Ghost House

Next week, Ghost House, a new book by Halo author Alexandra Adornetto, will be released. I was lucky enough to read an advance copy via NetGalley this weekend. I was in the mood for something kind of spooky, and that’s what I got with Ghost House. It was a bit predictable and vaguely “Twilight-ish” at times, but it was a fairly enjoyable book that will be a big hit for those readers who like a bit of romance–especially seemingly impossible romance–in their supernatural tales.

Chloe Kennedy recently experienced a loss that shook her entire world. When her mother passed away suddenly, the walls Chloe had carefully built in her mind came tumbling down, and she was no longer able to block out the ghosts that haunted her as a child.

Now, Chloe is dealing with even more change. Her father has decided that he simply can’t cope with his own grief and that of his children, so he’s sending Chloe and her younger brother to live in England for the summer. Chloe is not happy about spending weeks on her grandmother’s estate, Grange Hall, but this may be her chance to escape the ghosts that have suddenly reappeared. Well, Chloe is about to learn that her encounters with ghosts are only just beginning…

On her first day in England, Chloe meets a strange young man in the woods. He’s not dressed like anyone she’s ever met, and, while Chloe is wary of him, she’s also oddly drawn to this young man. His name is Alexander Reade, and Chloe soon realizes that Alex is not altogether “real.” He’s a ghost. Alex lived at Grange Hall long ago, and he is still very much connected to the house…and what happened there.

As Chloe learns more about Grange Hall’s horrific past–and Alex’s place in it–she finds herself developing some disturbing feelings for Alex. Chloe knows nothing can really come of a relationship with a ghost, but she can’t help but fall a little more in love with him each day. That is a problem, especially when a vengeful spirit named Isobel is determined to do anything–even kill–to make sure Chloe and Alex remain apart.

What is Alex’s connection to the mysterious and menacing Isobel? Can Chloe do anything to stop the approaching horror before someone gets caught in the crossfire? Is Chloe willing to sacrifice her beloved Alex–or herself–if it means stopping Isobel once and for all?

Join Chloe and Alex on a harrowing journey through life, death, revenge, and redemption when you read Ghost House by Alexandra Adornetto.

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Ghost House is a great read for a dreary, rainy day. It started off kind of slow, but the action really picked up the more I read. I read the last three-quarters of the book in just a few hours, and the ending kind of threw me for a loop. I look forward to seeing how things progress for Chloe (and Alex) in the next book, Ghost Hour. (There’s currently no publication date for book two, but I’m guessing we can expect it sometime next August.)

I would recommend Ghost House to teen (and adult) fans of books like Twilight, C.C. Hunter’s Shadow Falls series, and even the ghost stories of Mary Downing Hahn.

For more information on Ghost House and author Alexandra Adornetto, visit her on Goodreads, Facebook, and Twitter. A book trailer is supposed to be released soon, but as of this posting, it’s not available yet.

Published in: on August 18, 2014 at 3:22 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Quilt Walk

When I first picked up The Quilt Walk by Sandra Dallas, I wasn’t exactly thrilled about reading it. (I wouldn’t have read it at all if it had not been one of this year’s SCCBA nominees.) I’ve never been a fan of westerns, thanks in part to being forced to watch shows like Wagon Train, The Rifleman, and others over the course of my life. My dad loves these shows, and he’s tried to develop an appreciation in me. It hasn’t worked.

Anyway, upon realizing that The Quilt Walk was about a girl moving west with her family, I was reluctant to start reading, but I persevered (because I had to), and I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised. The main character was relatable, the action moved fairly quickly, and I was invested in the book’s outcome. I wanted the people on this journey to arrive safely at their destination and get a happy ending. (Spoilers: Not all of them did.) This book, which I didn’t initially want to read, grabbed ahold of me, and I found myself liking it more than I was prepared to.

The year is 1864, and Emmy Blue Hatchett has just learned that her family is leaving their safe home in Illinois to strike out for a new life in Golden, Colorado. While Emmy Blue is excited about the possibility of adventure, she doesn’t want to leave everything she’s ever known behind…and she knows her mother feels the same way. But they accept their new circumstances, and Emmy Blue, her parents, and her aunt and uncle set off for Colorado.

