Review: Once a Witch

Once a Witchby Carolyn MacCullough

When Tamsin was born, her grandmother predicted that she would be one of the most powerful Talents in her family’s history, but Tamsin’s Talent never appeared.  Now Tamsin is the only “normal” person in her family, living under the shadow of her supremely Talented and beautiful older sister, Rowena.  When a man comes into her grandmother’s bookstore looking for special help finding a missing item and mistakes Tamsin for Rowena, Tamsin can’t help but pretend, just for a moment, that she is her Talented older sister.  Tamsin always intends to set the record straight but one thing leads to another and Tamsin finds herself embroiled in a mystery that has her in way over her head.  With the help of an old friend, Tamsin is determined to solve the mystery, but she may not be prepared for what she is about to find.

Reaction: This book was a pleasant surprise.  I really hesitated over the premise — Tamsin posing as her sister, which usually is a plot device that just creates way too much tension for me to handle — but I am very glad that I gave it a chance.  Tamsin posing as Rowena turned out to be a fairly small part of the story, the catalyst to get the ball rolling, but the real meat of the story is Tamsin learning about her family’s history and learning who she is and how she fits into the mix of Talented people from whom she’s always felt isolated.  The back story of Tamsin’s family and the family history along with the idea of Talents with a capital “T” added interest to what could have been just another witch story.  The ending has closure but leaves enough open for another book.  While I think it works as a standalone, I certainly wouldn’t mind more time developing the Tamsin/Gabriel relationship. :)

Library Loot: November 18-24

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:

Currently Reading: Possessed by Kate Cann
Current checkouts: 48

Library Loot: End of October-Early November

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!

I’m back to blogging, I hope.  I have survived a month of too much programming at the library and levy campaigning.  I’m happy to report that our levy passed, soundly — 70% for and 30% against.  Hopefully we’ll be able to convert some of that 30% before the renewal in five years…but I’m not going to think about that for now. :)  Here is what I checked out during those crazy weeks:

Currently Reading: The Indigo Notebook by Laura Resau
Current Checkouts: 42
Current Holds: 8

ROYAL Roundup: November

My Reviewers of Young Adult Literature (ROYAL) group met tonight to share the books we read and reviewed in the past two months.  Being awesome, as usually, I did not yet read two of my assigned titles, Ash by Melinda Lo and Ghost Huntress: The Awakening by Marley Gibson.  I’ll add those to the next meeting’s roundup.  Here are the titles I did get to:

Demons LexiconThe Demon’s Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan

Nick and his brother, Alan, have been on the run from magicians and the demons magicians use for power for as long as they can remember. Magicians killed their father and drove their mother mad, and now the magicians are after their mother’s special charm, the only thing keeping her alive. Having dealt with magicians and demons for so long, the brothers are known as something of experts on the subject, and brother and sister, Jamie and Mae, seek the brothers out for help when Jamie is triple-marked by a demon. In the process of helping Jamie, Alan is also marked by a demon. Now two magicians must be killed to remove the demon marks from Alan and Jamie, and the hunted become the hunters. On top of everything, Nick suspects that his brother is keeping secrets and lying, and he’s determined to find out what Alan is hiding. Nick, Alan, Mae, and Jamie are about to embark on the battle of their lives.

A standout in the saturated fantasy genre. The characters are well drawn and three dimensional, especially Nick, who is very different from the others and lacks the ability to experience typical human emotions. The story will appeal to a wide audience. Boys will appreciate the sword fights and fast-paced action and girls will enjoy the depth of the relationships between the two sets of siblings and the new relationships that are forming. The cover may make the book hard to sell. I’ve had it on display at my library and it just sits there. A simpler, more gender-neutral cover may serve to market it a bit better.

How to Say Goodbye in RobotHow to Say Goodbye in Robot by Natalie Standiford

For her senior year, Bea is moving to yet another new school, following as her professor father changes colleges once again. Bea is used to moving a lot and not having any close friends but she was also used to having a fun-loving mother who was more friend than parent, and this is no longer the case. Bea’s mother has taken a crazy turn. She has become emotional, withdrawn, and obsessed with chickens. When Bea starts her new school, she’s not sure what to expect and is just looking forward to making in through the year and onto the freedom of college. Bea is in for an unexpected surprise when she finds a soul mate of sorts in a lonely boy named Jonah, called Ghost Boy. Jonah hasn’t had a friend in years, since the death of his mentally handicapped twin brother and mother. Somehow he and Bea connect over a late night radio talk show, shared beliefs, and good conversation but their relationship is far from easy.

A very well written story about true friendship. I believe almost everyone hopes to click with someone in the way that Bea and Jonah connect but their relationship is also volatile. Jonah has lived so long alone with his pain and, while Bea seems to help bring him back to life, when Jonah has periods of withdrawal from Bea, it is heartbreaking. The characterizations are wonderful, not only of Bea and Jonah but also the many secondary characters. I especially enjoyed the regular callers to the Night Lights radio program and was impressed with how well Standiford was able to make Jonah’s father a sympathetic character despite all of the horrible choices he made. A fairly typical paragraph structure is broken up by short snippets from the radio program, which adds interest to the book’s structure. While this is a truly wonderful novel, I don’t think it will have a broad appeal. Special readers will be enthralled but others just may not understand it.

*Bea and Jonah’s relationship reminded me of Jennifer and Cameron from Sweethearts by Sara Zarr but with more going on much more substance to the story outside of the relationship.

Chasing BoysChasing Boys by Karen Tayleur

El’s dad is gone and now her family has downsized. Her big house, mostly stay-at-home mom, and fancy private school are gone. Now they live in an apartment where El shares a room with her sister, her mother works long hours, and El is enrolled in public school. The fact that this life is temporary, only until all the legalities are worked out, helps El get through the day. El has made two good friends at her new school, Margot and Desi, but she mostly tries to stay detached, until her crush, a new boy, and a new friend cause her to once again alter the view of her reality.

The title and cover seem to suggest that this is a light, fluffy book about girl/boy relationships but it is so much more. El is struggling with the loss of her father and, to some extent, the loss of her identity as her life is turned completely upside down. El’s thoughts and reactions seem spot on for a teenage girl. Some of my favorite passages are when El is talking in her mind to her therapist, Leonard, to whom she refuses to talk to during their sessions. Short chapters make this an accessible read for reluctant readers. Readers who are expecting a romance with a neat, wrapped up ending may be disappointed but those who can get past expectations will be in for a treat. Great read for fans of Dessen and Caletti.

Other books, reviewed by others, that piqued my interest:

The next meeting is in January and these are the titles I will be talking about then:

  • Goats: Infinite Typewriters by Jonathan Rosenberg (graphic)
  • Ninja Girls, volume 1 by Hosana Tanaka (manga)
  • Move Over, Rover: What to Name Your New Pup When the Ordinary Just Won’t Do by Kyra Kirkwood
  • Girl to the Core by Stacy Goldblatt
  • Possessed by Kate Cann