the night around them), she doesn’t eat much, her whole body aches and constantly seems as though it is physically falling apart.  She’s never really had friends and has always been considered weird.  Even her parents seem standoffish and are not as affectionate with her as they are with her younger brother, Sammy.  Young Sammy is the only one who seems to love and accept Meridian for herself.   On her sixteenth birthday, everything changes.  Walking home from the bus stop, Meridian witnesses a car plowing into and killing several of her classmates.  All of the death causes Meridian to completely collapse.  Her parents quickly ship her off to a bus station, give her a ticket and some money, and tell her to make her way to her aunt’s house in Revelation, Colorado.  They tell her they love her but she’s not to come back home because they won’t be there; they’re leaving as well and they don’t tell her where they’re going.  Meridian has no idea what’s going on and knows nothing about this aunt except that she sends quilts as birthday presents.

After a long, tiring journey, Meridian finally makes it to Auntie’s and Auntie reveals the big secret, one that Meridian should have been told a long time ago: Meridian is a Fenestra.  A Fenestra is half-human, half-angel and she provides souls a safe passage to the good afterlife (many would call it heaven).  Meridian must learn to control her power before it ruins her and in time to save herself and her loved ones from the evil beings that seek to destroy Fenestras and those who work in the light.

Reaction(s): Two very different books, two very similar themes.  In My Soul to Take, Kaylee’s screams allow her control souls as they depart from the dead, giving them time to say final goodbyes and guaranteeing they won’t be snatched by malevolent beings.  In Meridian, Meridian is a Fenestra who helps ferry souls between the living world and the afterlife. To my surprise, I enjoyed My Soul to Take better, though they were both good.  My Soul to Take ended up having fairies of sorts but it was such a different and original take on fairies that I didn’t mind that it violated one of my specifications. :)  I thought the back story was fairly well developed and I really enjoyed Kaylee and Nash as a couple.  While they had an instant bond, the “L” word was never mentioned.  I get really annoyed when characters fall instantly in love, though I know I’m in the minority.  Kaylee and Nash had instant attraction, which I think is totally believable, and a pull because they were two of a kind and different from pretty much everyone else they knew.  I’m interested in reading some of the next books in the series but not dying to do so.

Merdian wasn’t quite as tightly drawn as My Soul to Take.  The premise was very interesting and the characters had potential it just seemed like there was a bit too much going on to fully develop any one thing.  I wanted more practice time between Meridian and Auntie.  I wanted Tens and Meridian to have more time to develop their feelings.  In the end it turned into a jarring instant love with little transition between Tens’ veiled animosity and his love.  I wanted more time to understand the bad guy and a better battle with evil at the end.  Again, a great premise and a good story, I just needed a bit more from it.

Both stories dip into areas that are new to me in the fantasy genre and provide interesting takes on death, souls, and the afterlife.

P.S. I’m still interested in any fantasy with romantic subplot recommendations if you have any. :)

Library Loot: August 12-18

Library LootLibrary Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Eva and Marg that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries!

Small week. Here’s what I picked up:

I also rechecked out:

  • Carter Finally Gets It by Brent Crawford (and I’ve finally started it — it’s as funny as everyone says!)

Plus, I received for review:

Currently Reading: My Soul to Take and Carter Finally Gets It
Current Checkouts: 56
Current Holds: 9