The family has to leave many things behind–and think of creative ways to take along what they need–but just before they leave, Emmy Blue is given some fabric pieces by her grandmother. Emmy Blue is not exactly happy with this gift. Unlike the other women in her family, Emmy Blue has no interest in quilting. She doesn’t understand the appeal of making perfect stitches and putting scraps of fabric together, but her mother convinces her to take her grandmother’s gift and put it together on their long trek to Colorado.

As Emmy Blue begins piecing her quilt together, often walking while she stitches, she takes in her surroundings and gets to know the people around her. She has long conversations with her father and mother, she makes a new friend when they join up with a wagon train, and she questions some of the cruelty she sees around her. She encounters dangers she never expected, she learns to set up camp and lead a team of oxen, and she even finds herself enjoying her quilt walk just a bit. On this long, perilous journey, Emmy Blue Hatchett is growing up and discovering just how strong both she and those around her really are.

Eventually, Emmy Blue and her family arrive at their destination…though not without some changes. Emmy Blue is a different person than the girl who left Illinois. Her quilt walk may be done, but her journey through life is just beginning.

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When I return to school tomorrow (UGH!), I plan to share this book with several of my teachers. I think The Quilt Walk is a welcome addition to studies on Westward Expansion, especially considering the book is loosely based on an actual event in Colorado history. (More information about that is available in the author’s note.)

Readers my age may enjoy making connections between this book and that favorite computer game, Oregon Trail–which I never managed to make it all the way through. I always ended up with dysentery or something.

Another connection I had with this book was quilting. Now, I’ve never learned to quilt–to my great regret–but my great-grandmothers were excellent quilters, and they gave their creations to their families. Some of my most prized possessions are quilts made by my great-grandmothers. (My favorites are my Holly Hobbie and Strawberry Shortcake quilts, along with a very special one that includes both Jose Cuervo and Jingle Bells fabric scraps. I think I treasure that one because it’s so weird.) Who knows? Maybe this book will inspire a whole new generation of quilters. I could even take it up one of these days. Stranger things have happened.

The Quilt Walk is a book I’d highly recommend for any upper elementary or middle grade classroom or library. It’s a great book that tells of life in the “Wild West” and what that life may have been like for a young girl. Young readers may find it interesting to compare and contrast Emmy Blue’s experiences with their own. They may just find they have more in common than they thought possible.

If you’d like more information on The Quilt Walk, a 14-15 South Carolina Children’s Book Award nominee, and author Sandra Dallas, visit her website.

Published in: on August 11, 2014 at 5:28 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Fourteenth Goldfish

On August 26th, The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm will be released. (Once again, I was lucky enough to read an ARC courtesy of NetGalley.) Well, let me go ahead and tell my librarian friends who work with upper elementary and middle grade readers that this books is a must purchase for your collections! The Fourteenth Goldfish is highly entertaining, delivers an important message, offers opportunities for further research, and shows readers just how cool science can be. I’m hoping to use this book as a read-aloud with several classes in my school this year, and I’m already looking forward to the discussions it will generate.

Things were so much simpler for Ellie in elementary school. She didn’t have to worry about where to sit in the cafeteria, losing her best friend, or all the other changes middle school brings. Well, soon Ellie will have one more change…and this one will rock her entire world.

One day, Ellie’s mom brings home a strange yet oddly familiar boy. He bears a striking resemblance to her grandfather, but Ellie doesn’t know of any long-lost relatives who would just show up all of a sudden. So who is this odd, crotchety, young boy?

Well, as it turns out, this boy actually is Ellie’s grandfather, Melvin. Through his research with jellyfish, he seems to have found the “cure” for aging, and this seventy-six year old man now looks like a teenager. (He still acts like an old man, though.) Melvin shares his discovery with Ellie and enlists her help in retrieving the research that he’s sure will win him a Nobel Prize.

Ellie is intrigued by her grandfather’s work, but, the more she learns about science and what happens after important discoveries–like Oppenheimer’s work on the atomic bomb–the more she wonders if Melvin’s breakthrough is a good thing. Does the world really need a cure for aging? What would be the consequences if such a thing were available?

As Ellie explores the scientific possibilities with her grandfather, she’s also coming to grips the changes in her own life. Maybe it’s okay that she’s letting go of old friends and making new ones. Moving on is a part of life, right? Now, all she needs to do is convince her grandfather of that…

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Like I mentioned previously, I really want to use this book as a read-aloud, particularly with my fifth grade students. My school’s major focus this year is science, and I think The Fourteenth Goldfish could really serve as a catalyst for some intriguing conversations and inquiry-based science projects with my students.

Science aside, The Fourteenth Goldfish also teaches readers important lessons on moving forward, even when things don’t go the way we want them to. Ellie’s relationship with her best friend just wasn’t the same when they reached middle school. Was she sad about this? Yes, but she worked to make new friends who shared her interests. That’s something even adults–like myself–can learn from. Ellie’s grandfather also needed to learn the importance of moving forward instead of looking back, and I think Ellie definitely helped him with that.

If I haven’t made it perfectly clear already, I adore The Fourteenth Goldfish, and I think this book is a necessary purchase for any school or public library that serves upper elementary and middle grades. I hope my students (and teachers) love it as much as I do!

For more information on The Fourteenth Goldfish or other fabulous books by Jennifer L. Holm, check out the author’s website or Twitter.

To learn a little more about The Fourteenth Goldfish from Jennifer Holm herself, check out this cool video on YouTube. Enjoy, and believe in the possible!

Published in: on August 2, 2014 at 2:18 pm  Leave a Comment  
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We Were Liars

It should go without saying that I read a lot. Some books are good; some…not so much. Last night, I finished a book that absolutely blew me away. I’m not exaggerating when I say that this may be one of the best books I’ve read so far this year.

Thanks to NetGalley, I was able to read an advanced copy of We Were Liars by E. Lockhart. Now, I’ve read other books by this author (Dramarama, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks), but those in no way prepared me for this book. Those other books were fairly light-hearted. This one definitely was not.

From the very beginning of We Were Liars, there was a feeling of foreboding. I knew something bad was coming, but I didn’t know what it would be. And when the “bad” was revealed, I was totally unprepared. I quickly devolved into an emotional wreck, and, to be honest, I still haven’t come to grips with what happened.

We Were Liars takes a look at the Sinclair family, a wealthy but broken family that brings to mind the Kennedys. Every summer, the Sinclairs descend on their own private island. The story is told from the perspective of Cadence, and she tells readers all about the rest of the Sinclair family, especially her cousins Johnny and Mirren, and Gat, the nephew of her aunt’s boyfriend, who also spends summers on the island.

Cadence, Johnny, Mirren, and Gat are known as the Liars. (I’m still not clear on why they gave themselves that name, but that’s okay.) They do almost everything together, and Cadence and Gat even have something of a romance. During their fifteenth summer, though, everything goes horribly wrong. So wrong that Cadence can’t remember any of it.

What happened that summer? Why is Cadence now plagued by crippling migraines and amnesia? The answer to these questions will shock you–and Cadence–and nothing will ever be the same.

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You may have noticed that I didn’t tell you much about this book. That is intentional. We Were Liars is a book that you need to experience for yourself. It is a very powerful read that I think will leave all readers in a fog long after the last page.

To be honest, my reaction to the end of this book surprised me. No, I was not prepared for what happened, but I thought I would have handled it better. In reality, I had to stop a moment, take my glasses off (because of all the tears), and sob. A few Kleenex later, I continued reading, but then I had to go through that whole process again. That ending hit me hard, and I predict that most readers will feel the same way.

If you’re looking for your next great read, definitely consider We Were Liars. It hits stores on May 13th, and I think it will be a bestseller in no time. It’s outstanding.

For more information on We Were Liars and E. Lockhart, check out the author’s website. You can find links to her many other pages there.

Published in: on May 4, 2014 at 11:50 am  Leave a Comment  
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After All, You’re Callie Boone

Today, I finished yet another of the nominated books for the 2012-13 South Carolina Children’s Book Award.  After All, You’re Callie Boone by Winnie Mack was a quick read–ideal for summer–that really resonated with me.  I identified with the character of Callie, and I think that a lot of other young girls–and even some older readers–will as well.

Callie Boone’s summer is not off to a good start. Her best friend since the first grade has, all of a sudden, decided that she’s too cool to hang out with Callie. Her uncle has moved twelve ferrets into the family garage. At the community pool–one of Callie’s favorite places in the world–she embarrasses herself in such a public and humiliating way that she can never go back there again. Her family is crazy, she has no friends, and she’s the laughing stock of her neighborhood. Will things ever get better?

Well, yes. She’s still got her diving practices with her dad, and Callie is nurturing a dream of becoming a champion diver–maybe even competing in the Olympics someday. Despite her public humiliation at the pool, Callie is determined to be the best diver she can be–even though she’s not even twelve.

Something else is going okay in Callie’s life. A new kid has moved in next door. He’s a little odd–his name is Hoot–but he may turn out to be the best friend Callie has ever had…if she can convince everyone that he is most definitely not her boyfriend.

As her summer progresses, Callie learns a bit about what it means to be a good daughter, a good friend, and a good person. Everything doesn’t always go well, but Callie discovers who she can truly lean on when things don’t go the way she plans. She starts paying more attention to those around her instead of focusing on herself all the time. But what will happen when tragedy strikes and Callie is forced to really trust in those around her, especially her crazy family and her friend Hoot? Will she revert back to her old ways, or will she step up and be the girl everyone thinks she can be? Find out if Callie can make it through when you read After All, You’re Callie Boone by Winnie Mack!

Even though it didn’t take me very long to read this book, I was engrossed from the first page.  Callie’s voice is so relatable that I almost thought I was reading about my own childhood.  Yes, my family can be a bit crazy.  (Anyone at today’s family reunion can probably testify to that.)  But we stand by each other through thick and thin.  That’s something that Callie and I definitely have in common.

One other thing that I identified with was Callie’s relationship with her former best friend.  The same kind of situation occurred in my own life when I transitioned from elementary to middle school.  All of a sudden, I wasn’t cool enough to hang around with the girls I had grown up with.  I didn’t get invited to birthday parties or sleepovers.  It was painful.  (Obviously, I still have a few issues with this.)  I didn’t really care about makeup, boys, shopping, or any of the supposed “girly” things that some of my former friends thought was all-so-important as we moved to middle school.  (And to be perfectly honest, I still don’t care about those things very much.)  I think a lot of young girls probably feel the same way, so Callie definitely gives those girls a character to identify with.

After All, You’re Callie Boone is a short, oftentimes fun, read, but I will warn you that it does pack an emotional punch.  Toward the end, I had to break out the tissues.  I kind of love it when that happens.  After all, tears are a sign that a book has engaged your mind and your heart and truly made you feel something.  That’s true for me anyway.

If you’d like more information about this book or author Winnie Mack, I encourage you to visit http://www.winnie-mack.com/.  Enjoy!

Published in: on June 16, 2012 at 9:12 pm  Comments (1)  
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Insurgent

Warning!  Read Divergent by Veronica Roth before continuing!  (And, honestly, if you haven’t already read Divergent, I’m silently judging you.  Just kidding…but not really.)

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you know that Veronica Roth’s Divergent was picked as my top read of 2011.  Well, it looks like the sequel, Insurgent, is in the running for the top book of 2012.  (The jury is still out on which book is better.  I’m still trying to decide.)  I finished reading Insurgent yesterday morning, and I was totally blown away.  The ending alone made me utter a few choice words, and I’m still processing a lot of what happened and what it could mean for book three.  This post will likely be a short one—for me, anyway—because I don’t want to spoil things too much for you guys, but I also don’t quite know how to put my feelings on this book into words…but I’ll try.

Insurgent picks up almost immediately where Divergent concluded.  (It might behoove you to reread the final chapter of Divergent before starting Insurgent, or just check out this link to Veronica Roth’s blog for a handy-dandy “guide to remembering stuff before you read Insurgent,” http://veronicarothbooks.blogspot.com/2012/04/but-i-read-divergent-year-ago-your.html.)

  
Tris, Tobias (also known as Four), and company are on the run after the Erudite attack on Abnegation (including the simulation that turned many Dauntless members into assassins).  Tris trusts Tobias with her life and her heart, but she knows that even he is keeping secrets from her.  Tris is crumbling from the inside out, overcome with grief and guilt over the deaths of her parents and the actions that led her to this point.  She wants to confide all to Tobias, but how can she when she doesn’t know how he’ll react to the heavy burden she’s carrying?  Especially since he’s got his own demons to overcome.

As Tris and Tobias are trying to figure out where they stand with each other—and with the remaining members of their factions/families—they must also worry about the war being waged all around them.  Who can they trust with the truth of their Divergence (aptitude for more than one faction)?  How can they combat the Dauntless traitors who have allied with the Erudite?  Can they convince Candor, Amity, the remaining Abnegation, and the factionless to join in their quest to overthrow the Erudite who wish to control everyone and everything?  What if these groups have their own agendas?

War has broken out between the factions, and no one knows who can truly be trusted.  Friends (and family) become enemies.  Enemies become allies.  And secrets are revealed that shake what little foundation is left in Tris’ world.  What does it really mean to be Divergent in this war-torn society, and why is the Erudite leader—and all-around evil genius—Jeanine so determined to wipe them out?  What is Jeanine trying to hide, and can Tris find out before everything she has left is destroyed?  The truth is out there, and it’s up to Tris to bring it to light…no matter what the cost.

I’ve tried not to give too much away here, and I’m pretty sure I’ve succeeded.  This is one book you really need to read for yourself.  Like I said before, the ending alone was enough to send me into a cursing frenzy.  (I just reread it a few minutes ago, and it managed to shock me all over again.)  Totally didn’t see that coming.  In my everyday life, I hate surprises, but I love it when a book manages to surprise me.  It doesn’t happen often enough.  If you can’t tell, I thoroughly enjoyed Insurgent, and I’m looking forward to seeing how this epic journey will end.  Now, the countdown is on to book three!  The title and cover are still TBA, and I’m assuming we can expect the book to be released sometime in May of 2013.

If you want to learn more about the Divergent trilogy and author Veronica Roth, visit http://veronicarothbooks.blogspot.com/, http://thedivergenttrilogy.com/, check out the Facebook pages at http://www.facebook.com/#!/DivergentSeries and http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Veronica-Roth/108433975887375, and follow the author on Twitter at https://twitter.com/#!/VeronicaRoth. You may also like this book trailer from Harper Teen (that gives absolutely nothing away).

I would like to add that, even though the majority of them were the bad guys in this book, I still consider myself a member of the Erudite faction (as I’m sure most other librarians would).  I spend most of my life in the pursuit of knowledge, and I enjoy sharing my knowledge with others…sometimes even when they prefer me to shut up.  If you are a proud Erudite member, you may want to check out the Erudite Faction tumblr site at http://eruditefactionnews.tumblr.com/.

Published in: on May 6, 2012 at 10:52 am  Comments (1)  
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Divergent

After finishing my lastest read, Divergent by Veronica Roth, I don’t know how I can possibly write a post that will do this book justice.  Yes, it was that good.  We’re talking Hunger Games good here.  I was utterly enthralled by this story, particularly having to choose your entire future at the age of sixteen.  (I can’t even remember what I wanted to be when I was sixteen, and I changed my major four times in college–and still didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up when I graduated.  Luckily, I eventually figured it out.)  The choices aren’t always clear, and they lead our main character, Tris, into a very uncertain future…

In the not-too-distant future, society is split up into five factions based on particular virtues:  Candor (honest), Amity (peaceful), Erudite (intelligent), Dauntless (brave), and Abnegation (selfless).  Every year, sixteen-year-olds must choose which faction they will belong to for the rest of their lives.  They can stay with their families’ factions, or they can leave everything behind and choose a different faction.  Beatrice Prior, who grew up in Abnegation, doesn’t know what to do.  Her aptitude test doesn’t help her situation, either, as her results were inconclusive (not an entirely normal situation).  Beatrice is told that she’s Divergent, but she must not let anyone know about it.  She’s not entirely sure what this means, but she realizes that keeping her secret could be a matter of life and death.

Beatrice is torn between the family she loves and her own desires.  Can she leave her life of selflessness behind and look to a future without the support of her family?  Beatrice makes a choice that surprises everyone around her.  She leaves her old life behind, renames herself Tris, and works to be the best initiate her new faction has ever seen.  It’s not exactly easy.  Some of the other initiates look down on her because she’s from Abnegation, she’s small, and she’s, quite frankly, making them look bad.  Tris is bullied unmercifully, and an attempt is even made on her life, but Tris remains strong.  She makes some friends and gains the notice of one of her instructors, an eighteen-year-old with the odd nickname of Four.  But Four is not the only one who has noticed Tris…

As Tris and Four grow closer, Tris wonders if she’s found someone like her–a Divergent–someone whose test results were unclear, someone who could belong in almost any faction, someone who would be killed if the secret were discovered.  Can she trust Four with her secret?  And can Tris figure out why divergence is so bad?   What is so dangerous about being Divergent, and why will the faction leaders do everything they can to find and eliminate these threats?  A couple of these leaders suspect the truth about Tris, and they are watching her constantly for signs that she might pose a threat.  But a threat to what?

As Tris learns more about her self, she also learns more about her perfect society.  She discovers that tensions are running high among the factions, and some of those in power are preparing for war.  Tris knows she has to do something, but what?  With everything unraveling around her, what can she possibly do to prevent a massacre of her former faction, Abnegation?  Can Tris use her status as Divergent to save those she loves, or will it cause her to lose everything?  Read Divergent by Veronica Roth to learn how one choice has the power to change a life forever.

I hope this post has whetted your appetite for this book.  It is truly outstanding, and I think it will be very popular with both male and female readers.  It might also be interesting to think about which faction you would choose to be in if you were a part of this society.  I know I couldn’t be in Dauntless (I’m a wuss) or Candor (I lie remarkably well), and I think I’m much too selfish to be in Abnegation.  I could probably fit okay into Amity because I’m kind of a pacifist, but I believe I would be best suited for Erudite.  I love to learn, and a lifetime spent on academic pursuits definitely appeals to me.  (If you read this book, though, please don’t judge me by the Erudite faction members you encounter.  Some of them are just scary.)

If you’ve enjoyed books like The Hunger Games, Matched, The Maze Runner, Delirium, My Beginning, Birthmarked, or The Silenced, I think you will find another winner in Divergent.  The second book in the Divergent series, Insurgent, is scheduled for a 2012 release, and the third book, currently untitled, should be out sometime in 2013.  For more information on this exciting new series and author Veronica Roth, please visit http://veronicarothbooks.blogspot.com/.

Published in: on July 22, 2011 at 1:45 pm  Comments (2)  
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A Kiss in Time

It’s no secret that I like fairy tales.  Beautiful princess, handsome prince, fighting the bad guy, true love…what’s not to like?  There is one, however, that’s never been a favorite of mine–Sleeping Beauty.  I just didn’t see the point.  This girl pricks her finger on a spindle, falls asleep, is awakened by a kiss, a witch gets mad, the witch is killed, and they all live happily ever after.  Not my thing.  Well, my lastest read, A Kiss in Time, is a retelling of Sleeping Beauty by acclaimed author Alex Flinn.  It puts a new spin on this story, and I must say that I like this version a lot better.  When I was reading, I was reminded of Enchanted, the movie where a fairy tale princess is magically transported to modern-day Manhattan.  I adore that movie, and I feel the same way about this book.

Princess Talia of Euphrasia has lived her entire almost-sixteen years in fear of spindles.  At Talia’s christening, a curse was placed on her by the evil witch Malvolia stating that the princess would prick her finger on a spindle before her sixteenth birthday and die.  A fairy modified the curse a bit so that the princess wouldn’t die.  Instead, she and everyone in Euphrasia would sleep until Talia was awakened by true love’s first kiss.

Nearly sixteen years pass, and Talia has been bombarded with talk of this curse.  Spindles are outlawed from Euphrasia to protect her, and she is horribly sheltered.  She can’t go anywhere, and she’s tired of it.  As her sixteenth birthday approaches, Talia can finally see an end to a life full of fearing a curse and always being told what to do.  The curse has not been fulfilled, and she’s almost sixteen.  (The key word here is “almost.”)  Well, guess what?  Shortly before her birthday celebration, Talia is searching for her perfect dress when she happens upon an unfamiliar room.  An old lady is inside with just the dresses Talia is looking for.  The old lady just needs a bit of help from Talia.  Just hold this sharp, pointy thing for a bit…lights out.

Fastforward three hundred years…

Jack is in Europe on a boring trip full of museums and other stuff he’s not interested in, so he decides to escape for a bit.  He and his buddy Travis walk through a dense hedge and find a village where everyone appears to be sleeping, even the horses.  They soon find a castle.  Jack is drawn to the highest tower where he discovers a sleeping girl.  She’s beautiful, and he feels almost compelled to kiss her.  He does, and she wakes up.  Surprise!

Join Jack and Talia as they deal with expectations, customs, and technologies (or lack thereof) of different time periods, parents, ex-girlfriends, running away, a continued threat from Malvolia, and a three-hundred-year age difference.  Can this even be real?  Do Jack and Talia have any hope of getting together under these circumstances?  He’s a slacker; she’s a princess.  Do they even want to be together?  Read A Kiss in Time by Alex Flinn to find out!

Published in: on April 17, 2010 at 9:14 am  Leave a Comment  
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Ten Cents a Dance

Christine Fletcher’s novel, Ten Cents a Dance, explores the world of taxi dancing in Chicago around the time of World War II.  The book follows Ruby Jacinski, a poor sixteen-year-old girl, who is sick and tired of working in the slaughterhouse for next to nothing.  Her mother has rheumatoid arthritis and cannot work, so Ruby has to quit school to earn money for the family.  She eventually comes across what she believes is a solution to her financial woes:  taxi dancing at the Starlight Dance Academy.  Men would pay her ten cents a dance.  The Starlight would get half, and she’d take a nickel for every dance.  Add tips in, and Ruby thinks she’s rolling in dough.  Soon, though, the money begins to run out.  It just never seems to be enough.

After a scary run-in with a customer who loaned her some money, Ruby thinks she’s got a handle on things.  Her mother thinks she’s a telephone operator, and her sister doesn’t seem to know what’s going on.  Ruby’s also got a serious boyfriend, local ne’er-do-well, Paulie Suelze.  He’s helped her out of a few jams, and he always seems to know when she needs a little help.  If only he wouldn’t keep pressuring her to do things she’s really not ready for.

Ruby soon realizes that her world is slowly unraveling.  Her new life has lost some of its luster, she’s lying to nearly everyone, Paulie is not the guy she thought he was, and the world is at war.  Can she straighten things out before her life is destroyed completely?  How is it even possible that she’s sunk so far so fast?  Read Ten Cents a Dance to learn what one girl will do to escape a life she’s not sure she ever wanted.

As someone who is fascinated with the WWII era, I really enjoyed Ten Cents a Dance.  I knew a little about taxi dancing, but this book shed new light on it.  I knew this “occupation” began in the speak-easies of the 1920’s and continued through WWII.  I didn’t know, however, that there are still taxi dancers in some major cities today.  Through this novel, it is easy to see how quickly girls could be drawn in by the money and attention and how easily things could also go horribly wrong.  Readers will root for Ruby to clean her life up and become the person she should be.

Published in: on October 26, 2009 at 1:00 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Beneath My Mother’s Feet

My latest read, Beneath My Mother’s Feet by Amjed Qamar, is not a very happy book.  In fact, I was mad at most of the characters for nearly the entire book.  That being said, it is a good story about a culture that many American readers know little about.  It also touches on dealing with one’s family expectations and duties while forming one’s own identity.

Nazia is a good daughter.  She always does exactly what her mother asks of her.  Her family lives in Karachi, Pakistan, and, while they are not wealthy, they seem to be comfortable and happy.  Nazia enjoys school and is looking forward to her arranged marriage at the end of the school year.  Things change, however, when Nazia’s father is injured at work and can no longer earn money for the family.  Nazia is forced to drop out of school and work with her mother cleaning others’ houses.  Her older brother steals her dowry, and, even when her father has healed, he refuses to work.  When word of these changes gets to her future father-in-law, Nazia’s engagement is called off.  On top of all of this, Nazia and her family are evicted from their small house and are forced to become live-in servants.

Nazia feels that she has lost the life she once had.  She can see no way out of her current situation.  Who will provide for her mother and two younger siblings if she does not do the lion’s share of the work?  What will become of her if she cannot marry, as is expected of a proper girl?  Read Beneath My Mother’s Feet to learn the story of a girl who is doing all she can to make a better life for herself while still being a good daughter.

When I was reading this book, I reflected on my own relationship with my mother.  Honestly, my mom is a saint compared to the mothers portrayed in this book.  (My mom should probably be sainted for putting up with me anyway.)  I know that culture plays a large part in the mothers’ behaviors in this book, but I cannot imagine a mother seeing her children as workers whose only worth is earning money for the family.  My mom has never shown me anything but love, and I now consider her one of my best friends.  I highly recommend Beneath My Mother’s Feet for any readers, particularly females, who want to examine the complicated relationships between mothers and daughters.

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